I hardly venture out of the Liverpool Street Station because if I travel to London, I usually have somewhere else to go. I usually make a beeline to the tube station entrance, oyster card in hand. But several weeks back, I’d read about this restaurant just outside the station, near the Liverpool Street entrance of the station. It served one of my favourite things in the world: DIMSUM! I’m all for trying dimsum so I was (very) eager to go try NOW Streetfood.
I loved the front of the store. It’s got this massive window front with small towers of bamboo steam baskets piled one on top of the other. It made me smile. I mean if they steamed their dimsum properly, we were off to a good start.
The first thing that hits you when you enter the place is the fact that it isn’t your typical dimsum place. There are no little tables around. Instead the seating area is limited. To one side of the counter where you place your order is an eating bar with high-ish bar stools that seats about 3 persons, 4 at a squeeze facing toward the street, with a couple more seats on the other side of the entrance. The other side is a bit more generous in terms of space. It could, quite possibly, fit 7 to 8 persons. I think the concept is mostly dimsum-to-go for the busy commuters, hence the lack of seating for punters.
They have a menu up that you could chose from and build your “basket” but if you weren’t too confident about ordering specific dimsum, they made it easier for you. You had the option of ordering pre-selected baskets. You could choose from the NOW Basket, the Meat Basket, the Seafood Basket and the Veggie Basket. They had hot sides, cold sides, a choice of nibbles and drinks.
We ordered a NOW basket and a meat basket and a chicken wonton soup. I was looking forward to trying the dimsum because I’d looked through the menu online and everything looked so scrumptious. The Meat Basket had 2 pieces of their beef dumpling, spicy pork dumpling and chicken shumai. I quite enjoyed the beef dumpling and thought the spicy pork dumpling had promise. I can’t quite recall what was in the NOW basket, which is not a good sign. Visually, the dumplings were beautifully presented. They showed how well they were made. It was the taste that was not quite there. I can’t really say that it was bland, because I could taste the nuances of flavour. But I found myself waiting for my tongue to taste something else.
The chicken wonton soup was in this hugely generous white tub. I’ve always loved chicken wonton, both here in the UK and from Chinese restaurants in Manila–it was basically the same everywhere I went. I was expecting this lovely chicken broth with chinese leaf and a bit of spring onion and a hint of garlic. Unfortunately, the size of the serving was proportionate to my disappointment. There was a lot of cabbage (I was wondering what red cabbage was doing in wonton soup!) and what was the predominantly offending flavour was the red bell pepper. Although, that being said, if you could ignore that dominant taste of red bell pepper, the texture of the chicken wonton was very pleasant. The filling in the wonton was surprisingly succulent. But, unfortunately, whatever flavour was there in that lovely wonton was washed out by that bell pepper taste.
I did enjoy the little roll of traditional sticky rice. It was a little tricky unrolling the lotus leaf (I did find the warning to not eat the leaf very considerate to people who don’t normally eat dimsum). There was a lot of flavour in that little parcel, and I felt that it was quite affordable, priced at £1.69. If you were eating this together with dimsum, it is the perfectly sized serving.
My favourite though, was what they called the Chinese Burger. What their dimsum lacked in flavour, their Chinese Burger more than made up for it. The Chinese Burger is made of two slices of mantou bread (the steamed bread similar to the bread in steamed buns), what I thought was char siu pork, hoisin sauce, coriander and carrots. After being disappointed by the dimsum, I was fairly reluctant to try the burger. I was very surprised at how good it was though. I loved it! If I was asked what I should eat at NOW, I would gladly recommend the Chinese Burger.
Their choices of beverage was quite interesting. I loved the Chinese “Palmer” which was lemonade with black tea, and it was very refreshing. I think their wall of drinks and desserts and cold sides were an interesting touch.
All in all, the NOW experience was quite pleasant. I feel that the dimsum has a lot to live up to in terms of flavour, especially if what they want to do is to “bring the very best of Chinese food.” It’s not quite there yet, compared to the dimsum restaurants in Chinatown but I do love what NOW is trying to do. I love that they are trying to make Chinese streetfood more accessible and less of a mystery, and to make people understand that Chinese food is more than sweet and sour pork, chicken chow mein and pancake rolls. I love that the service is quick and friendly and the restaurant setting has a very young vibe. I would definitely go back for the Chinese burger…or two.