Murakami, London


I seemed to be reviewing a lot of Japanese eateries lately. Japanese is not the only cuisine that I like. I mean I eat Chinese, French, Spainish and etc. Being Chinese, I am biased towards Asian food. It is what I grew up with so I tend to have more knowledge about it. Japanese food is not all about sushi but I am reviewing a sushi restaurant this time. There seems to be few new Japanese restaurants opened up in the past few months and the standards are fierce.

Located at the very convenient Covent Garden on St Martin's Lane is Murakami, a sushi and robata grill restaurant.  Modern décor overlooking a sushi counter on one side and the grill kitchen on the other side with loud music playing. I have to admit, the music did not really go with the theme of a Japanese restaurant. We asked if we could sit in front of the grill kitchen watching the chef in action, which the waiter kindly let us. Don't worry, you will not feel the intensive heat from the grill as it is separated by a glass wall. We were very hungry after ice skating and tiring so wanted to have a nice relaxing meal but it was disastrous.


The menu is mainly composed of grilled skewers and sushi with few small dishes to choose from.

Nigiri (salmon, salmon tataki, tuna, yellowtail) and Tuna Sashimi

Smoked Eel Nigiri

Me and Mr T didn't go crazy with the sushi, only ordered a small selection. The nigiri was average, fish was fresh and the eel was not bad. Tuna was a let down, it was too lean. I had better and I had worst.

Scallops Tartare with wasabi ponzu

Tiger Prawns Tempura

First time seeing scallops tartare as it is usually sliced into carpaccio rather than diced. The scallops are mixed with tobiko (flying fish roe, the small orange ball thingy) giving it a crunchy texture against the soft scallops. The hint of wasabi didn't come through the dish and I'm not too sure what that sauce they squirted on top, it didn't taste like ponzu. The tempura was the most disappointed dish of the night. I'm sorry, but how can you called that tiger prawns tempura. The size does not resemble to a tiger prawn more like a king prawn and the batter for it was totally wrong. It should be light and fluffy, not dough-like batter. 

Crunchy Asparagus with Sesame Seeds

Teriyaki & Lime Chicken Wings, Sweet Chilli Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken Hearts and Miso & Yuzu Marinated Pork Belly

Moving onto the robatayaki, grilled skewers. It was fun watching the chef grilling the food but it was overcooked. The asparagus was overly soft. The meat was dried and bland. We ordered the beef but got sweet chilli chicken instead, we kept it and ate it. The chef gave me an impression of confusion, didn't know when the skewers was done and kept basting it with sauce but somehow still came out dried.

If the food was tasty, I can compensate it with the faulty service. Neither the food or service was fine. The staff was not attentive at all, it was hard to get someone's attention, when you get one's attention and asked for something, they don't return. It took three waiters to bring the menu, tap water arrived after the nigiri were served. I don't know why, they only do 3/4 pint of a beer and not a full pint? We wanted green tea, but it was sold out (huh? but you're a Japanese restaurant, how can you sell out of green tea within the first week of opening?). When asking for the bill, that took forever too.

So much for the negativities, I really could not find a positive thing about the whole meal beside the décor. It is my honest opinion and I had one bad experience with the restaurant. We went during the soft launch period, it is quiet expensive for the full price menu given that there are many more better restaurants for similar price. We were still not full after the meal and ended up stocking up at Japan Centre. Murakami made an apology to me on instagram, I do hope both the food and service do improve before a second chance.

Score Rating: 2/5
Price: ~£40-50/head (50% soft launch, £53 for 2 people)

Murakami on Urbanspoon

Tonkotsu Selfridges, London


What was your last lunch of 2014? My last day of 2014 was spent wandering around London and reminiscing the year. It has been hell of a year with many tears. To put everything behind me, food is the answer. So I met with Mr T for a late lunch at Bond Street. Indeed our last lunch was spent slurping a big bowl of ramen. Tonkotsu Selfridges is the latest outpost from the Tonkotsu Bar & Ramen in Soho opened up inside the department store Selfridges.

It's more of a counter than a restaurant in the Selfridges food hall, with just a handful of tall stools watching the chef in action. There can be a small queue but it fades down fairly quickly. The menu is minimal with two choices of ramen, tonkotsu and chilli chicken ramen (only available at Selfridges). There are also a small selection of side orders and a good range of Japanese alcohols. It's a good causal place for something quick in the midst of shopping.

