THIS weekend, Europe's oldest Chinatown will be awash with colour, noise and all the fun of the fair as thousands turn out to celebrate the Year of the Ox in weak winter sunshine..
Confidential likes Chinese New Year: It seems to take care of itself and always appears to run seamlessly with little intervention, plus the restaurants and cafes around Nelson and Berry streets, and right across the city, buzz with people and travelling dragons turning up in minibuses making things go with an extra firecracker bang. There's no better time to enjoy the Chinese experience.
But what of the Chinese food experience? Confidential has had good, bad and a lot of very average grub in its chopstick travels around the place. By the latter, we mean bogstandard beef in blackbean sauce and oyster prawns drowned in cornflour gravy or thick sauces that could easily be sponsored by Win Yip or Blue Dragon. And we haven't even gone near the MSG question.
Mr Chilli is a favourite. But there still aren't many places at all here in Liverpool offering a bit of different for the gwailo, ie, a menu translated into English that offers something more challenging than crispy duck and pancakes.
Because we wouldn't eat it? Give us a chance!
Off the top of our heads, within a 500-yard radius of The New Star, the Mei Mei is a safe bet, the Yuet Ben even safer, and the Ma Bo and North Garden were the only choice for students, and those in the know, for years.
Meanwhile, the budget, all-you-can-eat-out-of-a-trough places, like the Buffet Star in Hanover Street, frequently have them queueing and waddling out of the door.
But the question we're asking you today is who does the best – and the worst - Chinese food in Liverpool? Is there a takeaway in Woolton that knocks spots off the Mr Chilli experience? Have you had anything memorable anywhere - soberish, and not after a nightclub - and why was it memorable? For all the right or wrong reasons?
On a fast food map we were sent this week, Liverpudlians appear in the top three Chinese food lovers for eating approximately 27 takeaways a year and spending almost £300 in the process. So where are you going and why?
The family who run The New Star also have a place in Aintree, proving that the search for the best could be quite wide. So let's not get city centre-centric, and let us know where we should, or shouldn't, be going.
We will award a £100 Chinese banquet in a place of your choice for the be
st rant on the subject and a crate of Tsing Tao beer for the runner up. We will also visit with our silver chopsticks and award them to the establishment in question.
So go ahead...Chinese food in Liverpool – bag yourself a banquet.