All posts filed under “American

20140206-032712.jpg
comments 2

The Lockhart

Blogging again

The Lockhart isn’t a new restaurant but one that nobody talked about. It wasn’t until its recent acquisition of chef Bradford McDonald that The Lockhart got my attention. The fare here is Southern American with backflippingly cool and refined twists.

Before that. Bradford. He is American and Southern. He grew up in a farm and mobilised across the world’s best kitchens (including Per Se and Noma). His former restaurant Governor in Brooklyn, NY was lauded by chefs, critics and food enthusiasts. Sadly, it was swept away by Sandy. A year or so after, I feel privileged to have Brad cooking in London.

Read More

20130707-115750.jpg
comments 5

Five Guys + Shake Shack UK

Best burgers in Covent Garden?

Five Guys

Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

Rating 2/5

Originating from DC, Five Guys is known for its history of offering freshly made burgers with hand-molded patties and hand-cut fries. That’s the start of its fame. The freshness, however, was the thing of the 80s. The brand has itself franchised and now in 2013 that it lands in London it is no more than just another fast food joint.

The Central London joint is vast and located just half way between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. The ambiance is pumped by music and benefits much from the jolly heavily American-accented wait staff. There are private booths in the basement. There are also two wicked computerized soda-blending machine that will make Willy Wonka proud. (I would queue for a Raspberry Coke Zero and many more)!!

As for the burgers, it depends on which point of view you come from. The menu at Five Guys is basic – Burger (£6.75), Cheeseburger (£8), Bacon Burger (£8) and Bacon Cheeseburger (£8.75) – and you can opt for the Little options (prices at £4.75, £5.50, £6 and £6.75 respectively). The price does not include fries (from £2.75 – £5). There are also sandwiches (£3.75 – £5). The taste, for me, is junk, but surely for a few others, nostalgically indulgent. My Little Cheeseburger did not kill me. The buns were flabby; the patty was not greasy but very bland; the cheese was heavily processed; the crunchy vegetable bits were redeeming. My Grilled Cheese Sandwich (£3.75), however, might kill me. Utterly processed.

(I did return to Five Guys for soda).

 

20130707-120221.jpg20130707-120249.jpg20130707-120316.jpg

Shake Shack

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Rating 3.5/5

Shake Shack – one of the most-loved ventures by NYC restaurateur extraordinaire Danny Meyer – has also unpacked at the Piazza of Covent Garden. Unlike Five Guys, Shake Shack burgers do not suffer much from jet lag from their look and are possibly the most photogenic burgers to date in London.

The “Shack” experience is, however, less inviting and very disparate. You need to roam around between the outdoor, the indoor, and the outdoor again. (The dining space inside the Piazza will prove challenging when the weather gets colder). The staff, on two of my visits, was not as charming as at Five Guys.

The menu covers much of what’s available at its counterparts in New York but supplemented with UK ingredients. (Think Angus beef patties and Cumberland sausage hot dogs). There is a good selection of “Shake” (£4.50 – £6.50). The price range is kinder than Five Guys: £5 – £7.25 for burgers, £2.50 – £3.50 for fries, and £4 – £5 for hot dogs. Shake Shack also sells dog treats.

I liked my Shack Stack (£7.75), which is a combo of a cheeseburger with an additional deep-fried cheesy mushroom patty. But, it was the mushroom patty and the fresh veggies that tasted. The beef patty itself was too thin and too docile to make an impact. The chew-y, pillow-y buns were a joy to eat. SmokeShack (£6.50 for single patty), containing smoked bacon and chopped cherry pepper, was a disappointment. I thought it was too bunny and yummy. (If you get this, it might work better by doubling the patty). Shack-cago Dog (£4.75) was studded with onions, cucumber and pickles, and dressed with Rick’s Pick Shack relish and mustard. I thought the whole thing was too sweet. While the halved and grilled beef sausage had a lovely strength of beef and a delightful texture, it was overwhelmed by everything else. Fries were gorgeous on their own, but the cheesy sauce did not leave much impression of cheese. (Oddly mayo-like and buttery).

(I also went back to try ‘Shroom Burger, which I liked).

