London Dining Notes: Two Newcomers In Soho – Xu and Rambla

One was Chinese and was located on the fringe of London’s main Chinatown – but was as unlike the typical fluorescent-lit storefront as if it had been standing on the ritziest corner of 1930s Taipei. This is not a random image: Xu is presented as a “cinematic” evocation of that time and place. Evocative it is, with the two-story space visually divided by dark-wood open-work screens into smaller seating areas – with intimate four-seat “mahjong” rooms that can be reserved for dining and, yes, mahjong – and with lighting calibrated to be atmospheric but not so dim that the menu is indiscernable (the restaurant is bright during London’s few hours of daylight). At least at 10:30 p.m., the noise level was … well, there was no noise, just sound: the convivial hum that distinguishes eating out from eating at home. We felt happily relaxed, and (rightly) confident that the staff knew their stuff and would guide us well. If I had been fonder of tea, I’d have let them guide us through the restaurant’s impressive listing of Taiwanese teas, but we drank Riesling instead.

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