All posts filed under “Cafe

20130927-142957.jpg
comment 0

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.

Read More

20130422-025608.jpg
comment 1

City Caphe + Sho Foo Doh (at Pacific Social Club) = My Fave Asians!!

Two of my most favourite Asians <3 <3 <3

City bound..

City Caphe on Ironmonger Lane seems just another Vietnamese takeaway shop, and I was once fooled by its recyclable crockery and a menu typical to any Vietnamese joint in London. After many visits, however, I began to feel this little paired-down shop IS the best Vietnamese food outlet in London. The proprietor Julie and her family run this small business with heart and soul. This, as you will see when at the shop, has earned them strings of very loyal lunch-crowd followers (in other words – possibly one of the longest and fastest-turning queues in London).

City Caphe is opened only during the week, roughly from 11am until 4pm. (Many items are sold out before 3pm). The menu is simple but not short. There are Pho, Bun Hue, Cuon, Bahn Mi, Spring Rolls and a superbly authentic and highly sugared Vietnamese Iced Coffee. All (apart from the coffee) come with a variety of stocks and toppings. The flavouring is well-judged and thoughtfully modified in ways that the recipes do not depart from authenticity. The portion is substantial and the price never goes above £6.50. Summer Roll (£3.75) – tightly packed with springy prawns, tender simmered pork and fresh herbs – was refreshing and delivered exactly what you’d expect from a proper summer roll. The sweet peanut-based sauce added velvety richness. Bahn Mi is freshly prepared and instantly assembled per orders. My Classic Pork Bahn Mi (£3.95) was tightly packed with multi-textured Vietnamese sausage slices and sweet pickles. City Caphe doesn’t bake baguette on the premise but has it tailored specially for them. Beef Bun Hue (£6.50) was consistently feisty. The good quality beef slices were perfectly poached. The Bun noodle was slurpy-licious. The intense beef stock went down a storm with the garlicky, spicy pungent-ness of chilli oil. An additional herb bag containing basil, chilli and lime wedge was a generous touch showing the kitchen does their best not to strip away authenticity. (The chicken version was very good, too).

 

20130626-173021.jpg20130626-173006.jpg20130626-172949.jpg20130626-172930.jpg20130626-172913.jpg

 

Forward to Hackney!!
East London is *in* and I have come across a handful of fun-filled places worth travelling for. (More posts for East London to come). One of these is Sho Foo Doh by Fumio Tanga, which was first set up as an okonomiyaki stall at Chatsworth Road Market on Sundays. Very quickly SFD became the words of mouth and Fumio is now a frequent lodger at nearby Pacific Social Club doing what he does very well – flipping Japanese pancakes!!

Born in Hiroshima (where okonomiyaki is the stable of life), Fumio moved to the UK a decade ago and has become pretty Hackneyed. He fuses, at Pacific Social Club (a cafe that might be described as a run-down space of polychromatic hipness and great vinyls), a nostalgic taste of home with a carefree spirit of East London. The specialities are, of course, booze and Japanese pancakes, but there’s a catch. Japanese pancakes that people outside Japan know are the popularised Osaka-style (a kind of fluffy mixed-meat, cabbage-y patty). For SFD, Fumio alternates this Osaka style with a Hiroshima counterpart. The latter is more layered than mixed, with sautéed noodle forming the base and a thin sheet of pancake to cover it all up.

At Pacific Social Club, Fumio is manning the hot plate in the evening from Thursday to Saturday. The menu changes according to his mood. The price for small plates hover between £3 and £6. The flat rate for an okonomiyaki is £8 but the price goes up depending on how many toppings (50p – £2) you would like to add. Chilled Aubergine (£3) was revitalising. The cooked aubergine chunks were left to marinate and sponge up the clear gingery dashi broth. My Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki was..errr… HUGE!! The pork belly mingled well with the springy squid. The noodle was mildly tossed and cooked in Fumio’s “secret” sauce. The shredded cabbage was layered and perfectly steamed between the noodle and the pleasantly chewy pancake sheet (on top). The generous sprinkling of chopped spring onions not only contributed zing but helped refresh the palate. I also had another one of sweet corn and cheddar cheese concoction which was equally utterly soulful and joyous.

Do note there are a few guest appearances at Pacific Social Club, including Bao London.

