Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Manchester China Town thus far

We have been living in Manchester's China Town for a couple of months now and have been to five restaurants, spanning Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Chinese as it so happens.

Although I go out for meals all the time, I still don't feel as though I've properly experienced Chinese food. In Manchester, we seem to be faced with a choice between £5.99 Chinese buffets, cheap takeaways and, in contrast, reasonably expensive, smart Chinese restaurants. I can't recall ever having an exceptional Chinese meal, and this is probably due to the fact that I am too stingy to venture to those more upmarket venues.

Last week we ventured out, spur of the moment thing, to New Hong Kong Restaurant on Tariff Street which is always well lit-up. I heard that they do a half price dim sum menu, and then found a "3 courses + drink for £10.90" deal in my Little Voucher Book. Just looking quickly at Trip Advisor, it only has 3 reviews on there so the 4.5/5 score can be taken with a pinch of salt. Our experience at the restaurant left much to be desired. First of all, the staff didn't even ask for the voucher - which gave me the impression that it clearly didn't have much worth! Our soup starters both came with unwanted ingredients - my other half's "crab meat and sweetcorn" was in fact seafood sticks and sweetcorn, whilst my vegetable and tofu option seemed to have meat-like bits of fat in it (still none the wiser as to what these were, as I think it was supposed to be a veggie dish). The second course, steamed dim sum, took what felt like an age to arrive - probably prolonged by the lack of atmosphere or background music in the place. I even complained to the waiter (something I don't do often) about the wait, and was told rudely that I hadn't been waiting that long and that the course takes 15 minutes to cook (despite the obvious fact that a next course should be begun whilst the customer is still eating the previous course) and our wait had been at least 25 minutes by this point. No apology of course. Not impressed. And the main courses - greasy takeaway standard food that I didn't even want to finish (I finish everything!). So another poor Chinese food experience unfortunately.

Another restaurant we visited recently, but for the third time, is Teppanyaki, just around the corner from New Hong Kong. This is a Japanese restaurant run by a Korean couple. We have enjoyed every meal here, each courtesy of a Groupon deal. The chefs cook the food on a hot grill at your table, as you are sat with other fascinated customers, creating quite a social and theatrical atmosphere. The customers are all equally inexperienced in the teppanyaki way of doing things so it is easy to strike up conversation with these strangers! The man behind the grill always puts on a great show, cracking the eggs and then pretending they are footballs as he tries to hit it into the "goal" (hole in the grill for waste disposal) and lighting the oil to create tall flames that make the spectators sit upright! I am not sure that I would pay full price for the food, although it is lovely, but it's certainly a great place to go to if you're looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.

At the weekend, again spontaneously, we visited Tokyo Season on Portland Street - an inconspicuous little joint downstairs below Siam Orchid serving only Japanese cuisine. The restaurant itself is a little hidden gem, decked out in Japanese decor and three booths at the far end where you can kneel to eat and slide the doors over to make the booth private. It felt very authentic, with Japanese pop videos playing on a screen in the corner. The food is reasonably priced, not too cheap but not too expensive either. We ordered a seafood pancake which had some sort of fungae (I think) on top, which had obvious been scrunched up before being sprinkled on our dish, as it moved for a good couple of minutes after being put on the table in front of us! That was delicious. And another highlight was the green-coloured hot mocha that my other half had, which tasted like a milky seaweed drink and was surprisingly tasty! This is definitely a place I intend to return to.

Then there was Siam Orchid, the restaurant above Tokyo Season. I chose this place because they do a 2 for 1 deal with the Taste Card. Our Thai curries were lovely, and combined with coconut rice we couldn't go wrong! The service was exceptional, with the staff genuinely grateful for our compliments on the food. The decor in here is quite ornate and the place has a great atmosphere. Fantastic value for money with the Taste Card offer.

And that leaves our real little gem, I Am Pho - simple, tasty Vietnamese cuisine. I always end up having the same dish from here (a Won Ton Ramen). We have eaten both in the restaurant and takeaway here - in fact, it was the place we went to on the evening we went to view our flat in China Town so it will always remind us of that. One male waiter in particular is very enthusiastic and an excellent salesman - we always end up ordering things we weren't intending on getting! Don't be put off by the school cantine-like plainness of the interior. The food will make up for it.

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