All posts filed under “Sandwich

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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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The *New* Chinese Round Up: Bao London + Yum Bun + A Wong

BAO LONDON

RATING: 4/5

Bao London stands for the new breed of quality “street food” in London, serving up “xiao chi” (小吃), traditional Chinese street snacks found at market stalls. The fare here is Taiwanese; the bites are small; the team – comprising Shing, Ting & Er – is currently mobile. (I caught them at KERB but they also hold “evenings” at Pacific Social Club). The staple of Bao London is Bao (steamed bun with pork filling) but the rest of the menu varies. The price seems high, but it is backed by an ambition to source good produce and make everything from scratch.

Steamed Pork Bun (£3.50) was the best I’ve had in London. The buns were made by a formula of water roux starter and milk, left to ferment and then steamed. The result was a spectacularly milky white hue and a very neat and refined, pillow-y texture. Very light! (Personally I prefer their bun to Momofuku’s). The filling of steamed, shredded pork belly, mui-choi pickle, chopped coriander and ground toasted peanut tasted fresh and was quite a delight. (Personally I would prefer a touch stronger seasoning for the pork and that it was a little more drained. A little messy eating). Fried Chicken (£3.50/a bag of 4 pieces) was unique and addictive. Here strips of buttermilk-marinated chicken thighs were coated in seasoned crumbs, which after being fried, led to a very crispy veneer, an inner layer of stickiness and a mellow and tender chicken. Think a twist on “ham sui gok“? The seasoning in the crumb also left a hint of nutty-ness and a tingling sensation of chilli. Pomelo Salad (£2.50) was complimentary (because I went back for so many buns). Good texture – ranging from crispy fried vermicelli and crackling fried pastry, to crunchy vegetable bits and pearl-y pomelo shreds – but taste-wise it needed a bit more tang.

 
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YUM BUN

Yum Bun on Urbanspoon

RATING: 3.5/5

Yum Bun – formerly a stall at Broadway Market, Eat Street and many good festivals – has now turned stationary as a takeaway shop annexed to Shoreditch’s Rotary Bar & Diner. On the menu are Momofuku-inspired buns with 6 filling variations, priced at £3.50 for one and £6 for two. The lunch-only bento option (with 2 buns, 1 gyoza, 1 miso soup and 1 side salad) is available at £7.50.

The “bao” buns here cannot be identified with Momofuku’s pristine execution. They were more bread-y, cushion-y, thicker but not stodgy. (Much bigger than Bao London but far less refined). I liked them for their munch-able sweetness. The fillings were fine complements. My “Mushroom” – Portebello mushroom slices, toasted walnuts and miso glazing – was too mild to counter the bun. My “Chicken” – packed with marinated, flour-dusted and deep fried strips of thighs and finished with a dose of tartar mayo and chilli dressing – were successful. The chicken pieces were crispy enough. The lettuce garnish was fresh. My only concerns were the sauces, which tasted processed. The same went for my “Pork” – spiced-rubbed, slow-roasted belly slices to be seared on hot plate and doused with hoi sin sauce. I personally found the sauce, again, a little too processed-tasting and so sweet that it undermined the moreish belly. The refreshing crunch from the cucumber slices and shredded spring onions alone couldn’t mediate the sweetness effectively. Perhaps in the long run, they could benefit enormously from developing the sauce that is more loose in texture and more clarified in taste, because everything else about these buns was YUM!!

 

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A WONG

A. Wong on Urbanspoon

RATING: 4/5

A Wong isn’t just another “Wong” of Chinese restaurants. Mr. A or Andrew is an interesting lad. He studied at Oxford and LSE, ditched all that completely and turned his late father’s restaurant premise, just off Victoria Station, into a casual but inventive Chinese restaurant. Before all this kitchen action took place, he spent time tasting his way around China and brought back souvenirs of his own culinary re-construction.

