MUGA, London


The day is getting shorter, the weather is getting colder. Days like these are when you want to be slurping a bowl of hot sizzling ramen. For me, ramen is not a seasonality food. I like it through out the year whether it's in the summer or winter, it is a comfy food.

I am no expert in ramen but I do know what I like in ramen and am able to spot a good bowl of it. MUGA, just off Piccadilly in the heart of theatres land is a Japanese ramen bar. It's particularly pleasing seeing that there is no queue. No queue for a ramen, that is questionable.... Well, who would want to queue up in the cold weather?

Toyo Bijin Junmai Ginjo Sake

I started to learn about sake (Japanese rice wine) this year, before that I always thought sake was a strong spirit drink. I was totally wrong and now becoming a sake enthusiast ever since my first sake tasting. Reading the sake list, I still get seriously confused like being in a unknown territory. We went for a half bottle of Toyo Bijin Junmai Ginjo sake. Aroma is rice, koji and fruity citrus with flavour of sweet rice and alcohol. Finish is sweet and lightly boozy. Nice but not great.

Agedashi Tofu


Sometime I feel sceptical that somethings that are supposed to be street food snacks appearing on a restaurant menu. For instance, I find it weird whenever seeing takoyaki on a menu. You are supposed to be standing on the street munching it and not seated in a restaurant with cutlery. Decent takoyaki, ball shaped batter usually filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and Spring onion; then brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise. I definitely had octopus, not too sure whatelse was in my takoyaki and very generous in the dried bonito flakes. The agedashi tofu was tasty, lightly dusted silken tofu deep fried and served in a dashi with grated daikon and bonito flakes. A simple classic Japanese dish that is light in flavour.

Seafood Delight Ramen in Shio Based Broth

Charshu Max Ramen in Tonkotsu Based Broth

The ramen menu at MUGA is different compared to other ramen joints. Here, it involves pick the soup base, spicing it up (going large essentially) or adding additional toppings. There is always a lesson that I never learn and neither does Mr. T. Greed is never good and it is damn to be wasting food. 

We both spiced up our ramen, meaning the toppings of our ramen was beaming to the edge. The waiter recommended one of us to try the shio based broth as MUGA is the only ramen joint in London that does it. Shio means salt and this is traditionally the way ramen soup is flavoured. The salt doesn't affect the appearance of the broth and therefore shio soup tends to be light in colour and the flavour can be a tad saltier. It is usually made with chicken broth then seasoned with salt, in this case I'm not actually too sure but it is not as salty as you would expect. Spiced up with a seafood delight toppings, a mixture of seafood and vegetables. I can never seem to opt away from tonkotsu. The broth is of great standard, rich in taste but light in heart (still not comparable to my favourite Kanada-ya). It was a mistake to spice it up with the chashu max topping, so much chashu and vegetables. Good flavour chashu and not too lean, but the vegetables was a bit oily and we both prefered our noodles being hard (or al dente).

Green Tea Ice Cream

Dorayaki with Sesame Ice Cream

Not that we wanted to stuff our face, how can you resist desserts when it is offered to you? Mr. T had the green tea ice cream and I had the dorayaki (two pancakes sandwiched with azuki bean paste) with sesame ice cream. Decent green tea ice cream, given any day I would prefer sipping matcha than having green tea/matcha flavour dessert. Dorayaki is my childhood snack, made famous by the anime/manga Doraemon. To me dorayaki is a snack (traditionally Japanese sweet confectionary), not a dessert so even with a sesame ice cream it does not work as a dessert. The sesame ice cream was good, I think it can be more nuttier the flavour. We could barely move by this point, just overly too much food that we had.

I am not sure how I bypassed MUGA beforehand, it is pretty unknown to the foodie world. Is it more or less authentic to the other ramen joints? I have no idea. If offers a good solid ramen selection and the noodles are made onsite. They have a selection of sake with decent price to accompany the food. Price is very friendly too with all ramen being under a tenner, unless you spice it up to a super size bowl. What I also like too, there's no queue. That plays a huge factor for me, whether I want to try a place or not. This is a place that I will sure come by if the queue is too long at my all time favourite ramen joint (kanada-ya, no one can beat you yet).

