Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Wong: Not Your Grandma's Chinese

A Wong: Quail egg croquette puff
You have to love what's going on at A Wong.  It's not often you get an utterly original take on traditional Chinese dim sum that, more often than not, works. This is Chinese food rooted in tradition, but taken up more than one notch. It's definitely not your Grandma's dim sum (if your grandma was Chinese that is, which mine is not, but you know what I mean). I went in early January to meet up with some Instagram chums from Denmark and we ordered a decent chunk of the dim sum menu which is only available at lunch. It's a fairly small venue but we snagged a table by the window looking out onto Wilton Road, which is only a 5 minute walk from Victoria station. It's not the most atmospheric of locations but make the trek from Chinatown and you're bound to have a fine meal.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Honey & Co: Eating Against the Clock

Honey & Co: Merguez sausage roll, fried egg, harissa
I really don't know what happened when I went to Honey & Co for brunch on Monday, but it was a huge disappointment. I've not read a bad word about the place and had high expectations but the breakfast menu that faced me that morning was so uninspiring. I expected fragrant baked eggs rivalling the lovely shakshuka at Nopi, or some unknown-to-me-but-super-tasty new discovery.  Sadly it fell well short. No shakshuka on the menu, and nothing eye-poppingly inspiring. Even our waitress recommended we come back for the lunch menu which she said was better. Probably, but I'm not really in a hurry. Speaking of time management, here's a funny story.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Chinese New Year Recipes: Dong Po Rou and DPR Sliders

Dong Po Rou
This recipe was given to me by a Taiwanese colleague (hey Cindy!) when I asked what I should cook for a Chinese New Year gathering. It's her mum's version of Dong Po Rou, a braised pork belly, which is a dish that's typically served around Chinese New Year, although it's so good that I'll be eating it much more frequently than once a year. It's low maintenance food that, like all good dishes, relies on good quality ingredients. There's very little in the way of preparation and if you cook a fair amount of Chinese food, you're likely to have most of the cupboard ingredients on hand. I'd suggest trying to find Taiwanese rice wine instead of the Chinese Shao-Hsing which I think has a stronger taste that might overpower the dish. The Taiwanese wine is clear instead of the amber colour in most Chinese versions.

I've also given a recipe for using up any leftovers, but these sliders are so good that you'll probably want to make the pork just for these incredibly moreish little mouthfuls. It was a happy accident really - I went to the Chinese supermarket thinking I'd recreate the Momofuko pork bao but I could only find small mantau buns in the freezer, so went with that. Actually, I think the buns work best in small mouthfuls since the ratio of pork and other ingredients to bun is better. Whichever way you choose to use the pork you're really going to love this.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Dabbous: is it still worth the wait?

Dabbous: Smoked Halibut and Pickled Celeriac
Dabbous is still one of the hardest tables in London to secure. If you search the website for a prime time slot a month from now, you'll be told there are no tables within the next eight weeks and probably just give up. The reason for the supply/demand mismatch is that it's a relatively small room with a little more than a handful of tables meaning demand remains high two years after it opened. I went to Dabbous shortly after it opened, but the week before Fay bestowed a glowing five stars on it, and have never been able to get another table since without planning more than six months ahead. Frankly, I'd given up ever eating there again too. But one good turn on my part (an invite to join me at Sushi Tetsu) was repaid with reservations at Dabbous. See? Karma is a beautiful thing people, so be nice to each other out there.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Tommi's Burger Joint: my favourite cheeseburger in London

Tommi's Burger Joint cheeseburger
You know a picture tells a thousand words right? Well if you take a looksee over there at that cheeseburger from Tommi's Burger Joint in Marylebone, I could probably finish this post right now. I'll go on though (but hopefully not for a thousand words). It looks delicious doesn't it? You just want to eat it and savour every glistening, juicy, cheesy mouthful. You might be able to tell that I like Tommi's a lot. While you could get lost in the burgeoning Bermuda burger triangle just north of Oxford Street, I'd like to resurface at Tommi's over MEATLiquor and Patty & Bun any day. The venue is light and bright (looking at you ML) and I prefer the Tommi's bun over that of the P&B crew. But if there's a food that polarises people more than any, I reckon it's a burger, given the many variables involved in its construction, so feel free to disagree.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Jackson + Rye: stick to brunch

Jackson + Rye: Scrambled eggs
You would never know that Satsuma (RIP) was once on the site of Jackson + Rye. The sterile white and utilitarian wood (or latterly gaudy orange pods) has been swapped for darker woods, leather banquettes and muted mood lighting. The whole layout has been swapped around as well. Whereas Satsuma had the enormous elbow to elbow shared tables in the basement, JR's downstairs is now just a small - always empty - dining room next to the bogs and a large kitchen. Most of the action happens upstairs with the beautiful bar the focus of the venue. I say RIP to Satsuma, because it was one of the places I frequented when I first lived in London back in the late 90s. I also saw one of my favourite actors eating there - Rupert Graves (who played Freddy in A Room With a View dontchaknow) around the time he was on the stage in Hurly Burly. Anyway, I digress. You want to know about JR (good for brunch, less so for dinner, no need to read more I guess mainly because my pics are a bit rubbish this time sorry) and not my filmic proclivities.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Recipe: Lobster Noodles in XO sauce

We happened to be in the supermarket the other day and the fishmonger had an offer of two frozen Maine lobster tails for a tenner. What the heck, we thought, and bought them thinking it would make a change from conjuring another use for leftover New Year's Eve roast beef. On the way home, I was thinking of what to do with the lobster and vaguely recollected a recipe for lobster with XO sauce, which is a classic Cantonese preparation. XO sauce is one of those condiments that I've become slightly addicted to. The flavour is compellingly unique and somewhat difficult to describe but the combination of the heat from the chilli and the texture from the dried scallops is ethereal. It's a great standby to have in the fridge for throwing into stir fries or dressing some steamed tofu.

I make no claim to authenticity with this recipe but it's an impressive and indulgent meal for two. It leaves you with a beautiful lingering flavour with the heat from the XO complimented by the sweetness of the lobster meat and the stir fried onions. I used scallop flavoured noodles because I had them on hand and thought the flavour would go well with the lobster. When I posted the photo of the completed dish on Instagram, it generated more comments than any other photo there, so I'm sure you'll impress yourself and others too. If you don't have any lobster, I think the recipe would work just as well with green prawns, or even chicken or pork.