YEARS ago now, Liverpool Confidential did one of those things where we asked readers to talk about their favourite curry house for the chance of a £100 feed there. The response was overwhelming and, encouraged, we then went on to ask the same of Chinese restaurants.
It is all dark wood and sleek lines; Zen candles flicker in the spotless, super- modern bathrom,
but that's the nearest hint you get that
this place serves Oriental cuisine
Any fortune cookie would have told us this was ill starred. What we got back was a series of rants telling us where not to go. “The best Chinese food is in the bin,” said one.
Another went on to rant, and I quote: “The worst Chinese meal I ever had was in Allerton Road, in a tiny place now closed, no doubt by public request. It featured the foulest-tempered Chinese gran who was waitressing. She was a Cantonese version of the Wood and Walters "Two soups" waitress, and banged each plate down as if it had insulted her.
"They had chicken and sweetcorn soup the consistency and colour of wallpaper paste. But the best touch was when my mum ordered fruit salad. It came in one of those minuscule tin dishes. AND was actually tinned mixed veg. Someone had clearly opened the wrong tin.
“I rather like the Buffet Star, having a huge 11-year-old to feed. The staff are always polite, despite having to run about nimbly through the bustling , waddling punters. It does, however, attract the fattest people in Liverpool, but I expect that is inevitable;'All you can eat' being something of a thrown-down gauntlet.”
There were vague mutterings about a place in Old Swan being nice, and other venues being put forward that we knew to be OK, but no more than that. No mention of the 9 Dragons, a beacon of joy in the Old Roan, and just a suggestion that the Tai Pan was “very good”.
Then, a chap I know who produces award-winning feature films alerted me to Chy a few weeks ago; raving, so he was.
“Why don't you review it for us?” I asked him, curbing my enthusiasm.
“I couldn't do it under my own name,” he said.
“Why? You know about food, you make films. "You could," I gushed, "be Merseyside's Michael Winner."
I haven't heard from him since.
ScallopsThe owners of Chy had the New Regent around 15 years ago, a far more traditional premise on the same premises. Now it is all dark wood and sleek lines; Zen candles flicker in the spotless, super- modern bathrom but that's the nearest hint you'll get that this place serves Oriental cuisine.
Even the name Chys, sorry shies, away from it. There's no hidden menu offering chicken feet in broth. It's too waggish for that. But not so waggish that you'd expect to see Alex Curran in there (last spotted in the Shangri-La, la).
Vegetable spring rolls (£3), despite initial misgivings that they may have come from a bag in the WH Lung freezer, are constructed right here and the crisp, bone dry wrappings crackled open to reveal a lovely creamy mushroom filling.
Salt and pepper chicken wingsA selection of vegetable tempura (£4.50), although Japanese in origin, was the most authentic I have come across since the days when I worked out that way and ponced around Harajuku every weekend (for “authentic”, read “haphazard-looking, light, sensory delight”).
The salt and pepper chicken wings (£6), that staple of late night forays into the chippie, were artfully presented on that ubiquitous sophisticated square, white crockery (even the chopsticks are posh and cocoa brown ). Generously scattered with red chillies over that splintering, searing hot batter, they were devoured in moments.
I instantly took a shine to the place when they knocked the excellent steamed scallops (£6.50) off the bill because “we only have six left, not eight”, apologised the waiter.
SeabassTwo huge fillets of sea bass (£15) with ginger and spring onion was off the chef specials menu. The fish came in what appeared to be a large bath of soy sauce, but it turned out the chef had been more sensible than that, and the gentle broth did nothing to mess with the refined flavour of the fish other than enhance it.
We could have done with it on another special, roast duck, char sui and crispy belly pork (£10). “Served over a bed of steamed rice and seasonal vegetables,” it said, which turned out to be no more than a couple of shards of celery and a leaf of Chinese cabbage, all resting on a big heavy clump of dry white rice. The generous slices of meat were succulent, assuming you like eating slices of meat in isolation, and the waiter who had been so magnanimous with the scallops was keen that I take what remained home with me. I did, and it did the trick for supper a couple of days later, enhanced by lashings of kitchen Kikkoman.
Duck, char sui and belly porkIt was redeemed by beef in garlic and chilli (£8) which was tender and flavour-packed (MSG,or no MSG? Who knows, who cares?) and a king prawn chow mein (£10), which comprised lots of the perfectly adequate buggers on crispy fried egg noodles, although, again, the vegetables could have been more varied on the eye and for texture.
In all, then, the good neighbourhood Chinese that the diverse Lark Lane strip undoubtedly deserves.
Which brings me back to “Anonymous of Allerton Road”. If you are reading this, make yourself known, come and claim your crate of Tsing Tao and I will treat you to a slap-up feast at Chy where we will discuss buffets and childhood obesity without a laughing Buddha in sight.
I wouldn't mind going back there, you see.
*Follow Angie Sammons on Twitter @twangeee
ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. Critics dine unannounced and the company picks up their bills - never the restaurant, never a PR company.
43 - 45 Lark Lane,
Liverpool, L17 8UW
0151 727 1122
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it; 6-9 get a DVD; 10-11 if you must; 12-13 if you’re passing; 14-15 worth a trip; 16-18 very good to exceptional; 19 pure quality; 20 As good as it gets.