Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Restaurant Review: Silk Road

Well at least my friend’s ex-boyfriend was good for something. He found out about Silk Road here and after having a look at all the glowing comments I got pretty excited about going there for her birthday dinner. I really enjoy Chinese food, having travelled there a couple of times. The truism for London, however, is that it’s nearly impossible to get anything authentic and its all a sweet sticky mess laden with MSG. This is now pretty unfair. Places like Bar Shu and Ping Pong are helping and are definitely bringing Chinese into a more fashionable mainstream. But its places like this that I find really exciting. It’s a small plain restaurant with a few wall hangings showing the Gobi Dessert with a few benches in a pretty humdrum location in Camberwell that if I hadn’t been recommended I probably would have walked right past it. Don’t get me wrong I like London’s well furnished, styalised restaurants as well, its just that there is something really exciting about coming into a small simple place like this and being presented with a really great meal.

One of the best meals I have ever had was in the Muslim section of the Sichuanese city Xian-Xian (of Terracotta Army fame). It was full of delicious super-spicy grilled kebabs of all different type of meats and offal flavoured with incredible amounts of chilli and cumin. I have subsequently found out that these are some of the most popular street snacks in China and originate from Xinjiang province in the far West of the country bordering Mongolia and home to a decent chunk of the Gobi dessert. And the food of that region is what Silk Road specialises in.

Its much more than just kebabs however, though these are fantastic and I urge you to try them. Its majority Uighur population heavily influences the food of the region. Think lots of thick noodles and lamb. One of the best representatives of the food they do here is the Big Plate Chicken, which will set you back about £12 and is big enough for four with a few kebabs of dumplings beforehand. This is an enormous bowl of fantastic broth flavoured with green peppers, chilli and full of potatoes and beautifully tender chicken pieces. Once you have got through a fair amount of the chicken the waiter comes out with a plate of home made belt noodles, which are thick and elastic and about 2 inches wide each. These are placed into the broth which they begin to soak up, changing texture over the next fifteen minutes of so, so that each bite gives something slightly different in terms of texture as the elasticity yields into a smoother more slippery experience. After that there is the incredible chicken broth with its unctuous chilli oil to finish of.

The last meal I had there was with my dad who was raving about it throughout the meal whilst occasionally splashing himself with broth (this is a hazard with the belt noodles, which I have also succumbed to). Along with a middle plate chicken we had a set of five lamb shish kebabs, beautifully soft meat, not at all overcooked, packed with flavour from the liberal use of chilli and cumin, some excellent lamb and onion dumplings. A shredded pork dish, with its origins outside Xianjiang was good though not as exciting for me as the rest. We also had my personal favourite home style cabbage dish. The cabbage here remains sweet and slightly crisp and has been stir-fried with a serious amount of garlic and dried chillies, which give it a fantastic smoky edge before it is finished with soy. This is serious over-ordering and what we had was quite easily enough for four. In fact although we bravely ate for over an hour I still had enough left over to take home and eat for an ample dinner the next day. The price of this feast came to around £31.

I’ll let my friend conclude on this one by writing up a text she sent; “Lets eat ourselves silly at Silk Road for a fiver.”

No comments:

Post a Comment