B & D Restaurant
B&D Restaurant is a bit of an anomaly. It challenges a number of beliefs held about cheap (but rarely cheerful) Chinese restaurants. Located in Eden Quarter, B&D Restaurant is a twee square of a shop where a rare effort has been made to create some sense of ambience through the use of dark wood furniture, warming reds and orange lampshades, and laminated pictures of Oriental wilderness on the walls. The service is surprisingly joyful here, and the English is proficient. The last assumption I held which was rocked by my visit to B&D, was that Chinese restaurants can’t cook without MSG.
The menu is small in comparison to other restaurants lining Dominion Road, boasting a selection of hotpot, stir-fried and noodle options, and as I later found, a number of extremely hot dishes as well. They seem to be known for their all-day express lunch menu, which, for ten dollars, buys a main served with rice, soup, vegetables and fruit. I was here to share however, and as such ordered the squid with spicy sauce, the pork and chive dumplings, two pork buns and a side of rice.
Generosity seems to be a recurring theme at B&D; the amount of rice I’d ordered for two was better suited for four, and the amount of squid in our squid with spicy sauce seemed to go on forever. The latter was the first dish to arrive; it came in an enormous bowl, the lattice-cut curls of squid swimming in a soup-like sauce with enough dried chillis to keep India going for a day. Topped with a gremolata-like concoction of garlic and spring onions, it gave off an almost floral fragrance of crushed szechuan pepper (but this didn’t result in you losing feeling in your mouth when you ate it); unfortunately the amount of chilli in the dish more than made up for this. There was also a surprising lack of seasoning to bring out all the flavours, but nothing that couldn’t be remedied by a light drizzle of soy sauce; evidently MSG is not part of this cook’s repertoire.
The pork and chive dumplings were a continuation of this boycott on monosodium glutamate, and dunked in a mixture of black chinkiang vinegar and soy sauce, they worked a treat. Our pork buns had a lovely, toothsome dough with the welcome aroma of yeast (a far cry from the sweet, overly fluffy and stark-white bao you often see at yum char) and a tasty pork-mince filling that was – hurrah! – properly seasoned with salt.
As I looked around B&D, I noticed everyone had bowls of noodles in various guises and things that didn’t look like they had ‘spicy sauce’ on it. Perhaps they too had learnt not to order anything labeled as such. Clearly mine (and everyone else’s) notion of what ‘spicy’ means is vastly different from that of B&D’s, which is something to bear in mind. Despite my burning mouth, the rest of the meal and the overall experience put the cheer back into ‘cheap and cheerful’ and I’ll be back for the noodles. And the dishes under the heading ‘non-spicy’.