19 Oct 2014

CAFE 50S

Los Angeles, USA

Cafe 50s is a classic diner with three locations in LA. I had a craving for a typical American breakfast, and found this place online and headed over. We walked through the doors and were met by a welcome gust of cold, conditioned air; a nice break from the Los Angeles heat. We sat down in one of the booths, and a friendly waitress brought us the menu. I went for a short stack of Buttermilk Pancakes with bacon on the side, a lump of butter, and lots of maple syrup. The pancakes were as expected; tasty and much too filling. The bacon was perfectly cripsy; it's hard to come across this type of bacon back in London. My friend went for Huevos Rancheros with all the trimmings. To drink we split an Elvis Milkshake and sweet Ice Tea. They have a huge selection of Deluxe Milkshakes, and our chosen option contains vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and bananas. Everything was super tasty and exactly what I had in mind. The reason I'm not giving Cafe 50s top marks on the Hanger Meter is because it's a chain, and you can tell. Even though it only has three restaurants, it is clear that the decor is planned to look unplanned, and that the diner style is almost too obvious, the walls being plastered with vintage posters and flags. It is a family friendly restaurant, and the crowd is not 'cool'. It's missing some of the charm found in a place like The Apple Pan. The whole experience felt quite rehearsed, but to be fair they have got the American diner down pretty darn well. We walked out into the sunny parking lot full and happy after a calorie packed meal. 









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8 Oct 2014

TONKOTSU EAST

London, UK

Tonkotsu East Bar & Ramen is the second to open in London, after the Soho spot, reviewed previously by the Food Grid. Unsurprisingly, the East branch is located beneath your typical railway arch, one block off Kingsland Road. It is simply and elegantly decorated, with huge, spherical lamp shades and timber furniture. Unlike its Soho counterpart, it is a very inviting space. At the end of the room there's a glass wall that displays their very own noodle-making machine. Around mealtimes there is a bit of a wait to get a table, but only about 15 minutes, so no Soho-style hour long waits. My first visit was on a Saturday at lunch time, and there was no wait at all. Once seated by the long table at the wall, we checked out the concise menu, and of course started with some gyozas. Out of the selection of pork, prawn and shiitake handmade gyozas, the prawn is the best in my opinion. All of them are pretty spectacular, but I don't think I would prioritise the mushroom one again. For the main ramen dish, we tried the Tonkotsu, a pork stock soup with pork belly and a soft boiled egg. In the menu, the meat is described as melt-in-the-mouth, and it truly does. Both the texture and flavours were delicious. We also checked out the vegetarian option, the Shimeji, Shiitake & Miso Ramen. I am a big fan of anything with mushrooms, but the miso-based soups always miss a bit of the punch of the meat based broths. The perfect situation is if you have a friend who is willing to share, so you get to taste the best of both worlds.  The portion size is more than enough to satisfy you, and along with a fried dumpling starter you will walk out very full and happy. 





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28 Sep 2014

SCOUT

Seoul, South Korea

Located in a small road off the main streets of Itaewon (the Seoul equivalent of Shoreditch) is Scout, which is a contemporary rendition of an American gastro pub. Run and operated by two American expats, Scout caters to those longing for a dose of westernisation amongst the sea of Korean BBQ restaurants. The restaurant is fairly small in size, and can easily go by unnoticed, which is a shame since both the food and drinks are exquisite. Scout has a very Brooklyn / Shoreditch bohemian vibe, with its raw concrete floors and walls and timber tables and chairs that add to its charm and coziness. What makes Scout extra special though, is that it’s directly attached to a clothing shop which stocks designers from New York and upcoming talents in the region; it truly is a unique place. I was introduced to Scout by a very good friend of mine, who lives in Seoul, and during the course of my two-week stay, I got hooked, and went there four or five times. Scout takes pride in making the best burgers in town, and having had an incredible experience last summer at Brooklyn The Burger Joint, I was keen to put it to the test. On the night of the burger trial, I was exceptionally hungry so ordered the beef burger and the chicken sandwich, which was basically a fried chicken burger. The beef burger definitely impressed me; its size was perfect and came served with Roquefort cheese that I absolutely love. The quality of the meat was superior to the meat served at Brooklyn The Burger Joint, even though the latter had a wider variety of burgers on the menu. The fried chicken burger was also a slam-dunk, and in a land where fried chicken is a delicacy, it wasn’t surprising that it would be delectable. To help the food go down smoothly, I ordered what became one of my favourite drinks of all time: The Cardamom Mojito, which is the most refreshing beverage I have had, with its infusion of fresh basil, gin, and cardamom; just amazing. Scout has an undeniable charm and charisma that will just keep drawing me back through its doors. Even if its just for a quick nightcap, I will travel across town to get a mojito freshly made by their incredibly friendly bartender Mia and served by the amazing Sally, who made me a true Scouts-man.