20130422-025012.jpg20130422-025059.jpg20130422-025125.jpg20130422-025203.jpg20130422-025234.jpg20130422-025309.jpg

 

SFD RATING 3.5/5

SHO FOO DOH @ PACIFIC SOCIAL CLUB

8 Clarence Road
London
E5 8HB

www.facebook.com/ShoFooDoh
Pacific Social Club on Urbanspoon

 

CC RATING 4/5

CITY CAPHE

17 Ironmonger Lane
Bank
London
EC2V 8EY

www.citycaphe.com

City Càphê on Urbanspoon

20130108-211150.jpg
comment 0

Naamyaa Cafe: Urban Thai Treats in North London

Enter the new chain..

Collaboration usually brings about awesomeness and when I heard of highly acclaimed restaurateur Alan Yau’s recent partnering with internationally lauded Thai chef David Thompson I couldn’t have been more excited. The lovechild is Naamya Cafe – a large-scale, well-funky and tactically conceived *urban Thai restaurant* in Islington. Its menu, featuring a friendly, photographically documented selection of one-plate dishes that middle-class Thai urbanites would eat in Bangkok – think, Cheeseburger and Salad Nicoise – as opposed to what Londoners stereotypically imagine as Thai food – think, Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry, is quite a departure from the imaginative exotic stuff Yau is known for at Busaba Eathai. The price is set at around £9 per dish. The portion is generous. The result is.. well, I think.. not more spectacular than a chain restaurant but will promise, in UK’s immigration term, a somewhat indefinite leave to remain surely.

Thai and western modern

The offerings at Naamya Cafe don’t quite fall into the categories of starters, mains, sides and desserts but are grouped into various kinds of “set” menus, including “small plate”, “burger&sandwich”, “noodle&pasta” and of course “Naamya” (a variation of Thai rice vermicelli eaten with watery curry and assorted vegetables. My Pan-Fried Turnip Cake (£.6.50) was huge and while being billed “small plate” could itself have been a meal. The turnip cake, though floury, contained some distinguishable bites of turnip and was nicely sauteed with egg, beansprouts and Chinese chives. The seasoning cried for richer and more feisty soy-based sweetness. Naamya Gai (£9) – rice vermicelli with a base of finger-root ginger curry and shredded chicken – was probably the most authentic I’ve had in the UK. (That said, Naamya Cafe is also the only place that sells it). The curry blend, from David Thompson’s factory, was aromatic and revitalisingly hot, and the consistency of the curry was right – loose and watery as opposed to thick and creamy. This was traditionally served with a boiled egg and both fresh and pickled vegetables. The uninspiring element, however, was the bland, scent-less, slightly-too-wet rice vermicelli. Also likable was Naamya’s take on the signature Thai street food favourite of Stir Fried Minced Beef with Chilli (£8.90), which arrived complete with steamed rice, a fried egg and a mooli soup. The stir fry was dry, correctly musty (because of fish sauce), and had Thompson’s salt-prone style of seasoning stamped all over it. Personally it could have been spicier; the rice tasted a bit tired and could have been a touch softer; and the fried egg could do with a better crispy skin.

Naamya Cafe isn’t the place to go an adrenaline-fueled Thai fix. But, given my three okay dishes that could feed three people and came just under £30, it was satisfactory..

RATING 3/5

NAAMYA CAFE

407 St John Street
London
EC1V 4AB

Tel. 020 3122 0988

www.naamyaa.com

 

20121230-014234.jpg
comment 1

London Round Up: The Asian(s)

The London restaurant scene moves forward at the speed of light. Even some of the good restaurants don’t survive the test of time, and for those that do live on, I think they need some extra mentioning here ^_^

ASADAL

Asadal on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3/5

Situated on the basement level of a building next to Holborn Tube Station, Asadal is my slightly-more-expensive-than-average Korean restaurant with quite a wide selection on the barbecue menu (£6.50-18.50) and a relatively effective and non-intrusive extraction system. (No ventilation tube at table to suck your eyelashes off, so to speak). Useless as this may sound, I never try order anything else at Asadal apart from barbecue, kimchi and rice dishes. The pungent, variably spiced selection of Kimchi (£6) was crunchy and reliable. Namool Selection (£4.50) was less successful and lacked some vital aromatic dimension of sesame oil. That said, in most Korean restaurants in London, kimchi and namool dishes are complimentary. An Chang Kui/Rib Eye Marinated with Sesame Oil (£13.80) spoke quality but was too calm in taste. More robustness and fragrance from the marinate and the char would have made it brilliant. Bulgogi/Marinated Topside Beef Slices (£9.20) had more flavours, notably sweetness. Gal Bi/Stripes of Marinated Rib (£9.50) was my usual favourite – beefy, well-marinated and quite full of tenderised bites. Dewji Bul Go Gi/Spicy Marinated Pork (£8.50) was lost on the spicy side. Sang Chu/Fresh Lettuce with Seasoned Bean Paste (£2.50) was nice, though I would have loved the paste with a little more heat. Pa Seng Che/Shredded Spring Onions in Sesame Oil and Chilli Powder (£1.90) was fresh, feisty and vinegary. Great foil to the mellow taste from the barbecue. Kimchi Bokum Bab (£8.80) was a dish of stir-fried rice with kimchi and small beef cubes. The rice was grainy but quite wet; the heat was there to please (me) but it could induce a kimchi sweat from irregular chilli consumers; the beef cubes were tough and lost in taste.