Tonkotsu Ramen

We tucked ourself to a bowl of tonkotsu ramen each. The broth is made from a stock of pork and chicken or vegetables instead of just super rich pork. It is creamy, viscous and rich but not overly fatty. Still not as creamy/milky as I like but decent enough. Noodle is firm and bouncy which is a joy. The slices of pork belly were reasonably fatty but can be fattier (not good for health, good for taste). Egg was good and the bamboo shoot was tender. A trick I learnt recently from Saturday Kitchen is that if you shake the egg visciously before boiling the yolk will be in the centre when cooked for around 6 minutes. Overall a good bowl of tonkotsu ramen which I couldn't stop drinking the broth.

I would put Tonkotsu in par with Bone Daddies. Kanada-Ya is still my favourite ramen place in London. I yet to take Mr T to Kanada-Ya which he always complained but it's impossible not to queue when he hates queuing for literally anything. It's good to know that he is pleased with Tonkotsu and I can see this place being our regular ramen hunt. Sometimes you don't need celebration - just wrapped up with your beloved, drinking hot beverages, eating and chatting. Ramen is definitely a comfort food to be all cosy but not in a food hall.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: £15/head

Tonkotsu Selfridges on Urbanspoon

Old Tree Daiwan Bee 老樹台灣味, London


Being one half of Taiwanese, I do find there is a lack of Chinese restaurant that is specialised in Taiwanese dishes. One of the most famous Taiwan export is probably bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea), with outlets opening crazily over London. To be frank, only Chatime that does it decently and the rest are quite horrid. I would not really want to drink bubble tea in Europe. So when my friend Calvin said there is a Taiwanese restaurant, my eyes sparkled.

Located on Rupert Street, off the main chaotic Gerrard Street is a small restaurant serving Taiwanese dishes. Based on Taiwanese street food, the menu is full of street food classics that is hard to decide. I literally wanted to order everything off the menu, even so I will never be fully satisfied.

Taiwanese Beef Noodles in Soup

Spring Onion Pancake, Braised Pork Rice, Spare Ribs Soup

Even before coming, I already had my eye on the braised pork rice. Along with the rice, I also had a spring onion pancake and a spare ribs soup. Calvin settled for Taiwanese beef noodles and a minced pork pancake (not in the photos). Can't really compared to what I had in Taiwan, but it was satisfying to have the street food that I missed and the food didn't feel oily. The pork on the rice just had the right amount of fat. The pancake was crispy but couldn't really taste the spring onion and the soup was alright. I can't comment on what Calvin had as I did not get to taste it but it looked tasty. I was kind of hoping they would have stinky tofu, well only ever in my dream I will find stinky tofu in London.

Old Tree Daiwan Bee serves good simple Taiwanese street food with a price that you can't complain at all. The bowl of rice with braised pork topping was £3.50, with that price I think in most places you can only get boiled rice. The front of house also act as a mini bakery and sells Taiwanese pastries which I was tempted to buy (next time I will). It is good to know when I have a craving of Taiwanese street food I know where to go now.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: £10-15/head

Old Tree Daiwan Bee on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Dirty Dicks, London


Given the humorous name, Dirty Dicks is a pub just a hop away from Liverpool Street station. The pub itself was really 'ye olde worldy' and looks great albeit relatively empty at midday on the weekend. I love the look of the place, ye older exposed beams, wooden floor worn smooth by years of trade, lots of nooks and crannies to sit and hide away in. 

Venison cottage pie, kale, savoy cabbage
A chill day catching up with friends over some pints veiled our original plan of ice skating at Broadgate. Friends ate at Nandos before we arrived so we settled for a pub.I think because it is just after Christmas, nearly half the menu was unavailable so me and Mr T both had the same dish. Venison cottage pie was good and nothing special about the vegetables. Don't think we can even stand up on the ice rink after so many pints and hearty food.

Dirty Dicks is usually filled with young to middle-aged suits popping in for a pint or two (or more) after works and can get very crowded. The place has some serious history, dating back to the mid 18th century. It's a cozy pub with great selection of alcohols and hearty pub food, not cheap but that's the location.

