All posts filed under “fine dining

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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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Yashin Ocean House: Japanese Fusion Expansion (without Soy Sauce)?

Fish and a bit of Japanese..

Yashin Ocean House is a new venture by the team behind Yashin Sushi (in High Street Kensington). This is a designed-to-be-trendy restaurant with brown leather banquettes, smashed-and-exposed brick walls, polychrome of tiled tables, an emerald green kitchen island and counter, and a statement glass-covered facility for dry-aging fish. Not trendy enough? The restaurant also puts up a black horse sculpture with a lamp shade on its head to delight customers’ eyes as they are walked to their tables. A bit Santa Monica. A bit Moscow. The setting, kind of, helped distract me from the fact that Yashin Ocean House isn’t really a Japanese restaurant but an inventive fish restaurant with few Japanese touches. No sushi (and still no soy sauce)..

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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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Kaiseki (Japan) + Late Spring/Early Summer Produce

Kaiseki only..

This is a catching-up of my Intermediate Guide to Fine Dining in Japan, with a focus only on kaiseki (multi-course haute cuisine) and the availability of produce in (late) spring and (early) summer. Any more questions, do feel free to ask. Corrections are also welcomed   (>^_^)><(^o^<)

(There will be another post about sushi… when I have more time).

Ayu + Hamo + Late Spring/Early Summer Produce

I did two trips to Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto) in early May and early June. Season-wise, these two months are the transitional period between spring and summer. It is noteworthy that in late spring and early summer the weather in Japan (Tokyo/Kyoto) is becoming hot and humid. Also, from the second week of June (until mid-July), the rainy season settles itself in. It can be frustratingly wet. The cooking is tuned to this awareness of temperature. Say, the summer dashi is lighter than the winter dashi. There are more cold and refreshing elements.

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Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs&: Gastronomy behind the Curtain

Auto-correct “put of date!”

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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!!

 

 

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RATING: 4.5/5

KITCHEN TABLE @ BUBBLEDOGS&

70 Charlotte Street

London

W1T 4QG

Tel. 0207 637 7770

www.bubbledogs.co.uk

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