A Chinese ‘tapas’ bar, in a calming Soho setting that feels like a Japanese tea house – the concept may be unusual, but this offshoot of the famous Bar Shu is already making quite a name for the quality of its interesting light-bite cuisine.
There’s usually a strong fellow feeling between two restaurants under common ownership, so the new offshoot of Soho’s Bar Shu is something of a puzzle.
Ba Shan seems in many ways to be the very antithesis of its parent. Service, for example, is positively engaging. And the setting – in a calm warren of Soho rooms that evoke a Japanese tea house – is quite charming too.
It’s the food, though, which is the biggest surprise. Whereas Bar Shu (currently closed after a fire) is rightly celebrated for its mouth-tingling Sichuan fare, the speciality here is relatively subtle-tasting (but sometimes still quite hot) small dishes, most easily characterised by the Western mind as ‘tapas’.
This is still Sichuanese cooking apparently, but the aim here is re-create the ‘xiao chi’ restaurants of Chengdu, capital of the province. Dumplings in various styles are a particular highlight – we especially liked a chicken version with vinegar, and a beef one with a rich and garlicky sauce. ‘Jia mo’ – small flatbread sandwiches – are also very good.
Beware, though – the food is so good you may not find a visit a particular bargain. Our extensive sampling of the menu, drinking only tea, totted up to nearly £60 for two. We also felt that a touch more variety of styles of dishes might not go amiss. But then we’ve never been to Chengdu.