25 Jan 2015

SMACK DELI

London, UK

Forget cupcakes and burgers, the biggest craze on the London eating scene is lobster, more specifically lobster rolls, which are the now the new ‘thing’. The most recent arrival is Smack Deli that is conveniently, yet not so nicely, located off Oxford Street across from Selfridges; not the best area to be in on a weekend. Designed as a fast food place with high stools for seating and a concise menu, Smack Deli delivers a reliable and cheap lobster roll ideal for a quick bite or to eat on the go. There is however nothing ‘fast food’ about the quality, which is high and made us crave more. Having stopped at the Deli for an early weekday lunch with a friend, we each ordered a California Roll with two orders of Courgette Fries, two Smack Colas, and we opted to share a Mexican Roll. The California Roll is as pretty as it is delicious, and comes served with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber and mayonnaise. It is a light and refreshing roll, which made us dream of warmer summer days. The Mexican Roll comes served with chipotle mayonnaise, jalapeno, corn and cabbage, and provided a spicy uplift and kick that was also very yummy. The Courgette Fries, although a bit too thick for my liking, were fried to a good degree and did not drip of oil; they were adequately crispy. The Smack Cola on the other hand did nothing for me and I would have preferred a regular coke; it was too flat and almost seemed as a healthier alternative to Coca Cola, which while welcome is not what one is after when looking to have a coke. With a very reasonable total price tag of 30 pounds, it was the perfect lunch spot and one I will definitely be returning to in the very near future.













































Smack Deli on Urbanspoon

19 Jan 2015

KOUZU

London, UK

Kouzu is a new Japanese restaurant in Belgravia, headed by chefs with backgrounds from Zuma and The Arts Club. It is located inside a listed period mansion with a beautiful chandelier suspended in the double height entry space. It's a very inviting entrance, even though there is no actual sign outside. The design and general ambiance is somewhere between a daytime and evening space, and the acoustics are good, meaning you can actually have a conversation unlike in many other London restaurants. We headed over for a weekday dinner, and got a table by the sushi bar upstairs. This is a good spot for watching the chefs prepare their pieces, including some blow torch sushi action. We started off with cocktails, from a list complied of classic favourites, all with a Japanese twist. The Pink Grapefruit Margarita with Yuzu-Shu was delicious and refreshing, and had the ideal balance of sweet and bitter. The Smoky Negroni was also good, although a little heavy on the smoke. To start we ordered the Yellowtail sashimi with truffle dressing as well as the Beef Fillet Tataki. Both of these were amazing, in texture and in their fresh flavours. I would say the beautifully presented Yellowtail is a must when visiting Kouzu. For mains, we shared one portion of the Roasted Black Cod and the Lamb Chops with Spicy Miso Paste. The lamb meat had great flavour, and the miso paste was a sweet and interesting accompaniment to it. We had heard good things about the black cod before going, so we naturally chose it as one of our mains. It was cooked to juicy perfection, served  alongside a citrus and fennel salad, and we quickly devoured this plate to the best of our chop stick abilities. Another highlight of the meal was one of the simplest dishes we had, the Scallop Nigiri. The texture of the scallop was impeccable; no chewing necessary whatsoever. This little treat was so good that we had to order another portion even though we were starting to get pretty full at this point. We then moved onto some of their New Style Rolls. The Spicy Tuna roll was a refreshing classic, and the Negi Hamachi roll was super tasty and original with a crispy covering on the outside of the rice. For dessert we had a small, but incredibly rich, chocolate mousse filled with yuzu syrup pierced by candied orange. By the time we had finished our numerous delicious dishes, the restaurant was filled up with people, and we left happy and full after our first of hopefully many visits to come at Kouzu.










Kouzu on Urbanspoon

   We were invited to review Kouzu, and the opinions expressed are our own.

