Posted on Tuesday, 13th April 2010
For about the last three years, the dim sum kitchen at Alisan in Wembley has been run by two ex-Hakksan dim sum chefs, Bao Chen and Seng Chow. Consequently, in 2007, the restaurant became a finalist in the best dim sum dish category as awarded by the Craft Guild of Chefs and Restaurant Magazine. So despite its Wembley location – which entailed three tube changes – I just couldn’t resist going to see just how good the dim sum at Alisan might actually be.
The restaurant is spacious and airy with lots of natural light. But with Wembley stadium in view, it’s hardly the most glamorous location. The surroundings feel a little like an industrial site, and the walk from the tube wasn’t the most exciting.
But it’s the food that counts, and we started with a perennial favourite, har gau (prawn dumplings) (£2.80). The prawn filling was wonderfully crunchy and tasty and possessed a strong aroma of sesame oil. The wrapper was nicely done but could have been a little lighter in texture.
Ox tripe with ginger and spring onions (£2.50) were very tender, but a little on the peppery side. Crispy golden seafood rolls (£3.40) were generously filled with a mixture of fresh tasting seafood.
Chicken feet in chilli black bean sauce (£2.40) yielded an authentic sauce that was thick with black bean flavour. However, the chicken feet, whilst tender, could have done with more cooking time for a more melt-in-your-mouth texture. The prawns in the prawn cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) (£3.60) were also wonderfully crunchy and tasty, with the cheong fun being light, smooth and very authentic.
A plate of pan-fried turnip cake (£3) came as one large piece rather than the three smaller pieces more commonly seen in dim sum restaurants. The texture of the turnip cake was lovely and smooth, but it was light on turnip flavour. The turnip cake was also topped with some Chinese chive omelette. On its own, the omelette is a common home-style Cantonese dish, and it was a pleasant addition to the turnip cake.
A scallop shumai (£3.50) was excellent. The scallop perched on top of the dumpling was flavoursome and sweet, and the shumai was filled with a hearty filling of prawns. Shanghai dumplings (£2.50) were less successful as they were also very peppery.
To finish, we had some steamed custard buns (£2.40) which were creamy with a pleasant custard flavour.
As with many of the better dim sum restaurants in London, some items were excellent, but others could have been better. Although they use a lot of MSG, the taste of which stays with you after your meal, lunch was a pretty decent overall. For a part of London not famed for dim sum restaurants, it’s probably a great choice. But would I make three tube changes for it again? Probably not.