TĀ TĀ Eatery, London

7.11.2017

Two chefs, pairing European ingredients and Asian attitude in a inventive way. TĀ TĀ eatery started out as a street food stall and found a permanent home at Curio Cabal café in Haggerston some time of last year. Chef Zijun Meng and Chef Ana Gonçalves, who met through Nuno Mendes restaurants, where a bowl of rice struck them together.

TĀ TĀ means “he and she”, the food sprinted out from their street food style of "ricewichs" and Korean chicken wings. Followed by a sold out pop up at Newman Arms which I heard so much praised for their brunch where the food style developed to what it is today centring on rice.

"Our" Spring Roll

This was an interesting take on a spring roll using inari, Japanese deep-fried tofu 'pockets' as the skin and stuffing it with curried alfalfa sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and crispy vermicelli. The tofu skin gives a sense of sweetness whilst marrying the curry and earthy tone, the play of texture from the vermicelli imitating the crisp for spring roll. Thoroughly needed more than one plate of it.

Octopus Temaki

Temaki without rice? Using crispy spring roll skin to echoed the cone-shaped piece of nori of a hand rolled temaki sushi. Singing in a harmony of dance with smoked octopus and sofrito plus aioli swirling in that tender moment. Unusual idea but executed in a few mouthfuls of delightfulness.

Ox Cheek Wrap

Classifying the wrap material as an unidentified flying object, so familiar but unfamiliar simultaneously. With little alien like of ox cheek and bone marrow flavoured by XO hidden inside holding sticks of apple floating on a sheet of crispy chicken skin. A clever war fighting internally of the sweet and savoury, with a defeat of chopsticks punching through.

Amaebi Tartare

The only Chinese influence I see from the menu is in this dish. Using a fermented cabbage which tasted similar to that of Chinese pickled mustard plant stem "zha cai", it robbed the sweetness away from the amaebi sweet shrimp in the flow of wasabi and shiso. Nice to have the tobiko giving that popping candy playful texture to a rather unconventional passable dish.

Hand Dived Scallop

One big scallop, raw, chopped into many pieces, in a creamy yuzu dressing surrounded by cucumber and lemon balm, which I don't know what it is. A subtlety dish lacking performance.

Cod Collar

Special dish of the day, cod collars. Initially it had the Cantonese yellow bean sauce(磨豉醬) taste to the dish, upon asking the fish was smothered in the deep earthy note of miso, sake lees and chilli that would have gone so well with a bowl of plain rice. Felt slightly conned by the price of the dish, £29 for fish collars, an underrated cheap cut that not many favour for and bare minimal cooking technique.

Mushroom Rice Bowl

And who would have of thought I would be eating natto mixed with the shiitake, king oyster and wood ear mushrooms in a saucy rice bowl of soy and egg yolk swirling a waltz in my mouth. Bravo to myself - because this natto lacked the stringy appearance, powerful smell, strong flavor, and slimy texture. Sometimes you can overcome a fear of something as long as it does not look like the original state

Galician Beef Rice Bowl

The secret at tātā is their amazing raw smoked sirloin of Galician blond beef dotted on top of Japanese rice, with calçot onions made into a paste to a taste similar like yuzu kosho and also an egg yolk. The meat is stripped to wafer thin, so when mixing with the hot rice it cooks at the same time, releasing the fat and flavour. The meat is from a Galician beef, a fat old cow aged over eight years old that gets to graze on the grass for a long time, giving that marbling of fat to mature and a distinctly deep flavour. The cows get old and fat just as we get old and fat. In other words, we are used to eating Channing Tatum but are starting to appreciate Gérard Depardieu.

