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Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung and Wai Ting Chung made London fall in love with Taiwanese buns when they opened Bao Soho in 2015 and Fitzrovia in 2016; now they look set to repeat that success for the island’s other culinary delights with this impressive newcomer on the edge of Chinatown. It’s a handsome, if narrow site, spread over two floors and styled in the sort of elegantly oriental art deco which, while not exactly ground-breaking, does conceal some original space-saving touches, from drawers to store bags under seats to a couple of tables for solo diners and two tiny semi-private rooms where the tables flip over to make a mah-jong board. But the most original thing about Xu (pronounced ‘Shu’) is the food. ‘Xiao tsai’ small plates and ‘mian shi’ pancakes and dumplings are followed by mains and a couple of ‘classics’ (marinated chicken and char siu ibérico pork). Highlights include numbing beef tendon in which thinly cut beef is set in a jellied terrine pooled with fiery chilli vinaigrette; another terrine of foie gras, this time quivering on a chewy spring onion pancake and cut with Shaoxing wine jelly; a pungent whip of creamy crab meat with fermented shrimp, garlic and more hot chilli; and, best of all, that ibérico pork, meltingly tender in the middle and crisped around the edges. Not all of it is so good – tomato and smoked eel is not a match made in heaven and an open mind is required for textures such as the spongy taro dumpling filled with sausage meat. But this is an exciting introduction to an under-represented cuisine (including an eye-opening selection of Taiwanese teas) and, if you’ve ever queued in the rain for Bao, you’ll be pleased to hear that Xu takes bookings.
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