All posts filed under “Fusion

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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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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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Grain Store: Bruno Loubet and New Vegetable-Centric Dynamics

The Third Coming?

If you have hung around in London for a while, you are definitely familiar with the glory of chef Bruno Loubet. He has traversed from Michelin-starred kitchens (Pierre Koffman, Le Manoir, Inn on the Park) to Australia and back to acclaimed Bristrot Bruno Loubet at the Zetter Hotel. Loubet’s latest restaurant project is Grain Store, occupying one corner of the new, formidably creative-looking hub of Central St Martins’ in King’s Cross. The menu features a mix-bag of veggies and super-food (though meat does make occasional appearances). The inspirations are trans-cultural and thoughtfully fused. The portion is medium-sized and facilitates sharing. The pricing (£4-10.5 for starters; £10-22.5 for mains; £5.5-6 for desserts) is kind. A tasting menu is also available for £35 per person. The space is well-buzzed but stays casual.

The taste (during my visit) was comfortingly inventive but wouldn’t convert me into vegetarianism. I liked the refreshing bitterness in Endive, Pear and Roquefort Salad (£6) but the dressing of smoked pepper jelly was excessive and led to a quite-sweet aftertaste. Courgette and Prawn Falafel (£6.50) was deliciously spiced and carefully fried. The prawn patty had very good bouncy texture, which as I was munching, released quite a complexity of taste. That said, I thought the broad beans (nicely cooked) were disparate and the raita not contributing much. Butternut Squash Ravioli (£7), served with sage, mustard-ed apricots, rocket leaves and pumpkin seeds, was (if you have a good set of teeth) a feast of texture. While the plump ravioli showed skills, the taste construction (with balsamic and Parmesan) remained down-to-earth comfort. Corn and Quinoa Tamale with Sticky Pork Belly (£15) was a spectacle on the plate. The tamale – made predominantly from sweet corn – was baked and served in corn husk. The belly (the pork – not mine) wobbled magnificently. Together, they created (again) quite a sweet taste, which my rather thick salsa failed to cut through. Strawberry & Balsamic Jam with Horseradish Ice Cream (£6) was invigorating. I loved the feisty ice cream very much but felt the dish would achieve a better balance if the ice cream was served slightly less (a quenelle, instead of a full scoop?).

Despite some ups-and-downs, Grain Store will become an awesome operation. The menu has already introduced new dynamics for vegetable-centric cooking. And, given time, it will transpire more clearly onto the cooking at the restaurant.

 

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RATING 3.5/5

GRAIN STORE

Granary Square
1-3 Stable Street
London
N1C 4AB

Tel. 020 7324 4466

www.grainstore.com

Grain Store on Urbanspoon

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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.

 

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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

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HKK by Hakkasan: The Morsels of Modern Chinese Banquet in City

City, culture(s) and HKK

Despite my being harsh – you will see – I actually like HKK very much. I am talking a new concept modern Chinese restaurant in the City by Hakkasan Group that, contrary to Hakkasan, runs only a tasting menu. There is also no swanky bar featuring demure lighting. There is a bar, still, and with cascading medical-looking curtains to section the restaurant, the dining room seems temporary. There *is* also the crowd, during my two meals at the restaurant, the *City* crowd (or just some of .. ) that doesn’t seem to care much about exquisitely thought out food – let alone the fact that it is Chinese. On my second visit, in particular, they cared very much about their expensive wines/champagnes, a sentiment they were so keen to convey to the neighbouring diners. Last and definitely not least, as somebody brought up with a half-Chinese background, the tasting menu format at HKK is excruciatingly culturally frustrating. The Chinese that I know like to eat in abundance, or at least, they like seeing there is food in abundance that they may or may not choose to eat. One piece of roast duck, one piece of crispy skin and one roll cannot be explained away as keeping you wanting more to my parents at least. It is just wrong.

Rant over..

And despite all this – you will see – I love my two meals at HKK and will return for more.

Tasting the banquet

Chef Tong Chee Hwee isn’t the name most often mentioned but he has been instrumental in the success of Hakkasan since its inauguration. The 15-course tasting menu (£95), which marries the premium produce of the West with the jewels of the East, is not only a great testament to chef Tong’s talents but also that, after 10 years of Hakkasan, he still has a lot of tricks up his sleeves. HKK also offers a shorter 8-course menu (£48) at lunch. Also, the juice pairing (£25) is the most innovative and successful I’ve ever come across in the UK.

