All posts filed under “£££

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DEN “Kaiseki”

Humorous Message and Inventive Hospitality by Zaiyu Hasegawa

(Translated from my Wallpaper* Thailand article, originally published in Thai).

DEN is hidden in a small alley in Tokyo’s printing district Jimbōchō and with nothing but a tiny sticker for its sign. The restaurant was opened by chef Zaiyu Hasegawa when he was only 29 years old. A few years later, DEN was awarded stars by the Michelin Guide and constantly enjoys a top rank on Japan’s restaurant rating website Tabelog. The reputation of DEN gathers accordingly. Now many of world’s most respected chefs and food journalists fly across the globe to Japan to sample Hasegawa’s playful and edible visions “Den Kaiseki”.

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Leandro @ One Leicester Street

The start of something (utterly) exciting..

Where do I begin? The word “supper club” has been a distant memory, and being subjected to a communal table in the middle of an unpopulated dining room daunted me. The glimmering kitchen was my hope. So was the name Leandro Carreira, a chef who held senior positions at two of the world’s most inspiring kitchens Mugaritz and Viajante.

Leandro or Leo is at One Leicester Street for 3 months (until mid-June, I guess), doing what seems an understatement, a “supper club”. This is an 8-course menu with beverage pairings (by Talented Mr Fox) at £88. Chefs are keen to exchange thoughts and diners are encouraged to nose around in the kitchen. The cuisine is innovative – an epiphany both of taste and of thought process.

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Gymkhana: The Tasty (Colonial) Memories in Mayfair

Social and colonial stuff

For those with limited cultural and Commonwealth knowledge (like me), Gymkhana may be summed up as a posh colonial-style sport club where members come dine and drink. And walking in, the ambiance and the design – a well-lacquered floor, framed pre- and post-colonial equestrian memorabilia, hunting taxidermy, and so forth – did live up to the brief. Social, nearly informal. There was also an unmistaken vibe of masculine gentility as I was seated at the table by a pristinely uniformed staff (in a Nehru jacket?) who explained away, with great but simplified detail, the culinary crux of Indian cuisine that I am never familiar with. (Yes, by now, I hope you have spotted that the cuisine of South Asian origins is not my forte).

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Michelin Guide London (2014 Results)

The most controversial yet?

2 stars – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Greenhouse.

1 star – HKK, Angler (South Place Hotel), Outlaw’s at the Capital, Story, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction (seriously!?), Brasserie Chavot, Bo London, Lima, Social Eating House.

One Leicester Street retains its star after the transition. Yeah!!!!

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Restaurant Story: Youthful Innovations by Tom Sellars

Young, et al.

Age, in my opinion, is an arbitrary factor. Chef Tom Sellars is young. He is, to be specific, 26 years old and is now heading the reportedly exciting kitchen of Restaurant Story. When Tom turns 30, the age factor will hopefully have been dropped (by PR and the chef himself) and the more contemplative talk about his creative gastronomic identity will surface. I am 28 years old. I eat around. And when I turn 30, I will definitely not let anybody talk about my age. I might also have accumulated an experience of taste that turns me into a snob and exempts me from enjoying ordinary innovations. And this is my concern about recommending Restaurant Story – an experience of taste on diners’ part.

Let’s begin. I liked the look of Restaurant Story. Most efficiently, it utilizes its location, which was once a public loo, to emulate the grand view of the Shard. Two tasting menus – a £45 six-course and a £65 ten-course – are being operated. Like the design of the restaurant, the dishes are precise and appealing to the eyes. The taste, however, needed work and the majority of my 6-course menu were derivatives from more mature restaurants elsewhere. In other words, if you have pretty much been there and eaten that, you might not find this retold Story a revelation of taste or innovation.

 
My 6-course menu kicked off with a parade of amuse. Nasturtium Flower was piped with greenish oyster emulsion. The proportion was wrong and the taste was indiscernibly peppery. The very light Cod Skin with benignly creamy cod emulsion was not so cloddish and exhibited skills. The potential can also be tasted in fried Rabbit Sandwich, which married the warm rilettes-like savouriness with colourful pickled carrot discs. The tarragon note was subtle. Moving on to the beef wax that was shaped into the candle, I became less impressed. While the idea – of lighting a beefy candle and letting it melt to become dipping oil for the bread – was fun, the actual experience of sitting through a beef fat candle dribbling, smelling profusely but unpleasantly, and congealing countered the enjoyment of what that followed. The crusty bread to sponge up the fat, though freshly baked, was uneven in texture and at times stodgy. To go with the bread, I was also given another side of veal tongue with apple and celery. The latter ingredient dominated the dish. Burnt Onion was served with gin, apple and thyme. In my opinion, to create a spectacular dish of humble-sounding ingredients, you need to ensure premium quality of humbleness that subverts diners’ perceptions. In this case, my onion – tender and nicely caramelised – still tasted just like any onion. The gin broth verged on being very boozy, and this unbalanced concoction with thyme left the dish with a bitter aftertaste. Scallop, lightly cured in elderflower vinegar, was an alchemical departure from a Noma signature. I found the spring-y crispness of the scallop, achieved by the curing, delightful to the tongue, while the balls of dill-scented cucumber (a few of which were ash-coated) provided refreshing contrast. The horseradish cream, however, was too glue-like and would fare better with dainty lightness. Lamb – sous-vided and seared – did not leave any impression for taste. More worrying was its garnish – best summed up as variation of raw lettuce – that was so rich in chlorophyll it could freak out vegans.

