Thursday, 26 April 2012

Bread Street Kitchen - Bread only please

I used to be a small fan of Gordon Ramsay, and when he spoke fluent French on one of the kitchen nightmares, I was sold. But then the shows got repetitive and he kinda shot himself in the foot when he failed half his recipes challenges on 'the f word'. More importantly his restaurants weren't living up to the reputation. 

Bread Street Kitchen opened about 6 months ago as an all-day diner. It generated enough talk of town with its ultra east-london-industrial-trendy decor in its massive 2-storey restaurant - b&w tiled floor, super high ceilings with white tiled walls and exposed pipes, contrasted with mustard yellow leather sofa and vintage lamps dotted around the place. In short, nothing like the regular GR.

We were seated in front of the kitchen to watch the chefs at work, mostly churning out the short-rib burger. The menu is roughly divided into raw bar, wood-stone oven and hot kitchen. 

Salmon Ceviche, ruby grapefruit, jalapeno, lime, coriander
One of the best things about raw salmon is its silkiness with rich oils. This ceviche has completely missed the point. Either the grapefruit marinade was too acidic, or the fish was marinated for too long, the fullness of salmon was replaced by coarse textures. The cut was very odd too; unlike the chunky slices Ceviche in Soho served up, these were like salmon trimmings or scrappy thin pieces near the tail. The only positive was the small cubes of grapefruit, which tasted exactly like the salmon.

Crispy pig's head, green chilli mayonnaise
I wasn't really expecting little spring rolls, but nevermind. The rolls were still glimmering with oil which is never a good sign with deep-fried dishes.

First bite wasn't too bad, like roast pork puff without the barbecue sauce, mushy pork and bits of whatever jammed in a greasy breadcrumb shell. Then the salt bomb hit home; the filling was so over-seasoned I thought about spitting it out - no I didn't, instead washed it down as if I was swallowing a pill. And there was no chilli in the mayo, I think it was just there to douse the salt. This failed on all levels.

Braised pork collar, mustard glaze
I'm no piggy expert, so I don't know the difference between pork collar, neck and shoulder; these parts don't look too distinguishable on a pig. This look like pork belly, no?

The meat was alright, lean meat sandwiched with sticky cartilage and some translucent lard. The sin in the dish was this sugary, viscous glaze. Firstly if there was no mustard in it, the word shouldn't appear on the menu. Secondly it was dead flat, like some cheap sleazy plastic sauce that rubbish Chinese restaurants drown their lifeless, frozen meat in. Did I make it clear it wasn't great?

Poussin, chimichurri, burnt lemon
This felt like Nandos, which is a pretty accurate summary. Just half the size, double the price, without sides and came with 12.5% service.

And the burnt lemon?! Look sliced honey-glazed lemons are gorgeous when grilled, but what was the point of plonking half a charcoaled lemon on the plate? Did they use it to clean the grill and thought I wanted the evidence?

The only one thing I enjoyed were the in-house baked mini baguettes, which were similar to the ones at Viajante. Everything else was so disappointing. Should I have gone for the short-rib burger that everyone else had? But my stomach is not ready to take in any form of burger after Lucky Chip. I'm so tired of these so-call TV chefs dolling up places and serving crap... so GR's posh joints aren't bringing in the cash, he starts milking the wider public. No Gordon, overpriced food doesn't taste better.

10 Bread Street
Tel: 0203 030 4050

Bread Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon You may also like: Riding House Cafe, Jose, Polpo

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Hidden O-toro in Yoshino

From J. Moriyama on Bond Street, we had the choices of Diwan kebab round the corner, give MeatLiquor another go or check out some poshed-up Thai with ugly reviews. Decisions decisions. Meatliquor was quickly out of the question as there was no end to the queue; then I remembered that tiny neon “sushi” sign tucked away in the narrow passage near Piccadilly.

It’s called Yoshino. Quite worrying considering its sister takeaway shop on Shaftsbury Avenue looks like a bogus sushi shop, you know, the Wasabi-type, but I’ve gotta trust reviews. Relieved to see the two Itamae diligently slicing raw fish at the counter as I pushed open the door, we were pointed upstairs by the suited and groomed front of house. Contrary to the tacky neon sign and wooden-framed windows, the interior is actually cosily elegant; bright and minimalistic with yellow sofa seats along the wall.

Otoro Sashimi Platter (12 pieces)
I think this was a steal. Atari-ya prices 5 slices of Otoro for £20, I thought that was a bargain. Yoshino’s 12 slices are going for £19.80. WTF?! I didn’t think the menu was making much sense: 1 piece of Otoro sushi was £5. Mister put me out of my misery by concluding sushi rice was more expensive than the fish. Okay.

(To be fair, these slices were nowhere as thick as Atari-ya. Still.)

Check out the fat distribution, the legendary marbling; it had more fat than fish. It just disappeared in mouth, the piece simply dissolved. The flavours were ever so delicate; the richness of fish oil aroma lingered and lasted forever. 

