Archive for the 'food' Category

Sushi Ga Ga

July 2nd, 2010

Sushi Ga Ga

What’s this you say, a sushi restaurant opened by Lady Gaga? A restaurant that serves Lady Gaga rolled in rice? No it’s not either of those as humorous as that concept might be, but they are definitely going gaga about sushi over at the just opened Sushi Ga Ga on Lisle Street.

As an incentive to draw people in, they currently have a fantastic deal offering 50% off of the food bill, I’ve tried to get a table three nights this week and been met with 30 minute or more queues of less than happy patrons, tonight though I was in luck and managed to get a table whilst the offer was still on!

The menu is mostly what you’d expect for a Japanese restaurant in town, there is a fair amount of high quality sushi, along with some “small dishes”, ramen, donburi and a list of house specials which are hard to tell if they should be ordered as a main or not.

We decided to play it safe and order some of our favourites, then some of the more adventurous sounding things on the menu which all feel a little bit like they’ve taken inspiration from the well established and ever popular Hakkasan  or Haozhan.

Our sushi arrived first all on one immaculately presented board. The soft shell crab wasn’t as good as you can get over at Kyoto but it was still pretty tasty, but the salmon rolls and the crispy duck rolled in rice and cucumber with plum sauce were lovely.

The folks sitting next to us were eyeing our sushi with that predatory food-envy look, when our next lot of dishes began to arrive.

Agedashi tofu – the two sided sneak, crispy on the outside and soft and squishy on the inside, followed by scallops in a wasabi sauce, prawns also in a wasabi sauce, and some vegetable gyoza.

The dishes in wasabi sauce definitely looked like they were taking a page out of Haozhan’s book, but didn’t quite hit the same level of flavour, but overall it was all pretty good.

Great value, good quality sushi with the current discount, but even without the discount it would have been under £20 a head, well worth a look if you’re a sushi addict like me.

Taiwanese at Leong’s Legend Continues

July 2nd, 2010

Leong's Legend Continues

It has been almost a year since I discovered Leong’s Legend perched on the edge of China Town and got my first introduction to Taiwanese food, I had a bit of a bad experience with what I believe was called Oyster Congee that ended with both my friend Chris and I being violently sick not long after we made it home from the restaurant.

In retrospect, it was a bloody stupid idea to order something so rotten sounding anyway, but that’s the price you pay for being adventurous with food, even if you do get to try some absolutely amazing dishes, every now and then there will be one that teaches you a lesson.

Usually when I have a bad experience at a restaurant I won’t go back, and technically I’ve stuck to that rule… by going to their sister restaurant, Leong’s Legend Continues which opened last year on Macclesfield Street.

This time we avoided the Oyster Congee, in fact to be safe we avoided all Congee, sticking to the nicer things we’d had last time and a couple of other choices from the dim sum menu. Also excluded from the list were the pearl teas, I know lot’s of people love them, however I simply cannot be doing with squishy black pearls at the bottom of an ice cold stale tea.

What we did have though, was absolutely lovely and we polished it off in somewhat record time, which turned our rather frumpy waitress into quite a happy waitress (though who can tell if that’s because we liked the food, or because “those darn English are leaving”…)

The braised pork belly is to die for at Leong’s Legend, you can get it in a broth, or as we did you can have it with sticky rice, I don’t have the balls to eat the fat (though my colleague Olive swears it’s the tastiest bit) but it’s still really full of flavour.

Shredded turnip parcels are addictive, they don’t sound like they should be, but it wasn’t long after the plate arrived that we were staring at crumbs and asking if we could have more.

Schezuan style wontons packed a punch, not for the faint hearted but I love the flavour you get from the roasted chilli in the chilli dressing, coupled with the charred onion and garlic.

The Siu Long Bao still baffle me, large nipple shaped dumplings that have pork in and a tasty lemon grass and ginger broth, I’ve seen people eat them in different ways, squeezing the broth out onto a spoon for example, but we just ate them whole. Messy but tasty.

So all in all, maybe it is worth giving restaurants a second chance, one item on the menu might be your worst enemy, but what’s it going to do if you eat all of it’s buddies?

Vietnamese at Cây Tre

March 25th, 2010

Despite absolutely stuffing myself to the point of bursting with delicious Indian food earlier on this afternoon for a colleague’s leaving do, I’d already arranged to have dinner with Chris tonight at a Vietnamese restaurant so out I went again.

Unfortunately I’d forgotten the name of the restaurant that had been recommended to me (it’s pretty much a running joke that I forgot almost everything) so Chris had to do some last minute restaurant picking, he came up with the goods though!

After a short walk from work down to Shoreditch and a quick stop for a few relaxing drinks in Casita Bar (plus a free shot of Jager, thanks guys), we carried on to Old Street and found ourselves at Cây Tre.

