Friday, 23 December 2011

Zen Delight, Leeds

I chanced upon an interesting new Chinese place the other night. It's a casual looking café style space, obviously aiming for the lunch market with set Chinese meal deals and a sandwich menu. There's also a list of more interesting meals and specialities, and these are what caught my attention as I stopped to glance at the menu in the window.

There are a few Sichuan dishes, and also some from Dongbei and (I think) Beijing, both in Northern China. I had a chat with the friendly woman behind the counter who said they'd only been open a few days and were hoping to keep some 'real Chinese food' (her words) on the menu as well as the other stuff. She also mentioned that the chef was from Dongbei so any dishes from there might be worth investigating.

I ordered Sichuan chilli chicken, Di San Xian (a vegetable dish of aubergine, potato and peppers) and some boiled rice.

The chilli chicken was a completely dry dish, not exactly what I was expecting but bloody wonderful. Imagine KFC popcorn chicken but good. Deep fried chunks of chicken on the bone, crunchy and greaseless, smothered in garlic, sichuan pepper, chilli, spring onion and sesame seeds.

I dived in with my fingers and polished the lot off in about five minutes. Salty, spicy, tongue tingling and highly addictive.

The veg dish was much gentler, but also very good. Stewed or braised in a very garlicky sauce, the potatoes and aubergines were soft and savoury, and crispy bits of fried garlic provided textural contrast.

All in all a very pleasant surprise and a welcome addition to Leeds' Asian dining scene which is starting to reveal some hidden depths. I'll be back here, the food is good, the staff friendly and prices are reasonable for the quality of the cooking (this meal cost just over £13).

That's me done for the next few days, Merry Christmas everyone!


Zen Delight
Swinegate (not sure what number, but it's about halfway between Salt's Deli and Malmaison)

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