Sunday 30 June 2013

Shoryu, London

A couple months back we come across a 50% of deal to celebrate the launch of the Denman Street pop up branch of Shoryu in London.  The branch will reopen permanently around mid July.  Having heeded the warnings of massive queues at the Regent Street branch we arrived ahead of the evening rush and the restaurant was half filled around 6pm.
Being massive fans of Japanese ramen, having grown up on the instant Nissin versions we were high with anticipation.  After visiting one of the Hong Kong branches of Ippudo we were expecting hoping for tonkotsu, or pork bone broth of the similar standard If not higher.  We both ordered the signature Shoryo Ganso Tonkotsu along with sides of belly pork hirata buns and soft shell crab tempura.
The ramen arrived in a massive serving and certainly looked the part with masses of pork and condiments.  However the proof is in the tasting and the soup base seem to lack the depth of a fully simmered down broth and had a slight bitter twinge to it which left a sour aftertaste.  The ramen was on the firm side for Mrs Nom and we were not asked whether we wanted it softer or firm.  Whilst let down by the broth the ramen, pork, egg and spinach went down well, were suckers for ramen and as usual with larger portions I ended up finishing both of the ramen.

The belly pork hirata buns were well steamed with succulent pork and offered some interest inbetween the massive ramen serving.  The soft shell crab however was hugely disappointing being extremely greasy; I’d take Wasabi’s version in Manchester all day long at half the price.

We finished with a couple of desserts, cheese soufflé cake and matcha azuki rolled cake.  The cheese soufflé cake was delightfully light and airy and we fought the last pieces.  The matcha cake was average, turned out to be just a rolled up sponge cake with cream.  The drinks menu was interesting of sakes and Asian drinks, we settled for aloe juice and strawberry calpico which were refreshing.

By the time we finished the place was packed to the rafters with large queues formed outside and it proved difficult to attract someone to settle our bill. A bit hit and miss, however as it was only open for a few weeks the tweaks may have been ironed out for the permanent opening.  Not sure if this would be my go to place for ramen whilst in London, Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu seem to get good reviews so we’d have to try them before we can pass judgement.

Shoryu Ramen on Urbanspoon  Square Meal

Saturday 29 June 2013

Luck Lust Liquor & Burn, Manchester

In a shocking turn of events, we were shocked to find out that Almost Famous burned down yesterday.  At least no one was hurt which is the most important thing.  Being the inspiration for the name of our blog this write up of our visit to LLLB in April is a tribute to the guys behind the restaurants.

The items we ordered included the lettuce cups filled with chicken, peanuts, pineapple and mango salsa with BBQ sauce.  These were quite fiddly to eat by hand but were different and refreshing.  Dirty chicken street tacos topped with cheese, pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream which was flavoursome.

We also ordered two bigger dishes which were the jail break beef chilli filled with chorizo, smoky andrich, bacon, sour cream and served with tortilla chips and yum yum sticky pork buns, filled with spicy sticky pork on brioche with pineapple and mango salsa, also a healthy dose of chillis which you can see from the pic below which Mrs Nom picked off.  We complimented all this with a side of mac and cheese.

Our table for two was quite small and we wanted the dishes together which was a bad combination.  However we managed to fit everything on and attracted quite a few looks from other diners.  Not sure why though as it wasn’t that much food really, just the plates were big!  A diner in the eye line of Mrs Nom was making her uncomfortable by constantly looking over with a smirk.  Most people we observed were having burritos and not really entering into the sharing spirit which surely is what this type of food is about.

The food was more adventurous than what we’ve had at Wahaca and Lucha Libre which are quite similar being clean flavours rather than the stacked dishes at LLLB.  Each being enticing in their own right.  Both Almost Famous and Lust Lust Liquor & Burn will be sorely missed until they reopen.  We hope you come back bigger, better and stronger.

