The flyer for Chop Chop, the Chinese restaurant, on Edinburgh’s Morrison St asks ‘can a billion people be wrong?’. It’s a direct reference to the authentic Chinese cuisine that the owner and chef, Jian Wong, has brought to Edinburgh with Chop Chop. Judging by the fantastic meal I ate here on Saturday evening the answer is a resolute no they can’t.
Anyone passing Chop Chop on Morrison St must notice the bright yellow and red exterior, it’s unavoidable. In some ways it had put me off visiting; I thought it was just another Chinese restaurant serving the standard fare. But then I started hearing good things about Chop Chop from friends and a positive review in The List’s eating and drinking guide.
Shades might be needed in Summer when viewing Chop Chops exterior but the restaurants open plan interior is a lighter affair with pale yellow walls and the occasional red painted support. It’s certainly nothing fancy and can be adequately described as resembling a large cafeteria, but it’s not the venue that makes Chop Chop: refreshingly and noteworthy, given Edinburgh’s style bar/restaurant invasion, it’s the actual food.
To drink, I had a bottle of Grolsch (¬£2.10) and then a bottle of McWilliams Australian Riesling (¬£12.85). I don’t think Chop Chop sell many bottles of wine as it wasn’t chilled; to compensate our waiter submerged the bottle in a bucket of ice and water for about 10 minutes. By the time it was served the wine was cool, but not enough. Given the size of the restaurant and the ice cold Grolsch I was served, you would think Chop Chop could keep the wine chilled! A Bring Your Own Wine policy is offered by Chop Chop, but you will be charged ¬£5 corkage.
The menu is spread over many A4 pages, and offers a sizeable number of dishes. The starters incorporate salads, spring rolls, chicken wings, pork ribs and soups. The mains include, but aren’t limited to, standard chicken, pork and beef dishes, noodle dishes including noodles in peanut and mustard sauce, chow mein, stir fries and fish dishes. And then there’s the boiled and fried dumplings that the chef specialises in, and to which a whole page of the Chop Chop menu is devoted. So many tantalising combinations fill the page, such as beef and celery or pork and green pepper, that deciding which to order is a difficult task. Eventually we elected to share eight boiled vegetable dumplings (¬£3.15) and four fried pork and sauerkraut dumplings (¬£3.20) to start with.
While waiting for our food the chefs husband came to our table and introduced himself, asking whether this was our first time at Chop Chop, etc. It was a nice touch and he seemed a genuine guy who cared about the customers of Chop Chop and what our opinions were on the food. He said his wife tried to stick to authentic Chinese cuisine as much as possible, but had to adapt a few dishes for the British market and serve some dishes, such as crispy shredded beef, specifically for this country. He finished by saying “We should be in for a treat”. And he wasn’t wrong.
Our efficient Polish waiter delivered the dumplings in ceramic bowls, with accompanying chili oil and crushed garlic. He pointed out the tables soy sauce and Chinese vinegar, while encouraging us to make our own dipping sauce for the dumplings. We duly followed and quickly concluded the dumplings and accompaniments could only be described as fantastic. The fillings were sensational, especially the sauerkraut and pork, while the dumplings exterior was made and served to perfection. My only regret was not ordering more dumplings and some of the other varieties - they were truly that good.
Our main courses of stir fried diced lamb and diced potato(¬£7.80) and crispy shredded beef(¬£5.45) were generous in portion, while looking and smelling great. We also shared a bowl of fried rice (¬£1.60). Following the taste sensation of the dumplings was a difficult task, but these mains proved up to the challenge. The diced lamb was delicious, while the diced potatoes were so tasty I could have eaten them all day. The taste of the stir fry sauce was great, although one of the spices used left my tongue burning hot, and my hand reaching for water! The crispy shredded beef was equally good, which was a massive step above similar dishes I have had at Chinese restaurants in the past.
Comfortably full, but willing to try any dessert Chop Chop could muster, we opted to share eight fruit dumplings. And thankfully the quality did not disappoint. The wheat flour pastry cases were perfect and the apple and blueberry contents were a delight to eat: a refreshing but not overly indulgent dessert made these dumplings a great way to end a great meal.
The worrying aspect of my visit was that for 8pm on a Saturday evening Chop Chop was not very busy. By the time we left only two other tables were occupied. This might be attributable to the gorgeous warm evening Edinburgh was being treated with or may be more symptomatic of the relatively low key Morrison St location of Chop Chop and the highly competitive Chinese restaurant market in Edinburgh. I hope that Chop Chop does well; it truly deserves success. Their Chinese cuisine uses fresh ingredients, quality recipes and a chef who obviously has passion and care at the forefront of her mind. My meal was truly excellent, and showed there is much more to Chop Chop than just dumplings, although these are a strong draw on their own. I can’t wait to go back and try some more dishes off Chop Chop’s menu. Fianlly, it’s worth noting the value for money offered at Chop Chop is also very good.
So chop chop, and get yourself down to Morrison St for some fine and refreshingly different Chinese food.