Posts for the 'Recommended restaurants' Category


Koji – Visit no. 2

KOJI

I first tried Koji Japanese Restaurant in Parsons Green last year, not long after it first opened and had a fabulous dining experience. Koji was a collaborative effort between Nobuhisha Takahashi, the former sushi head chef at both Nobu London and Nobu Cape Town, and Mark Barnett, the former proprietor of the now closed Mao Tai Chinese restaurant.

In January 2015 Rolando Ongcoy joined the ranks, replacing Nobuhisha Takahashi, and took the food at Koji up another notch. A Japanese chef for some 33 years, he began his career in the Philippines before coming to London. In recent years he has also been the head sushi chef with both the Nobu group and Uni in Pimlico.

The ethos at Koji is to provide diners with first class Japanese food in a highly elegant setting, but without any pretentiousness. The Koji menu centres around contemporary Japanese cooking, ranging from fresh sushi and sashimi, to meat and seafood on the robata grill, to a variety of modern Japanese dishes that draw upon European and South American influences.

Second time round, and I found Koji to be that much better than first time round – no mean feat considering that the benchmark standard had been set pretty high during my first visit. At Koji, only the finest ingredients are used. This coupled with the finest of techniques makes for splendid dining experience.

We shared a variety of dishes as is customary with Japanese food, and one of my favourites of the evening was the salmon tartare with caviar umami jelly (£19). This dish was divine. The salmon itself was fresh and flavoursome, but it was the umami jelly – a thin layer of jelly placed over the salmon – which electrified the tartare. The umami jelly was abundant with flavour and it paired perfectly with salmon.

Koji - London Food Blog - Salmon tartare

Koji – Salmon tartare

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Hoppers

Sri Lankan restaurant Hoppers is the latest successful story by the Sethi siblings, the team also behind Gymkhana, Trishna and Bao, Located on Frith Street, Hoppers takes over from what was once Koya. Hoppers is named after the Sri Lankan food of the same name, a fermented rice and coconut milk pancake shaped like a bowl which serves as the accompaniment for other Sri Lankan dishes.

Hoppers is a no-frills sort of restaurant. It operates a no reservations policy so the queues can be long. We waited for an hour and 15 minutes, but the wait times can vary of course as on a previous attempt to visit the restaurant we were told the wait was to be 2 hours.

But Hoppers was well worth the wait. The food was great, and what’s more, it was also very good value for money. The highlight of our meal at Hoppers was, without a doubt, the bone marrow varuval with roti (£6). Beautifully roasted bone marrow had been smothered with a glorious coconut based curry made from toasted rice and coconut cream. This dish was divine, with the rich, sumptuousness of the fatty bone marrow marrying beautifully with the flavoursome, well spiced and lusciously creamy curry. The roti was well made and was perfect for mopping up all the sauce. We enjoyed this so much we went for seconds. This was a 5/5 dish for me.

Hoppers - London Food Blog - Bone marrow

Hoppers – Bone marrow

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Tiradito and Pisco Bar, Madrid

On a recent visit to Madrid, we visited Tiradito and Pisco bar, a Peruvian restaurant located on Conde Duque. Headed by Chef Omar Uribe, the menu was inspired by Chef Uribe’s life experiences including his childhood trips throughout the mountains, jungles and along the coasts of Peru. Chef Uribe also draws from his experiences from having worked with some of the best chefs in the world including the famed Peruvian chef Jamie Pesaque who previously cooked at the Three Michelin Starred El Celler de Can Roca and now owns a string of successful restaurants throughout the world. The food at Tiradito and Pisco Bar is unique as it incorporates the use of lesser known – at least to the European world – ingredients such as Amazonian fruits and vegetables.

The decor at Tiradito is lovely and light and is divided into two sections. On entering the restaurant there is a casual bar area serving killer pisco sours and small bites. Passing through the bar you enter the main dining room, a comfortable well-lit area with with wooden floors and tables with white tablecloths.

We began the meal with an amuse bouche of beef patacones, “Patacones la Lucha” (€8.90). These were fried plantain shells with Spanish spicy chorizo and sirloin sautéed on the wok with soy, aji amarillo chilli and sacha tomato (tree tomato). This was truly delicious. The beef was tender and tasty, and well flavoured by the freshness of the chilli and sweet tomato. The plantain shell was crispy and well made.