7 Jan 2015

IPPUDO

London, UK

Ippudo is a big, Japanese chain that recently opened their first restaurant in London. We have previously reviewed the East Village branch in New York on the Food Grid, which we liked a lot. Our expectations were thus high, and we were excited to finally go try out their place in Central Saint Giles, the colourful building by Renzo Piano Building Workshop near Tottenham Court Road. Just before heading over for a Saturday lunch, I did a quick google of reviews, and found that most people were negative towards the service there. We entered the restaurant, and were told that there was a 45 minute wait. This annoying fact isn't even that unusual in London, as more and more restaurants have no booking system. We sat down at the bar to wait. There were some nice touches to the interior, such as the timber pattern over the bar making out the shape of Mount Fuji, whereas other aspects were less successful. The huge chandeliers that are noticeable through the double height glass facade from the street look a little bit cheapo, as do some of the detailing on the glass staircase up to the second level of the restaurant. The restaurants in the St Giles development are quite corporate, and this Ippudo was definitely a lot less atmospheric than the one in NYC.

Following some back and forth, we got a table after 10 minutes, so the wait was not bad in the end. We had already studied the menu, and proceeded to order a lot of it right away. The first dish to arrive was the Tako Wasabi, raw baby octopus in wasabi sauce. I had been suspicious of ordering this, and it turns out I was right. It had a slimy texture with a crunch in the middle of the bites, and none of us liked it. I ate a few more bites of it because the wasabi sauce was so tasty, but the texture was just really strange. This is not just us being picky, as both of my friends had previously eaten raw octopus so fresh that it was still moving when going down their throats. Even looking at the photo now while uploading this blogpost is making me feel a bit queasy. The rest of the starters turned out to be a lot better. The fried chicken Hirata Buns were really tasty, with just the right amount of spice. The chicken and vegetable Gyozas were well prepared; grilled on one side and soft on the other, however the flavour of the filling could not compete with that of Tonkotsu. We also had the Ippudo Salad with crispy noodles on top. The dressing had an interesting flavour, but the actual vegetables were so normal (cucmber, lettuce, peppers) that it tasted a bit boring.  It was freezing outside, so I asked for a glass of hot sake, but I was told that during lunch they only serve two types of sake, neither of which could be served hot. Instead I went for a Sencha Tea, which was delicious next to such a heavy meal, but it was sadly taken away from the table before I had a chance to finish it.  Despite having lots of starters, we were very hungry when the main dishes arrived. I went for the Shiro Vegetarian with a seasoned boiled egg, and I also tried some of my friend's Shiromaru Hakata Classic with pork. Both dishes were perfectly tasty, and the noodles had a good bite to them, but I felt like the bowls were lacking something. Neither the flavour of the broth or the toppings were punchy enough. Considering the eggs were an additional topping, the dish could have been even more standard if we hadn't chosen to add to it. I overall enjoyed eating it, and finished my portion, but it was not a spectacular bowl of ramen. I have to agree with other online reviews in that the service was quite annoying. They were attentive in that they kept coming up to us and asking if things were ok and taking our plates, but they were not particularly helpful. Ippudo is a decent place, but as London now has plenty of ramen restaurants I expect more than just 'good' if I am to visit a place twice. Next time I would try Kanada Ya across the street instead. 
Ippudo London on Urbanspoon

