Most of my Camden memories are from my just-turned-eighteen days, largely consisting of boozy evenings at Proud, the N29 night bus and late night Chinese. So I was excited to return as a slightly more sophisticated adult, to visit Muisan, Cottons owner Chris Singam’s new venture. Rumoured to be dedicated to pan Asian dining and modelled on opium dens of the 1940s, I left youth behind to try more decadent dining.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Musian is located on Inverness Street, a stones throw away from the station and adjacent to Camden’s infamous market. Tightly sandwiched between a row of bars, Muisan’s exterior exerts a goldy sheen and the Buddha in the window and faux flame ornaments outside create an inviting entrance. Step inside and there is a small greeting area where you are welcomed by a member of staff and the orange glow of the venue. Muisan is set over three floors, the basement is Muisan’s sleek nightclub area; decorated in deep tones with a large bar furnished with Buddhas and Asian trinkets, it’s open until 1am through the week, and until 2am on the weekends. I spend most of my evening upstairs however, where I was led upstairs by our waitress to the swanky and open-plan dining area.
My eyes were drawn to the Buddha statue that provided the centre piece of the room, surrounded by candles and set into the back wall with a beautiful ethnic print nestled below. Plush white leather seating contrasted with the gold and mirror walls, and each table was appealingly decorated with a candle and flowers. There’s also an upstairs mini bar tucked into the left of the stairs, which gave it the intimate feel of a private dining lair.
In terms of atmosphere, as it was a Thursday it wasn't overly busy, but there was a relaxed buzz about the place. Everyone from older families to small groups of twenty-somethings flowed in throughout the evening. Although Camden really comes alive on the weekends, Muisan is a great spot as a mid-week dine.
The Food and Drink
The cocktails they offer looked dreamy, with an extensive list of their own Asian-inspired creations as well as all of the classics. Resisting temptation and not wanting to go too wild on a school night, me and my partner instead chose to share a bottle of the house Cantastorie Chardonnay (£19.50). Although I am not usually chardonnay fan, it was delicious and crisp with just the right amount of sweet notes. We soon delved into the complimentary prawn crackers and sweet chilli dip which led into the main dishes.
The menu covers a great deal of Chinese and Thai dishes, offering different meats, fish and soups as well as noodles and rice. To kick things off I went for the Jasmine tea smoked barbeque ribs (£7) served with sesame seeds and honey. The meat was flavoursome although I did find them a slightly dry for my liking. Luckily, my dinner date let me pinch some of the crispy aromatic duck (a quarter was £8.50) which was served with pancakes and Hoisin sauce, spring onions and cucumber. They were absolutely delicious, the crispness of the duck paired wonderfully with the soft texture of the pancake and freshness from the cucumber.
On to the main event as my eyes darted to the Weeping Tiger (12.50) which consisted of sirloin steak strips in a red wine and black pepper sauce. The sauce was flavoursome and tangy, and the steak was cooked to perfection, not too tough and almost bold. I couldn't not pair it with a hearty side of egg fried rice (4.50) which we ordered to share. My guest went for Thai green curry with chicken (£8.50) and the bite I pinched was tasty, fragrant and the chicken thighs were tender amongst the soft pepper and onions.
The desserts looked unusual, but not a jot less delicious. As a chocolate lover I was intrigued by the sweet potato & chocolate cake (5.00). It was an acquired taste, but the sweet potato gave it a lovely spongy texture, and the warm chocolate sauce and lychee agar that covered it was a sticky, moreish accompaniment. My partner went for the steamed glutinous rice balls (5.00) which were spongy delights filled with red bean paste. It was topped with citrus palm sugar and candied ginger, which was an inventive concoction and full of flavour.
Though Camden was once an area reserved for punks and the mischievous, it now seems like quite an obvious place to venture mid-week to go for food. In terms of swanky themed decor Miusan comes out on top, and if you're a sucker for anything Asian, it has got to go on your to-do list.