Fred Chan's Oriental Restaurants
Dine Online - the UK Restaurant guide
Fred Chan Eats East in the North West, and explains
to kwailos what to look for
The Chinese restaurant scene has almost literally been the subject of
a revolution over the past decade. Outside London, many places are
still firmly of the chop suey cast. They cater primarily for western
palates, which are still largely ignorant of real Chinese food.
Over the past ten years there has been considerable growth of the
second generation professional Chinese community, as well as the
opening up of the Far East by more
and more package holidays. These changes, together
with the tremendous explosion of interest in all things
foodie, have helped raise both standards and choice
not only of Chinese restaurants in the North West, but Thai,
Malaysian and Indonesian as well. Japanese restaurants outside the
capital are still a rarity, but the sudden appearance of noodle bars
in Liverpool and Manchester, with reports of places in Birmingham and
Leeds, all no doubt riding on the back of the phenomenal success of
Wagamama, would seem to suggest that if the price was not quite so
prohibitive, the Japanese restaurant scene would also be poised for further
development outside the capital.
All aboard Fred Chan's Oriental Express!
Over the next few months I will take you on a personal tour of some
of my favourite Oriental eating places in the North West of England.
We'll start in Liverpool, work our way to Manchester and Leeds and
any worthy places in between. Future reviews will include reports on
the ground breaking Tai Pan chain in both Manchester and
Liverpool. Then there's Penang Village - the North West 's
only Malaysian and Indonesian Restaurant; Colony - perhaps
the first fusion food eaterie outside of London; The New
Emperor - stylish surroundings and good old fashioned Chinese
food; Maxi 's in Leeds - a purpose built restaurant that
comes pretty close to what you would find in Hong Kong, and also the
distinctive vegetarian cooking of Terry Lim at the Yuet
Ben in Liverpool. In addition I will be reviewing the region's
Chinese supermarkets, which are very big business these days. I shall
also take a look at places such as the big chains of WH Lung
and the mighty Wing Yip. Finally, I shall attempt to show why the
independents such as Woo Sang, Wing Fat and Chung Ku
are more than a match for them.
Far East, Liverpool L1 9DF
Having spent the best part of my life in Liverpool I shall begin my tour
The Far East. This is the old man of Liverpool's Chinatown and
along with the Yang Sing in Manchester (now closed because of a serious
kitchen fire), it must be given the credit for taking the lead in
raising the standards of Chinese restaurants in the North West. When it
first opened in the mid 1980s, it was the only
serious alternative to Yang Sing for proper Dim Sum.
With its cavernous dining room on the first floor and its own roof top car
park, the Far East will never win awards in the restaurant vanity
stakes, but rather let it be judged on its food. It's run by the
Cheung family - more often than not you will see the boss man, Tony chatting with
customers and making sure everyone is happy. Tony Cheung has been
there since it first opened and whilst the decor both inside and out has
changed, the quality of the food and management has remained constant.
You should avoid the business man's set lunch, which is good value but not very
exciting. If you are on your own, try one of the one plate meals - I
would recommend the Three Roast Meats with Rice. A mound of rice
topped with Roast Lacquered Duck, Crispy Roast Belly Pork and Char
Sui (barbecued pork) will tame most appetites, but don 't forget to
ask for a plate of superb home-made chilli oil (not sauce) and if you feel very indulgent, why
not start the meal with a bowl of fiery Hot and Sour Soup, with bits
of prawn, char sui, bean curd, preserved Sichuan vegetables and
fresh coriander. Other things to try would be the House Special Chow
Mien, a bed of crisp fresh egg noodles topped with prawns, pork,
duck, crispy pork, scallops, squid, choi sum, fish balls and anything
else that comes to hand when it is cooked. Another good standby is
the Dried Fried Beef with Rice Stick noodles, a dish that's
often used as the benchmark of a good Chinese kitchen.
Sunday Dim Sum Lunch
If Dim Sum is to your liking, Sunday lunchtime is probably the best time to
go. The Far East is one of the few restaurants in England where on
Sunday the Dim Sum comes out on trolleys that are wheeled round the
tables. Steaming columns of bamboo baskets filled with Sui Mai (pork
dumplings), Har Gow (prawn dumplings), Ribs in Black Bean Sauce, Beef
Sui Mai, Shanghai Dumplings (filled with pork, nuts and coriander),
Char Sui Buns, Chicken Buns, Ducks Webs and Taro wrapped in Bean Curd
skin, Pork Dumplings topped with Chinese Mushrooms or Quail's Eggs
are brought to the table for you to choose from. There are also plates of Cheung Fun (steamed rice pastry
rolls) filled with beef, or pork or prawn, slices of fried Turnip
Cake, Sticky Rice parcels wrapped in Lotus Leaves, Pot Sticker
dumplings, Squid Cakes... the list could go on and on!
Suffice to say, if you want to
try the real thing and re-live your holiday memories of that
fabulous Dim Sum meal you had when you visited Hong Kong, then the
Far East is the place to go.
(How is it that most Chinese I know are so thin?!) - Editor
In the evening, the Far East offers a set banquet on two nights a
week and a buffet on the other three. In addition there is the carte
where you can find even more banquets as well as the more usual
fare. However it pays to study the menu more closely as hidden
amongst the sweet and sours and green pepper and blackbean sauce
dishes you will find real gems such a half a Soy Chicken, a hot pot
of Stewed Brisket flavoured with Star Anise, Grouper Fillets with
Fried Bean Curd and even fresh Crab with Ginger and Spring Onions.
The Chilli and Salt King Prawns are to die for - plump and succulent,
though they are not for the squeamish as they come with both shell
and head on and the chilli gives them a bit of a kick. Unless you
are a real fan, give the stir fried mixed vegetables a miss and ask
the waiter what fresh Chinese vegetables they have in. Usually it
will include Choi Sum, Pak Choi, and Chinese Leaf, though on a good
day, the choice might extend to Chinese Broccoli or Young Spinach
Leaves. Have them stir fried and served with oyster sauce or cooked
with ginger and garlic, you won 't regret it.
Time is perhaps the greatest test of any restaurant, Chinese or
otherwise. Being good is not easy, but being consistently good for
nearly ten years is an achievement in anyone 's books and I hope the
Far East will continue to be as good for many more years.
Far East, 27-35 Berry St, Liverpool, L1 9DF 0151 709 3141
Prices: One Plate meals Stg 5.00 - Stg 8.00; Dim Sum Stg 2.00 per
portion; banquets and buffets from Stg 11.00.
Open seven days, 12.00 noon to 11.30pm.
If you have visited Far East, please let Fred have your comments:
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(c) Fred Chan, 1997.
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