Photo by Richard Owens
Lu Lu Tong
The sound of someone slurping noodles very loudly can be an extraordinarily attractive thing. Especially when, as they do so, the aromas that fill the air are all pungent, slightly sweet and faintly earthy, like being somewhere else entirely. I am at Lu Lu Tong, an unpromising looking room that is strip lit, but scrupulously clean, crazy cheap and, frankly, kinda bonkers-looking. There are pictures of kittens on the walls and plastic pandas inset into the table tops, but I am told it is the best Chinese in town, and Barcelona’s Chinese population would seem to agree. At lunchtime, the place is rammed with the residents of the several blocks to the north and east of the Arc de Triomf that make our very own Chinatown, and though it’s quiet at night, the food is no less good. Trust that everything is delicious because the menu descriptions really don’t give much away. Or use that age-old trick of pointing at the neighbouring table and saying: “I’ll have what they’re having.”
We tuck into handmade wide rice noodles, all silky and robustly flavoured, that had been generously tossed with sliced shiitake mushrooms and beef strips. A heaped pile of mangetout steamed in chicken broth with indecent amounts of garlic is bright as spring and devilishly good. Feather light, beautifully tender pot sticker dumplings are deeply savoury and running with the juices of a pork and chive stuffing. Fragrant potato paste dumplings are soft and pillowy, tossed together with bok choy for a pleasing crunch. I’m less keen on the sticky ribs in oyster sauce (too sweet for my taste and not falling from the bone quite enough), but an oceanic sized bowl of wanton soup is like being wrapped in a blanket and given a massage. Just when I think things can’t get any better, fried rice flour buns stuffed with jaggery and black sesame is easily the best Chinese pudding I’ve ever had.
But the good news does not stop there, my friends. This little lot washed down with a couple of beers (Lulu Tong does not serve wine, though they don’t mind you bringing a bottle—my ladies bought a bottle of white in the Dirty Duck next door) set us back the grand total of €38 for four. Now that’s got to be worth heading out for.
Diputació 340, Eixample. Tel. 93 265 6178 / 689 438 194. Open daily 1-4pm and 8-11pm. Around €10-€15 per head, including beer.