All posts filed under “£

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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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F.A.T by Freddie Residency @ Sharp’s * DunneFrankowski

A cut above average..

A buzz cut. A neck shave. An espresso. Or, a sandwich!? Sharp’s can fix it for you. This is a relatively hip barber’s formerly located on Charlotte Street. Recently, it was seduced to a new *flagship* site on Windmill Street. The operation is split into two parts, as trend has it in Fitzrovia. The front bit is a premium coffee shop by consultancy coffee brand DunneFrankowski, known to those from the East (of London). The barbers are kept in the vintage grooming ground in the back. According to TOB, who has been a loyal Sharp’s customer since its Charlotte Street site, if you get a cut, you can get a free barista-grade coffee. (I can’t verify this as I have my haircut at an internationally corporate, expensive and soul-less hair salon elsewhere). The sandwich that I speak of is a fabulous two-month addition at Sharp’s * DunneFrankowski.

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Koya & Koya Bar: The Japanese Restaurant(s) That Will Re-Define Soho

A rather loyal customer.. ?

I love udon. I love delicious, honest cooking. And I spend at least 2 of my meals per week at Koya.

Koya – for those still unfamiliar with the concept – is a very traditional, walk-in only udon-ya (udon restaurant). The menu is dominated by one Japanese food category. Udon, that is. This type of thickly cut, white noodle is made from wheat flour, salt and water. It is, then, boiled, washed, and when needed, re-heated. The cooking is an interplay of simplicity. You need good noodle, good dashi and good toppings.

The udon dishes at Koya are served in many ways (i.e. “hot udon in hot broth”, “cold udon with hot broth”, “cold udon with cold sauce to dip” and “cold udon with cold sauce to pour”) and with a good range of toppings to choose from. The udon noodle is made fresh daily at the premise. There is also an inventive “Daily Special” blackboard that utilizes the best of ingredients at budget price, keeping me on edge.

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Andy Oliver & Thai Grill @ Bar Story

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver is a chef with a substantive skill set and no PR boost. He was a semi-finalist of Masterchef when the show was far less a self-promoting bypass to UK restaurant industry. He spent years working, washing and wok-ing under David Thompson at Nahm London. He went on to travel in Southeast Asia and spent more than half a year in Thailand learning the language and continuing his training as a Thai cuisine chef at Bo.Lan Restaurant. (One of my most loved places in the world). Last year Andy returned to London and headed up the operation of Naamya Cafe with David Thompson and Alan Yau. Now he helps run the operation at The Begging Bowl (quite possibly the best Thai restaurant in London) and waits for the right opportunity to open his own restaurant.

According to my book, Andy’s name surfaced, during his time at Nahm, via the Loft Project, and I had the chance to try his cooking at a one-off pop-up in East London years ago. Then, for a *farang* cooking Thai food, he was promising. And it was that experience that brought me to Thai Grill @ Bar Story.

 

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Thai Grill @ Bar Story

Bar Story is housed at one of those railway arches behind Peckham Rye Station. The venue features an indoor cocktail bar and an outdoor drinking space. Very eclectic, with a lot buzz from cool South London crowd.

Thai Grill is a stall separate from the kitchen of Bar Story and stations at this venue on Mondays only. The menu scribbled across a few blackboards is concise and features what Thai blanket as Gai Yang + Som Tam (Grilled chicken + Papaya salad). Andy plays around with the Thai “Yang” category and extends the menu to encompass other favorite grilled items usually found at Som Tam carts in Thailand. There are grilled sea bass (£12), pork skewers (£4), chicken thighs and drumsticks (£5), prawns (£4), home-made fermented pork sausage (£5), and minced beef in betal leaf (£5). (If this isn’t easy to imagine, think Burnt Enz but Thai). £6 for a peanut-y Som Tam and £1 for a bag of sticky rice. You grab your drink from the bar.

