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.