Quick note. To put these new arrival burgers in the context of London hamburgers, they are great contribution in reviving the burger mania. Taste-wise, however, I find Shake Shack just respectable and Five Guys just edible. The burgers that I think most highly of are Patty and Bun, Byron and the Wagyu Sliders from the bar at 45 Park Lane

.

20130707-120416.jpg20130707-120433.jpg20130707-120450.jpg20130707-120506.jpg20130709-125812.jpg

 

FIVE GUYS

1 Long Acre
London
WC2E 9LH

www.fiveguys.co.uk

SHAKE SHACK UK

24, Market Building
Covent Garden Piazza
London
WC2E 8RD

Tel. 020 7240 0054

http://www.shakeshack.com/location/london-covent-garden/

20130526-185156.jpg
comment 1

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.

 

20130526-184846.jpg

20130526-184907.jpg

20130526-184942.jpg

20130526-185000.jpg

20130526-185022.jpg

20130526-185043.jpg

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

20130411-065627.jpg
comments 2

Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs&: Gastronomy behind the Curtain

Auto-correct “put of date!”

 

 

20130411-042810.jpg

My first meal at Kitchen Table dated back to its very first opening slots in October, but given a long meal and many returns, dishes had piled up; my taste memory was overwhelmed; and any effort to write had never been quite materialized.

Now 7 months after.. you have this post!!

Worthy of note(s)

Let’s start. Kitchen Table, by ex-Per Se, ex-Noma, ex-Ramsay, ex-Wareing chef James Knappett, is an inventive Anglo-American “restaurant” tucked away in the behind of London’s most unique champagne bar Bubbledogs&. From a diner’s perspective, there are a few points that you need to note. First, Kitchen Table only does one menu of 12-or-so courses (£68) dictated by the freshest produce that is delivered to the restaurant on a nearly daily basis. James’s cooking philosophy centers on his own carefully orchestrated impulsiveness and faiths in produce and his suppliers. Some herbs and vegetables are foraged by the young and energetic kitchen team at weekends (fingers crossed they get OT); some are acquired from very obscure growers; others are developed and tended in James’s own allotments. Dishes are frequently reworked to reflect this limited availability and micro-seasonality. Second, Kitchen Table isn’t a “restaurant” per se (pun badly intended) but a 19-seat counter in a meticulously polished, awesomely ventilated kitchen. Two sittings (currently at 6pm and 7.30pm) are operated. The meal can take some time between 3 and 4 hours. From my experience, the early sitting lasts longer and often finishes just half an hour or so before the second sitting. Once seated, you observe live kitchen action and get served at that counter. No glam. No sensationalism. Chefs may get frustrated (not with diners). Emotion may blaze up. (But, it is not guaranteed in the price). For the majority of the time, dialogue between chefs and diners are encouraged. This physical encounter means the barrier between diners, chefs and cuisine is eased, and if you are food/produce enthusiasts, you might find this new synergy between chefs, raw produce and diners enlightening.

 

Nude inventions

The cooking at Kitchen Table focuses on all things bare and naturally untampered. Say, there will be no more than 3-4 components going into one dish. The complexity of taste derives from premium quality produce and thoughtful inventiveness. James’s idea is to strip away gimmicky construction and serve food that is not only well-intentioned but also tastes like great food. The influence for flavor combination via James’s and Sandia’s Anglo-(Franco-)Asian-American roots are implicit and leans towards being playful comforts – popcorn puree or hot cross bun ice cream? – while James’s skill sets, especially in classical French training, are explicit.

From my multiple meals at Kitchen Table, due to the periodic and unexpected nature of produce availability, the menu is loosely formatted but consistently delivered. The meals, therefore, have ranged from good, very good, bl**dy good, to exceptionally good. Some day you’ll get more meat; another day, more fish. (And below was my most recent meal at KT. You can find other meals on Facebook here).