7 Dec 2014

BURGER JOINT

Oslo, Norway

Burger Joint is a newly opened restaurant behind Oslo's boardwalk Aker Brygge. It is already well established for selling the city's most expensive burger of £ 30 (excluding fries). I had only one day in the city, and braved the cold and rainy weather to make my way to this little restaurant. After stepping over a construction site, we managed to get inside, and picked one of the few tables. I'm in two minds about the interior, as I think they have managed to achieve a cool and casual night-time atmosphere, but the way it's been done is a bit forced. They have cut up an Airstream trailer and used it to frame the kitchen and bar. This idea is just not practical or logical at all, but I appreciate the effort. The rest of the space is cosy, with brick walls, timber furniture and a decorated tin ceiling. We ordered and paid at the counter, and after some deliberation I decided to go for the Less is More w/Cheese and not the famous pricey number with foie gras. On the side I of course had to try the Fries Royale, served with black truffle oil and parmesan. They have a small, but interesting selection of beers. I had a glass of the wonderfully tasty Amundsen Pale Ale on tap, from a local Oslo brewery. The service was unfriendly and rushed, even though the place was only half full that evening. At least the food arrived swiftly, and we dug into the juicy burger. It was seasoned with way too much pepper, so much so that it was spicy. I haven't really been posed with this problem before, so I found it difficult to judge the taste of the meat and the toppings. I'm pretty sure they were good beneath all the pepper. The consistency was perfectly juicy, and the bun remained intact throughout the meal. Burger Joint has also imprinted their logo as a burnt stamp on the bread; a nice little gimmick. While the burger was good and not amazing, the fries stood out as the winner. Even though you find truffle oiled fries all over London these days, these ones were something else. The fries themselves had the ideal in-between thickness, and were super crispy while still keeping a little bit of soft potato inside. The truffle was blended with mayo to form a heavenly sauce, and the parmesan grated over it. To me, the trip would be worth it for the fries only.

The day after my meal, I saw an article in one of the biggest newspapers in Norway about how Burger Joint had decided to remove their foie gras burger, The Fifth Taste, from the menu. This was due to pressure from online activists, and Burger Joints instagram account is filled with comments asking them to remove it from the burger. Their catchphrase 'Forbidden Taste' might have less relevance now that the foie gras is off the menu, but they will no doubt win over some of their critics for responding to the reproach on social media.  




1 Dec 2014

THE LION

New York City, New York

Belonging to renowned New York chef and restaurateur John De Lucie, the Lion sits comfortably as a partner to the New York heavyweights:The Waverly Inn, Minetta Tavern and the legendary Monkey Bar. With a discreet entrance just north of Washington Square Park, the Lion is a charming enclave in the West Village reminiscent of an English tavern with heavy emphasis on dark wood features, round wood chandeliers and a mixture of photos on the walls. Unlike a tavern though, the Lion boasts a beautifully adorned central dining room in a double height space, and different to your typical English tavern, the seats are very comfortable with tables well spaced making the ambience cosy yet spacious. On the matter of brunch, which is when I visited the Lion after a very long night of partying, the experience was par excellence and the food provided the much-needed nourishment for recuperation. To start I ordered the Bloody Mary (the non spicy version), which is sufficiently spicy in its own right, so I can’t imagine what the spicy one contains! It was the perfect pick me up, delicious and fulfilling. Starters were ordered to share and we got the shrimp cocktail, which was very fresh with an excellent cocktail sauce (not as good at Ed’s Lobster Bar though). On a lighter note, we also ordered the heirloom salad that came served with fresh avocado, as well as the avocado on toast that proved to be an exceptional choice. What impressed however were the muffins that were served as a precursor to the meal, a substitute to your ordinary bread and butter basket. The muffins, served with maple honey butter, were freshly baked, warm and divine, and worth placing as a menu item. For mains I ordered the Eggs Royale, while a friend went for the Eggs Benedict with crispy bacon, and my other friend ordered the omelette with salmon and fine herbs. All choices were excellently cooked and beautifully presented, where special mention must be attributed to the hollandaise sauce, which was spot on perfection in flavour and texture. With three starters down, a main and a Bloody Mary, we were unfortunately too full to proceed onto desserts and concluded this great meal with a shot of espresso. The Lion lives up to its hype and it comes as no surprise as being one the hottest brunch spots in the city needing a reservation of up to three weeks in advance. Totally worth it.









































