Review: Chop Chop (Haymarket), Edinburgh

IT SEEMS SO long ago that Chop Chop featured on Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word series on Channel 4.  We had yet to visit their original restaurant just around the corner from Haymarket station, and my brother, Steve, had always suggested giving it a bash.

A big smile from restaurant manager Yin greeted us on arrival, proudly giving us a brief history of the restaurant his family opened back in 2006.  Since then, the Chop Chop brand has expanded operations, with a second restaurant established in Leith in 2010, and a Glasgow branch due to open later this year.

We decided to go for the unlimited banquet for two, priced at £20.25 per head. The banquet is a voluminous order: prawn crackers, spicy squid with garlic, boiled pork and coriander dumplings, pan-fried prawn dumplings, cucumber salad, aubergine with garlic, crispy northern beef, seasoned chicken wings, and boiled rice.

The dining room was pretty much at capacity; always a good sign given it’s a mid-month Wednesday evening. Then again, Chop Chop was voted Britain's favourite Chinese restaurant in 2012 and boasts over 20,000 members, so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. As I decanted the wine (Chop Chop is BYOB, with corkage charges applying), we couldn’t help notice that the table was rather sticky, which was a tad irritating.

The first dish to arrive was the cucumber salad, and I can report that it was utterly delicious.  It was supremely fresh, as you’d expect, with angel hair noodles running throughout, and a tinge of lemongrass adding flavours alongside the nuttiness of the sesame oil.

Next came the chicken wings, which were equally as exquisite.  The batter was crunchy with sesame seeds speckled throughout, with the juicy meat inside making this dish a real star of the meal for me.  It was so good we even ordered another round.

Sarah and I have eaten dumplings just about everywhere in Edinburgh over the past few weeks, so it was interesting to see how Chop Chop would fare, given their excellent reputation for the bite-sized treats. Thankfully, this reputation was justified. The pork and coriander were light and seasoned well, with a subtle taste of the herb complementing the pig.  The fried prawn offering was just as tasty, and it was clear they were hand-made with care and precision.

I was slightly concerned that the squid would be tough and rubbery – I’m still scarred from a terrible batch from a restaurant (that I won’t name back) in Kirkcaldy. However, they were in the right hands here: moist, with an enjoyable hit of chilli and a crispy batter.  In addition, the cucumber salad was super alongside it.

The largest dish was the crispy northern beef, which turned out to be Sarah’s favourite plate of the evening.  Again, layers of flavours, this time from lemongrass, chilli and soy; the little morsels were verging on addictive.  The rice was a little bit dry and bland, but It was edible enough.

I’m a big aubergine fan, and another vegetable element was most welcome.  They were soft, but not mushy, with just about the right of garlic in there.

I hadn’t given dessert a thought until Yin brought it up, and I wasn’t sure how I could manage another course.  I went for sugar string apples (£7.50) with a side of vanilla ice cream at an additional £1.70.  I’m glad I had this pudding, because I would probably never order a dessert in a Chinese restaurant.  As instructed, I dipped the battered apple into ice water to crystallise the sugar, then sunk my teeth through the crunchy, sweet outside, where I was then met with a zingy apple flavour. I enjoyed it a lot more than I had expected.

Sarah ordered mixed fruit dumplings (£3.90), also with vanilla ice cream. The filling was sharp and not overly sweet, with the ice cream creating a sauce for a decent, if unspectacular, dessert.

This was a sterling banquet that we both really enjoyed. I was particularly impressed with the amount of flavour crammed into every plate, and at that price for an unlimited feast, great value for money. We promised Yin we would be back as we left. Maybe we should invite my brother as a thank you…

Phone: 0131 221 1155
248 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8DT
Twitter: @eatatchopchop

Opening times: Mon-Fri 12:00-14:00, 17:00- 22:00 Sat: 12:00- 14:00, Sun 12:30-14:30, 17:00- 22:00 (Haymarket)

Mon-Thurs 18:00-22:00 Fri 18:00-22:30 Sat 12:00-14:00, 17:00-22:30 Sun 12:30-14:30, 17:00-22:00 (Leith)

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