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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Go Young Turks!

"Pheasant and Pine Salt" (buttermilk pheasant nuggets)
Hendricks Gin and beetroot juice
Pig's blood cracker, pear and lardo
Smoked cod's roe with bread
January King cabbage, seaweed and mussels
Mutton Faggot, neeps and barley malt
Old Spot chop, chicory and anchovy
Spareribs of Old Spot chop served not the side
Rhubarb, chervil and buttermilk with crumble
Milk ice, pear and crispy coffee
Isaac McHale, one of the two Young Turks, in the tiny kitchen
LOCATION: Young Turks pop-up restaurant at The Ten Bells pub, 84 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London
CATEGORY: Modern British, pop-up
DRINK: Hendricks Gin and beetroot cocktail
Mosse Anjou Blanc 2010, Agnes and Rene Mosse, Loire
Nedjma 2009, Gilles Azzoni, Saint-Maurice-d'Ibie
Saint Romain 2009, Mark Haisma, Burgundy
Belloti Rosso 2010, Cascina Degli Ulivi, Piedmont
WE THINK: We had quite an occasion to celebrate (congratulations, Kiyo!) and decided to throw a party at the Young Turks' pop-up restaurant in Jack The Ripper's favorite spot, The Ten Bells pub. We got a private dining room on the 2nd floor for the evening, which meant that we missed the cozy buzz of the 1st floor, but could be as rowdy as we wanted to. Since our first encounter with the Young Turks last year, when they cooked with the Clove Club (see here), the hype around this venture by James Lowe and Isaac McHale seems to have increased exponentially so that their short residency at The Ten Bells was extended by several months (lucky for us as it meant we could get a reservation). It was therefore with great anticipation that we descended upon the Ten Bells this evening. And the food was...pretty good. Not "fantastic". Not "meh". But somewhere in between: nice? Maybe it was the size of our party--relegated to the private dining room upstairs; maybe it was the heavy, and somewhat bland, Burns Night-inspired menu; maybe the Young Turks just had a bad day? Whatever it was, it didn't matter too much as there were enough delicious bites to warrant a second visit a week later. Favourites this night were the delicious pig's blood cracker, the crispy coffee dessert and our incredible beetroot gin cocktail!
So...a week later we were back again! This time in the normal dining room at a dangerously wobbly Victorian-era table. This was during a 5-day residency of Canadian chef (formerly of Noma and Momofuku), Daniel Burns, who was responsible for part of the menu. A much better version of Burns Night, we think! The food was really, really delicious this time! Favourite dishes included all the starters but in particular a beautiful dish of duck heart and celeriac and another tasty concoction with mussels, lovage and potato. We also loved a main course of blood cake with onion and baked pear and a very fresh and zingy beetroot and rhubarb dessert. And the wines this evening...we had the same as the first visit (listed above) plus a whole lot of other delicious wines, till way past closing (the Young Turks can drink!). Followed by a bad hangover the next day. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Binging at Bincho