Score: 3.5/5
Price: £10-15/head

I was invited to review.

Muga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food The South American Way


Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way by Luiz Hara

It was not until the end of last year that I started to notice a type of cuisine called Nikkei when there was a boom of Nikkei restaurants opening in London. It is not a new cuisine but one where not many people known of it. The word Nikkei is derived from the Japanese word nikkeijin referring to Japanese people who migrated overseas and their descendants. It is fascinating to know Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, with the arrival of about 800 Japanese in 1908 to the present of 1.5 million Japanese living in Brazil.

The author Luiz Hara, is a food writer, the man behind one of the top London food blog "The London Foodie" and the hugely successful Japanese Supper Club from his home. The author's grandparents migrated to Brazil and he was raised in the Brazilian city of São Paulo. He moved to London 20 years ago working in investment banking before moving on to his dream of training at the culinary school of Le Cordon Bleu.

Deep-Fried Chicken Nanban / Nikkei Piri-Piri Poussi

Here, the Nikkei cuisine refers to the cooking of the Japanese diaspora with the usage of local ingredients but cooked in the Japanese way. For over the century, the cuisine has evolved megering the best of two cultures. Now with a popularity of Nikkei cuisine restaurants in London, maybe it is time to explore cooking Nikkei food at home.

Grilled Aubergines with Miso Dengaku & Mozzarella

I am fortunate to know the author himself personally and have sampled his supper club food on different occasions many times. His food never failed to amazed me. Predominately the food is home style cooking with a touch of French classic technique. The book features over 100 recipes, with interesting blend of Nikkei twists on traditional recipes to more simple and complex to salivating the page. The book is broken down into sections of small eats, sushi, tiraditos & ceviches, rice & noodles, soups & hotpots, mains, vegetables, salads & tofu and finally desserts. 

There will definitely be a recipe that will tempt you into making it. I decided to recreate a dish that I had at his supper club (above photo) before which is a clever twist on a very classic Japanese dish, Nasu Dengaku. It is essentially grilled aubergines with a miso glazed, what Luiz did was he added mozeralla on top and it was like a marriage in heaven (I am over exaggerating but it works brilliantly).

My interpretation on Luiz's grilled aubergines 

Grilled Aubergines with Miso Dengaku and Mozzarella

Ingredients: (serves 4)
2 small aubergines (eggplants)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
100g ready-grated mozzarella cheese
1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds, to garnish 

For the dengaku miso paste:
4 tbsp brown miso paste 
4 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp water 
4 tsp sugar

  • First, prepare the dengaku miso paste by mixing all the ingredients in a pan, warm until the sugar has dissolved and all the ingredients are well combined. Then set aside, the sauce can be made days in advance and keeps for weeks in an airtight jar in the fridge.
  • Wash te aubergines (eggplants) and pat them dry. Cut them lengthways, without removing the stems, into equal halves. Using a sharp knife, make criss-cross incise into the flesh of each half without tearing through the skin.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and preheat the grill (broiler) to hot.
  • Meanwhile, in a larger frying pan (or skillet) (with a lid), heat the oils until smoking hot. Lower the temperature to medium, place the four aubergine (eggplant) halves on top (flesh side down), cover with a kid and fry for 5 minutes. Turn the aubergines (eggplants) over, re-cover the pan and fry for a further 10 minutes. The aubergine (eggplant) halves should be very soft by this stage; use a wide spatula to transfer them a roasting tin (this time, skin side down).
  • Apply a thin layer of the dengaku miso paste over the cut side of the aubergine (eggplant) halves using a knife or teaspoon. Cover the aubergine (eggplant) halves with the grated mozzarella and reheat them in the oven for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the aubergine (eggplant) halves from the oven and transfer straight under the hot grill (broiler) for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and browned. Served immediately with a sprinkle of toasted white sesame seeds.
My interpretation of this recipe is slightly different with the use of Korean Doenjang which is similar to Japanese miso paste since I only had that on hand at home and omitted the sesame seeds which I did not have any. Nevertheless, it was still very tasty.