 

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I ordered everything from the menu and it was SENSATIONAL. The perfectly steamed, sticky and fragrant Sticky Rice arrived, as it should in Thailand, in a flimsy plastic bag. I started off with salt-grilled seafood dishes. Goong Pao (Grilled prawns) was spot on. The prawns were marinated in a traditional concoction of coriander, garlic, pepper and turmeric and grilled at a controlled low heat for delicious springy-ness. I also enjoyed Plah Pao (Grilled fish) very much. The sea bass was gutted, cleaned and stuffed with a healthy dose of herbs (lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, etc.). It was first grilled at low heat and finished on higher heat for a crispy effect on the skin. The result was as I hoped for – soft and moist meat with peel-able, lightly crispy skin. (It could have been a little crispier). Both the prawns and the fish were served with freshly prepared seafood dipping sauce (garlic, coriander and green chilli). The latter boast great citric tang and herbal refreshment.

Som Tam (Papaya salad) was done peanut-y Central-style. (Thai call it Som Tam Thai, as opposed to Som Tam that are from the Northeastern and enjoy Laotian influences). The best way to get the Som Tam you want (anywhere in the world) is to tell the chef which flavors you prefer (one or two chilli? sour? salty?). I asked for sour and spicy and it tasted superbly authentic. Yum Taeng Kwa (Cucumber salad) appeared very much soft-core (food) porn. The dish featured a spicy salad of cucumber slivers with coriander, mint, shallot and ground dehydrated shrimps. The salad itself verged on being too spicy but the gooey soft-boiled egg was instrumental in balancing out the heat.

The eating continued with Nham Yang (Grilled fermented pork sausage). Andy has my respect for making his own sausage for Nham Yang. (Young generations of Thai rarely know what actually goes into it). The taste, however, was not spot on. That is, the taste of the sausage was saltiness leading to mild sourness from the fermentation process. It should have been the other way round, in my opinion. Correctness aside, the dish was yummy. The pork used for fermentation was much better in quality than you would find off a street cart in Thailand. The only non-Thai dish on the menu was Bo La Lot (Grilled minced beef in betal leaf). It was bigger and more protein-led than most Bo La Lot I have come across. I enjoyed the gradual release of herbal aroma in the minced beef. The home-made Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) was elegant.

Moo Ping was sex pork on skewers. These were shoulders and loins marinated (coriander roots, pepper, garlic, fish sauce, palm sugar) and crisscrossed with fat pieces on skewers. When being grilled, the fat dripped into burning charcoal and created a burst of smokey perfume. And before finishing, they were brushed my coconut milk and left for the last sizzle. The taste – sweet, garlicky, porky, smokey – captured my nostalgia of Thailand. Eating with the sticky rice, I had my orgasm moment. Also peaking was Gai Yang (Grilled chicken), served with two kinds of home-made dipping sauce (sweet chilli sauce and “Jeaw” sauce). Here chicken thighs were grilled whole and then jointed. The turmeric based marinate was carefully applied only to the skin. Again, they were grilled at low heat for roughly 20 min (so be patient) and finished with a brushing of sweet and musty sauce. The result was another orgasm nostalgic moment. The chicken meat was juicy, had a good depth of taste and just fell off the bone. The special brushing sauce proved bloody special. (Andy has a special purveyor of organic and rare palm sugar from Thailand, and it makes his recipes quite extraordinary). My only criticism goes onto to the Jaew dipping sauce, which I found a little too sour. (You may see from the pile of paper dishes in the last photo. We had 3 portions for Moo Ping and 3 for Gai Yang).

Andy’s strength, from what I have tasted, lies not only in his cooking and understanding of Thai food, but also in knowing the limitation of cooking authentic Thai food in the UK. (Say, herbs suffer from jet lag and many other items aren’t allowed in according to Custom laws). Accordingly, he uses the very good produce that tastes and can be found in the UK to wisely construct his menu. Nothing is processed or comes from a tin. No MSG. The result is something simple but sublime, genuine and utterly zingy.

The team was also very helpful and friendly.

(Another criticism, though. If there is a bunch of Thai walking in, please provide spoons with forks).

Updates on menu and specials can be found here.

 

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RATING 5/5

THAI GRILL @ BAR STORY

213 Blenheim Grove
Peckham
London
SE15 4QL

www.barstory.co.uk

Bar Story on Urbanspoon

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The Hannover Weihnachtsmarkt(s)

What We Say:

Happy Christmas.