Luck Lust Liquor & Burn on Urbanspoon

Friday 28 June 2013

Whisk, Hong Kong

One of the delights of Hong Kong is the choice of Sunday brunch buffet offerings in the many hotels and restaurants.  When visiting buffets back home I think of the likes of Red Hot, Tops, Cosmo and the endless Chinese buffet joints, however hotel buffets are on another level if not planet, although you pay extra for the privilege. However coupled with unlimited drinks packages it ends up great value, although this depends if you eat and drink enough to make it worth it!  One brunch spot that caught our attention was Whisk based in The Mira, a 5 star hotel in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. There were rumours this is where Edward Snowden hid out during his recent exodus to Hong Kong.
Having booked some half a year in advance we were allocated a table in the middle of the main dining area.  Entertainment included a live DJ playing chilled tunes in keeping with the relaxing atmosphere and a magician who went around the tables, although not ours!  To be fair we were too busy eating and trying to get our monies worth anyway!
For £60 per person this included the semi buffet brunch and an unlimited alcoholic drinks package including set cocktails, wine and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Brut champagne.  A non-alcoholic package was also available for a lower price.  The way the semi buffet worked was that appetisers and starters were in a traditional buffet style being self-service and the middle and main courses being from a choice on the menu.  Drinks were constantly topped up by the attentive waiters.

We didn’t need a second invitation to help ourselves to appetisers and starters and I went straight for the seafood section.  Mrs Nom was in awe of all the food and the desserts in particular, taking the opportunity to take some snaps of the different food stations.  The cold seafood selection included lobster, oysters, clams, crab meat and salmon.  I was like a kid in a sweet shop and stocked up on lobster and oysters.  This would be the first of many plates of starters.  We noticed a caviar station next to the seafood and tried this next.  Not being a caviar connoisseur I’m not sure what type it was but we were living the life and lapping it up, there were blinis and condiments to go with the various types of caviar.

The middle course consisted of either a gourmet egg with parmesan foam or scrambled eggs.  We choose the gourmet egg but this turned out to be quite disappointing, probably mainly due to all of the other options on offer.  Other food stations included salad with a twist, with the watermelon medley being the highlight, along with small servings of other savoury items, from memory this included crayfish and chicken mousse type dishes.  The food stations also extended to outside in the garden where grilled tiger prawns and suckling pig was on offer.  This turned out to be the highlight with the prawns being massive and sweet, the pork was also delightful. 

By now, some 4-5 plates in we were beginning to feel the pace and ordered our main courses.  I went for the veal steak and Mrs Nom chose the pork chop.  The main courses were bland compared to what we had before.  The pork chop come with a gigantic potato wedge that was the same size and seemed out of place, in comparison my veal steak come with greens only.  With her mind set on dessert Mrs Nom left most of the main leaving me to finish the pork chop and leaving the potato.

Mrs Nom had already snapped her way through the dessert station and was excited to fill her boots.  By now about two and a half hours had flown by and we were advised that the dessert bar would only be open for half an hour longer.  Being quite full we stocked a plate each, selecting as many different types that had caught our fancy.  The various cakes, parfaits, jellies were a fitting way to end the meal.  We had probably ten glasses of champagne between us along with a couple of cocktails, with the white sangria being the standout.  There was a scenic seating area in the garden that we had noticed earlier and asked for a top up before relaxing in the sun stuffed as a pig.  If only every Sunday could be like this, caviar and champagne, I could get used to this.

