Friday 21 November 2014

Totto Ramen, New York

Totto Ramen is one of New York City’s favourite ramen joints at the moment with a loyal cult following. Waiting lists form before it opens at 5.30pm and huge queues on the sidewalk are common. We visited the 52nd Street branch and the wait was around half an hour due to the small intimate nature of the ramen bar but it was swift moving even with around twenty people ahead of us.

The interior is no frills with seats at the ramen bar and a few tables dotted around the rest of the narrow room. This is not a place to hang around; the focus is on the ramen, in and out.

I chose the special Totto spicy ‘Nibo’ ramen, chicken broth base, original rayu, spicy sesame oil and dried fish powder with paiten ramen topped with scallion, bean sprouts, onion and cabbage. The broth was rich but lighter than pork bone based broths from other ramen joints. Not overly spicy but just right.

Mrs Nom had the signature paitan ramen, chicken and soy based soup topped with scallion, onion and nori. The ramen was served softer upon request.

Overall the ramen was different and lighter than tonkotsu based ramen we usually find in London but very enjoyable.

Totto Ramen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Emeril's Tchoup Chop

Tchoup Chop is an Asian Pacific restaurant from US celebratory chef Emeril Lagasse situated in the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. The name is a nod to New Orleans' famous Tchoupitoulas Street, where Emeril's flagship restaurant is located.

The menu reads well with creative dishes. We ordered from the a la carte and a set menu, the portions were on the large size, which we now expected in the US but yet managed to over order again! 

A starter of seared ahi tuna poke nachos was huge with piles of wonton chips, guacamole and Hawaiian chilli pepper alioli. This was a great snack with meaty chunks of tuna.

The signature starter was the Tchoup Chop crunchy shrimp with hot and sour chilli glaze. Three big hunks of fried shrimp with a tangy sauce.

One dish we could of done without if we knew how big the portions were was the surf & turf maki, blue crab, cucumber, Hibachi skirt steak, Asian chimichurri and white truffle oil. Whilst sounding great we didn’t think it worked as a dish with the steak being too tough served as sushi and being a tad dry overall.

Our mains were the most interesting. Kona coffee spice pork tenderloin, shishito pepper, corn bread, spaghetti squash, cherry agro dolce and apple cider ginger butter. This was inspiring and the mixture of flavours worked surprisingly well.

Less successful was the baked seafood cobbler, edamame mushroom ragout and truffle scented lemon herb streusel. Whilst very fragrant it became a chore to eat towards the end as the streusel became clay like when mixed with the ragout.

A dessert of baked Hawaii in a jar, coconut cake, vanilla ice cream, meringue and caramelised pineapple was a very end to the meal.

Overall some interesting concepts with some hit and misses, but bold enough to experiment.

Emeril's Tchoup Chop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Bice Ristorante, Orlando

During our summer holidays to the States the pick of the meals in Orlando was had in Bice Ristorante set in the Portofino Bay resort of Universal Orlando. The restaurant is part of a network of restaurants founded in Milan over 90 years ago. The seaside Italian village setting of Portofino Bay was certainly an ideal location for the restaurant which with its ceilings and classic interior exuded a cool charm. 

Being the first leg of our trip we were conscious of budgeting, especially with New York being the destination for the second half of the trip. We were in luck as September was billed as the ‘Magical Dining Month’ with many Orlando restaurants offering tempting set price menus at the very reasonable price of $33 for three courses (approx. £21).

The a la carte options had teasing options such as veal shank for $48 (£30) but we stuck with the set menu. The starters included spinach salad with roasted maple leaf duck confit, grilled pears, toasted almond raspberry vinaigrette and porcini and black truffle risotto served in a Parmigiano phyllo dough basket.

Mrs Nom enjoyed the salad and declared it incredibly well dressed. My porcini  and truffle risotto was pungently fragrant with the right bite as well as being a generous portion, so much so that I had to leave most of the basket.

