All posts filed under “3.5

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Ramen Sasuke + Salvation In Noodle + Tonkotsu East

London and more noodle..

Maybe I am complaining. Maybe I am not. Shoryu Ramen has expanded at the speed of light. Its 4 branches extend from Lower Regent Street, through to Kingly Court. In addition to this, a chain “Southeast Asian” noodle restaurant from… well… Dubai has just opened on Shaftesbury Avenue. There are also news about 2 ramen and 1 udon restaurants coming from Japan to London in the foreseeable future. This seems the age of noodle resurrection since Yau’s Wagamama. In my opinion, there is no super perfect noodle here yet (Koya, ahem!).. and here’s my experience at the latest noodle contenders.

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Lima: Delicious Splash of Peruvian Colours in London

The blend of two cultures

Lima is a cheerfully casual restaurant that emulates the fun and pride of South America. The cuisine is playful, beautiful and, to a great number of Londoners, exotic. Virgilio Martinez, the patron chef of Lima, was a law student, who with a change of heart, has turned chef. Virgilio headed the kitchen brigade at one of Peru’s most internationally renowned restaurants Astrid y Gaston and moved on to open his acclaimed innovative restaurant Centrale. The cuisine served in Peru is inventive and with indigenous Peruvian produce. Lima London, overseen by Virgilio and run by his long time friend and colleague Robert Ortiz, is instead a blend of two cultures – Peruvian and British. While key Peruvian produce, notably various kinds of chilli and eco dried potatoes, are imported to maintain the crucial cultural links and taste to the mother land, British produce are the main vehicles of the menu. Starters are priced between £7-12; mains £16-24; desserts £6-8. There is also a decent selection of cocktails.

Colours of Peru

Dishes at Lima are spectacular polychrome of colours – (and sometimes they can look more exotic than they taste) – but big comfort in taste. Slivers of Artichokes was very much like a painting. The combination of emulsions – tamarillo and molle pink pepper – was mellow; the green lime provided citric sharpness to contrast; the fava beans were biteful and sweet. The artichokes themselves were understated in taste but became vehicles for the lovable dressing. Causa – one of the most traditional Peruvian dishes – is a dressed seafood mix served on a bed of (or sandwiched between) crushed potato cake. The version at Lima was chopped and seasoned sea bass with minty red shiso garnish and zingy avocado paste. Not the most satisfying, and though a causa is predominantly a potato dish, I would have liked to taste more of the fish. Sea Bream Ceviche, on the contrary, was wonderful. The tiger’s milk dressing was tangy and exuberant; the fresh bream was perfectly *cooked* by the acidity; the sweet and crispy onion skins added an aftertaste and texture of sweetness. Duck Crudo was also pleasant, possessing a taste more recognizable as European. The thinly sliced duck was deliciously meaty and almost livery; the algarrobo tea honey reminded me of sweet balsamic vinegar; the cress was refreshing. All were enriched by the shaved foie gras. Personally, as the dish was quite big, I would have liked more texture contrast or something to mediate the richness of the dish.

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Braised octopus al olivio was the dish I can reprise many times and highly recommend. (Been twice and had this twice)! The octopus was tender, boast a perfect char and possessed a great length of taste. The white quinoa was carefully dressed with herbs. The mayo-like Botija olive bubbles was pungent, encapsulating the bold salty-and-sourness of olives that turned quite a bomb with the octopus. (FYI Peruvian Botija olives are also very popular *health food* often found dried and tasting incredible)! Also highly recommended for food enthusiasts were the potato dishes at Lima, as these were prepared using Peru’s unique “eco-dried potatoes” or The Chuño. The Chuño or tunta are potatoes traditionally left to naturally freeze-dry at nights in the Andes, 3000++ metres above the sea level, washed and then dried again on grass. The results are rock solid potatoes with its exterior turning white and chalky in texture. Before re-hydration, they also smell a bit like cheese. At Lima, I tried Eco dried potato stew which came with an assortment of leaves and flowers and finished with aji panca jus. The crushed and re-hydrated potatoes were big in potato-y taste. They also retained a somewhat biteful denseness typical of dried and re-hydrated produce. (Fresh potatoes when boiled don’t quite have this texture). The garnish, however, did not provide much depth or unison to the dish as a whole. Crab with eco dried potatoes and corn reduction was a good dish that cried out for more crab meat. Here the potatoes were crushed and cooked as if a risotto with crab and corn. I liked the juxtaposition of sweetness from the corn and the sea-perfumed crab, but as said, I would have liked a little more crab. Confit of suckling pig brought me back to the comfort not-so-exotic zone of taste. The pig was crispy on the outside and packed with good flavours; the braised lentils were bold and umami-fied; the pear puree lent a sweet fruity note. The desserts, sadly, were not astonishing as the mains. Dulce de leche with maca root crumble and beetroot was the highlight for me, while Andean Kiwicha with sheep milk and purple corn jelly was weak.

