The Real Wan Glasgow

THERE’S a moment while I hover neither in or out of the doorway having a long distance shouty conversation with a very distracted man in a high cotton mask who insists I’m here for a take-away – and I’m thinking: uh-oh.

There’s another moment after I give up trying to explain a table’s booked, but am still trying to find out under what name, when I just walk in and just sit down and pick up a menu and realise it’s printed in teeny, tiny microscopic type, say six point, and has hidden multiple choice sections, and lots of numbers, with many bits in Chinese – and once again I’ll think: uh-oh.

Out there, somewhere, the weirdly beardly man who actually arranged this table (and holds the secret of the name) is driving round and round in ever enraging circles unable to compute that this tiny corner shop, under a tenement block, beside a U-Save joint, across from a factory, he keeps passing is actually where he’s meant to be. Sigh.

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It’s 6.30pm the day after Scotland found that Euro20 trapdoor and apart from a couple at the window and moi there are no other diners occupying the bendy white plastic chairs, the small white plastic tables, or even admiring the tiny collection of tiny art on the otherwise featureless walls.

Yet behind me, it's going like the Glasgow Fair. Amidst the largest collection of small filled containers, in the smallest of open kitchens, three people hustle and bustle fulfilling take-away orders, dealing occasionally with figures (not yet the missing Garry) who will loom in the doorway and then leave with bags full of south Chinese delicacies.

I now have reading glasses on and realise the world’s tiniest print menu also comes with periodic tables of numbers, and mystic cross references and so I give up, get my pen out and play Russian Roulette randomly ticking here, there, everywhere.

Later, when our tongues are numbed by the peculiarly addictive effects of Sichuan peppercorns, while we’re rooting through Option A crisp pork belly morsels, with pickled lotus and beansprouts and while being splattered by dangerously uncoiling wheat udon with a mind of their own we’ll ask: Crikey, what is this?

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By then there will be soft, puffy white buns to be pulled apart and eaten, filled with sweet and sticky charsui or (Option B) fresh and vibrant shiitake and pakchoi.

Those devoured, chop-sticks will dip into marbled beef, pickled Guiyang chillies and sesame sauce all coming together into something that tastes strangely, deliciously fragrant, despite its somewhat challenging looks.

It’s only because we’re so distracted by the non-stop culinary theatre arriving at the table that dishes that would probably entertain to the very bottom of the bowl are tasted and then thoughtlessly spurned.

On reflection, that ceramic bowl filled with slow-cooked chicken thigh, Guiyang-homestyle chilli sauce and choi sum deserved a lot more love, not only looking spectacular being layered with strips of choi-sum (flowering cabbage), dotted with toasted peanuts, spring onion and herbs, yet having one of those multi-layered sensations that turns simple chicken into something special and memorable.

Incidentally, I took option B on the jiao ma which means potatoes arrive instead of of ribs, roasted in a blend of spices and more of that almost medicinal Sichuan pepper rammed with unique flavours that has us both scrabbling (yes, Garry has arrived) to get the last couple – though I do wonder if £8 for this dish is the right price.

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As for those flat noodles with beef marinated in Guiyang flavours, home-made chilli oil and heaps of crispy chillis? Possibly the best thing we eat, the noodles like a silky pasta, the chilli mild yet still tantalising.

The Real Wan, then, is a long, long overdue dive, in Scotland anyway, into regional South Chinese flavours. That menu is hard-work, enormous, probably unnecessarily so, and we only scratch at the surface of it.

But it’s worth exploring.

The Real Wan 134 Newlands Road Glasgow 0141 633 0803

Menu: Tiny print, far too complicated, but full of South Chinese regional cooking with noodles, dumplings, bao and even home-made Geda pasta, all fired up to maximum flavour. 5/5

Service: Busy with take-away but tables still available. While they’re rushed off their feet when I come in the service was friendly and helpful when the food started flowing. 5/5

Atmosphere: Minimal decor, plastic chairs and tables, white painted walls, counter separating the kitchen, you come for the food not the decor. 2/5

Price: Main sized dishes hover around a tenner, smaller ones start roughly at £6. Detailed sourcing, a lot of effort put into preparation. Reasonable. 3/5

Food: Packed with flavour, spicing and Siuchuan peppercorns: that slow-cooked chicken thigh in Guiyang homestyle chiili, those udon with crispy pork belly? Excellent. 8/10 23/30