Monday, July 31, 2017

Restaurant review: CRYSTAL CHINA (Tower Bridge Road)

If you fancy Chinese dining a little different from the noodles/rice & meat dish combination, or dim sum options, Crystal China specialises in dry hotpots. This is when the customer chooses several individual items from the menu, and they are all fried together, so the flavours blend together into a delicious melange. 

Crystal China is a very popular venue amongst people from the country with which the food originates, which is a testament to how genuine the meals they produce are. The ingredients which you can choose to go into your dry hotpot include foodstuffs that the more mainstream venues (read: selling out to Western taste palates) don't even both to procure, such as bamboo shoots. 

A word of warning, however, for those who think sweet and sour chicken represents the pinnacle of Chinese food: the spiciness levels of the meals may be a bit too hot to handle for the uninitiated. The waiters ask you how spicy you'd like your hotpot to be, on a scale of 1 to 4. As a family of Chinese people, we're used to hot food, but played it cool, asking for a modest 2.

2 my arse. The meal (pictured above) was so hot, I had to down a cup of water for every bite I took! I've since been alerted that that hyper-peppery '2' was a one-off, and usually dishes cooked at level 2 aren't quite as trying on one's tongue. But to make that mistake ever is poor form, especially in a dish which doesn't just affect one meal, but the whole tasting experience.

In terms of individual components of the hotpot, I really recommend the fish balls - deliciously plentiful and so edible! The greens were some of the healthier and more nutritious vegetables that I've had in Chinese restaurants, and seasoned just how I like it. Less exceptional was the beef, which was chewier than I liked it, and blighted by the unbearable hotness at which the meal had been cooked.

Due to the food being cooked hotter than we had requested, I got through a lot of water. More attentive waiters would know to top up my water unprompted. But that's not how Chinese restaurants operate, and, indeed, the curt expression born by the waiters, acting like haughty teenagers being asked to do their homework whenever  I had the temerity to request more water, was something that Crystal China shared with its Chinatown counterparts.

So, overall, a bit of a mixed bag. For those with an interest in Chinese cuisine, it's definitely worth trying dry hotpot - it's much more practical to share than the conventional hotpot, and the way the tastes blend together is pretty cool. Just choose your components prudently, and don't ask for more than a 2 on spiciness!

Grade: B-


I dine out at a lot of places in London. To read my other bar and restaurant reviews, click here. If you would like me to review your venue, or to place a sponsored post on my blog, email me at

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