As desserts arrived, there appeared a disparity of *theme* in the meal. While the green-ish, foraged-ish taste dominated the savoury, the desserts were fun-led and less wild. Rhubarb compote was layered with vanilla custard and egg white foam in a school milk bottle. Very Tom Aikens. The consistency was thick and not easy to be sucked through a straw. The layers were also separated in ways that I was unpleasantly hit by the sharp acidity of rhubarb compote before being led into thick lovable lushness of custard. Three Bears Porridge was cute, and at first, *fun* to eat. We were encouraged to try three servings of honey-laced oatmeal porridge and pick whichever tasted “just right”. Unluckily, the fun quickly left the table, as I chanced into the inedible “too salty”, then spooned up the “too sweet” and finally cringed at the “too bloody sweet”. Rose-perfumed teacakes were enjoyably redemptive.

There is potential, still. And I don’t want to write my experience at Restaurant Story off completely. Certain individual components in a few of my dishes are skilfully prepared. As with all start-up restaurants – this being one – they will get better with age. There, too, are wonders that young talented chefs can bring, but at present, from a point of view of a presumably slightly more aged and more experienced diner, I prefer my meal to be more mature in execution and balance.

 

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RATING 3/5

RESTAURANT STORY

201 Tooley Street
London
SE1 2UE

Tel. 020 7183 2117

www.restaurantstory.co.uk

Story on Urbanspoon

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Oblix at The Shard: Another Restaurant To Skyscrape London

Dining high..

The Shard – love it or hate it – has changed the way we see London. On its 32nd floor stands Oblix, a hoped-to-be-swanky dining venue by Zuma-famed Rainer Becker. It is noteworthy that this is a venue of two parts: the restaurant occupying the west side and the bar & dining lounge the east. Both promise an incredible view of London, from a similarly impressive height to Duck & Waffle and Sushi Samba at the Heron Tower, without the woozy effects of see-through lifts. The menu at Oblix Restaurant is New York-inspired and inventively approachable, with a focus on the grill and Josper oven. (Do note, when making a booking, that the lounge runs an entirely different menu). The price (£6.50-19.50 for starters; £16-54 for mains; £4-7 for sides; £6-9 for desserts) is not a rip-off but what you would expect from a restaurant in a now-iconic building.

My meal was pleasant but not impactful. Eggplant Caviar (£6.50) arrived a whole eggplant – grilled, chilled, stuffed with modified baba-ganoush mush, spiked with fried garlic shavings and finished with a drizzle of parsley-infused olive oil. The texture contrast of the dense intact eggplant foiled nicely with the creamy “caviar” paste. The smokiness was implicit and not overpowering. Burrata with Olives and Datterini Tomatoes (£15) promised what it was meant to be. The tomatoes exuded sun-kissed fruity sweetness; the chopped olives were of good quality and well-bound. The burrata, however, was cold and was not as deliciously gooey as it could be. The toasted rice did not intervene, but apart from visual quirk, did not contribute much. The mains from the grill were likeable. Tiger Prawn (£21) was grilled and served in its shell with herbal olive oil and roasted fennel. Very meaty! The blend of citric acidity and an aromatic note of rosemary and thyme helped bring out the sweetness of the prawn. (Same grilling technique as Zuma‘s jumbo prawns but with a more humble dressing). Lamb Chops with Harissa and Yogurt (£26), containing three not-so-large pieces, were not spectacular. Despite the lamb’s delightful charcoal-ed tenderness, the complementary flavour of harissa went missing. I personally found the side of Mac&Cheese (£4.5) – here a mixture of Red Leicester, Cheddar, Gruyere, Pecorino and Parmesan – to have more character. For desserts, we opted for 2 ice creams (£2.50 per scoop) and a Cookie Jar (£6). The Crunchy Pecan Bourbon ice cream was immensely decadently nutty. Refreshing acidity from the buttermilk ice cream. The coconut cookies were addictive but the other bits in the jar – butter and sesame cookies, chocolate cookies, financier and macaroon – were good but not memorable.

 

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RATING 3.5/5

OBLIX AT THE SHARD

Level 32, The Shard
31 St Thomas Street
London
SE1 9RY

Tel. 020 7268 6700

www.oblixrestaurant.com

Oblix on Urbanspoon