Tiradito - London Food Blog - Beef patacones

Tiradito – Beef patacones

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Perilla at Platform 1

PERILLA AT PLATFORM 1

Perilla at Platform 1 is a London dining pop-up founded by Chef Ben Marks who previously cooked at the two Michelin starred restaurants NOMA and The Square, and Matt Emmerson who was previously the restaurant manager at Polpo and Polpetto. After a series of pop-up successes, Perilla recently launched a 4-month residency at Platform 1 on the 10th November, a new permanent pop-up restaurant and wine bar in located in the heart of East Dulwich. Located on Lordship Lane, Platform 1 has an informal neighbourhood vibe.

Head chef Ben’s cookery career began at age 15 at One Michelin Starred Operakaellarens in Stockholm. After completing a 3-year apprenticeship at Claridges, during which time NOMA did a pop-up in Claridges, Rene Redzepi took Ben back to Denmark with him. Ben spent about a year working under Rene Redzepi at the two star giant before returning to the UK to join Phil Howard at The Square.

Ben and Matt’s idea with Perilla was to bring fine-dining to a broader market, by making it less formal and more accessible and affordable. Using his Michelin starred training Ben has developed a creative menu full of fun, flair and flavour, cooked with fresh and seasonal ingredients. In the back garden of Platform 1, Perilla has a herb and vegetable area where produce is grown to service the pop-up, both in the cooking and in the drinks.

The six-course tasting menu was sensational value at £35 and began with bite-size canapés of Roasted Kale with Cod Roe and Crisp Chicken Wing Stuffed with Mushroom. The roasted kale was really fabulous. The kale was light and crispy, and beautifully flavoured with the mellow saltiness of the cod roe. The cod roe itself was wonderful. Rather than roe eggs itself, it had been used to produce these lovely droplets of cod roe cream. For added flavour, a sprinkling of mushroom powder had been used.

Perilla – London Food Blog - Roasted kale & cod roe

Perilla – Roasted kale & cod roe

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Tabl.com Stimulating the Senses

Tabl.com is a fabulous new website featuring popup events, “secret” dinner parties and other foodie adventures, ranging from the sociable to the fanciful, the delectable to the unpredictable. But it’s more then just a website where you can find a meal out. Instead, it’s intended to be a social dining revolution, matching friendly guests with awesome chefs and great food at unique venues. What makes Tabl.com special is that most of the pop-ups featured on the website aren’t everyday occurrences. They take place somewhere unexpected, often in private residences, and are designed to offer a unique social dining experience.

Take the Stimulating the Senses extravaganza that I attended recently at Parlour in Kensal Green. The masterminds behind the event were Chef Jesse Dunford-Wood and experimental psychologist Charles Spence who collaborated with Heston Blumenthal on the Sounds of the Sea, a dish that features on the Fat Duck tasting menu. The pair joined forces to produce an unforgettable multi-sensory dining experience that tantalised and teased during the course of the evening. Playful experiments were conducted during the dinner, centring on the effect of sight and sound and how it affected our reactions to the food. Charles Spence himself was on hand to carry out the experiments with the results being revealed at a later stage.

Tabl.com Stimulating the Senses - London Food Blog

Tabl.com Stimulating the Senses

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Masterchef Tony Rodd – La Belle Assiette

I recently attended a La Belle Assiette validation dinner cooked by Masterchef Tony Rodd, one of the 2015 finalists. For those of you who haven’t heard of La Belle Assiette, it is a private chef service company, with the chefs registered on the website being available for hire to cook in your personal home. The chefs take care of everything: shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning up. But before the chefs can become available for hire, their skills are certified during a Validation Dinner where the chef cooks a four-course meal reviewed (and validated) by panel of judges.

On the night of Tony’s validation dinner we managed to get two masterchefs for the price of one. Assisting Tony was Luke Owen, himself a finalist of Masterchef 2014. Both gentlemen were lovely and so much fun to chat to. I love a little bit of harmless gossip, and they shared with us some of the behind-the-scenes action at Masterchef.

