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Ai Leen

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  1. Among other things, I've been very excited to find scallions and cilantro for 1/3 the price of my local Kroger, wild caught scallops 1/2 the price of Central Market, and strawberries and carrots... as well as pork belly with the rind still on (roast pork with crackling!), and fish still swimming in tanks (best way to ensure freshness). I could go on and on. I wish they carried a better range of South East Asian groceries though (e.g. belachan, sambal tumis, curry paste, fresh tumeric, galangal etc). Where do you go?
  2. Pete's Fine Meats is my nominee too. Central Market is great, but I'm always on the lookout for independent grocers. I also discovered H-Mart (Blalock/North of I-10). They have a range of meats and cuts to rival Central Market (including pork belly with rind, for a roast with crackling), but at much more reasonable prices. Plus I love the fact that I can buy my fish still swimming (best way to ensure its freshness). They will fillet it to your requirements.
  3. Thanks guys, this was a very helpful, being a British bride registering in the USofA and therefore clueless as to where to even start!
  4. Soho Japan, definitely. Good selection of sake. The owner loves his burgundy too. http://www.sohojapan.co.uk/ W1 Sushi Bar Toro, good value lunch bentos. Hanover Street, off Regent's Street W1 Japanese Canteen, good value sushi. Centrepoint, opposite Tottenham Ct Road W1 Aki, a little sleepier than Soho Japan. Gray's Inn Road WC1 Just a few off the top of my head. Eat Japan is an excellent starting point: http://www.eat-japan.com/index.php?option=...=301&Itemid=224
  5. How lovely to find a cheap and good meal in central London. We ordered Four Sheesh Kebabs Tandoori Chicken Sag Aloo Kahari Lamb Chops (dish of the day) Keema naan Tandoori roti The sheesh kebab was bursting with flavours, soft and juicy - by far the best dish. I should have tried it Bapi's way: wrapped in Taandoori roti with some onions and vege and dipped in the mint sauce - but only read his account after dinner. The tandoori chicken was tender and smoky and totally yummy. Has anyone every wondered why the sizzle of a hot plate on a cold winter's night sends shivers down one's spine and makes your heart beat faster? The sag aloo was a bit disappointing, with the spinach a greyish textureless mush and the potato pieces were sliced too big. The kahari lamb chops was OK, but I think I would have preferred a boneless meat. But the spices were really brought out by a riotious base of onions and coriander. Too bad they didn't have kashmiri naan (my favourite), but I've never seen a keema naan so generously sprinkled with coriander - it was almost pretty! The best part was that the meal cost less than 10 pounds per head - that's a winner for me every time! Oh, and you must order a mango lassi. I totally am one heart and mind with Sam on this one. It's the best freshest sweetest most yoghurty lassi I've ever tasted. Unfortunately, we didn't have any gullet space left for dry meat or cardamon kulfi. Really really hot curry is the only answer to sunless weather below 5 degrees C sometimes. Has anyone tried the kahari houses around Alperton?
  6. I think that's against the law... Wasn't upset about the blackout. Was upset about the service.
  7. Disappointed. Was so looking forward. 1. Wait. We were ushered in. Nothing happened for 15 minutes. We just sat at the table - there's only so much you can say about a block of alfafa for table decoration. And here I was dying for an apertif... 2. Service. Maverick waiter. Didn't know whether to be bemused or annoyed. Think was bewildered more than anything else in the end. He took our orders with one hand resting on the back of my guest's chair, to the steady rhythm of bouncing his shoulder off the pillar. When asked whether one of my other guests could change the snail porridge on the tasting menu, the reply was (imagine raised eyebrow and tone that suggests why on earth would anyone eschew such a magnificent demonstration of creativity), 'Why?'. I wondered what he would have said if we told him she was allergic to green food... 3. Blackout. This is the best. We actually never got to experience any more of the Fat Duck's astonishing hospitality. Lights went out after the first dish. The whole village. Kaput. We sat around, laughing, then fidgeting, then wondering what was going to happen. 10 minutes later, a very pretty parade of candles streamed out of the kitchen. They were kind enough to waive any charge for the wine and little food we had already partaken of. Of course, after such generosity, they couldn't afford to avail any more candles or assistance to see us to our car... 4. Reservations. Mind-blowing. The guest-of-honour, for whom this had been a surprise dinner, left his card so that they could call him back instead of me (the original organiser) to arrange another date. Four weeks later, they called... guess who? Me. As I was abroad at the time, I asked them to call said guest-of-honour. Guess what? He never heard from them. Summary: I'm not sure what to say... Magnificent leather-bound menus. Yes, that must be why they're so good. Had a pretty good meal at a nearby chinese takeout that night.
