There are small restaurants, there are cosy restaurants, and then there’s Mao Chow - an entirely vegan Chinese restaurant in London Fields that’s one Henry hoover away from being mistaken for an airing cupboard.
Finite space aside, the thing to know about this tiny 12-seater spot is that it makes some tasty food. Their sesame dan dan noodles with soy mince, cucumber, and a sauce that we’d definitely enforce the 30-second rule for if we dropped it on the floor, are better than a lot of meat versions we’ve had in the past. And their homemade dumplings, filled with a ‘meaty veg’ mixture, are satisfying and mysterious, like an ASMR-read riddle.
Not everything works here though. The good things - noodles, greens, and dumplings - are all punchy in flavour and heat. While the less good things - smacked cucumber, doughy bao, and mid-winter open door policy - can you leave you cold, both literally and figuratively.
That said, this is a fine (and fitting) addition to Hackney. The walk-in, or rather squeeze-in, only policy is perfect for an unplanned noodle or dumpling stop after a pint too many up the road. And the cash-only policy separates the wheat from the chaff, though there is a free cashpoint in the garage opposite. Just make sure you bagsy a seat before doing anything else.
Alan Partridge would shout across a car park for these noodles. They’re nutty, spicy, and the soy mince works perfectly with them.
The menu says these dumplings are filled with ‘meaty veg’ and Chinese chive. We’re not entirely sure what the former is. Maybe mushroom? Maybe something else. Whatever the mixture is, it tastes good, and there’s a serious chilli kick.
While the tempura mushrooms, pickled daikon, and sweet tian mian jiang mayo inside this bao taste good, the bun itself is big, doughy, and too much like chewing on the arm of the Michelin man.
Reads like an eight-year-old’s diary entry from Christmas Day. Tastes like Szechuan pepper and charred bits of sprout. Good, if a little overbearing.
Fried asparagus combined with crunchy peanuts, chilli and soy is an almost always tasty combination. It’s no different here.
Seemingly more caressed than smacked, this cucumber could do with some tough love and more time in its vinegar and sesame dressing.