Thursday 27 June 2013

MO Bar, Hong Kong

Our second visit to The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Central, Hong Kong, was to try the afternoon tea at the ground floor based MO Bar.  Mrs Nom was disappointed that we had just missed the Marc Jacobs themed tea set and even more so after our visit there has been a Jimmy Choo edition with stiletto shaped treats!
The theme during our visit was inspired by Apivita’s honey based products, a Greek health and beauty brand I’m told, not that I know any different.  Having only frequented afternoon tea a handful of times in Manchester and Liverpool I wasn’t really expecting much other than sandwiches, scones, cakes and tea.  However with this being the Mandarin Oriental they don’t tend to do things less than special.  Our prior visit to 2 Michelin Starred Amber based in their hotel being an example.
The clientele was a mixture of tourists, businessmen and gossiping housewives passing time (we could tell by the two whispering aunties next to us).  The service was attentive and efficient as expected from the hotel.  One thing I like about afternoon tea is that you are left to get on with it when the tea set is delivered for a relaxing time rather than being watched like a hawk and feeling uneasy.
I’m never sure what order afternoon tea is supposed to be served, but I always prefer the savouries before the scones then pastries last.  We were served the scones first from the stand and swapped for the savouries which caught a few glances.  The first plate was a delight and different to usual finger sandwiches which are a bit boring.  In order of the picture below we had Mediterranean quiche, black olive focaccia, tomato confit & feta cheese shavings, goats cheese pie with green apple, pine nuts and honey, pitta hummus and olive caviar and Greek flatbread with grilled chicken and tzatziki. All were perfectly enjoyable with the exception of the pitta which was a bit on the hard side.

We moved on to the scones and they were still warm, probably answers my question above as to why the scones are served first.  There was a selection of raison and plain scones served with clotted cream and a choice of strawberry and grape jam.  The scones were light and buttery and dainty in size but adequate, leaving room for the desserts.

The desserts from the left in the picture below were panna cotta honey and red fruits with strawberry jelly, pistachio and honey macaroon, lemon tarte and honey meringue, blueberry financier and strawberry tartar tomato and ouzo.  The standout treat being the striped panna cotta and jelly.

It will take something special to top this afternoon tea, cucumber, ham and cheese sandwiches just won’t cut it anymore, neither will eclairs and brownies.  I can sense myself turning snobbish, won’t last long though as the equivalent in London is something approaching £50 per head.  We paid just a touch less than £20 each for the Apivita tea set, extraordinary value.  To top it off we were each given a sample beauty set which included hand cream and a couple packets of royal jelly and aloe serum.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Australia Dairy Company, Hong Kong

Amongst the fine dining, dim sum, ramen, sushi, seafood that we enjoyed in Hong Kong it maybe strange that perhaps near the very top of our favourite was a humble scrambled egg.  One of the cheapest and most satisfying eats during our holiday to the culinary mecca.  To top it off we patiently queued twenty minutes for our dose of the silky, fluffy egg, twice.  It was so good it was the only place we revisited during our stay.
No matter what time of day there seems to be a queue out of the door at Australia Diary Company in the Jordan district.  Not somewhere to linger around with it being a café the queue is fast moving, in part to the efficiency and famous ‘don’t outstay your welcome’ attitude of the staff.  Before our visit I read about the pushiness and rudeness of the café staff.  What we encountered was milder than the descriptions; perhaps others caught them on a bad day.  We were surprised when we were finally seated that our server even kindly gave us another chair for Mrs Nom to put her bag on.  Not what we were expecting, bearing in mind the cramped seating and in and out nature of the eatery.  We shared a four table with two randomers as is the norm in Hong Kong due to the high footfall and lack of space.
Not being familiar with the menu we wanted to order scrambled egg on toast and macaroni in a pork soup base with char sui.  We tried to order it separately and the server informed us it was cheaper as part of the tea set which everyone seemed to be having.  Despite us obviously being non locals this was again a nice touch as some joints are out to fleece the tourists.
Our food literally arrived in 30 seconds, which in other circumstances would have sent us running back out the door.  However we had heard too many good things and it made sense when everyone was ordering the same thing, the production line was well oiled.  The macaroni in a pork soup was comforting and reminded me of something my mum used to make, the char sui added some interest whilst not being blown away.  The showstopper was the scrambled egg on lightly toasted thick white bread.  The egg was fluffy, cooked just right and the buttered soft toasted bread was perfect.  I would have this every day for breakfast if I could.