 

MITSUKOSHI

Mitsukoshi on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

For those in the know (of Japanese shopping), Mitsukoshi is the long-standing Japanese department store with many of its branches spreading across Japan, Asia, Europe and America. The one in London – on Lower Regent Street and next to Japan Centre – attracts mostly Japanese (and some Chinese) tour groups. You may expect the same groups of diners in the basement restaurant. You can also expect an all-encompassing, everybody-can-eat menu. And, you can expect Japanese authenticity. The ambiance is low-key, but it is often busy.

The lunch menu contain mainly set courses, costing between £15-27. Most options are served with a bowl of rice, soup and side salad. The dinner menu is dearer but features a wider range of A La Carte dishes. Given my experience at Mitsukoshi, it’s best to go for lunch; the non-deep-frying dishes are usually acceptable; the sashimi, sourced by the same fish supplier as Sushi Tetsu, is reliable.

My Una-Ju Zen (£26.50) from the dinner menu was decent. The accompanying sashimi starter (of salmon, akami and seabass was fresh, though the wasabi was quite dry and tired and didn’t taste much. The eel grilled and caramelised with kabayaki sauce was meaty and fell apart apart in my mouth. The smoky sweetness was quite distinct and the rice was nicely cooked. More spectacular was my A La Carte De Luxe Sashimi (£28.80) from the lunch menu. This premium assortment included salmon, akami, sea bass, yellowtail, flounder, scallops, prawns, squids and vinegared snow crab. It went down quickly with a bowl of rice ^_^

 

CENTREPOINT SUSHI

Centrepoint Sushi on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2.5/5

Centrepoint Sushi is a hidden Japanese restaurant above the Japanese-Korean supermarket on St Giles High Street. The budget-priced menu covers a wide selection of dishes, from sashimi and sushi to deep-fried and cooked dishes. Not a destination restaurant, but more of a place you pop in and order the safest-sounding dishes on the menu and hope the kitchen will execute it right.

My chicken karaake bento box (around £12) was decent. The batter was crispy; the chicken did taste like chicken; and the rice was nicely cooked. The side order of assorted pickles (£4) was full of crunch. From my previous experience, however, the sashimi here isn’t usually the freshest. (Generally you can’t really go budget for good sushi or sashimi).

 

PRINCESS GARDEN OF MAYFAIR

Princess Garden on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

The Mayfair scene is usually the place for swanky, inventive Chinese restaurants (say, Bo London, Novikov Asian, Kai and Hakkasan) but its much more traditional Cantonese Chinese restaurant neighbour Princess Garden of Mayfair will have enjoyed its 30-year-old success in 2013.

For me, Princess Garden isn’t the place you go for a *wow* dim sum lunch but a reliably well-done one. The pricing for dim sum (around £3-4) is also quite a steal for the Mayfair location. To my knowledge, they are also the only Chinese restaurant that offers abalone and sea cucumber as the fixed staples on their dinner menu.

My char siu puff (£2.90) flaked nicely and was without grease. The pork was gently spiced and deliciously sweet. The shredded mooli cake (£2.90) was tangy, crispy and crunchy. The beef cheng fun with enoki mushrooms (£4), thinly wrapped and doused in rich sweetened soy dressing, also boast a correct texture. The turnip cake (£2.80), oozing a mild turnip aroma, was soft on the inside and fried for delectable crisp on the outside.

MANGO TREE

Mango Tree on Urbanspoon

RATING: 2/5

Mango Tree and Pan Chai by Ian Pengelley are counter restaurants at Harrods Food Hall. The former took over the old dim sum bar; the latter the older sushi bar. Interestingly enough, the majority of the menus of the former restaurants have survived this rechristening. One desperately hungry moment led me to taking a seat at Mango Tree, now a dim sum bar with a modern *fusion* Thai menu. The price range is high enough to make a Harrods regular gasp. The *cheapest* options on the menu are Spare Ribs and Choi Sum with Oyster Sauce at £7.50 each; the most startlingly expensive option is Thai Green Curry with Wagyu Beef at £59.80.