My main was center cut pork chop Milanese with Sicilian eggplant caponata, topped with grilled pineapple, papaya, hearts of palm and Roma tomatoes. The fried pork chop sizable and not the best choice combined with the risotto as I struggled to finish it. I enjoyed the eggplant and tomatoes but less so the accompanying papaya, the flavours didn’t seem to mix well to me.

Mr Nom chose agnolotti filled with Maine lobster and ricotta cheese served in a Tarragon pink vodka cream serve and asparagus tips which she quickly polished off, the small sample I managed to obtain revealed light pasta with a superb rich filling.

We couldn't pass up dessert and apple strudel ala mode rum chocolate coffee cake with nutella filling provided agood end to the meal.

Service was very attentive with waiters in cream jackets, how they kept them clean I'll never know. Due to Mrs Noms overuse of the credit card earlier on in the day it was blocked for unusual behavior and we were discreetly informed as to not cause embarrassment, not that we would be that bothered but some certainly would create a scene. Probably one of the more high end restaurants of the family orientated Universal resort and recommended for a hearty Italian meal.

Bice Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Friday 7 November 2014

The Art School, Liverpool

The Art School is the latest fine dining venture by Paul Askew which recently opened in early September. As a stalwart of the North West dining scene and formerly of the London Carraige Works on Hope Street the website states that it was Paul’s dream to open a fine dine food haven in Liverpool city centre. The restaurant is located in the lantern room of the Victorian 1888 ‘Home for Destitute children’ building on Sugnall Street which is a stones throw away from Hope Street. 

The ethos of the restaurant is to provide a high end dining experience using only the finest produce and ingredients perfectly accompanied by superb wines and champagnes. A range of menus is offered depending on the day including a tasting menu at £85 per head, prices to match the ambition of the restaurant. We visited to sample the prix fixe offering which at £29 for three courses offered good value for money, especially on an early Saturday evening. The dining room is bright and airy with a large window allowing guests to view the chefs at work in the kitchen.

The prix fixe menu has a large variety of dishes including fish, meat and vegetarian. I opted for Lakeland venison carpaccio with horseradish snow, parmesan and caperberries whilst Mr Nom chose the twice baked soufflé of wild mushrooms, thyme and truffle served with Dijon cream and charred onions. The carpaccio was wonderfully presented and a light dish with ingredients with complemented rather than overpowered the venison. Breaking from his usual meat/fish preference the soufflé was well received.

For my main I chose the Whitchurch free range chicken with sweetcorn, buttered spinach, game crisps and local black pudding. Topped with a multitude of crispy fired slices of root vegetables the dish came together as one to form a pleasing dish.

Back on familiar territory as Mr Nom chose the braised Hereford ox cheek and tongue served with heritage carrots, champ and natural jus. The braised ox cheek flaked easily with little pressure and the champ mash was a delight.

The dessert offering was a sharing plate of mini desserts including pear and apricot bordelou, mini éclairs,lavender pavlova, coxs apple tatins and macarons. Indivudially the pear and apricot bordelou and coxs apple tatins were excellent and we would have been satisfied with larger portions rather than one bite! The other components we felt would be more suited as petit fours.

Service is overseen by the ultra-professional restaurant manager James Campbell who we have come across during his tenure at Fraiche. Despite the youthfulness of the staff, service was efficient and the team seem well drilled despite its early days. The drinks are not bad as well with my favourite cocktail being the sacred strawberry, sacred gin with strawberries with a Lichi-Li lychee liquor adding a lovely scent. Overall we were impressed with the prix fixe menu and it offers something very different to the current dining scene in Liverpool, although to truly judge the restaurant and its ambition the tasting/full menu is on the agenda for our next visit.

Art School Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday 6 November 2014

Palm Court at The Langham, London

Famed as the birthplace of Afternoon Tea, Palm Court of The Langham Hotel has been serving tea to the cream of London society since the Victorian era. The kitchen is helmed by the award winning pastry chef, Cherish Finden, who has appeared on Masterchef.