Coffee Icecream

They don't have a digestif or spirit menu quite yet, nor a cocktail menu but they do have a rather small good selection of wine and sake. We opted for a lager and an IPA, both Portuguese craft beer that never been seen around. Whilst darkness descend on us, awaken by caffeine from the coffee ice cream. Airy light whipped mascarpone covering the ice cream, hidden within are the tapioca balls - like you'd get in bubble tea. My friend was shouting "tapioca tapioca" which had me thinking of a different type of tapoica. It felt like a needless addition texture of chewy and flavourless but chewy with already the crumbs on top for something better.

The outdoor seating is a living carpenter work in a garden whilst the inside is dark wooden furnishing with an unfinished touch portraying a very low key and chilled vibe. Food is interesting twist of mainly Japanese influence crossing over to Mediterranean techniques. Each small offering is a delight to the taste buds. Very clever, imaginative and innovative food combinations. Nothing to note on service, waiters need to be more attentive and food should not arrive so slow. If food is 'your thing' this is well worth a visit, albeit far from cheapest haunt in East London.


Curio Cabal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

http://tataeatery.co.uk/

Barrafina Drury Lane, London

4.11.2016

Isn't it funny, how life can suddenly take a wrong turn? All the plans became a blow of dusts and you are left bewildering what to do or what is ahead. Then there are some people that wants to ruin your life for some unknown selfish reasons. Along the way, you lose some friends as well, that used to be your so called "best friends". When life hits your hard, it may not be easy to keep your head above the water. The storm is rough, but it does not last forever. After a storm comes a rainbow, one would say one would become stronger afterward. But what I would say is fake being strong till you make it. It's the only way not to drown.

At the meantime, even if you are weak you still have to eat to survive. Why have crappy food when you can have Barrafina? It took me awhile before making it to the restaurant, I always wanted to go but the queue is always insane. I finally had a reason to go without queuing, and it was for a post theatre meal. Surely there would not be a queue at 10pm? So one evening after "The Book of Mormon", me and the not so nobleman totted to Drury Lane which was the third branch of Barrafina (they've a Michelin starred one in Soho and another one in Adelaide Street in Covent Garden). Guess what, there was no queue.

Diver Caught Scallop Ceviche

Stuffed Courgette Flower

It always excites me when there are counter seats and watching the chef sereniting the kitchen, that's the simple set up of Barrafina. No frill and no fuss. Another point is that watching the chef plating up a dish that looks good makes you want to order more food or going "I'll have one of those too".

First arrived was the scallop ceviche, the dressing that came with it was unlike the ceviche dressing from a Peruvian catering. The balance of zing and sweet with the melt in the mouth texture of scallop, a moment in life where you want it to carry on in your mouth. Then there was the stuffed courgette flower, stuffed with goats cheese and drizzled with honey. That strong cheese flavour was so on point, a marriage for a cheese lover. We also had the roast peppers, anchovies & pan de coca which I unfortunately demolished half before realising the photography. It's a classic tapas dish of a piece of toast topped with roast peppers and anchovies. I was too hungry and it was heavenly with the sweetness of the pepper and the saltines of anchovies and a added crunch from the toast.

Crab Bun

Baby Artichokes

Brill, Potato, Garlic

Perhaps, the crab bun is undoubtedly the signature dish here. That poppy seed topped soft bun and that creamy abundance crabby concoctions (mixed with some asparagus I think for more texture), I think my heart just skipped a beat. If only I was not allergic to crab, we could have munched on another easily. From the special board, we had the baby artichokes which was deep fried I believed. Artichokes are not about the appearance, but the flavour. And with an aiöli sauce on the side. I never understood the people that does not like artichokes, seriously I don't and I think it is an underrated vegetable. Last was the brill, potato, garlic dish. The delicate flesh of the brill was cooked to perfection, the potato was soft and mopping up the sauce. All topped with huge amount of crispy garlic and parsley. I may have turned into a pescatarian for the night, I would happily do it for anytime when in Barrafina again.

It was late at night where we could not stop the laughter, a wise choice of not cracking a bottle since we probably could not finish it in an hour or secretly maybe we can. We happily went with my suggestion of a glass each of Rioja, Hacienda del Ternero Blanco 2013. Nose of yellow fruits with some flowers. The palate is very balanced, good acidity and sweet stride.

