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Restaurant Review: Cha Cha Moon in Soho

Alan Yau gets me all excited.  I have managed to visit each of his restaurants (including his short lived Italian on Baker Street many moons ago) and have always loved the Asian cuisine and aesthetic sensibility he brings to each effort.  To this day Yauatcha and Hakkasan remain two of my favourite destinations to eat (though I am less that wowed by Busabi Eathai and Wagamama is definitely on its last cultural legs).

When word came in 2008 that he was doing a Chinese noodle house in Soho I was straight there for his opening week.  The fact that all the dishes were half price didn’t hurt either. However, I only returned once thereafter and has not been lured back since.  The reason for this was simple, even at half price it wasn’t that great.  This even seemed to be something Alan Yau recognised as he has obviously continued fiddling and adjusting and his soft opening in 2008 continued for several months.

The result of this is that the restaurant in visited over Christmas is very different from the lacklustre place I visited in 2008.  It is actually good (though I disclaim that this is not traditional stuff but a reinterpretation of it).

The decor is the same, a kind of neon kitsch Kill Bill interior.  It is still fun and noisy and feels like an update from his first light bare wood efforts at Wagamama.

In keeping with the inspiration behind Cha Cha Moon (Yau’s desire to have a proper soup noodles and broth in London) Jen and I both went for the soup noodles.  Hers was a beef stock base and was far superior to mine.  That said they were both good.  They are not going to revolutionise the non existent ramen scene in London or fool any citizen of Hong Kong but in London, for that price, in Soho, and with that vibe, one should be happy.

Above are the chicken and prawn wontons.  These were a dirty variety of wonton and swimming in a chilli sauce that quite frankly revelled in their base nature.  Tasty.  Below was the turnip paste side dish. Ever since having been introduced to the wonder of turnip paste a couple of years ago by Alex, my Chinese- Swedish food consultant, I have been a true convert.  It is miraculous textured stuff.  And made into a quasi stir fry like this it was addictive. 

The problem with writing this review is that I am almost making myself hungry and might have to get out of bed to make my way over to Soho for some ramen.
Price – £15 to 20ish a head with a few sides and a bit of beer

Cha Cha Moon on Urbanspoon

9 Comments

  1. Lizzie

    That's like no turip paste I've ever seen!

    I've been to Cha Cha Moon twice and each time I've regretted it. I went for breakfast and seeing 'salmon porridge' on the menu, we thought it would be rice porridge – congee – that is often eaten for breakfast. No, it was oats. The noodle soup was unbelievably bad. It's hard to fathom that any self-respecting Chinaman would put his name to this.

  2. The London Foodie

    I have to agree with Lizzie here – I have never seen turnip paste looking anything like that picture!

    I was curious to try this place when it first opened, had completely forgotten about it until now, maybe I should give it a go at some point.

    Thanks.

  3. Mr Noodles

    I visited CCM twice when it first opened and i found it truly shocking. The fact they use chicken in wonton is also plain wrong. It should always be fatty pork to lend extra juiciness to the wonton when combined with the prawn.And I'm with Lizzie and LF here, just what the hell have they done to that turnip paste ? Apologies for the negativity and slight snippiness but you'll understand why if you read my last couple of posts.

  4. Tom

    Mr Noodes – just read your last two posts and I couldn't agree more. Ping Pong is a horror of a place. I went once about two years ago and it stunk of franchise. Then it became a frozen dim sum trashbag rolling out mediocrity across Britain.

    Also on My Old Place, after having read that review in the Guardian my twitter status was that he should stick to reviewing Pizza Hut. The reviewer also had no idea that it was the father of Gourmet San on Bethnal Green Road which is normally good.

    I probably should have made it clearer in the review but the turnip paste was cut up and made into a stir fry which was tasty though it was by no means what most people think of when they think of turnip paste.

    It is interesting that a lof of "foodies" went during the soft opening and had bad experiences. Me included. Still I liked it this time.

    People obviously have cuisines which they hold dear and like the classic combinations (i.e. with the wontons). Yau has never really stuck to this and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

    My thoughts on CCM are that it is central, cheap and good for a pit stop. There is a possibility I might get posted to Shanghai for work for two years though so perhaps when I get back from that my tastes might have changed!

  5. Tom

    PS Mr Noodles – I have got review nerves now and just checked with Jen (who is Chinese American) and she has reassured me that it was actually good and enjoyable.

    Have you tried Peninsula down in the middle of no where in a Holiday Inn? Alex (my Chinese- Swedish food consultant again) took me there on a bike trip around the docklands and was definitely an experience. It is near See Woo.

    I could suggest a bloggers food trip……..

  6. Mr Noodles

    Fair enough on the turnip cake and actually its not a bad idea ! I'm a funny one when it comes to 'authenticity' – there are some things I don't mind but then there are other things that I don't think should be dicked around with. At the end of the day each to their own.

    Have you tried Ramen Seto that is just around the corner from CCM ? Its a simple Japanese noodle bar that I think is decent if unspectacular.

    http://eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com/2009/10/review-ramen-seto-japanese-london.html

    I've not been to Peninsula yet but I'd love to try it. Lizzie (Hollow Legs) also suggested it – so yes I'd defo be up for it – my e-mail is on my blog.

  7. LondonRob

    Just realised from my last 2 blog posts (Cha Cha Moon and Foxcroft & Ginger) that you are WAY ahead of me Tom! I need to get out more. I had been meaning to check out this place for ages and I was kind of under-whelmed. My crispy duck noodles were weird – just…weird! I will go back though – the menu looked interesting.

  8. Tom

    LondonRob – had a look on your blog and what you had at CCM and it did look a little strange. We just went simple with the noodles and sides and was good.

    Interestingly went to Byron (again) last night and is same kind of experience. Easy, fast, good basic level of food, cheap but not going to compete with a proper burger place (Hawksmoor)

  9. London Chow

    Hmm, seems like Cha Cha Moon is getting more brickbats than bouquets here.

    Personally, I'm not a food purist though I would be really glad if a particular dish is prepared the right way (or at least the way I remembered it to be).

    Then again, I guess the entire dining experience isn't just about the food but the company you're with and a whole host of other factors as well. So foodwise, what matters most to me is whether I like it the moment I tasted it.

    I've not tried Cha Cha Moon's turnip cake but I thought its Cha Cha Mooli was fantastic, not to mention its Char grilled lao mian. If the former was supposed to be the 'carrot cake' – a street staple that I have back home, it failed miserably. But it does taste fabulous as a dish and the beansprouts added that extra crunch.

    If you see a bespectacled chap grinning wildly while tucking into his Cha Cha Mooli, that'll be me. :)

    C K

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