I couldn’t express how excited I was when Mr Nom told me he had booked afternoon tea for me and a friend. Since watching the delights on TV I have always wanted to try the amazing cakes on offer. To sample as muh as possible we ordered one of each set of the Wonderland and Bijoux afternoon tea sets.

Before our tea sets arrived, we were presented with a lime posset each presented with gold leaf to match the opulent surroundings.  This was extremely tangy which caused me to make some unusual facial expressions.

The Bijoux tea set came with the following:

Foie gras and smoked duck with granny smith apple
Lobster, cucumber and shisho dressing
Smoked mountain ham, aged comté, garden peas and truffle
Foreman’s smoked salmon and brie with pickled apple purée
Piquilo pepper flan with candied pinenuts

Japanese bloody mary macaroons
Elderflower and Greek yoghurt panna cotta
Royal Ascot Victorian sponge hat
Pistachio and apple sour diamond - I love all things pistachio so this dessert went down a storm with me and there were great combination of flavours too.
Hereford strawberry and lemon Battenberg with lime jelly truffle, such a well crafted mini dessert, I couldn’t get over how small it was and the taste was incredible too.

The Wonderland tea set consisted of:

Crab, shrimp, cucumber, caviar and avocado 
Burford brown egg mayonnaise with mustard cress
Rose county beef with plum tomato and remoulade sauce
Formans smoked salmon with whipped brie and wild rocket
Poached cornfed chicken with coronation mayonnaise

Passion Fruit and Mango Dome
Valrhona chocolate tart
Lemon and poppy seed cake was fresh and light after the slightly heavier chocolate tart.
Layer Eton mess push up pop, at first we were staring at it not knowing what to do before someone quickly noticed and filled us in on how to eat it.

Both sets came with a selection of scones served with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry preserve. I washed all this down with vanilla tea and with this being my favourite it was easy for me to decide from the large array of tea on offer.  We were so full from the afternoon tea that I didn’t eat in the evening. Palm Court is a beautiful venue and the equally stunning tea sets lived up to expectations. The atmosphere was superb with a live pianist playing tunes in the background. Not the cheapest at around £45-50 a head but well worth trying.

Palm Court on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Slims Pork Chop Express, Liverpool

Slims Pork Chop Express is an offshoot of the popular watering hole, Salt Dog Slims. Conveniently situated next door on Seel Street on the site of an ex sex shop. The exterior retains an alluring black painted frontage with a pink neon sign. Occupying two floors we were led to the upstairs dining area also where the kitchen is housed.

The menu is split between brunch and evening with a strong emphasis on American style fare. Being a large group we took the opportunity to order an array of smoked meats to share. I think we over ordered but it was only clear to what extent when the food arrived! 

On two large trays we tried beef short ribs, 7 hour hickory smoked beef ribs, peppered house rub and slaw. Two great hunking pieces of beef, the first of which was slightly tough and dry on top but the rest of it was sensationally moist with fatty goodness running through the meat.

The 5 hour hickory smoked spare ribs, 16 hour smoked pork with bone marrow butter, and beef brisket hit the spot without hitting the heights of the short rib.

For a bit of meat variety we also ordered some chicken dishes. Chicken and waffles, buttermilk fired chicken with light malted waffle, served sweet. Slightly over fried but somehow the texture of the chicken was fine. The sweet waffle ended up being dessert when everyone gave up on the meat from being too stuffed. Chicken wings in hot and original flavours were average.

For carbs we opted for the Coach Bombay fries, confit duck, duck gravy, fired duck egg, topped with montery jack and chilli cheese fries, homemade chilli with cheese sauce. To top off the meal we also tried the XXX mac and cheese, a deep fried mac and cheese burger.

A good addition to the city centre with some interesting brunch options for next time. Be prepared and go hungry would be our advice, or alternatively don’t be greedy like us and order the smaller sizes for the smoked meats. One of our party had one final query and rightly so, where are the pork chop options on the menu?

Slims Porkchop Express on Urbanspoon