Score Rating: 3/5
Price: £15/head

Dirty Dicks on Urbanspoon

London Jade Garden 翠園海鮮酒家, London


After beating the crowds on boxing day sale shopping, we headed to Chinatown for lunch. Lunch at Chinatown always mean dim sum. Standing around Chinatown, it's hard to pick amongst the vast restaurants serving dim sum. We've been going to Jade Garden for dim sum for quiet some time and have never found a reason to complain.

Jade Garden is a long standing Chinese restaurant that has change little over the years, with its old fashion interior and tables packed closely. It is a smallish restaurant on Wardour Street, especially on weekends it is filled with Chinese people.

Dim Sum

The choice of dim sum at Jade Garden is much more varied than most of the places, which is good. Service is basic, dim sum is ordered by filling a form with numbers. With only 2 people, we ate 9 plates of dim sum:
  • Cha Siu Bao
  • Duck Tongues in Black Bean Sauce
  • Whelks in Satay Sauce
  • Xiao Long Bao
  • Scallop and Prawn Dumplings
  • Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce
  • Rice Noodle Roll with Youtiao 
  • Deep Fried Meat Dumplings 
  • Preserved Eggs and Pork Congee
We definitely over ordered, which is literally every time going for dim sum. The dim sum are cooked to order, or is that reheated to order but they are nice enough. I've also noticed the more upmarket Chinese restaurants does not seem to serve offal or whelk related dim sum where as you will only find it in old-fashion places. Deep fried meat dumplings was very good, fried freshly and the skin is thin and crispy. Duck tongues, whelks and chicken feet was mediocre. Cha siu bao was light and fluffy. Would have love to had a bit more soy sauce to pour over the rice noodle roll but in general the youtiao was fresh and the rice noodle can be thinner. My only criticism was the skin on the xiao long bao and prawn dunplings was on the thick side. I didn't taste the congee as it was eaten all by Mr. T, but given that he is a devouter of congee.

Don't expect good quality tea, given the Chinese phrase of  "yum cha" translate directly to drinking tea but actually means eating dim sum. Only high end Chinese restaurants will serve good quality tea and the price can be above average. Jade Garden does charge £1/head for tea, which is acceptable.  

The most obvious praise for the restaurant is the fact that it is always well frequented by Chinese, so one must assume they feel the food is good and authentic. It is not the best dim sum, it is nice enough that makes you become a regular.

Score Rating: 2.5/5

Franco Manca (Tottenham Court Road), London


A much needed catch-up with one of my best friend before Christmas, since he works around Warren Street so I suggested Franco Manca for a quick lunch spot. I had never been before but heard good reviews and was said to be one of the best pizza in town.

Franco Manca is no Pizza Hut, using slow rising sourdough and baked in wood burning oven giving a very distinctive taste. The menu is small with only 6 pizzas to choose from, using mostly British sourced organic ingredients and selecting rare breeds to produce their charcuterie. 

Tomato, Cured Organic Chorizo and Mozzarella

Gloucester Old Spot Ham (home cured), Mozzarella, Buffalo Ricotta, Wild Mushrooms and little Tomato

My dear friend went for the tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella and I went for the ham, mozzarella, ricotta, wild mushrooms and little tomato. The base was thin and crispy as it is baked minutes before it is served. For the size, it's massive (for a girl!) and I had to force myself to finish it.I like dipping my ends in olive oil and for their chilli oil, it's actually quiet spicy. A slightly more generous helping of toppings would have been prefer but great pizza overall.

I'm impressed with Franco Manca, I may have not been to Italy and tasted the best pizza in the world. For the size, quality of ingredients and price it is incredibly good value for London. At under £7 for each pizza, you can't really complain much.

Score Rating: 3.5/5
Price: ~£10/head (Thanks my dear friend for treating me to lunch, ~£14 for 2 people)

Franco Manca on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Smoking Goat, London


It's not easy to get the balance of bird-eye's chillies and fish sauce right, but when it is done right it can be some seriously delicious Thai food. Smoking Goat is a tiny Thai restaurant situated on Denmark Street. It's not your everyday thai curry that you will find here. With only 6 items on the menu, concentrating on Thai barbecued food. From previous reviews, tweets and instagrams, I had high hope and was expecting getting messy. I was looking forward to eating crab (even though I am allergic to it) but sadly the menu has changed to seabass.