The meal began with raw iodine-rich “Oyster” under the tangy, herbal granita of Balfour Brut Rose. The iciness also naturally firmed up the flesh of the oyster, resulting in a minimally springy texture. “Ling” – a fish from a cod family and traditionally salted – was served as mayo made from its roe with a piece of rock-lookalike bread. The mayo itself was loose and studded with unbroken pearl-like roe. The voluptuous milky exterior from the warm, crusty bread that was buttered and fried mediated the delectable saltiness of the mayo nicely. There was also an extra smoky dimension from the grating of dehydrated scallop roe. “Chicken” has now been registered as the permanent staple of Kitchen Table’s tasting menu. This was a surrealistically flat piece of dehydrated chicken skin finished with a smear of rosemary-ed mascarpone and bacon jam. The skin, tasting completely fat-free and mildly chicken-y, became a medium for texture to carry forth the aromatic mellowness of mascarpone and the cubes of toothsome, onion-sweetened bacon. Just to die for. “Scallop” was among one of the freshest I’d eaten in London. Firm but crunchy – suggestive of its just being “put to sleep” – the scallop was seared in hot pan and simply seasoned with salt to bring out its natural sweetness. The garnish was that of bergamot puree – made from the skin and oozing a fragrant orange-y taste – and raw bok choi sprout. The puree had a good balance between acidity and fruity sweetness, which foiled well with the chlorophyll bitterness of crunchy bok choi. Personally, I would prefer less bergamot puree per serving as it had a tendency to overwhelm the scallop.

 

 

20130402-064430.jpg20130402-064454.jpg20130411-065645.jpg20130402-064518.jpg

 

Superbly fresh “Crab” – flaky white and creamy brown meat – was layered and dressed with lemon skin puree. The latter was exuberant, with a healthy dose of zesty acidity and aromatic bitterness. Generally, this was a good progression of taste from the bergamot puree in the scallop dish. The topping of multi-textured radish (raw and poached), deep fried spiky artichokes, coriander and chervil provided zingy, sweet and earthy dimension and cleansed the palate. I did not as much love “Haddock”, which had been slow-cooked and served with warm buttermilk sauce, poached mussels, grilled fennel and dill oil. While the sauce was very finely made – delicious yogurt-like acidity – and the aniseed-y note from the garnish was thoughtful, it took the limelight of taste away from the rather calm-tasting fish. The mussels were also too good they became distracting! “Truffle” was a pasta dish – homemade and appetizingly al dente – with wild garlic sauce, raw slices of wild mushrooms and (a lot of) Perigord truffle. Mind-blowing. A kind of taste that married the emerging joy of spring with sumptuous farewell of.. eh.. prime winter truffle! That said, I particularly loved the slight earthiness from raw mushroom slices which worked to sponge up the wild garlic goodness. “Beef” was British (in fact Welsh) and aged. The robustness, almost akin to cheese, was imminent in its untrimmed fat. The beef – pan-seared and roasted for a perfect darkish pink hue – had a good chewy texture, slowly releasing the depth of taste. The garnish was a quirky coupling of classic red wine jus and grit-like puree made from popcorn (!!). The maize-y sweetness from the puree contrasted and complemented the spiced acidity of the jus very well.

“Soureliette” – a semi-hard French sheep’s milk cheese – was boost with a taste skin to the Mediterranean (juicy red pepper, olive tapenade and balsamic-like reduction of Worcestershire sauce). Alfonso “Mango” granita with lime, young coconut and yogurt ice cream was a bomb. The young coconut had a mild fermented taste and addictive jelly-like texture. The intense velvety mango puree was quickly whipped with finely shaved ice and lime juice (and zest). The yogurt ice cream was smooth but possessed great lactic strength. The interplay between texture and temperature contrast of two icy elements – granita and ice cream – left my taste bud craving for more. Like “Chicken”, this “Mango” is a more permanent staple at Kitchen Table. It was followed by an additional festive dish of “Hot Cross Bun” ice cream. James tipped some mixed spices on top of a fragile crispy pastry and served it on a rather milky, bread-tasting ice cream. “Beetroot” forewent my stereotypical idea of sponge cake. Very moist, fluffy and red, the cake only retained a hint of beet muddiness. The natural aggression of beet taste was also diluted by the zingy, caramel-like liquorice ice cream and powder. The additional pairing of sour cream and beetroot sorbet was a clever way of re-constructing a dish and made me relate back to an experience of (savory) taste that wasn’t too alienating. The meal concluded with “Orange” – James’s twist on traditional English teacake with orange marmalade and frozen marshmallow.