 There was another cut with slightly more tendons on the platter. Mister preferred this marginally leaner version (not Chu-toro) with tendons. It took a bit of chewing to unlocking the slightly stronger flavours.
Chirashi Sushi - Assortment of 7 varieties sashimi served with sushi rice
I counted there were only 6: salmon, tuna akami, squid, yellowtail, king prawn and tamago (egg), served on abalone shells on ice. Sushi rice was a nice touch, layered with shredded beans, egg and sprinkled with ikura / salmon caviar.

I didn’t fall head over heels with this one, think the fish was too cold and even the rich flavours of the fatty salmon was somewhat subdued. The highlight was definitely the king prawn, or more specifically the king prawn head. It was packed with sweet prawn roe, full of flavours; the prawn itself was leaning on the stiff and bland side. Squid was also better than most – squidgy, springy textures that easily chewable to smooth silkiness.

Yoshino’s sushi assortmentTuna, yellowtail, wild organic salmon, teriyaki eel, salmon caviar, squid, wild king prawn
Not as visually enhancing as most of the sushi restaurants we have been to; no fancy accompaniments dressed on the fish, just simple down-to-earth raw fish on rice. The sushi rice was perfect – rice ball held firmly together while I turned it upside down for dipping, but it wasn’t a deadly firmness; the grains didn’t lose their lively bounce as the rice ball disintegrates to blend with slithery fish.

This ikura gunkan was sinfully blissful – see the overflowing gleaming fish pearls? This is exactly how an ikura gunkan should be done. And it tasted so freaking good, each pop bursting with scrumptious juices that latched onto the mildly vinegar-ed rice… just so good.  Negi toro roll was another pleasant surprise, silky smooth minced toro merged and greased the sushi rice with a gentle crunchy kick from chopped spring onions.

The rest of the sushi were less memorable, except for teriyaki eel, which was especially rubbery and poorly roasted. I think it was just microwaved to mild warmth.

Has this become my new favourite sushi spot? Probably not. It is still a long way from the likes of Shiori, or even Atari-ya where I get better value for money. But I won't shoot this down, because I might just come back for my next Otoro feasting.

3 Piccadilly Place
Tel: 0207 287 6622

Yoshino on Urbanspoon
You may also like: Senkai (which closed after 6 months), Sushi of Shiori, Atari-ya

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Eggstatic at The Breakfast Club

How much you’d like the Breakfast Club would depend on your love for breakfasts. For me, the only thing that really gets me out of bed in the morning is the scrambled egg on seeded bread, whereas Mister can get through his entire morning without food, as long as he gets his shot of coffee to kick his brain into function. So you could imagine his enthusiasm about going The Breakfast Club.

I have a genuine passion for hot breakfasts, especially eggs; think it runs in the family – if I get stranded on an island and God only allows me to choose one food that He/She would supply daily, it’d be eggs. Just think they can be fried, scrambled, steamed, boiled, poached, slow-cooked, coddled, baked and even freaking deep-fried, that’s something different for each day of the week!

Anyway… the queue was mad for 2pm Sunday; at least another 8 tables before we can through the doors where the queue continues. But the wait wasn’t too painful when we were entertained by the random pictures and scribbles clipped to the entrance and people disappearing behind a ginormous fridge door.

The All American
Pancakes, eggs, sausage, hash browns, streaky bacon and maple syrup
I missed it when my family went to IHOP in the States. That was 3 breakfasts shared among 5 adults (3 men) yet there were leftovers. I bet I could finish one on my own…

Obviously not American sized, nonetheless substantial. Let’s face it, it’s pancakes and typical breakfast fare, I won’t exaggerate. A damn good breakfast nonetheless. The pancakes were thick yet airy with a brittle edge; eggs were done with glossy fluid finish and the ultra crispy bacon was brilliant with maple syrup. Just the kinda food that leave me feeling super satisfied, except for the hash brown that turned out to be fried potatoes and onions…

Ham so Eggsited
Stacked pancakes with egg, cheddar, ham and maple syrup
The only criticism is the fried egg; I prefer mine more burnt on the edges. That aside, I reckon this combination beats the All American – the melted cheese oozing out of the ham looked so good, and tasted so right with the maple syrup it felt wrong!

Eggs Royale
Manda went for the classic Eggs Royal with stacks of smoked salmon as thick as the poached egg. Runny egg yolks on crispy toasted muffins blanketed with rich creamy hollandaise sauce is a guaranteed winner, and TBC does it perfectly.

I’ve gotta say, TBC does good breakfasts. The (relatively) lack of grease was particularly impressive considering how much oil we usually get in a fry-up. Or maybe the pancakes mopped it all up. Who cares, I got my happy food. In spite of the chaotic service, cramped chairs sprawled around shared tables and the ever-growing queue, the ambience was so chilled. No stressing from the staff, no messing up the dishes flying out of the kitchen, just a good crowd catching up on the week’s happenings.

12-16 Artillery Lane
E1 7LS
Tel: 0207 0789 633

The Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

You may also like: Riding House Café, Princi, Dishoom

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Ceviche – A Slice of Soho Peruvian

It was Friday night after a never-ending week, Mister was 30mins late, I’ve been crushed and bruised on the tube – ‘happy’ was a myth on a remote island to me. To add salt to my wounds, Ceviche was booked up.