The Lion on Urbanspoon

The Lion

24 Nov 2014

LEILA'S SHOP

London, UK

Last year when I told people that I was moving to Shoreditch, breakfast at Leila's Shop was the first restaurant recommendation I got. It is located on Calvert Avenue, a cosy street full of independent shops, just off Arnold Circus. Even though it's really close to my home, it took me a whole year to go there. It is always crowded at breakfast, brunch and lunch (it's not open for dinner), and I never bothered to queue up. When I finally had the time to go on a weekday, the tables outside were free, and we sat down in the sun for some food and people-watching. The menu is always short, usually with one vegetarian and one meat-based option. I am assuming the selection is decided by whatever daily produce is available, and thus we didn't have much to choose from. My friend and I both went for the baked eggs with sage, which came served in one pan that we shared. We asked if they had any sides, as I had a craving for avocado, but they didn't. They also didn't have any orange juice, so I went for a freshly squeezed apple juice, and my friend had a good quality cappuccino. After a short wait, we could smell the distinct aroma of sage from inside the restaurant, and we were quite excited to dig in. We meticulously divided the four eggs which had merged into one to make sure we both got an equal share. The organic eggs were great, with an orange, runny yolk, and lots of flavour from the seasoning. Without sides the meal was not big, so we ended up finishing the bread basket and we were still kind of hungry when leaving. The service was so-so; for instance when we asked for butter for the bread they seemed annoyed as if that was an unreasonable request. Despite this, I really liked eating there, and will recommend it to anyone who walks past when one of their few tables are available. Their small grocery shop next door is also worth checking out, full of fresh produce and delicious looking ingredients. 




Leila's Shop on Urbanspoon

23 Nov 2014

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16 Nov 2014

YAN TOH HEEN

Hong Kong

When it comes to fine Chinese dining in Hong Kong, it doesn’t get much better than Yan Toh Heen, located in the legendary Intercontinental Hotel on Kowloon Bay. With breath-taking panoramic vistas of Hong Kong Island, this two Michelin starred institution is globally revered for its cuisine and impeccable service. I dined at Yan Toh Heen on my very first night in Hong Kong as a way to kick-start what would be a very busy five-day break of non stop eating and partying. I am glad to say that even though Yan Toh Heen did not top my list of being the best in Hong Kong, it very much delivered and left a good impression. What disappointed me about Yan Toh Heen was not the food but the ambience. My friends and I were expecting a lively buzzing dining room with spectacular views, and what we found was a very quiet space with many business suits and an older crowd; the mood I have to admit was a bit of a buzz kill. Despite this, the food resurrected my impression of the place; it was just that good! Highlights from the dinner include the barbecued fresh water eel, which was prepared with an Osmanthus honey sauce, which is very fragrant and sweet, and worked perfectly with the eel; it was the best dish of the night. The crispy fresh water prawns with black truffle are definitely worth ordering, although the serving was a bit small and thus we had to order two more portions. A favourite of the night was also the wagyu beef with black peppercorn, which is not the most inventive dish, but the quality of the beef was terrific and just melted in my mouth. To balance out our meal with a vegetarian option, we ordered the very delicious and mouth watering wok fried white asparagus with bamboo pits and mushrooms. As an emblem of Hong Kong fine dining, I would definitely recommend Yan Toh Heen, but don’t go expecting a lively scene; at least not at dinner time. 
 



 

















 


9 Nov 2014

ED'S LOBSTER BAR

New York, USA

Like clockwork, merely two to three hours after landing in New York, I make my way to Soho to have a bite at Ed’s Lobster Bar, a tradition I have upheld for the past five years and intend to do for many years to come; that is until I officially cross the Atlantic and become a New Yorker myself. This marks our second review of Ed’s on the Food Grid, and just as last time it was delicious and fulfilling. Not much has changed in that I ordered my go to drink, the Arnold Palmer, and started with the Shrimp Cocktail that was just as fresh as I have come to expect and with what is the best cocktail sauce there is. Of course no meal at Ed’s would be complete without the Lobster Roll and French Fries, which still commands my opinion as being the best lobster roll in the city; the brioche bun is just sensational. To kick things into a higher gear I also ordered the Lobster Pot Pie for the first time, as every time I go to Ed’s I would arrive around lunchtime and the pie is only served after 17:30 as part of their dinner time menu. The pie, which I had been dreaming of, was a heavenly broth, with the lobster and vegetables perfectly stewed in bisque gravy decadence, topped with a flawlessly crispy piecrust; it is phenomenal. Need I say more? I am just in love with this place.

Ed's Lobster Bar on Urbanspoon


Ed's Lobster Bar