So.. KT.. Go!!

 

 

20130402-064543.jpg20130402-064610.jpg20130402-064633.jpg20130402-064745.jpg

20130402-064812.jpg20130411-011155.jpg20130402-064838.jpg20130402-064900.jpg

 

RATING: 4.5/5

KITCHEN TABLE @ BUBBLEDOGS&

70 Charlotte Street

London

W1T 4QG

Tel. 0207 637 7770

www.bubbledogs.co.uk

Bubbledogs& on Urbanspoon

20130211-112517.jpg
comment 1

Balthazar Bakery: NYC Haunt Finds Home in Covent Garden

New kid on the block..

The ever popular Balthazar brasserie has been THE place-to-be of New York City and recently emulated its uber-glam vibe to Covent Garden occupying the Flower Cellars, the corner of Russell Street and Wellington Street. Annexed to the restaurant (soon to open) is Balthazar Bakery, an amalgamation of an authentic-looking all-day French boulangerie and a luxe sandwich haunt.

In the morning (from 7.30am) a wide range of viennoiserie is served and this is to be followed up with a selection of salad and sandwiches at lunch hours onwards. Everything is prepared from scratch; the ingredients speak quality; the staff are charming, handsome and hospitable; the wonderful range of all good and freshly baked things on display that encapsulate you when walking into the shop can easily induce a bread-gasm. The price is also reasonable enough not to ruin the orgasm. (£4 for filled croissant and croque monsieur; £2.75 for most pastries; £4.25 for a bag of madeleines). I lost track of the price for bread. Like at a boulangerie, all items are to take away.

 

20130211-103952.jpg20130211-104002.jpg20130211-104010.jpg

 

I spent some good minutes sampling the free stuff. Pain au Chocolat was nice but I found Pain aux Raisins (£2.75) more balanced in taste and texture. The plump raisins, in particular, were appealing. The paid items were pretty good, too. Croque Monsieur (£4), which can be warmed up on the grill on request, was generously stuffed with finely shaved ham. The coy aroma of grilled cheese mingled well with the cheese-laded bread. Comforting and delicious, it left a glossy texture on the lips. Ham Gruyere Croissant (£5) was pimped with juicy roasted tomatoes. The croissant had an excellently crispy exterior. Personally I think the filling could do with less cheese as the ham was rather overwhelmed by it. Cinnamon Bun (£2.75) was decadently caramelized and the cinnamon perfume was notable. The bun itself was a little dense and hard. Financier (£1.45) was one of the best I’ve had in London and arrived dotted with raspberry jam. Moist. Buttery. Sweet. The tang from the jam and the pistachio nutty-ness provided good contrasts.

(Will be back for lunch)!! And I haven’t opened the madeleine yet.

20130211-104019.jpg20130211-104026.jpg

 

RATING 3.5/5

BALTHAZAR BAKERY

4-6 Russell Street
London
WC2B 5HZ

www.balthazarlondon.com

Balthazar Boulangerie on Urbanspoon

20130102-111551.jpg
comment 1

London Round Up: The Burgers

*TASTE DISCLAIMER*

I have a preference for clean-tasting, not so greasy burgers and used to be on the hunt for them. But, ever since the arrival of much trusted Burgerac and Burgerapp! I just eat according to their rating.

But for this post.. I ate for you, for my own indulgence point of view. Please enjoy and feel for my wobbling calories.

PATTY AND BUN

Patty and Bun on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

Roast alumnus Joe Grossman has made the name for Patty and Bun from various pop-ups and finally decided to go stationary next to Selfridges. The burger menu here is more extensive – 3 kinds of beef, 1 chicken, 1 lamb and 1 veggie – with the prices fluctuating between £7 and £8. (The Ari Gold Cheeseburger is the most talked about). Chips (with rosemary salt) aren’t included.