Seeing the menu, my appetite dwindled and I resorted to Goong Ten (£15.80). The dish – or, rather, my martini glass – held three king prawns steamed in ridiculously bland and watery tom yum dressing and a bed of banal (but fresh) salad of carrot and cabbage. This was edible but overwhelmingly disappointing, which is a shame because Harrods’s recent redevelopment of its restaurant section is really exciting.

 

NAHM (Closed)

Nahm on Urbanspoon

2012 also saw the end of the era of Nahm London – the world’s first Thai restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Chef David Thompson has moved on not only to opening Nahm in Bangkok to great acclaims but also to branching out in London, Hong Kong and a few other destinations in Asia for more casual ventures. I will miss the macho, meaty and slightly salty take of Thai cuisine at Nahm as well as its sparkling array of Thai desserts (the best I’ve ever had in and outside Thailand).

Below was a combination platter of Nahm’s iconic desserts Pumpkin and Taro Custard, with threads of syrup-poached egg yolk and caramelised sesame biscuits. (Well, Bangkok is just one 12-hour flight away)..

___________________________________________________________________

ASADAL

Kingsbourne House
229-231 High Holborn
London
WC1V 7DA

Tel. 020 7430 9006

www.asadal.co.uk

 

MITSUKOSHI

Dorland House (Basement)
14-20 Lower Regent Street
London
SW1Y 4PH

Tel. 020 7930 0317

www.mitsukoshi-restaurant.co.uk

 

CENTREPOINT SUSHI

20 St Giles High Street
London
WC2H 8LN

Tel. 020 7240 6147

 

PRINCESS GARDEN OF MAYFAIR

8-10 North Audley Street
London
W1K 6ZD

Tel. 020 7493 3223

www.princessgardenofmayfair.com

 

MANGO TREE

Harrods (Ground Floor)
Brompton Road
London
SW1X 7XL

Tel. 020 7730 1234

www.harrods.com

 

 

IMG_0033
comments 5

MEATmarket: London’s Institution Burgers Arrive at Tourist-land

MEAT in a touristy market..

MEATmarket – the newborn sibling of London’s famed #Meateasy and MEATliquor – is where one can enjoy a very clatteringly touristy view from the Deck of Jubilee Hall Market (AKA the other market in Covent Garden Piazza that Londoners don’t go to) 7 days a week. There are two entrances – one next to Wagamama on Tavistock Street and the other from within the Jubilee Hall Market (albeit with no sign and accessible only when the market is opened). Bright and airy, this burger place is a pretty “speedy” caff that offers both eat-in and takeaway options. The slightly uncomfortably high chairs/stools ensure a quick turnover, and despite the super friendly staff, I always perch, eat and leave. (I assumed others did the same as during a few “peak” times that I went MEATmarket was nowhere as busy as MEATliquor).

The menu, following the same ethos of naughty burgers as MEATliquor, was brief and divided distinctly between burgers and hotdogs, approximately priced around £7.50. There was barely any booze, apart from the now infamous Jagermeister Shake (£5); soft drinks were served bottomless. I loved Poppaz (£4 for 4 pieces) – double-sized, thumb-shaped croquettes filled with cheese and chopped Jalapenos. Pretty much a mother-f**king of heat, cheese and pickle-y tang. A trip to MEATmarket would not be complete without them. Corn Puppies (£4 for 4 pieces) were juicy miniature sausages coated in chilli-infused cornmeal batter and deep fried. Ideal for those with sweet teeth but still enjoying a whorish hint of heat (moi!). The new bigger stuff did not impress me as much. I found the construction of MEATmarket’s exclusive Black Palace – two patties, caramelised onions, American cheese, ketchup and mustard – nicely done but too sweet for my liking. The inclusive pickles failed to cut through. The Ripper – a hot dog featuring a deep-fried, bacon-wrapped sausage, generously toppled with pickles, chopped raw onions and shredded deep fried onions – appeared uncircumcised and was too big to go comfortably into one’s mouth. The sausage itself was juicy but verged on being too garlic-y and salty (for me); the bun (on two occasions that I visited MM) was dry. That said, the signature MEATliquor staples of The Dead Hippie and The Philli Cheesesteak are still as reliable as usual. Given no queue (so far), MEATmarket could be a great alternative for those seeking the glory of MEATliquor.