Fish Sauce Wings
Whilst waiting for Mr T to arrive, I ordered myself a pint of beer (can't remember the name). Light and refreshing. A little disappointment they've ran out of scallops already around 7pm so we went for the fish sauce wings. Crispy coating and a sticky glaze, it was finger licking good. The fish sauce was not over powering but it was severely salty towards the last few bites, which Mr T didn't find it salty at all. Glad I ordered that pint of beer.

Smoked Lamb Ribs

Slow Roast Duck Legs

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

Smoked lamb ribs basted with fermented shrimp, chilli and palm sugar was very tender, the layers of meat and fat tore off the bone in chunks. The slow roasted duck legs (marinated in galangal, lemongrass, kaffir and basted with ketjap manis and white pepper) was different to what I had in mind, I was thinking of French stews where the meat was stringy. The sweet glaze gave the skin a crispy finish and the meat was still moist and firm. Both meats was accompanied by a dipping sauce which tasted very similar to me or it could be two different sauces, what the heck it was tasty.A little forgotten, mains are also served with sticky rice and som tam. Som tam, a green papaya salad packed with flavour and heat. I was breathing fire at the end of the meal.

Luckily the day we went, there was no queue but the restaurant was running very busy. It's not a place for a hot date and if you're vegetarian, it's not for you either. As you can tell, I like Smoking Goat. Like all the unanimous reviews praising for the quality of food, winning as a London favourite. I really cannot disagree. I don't know if it is a one-off bad serving of over salty chicken wings or is it just me, I still want to return again and given the price it's inexpensive.

Score Rating: 3.5/5
Price: ~£24/head

Smoking Goat on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Bad Egg, London


I love eggs. Scrambled, fried, poached, boiled, baked, you name it, I will eat it. When I heard Neil Rankin, the man behind Smokehouse in Islington was opening an eggy concept diner I was indeed looking forward to it. For a fact, I've not been to Smokehouse since anywhere beyond zone 1 is a mission for me to get to. I was unsure what the food will be like, hoping it would be similar to his Smokehouse's food or would it be completely different?

Thank you to the humble social media, I found a menu on Instagram but except it was missing the Korean fried chicken wings on the day on the menu. I know it's a non egg dish, it was something I wanted to order. I was expecting surprises from Bad Egg, some sort of egg revolution. Yes, eggs does play a prominent part on the menu with egg-based dishes from around the world alongside burgers, ribs, tacos and salads. Literally everything that you ordered, you can add an egg if it doesn't already come with an egg. If you were expecting imaginative re-invention of egg, this was not the place.

Korean Pork Tacos

Chaat Masala Hash

House Burger

Ironically, egg was not added onto every dishes that was ordered. So no Korean chicken wings and I still wanted some Korean flavour so came the Korean pork tacos which was a missed match of pulled pork and kimchi. It felt like there was something missing, maybe a quail egg on top? Whoever fried the egg on our chaat masala hash, you made the egg looked very lifeless and the yolk was barely there as much as it was enjoyable with a crunch from the peanuts and puffed rice. The house burger was good, with bone marrow added to the juicy patty and served pink. The sauce on it somehow reminds me of the burger sauce you get at late night kebabs shop.

Buffalo Fried Rib

Som Tam Fruit Salad

If I can choose again, I will definitely not order these two dishes. The buffalo sauce is just all wrong on the fried rib, it does not match and it got very salty at the end. It can happily stay on chicken wings, never on ribs. I wanted to feel a bit healthier by ordering greens/salad. The som tam fruit salad was a disaster. There are some fruits that you can pair with fish sauce and spiciness, but not all. I should have went for the fries and fried egg. A mistake I have learnt.

The gimmick of an egg focused diner sounds brilliant, overall I think it is a stretch too far. With many items on the menu are equally enjoyable without the runny yolk. Loads of tweaking can be done before the eggs will shine. On a side note, there are no desserts.

Score Rating: 2.5
Price: £30/head (50% soft launch, £20.45 for 2 people)

Bad Egg on Urbanspoon
Square Meal