M & L Chinese Restaurant

This is just a very short review of a quick lunch I had last week but which started on Twitter last month. That probably doesn’t make much sense so allow me to explain: I am quite thoroughly addicted to the combination of Sichuan peppercorns and chilli (known as málà in Chinese) and one of my favourite examples of this is the very prosaically named Boiled Beef in a Fiery Sauce (水煮牛肉).

I’d been to M&L before and ordered what was termed on their menu as ‘Braised Beef In Hot and Spicy Sauce’(水煮牛) and while it was very good it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, especially on the Sichuan pepper front. Before I went back, I scoured the Chinese language menu on the restaurant website to see if I could find it. This was quite difficult given I don’t speak or read Chinese but I’m reasonably sure it wasn’t on there.

I then noticed a little Twitter icon on the corner of the menu page and I figured it was worth a shot asking directly. Sure enough I got an answer a few hours later telling me there were several versions of the boiled beef and to just ask for a chap called Zhao when I was in and he would have the kitchen make it for me.

So, after such a lengthy digression, was it any good? Most definitely. The portion itself was huge, there must have been over half a kilo of meat and it was liberally topped with toasted Sichuan chillies and flecked with whole Sichuan peppercorns. The bean paste (doubanjiang) which really is the heart of this dish was excellent, full of broad beans – rather than the cheaper soy some inferior pastes include – with that lovely characteristic hot, salty and fermented tang. I’d ordered my food extra spicy and there was plenty of heat but I could have done with some more peppercorns, in other words there was plenty of là not enough má.

Something really worth noting is the great engagement with customers this restaurant does online: after the meal I tweeted about how nice it was and got a response straight away and also the suggestion of just coming in and asking the waiters to surprise me with some traditional Sichuanese cooking. Given how misused Twitter can be I think it’s great to see a business really taking advantage of the medium.

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