  8. See comments in quote. Special fried rice was very well done indeed, although not special in the way that fried rice isn't special. Overall impression: I think I consumed a lot of vinegar that night. But otherwise yum yum. Parting words: Thank you very very much to Ian for organising this and getting us a huge discount. It was also great to meet everyone else, esp Sam and Janice. Will definitely be back, but most probably worthwhile only with a group and empty stomach.
  9. Is roast suckling pig usually served as an hors d'oeuvres over the pond? Hm... Chinese crispy roast pork possibilities: 1. Char sau = roast bbq pork = not, I guess 2. Sau rou = crispy roast pork = IMHO most likely option = belly pork (my favourite cut for this dish) + five spice powder/salt/sichuan pepper + very hot oven (mum's recipe) 3. Sau zhu = roast suckling pig = possible option, served with little cute paper crowns on its ears as pictured previously and gooey sweet sauce... mm...
  10. Wish I had been there, origamecrane! Agree with Jon (I wonder why?) that the house soups and veggie "meat" are worth the trek. We seem to have ordered the peking duck for dinner quite a few times in our last few sojourns...
  11. Highly recommended: Soho Japan Well Street (North end) Oxford Circus vicinity The owner, Jun-san, always with a little tipple in hand, is also opening the basement piano bar in a coupla weeks. Don't forget to ask for a sushi order sheet (they forget sometimes). They will read out (in English, that is) the specials board on request. Other specialties: grill. Melt-in-your-mouth toro (oily tuna) and scallop sashimi has always been excellent where available. Chawanmushi with sea urchin is quite special too. Price point: approx. £60 for two. Ahhh, I'm hungry again and it's only 10am! Back to work... oh yes, picked up my new copy of "Eat Japan 2005" there last night, but I'm probably way behind all of you as usual... - Ai
  12. Actually, I'm turning 3-0 next next Saturday, and was thinking of doing something special in SE1 too. It all started around two things: a food theme and not wanting it to be (just) a dinner and drinks thing, plus I used to live behind the Tate Modern(in the student digs, not the posh pads) and simply love the area! So, feeling a little sheepish for posting such a lame question, Does anyone have any good fun ideas for the big 3-0? Was thinking - breakfast at Tate Modern/Monmouth with whoever can get up, - then wander into Borough Market with whoever else has gotten up. - Was initially thinking that everyone should pick up their own picnic in the market to sit out after around Southwark Cathedral (or boat to Greenwich, but the boat to Greenwich doesn't run on Saturday! sob.), - but think a much safer option, weather- and other- wise, would be for everyone (includes balance of guest list who hadn't gotten out of bed before) to meet for lunch at Brindisa Tapas / Tas (walk to the Globe?). Should I book for a big group? - Would love a walk along river, but think walking with large group somehow isn't going to be feasible. Someone suggested everyone cramming into a London Eye bubble and popping champagne, but... er... but... My idea of fun is just to chill all afternoon in the restaurant or nearby pub or, weather-permitting, outdoors. Maybe an early Pimms? That's Plan A. Plan B was some ambitious design for everyone to meet at - kubain New Oxford St and then eat out, or - go "see" the longplayer at East India Wharf then eat out. Plan C was a fanciful combination of A and B. Please ignore. Any new SE1 ideas would be very welcomed - plus if you'd like to come too...
  13. The Chinese Experience looks set to become a favourite Chinatown haunt with me and my other half. Just the other night, after a 10 course chinese meal, we wandered in hand-in-hand for a little quiet together time over two baskets of Shanghai xiaolongbao and pot of tea. The xiaolongbaos are exceptional - the pastry, the most important component, was thin but sturdy enough to hold in the juices of the dumpling (shock horror - xiaolongbaos in London with juice!). Definitely comparable, if not better, than Hakkasan, where the meat filling can sometimes be too soft. The only complaint might be that they should really be resting on slices of carrots or some sort of non-stick membrane, but if eaten hot as it should be, that should be no problem. Now, if only they would let us play chess there... P.S. Tarka, I think the food at the window is real... we had a curious poke... but one can never be too sure.