Apologies for the lack of pictures, we were too busy trying to scoff it down!
The tea set for about the equivalent of £3.50 included a hot drink which the order is taken part way through the meal.  I ordered a milky tea, Hong Kong style with condensed milk and Mrs Nom had an iced version, which is an ideal drink as a reprieve against the hot and humid Hong Kong weather.  We were finishing up our drinks when I first noted the customary ‘gentle’ persuasion to give up our seats by the passing waiters.  Never directly asking us to leave I heard a few indirect comments such as ‘are you planning to stay for dinner as well?’ and ‘what do you think this is, a coffee shop?’.  It was quite humorous and it was clear the waiters were well versed in making the subtle comments without being offensive. 
Sensing our 20 minutes were up we made our way to the cashier to pay, the servers write a number on a piece of paper which you give to the cashier indicating the total amount to pay.  Time is money I guess and at such low prices constant table turnover is key.  I wonder if such service and behaviour would be tolerated here in the UK or would the customer service be berated so much by fellow bloggers that they would soon be out of business.  But for me, for the scrambled eggs and unbeatable value alone I’d tolerate a lot worse before it would put me off.

Monday 24 June 2013

Solita, Manchester

With the introduction of the new menu last week we were keen to revisit Solita after enjoying our first visit last year.  Situated in the hot bed of activity of the Northern Quarter it seems that Solita can do no wrong with the constant Twitter updates advising on new specials and seemingly daily messages informing people when the restaurant is full.  There is a no reservations policy for tables below 6 which is highlighted on the website and the walk-in method seems to work well.  We visited yesterday on a Sunday about 5pm and were seated right away.
The new menu is a mixture of classics from the previous menu and innovative new dishes.  We didn’t reorder any dishes we had previously tried and wanted to work through some of the new dishes that we had noted with interest from other fellow bloggers.  The behemoth I had my heart set on was the ‘Once in a Lifetime’ burger, an intimidating tower with onion rings, coleslaw, buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork, beef and bone marrow patty and BBQ sauce on a sweet brioche bun. 

I expected this to be a messy job but I was surprised when I was able to gobble down the whole tower with little mess.  Although I admit that I did share it with Mrs Nom as I wanted to try some of the other new dishes as well without being defeated by the food wall.  A few nights ago we visited Byron in Liverpool (review coming soon – shameless plug) and the burgers there seemed to be quite dry and lacking enough sauce hence losing my interest half way through.  There was no such problems with the Once in a Lifetime and the mass of ingredients had me hooked until I finished every last bite.  We swapped the accompanying house fries with sweet potato fries but didn’t realise that there would be a supplement which was more than the differential between the prices if ordered as separate sides.
Along with the behemoth we ordered a selection of small dishes including the lucky 7, deep fried chicken livers with neck bone gravy and deep fried mac and cheese.  The first two being new additions to the menu.  We wanted to order the DIY steak tartare but unfortunately this was not on the specials on the day.  This is soon to change to DIY tuna tartare so I guess that gives us a pretty good excuse to return, not that we need one.  The chicken livers were a delight when dipped in the neck bone gravy and we kept the remains of this as a dip to not let it go to waste.  It reminded me of KFC with gravy which I used to be so fond of.  The lucky 7 was consisted of a layered dip with seven ingredients served in a small jar with a healthy supply of blue corn chips.  The top layers consisted of olives, lettuce and cheese with guacamole, tomato salsa and sour cream.  A bit fiddly to eat but it adds some healthy alternatives along with the deep fried items.  Our chips were also a bit on the fragmented side and we noted that the next table seemed to have a nice pile of unbroken chips but ended up leaving half of them, GRRRRrrrr.

The guys on the other side of us had the hot wings although not sure what strength and were in hysterics with the heat from the chilli.  One of the staff noted this and gave them some milk to cool down; I would have let them suffer.  Some of the dishes we ordered last time round included the pulled pork sundae, salt cod fritters (no longer on the menu), hangar steak and the KFB burger.  Standouts were the KFB and pulled pork sundae.

