Last week we popped in to Princess Street newcomer Pinwei for a taste of some classic Chinese dishes and got a little reminder...
…that, despite what your mate with a Miles Platting postcode says, it’s not ALL about Ancoats.
With all Mana of excitement over Michelin stars, and a seemingly never ending array of cuisines to try in new places popping up all over town, it’s easy to forget about the streets where Manchester has been finding its exotic eating experiences for decades.
But China Town and the Curry Mile are well and truly still on this city’s dining-map and there are plenty of great restaurants hidden in both areas waiting to be discovered.
If I could more often cross a wintry windswept threshold to be greeted by a man with a sharp knife and a whole Peking duck, life would just be a little bit better wouldn’t it?
After very little deliberation we opted for the Duck Pancakes, dexterously sliced at our table by a friendly but reassuringly serious bloke in a nice uniform, and I’d recommend you kick things off in the same way when you visit Pinwei.
Bite-size Steamed Pork Dumplings with a sesame dipping sauce came next, and our waiter let slip that an expanded Hong Kong-style dim sum menu is on its way soon – so keep your ear to ground for further developments on that front.
Have you really even been for Chinese if you don’t inadvertently end up with something a little odd on the table? The salt and pepper chicken was a bit strange, in that it was more bone than anything, the rub was good but the cuts were not, so we moved on to our mains.
Ordering the spiciest thing on the menu has got me into trouble before, but I figured we’d be safe with Chinese, which rarely comes face-meltingly hot at least. Piquancy tends to come from pepper rather chillies, which are more for flavour.
We were treated to a couple of vibrant, traditional Szechwan dishes. First, beautifully moist Whole Seabass with crisp skin and tender flesh made a magnificent centrepiece, crowned with crisp vegetables and fragrant seasoning. This sort of cooking is a far cry from your average sweet and sour stuff, it’s healthy for a start, and made with fresh ingredients not cloaked by MSG. Simple sides of garlic stir fried pak choi and steamed rice brought things together.
Our other dish fizzed with the unusual tang of green peppercorns, they add a unique verve to Chinese cooking, numbing the tongue like a lick on 9V battery, and calling you back for more. Crisp pieces of soy-marinated fried chicken mixed with the spice of chilli peppers and peppercorns, peanuts and spring onion – a plate packed with competing texture and flavour.
Finally, to finish a plate of caramelised banana fritter balls that could warm anyone’s heart. At first I thought we’d been given a finger bowl, but they come served with water for dipping, in order to slightly soften and reignite the sweetness of their crunchy sugar coating.
A clever piece of trickery I’m sure you’ll agree.
There’s plenty of familiarity on the menu at Pinwei, but some real quality dishes on offer, and plenty of food you might not have ever tried either. Here’s a timely memo from this China Town basement, it’s still here and it’s still the business.
Pinwei, 28 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 4LB
0161 236 9298