Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Yipin China

Upon failing to get a table at Delhi Grill at 8pm last Friday, things looked like they would end badly until I remembered I've been meaning to try Yipin China.  5 minutes later we were sitting down and very excited about dinner.

It's been a long time since I've had Sichuan food, but I'd definitely say it's my preferred Chinese cuisine and I had high hopes for this place.  Perhaps best known for their enormous photo menu, being able to see what your dishes will look like before you get them pretty much guarantees that you won't be disappointed.

As well as a selection of Sichuan dishes, Yipin China also serves Hunanese and Cantonese food.  I have to say I have only once before eaten something hotter than the food I ate here, the laab from Charuwan.  I loved the chilli hit from each of the dishes I tried and I genuinely can't wait to try more.  They do takeaway too for the likes of me, living nearby.

First up was some free pickled radish.  This was a fiery introduction to what was to come, crunchy and satisfying.  I got some iced green tea and had LOTS of tap water throughout the evening which they thankfully readily replenished.


The dishes come as they are ready in a steady stream rather than in a structured, starter followed by main course and sides manner.  First to arrive was the shared pork belly (£8.00) which had nice crisp skin and a great flavour.  Thinking about it, this was the only dish we had without chilli, and was the least memorable.

I have to say I chickened out of the more adventurous offal dishes on the menu, I was feeling a tad delicate and the chilli helped, but I didn't have the stomach for intestines, jellyfish or tripe, not sure I ever do to be honest.  I really loved the legendary dan dan noodles, a dish of minced pork served on egg noodles in chilli oil.  So good and seriously brilliant value at £3.50 for the bowl.

I also had the stewed beef brisket in five spiced sauce with radish.  The beef was very tender, with a nice amount of fat left on it.  I really enjoyed the fragrant rich sauce and the crunch of the radish was a great addition.  Couldn't eat it all, generous sized portion for £9.00.

Thomas ordered the dry wok Hunanese chicken (£13.80) which was the hottest dish of the night.  It came in a wok and is presented above a flame at the table so it continues to sizzle.  It can be ordered with or without bones and is huge.

As I've mentioned, I'll certainly be coming back, service was swift and efficient and we had no trouble getting a table although the place was full, there were a steady stream of customers coming and going.  It's a bit out of the way, a 5 minute walk down Liverpool Road but it's worth the trip, there's something for everyone on that impressive menu, it's great value and I promise to be (a bit) braver next time I go.

70-72 Liverpool Road

Yipin China on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Slider Bar @ The Player

I'd never even had a Lucky Chip burger before my visit to Slider Bar at The Player on Broadwick St.  But that certainly didn't stop me being ridiculously excited about the prospect of visiting.  If you have sampled them, you'll know why being able to get one in Soho is beyond brilliant.  Soho is my regular haunt so it made sense to wait for this, instead of schlepping to the Sebright Arms or Netil Market.  It was a long wait though.  Kitchen refurb issues, whisperings of a disturbed ancient burial site, there were multiple delays.

Finally word came that opening day had arrived.  No bookings for groups of less than 6 though, obv, but we had no trouble getting a walk in table at 8pm on Wednesday.  I already loved The Player, and their cocktail menu, which is now slightly pared down (no more gin, raspberry, egg white, fresh cream offering, probably for the best).

From humble burger van beginnings, riding on the wave that glorified diner style food is enjoying, these guys are offering some of the very best fancied up American style junk delights. London is all about this right now and the Slider Bar menu is a thing of beauty.

I had 2 sliders with fries (£12.50). The fillet-O-fish, crispy breadcrumbed fish sandwiched between the bun with tartare sauce and cheese. It was magnificent. The sauce was truly standout.

My 2nd choice was the club slider.  I'd read it about here and had to have it. It's no longer 2 patties stacked up though, as people were having trouble eating it, it's now 1 larger patty.  Adorned with special sauce, onions, lettuce and cheese, this is the Lucky Chip take on a big mac. Also game-changingly good.  Fries were nice too.

The chicken bucket (£9) was brilliant. Crispy coating and tender innards, ripe for dunking into the sweet creamed corn.  Also on the tray come some lovely cheese croquettes and some chicken gravy for squirting over everything. It's the best little collection of treats one could hope for. Fried chicken AND sliders, it's almost too much.

The fish & chips (£7.50) was also pretty special. Really good cod in a light and totally non greasy batter served with a scallop, pea puree and, just as I thought it couldn't get any better, some crispy fried fish skins. A prawn cracker of sorts and yet another willing vessel for that creamed corn!