We were full but still wanted dessert so decided on something light after seeing a few huge slices of peanut butter brownies with oreo ice cream go by.  We settled for the inka grilled pineapple with coconut ice cream.  A bit disappointed with the serving size of two stripes of pineapple.  On our last visit we tried the deep fried coke which was good from memory.

With a cult following that is ever expanding, Solita is very enticing with innovative new dishes and has sparked our interest in creative burgers.  There is a new burger soon to hit the specials for a limited time with zucchini frites and deep fried mortadella with roasted pepper marinar sauce that has us planning our next visit already…….

SoLita on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Duck & Waffle, London

During a recent work visit to London I tried out Duck & Waffle situated on the 40th floor of Heron building.  A previous attempt at a walk in was met with a 4 hour wait for a table so we abandoned it for a 6pm booking the following week.  From a brief wait at the ground floor entrance it seemed that its clientele were a steady stream of City type professionals so I was expecting it to be on the expensive side.
The group also operate Sushi Samba on the floors below so the lift area was constantly busy with the lift being jam packed on the way up.  The bar area was different with an open bar situated in the middle of the room with no bar counters so the bartenders were in full view with their backs to the clientele when making drinks.  We were led to the main dining area and I noted that there was ample space between each table which surprised me as I expected them to pack them in like sardines to cover what is sure to be massive rent costs. 
We were sat at a table facing the South East direction towards Tower Bridge.   I had a couple of choices already made up in my mind on prior study of the menu.  Our server explained that the dishes would come out as and when they are ready tapas style which was fine due to the grazing style of the plates.  We purposely ordered a conservative amount of dishes leaving us the option to order more if required.  We were advised that we had the table for 2 hours so wanted to make use of this rather than being rushed.
The first dish delivered was scallop with apple, black truffle and lime served on a red salt brick which helped season the scallop I was told.  To describe the serving size as small would be an understatement, barely one whole scallop cut into five pieces.  This is something I’ve noticed on a few menus recently where I actively avoid if scallop is described in the singular term rather than plural.  Nevertheless the scallop was fresh and refreshing with the apple and lime with the truffle giving it an added dimension.

Next up was roasted octopus with chirizo, lemon and capers.  This was nicely presented and the octopus was cooked just right and was not tough and chewy.  The chorizo and capers provided some needed flavour.  The pollock meatballs with lobster cream and parmesan was a delight due to the lobster cream.  The essence of lobster shone through in the flavour of the cream and I could have this as a soup, good foil for the pollock.

By now the dishes were coming thick and fast so we were glad we didn’t order all at once.  The last of the small dishes we ordered was spiced lamb cutlets with smoked aubergine puree.  Again this was nicely cooked and was pleasant without being exceptional. The only big or main course type dish that we ordered was the signature duck & waffle, confit duck leg, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup.  Simple and effective, would make a fine breakfast.  The first thing I noted was that egg yolk was covered in a gigantic sprinkling of salt.  The waffle to be critical was a touch overdone.  However the confit duck leg was moist and flaked from the bone easily.  I don’t recall deducting the mustard element of the maple syrup but it was just the right sweetness.

Being still peckish we decided to order a few more dishes.  I had my eye on the BBQ spiced crispy pig ears and the chance came.  They were served in a paper bag which was sealed with wax which was quite novel and were quite crunchy and enjoyable.  These would be ideal as a snack at the cinema.

The last dish was the most disappointing of the night and out of fluke more than luck it was also the most filling.  We were presented with a huge doughy ball resembling a basketball which was a spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam.  The dough was much too thick with very little filling that was rather bland.  Definitely one that needs revamping in my opinion although it did the trick in filling a hole.

My colleague finished with a deep fried Mars bar for dessert.  I had a taste and it was gooey and sweet as expected.  To conclude, the key selling point of the restaurant is the view.  The food whilst being simple and pleasant but no more.  The cost for the food dishes cost approximately £100 including service which is expensive for the servings but expected given the probable huge overheads.  It is worth trying but not sure about returning.

Duck & Waffle on Urbanspoon  Square Meal