 


RATING: 3.5/5

MEATmarket

The Deck
Jubilee Hall Market
Tavistock Street
London
WC2E 8BE

www.themeatmarket.co.uk

MEATmarket on Urbanspoon

IMG_8406
comments 2

Katz’s Deli + Economy Candy + Crif Dogs, New York

Katz’s Deli

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

On East Houston Street has been standing Katz’s Deli for God-know-how-many years (since 1888 – I don’t do maths). This is a proper Jewish delicatessen of NYC Lower East Side (which London’s dear Mishkin’s takes an inspiration from). The walls are adorned with memorabilia of the past (with a lot of sleb diners) and straight to the future (I’m sure the place will have 100 more years to go). As I walked in, I was given a ticket, which was to be presented at the counter as I ordered my food. The menu is as vast as the deli itself and has everything Jewish – Chicken soup, Salt Beef, Pastrami, Knishes…

(As I was on a mini food crawl), I settled just for a Reuben ($16.55) and a Salt Beef Sandwich ($15.25). It was a mouthful of spectacle seeing the corned beef being sliced and then two slices were given to me as samples. Steaming hot. Tender in texture and powerful in taste. The same was repeated while I was waiting for the salt beef, which was gelatinous (thanks to the fat) and snapped apart very gently. Once turned into sandwiches, I did not like them as much. For the salt beef, I found the American mustard too sweet and did not contribute a striking contrast to the beefy forte. Personal preference. The Reuben was far more calorie-worthy thanks to the corned beef alone. Dressing-wise, the Russian dressing could have been more piquant and the sauerkraut sharper in acidity. But again this is a personal preference for sourness (as I noticed they seem pro sweetness over there). The rye bread were pretty spot-on spongy. A great meal, nonetheless, and the sandwiches were MONUMENTAL!!!

Economy Candy

A digestive attempt. I walked into Economy Candy – a rusty-looking, wholesale+retail candy shop on Rivington Street, still on the Lower East Side. The range of sweet things (mostly American brands and cartoon-focused goodies) here is incredibly orgasmic, considering how not-so-large the shop is. A sort of place that makes your aged retina beams with gleeful youth. The price of all things at Economy Candy is also a tempting bargain, about 1/3 – 1/2 cheaper than the regular retail price.

(I only bought 3 monkeys – below)..

Crif Dogs

Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

And my mini food crawl ended here – Crif Dogs. A famous hot dog cafe with a “secret”.

Crif Dogs is dungeon-like with an odd resemblance to Camden. There are a great variation of toppings to choose from (16 kinds, I think), while the price fluctuates between $2.50 – $5. Tater Tots ($2.50) were these little cylindrical hash browns. Light, crispy and additive. No greasy aftertaste. The New Yorker was an all-beef sausage ($2.50) served nude in a bun (toppings on request) seemed fried rather than grilled and did not burst much taste (BAHD’s Pimp Steak beats this one hands down). The Chihuahua ($4.50) was a bacon-wrapped frankfurter with avocado and sour cream. Velvety touch. The sausage was snappy and juicy and the bacon very crackling. The Chilli Dog ($3.75) was pleasant and claimed a good mustard heat. I wasn’t keen on the cloyingly sticky texture, though. Apart from this, I also felt underwhelmed by the paper-like bun (it tasted a bit like the ones we feed fish in Thailand). My favourite of the meal was The Corn Dog ($4.75). I liked the sweet gummy batter and the moist hot dog. My only criticism was that my Corn Dog was a few minutes over-fried, resulting in a mildly burnt aroma and bitterness.

Hot dogs, done!

So, the “secret”?!?

The telephone booth inside Crif Dogs leads way to a secret cocktail bar called PDT (“please don’t tell”) which is opened daily from 6pm till late. You need to secure a reservation over the phone at a designated time (I learn it is 10am of the day you visit). If not, aim to arrive very early. I can’t tell if their cocktails are good because, during our visit, the place was so secretive nobody told us it was shut (for refurbishment).

 

RATING: 4, 3 Out Of 5

 

KATZ’S DELI

205 East Houston Street
New York City
10002

Tel. 001 (212) 254-2246

www.katzsdelicatessen.com

ECONOMY CANDY

108 Rivington Street
New York City
10002

Tel. 001 (212) 254-1531

www.economycandy.com

CRIF DOGS

113 St Marks Place 2
New York City
10009

Tel. 001 (212) 614-2728

www.crifdogs.com