There are three menus at A Wong. The dim sum menu at lunch is unique as dim sum items are sold non-traditionally per piece (£1.30-4.95). The a la carte menu (£3-8) and the 8-course “Taste of China” (£38.88) are only served at dinner. The “Snacks” (£1.50-4.95) are available all the time. Century Egg in Sweet Soy and Marinated Tofu (£3.95) was refined. The pleasantly musty cubes of century eggs foiled well with the chilled silky tofu and the clear soy broth. The lightness of the latter was, to me, reminiscent of Japanese dashi and forewent the stereotype of hefty and salty Chinese cooking. The coriander cress provided lemon-y aroma. Sesame Buttered Smoked Chicken (£4.95) screamed quality but the nutty dressing required more complexities and balance. Too cloyingly sweet, for my liking. The two variations of Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) that I tried were decent. Yunnan Mushrooms, Pork and Truffle Dumplings (£1.75 each) boast depths. I also liked the contrasting texture from the sauteed mushroom topping. The truffle dimension was thoughtful and not just for show. Shanghai Dumplings with Ginger Vinegar (£1.30 each) was modernized. The traditional “ginger vinegar” made its appearance in form of exuberantly marinated tapioca pearls. The soup filling was peppery and porky. The problem, however, lied not in taste combination but in the skill set. Three of these dumplings leaked before they reached the table, otherwise they would have created more firework.

Har Gau (£1.30 each) was served with sweet chilli sauce, under some citric foam. While the foam was zesty and aromatic, its tartness was too intrusive when I gobbled down my piece of har gau. The har gau itself was nice but not stellar. The prawn was springy but the casing lacked a touch of rice-y gelatinous texture. This might be because its exterior became wet from the foam. 63 Degree Tea Egg (£4.95) achieved gooey softness and looked wonderful in the nest of fried filo shreds. The tea scent was also imminent but finely tuned. Quail Egg Croquette Puff (£1.30 each) was served with fried seaweed and an oil-based dipping made from garlic, ginger and spring onion. The flimsy crispyness of the deep fried taro puff contrasted marvelously with the ejaculating egg within. In my opinion, this was more successful than Bo London‘s take of the same dish (smoked quail egg, taro puff and caviar). The dipping, however, didn’t do much and the fragility of the puff itself made an act of dipping a little unease. I enjoyed, to the same extent, Hand Moulded Crispy Bun with Black Sesame Dip (£1.50 each). The buns were correctly sweet and delightfully chewy. I didn’t think highly of the sticky black sesame dip, mostly for its grainy texture, awkward bitterness and lack of nutty depth.

My meal at A Wong was not perfect but this is definitely the restaurant to watch out for. The menu is exciting and does not try making any statement just for the sake of it. There is also a unique kind of sensitivity of taste and approach to Chinese cooking that I find progressive, and for the most part, very delicious.

 

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BAO LONDON

Currently mobile. Check their website for locations/events.

www.baolondon.com

YUM BUM

31 Featherstone Street
Shoreditch
London
EC1Y 2BJ

Tel. 07919 408221

www.yumbun.co.uk

A WONG

70 Wilton Road
London
SW1V 1DE

Tel. 0207 828 8931

www.awong.co.uk

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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.

 

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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.

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RATING 3.5/5

BALTHAZAR BAKERY

4-6 Russell Street
London
WC2B 5HZ

www.balthazarlondon.com

Balthazar Boulangerie on Urbanspoon

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L’ Avant Comptoir, Paris

(Sorry, folks, for NYC and London blog interruption! This is a quick post for the “family” who’s on the way to Paris).

The easiest is the tastiest..

L’Avant Comptoir is a hole-in-the-wall “tapas” bar attached to Hotel Relais in St Germain des Pres, Paris. Unlike the hotel’s popular but booking-essential bistro Le Comptoir, you can just walk in at L’Avant pretty much any day and any time you’d like. The menu featured a decently priced wine selection (French, of course) and a joyful range of charcuterie (€4-€22) with a few tapas-sized cooked dishes (€3-€7). The majority of the menu were laminated and hung loosely on the ceiling of the bar. You need to be able to read a bit of French or make some random guess from the printed photos as to what these dishes are.

