Food Blog | Cooking Blog
Following its' opening in late 2014, Shikumen has taken the West London dining scene by storm. Translating to "stone gate", Shikumen emulates the colonial style of arched architecture unique to 1940's Shanghai, from which it takes its' name. From the paintings on the wall to the meticulous artistry of the dim sum chefs, every detail of the restaurant reveals commitment to authenticity. The menu showcases the training and skill of Shikumen's chefs, with exquisite and original dim sum joined by signature Cantonese Peking duck, carved at your table and served to your liking. Other enticing options include a luxurious baked black cod fillet with Champagne sauce, fillet of beef in a rich Merlot and black pepper sauce, and fried chicken in a Marmite-soy sauce with honey melon. Everything you know and love is on the menu, but Shikumen certainly does provide ample opportunity for anyone looking to try something new and experimental. The large, ornate dining room overlooking Shepherds Bush Green effortlessly blends contemporary cuisine with Chinese tradition and promises a top notch culinary experience with delicious cocktails, an expansive wine list, and completely adorable service. One for all of the family!
First to arrive was the Peking duck, prepared meticulously according to an Ancient Cantonese recipe and roasted for 45 minutes. We ordered half a duck between two, which was perfect; it arrives whole, and then is sliced finely by one of the chefs in front of your table. Unlike crispy shredded duck, the flesh is not torn from the bone using a fork, rather, it is cut very carefully into really quite perfect rounded slices using a long, very sharp knife. The duck was not only served with the homemade pancakes, hoisin sauce, shredded spring onion and cucumber we might have expected, but homemade fluffy rice buns, an assortment of ginger, radish and pickle garnishes, and a small bowl of powdered sugar (to "sweeten" the duck) also made appearances.
Our next round of 'starters' included a steamed dim sum platter that combined two of four remarkably different but equally perfect little dumplings: har gau, chinese chive and prawn, pumpkin seafood (my fave) and crabmeat and prawn. I was also delighted when my guest for the evening, The Alto Attorney, ordered the vegetarian spring rolls with enoki mushroom. I am a sucker for a mushroom at any stage, but the weird and wonderful mushrooms that emerge in experimental Pan-Asian cuisine always offer strong and unexpected flavours that you just don't really get from the budget chestnut mushrooms from Tesco. Again, The Alto Attorney didn't disappoint when she reminded me that she absolutely hates prawn toast. Ka-ching! Slightly ashamedly, i did eat the entire plate on my own, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. The Phoenix sesame prawn on toast is a real must at Shikumen. The pieces are small, delectable and only lightly fried so one can happily refuse to acknowledge that it is, at any rate, an extremely fattening little indulgence. The Ying Yang king prawn came as a recommendation from the chef: enormous and juicy king prawns fried in a whisky oyster sauce and served atop a cool lime glass noodle salad - a great individual starter option.
At this point, as you can imagine, the starter-main-course dichotomy was long gone and everything seemed to be coming and going in a never ending stream of little plates, each better than the last. We enjoyed the crispy pork belly served with homemade Chinese buns, and some stir fried pak choi with Oyster sauce alongside our 'main' dishes. This is where i really thought the service stood out, as it is an incredibly difficult type of food to serve in a way that is sufficiently staggered without taking fifteen years, and it is important to serve each little dish alongside companions that it gets along with. The waiters asked us about the order with which we wanted to be served, and only progressed to each subsequent course when we had clearly indicated that we were ready. Our mains included roasted Chillean sea bass Fillet in a Honey King Sauce and Squirrel fish (deep fried sea bass fillet pieces) with a sweet and sour sauce on the side. We cleansed our palettes with some sticky Thai fragrant rice, and made an attempt at a jelly fish salad that was a new feature on the menu. Definitely one of the most interesting dishes that I have ever had, but it might have been a step too adventurous for me, as I found myself slightly put off by the jelly-ish crunch of what looked just like glass noodles!