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Published: 15 March 2007

XO Restaurant review

XO is a major new addition to Belsize Park, risen from the ashes of what was formerly the Belsize Tavern on Belsize Lane.
Its breed of sleek décor and buzzing ambience are more usually found amongst the bright lights of the West End, with prices to match, but its convenient location will be welcomed by anyone fancying a stroll home after dinner rather than a hefty cab fare.
Named after a popular Hong Kong fish sauce, XO doesn’t limit itself to a specified region of cooking as its name might imply.
Its pan Asian menu visits everywhere from Japan to Malaysia, but must be homesick as it rounds off with desserts that include apple crumble and chocolate pudding.
XO’s medley of dishes are grouped into categories of dim sum, salad, tempura, sashimi – all intended for sharing – followed by main courses of curries, barbecued and roasted dishes and specials.
Not being particular fans of duck we nevertheless started with the chef’s recommendation of duck siu mai (£5.50), steamed Chinese dumplings, which completely caught us out by being mouth-wateringly tender and tasty, and left us craving more.
Chilli salt squid (£6.50) couldn’t hope to equal this knockout, though perfectly fine, and laid its claim to fame by being the most attractive version of this particular dish I’ve ever seen.
Wagyu beef at £12.50 didn’t quite live up to the price tag and we couldn’t decide if the black cod with sweet miso, doubtless inspired by the Nobu classic, did at £21 either.
You had to admire its softly melting texture and buttery taste though, and it was well complemented by a generous portion of the slightly bitter green vegetable tau miu (£4.50).
Our other main course, Grandma’s bean curd (£10) was tagged on the menu as spicy, although it certainly wasn’t by authentic Asian standards.
Still, authenticity probably isn’t the highest priority at XO, being trumped by presentation, which was impressive without exception, stylish surroundings and attentive service.
Cocktails at the bar at the bar were also faultless, a whisky smash (£6) and a dark n stormy (£6.50). And that duck might just tempt me back.

29 Belsize Lane
0207 433 0888
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