The host gave us two options: wait till 9:30pm when the restaurant frees up; queue for the bar seats. Seeing it was 7pm we opted for the latter. It wasn’t too bad a wait, though it wasn’t the most comfortable dining environment. To get things back on the right track, we started with a couple of cocktails. My Superchaco was super easy to drink, dominated by papaya juice and mild lemongrass fragrance, gentle on the alcohol with just a splash of ginger ale – exotic. Mister’s Pisco Sour was pretty with a foam dome but much stronger with a bitter aftertaste.

Wanton fritters filled with white cheese and aji amarillo chilli with rocoto mayo dip
I was expecting melted cheese oozing from a crispy shell... but this was actually a thin layer of cheese smeared in a wrapped wanton sheet. Texture was interesting; the crispy sheet became slightly chewy and stretchy as opposed to the usual crunch and crumble. A bit hollow on its own, but together with the mild heat from the mayo dip, this made a great snack.

Alianza Lima
Ceviche of seabass, prawns, squid and octopus in rocoto chill,i tiger’s milk and giant choclo corn
Tiger’s milk is a lime juice-base marinade, and yes, I want know what real tiger’s milk tastes like too. Thick slices of seabass were given a brilliant kick by the lime marinade, bringing out its subtle flavours; squid and octopus chunks were full of bounce and juice, perhaps not as sweet as they could be with the tangy sauce, but this was refreshing and tastebuds awakening.

Sakura Maru
Tiradito of thinly sliced salmon in Nikkei tiger’s milk made with satsumas, mirin, soy sauce and aji limo chilli
This was my favourite of the evening, simply because salmon is such a rich and oily fish, definitely at its best raw. The marinade wasn’t dissimilar to yuzu dressing; it had the same fruity citrus, probably more acidity too. Like Alianza Lima upstairs, no hint of chilli heat, just chilling coolness.

Causa Mar
Squid, prawns, avocado on a smooth cool Peruvian potato cake with Huancaina sauce
I saw the couple next door with a green version too. This salad brought out the gooey side of squid, gelled with ripen creamy avocado chunks and smooth mash. Fresh and delicious.

Frito mixto of prawns, squid and fish with salsa criolla and rocoto mayo
This was basically a deep-fried version of the Alianza Lima above, but much less exciting. I think the major flaw was in the batter, which was more like soggy breadcrumbs. So instead of coating the silky fish, crunchy prawns and squidgy squids with a brittle crust, it just added a coarse greasiness to them. The octopus tentacles reminded me of the childhood snacks we used to get in HK though. In my opinion, Yalla Yalla does it a lot better.

We didn’t order another round of food after the ceviche and nibbles, mainly because eating at the bar was a little awkward. We could just about cramp all the dishes in the limited space we had without eating from our laps, and people kept leaning over for their drinks we had to constantly dodge cocktails flying above our heads. Given we only sampled one section of the menu, it did feel like we were having the same foods presented to us in 3 different ways: raw, with mayo, and deep-fried.

That said, I walked out of Ceviche feeling, wow, that was different. The dishes were light with clean, refreshing flavours dressed with a citrusy punch, just in time to lift us from the summer heat to come.

17 Frith Street
Tel: 0207 292 2040
Ceviche on Urbanspoon

You may also like: Bocca di LupoPolpoYalla Yalla

Monday, 2 April 2012

Obika Burrata & Homemade Venison Steak

It's been another week of a strictly fish diet at an offsite. It's like state school canteen food - fish is always the safest option, because however frozen/overcooked/bland the piece, it's still swallowable when drowned in enough viscous sauce. I actually dreamt of a massive chicken leg on tues night, then a juicy hunk of rib-eye on thurs.... what have I become now? Pluto?

So I was back in town on Friday. Feeling too ugly to go out, and totally inspired by Drunk Kitchen, I decided to cook. First stop was Obika - a mozzarella bar recommended by Ana T -  nested in West Wintergarden in Canary Wharf.

Super slick with black and red, all lacquered up for the ultra chick look; maybe a bit lacking in atmosphere and ambience though. The lady at deli counter just wouldn't serve me, she'd busy herself with dicing avocado and cutting up panini, but absolutely no attention for me. Boy I must have looked too much like a tramp... In the end she reluctantly sold us some burrata and a ball of smoked mozzarella for £9. Eeek, kinda expensive for some mozzarella, no?

Here's my starter, burrata drizzled with honey served with jamon bellota and bruschetina rubbed with herbs and olive oil:
I know, it's cheating... Promise I'll try making some from scratch one day.
Burrata was exceptional, rich and creamy with soft and stretchy textures, made even better by the honey. I feel better already.

Then M&S had some seriously good looking venison leg steak with parsley butter.
This was so rare and bloody and so freaking good my eye welled up a little.

And we thought we'd give the dry-aged flat iron steak a go, oh yea, I really needed meat. 
One piece had marbling fat distribution while the other was much leaner. The cut is relatively mild in terms of meaty flavours, but with the fatter piece, each chew was popping sacs of bovine oils it made up for meat juice. Good stuff, but rib-eye is still my top choice.

All washed down with a bottle of red. Friday night at home is so satisfying...