Let’s start. Four Treasure Iberico Ham Wrap was a bite-sized wrap of pickled mooli, cucumber, nameko mushroom, tofu and Jamon Iberico. The fillings were crunchy and refined in taste; the goji berry sauce carried acidity to complement; my only criticism was that the texture construction in this case made me think the Jamon, tasting mighty fine, became slightly chewy. Drunken Chicken, served cold, was far more superior. Here Poulet de Bresse replaced your ordinary chicken and boast a length and depth of taste. The gu-yue-long-shan rice wine lent an elegant perfume that transported me away from the quite dire surrounding. Peking Duck, carved by chef Tong at the island in the middle of the dining room, was insanely delicious. The meaty duck was roasted with lychee wood and oozed a sweet and fruity aroma. There was no lingering oily touch left in the skin and the meat. The skin, particularly, shattered, exploded on my tongue. Putting this in the context of London, HKK’s Peking Duck is superior to my Peking Duck haunt Min Jiang. (The latter can be inconsistent at times). That said, the pancake wrap, suffering from the transportation time from the island to my table, was dry. This was followed by a clear soup of Poulet de Bresse, with dried scallops, jelly fish, goji berries and chrysanthemum petals. A refined comfort.

Trio of Dim Sum was both thoughtful and successful. I was instructed to start with the wonderful steamed har-gau with black truffle. The casing was especially thin and erupted a bold infusion of truffle and prawns. Szechuan dumpling – prawns, chicken and mushroom – was steamed and pan-fried. Spicy. Mind-blowing. I finished off the selection with a very delicate mooli puff. The puff itself was unreal and powdered away in my mouth. The filling was appetizingly pickle-y. It also cleansed my palate in an instant. Stir Fried Gai Lan in XO Sauce sustained this momentum. The use of house-made XO sauce was minimal but precise, leaving a trace of musty spicy-ness to counter the crispy and sweet lilly bulbs and earthy shimeji mushrooms. The gai lan itself was fresh and had a gentle chlorophyll note. Wok Fried Lobster with Yellow Bean Sauce was indulgent. The lobster itself was distinctly fresh and well treated to emulate a depth of flavour. That said, the plate on which the dish was served make it really hard to hollow out the meat from the claw. Then came a Da-Hong-Pao tea break (a rare variation of oolong from Fujian), with osmanthus jelly (tangy and aromatic) and deep-fried water chestnut cake (sweet, delicate, biteful, greaseless – the best I’ve ever had!).

Fried Monkfish was served nestled in a fragrant concoction of Louis Roederer and rice wine sauce. I loved the contrasting acidity from the loose, mildly fermented rice with intense sun-dried (Italian?) tomatoes. There was also a successful departure of perfume from the disc of lotus leaf, on which the fish was served. Toban of Home-made Pumpkin Tofu was rich and also very good. The pumpkin tofu was skilfully made and in a perfect state between being silky and wobbly. The sauce – rice-wine infusion with chicken and root vegetables – was potent. Braised Australian Wagyu melted in my mouth. The sauce verged on being quite sweet and lacking the dimensions of preceding dishes. The water chestnut mediated this with its cleansing juicy-ness. The sweet potato crisp looked spectacular but was, in fact, soggy (on both visits). The last of the savoury was a rice course steamed with mui-choi and shitake. ‘Twas okay. Good fragrance. Not one of those rice dishes that, in my opinion, would make rice-eating nations proud. The steamed razor clam with vermicelli, garlic and chilli was nicely executed but somehow lacked vitality.

The desserts were weak. Lychee Tapioca with Passion Fruit Chiboust and Passion Fruit Jam lacked balance (on both visits). The former suffered from being too passion-fruit-y; the latter too lychee-fied. There was not enough clarity from the coconut milk. Pineapple Fritter fared better but still was nowhere near the success of the savoury dishes. Here it was served with salted lime jelly, morsels of fresh lime, vanilla ice cream and the alcohol in which the pineapple was poached. I found the citric sharpness to be too domineering. Interestingly enough, and contrary to the desserts, the petir fours – 5-spiced financier, Szechuan peppercorn truffle, pumpkin and ginger macaroon, and durian mochi ice cream – were brilliant. My favourite went straight to durian mochi, which was instructed to be eaten last (so the ice cream inside melted). Quite special. The taste of milk did not kill the deliciously rotten smell of durian but perfectly mellow it out. It also enjoyed the contrast of the liquid-y, milky essence and the gummy exterior.

And yes, despite all my criticisms, HKK is pristine, delicious and very exciting (and perhaps the second-best Asian opening of 2012 after you-know-where).

 

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RATING 4.5/5

HKK BY HAKKASAN

Broadgate West
88 Worship Street
EC2A 2BE

Tel. 020 3535 1888

www.hkklondon.com

Hkk on Urbanspoon

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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)..

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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