From the outside Cây Tre is a colourful little place, though on the inside the two floor restaurant is quite small and minimalist, packing many people quite efficiently into the space. We were lucky we got there when we did as not long after we arrived the queue for a table was out the door and along the street.

Smells coming from the adjacent tables spoke wonders about the food, so I was adventurous and went for the “swimming crab” to start with and then Pho Tai for my main. Chris ordered some prawn summer rolls and sizzling seafood.

The crab was good, mixed with prawns, noodles and mushrooms, however the crab was swimming in what was apparently a crab broth… despite actually not tasting all that bad it was pretty unsightly and reminded me of something else that I really didn’t fancy eating!

Snuck a bite of Chris’ summer rolls as well and they were lovely and fresh, served along with a hoisin sauce mixed with a chilli paste that gives you a kick of warmth under the sauce.

I knew my Pho was going to be spicy when I ordered it, it’s usually a given, but perhaps I underestimated *quite* how spicy it might be. My eyes started watering slightly immediately after it arrived at the table.

Despite putting me into a full on sweat and turning my face and lips an interested shade of purple that I really hope nobody other than Chris noticed, the Pho was absolutely delicious. The broth was packed with flavour and the hit of the spices wasn’t too harsh to the palate, the noodles were fresh and soft, the beef had been cooked in the broth making it tender and full of flavour and whatever else was lurking in there was also tasty.

I’d definitely recommend Cây Tre to anyone that can tolerate a bit of spice, though being based in Shoreditch it also helps if you can tolerate Hoxtonites!

Biriyani at Muhib

March 25th, 2010

Given that I’ve worked on Brick Lane for almost two years now, I haven’t really explored many of the Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants along it’s length, not even tempted by the touts offers of free beer and the best curry in the country, cooked by the best chefs in the country!

Comedy of the touts aside, the few restaurants I have been to with both colleagues and friends in the past have been a mix of experiences ranging from cold curry, hour long waits, to the horror stories of kitchen staff washing themselves in the kitchen sinks (Shampan, feel free to write me and tell me nothing I ate went via that sink).

Recently though I’ve been introduced to Muhib by one of our client directors, we ate some take out from there on one of the evenings of the epic 12 day stint on trying to get a project launched, and despite them getting the order a little confused it was all pretty good.

Said client director is now taking the smart move to grab a month of well deserved rest before the next client comes along and to celebrate the occasion a good bunch of us headed over to Muhib for an Indian banquet.

First off it’s worth saying how friendly and accommodating  the guys at Muhib are, they weren’t caught off guard by 18-20 people wandering in off the street (whereas Las Iguanas in Spitalfields couldn’t even cope with 10-15 the other day).

We all munched on papadums with various chutneys whilst working out what to feast on from the menu (clearly I’d forgotten at this point that I was meant to be going to dinner in the evening too).

I opted to keep it simple and ordered a peshwari naan and the house biriyani.

Pleasantly surprised by what arrived, the house biriyani has a thin egg layer covering the mix of saffron rice, chicken, lamb and prawns underneath, and comes with a vegetable curry to mix in.

Packed full of flavours and spices and was so filling that I was literally at bursting point. May have had to stealthily pop a jean button after eating I was so full!

I’ll be going back, what more can you ask for than friendly service and good food?

Fresh Pasta at Kitchen Italia

March 22nd, 2010

Trying to catch up on writing up some of the experiences I’ve had at restaurants recently, it seems like I have run fairly short on time over the past couple of weeks. Might as well start with the less than originally titled Kitchen Italia, a relatively new and small chain that has sprung up in a couple of sweet spots in London.

I first bumped into Kitchen Italia at Westfields whilst hunting out some pre-gig grub near Shepherds Bush Empire. First impressions weren’t all that fantastic and I have to say with chain restaurants that really does put a dampener on visiting others in the chain. The service was pretty much non-existent, though the waiters did make extra sure that everyone knew where the toilets were (have they had some disaster story we should all know about?!)

The food was reasonable at the Westfields branch, however for the price I find myself poking around amongst the pasta wondering if they couldn’t have been a little more generous with the spicy sausage that seemed somewhat lacking in my dish.

Despite initial apprehension I also gave the Covent Garden branch a go.  Things are a similar story for the most part, they have the same long social tables (you know, the ones where everybody glares as anybody else sits down at the table), mostly empty too so the atmosphere was a bit dull.

Food was of a much better quality though with very fresh tasting pasta and lots of flavour in both mine and Josh’s dishes. I had aubergine and goats cheese tortellini with cap0nata  which was really nice if a little small, along with some arancini because the main wasn’t filling enough. Josh had some angel hair pasta with black truffles which he swears was delicious.

All in all not bad, but if I was to be blunt, it is only a pasta place, the food is fairly expensive, the wine is ridiculously over-priced, and the service wasn’t all that in either branch.

Seems if they’re going to expand further it’d be worth evaluating price and service before doing so, get it right at the restaurants you started with and all that.