18 Sep 2014

IPPUDO

New York, USA

Ippudo is a ramen restaurant with two locations in New York, one in Sydney, lots  around Asia and one opening in London. I went to their East Village branch for dinner, hoping that the waiting time for a table wouldn't be too long. My friend and I entered just behind a large group of well dressed Japanese girls, and were told the queue would be an hour. Fortunately they let us leave our phone number, so we could walk around until it was our turn. We managed to move a bit too far away, so when they called after only 45 minutes we had to make a run for it and jump in a taxi. Although we were a bit late, the helpful staff had kept the table for us, and we sat down after ordering delicious cocktails at the bar. Since we were going to a second dinner later on at Buddakan we skipped the starters and only had a bowl of ramen each. We had the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and the Karaka Men, both with pork and kikurage mushrooms. We couldn't miss out on adding a poached egg as an additional topping, which provided an amazing texture and lots of flavour. The pork belly was perfect and the mushrooms were super tasty. All of these flavours boiled together in the broth created a hearty, but not too heavy taste. I couldn't ask for anything more from a ramen broth. We finished our bowls to the point of lifting them and drinking out the very last drops. To end this delicious meal, I had a glass of sake, generously poured to the brim and served in a small wooden box. Dinner at Ippudo was a pleasant and yummy experience, eaten within a cool and stylish atmosphere without any pretentiousness. We are very excited for their opening in London!








Ippudo on Urbanspoon

11 Sep 2014

LUNG KING HEEN

Hong Kong

Lung King Heen, meaning “View of the Dragon” is a seafood and dim sum restaurant located in the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. The View of the Dragon refers to the spectacular harbour views that this restaurant presents; and like with many Hong Kong dining spots, the view is amazing. What sets Lung King Heen apart from these is not only that it boasts the highly coveted three Michelin star rating; it is also the world’s first Chinese restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Suffice to say expectations were exceptionally high, and not only were they met, they were surpassed. Dining at Lung King Heen was a pleasure and just made me feel good. The combination of the attentive smiling staff, the stunning view, the great ambience and delicious food made this an unforgettable experience. I went to Lung King Heen during lunchtime on my final day in Hong Kong. I was saving it for the last meal, which I now regret as I would have liked to go multiple times. Since it was lunchtime most of the ordering concentrated on dim sum, which is what it is renowned for in any case. Highlights included the steamed lobster and scallop dumpling, which was sublime in every measure; the texture was spot-on and the flavours fresh and not overbearing. The mushroom, prawn and black truffle spring rolls were also an interesting option, although quite heavy on the truffle and oil and thus rank to be the least favourite item from what we had ordered. A delicious and very successful dish were the baked morel mushroom puffs with chicken; they were light, full of flavour and just begged us to order more, which we did. As the meal progressed, the food just kept getting better, with the scallop and prawn dumpling which not only looked perfect, but tasted perfect; it was a delight merely to look at it. The best of all however, goes to the Baked Toro Dumplings, which are essentially filled with lobster, black truffle and mushroom. These dumplings go down as being one of the most delicious things I have ever tried, the baked texture is so unique and the explosive flavour of the black truffle complimented both the steamed lobster and mushrooms; this is a must and I will gladly attest to it being one of the finest dishes there is. Superb! To conclude our light and quick lunch we ended on frog legs that were very delicious indeed, and finally lettuce wrapped vegetables in order to end the meal on a lighter note. There is not much more to be said about this excellent restaurant, except that it will go down as being one of the most memorable meals I have had, and not only do I recommend it, I insist that you visit it if and when in Hong Kong.




7 Sep 2014

BURGER MEISTER

Berlin, Germany

After a long night out in East Berlin, and a very late start to the next day, I happened to walk past Burger Meister on my way into the U-Bahn at Schlesisches Tor. I had heard about it as one of the top burgers in the city, so I concluded that it would make for a perfect breakfast. The stall is built into a converted public toilet right under the railway arches, with a few tables outside. There were only about 3 groups in front of us, so I thought it would be a quick stop. After paying and getting the ticket, I had a look at the number screen above, and realised we were in for a long wait. The 'dings' would come every five minutes, and it felt like forever before it was finally my turn to pick up the burger. I guess it's good that they put some time and effort into preparing the food. I unwrapped the beauty and dug in. The two slices of cheese were perfectly cooked, not too runny like in Patty & Bun. The lettuce and tomatoes were crips and fresh. There was a tiny bit of red onion, giving the flavour some punch without taking over the entire assembly. The bun not only looked beautiful, but had the perfect size, texture and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. The meat was really juice, not too bloody, and with a bit of a charred surface from the grill. All of it worked really well together, and I could have easily ordered another, if it didn't take so long to get it. By the time we finished, the queue had grown, as it was getting closer to dinner time. More people were impatiently waiting around for their burgers to arrive. My friends and I shared a standing table with a tall, beautiful couple with glitter on their faces, who told us they had just come from a boat party. They asked if it was worth the wait, and we affirmed that it definitely was. The crowd generally was quite mixed, and not very touristic. The service was friendly, and the general atmosphere around the stall was relaxed. With a bottle of glass Coke to go with, this was the perfect afternoon breakfast. I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about this burger, hence it is getting a full score on the Hanger-Meter. If only we had a Burger Meister in London... 