I opted for Jose Jose Chilli Burger (£8) – beef patty, chilli chorizo relish, pickled onion, smokey P&B sauce, and the usual. It was GOOD!! Apparently… it took a while for the burger to be transported between the kitchen and the dining room, and the lost minutes did result in my lettuce being so cooked and my otherwise gorgeously light brioche bun to be a little too wet. Still, I loved the smokey and paprika-scented taste that glazed the perfectly pink and loose patty. The chilli heat was detectable but not strong. Lamb Shank Redemption (£8) was also GOOD!! The inspiration was quite Turkish for me. The lamb patty boast strong taste and zingy infusion but was balanced off by refreshing cumin aioli and cooling feta. The braised red cabbage provided a crunchy contrast. Despite the messy look, both of the burgers had quite a gourmet charm about them. Not so much greasy aftertaste <3 <3 <3

 

TOMMI’S BURGER JOINT

Tommi's Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

It is now universally acknowledged that despite its shack-like American decor Tommi’s Burger Joint does not have much to do with America. Rather, it is a small chain from Iceland (country, not supermarket -___-” ). The menu isn’t big but there are 2 different beef patties to choose from. The regular burger starts at £5.30; the cheeseburger at £5.80. For a better quality of the patty, there is Steak Burger at £7.95. You can add £1 extra for cheese and Bearnaise dipping sauce. The price above is exclusive of fries.

My Steak Burger with Cheese was quite neat and okay. The patty – a concoction of rump, rib-eye and fillet – was lean and robust; the garnish – lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard – was downright basic and didn’t do much; the glazed bun was pillow-y. I found the accompanying Bearnaise sauce a little too processed in taste. I also tried Tommi’s regular burger, which was not bad but you could find much better burgers elsewhere in London.

(The ventilation isn’t great so if you don’t want to be as smoky as your burgers, don’t go during busy hours).

SLIDER BAR

Slider Bar on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Slider Bar is a collaboration between the ex-truck, much raved Lucky Chip and the convincingly hip Player (cocktail bar). The good ‘n messy burgers, correspondingly, become trendily sized, and you can choose any two of the sliders at £10 (including fries). (When I visited, there were 4 beef variations, 1 veggie and 1 seasonal special). Also, exclusive at lunch hours is the option of a normal-size burger of any on the menu (£not sure how much). For dinner, aim for a cool scene with things to nibble but it’s not ideal as a sitting down kinda meal.

I went for El Chappo – aged beef patty, blue cheese, roasted jalapenos, smoked bacon and aioli in a sesame-studded bun. The chilli and the stinking blue combo was remarkably delicious; but I found the patty a little too cooked (to about medium well) and dry for my liking. The bun was quite forgettable. Cheeseburger – think a mini-MacDonald Cheeseburger!! – was more of a success story. The bun was nicely steamed for a cushion-y, pleasantly chewy softness; the pickle was crunchy and tangy; the cheese meltingly good; but the patty (again) was a little too cooked. Very good but there was quite a greasy aftertaste.

 

HONEST BURGER SOHO

Honest Burgers (Soho) on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Honest Burger has branched out to Soho but the decor – a strictly organic wooden look – reminds me of its original outpost in Brixton Village. There are 5 variations on the menu: “Chicken” (£8.5), “Beef” (£7.5), “Cheese” (£8), “Honest” (£9), and “Fritter” (£6.5). All orders come with chips.

I went for the Honest, which was just nice. The quality dry-aged beef patty from Ginger Pig was macho and carefully seared for medium rare pinkness; the glazed bun was lovingly toasted; but, I was not keen on their signature sweet onion relish, which not only failed to create a good texture contrast in the burger but also oozed a rather odd fragrance of either herbs or spices. Also I found the chips with rosemary salt so strong in aroma that it offset my appetite for the burger.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

PATTY AND BUN

54 James Street
London
W1U 1HE

Tel. 020 7487 3188

www.pattyandbun.co.uk

 

TOMMI’S BURGER JOINT

58 Marylebone Lane
London
W1U 2NX

Tel. 020 7935 5275

www.burgerjoint.co.uk

 

SLIDER BAR

8 Broadwick Street
London
W1F 8HN

Tel. 020 7065 6841

www.sliderbar.co.uk

 

HONEST BURGER SOHO

4a Meard Street
London
W1F 0EF

Tel. 020 3609 9524

www.honestburgers.co.uk