Monday, 18 March 2013

Host, Liverpool

Pan-Asian, a restaurant genre to strike fear into the heart of the purist. I'm not really one of those, but I understand their criticisms. Asia is a big place. The two most populous nations on earth have cuisines more varied than some continents, and that's just within their own respective borders. And it's not as if the vast span of Asia outside China and India eats food that's lacking in distinction either.

So can a Pan-Asian restaurant like Host really do justice to such myriad variety, or is it destined to disappoint? The classic jack of all trades but master of none.

A duck and watermelon salad with cashew nuts and thai basil was pleasing to eat on account of its textural contrasts. Fibrous meat, yielding, juice heavy melon and the snap and crunch of nuts and beansprouts. Taste wise it wasn't so much fun. Sweet fruit, sweet-ish meat and a sweet dressing left it one dimensional, needing something acidic for balance, or at least for the advertised basil to be detectable.

I couldn't resist ordering the seared beef pho to follow, partly because I fancied something soupy, and partly because at twelve quid it was by some margin the most expensive pho I've ever seen.

What does the mark up on your average Vietnamese restaurant prices get you? A very fine looking dish with a well stocked platter of garnishes, which although plentiful sadly didn't include any of the more unusual herbs, just regular coriander, mint and basil. The meat was the high point of the dish, a good slab of well seared, blush pink sirloin that wouldn't have been out of place with a bowl of frites. Springy noodles were also a hit.

So far so good, just the broth to taste, and oh... it just tastes of salt. Not offensively so, there's just not much else to it. None of the meaty depths of a good stock, no aromatic star anise back note. Ultimately what you're paying for is the European-isation of the dish, everything else acting as the supporting cast to the big slab of protein in the centre of the plate. Not unpleasant, just not really the point of pho as far as I'm concerned. It should be all about the broth.

Sadly it didn't really add up for me at Host. I hoped that the food would defy expectations, but it just served to confirm my suspicions that pan-Asian restaurants are never the place to go for genuinely good Asian food.  At £24 for two courses, one beer and service it's also not cheap.

Service, I should point out, was excellent. Everyone I spoke to was attentive, polite, and keen to check that everything was ok. Fine, I said, of course. Which it was. You can't really take up your issues with the entire concept with the waiting staff.


31 Hope Street
L1 9HX

HoSt on Urbanspoon


Mr Noodles said...

Blimey, that's London prices they're charging. Actually £12 is pricier than many a London gaff, even poncey Pan Asian ones. And ultimately the pho is a bit dumbed down. What a shame.

Dave said...

Yep, bit steep wasn't it? Only other soup noodles that ever cost that much are some of the swankier ramen options I would have thought.

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