  14. I did go and have a try recently. Wrote this more than a month ago, but didn't have the courage to publish it here! But on JT's encouragement, here's an excerpt... "I was left quietly alone with my drink while waiting for A. I thought it a gallant gesture to have ushered me into the upholstered lounge downstairs immediately, instead of the impolitic bar area. Sitting facing away from the entrance, there is a huge mirror through which you can see who was coming down the steps. For a moment, I felt as if I was waiting for my lover. Someone once commented that you always imagine every couple in Le Gavroche are having an affair. He walked down the stairs, I turned dramatically, wide-eyed, and stretched my arms out to welcome him... nah. A arrived, and over appertifs and canapes, I gave him his card. Here you go, happy anniversary darling... hah! This is one of those restaurants where the lady gets the menu sans prices. How wonderfully old-fashioned! I can understand, however, how some men (and women) have found it to be disgustingly discriminatory, but I love it. Of course, I did hesitate and peer over A's menu before ordering the lobster. The sommelier was, as always, friendly and helpful. A selected a bottle of Burgundy, 1997, intense flavour yet light, to go with both my lobster and his grouse. For starters, I had chosen the legendary souffle suissesse. I love souffle, but this is something else, literally. It was an ethereal island of whipped egg and cream dancing across a lovely cheesy sauce, rather than your straightforward souffle in a ramekin dish. As someone put it, more ile flottante than souffle. I love souffle in whatever disguise, so my feelings are partial here. But, despite the wonderous start, the dish did get heavy and a little boring towards the end. Mains. My lobster was outstandingly sweet, covered with what I think is a blend of chives, parsley and garlic. There was a hint of brandy. No surprises here. The dish was served with a lemony bearnaise sause and a side of baby potatoes and pod peas. A's grouse was by far more interesting, and he was kind enough to share a small bit of bacon with me. hmph. One small quibble though. Don't get me wrong, I love to be fussed over, even expect it. But coddling is irritating, especially when it entails waiters blatantly clearing your dishes and grandly presenting your next course and chatting to you(!) while you are attempting intimate anniversary conversation. IMHO, service should be discreet and invisible, personal but detached. I'm sorry to say that this was one factor that spoiled the evening for me ever so slightly. It also made me wish that I had paid more attention in school during French class, and really, one shouldn't be made to feel bad when paying so much. C'est la vie. Dessert. Ok, I mentioned my obsession with souffles previously. I'm not kidding. I love them with a passion. Being particularly inept at creating one myself, I had to flog it at the master of souffles. So of course I had to order their famed souffle aux fruits de la passion et glace ivoire. A did the same. This, I must say, was the highlight. A classic souffle, executed to perfection, with a ball of ice-cream in the middle. Hot and cold, heavy and light, white and cream. A marriage of opposites made in heaven. I was absolutely in love. I happen to think that souffles are seductively romantic. They remind you of tulle wedding dresses and white Pratesi sheets, the perfect objet de amour. mm... You know how, in the course of a romantic dinner, there comes a point where every next dish is simply an obstacle to your pillow? My moment came right at the point when bon bons and coffee were served. This morning, I woke up to find a box of bon bons on the breakfast table. The perfect conclusion to a perfect evening." -AL
  15. Yes, so sad to hear. I almost want to go back to make sure I'm not hearing wrong! I celebrated my birthday there once as a student living round the corner, so the place obviously carries fond memories for me...
  16. That'll be the Thames then So I think you liked it from your report. Would you return? Hee. Yes yes. The Thames. Yes yes, will be back. One of your fav places, I heard. I should not write before lunch. I should not write before lunch...
