When I first caught wind of a new opening dishing up Beijing dumplings made fresh on the premises I was pretty excited. Aside from Jen’s Cafe’s average offerings, shui jiao and guo tie are a rarity here in London and Mushu‘s arrival was definitely a welcome one. However after perusing their menu online I was less convinced. Alongside the dumplings were a couple of regional Chinese dishes (Lions Head Meatballs and Jia Jiang Noodles) and a jumbled assortment of Japanese fare that included yakisoba, katsu curry and sushi. Usually I avoid eateries serving a mishmash of cuisines like the plague, but my love of dumplings clouded my judgement and I found myself boarding the bus to Warren Street in hopes of silencing the skeptic in me.
The place was bright, cheery and surprisingly spacious, with bar seating up front and larger tables in the extended area behind the open kitchen. I sidled up to the counter to make my selection, paid, then grabbed a seat round back to wait for my order.
I watched the chefs (reassuringly Chinese) hustling in the kitchen and within minutes my dumplings and noodles, housed in paper containers, were set in front of me. I thought it odd that a restaurant with such an expansive dining space would serve food in take-out boxes – not only is it wasteful but also visually unappealing.
I reached for the pork guo tie first. They looked passable but clearly needed more time on the pan – the bottoms were only browned in parts and lacked the trademark golden crustiness of a good potsticker. The skins weren’t too thick (a plus), but were a little doughy and less toothsome than I would have liked, and the stuffing, although flavourful, could have done with more fat laced through for added juiciness.
The dumpling noodle soup, was a confused bowl of Chinese and Japanese influences. The Shanghai udon was really just udon and not at all Shanghainese – shanghai noodles are similar in appearance to udon but are less yielding and have a slight chew. The flabby noodles I was served had zero bite and were definitely not homemade, more likely of the instant-cook variety out of a packet. I ate one soggy strand and couldn’t stomach the rest. The soup was another hybrid of sorts. As far as I could tell it was just miso soup (there were even bits of wakame floating in it) with token scraps of chinese cabbage and bean sprouts thrown in. The water dumplings were also mushy and overcooked, falling apart as I bit into them. The only saving grace was the Korean-inspired filling of Beef and Kimchi which was actually pretty tasty. Still, they left much to be desired.
Sadly Mushu didn’t live up to what it could have been; I walked out unsatiated and more than a little disappointed. What a shame. I guess I’ll have to wait for my imminent Singapore trip to get a proper dumpling fix.
53 Warren Street
London W1T 5NL
t. 0207 388 3629