I strongly believe with good company and good food, it equates to a good time, I could not ask for more. The food at Barrafina was faultless and certainly did not disappoint, every bites you have the taste gets better. More butterflies goes dancing in your mouth, it's full of explosions. You know you are in for a good meal when you go to Barrafina.

Superstar BBQ, London

4.04.2016

Sitted by the floor to ceiling windows, bronze lampshades and baubles hanging above at irregular lengths, tapping away on my phone whilst waiting for my friend. The failed moment when your friend stood outside by the window trying to grab my attention by making silly faces, but the fact is I never took a notice of it. Lifting my head, I turned and saw my friend Burcu standing outside. With the most confusing expression on my face, wondering what the hell is this girl doing not coming inside and would rather be out in the cold. I have a lot of silly friends that always trying to play their humour side when being with me. Be warned, I am a joke killer. Do not expect to me to laugh, because I will just kill it unexpectedly.

Korean BBQ has always been an on and off trend. In fact this is my second Korean BBQ in London throughout living here so long. Burcu never had Korean cuisine before so this was a surprisingly interesting introduction to her. Located in St Giles Piazza, Superstar BBQ is a new Korean joint from the mini chain of Bimbimbap. The stretch of St Giles Street and Tottenham Court Road is fast becoming the second Korean Town (after New Malden in South London) with many new establishments opening up.

Fallen Angel in Busan

Super Star Queen's Peach

Both cocktails used soju (Korean distilled beverage) as the base of its alcohol. It tasted very nice, just a touch of overly sweet for mez

Banchan (namool & kimchi)

The menu is just as what you would expect for a Korean BBQ, full of different marinated meats. With our indecisiveness, we opted for the set menu no.3, for £35 each. When one hear the word BBQ, it will linger to the taste of smoke over hot coals, the dimension of charred on food. Due to the strict UK health and safety, it will be a rarity to play with fire. In place is an electrical grill fitted in every table. 

An array of banchan proceeded, side dishes of fermented and seasoned vegetables. The kimchi was well made, enough spiciness for those that can not tolerate spicy and still had a crunch to it. 

Pa Jeon (seafood pancake) and Traditional Mandoo (dumplings)

Yuk Hwae (beef tartare)

The pa jeon, a thin batter pacake studded with seafood lost its crispness. The traditional mandoo, fried dumplings are just what you'd expected. What stood out was the yuk hwae, the Korean version of beef tartare. It is usually made up of julienned strip of the most tender part of the beef, seasoning and egg yolk, mixed with julienned Korean pear and pine nuts for freshness and crunch. Another first for Burcu for tasting raw beef, thumbs up for the brave girl.

Korean BBQ 

Squid

Rib Galbi

Wine Pork Belly

Sesame & Garlic Sirloin

Grilled Vegetables

The parade of meat and seafood for the BBQ was set up after the starters. I had to swap the tiger prawns for squid due to my allergy. We were presented with squid, rib galbi (de boned short rib), wine pork belly, sesame & garlic sirloin and vegetables. According to the instruction, it would take around 3 minutes for the grill to heat up which was misleading. We could not get any caramelisation on our squid, the grill was simply not hot enough to cook yet. For rest, it did not go into incineration. On hands with the BBQ was some cabbage leaves, spring onion salad, gochujang (hot pepper sauce) and salt & sesame oil dipping sauce. How do you eat it? Simply use the cabbage leaves like a wrap. Add some cooked meat, salad and sauce to it, then dunk it into your mouth. If you're feeling lazy, skip all those steps and just eat the meat/seafood/vegetables.

Considering it is food for two, more came along with a small bibimbap and miso soup. Honestly we were too cluttered up by now, I still tested the bibimbap out and sipped on the soup. 