22 Aug 2014

DIRTY BURGER

London, UK


Dirty Burger just opened a new branch in East London, at the base of Shoreditch House. This comes from the Soho House Group, who are also behind the very popular Pizza East and Chicken Shop. Dirty Burger also has locations in Kentish Town, Whitechapel and Vauxhall, none of which are central enough for it to have become something that everyone has tried. You have to make a bit of an effort to try this burger. I first ate Dirty Burger when they parked their food truck outside Boxpark for one day only. I went over to the little window and had a look at the goods, and it looked promising. I ordered the reasonably priced Cheeseburger for £6 and dug in. It was so juicy, so cheesy and running with hot mustard. I was very impressed, and finished it very quickly. I saw a sign saying they were opening a permanent spot just across the road, and this was good news indeed.

On the occasion of the opening, everything on the menu was 50% off. This meant that you could get a burger, milkshake, and fries for £7! As expected there was a long line at around dinner time, so I returned just before closing time at 11 pm. My friends and I ordered onion fries, cheeseburgers, fries and a chocolate milkshake. We started with the onion fries, which were tasty, but a bit too greasy. It was challenging to identify any actual onion with all the batter. The fries were crinkly and crispy, and really, really good! The milkshake was extremely chocolatey and filling, and didn't have the fluffy quality of Lucky Seven, nor the ice cream texture of Byron. I guess it's good that they have developed a quite unique recipe, but it wasn't my kind of thing. When we got to the burgers, one of my friends got unlucky, she ordered first, and got given one of the burgers that were already cooked and wrapped, so the cheese wasn't runny anymore, and it was getting cold. My burger was freshly made, and looked pristine. Despite this, it didn't live up to my memory from the food truck version. This one was slightly drier, and required some extra ketchup and mayonnaise, whereas the previous one was perfectly juicy. This could be because I came at the end of a long day with a never-ending queue. It was nevertheless very enjoyable, and I will certainly visit again, in hope of one day finding the perfect one that I tried the first time. Dirty Burger lives up to its name; you get dirty from the sauce running down your wrist, and despite this juiciness, the bun remains perfectly intact. To help out with the mess, each burger comes with a handy wet-wipe. This place will definitely take away a serious chunk of the client base from Byron just down the road. 






16 Aug 2014

HARRILD AND SONS

London, UK

Harrild and Sons opened recently in the lower end of Farringdon street, a lifeless part of the City of London. Anything opening there is good news, but this place has managed to develop a really cool and suitable City style. The ground floor has wood panelled walls, the bar shelves and light fittings are shaped from copper tubes, and there is a 5cc cocktail bar in the basement. With a lot of natural light as well, the space is cosy and comfortable. The restaurant specialises in lobster and oyster, but also serve steaks, a range of interesting sliders, and a dish that I’d like to try next time: Crab Fries with Cheese and Aioli. On my first visit I went for the Lobster Roll with Dijon Mayo and Fresh Oregano because I can rarely resist a lobster roll on any menu. It wasn’t great, and didn’t have the fresh-tasting meat that you would find in Burger & Lobster or B.O.B.'s Lobster. My friend opted for the grilled lobster instead, which she said was pretty good. Another friend vouches for the Pulled Pork sandwich, and said he would definitely order it again. The skin-on fries were really tasty and greasy, and I recommend them as a side to any dish. Harrild and Sons is the kind of place where everything sounds perfect and promising on the menu, but the flavours don't quite deliver. Like most City places, it is closed on Sundays, demonstrating that it is aimed at the professional clientele of the area only. It has already become a crowded spot, popular with the nearby office workers, but will likely remain just that. Even though it is a likeable place, the overall area has a lot of catching up to do before it becomes a destination for London foodies.










Harrild and Sons on Urbanspoon

8 Aug 2014

BIG APPLE HOT DOGS

London, UK

I had heard Big Apple Hot Dogs described as the best hot dogs in London, so I googled them to see where I could find them. Unfortunately they are only open in Old Street from Tuesdays - Fridays from 12 - 6pm, making it hard to get there during lunch hour for anyone not in the area. I considered cycling there to be able to get there and back in my break, and quickly eat it as well, but luckily I didn't need to. From February this year, Big Apple Hot Dogs started serving their full menu every day at the hipster-filled Owl & Pussycat Pub in Shoreditch. It's difficult to find a table, but only because the other ones are taken by people having drinks. Curiously, every time I've been there I haven't seen anyone else eating. The hot dogs are hand made in London, and the website states that 94-98% of the contents is meat, which I assume is quite a lot more than your average street vendor hot dog. The buns are made fresh by local bakers, and all in all it sounds like a wholesome, guilt-free sausage. I have been a few times now, and tried the Big Dog and Huge Pole, both mixes of pork and beef, and the pure beef Pimp Steak. Despite their different sizes and shapes, they all come in the same size bun, meaning the proportion of bread cannot be right for all of them. You can add a range of toppings for 80 p each, including fried onions, kimchi and my favourite; sauerkraut. The hot dogs are all tasty, but a bit too big, and it's difficult to bite over the large bun without getting ketchup and mustard all over. The fries are soggy, so I only ordered those once. Big Apple Hot Dogs are definitely up there with the best I've tried in London, but they still can't compete with the real deal in New York.









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