And to well and truly top it all off, there's mac & cheese to be had (£6.50).  The gooey 4 cheese pasta topped with crunchy breadcrumbs is wicked and utterly delicious.

The desserts too have been given a lot of thought. There's the ice cream cheeseburger (£4.50) which is chocolate covered ice cream in a sweet bun with raspberry and mango reductions making up the cheese and ketchup elements. Pretty perfect as desserts go and cutely served in a little cardboard burger box.

Art & I shared the make your own sundae, vanilla ice cream with blueberries, honeycomb, meringue, popping candy and chocolate and raspberry sauces (£6.50). This is so fun and such a simple idea.

I know I'm sickeningly praising the place, but it's that good. If you're reading this, you'll probably already be planning a visit or have been and you'll know what I'm talking about.  I'll be back again and again and I can't wait to try the rest of the menu.  It's pretty cheap if you don't hit the cocktails hard and they even give you a palate cleanser!

I miss working in Soho so much.

Slider Bar
The Player
8 Broadwick St

Slider Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 20 August 2012

Sushi of Shiori

With a recent glut of glowing reviews from food critics and bloggers, London's in favour sushi destination has to be Sushi Tetsu in Clerkenwell, and I get the appeal, just look at the pictures in this post.

The fact that it's tiny and therefore difficult to obtain a reservation does not set it apart, Euston's Sushi of Shiori, somewhere bloggers and critics also unanimously praise, has been offering high end and costly temari sushi for 4 years already and I thought it only right to try this first.  Run by a husband (chef) and wife (front of house) team, I found the atmosphere charming and friendly and we had front row seats at the small bar, overlooking the action in the open kitchen.

My fondness for sushi usually comes in bouts, and I've not had one in a while.  We went for the £50 per person, 7-course Omakase tasting menu, £40 and £70 options are also offered.  Kicking things off with a tomato wine at £9 a glass.  I loved it and have never tasted anything remotely like it before, very subtle but sweet and fragrant.

Here's what we ate:-

Amuse bouche - sea urchin, seaweed and wasabi in miso

Appetiser - pacific white salmon rolls

Soup - clear broth with crystal bay prawn and potato, no picture of this one but the broth was clean and light and the large prawn was perfectly cooked.

Sushi selection - tuna (fatty and yellowtail), razor clam, Squid, Eel.
How beautiful is this plate?  Ate every single morsel.  Loved the charred squid.

Nigiri Selection - more fatty tuna, salmon, roe, seabass, mackerel and scallop 
with summer truffle and brush for extra soy if desired.

Beef seared with mustard and garlic miso

Ice creams - left, Hojicha (smokey tea), right, sesame.

The venue is rather tatty looking from the outside, it's a shabby area in general and with little to no passing trade to speak of.  Having said that, a couple of people wandered in whilst I was there, muttering the word sushi, but they were sent packing, so it's definitely advisable to book ahead. 

(Photo taken by An American in London)

I liked the experience here, service was super sweet and if you're a sushi fan, it's a must visit place.  I hope they continue to thrive in spite of the new competition from Tetsu and the brand new US import Sushi Samba.  I'm still keen to try both of those.

What I hope is evident from the poor iphone photographs, is that the attention to detail with each offering is exquisite.  The dishes are beautifully presented and thoughtful accompaniments on the plates are all edible.  They really do look like a work of art.  The most interesting for me on the night were the squid and the charred eel from the sushi selection, both had the most intriguing texture, something I can honestly say I have never encountered before.  Intriguing doesn't necessarily sound good, but I mean it in a completely positive way.  Plus they threw in a free iced tea which was a nice little touch and I love their glassware.

The only issue I have is that for a relatively high cost, I was disappointed by the size of the starter dishes.  I appreciate the quality of the ingredients and the skill of the chef on display, but to describe it as a 7 course menu is potentially misleading, an amuse should not count as a course in it's own right in my opinion.

Sushi of Shiori
144 Drummond Street

Sushi of Shiori on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Caravan, King's Cross

I've been a big fan of the original Caravan site on Exmouth Market, since it opened back in 2010.  I'm a massive Aussie style breakfast fiend and their baked eggs is one of my top London dishes.  Unfortunately, a recent evening trip was disappointing and I found the quality of the food seriously lacking and on top of that, I was really uninspired by the menu, nothing jumped out at me and I ended up having avocado on toast.