IF you want a German Christmas market experience of your life – let me be blunt – Hannover is not it. Though the history of the city dated back prior to the Holy Roman Empire, most of its pretty, fortress-y Medieval features were destroyed in WWII. And I was left with a rather depressing conglomeration of post-war buildings, refurbishings and a shopping scene where 4-floored Primark reigned supreme. I didn’t make a destination out of Hannover. I was merely passing by. I wasn’t entirely disappointed…

In another more serious note, the Weihnachtsmarkt is of a decent size. There are three different markets. One is situated in the Market Church (the most attractive spot where all the photos you’ll find on the Internet are taken); another is the Finnish Christmas Market on the Ballhofplatz; and a Medieval X’mas village in between.

 

How to Get There:

From the Hbf/ train station, look out for stalls. They form a path or two for you to stroll your way around the three markets. Very easy.

Best to Go:

The markets

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in Hannover aren’t the most excessively lit or the most eye-watering polychrome, especially when compared to my last year trips to Koln and Dortmund. For a need to bask in the Christmas scene, it’s best to go near sunset and hang around until all is lit up and glowing. I arrived in early afternoon and the city looked un-atmospheric.

What to Get:

There are the usual stuff – wursts, mulled wine, gingerbread, candied apples, chestnuts, etc. – but I detected a lot of mini puffy square doughnuts, (French) crepes, and reibekuchen (deep fried potato fritters). The average price for all was no more than €3, with the exception of supersized things. Oddly enough, a few stalls sold stir-fried noodles.

The main bit..

Moving on to the Medieval bit and the Finnish Market. The smell of flamed grilled salmon (flammlachs) really perfumed the air.. and my coat -___-

Back to the Church Market.

Getting dark.

The XXL Currywurst glared at me at €4 (How much does a Bratwurst cost at Winter Wonderland!?).

 

YES SS :-9

What Else:

Fire play at the Finnish/ Medieval Market. The woman was good. The guy (behind) dropped all the burning torches he juggled!!

And.. if you don’t quite fancy a German market, do settle for a Guinness >_<

 

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Mutianyu Fishing Village, Beijing

My trip to the Great Wall couldn’t have been more fantastic without a stop at Mutianyu Fish Restaurant.

This was an open-air eatery with a cemented pond full of freshwater fish. Very local crowd (many of whom showed up shirtless). No English menu. No English speaking waiters. My taxi driver, who could barely speak the language, kept repeating the word “fish” to me. And there I was on international call to my best friend in Thailand, who happened to be a bloody amazing interpreter, pleading her to order me dishes from the menu she had never seen over the phone. The Chinese hostess was patient and helpful (unlike ones in London’s Chinatown) and a moment later my meal was sorted.

I was having fish..

The hostess waved me to follow her. The Other Bib was trailing behind, intimidated by this assertive Chinese woman. And she handed me over a net (!?!!!?!!!!). That’s it. What my dearest friend failed to tell me was that at this restaurant diners catch fish themselves.

Right!

There were carps and sturgeons. I aimed for the smallest and slowest thing that moved. Ended up with a fish I knew not what gaping exasperatingly for execution.

Back at table and whilst the fish was being prepared, my parade of Chinese dishes arrived. Omelet with spring onions was expertly done, spongy and super-scrumptious. Braised pork belly with chestnuts was wonderfully caramelised in sweet soy sauce and rice wine. Pungent aroma, unctuous fat and chalky chestnuts – just what I loved!! Nice crunches and minimalist freshness from wild mushrooms stir-fried with sweet peppers.

The fish?

My fish was done two ways. The first was this braised fillets in dark soy sauce and rice wine and toppled with celery leaves. It boast the uber-freshness as if life had not yet been drained out of this fish. The flavour was, however, slightly underwhelming. Too rich the sauce that marred the delicateness of the fillet. The second serving was a lot more of success. Fish fillets were heavily rubbed with soy sauce, chilli and fennel seeds and finished on the charcoal grill. PERFECT!! The marinate seeped into the molecules of the fish, pleasantly surprised by intense smoky-ness. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Mutianyu Fish Restaurant was.. just sublime. Easy, comforting, exciting, hygienic. Anything you could have asked for at a restaurant in a foreign land. And above all else the bill for two with rice, beer and water came to less than £20.

I am definitely returning..

And I would love to squeeze my friend really tightly. She does know what I like eating!!

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.

MUTIANYU FISHING VILLAGE

Right hand side, on the road up to Mutianyu Great Wall
Beijing
China

www.mutianyugreatwall.net