Boudin Noir (€3.50) was flash grilled for a moreish effect and presented sandwiched by soft and sweet meringue discs. A bloody (pun-intended) brilliant savoury macaroon. The platter of Jambon Noir de Bigorre de Pierre Matayron (€22) was generous in size and divine in taste. I liked a touch of fat, a hint of salt and a pronounced porky flavour but I loved the fact that it was also thinly and expertly sliced. Tuna Tataki (€4.50) – a chunky piece of tuna torched on both sides and served with acidic puree and cress – was less successful. My issue was not so much about the tuna but the  redundant olive oil underneath. Grilled Scallop with Jambon (€LostTrackOfPrice) was just cooked but could have done with more snoozing on the grill for a charred effect. Deliciousness was restored by Roast Beef (also €LostTrackOfPrice). The roast beef was paper-thin and a little pink in the middle. The light dressing of pepper and parmesan helped bring out the genuine beauty of the beef.

By far, the meat dishes were very commendable..

Oh my crepe!!

I rounded up my meal at L’Avant Comptoir with their OTHER great thing: a creperie stall at the front window (!!). My Ham+Cheese+Egg below (made from buckwheat flour) was a killer and could have been a meal in itself. Good quality ham; gooey Emmental cheese (I assumed); unctuous egg yolk; a note of black pepper; and the crepe base that achieved a good balance of soft and crispy texture. While this was not the best crepe I’d ever eaten in Paris, it was a well-conceived one.

RATING: 3.5/5
GO FOR: Heavy (or light?), porky bites.

L’ AVANT COMPTOIR

9 Carrefour de l’ Odeon
Paris
France
75006

Tel. +33 144 27 07 97

www.hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com

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Aamanns “Smørrebrødsdeli”, Copenhagen

Best known after Noma?

Smørrebrød is, after Noma, the ultimate definition of Danish cuisine. This is a national open top sandwich, made of buttered rye bread and whatever that goes on top, and served cold. While you can find this sort of things anywhere in Copenhagen and any Scandinavian towns and cities, I am particularly besotted by the posh interpretation of smørrebrød at Aamanns.

The Aamanns

There are two Aamanns in Copenhagen, one a cafeteria-like deli and the other a casual restaurant. Situated next to each other and just a few minute’s walk from Copenhagen’s main shopping street, both Aamanns are owned and run by Adam Aamanns who has been nationally and internationally praised for making Danish smørrebrød exciting. I popped into the deli for some late breakfast bite. The interior was quirky but wooden, a lot of design that would be much valued by such magazines as Monocle. I liked but did not fall in love. The staff, on the other hand, was lovable and helped look for an English menu for me. (I arrived at the minute they unlocked the door).

On the menu were many kinds of smørrebrød freshly prepared using carefully sourced regional ingredients. Cheese and meatballs were also on the menu. A piece of smørrebrød was priced between 50 – 65 Danish Kroner (roughly £5- 6). Fried Pickled Herring with Spices, Sour Cream and Pumpkin Compote was flavoursome. The meaty herring oozed light acidity, well complimented by the creamy pumpkin and the vibrant crunch of red onion rings. There was a delectable note of orange zest in the background. Rilette of Pork was less impressive. While very finely prepared, the pork flavour wasn’t big enough for my liking. That said, I did enjoy the contrast in texture and taste from mildly pickled sauerkraut and crispy crackling crumbs. My favourite of the day, however, was this Beef Tartare with Tarragon and Egg Emulsion, which looked like an Ankylosaurus but neatly armoured with crisp discs and spiky gherkins. The proportion of beef was generous for £6 and was spot on for its fresh robustness. The garnish – tarragon, egg, capers, onions – played a very good supporting role and did not aggravate the beef. I loved it. I could eat a few more..

How many pieces would you need? One or two, I’d say. The pieces were big. The toppings were generous. The dark rye bread was customarily heavy. I could manage a piece and a bit and was obliged to discard the rest (as I was on my way to eat at another place). One smørrebrød could easily count as a starter. All in all, a very good, quick ‘n cheap meal. Inventive and all..

GO FOR: Fancy bread.
RATING: 4/5

(read about new rating here)

AAMANNS

Øster Farimagsgade 10
2100 Copenhagen
Denmark

Tel. +45 3555 3344

www.aamanns.dk

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Cheap Eat Soho

Right the title speaks for itself and I shall not ramble. There you go – all the cheap ones I have recently come across in and around Soho.