With this in mind, I was completely blown away by both the menu and the dining experience at the new Caravan, King's Cross.  They opened on Monday and I visited on their second day of existence, the place was really busy and the food was impressive for such a new venture.

The area is really on the up.  Eat St is just across the road and Shrimpy's round the corner.  There's been a lot of recent investment and whilst it's currently more building site than a hip to-be-seen-in corner of London, I think it will soon pick up.

We hadn't booked, arrived just after 7 and were seated right away though most tables were taken, or were soon filled.  We started off with a couple of cherry gimlets which were good, but a bit small for my liking, teeny glasses completely filled with ice doesn't leave a lot of room for the gin.

The all day menu is split into 4 sections, oysters, bread, cheese and meats, small plates and large plates, there's also a separate brunch menu available.  Having looked online in advance, there were so many dishes I was keen to try, we decided to go for small plates, to maximize the number of things we could try.  We started with 6 Portland pearl oysters with bloody mary jelly (£8).  Followed by these small plates:-

Mackerel fillet with corn, avocado and coriander salsa (£7.50)
Interesting combination, lovely piece of fish, perfectly cooked.

Chorizo and butternut squash croquettes with saffron aioli (£6)
These were fantastic, smooth and meaty on the inside with a crisp coating that was not at all oily.

Baked cauliflower with smoked san simon and sage breadcrumbs (£5.50)
Loved this, great textures and a new cheese to me.

Grits with girolles, pecorino and truffle oil (£6.50) My standout
dish of the night, these were so creamy and moreish, I practically cleaned the bowl!

There was a lot more I could have been tempted by, the pizza topping combinations all sound interesting and they looked and smelled good.  At this point we decided to move onto dessert.

Ginger treacle tart with clotted cream (£6)
Brilliantly chewy and there was a hint of orange in there too.

Caramel chocolate pot with salted shortbread (£6)
Great salty sweetness, runny caramel for dunking into underneath the hard set top layer.

I was very impressed with the quality of the cooking on display here and this sort of food is just what I like to see on a menu, but I do have to say there's little to be had that is not already being done well elsewhere in London.  The unique aspect to this venue will likely be that they are expanding their coffee production.  Caravan already roast their own beans at the original site and have built up a substantial wholesale offshoot, this new spacious home will allow them to explore this further.  The dining room is split in two, at the front, the eating area and, at the rear, a more relaxed coffee shop vibe and there's little by way of competition in the local area.  I can't wait to come back for breakfast, and I'm only a 10 minute walk away so that will likely be happening regularly.

Caravan King's Cross
Granary Building

Caravan Kings Cross on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Burger & Lobster

Burger & Lobster opened in Soho a couple of weeks ago, meaning I was finally able to get my hands on one of their lobster rolls.  I've since spent 2 afternoons seated at the bar working my way through the cocktail menu (the gin fizz was the highlight) and foresee many more visits in my future. 

The lobster roll was every bit as good as I'd hoped it would be.  A generous portion of the rich meat comes sandwiched between a wickedly buttery brioche roll with a boat of melted lemon garlic butter to dunk the roll into.  Decadent and delicious, I have subsequently found myself craving this dish daily. 

Accompanying the roll is a side salad and a portion of fries, all served on a metal tray.  The burger is good too but with each dish priced at £20, it makes much more sense to order the lobster, which also comes whole, grilled and split in 2 for you to pick the meat out.

Desserts are limited to chocolate mousse or cheesecake mousse.  They sounded odd to me but the cheesecake offering was incredible.  Light and fluffy and topped with a layer of strawberry puree and finished off with a scattering of biscuit crumbs, it was the perfect end to the meal.  It doesn't look much but at £4 a pop who am I to whinge about a paper pot?

Burger & Lobster has been massively hyped and I have to say that the service was a little off on my second visit, the girl manning the bar was barely able to hide her disdain when she was required to communicate with us. 

Still, it's definitely worth a visit because the food is really rather good.  Ooh, the cocktails too, try some of those.  At £10 each, they're certainly not cheap, but they are wonderful. 

The Soho restaurant is on the site formerly occupied by Bistro du Vin, and the 3rd outpost is due to open shortly on the other BdV site in Clerkenwell.  Both this and the Dean St branch take bookings, so you won't have to queue for it anymore either.  I can't wait to go back. 

Burger & Lobster
36 Dean Street

Burger & Lobster on Urbanspoon