The book is available to buy on Amazon, published by Jacqui Small.

I was sent a copy to review by the publisher Jacqui Small.

Arbutus, London


"Wait, you never been fine dining before?" I was surprised to hear from my friend that he'd never been to a high end restaurant. I knew I had to take him somewhere, a place that would not break our wallet. What's more, he is leaving me behind in London and moving to Chicago. It needed to be a leaving celebratory meal.

It was not easy to pick somewhere that would not cost the bomb, finally settling on Arbutus for their valued set lunch deal. What's more, Arbutus is a one star Michelin restaurant in central London of Soho focused on modern European cooking from the brainchild of Anthony Demetre and Will Smith (not the huge Hollywood star) of Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons. I may have not heard much about Arbutus before, but I am one of those people that will studied the menus in advance. Going for a set menu, usually meant there are less choice but that is fine with me when the prices are so much reasonable than the not so affordable a la carte menu.


It is not really fine when there is no amuse bouche. I love amuse bouche, I love the surprise that you get and it is always so tasty. Some places gives a lot of amuse bouche and some gives you nothing, it is underwhelming. You always expect surprise from a high end restaurant given that you are paying for so much and it is a showcase of what the chef can offers. The bread was good, so good with the butter that we had a second plate of it.

Pressed Confit of Rabbit, House Made Pickles

Salmon Tartare with Cucumber and Olive Oil

It wasn't until Mr. T told me, his pressed rabbit dish was plated like a rabbit shape. I was having a blonde moment there, not that I am blonde. He liked it, saying the flavour was good just not an outstanding dish. Whereas the salmon tartare that me and Calvin both ordered was overwhelmed by the olive oil taste which totally overtook the salmon taste. The cucumber gave it a good crunch and I loved the crispy salmon skin. It tasted just like those deep fried crispy fish skin you get in congee or noodle shops in Hong Kong (having a bit of nostalgic moment).

Thinly Sliced Creekstone Black Angus Beef, Smoked Aubergine and Peanuts

Cod simmered in Salted Butter, Necteraines, Fresh Peas, Romanesco

I knew I should of have went for the beef as my main, just look at that piece of meat. The boys went for the beef, it was so tender, juicy to medium rare and full of flavour. It was not really a thin slice not that anyone was complaining. It took us a while to work out what that greyish slab of thing was on the plate which was aubergine as it didn't have much taste to it. Looking at my fish, it was definitely in the shadow. The cooking of the cod was perfect, but overall the dish was lacking bold flavours even though nectarines and cod miraculously somehow works together.

Summer Berries, Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate

Olive Oil and Pistachio Soonge, Peaches, Yoghurt

Sometimes, you don't need a fancy dessert to end the meal. You would want something hearty and something that taste good. The desserts was simple but made with skills. Seeing how Mr. T was licking every spoonful of his summer berries and vanilla ice cream, you know it was very good with the chocolate soil. The dessert me and Calvin both opted had an aquired taste, the olive oil sponge had a sponge texture that you'd never had before and it was slightly on the dried side. Without the sponge, the peaches and yoghurt (it was like a sorbet) was perfect. I think I can have a bowl of it on its own, just minus the sponge.

We went on a Sunday lunch and the restaurant was quiet and empty. We didn't order any drinks knowing it would had bump the cost up marginally as we were trying to keep it as low as possible. Although a glass of Pinot Blanc would have been perfect with the fish. The service was very much tailored to your table, given there was only like 3 other tables with diners. The food was uninspiring, it tasted perfectly wonderful just missing the enjoyment and surprises. £25 for 3 course would be a fantastic steal if the food was truly amazing. Arbutus is definitely miles better compared to my own western cuisine cooking. I felt there are better cookings from lesser known and not award winning restaurants but probably not at this price. 

Score: 3/5