 

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RATING: 3.5/5

LIMA

31 Rathbone Place
London
W1T

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1JH

Tel. 020 3002 2640

www.limalondon.com
Lima on Urbanspoon

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Hunan: Chinese Marathon Meal in Chelsea

The no-menu family affair..

Hunan is a family run Chinese restaurant which has occupied a little corner in Chelsea/Pimlico for decades. Chef Peng (the daddy) leads the kitchen and Michael (the son) looks after the FOH and the wine list. Despite its name, Hunan does not serve Hunanese Chinese cuisine but is a purveyor of unique and (at times) inventive Taiwanese cooking. And like eating in a family setting, you have no choice but to eat what the “family” makes. This “no menu” – composed of 16 odd dishes adequately portioned for the whole table to try – is particularly great for those who eat a lot (me) as you (I) can feel free to ask for more within a set price of roughly £30 per person for lunch and £40 (ish) for dinner. The ambiance is that of an elegant neighbourhood restaurant – bustling, relaxed and with better service than your preconception of a Chinese restaurant.

A  marathon meal

At Hunan, there are three things you should bear in mind. First, as I have been a solo diner at Hunan a few times, I strongly advise you find a few lovable (boy)friend(s) to share the meal with. This is simply because a 16-or-more-course meal will make you feel like it has been going on and on and on and on and on and on…just like a marathon of food. Good food. You should also go with an empty stomach (my no.2 point). Last, a long menu can fall into repetitions. Hunan can suffer from that, yet depending on the day and what dishes they decide to give you. Apart from notifying the FOH of your allergies, you may also inform them of your likes and dislikes – spicy, fishy, offal-y, duck-y or lobster-y. They usually do their best to accommodate your needs.

And this is how it went.

Chicken Lettuce Wrap was pleasant and not exaggeratedly seasoned. The coarsely minced chicken was sauteed with chopped carrots, onions, spring onions and garlic. Full of bites, with an umami salty-ness from the soy sauce and a refreshing touch from iceberg lettuce. Pig’s Ears were stuffed with pork paste and served with soy dressing. I liked the crunchy contrast between the soft-bone-like ears and the fine paste. Seaweed Wrapped Tofu was dim-sum-like and served braised in starchy chilli sauce. There was a little indication of heat. The same could be said for fish braised with chilli, ginger and pickled mustard leaves, which stood out for its big tang. Steamed prawn creatively formed a case for this flavoursome spinach “dumpling”. The dish was toppled with a kind of ginger, soy and spring onion sauce. The prawn was nicely cooked and quite springy. Tripe braised in chilli oil was h-a-w-t. The tripe retained some musty taste but soaked up the fragrant and fiery oil + soy sauce concoction very well. Scallops and Cucumber was an okay dish but I found the taste of the scallops washed away by the watery cucumber slices and the potent soy-based sauce. The next was what I believed to be Pumpkin Balls in Chilli Sauce. Despite the fact that I enjoyed it, I could experience only the crispy bean curd skin and the chilli sauce. Frog Legs was a stir fry dish with a delicious entourage of minced chicken, chives and chilli oil. A success. The firm frog meat fell of the bone very nicely; the chive added perfume and crunchy stringy-ness. A success of one did lead to my feeling nonchalant for another – tender beef stripes stir fried with re-hydrated chilli and spring onions. Correctly prepared. The beef tasted like beef (which I find very rare in most Chinese restaurants). It didn’t have as much a wow factor. Beef Shin with Pancake Roll (served cold) was by far a major disappointment as it arrived way too cold. I would describe my experience as eating a stump of hardened flour with chilled hoisin sauce. That said, Crispy Pork Intestines were a revelation. The intestines were expertly marinated and roasted for a perfect crust. They tasted very much like char siu but with a clever enhancement of gummy texture vis-a-vis crispy-ness. It worked brilliantly with a controlled drizzling of sweet hoisin. Crispy Cuttlefish was served with a sweet and (very) spicy chilli syrup (made from fresh and dried chilli). Explosive and crusty. Another success. The chilli aftertaste was extinguished by Stir Fried Lamb with Baby Chinese Celery. The “celery” was very close to asparagus in taste, texture and juicy-ness. The meal concluded with generically good banana fritters with vanilla ice cream. There were, certainly, ups and downs but for the most part of this meal and many others I find Hunan relatively enjoyable. I also like the fact that the food at Hunan barely oozed MSG.

 

 

RATING: 3.5/5

HUNAN

51 Pimlico Road
Chelsea
London
SW1W 8NE

Tel. 020 7730 5712

www.hunanlondon.com

Hunan on Urbanspoon