  17. Someone told me that our best tuna caught off Scotland/English coast goes to Tokyo... sucks, doesn't it?
  18. Dear alkonin, May I ask where you and your husband are staying or intend to visit? Why not save your money for a good last night meal? It's quite obvious from the number of replies that you won't go hungry, rest assured. I hope you have a good stay. Ai Leen
  19. I'm sick, so have given myself some time off work to ramble a little... ******************** A, me and family lunched at the Putney Bridge restaurant last weekend. It was pleasant to sit overlooking Putney River, with some sun appearing (finally) and a light summer breeze. Our expectations had been tweaked up by the recent award of one Michelin Star, not to mention the provenance of its chef, Anthony Demetre. Personally, I've been carrying a disappointing memory all week with regards to the food -- pristine though it was, do not mistake me! Perhaps it wasn't a very exciting menu (but then again it was the Sunday lunch menu). Perhaps I was not in the mood for French food. Hm. Actually, it was probably, I think (this thought has just occured to me now), the fact that I ordered braised pork loin again and was comparing it to Petrus (which was quite recent). Hm, I must stop ordering the same things every time. But, on the brighter note, now that I've figured that one out, I feel a lot more optimistic writing about my experience at Putney Bridge. For starters, I had mackerel tart. The fish was very well done, refreshing and simple to the palate, and served with a light tomato/herb sauce. I liked it because it was so unpretentious and discrete, a fact only emphasized by the sweetness of the tart. The tart was a surprise -- not a pastry base, but layers of sweet chinese beancurd skin (or the like). It complemented the straightforwardness of the mackerel to perfection. Easily my favourite dish that day. As said, I had braised pork loin for my main course. I don't remember very much about it, so it can't have been very exciting. I remember it being well done though, no fault to be found there. Come to think of it now, I ordered roast pork for lunch again this Sunday, when some of us met up at The Abingdon in Kensington. That one I remember, because I was savouring the crackling pork skin (and stealing everybody else's too!). Mm... must stop ordering the same thing, must stop ordering the same thing, must stop ordering the same thing... Dessert. Ah, mm... I liked the fact that it had my favourite basic creme brulee on the menu. How far wrong can you go with creme brulee? It was a bit disturbing to discover that all my vanilla seeds had sunk to form a black layer at the bottom of my ramekin dish though... Altogether pleasant, would be my summary. As for the reported 3 million pound refurbishment and Picassos, all I can say is that I'm glad it wasn't in my face and that I could enjoy a relaxing summer lunch with some my favourite people in the world. I'm back! -AL Check out Putney Bridge's cool website: http://www.putneybridgerestaurant.com/index.html
  20. David, I empathise completely. There's a little karaoke place (sorry, I've gone there so many times and still haven't got its name!) along Frith Street in Soho, diagonally opposite to Cafe Nero. Mitsukoshi departmental store in Piccadally Circus also has a basement restaurant. I haven't tried the sushi there, but the grilled saba is to die for. Otherwise, for more pedestrian fare, there's always plenty around (if you're not a visitor to London and have all the time in the world). But qualification: again, coming from a foodie country myself, I empathise completely with your sushi woes. If I'm just out for a quick lunch in Central London, and comparing like for like, Feng Sushi is definitely better quality for the same price than Yo! Sushi, Taro (Brewer St), Ten Ten Tei (Brewer St - don't go to Kili Kulu - I got a tummy ache there once), Gili Gulu (great deal for 12 pounds eat all you can conveyor belt - eat fast before your stomach connects to your brain!), Sukiyaki? (Regent St). Then there is also the Chelsea crowd: Nobu, Itsu et al. Am definitely going to try all those places you guys have listed here!! One by one... Thanx! -AL
  21. If you are an expatriate or new visitor to this fruit, I would recommend eating durian somewhere nice to initiate the senses. If I remember correctly, the Goodwood Park Hotel does some really lovely cakes and cream puffs (durian of course) during the season, as does the Shangri-La cafe. Lucky you! It's a little like cheese, ain't it? An acquired taste. -AL
  22. Check out Jancis Robinson's list of wine merchants, which is not limited to the UK. Actually, best to first check your customs limit, your/your entourage's weight lifting capabilities... have fun! http://www.jancisrobinson.com/directory/di...ts.html#merchUK
  23. hm... looks like I have to pop back too! =)
  24. Better than Royal China [something I wrote a few weeks ago] "Golden Dynasty - review Ugg... just back from lunch in Chinatown with my best friend in London, G. Here to report that we discovered a new restaurant. As with all Chinese restaurants, we measured our first impression proportionally to the number of Chinese customers eating in the restaurant. After peering in, we decided it was definitely worth a try. We had dim sum (what else can you have for lunch in Chinatown?). Nothing exciting, but what they had was very well done indeed (and for the same price as elsewhere). Dare I say it? Even better than Royal China. The turnip cake was crisp, the siew mais meaty (as opposed to prawny). G tasted the chive dumplings and declared that a yet before undiscovered ingredient in them (it remains undiscovered). The char siew baos were top dollar, sweet and sticky on the inside, soft and fluffy on the outside. And my favourite, hum shui gok, was absolutely perfect - crispy on the outside, sweet and gooey on the inside, and chalk full of wonderful ingredients! We were also very impressed that they served Bo Lei tea, which few restaurants do. Unfortunately, the xiao long baos had no soup in them. However, we should be fair and measure them against the like. So, compared to what I've had so far in London (except Hakkasan - but then again, Hakkasan should really be considered in a different genre), it was very tasty indeed. As expected, we ate too much (hence the "ugg"). Altogether a true dedication to perfection in dim sum. We've always said, the best Chinese food is not found in Chinatown. But, this might change that now." Golden Dynasty is on the road next to/parallel to Gerrard St that is not Shaftesbury Ave. -AL
  25. Great to discover you guys. Looking forward. =)
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