The validation dinner was held at the lovely south London home of London-Unattached.com, the acclaimed food blogger. We started the evening with a dish called Textures of Beetroot. This consisted of beetroot served four ways – roasted, pickled, pureed and raw. The dish was lovely, and lightly dressed with a refreshing vinaigrette. Helping to boost the salad were some broad beans, feta cheese and walnuts which gave the dish more texture and dimension.

Tony Rodd - La Belle Assiette - London Food Blog

Tony Rodd – La Belle Assiette – Textures of beetroot

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Mexico by Kitchen Theory

MEXICO BY KITCHEN THEORY

Mexico by Kitchen Theory is a collaborative gastronomic project founded by Jozef Youssef who has worked at the Fat Duck, Helene Darroze at The Connaught, The Dorchester Hotel and is also the author of Molecular Gastronomy at Home. Kitchen Theory began as a website aimed at sharing knowledge in the field of gastronomy covering topics such as food science, food culture, food history, multisensory flavour perception, neurogastronomy and molecular gastronomy which has now manifested into experimental dinners, workshops and guest talks.

Mexico by Kitchen Theory is a labour of love, with Chef Youssef having spent over a month in Mexico researching the project, delving into the country’s rich culinary history and working with top Mexican chefs. He has also teamed up with Oxford University’s Professor Charles Spence, the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory. Professor Spence is interested in how people perceive the world around them, particularly, how our brains process the information from each of our different senses (such as smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch) to form the extraordinarily rich multisensory experiences that fill our daily lives. Together the pair is working towards a remarkable sensory dining experience as part of ‘the chef and the scientist’. With Mexico by Kitchen Theory, the idea is to shatter the UK perception that Mexican cuisine is mostly based on Tex-Mex and rather, it can be a sophisticated Central American fare with a refined, modern, multisensory twist.

We tried a beautiful four-course lunch menu which began with the ‘Holy Trinity’ of corn, beans, and chilli. The starter was so called as corn, beans and chilli have historically formed the ‘holy trinity’ of the Mexican diet, providing a balance of proteins and vitamins. This course was delightful, with a beautifully textured refried bean puree topped with grilled corn in husks, some soaked guajillo chilli chiffonade and huitlacoche which is similar to corn fungus or Mexican truffle.

Mexico by Kitchen Theory - London Food Blog - Holy Trinity

Mexico by Kitchen Theory – Holy Trinity

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Street XO Madrid

STREET XO MADRID

Street XO in Madrid is the casual eatery by David Munoz, the chef of the highly acclaimed DiverXO, the only restaurant in Madrid with three Michelin stars. David Munoz has long tantalised diners far and wide with his extraordinary renegade approach to fine dining. When Anthony Bourdain visited DiverXO on his show No Reservations in 2010 (and I particularly loved the programme on Madrid and DiverXO), he declared that Munoz’s food was “something that should probably suck”, yet he ended up proclaiming his love for it. Back then in 2010, DiverXO only had one Michelin Star. Now DiverXO has three.

Munoz’s approach to food is designed to shock and delight, and with Street XO his approach to cooking is no less electrifying. Street XO is a temple to Asian fusion gastronomy, and draws upon an incredibly bold use of ingredients, seamlessly weaving together Western techniques with inspirations from across Asia to produce food that is colourful, delicious and different.

The décor of Street XO is no less daring. The grungy ‘street’ look of the restaurant is completed with ‘graffiti’ on the walls, neon signs and bright red colours. Diners can choose to sit on bar stools around the open kitchen or dine al fresco on the balcony, waited on by waiting staff dressed in straitjackets. This is clearly no run-of-the-mill restaurant.

One of the signatures at Street XO is the Pekingese ‘dumplings’ (€12.50) with pork, crunchy pig’s ear, strawberry hoisin sauce, togarashi aioli and gherkins. These did not resemble traditional Chinese dumplings, with the presentation representing a piece of modern art. Yet the dumplings thrilled with their exquisite flavours and arresting ingredient combinations. The meat was beautifully moist, the pig’s ear was lusciously crunchy and there was a nice touch of spiciness in the creamy aioli. The gorgeous dumplings were simultaneously creamy, fatty and crunchy, tempered by a touch of acidity from the gherkins.

Street XO - London Food Blog - Pekingese ‘dumplings’

Street XO – Pekingese ‘dumplings’

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