16 January 2006

Jabu: Chinese Dumplings and Fondue

On Saturday night we decided to try out Jabu on London Road in Sheffield for some Chinese dumplings and fondue with Jon and Amanda. I’d heard some good reports and read some great reviews of the restaurant on BBC South Yorkshire’s Greedy Cow website and Sheffield Forum, which also helped to prepare me for what we were about to experience...

First of all, the place is small – there are only six or seven tables in there – but that wasn’t a problem for us because we’d booked earlier that day. (There were quite a few disappointed groups arriving throughout the night that hadn’t booked and had to be turned away though.) The next thing we noticed was how helpful and polite our waitress was. In today’s world where hardly anybody in the catering and hospitality industry cares about their jobs, it makes a refreshing change to be served by someone who’s willing to calmly talk you through the menu, explain how much you should order and answer any questions you might have. (Obviously, this is essential in a place like this as not many people have been to a Chinese fondue restaurant before!)

For starters, on our waitress’s recommendation, we ordered just two portions of dumplings, which was easily enough for four people as there were twelve in each portion! There was a good selection, but we opted for one portion of chicken, mushroom & Chinese leaves dumplings and another of beef & chilli. Our waitress brought them to the table and even demonstrated how we should eat them by cutting each one in half with a fork and pouring some soy sauce/vinegar/sesame oil (or whatever it was) over them.

For main course our waitress had recommended that we should choose ten items, so we ordered: chicken (twice), beef balls, scallops (we got four in our portion), fresh tiger prawns in shells (we got twelve in our portion), pig skin (i.e. pork scratchings), Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean shoots, udon noodles and vermicelli noodles. We then had to select our soup bases in which we would be cooking everything – we could choose two out of the four – and our dipping sauces. We opted for the Chinese herb soup base, the hot soup base and one of each of the dipping sauces; garlic, sweet chilli, wasabi and sesame satay.

The next part was where all the fun started. The soup was brought in a huge stainless steel dish, split into two sections, and placed on a Chinese (really, really) hot plate in the middle of your table. (The temperature gauge said it went up to 400° – we assumed this was in Fahrenheit but the way the soup was boiling it could have been Celsius!) The waitress then came over and showed us what to do. Basically, she just divided our raw ingredients into two and threw half into each soup! She then explained that we had to wait until the soup was boiling again, at which point we could serve up the meal and drink the soup once we’d finished cooking.

Everything tasted fantastic! Despite throwing most things in together, you could taste each ingredient perfectly. However, I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. DO NOT WEAR A WHITE SHIRT or a posh new top. Not unless you’re an incredibly careful eater, a black-belt chopstick user and / or you take a bib with you!
  2. If you order the hot soup, there are a few really small hot chillies in there and lots of black peppercorns which you need to look out for. I can handle hot food – and this wasn’t too hot – but crunching on chillies and black peppercorns isn’t everyone’s idea of fun.
  3. If you order the hot soup and the fresh prawns, make sure you count all your eyes after cooking the prawns and before drinking the soup! Prawn eyes look suspiciously like black peppercorns!
  4. If you order the fresh tiger prawns in shells, you’re going to get messy! Also refer to the first point, above.
  5. Make sure that you visit Jabu!!! If you love Chinese food and want to try something a bit different, it’s great!

Jabu doesn’t currently have a license to sell alcohol, so you have to take your own, which helps keep the cost down, although all four of us ate plenty and it cost less than £50. (Whilst they charge £1 for using a credit or debit card to pay, you can’t really grumble about that because everything else is perfect!)

Excellent service, excellent food, excellent atmosphere and excellent value.

Jabu is simply excellent!

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