Seasonal Fruits

Honey Quince

Dessert was a platter of season fruits acting as a palate cleanser and also a chilled honey quince drink which had a very intriguing taste.

Superstar BBQ is a fun interaction food venue for a Tinder date or a group of friends. Food is met with novelty of self cooking, but once the fun is worn off it is lacklustre. Service was friendly and all staffs spoke fluent English.

Score: 2.5/5

SuperStar BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

http://superstarbbq.co.uk

I was invited to review, as always opinions are my own.

Adam Handling at Caxton, London

3.30.2016

One day, I will enter Masterchef when my cooking skills are just maybe on par with the professional level. I love cooking, at the same time I love trying new restaurants and sampling and learning different cuisines. I don't have talent like Adam Handling, he was a contestant on Masterchef: the Professionals. A show for the up and coming professionals showcasing their skills and pushing boundaries and flairs. Unlike me, I am just an amateur and love eating foremost.

I never really got into watching the Masterchef: the Professionals, I am a sucker for the amateur version (and it is a better show). It was not until another blogger mentioned that we should try out Adam Handling at Caxton that with my slow train thought, to realised who he was. Handling was a runner up in Masterchef 2013, but have also won numerous other awards since. With his name hanging on the restaurant of St Ermin's Hotel in St James, one may thought this was a popular restaurant not. Location wise is not a bustling area, just across the road from New Scotland Yard so definitely in a safe hand.

Menu

What Adam showcased on the show was his own distinctive flairs and technical skills which reflects on the European menu with a touch of Japanese essence. We went for the barginous set meal of 3 course plus a glass of wine each that was booked through "bookatable".

Bread with Olive Oil and Chicken Butter

Bread came in a very small loaf, unsliced. We had to saw through the crust, I tried and struggled. I felt like needing a chainsaw for the job, so I left that job to my company Tom, from Food and Drinks Noob blog. Beside the hard crust, it was decently soft inside with a chicken butter. It tasted like chicken, chicken skin to be more precise and the thought of it is heart attacking but too precious to go to waste. Also on displayed was a Spanish olive oil for dipping, which apparently Handling produced. All I can say is I had better.

Nitro Salmon, Snow Peas, Wasabi, Blossom

Smoked Pork, Pineapple, Lovage, Parmesan

The nitro salmon was a theatrical show, spiking it with nitro smoke. The presentation was spot on, crafting a colourful mosaic. I can see the Japanese influence in this dish with the use of wasabi but I did not really get that hit of wasabi in the form of an oil with the fresh salmon and the greeness of peas. Tom's starter was interestingly covered with Parmesan snow, balanced by the smoky aroma of the pork and offseted by the sour note of the pineapple. I preferred my salmon dish. We had a glass of house wine each with it and frankly it was gone before the main course arrived.

Lamb, Artichokes, Garlic, Sour Cream

For main, we both chosen the lamb. The lamb looked tender but my first cut of it was tough, so much hard work of sawing through it that it lacked excitement. The dish was playing too safe, all classic well complimented flavour. Not much I can fault beside the meat being on the tough side.

Pre Dessert

Apple, Tonka, Elderflower, Coconut

Mandarin, Yuzu, Lime, Choux

The pre dessert was a mini wafer cone with a custard ice cream. I was left out of words with the lack of imagination. Tom had the apple dessert, which was clean and fresh. Whilst I had a giant choux filled with mandarin creme patissiere, it had a looked of a pineapple bun (bo lo baau) and a crunchy texture. It was more crunchier than a normal choux pastry. There was a lot of element to this dessert and I have to give an applaud to the sugar work, what a skillful job.

I can see the potential of Adam Handling, a very young chef with a contemporary and elegant style that has Michelin aspirations. The meal showed techniques and thoughtful combination of flavours but it just lacked excitement, and can be a bit dull within a hotel environment unless you're a businessman or a visitor in the saturated hotels area of St James Park.

Score: 3/5.