(Front to back): Buta (pork belly), Unagi (eel with sansho pepper),
Tai (sea bream) and Gyu (beef rib off the bone)
Sanma (Whole salt-grilled mackerel pike)
Tori Tatsuta-Age (Deep-fried chicken with ponzu sauce)
Ninniku Chahan (Buttered garlic rice)
Yaki-Onigiri (Grilled rice cake with seaweed)
Nasu Miso Dengaku (Japanese aubergine with sweet miso)
Daikon (Crispy Japanese radish, toasted seaweed and roe with wasabi mayo)
Uzurabacon (quail eggs and pancetta)
Tsukune (Chicken meatballs)
Negima (Free-range chicken and spring onion) on left
Momo (free-range chicken) on right
Enokibacon (Enoki mushrooms and pancetta) 
Aigamo (duck breast, wasabi and spring onions) 
LOCATION: Bincho, 16 Old Compton Street, London
CATEGORY: Japanese, Izakaya and yakitori
DRINK: Beer, sparkling water, tea
WE THINK: We had wanted to go to Bincho for a long time, having heard much about how authentic their yakitori (essentially: grilled bird) is. True to yakitori tradition, Bincho serves grilled skewers of virtually every part of the chicken--from beak to tail--including skin, gizzards, liver, bones, heart, neck, tails and sometimes even arteries--stuff we haven't had outside of Japan before. These are all made on the traditional grill bar at the front of the restaurant. When we finally made it to Bincho, though, we "chickened" out (excuse the pun) and ordered what would probably be considered "boring" skewers by a Japanese person. We were just not in the mood for crazy textures, which is guaranteed with an order of bones and gizzards. What we did have, though, was an abundance of deliciousness on sticks! Favourites were the pork belly, the eel, the enokibacon, quails eggs and the dangerously yummy fried chicken. All of which we ordered seconds of (minimum orders are 2 skewers, so we essentially ended up with 4 of each of these). Even with four of us to share the food, we were so fat by the end of our meal (and stinky from the delicious garlic rice) that we were only an inch from hating ourselves. But we will definitely be back and be more adventurous next time (we hear they have "secret" daily specials and off-menu skewers). 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Viajante - take 2

Amaranth with sorrel, crab croquette, "Thai explosion II"
Cured sea bass with vanilla cauliflower
Young potato with yeast and black olive
Mini baguettes with chicken skin and pancetta infused butter
Bacon flatbread with herb butter
Rainbow trout with vegetable noodles
Roasted celeriac with homemade ricotta and lemon thyme
Cod loin with a stew of tripe, parsley and potato 
Squab with red cabbage and caraway
Viajante olive
Pickled and raw cucumber with reduced milk sorbet
Mandarin Dondurma
Petit fours (chocolate truffels on biscuit crumbs)
LOCATION: Viajante, Town Hall Hotel Patriot Square, London
CATEGORY: Modern European, tasting menu
DRINK: Pre-dinner cocktail: Shiso lovely (gin cocktail with shiso), sparkling water and beverage pairing:
Sake: Dassai Ni-wari San-bu Junmai Daiginjo, white wines: Escoda-Sanahuja "Els Bassotets" 2010, Conca de Barbera and Filipa Pato "Nossa" 2010, Beiras and Au bon Climat "Wild Boy" Chardonnay 2009, Santa Barbara, red wine: Clos Ouvert "Loncomilla" Carmenère 2008, Valle de Maule (Chile), 
Dessert wine: F. Haag "Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr" Riesling Spätlese 2009, Mosel
WE THINK: We were a little embarrassed about the shitty photos we took here last time (first generation iPhone) which didn't do justice to the beautiful dishes (neither do the above ones, frankly), but we were also curious to see how Viajante would hold up a year on--now with a Michelin star--so we decided to pay a second visit. The tasting menu is still good, though it's actually not as great as we remembered it. It was a little hit and miss. Like, the breads and butters were really remarkable, as was the cod loin and the cucumber dessert. We also really enjoyed the small starters and the celeriac. But the other dishes were forgettable and the young potato with yeast pretty much just tasted like yeast, which we don't think is a good thing. The 'Viajante olive' was presented with great fanfare and an instruction by our waiter to "guess the taste". It turned out to have the texture of a poached egg and was made of gelatinous kumquat wrapped in spinach jelly with fennel seeds (get it? It's a surprise because the olive isn't actually an olive, nor does it taste like olive). It was a bit silly and dated and wasn't very delicious. Nuño Mendes, the celebrated head chef, had a day off this evening, though this really shouldn't matter. Again, not to say that our dinner wasn't good, but Viajante is also expensive, so it's a matter of expectations. We wanted to choose our own wines from the extensive wine list, but the sommelier had only been working at Viajante for a week and wasn't familiar with that many of them, so we decided to go for the beverage pairing. This, like the food, was a little hit and miss, but we certainly had enough alcohol to get pretty tipsy and happy, so we left on a high note.