MD SANDWICH

Canape-looking open-top “German” sandwiches priced at £1 per piece. Handsome toppings on soft white bread. All made at the premise. While one quid won’t get you caviar, you can still indulge in the look of it. I’d say, don’t take MD too seriously. I had the crab(stick), the caviar with egg and the roast beef with horseradish sauce. Not bad flavouring. I can see some thought process put into it. Quite a departure from Pret-a-Manger opposite but won’t get you as filled up. Personally I think it’s more suitable for office parties than grab ‘n go lunch.

If you’re not into sandwiches, they also do Special of the Day savoury strudel.

 

BAOZI INN(?)

Baozi Inn on Urbanspoon

Can anybody confirm if this little boiled thingy place owned by Baozi Inn? It is right next to the restaurant and gives away plastic bags with the Baozi Inn trademark. The sign says “Beijing Street Food”. This anonymous hole in the wall sells vegetables and fish balls on skewers. All priced at 90p. They are snacks not meals. Not the greatest quality or the largest portion of food you’ll find. Fish balls, for example, there seem to be four half-ball pieces. These skewers are dunked into a caldron of bubbling spiced chilli broth for a few minutes. This broth I must say is quite intense in flavours as everything is boiled in it and the broth itself becomes the best kind of stock. For your skewers, you can opt for extra chilli power dust and chopped coriander. I’d say quite lovely in autumn or winter.

If you’d like something more substantial to go, you can also grab the buns from Baozi Inn. Quite nice.

 

YALLA YALLA

Yalla Yalla Beirut Street Food on Urbanspoon

Their sign says “Beirut street food”. This little Lebanese cafe tucked between peep shows and porn dungeons is nowhere near the glorious magnitude of Beirut Express. Atmospheric setup killed by nonchalant service. All the rolls – Shawarma included – are pre-wrapped and toasted. Served with garlic cream and chilli sauce. How good? Imagine Starbucks pannini but with Lebanese fillings. I had a lamb Shawarma. Dry lamp. Limp vegetable fillings. I am not keen!!

Yalla Yalla also does a separate freshly prepared menu which I was not informed when I was there. Good selection of Middle Eastern sweets but uninspiring in flavours.

BIBIMBAP

Bibimbap on Urbanspoon

Bibimbap for a heavier kind of lunch. A small cafe with a hell lot of Polaroid images of their happy customers on the wall. That’s some effective visual testimonials. Their specialities are the bibimbap which usually feature many kinds of cooked vegetable in aromatic sesame oil with a meat topping of your choice. All served in a hot and heavy stone bowl. My beef bibimbap (£9.45) was a spectacle. An almighty bowl of food. Good balance between the fluffy rice and the delectable toppings. Usually go for an extra of raw egg. Pop in and stir to cook. A dollop of chilli sauce. Gosh – this is my kind of heaven. I also like their “Nutritious” toppings (£7.95) including many exotic nuts (ginko, chestnuts, etc.). Flavour and quality wise, I must say I am impressed. The ribbons of beef are of decent quality. Plus, the execution is far more superior than another express Bibimbab Cafe in Bloombury. That said, side dishes at Bibimbap, such as pan fried dumplings (Mandoo), were so so..

Before and .. after the mixing!!

That’s it. Will come back with more compilation of Soho Cheap Eat ;)

Enough said,

My head rating for MD’s, Baozi Inn, Yalla Yalla and Bibimbap says, “6, 6, 6 and 8″.

My heart rating in the same order says, “5, 7, 5 and 7″.

MD SANDWICH

38 William IV Street
London
WC2N 4DD

Tel. 020 7240 0622

BAOZI INN

25 Newport Court
London
WC2H 7

Tel. 020 7287 6877

YALLA YALLA

1 Greens Court
Soho
London
W1F 0HA

Tel. 020 7287 7663

www.yalla-yalla.co.uk

BIBIMBAP

11 Greek Street
London
W1D 4DJ

Tel. 020 7287 3434

www.bibimbapuk.com