Xiao's interior design is worthy of an
award for packing so much into a relatively small space. The bright white
dining area rises from the entrance like giant steps such that on each level a
small, individual dining space flanks either side of the central staircase.
Slim stalks of bamboo, painted white, and thin stainless steel cables delineate
each dining space giving them a cosy, private room ambiance yet with the vibe
of a large, open restaurant. The kitchen is tucked under the steps.
Not all of Xiao's food succeeds as well as
its décor. Guizhou cuisine is known for its spiciness but here the spice comes
across as one dimensional rather than possessing the nuanced variations that are
possible even when the spiciness is taken to the extreme. Huoshao qiezi (16RMB)
intrigues with its charred strips of aubergine and green chillies but
unfortunately those flavours are obliterated by a dousing of fiery hot chilli
oil. Meanwhile the Guai lu fan (22RMB), stir-fried rice with mushrooms, peas and sausage, manages
only a mild chilli kick despite the copious dried chillies folded in. Miao xiang paigu (48RMB) are
disappointing pork ribs sprinkled with mint, rock-hard soybeans, garlic and
chillies, a mixture that exacerbates the meat's dryness.
dish worth going back for is the liang
ban jue cai (12RMB), a subtly spicy mixture of fern, fresh bamboo,
soybeans, coriander, garlic and a local purple stemmed vegetable. Another worthy
dish is Miao ling duo yu (48RMB), a
whole fish cut into segments with chunks of tomatoes, garlic and spring onion
in an addicting spicy and sour sauce for which Guizhou is famous.
Unfortunately, heimi jiu, a black
rice wine that might cut through the thick chilli heat, isn't yet available. The menu is in Mandarin only but cheerful staff helpfully match
the photos to the dish.