Street Kitchen

Street Kitchen is back! A collaborative effort between chefs Jun Tanaka from Pearl and Mark Jankel, the Street Kitchen airstream first popped up during London Restaurant Festival last year in Covent Garden to bring healthy bistro style dishes in take away boxes to Londoners. I love its ethos. Mark has a B.Sc. (hons) in Environmental Science from the University of East Anglia and is devoted to reliable quality sustainable food sourcing. Therefore, all the produce used by Street Kitchen comes directly from the suppliers to ensure quality and freshness. Throw in the gourmet skills of the two chefs and what you have is a fantastic meal cooked using excellent produce, and at very reasonable prices.

Street Kitchen

Street Kitchen

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Atari-ya Sushi Bar Take Away, James St

I have always been a huge fan of Atari-ya Sushi Bar, especially the one on James Street for their ‘cheap and cheerful’ disposition. As far as hole-in-the-wall places go, this tops my list. Their sushi and sashimi is some of the best in London, and the fact that they supply Nobu and Zuma bears credence to this.

Time for a revisit, and I again lapped up the luscious salmon sashimi which is a very reasonable £1.80 for three pieces. (But I still remember back to about four years ago when Atari-ya use to charge ONLY £1 for three pieces!) The salmon nigiri (£1.40) was also fantastically fresh, as was the scallop nigiri (£1.40) which I adore eating with my favourite Japanese herb, shiso (which I always request) for its burst of aromatic flavour. The sea bass nigiri (£1.40) was also particularly satisfying with its lovely sweetness.

Salmon sashimi, various sushi and soft shell crab roll

Salmon sashimi, various sushi and soft shell crab roll

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Enoteca Turi

Enoteca Turi is a family-run Italian restaurant in Putney which specialises in regional Italian cuisine. Opened by owner Giuseppe Turi in 1990 (hence the name), this restaurant is still going strong after two decades, and can be considered something of a Putney institution given the proliferation of chain restaurants which have emerged on the High Street in recent years. Giuseppe can still be seen walking around the restaurant floor, and you know pride and care has been placed into every detail of the restaurant. I have eaten at Enoteca Turi before and enjoyed the food very much. This time around I dined as a guest of the restaurant.

A classic Venetian dish of smoked haddock mantecato (£7.75) was lovely. Similar to a pâté blended with a little olive oil, it wasn’t particularly smoky, but the fish flavour was rich and distinctive. It was accompanied by a trio of polenta crostini with pepper, cauliflower and green beans topped with polenta crisps. The polenta crostini was a little dull, but the red peppers were sweet, and the cauliflower and green beans were cooked al dente. The beans had been finished with a drizzling of some fantastic homemade pesto.

Smoked haddock mantecato

Smoked haddock mantecato

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Lupita

Lupita is one of the latest Mexican restaurants to open in London (the other one that comes to mind is Cantina Laredo on Upper St Martin’s Lane in Covent Garden, right next to Jamie’s new Italian restaurant). Housed on Villiers Street, it’s in an unbeatable location for all the passing traffic that runs between Embankment tube and the Strand. Lupita is an offshoot of its sister restaurant in Mexico City, El Farolito. It bills itself as the first truly authentic Mexican restaurant in London although I suppose most restaurants would call themselves authentic. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

To start was a nachos clasicos (£5.45), Mexican tortilla chips topped with melted cheese, red salsa, guacamole and sour cream. Actually we should have been munching on the nachos Lupita, a meat version with strips of beef and black beans. But the restaurant got our order wrong and brought us the clasicos instead. But as the service was a bit chaotic – we got our food before our drinks – we decided not to bother having the restaurant correct our order.

Nachos clasicos

Nachos clasicos

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Koya

Koya is the hottest udon-ya in London right now. In fact, it’s the only proper udon-ya in London where a man in the basement makes the noodles by rolling them with his feet for five hours every day. The restaurant is homey and simple, with tiled floors and pinewood furniture. The tables are for sharing, and it’s the kind of place that you imagine would be fantastically warm and cosy in winter. As I walked in, I couldn’t help but be taken in by the wonderful, gentle aroma of the delicious, smelling miso soup. Perfect for the onset of the autumnal weather!

Udon noodles are the highlight here, but I wanted to try some of the other dishes as well. From the specials menu, baby clams steamed in sake (£8) were nicely cooked such that they were still firm. However the accompanying broth was extremely salty which made it quite overwhelming.

Baby clams steamed in sake

Baby clams steamed in sake

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Sedap

Nyonya use to be one of my favourite cheap-eats in London. Great food is always hard to pass up, and when combined with cheap prices, makes it even harder to beat. As a bit of an ex-regular, I couldn’t help but lament Nyonya’s closing. I suspect the exorbitant Notting Hill rental prices must have had something to do with it.

But the people behind it came back to open up Sedap (which means delicious in Malayan) in Old Street about a year ago. The location is far less glamorous than Notting Hill, but the menu prices have remained cheap. The downside is that it’s harder for me to get to and I no longer call myself a regular. So this was my first visit since it opened up as Sedap, and I must say, it was definitely worth the wait.

We started with kerabu prawns (£6.50), a fresh, crunchy salad of prawns and cucumber finished with a kerabu dressing. Loving the combination of sweet, sour and salty flavours that are a hallmark of a kerabu, we polished this off in minutes. Finely chopped peanuts and black fungus added crunchiness to the salad, and the chilli gave it a nice little kick.

Kerabu prawns

Kerabu prawns

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Alisan – Dim Sum

For about the last three years, the dim sum kitchen at Alisan in Wembley has been run by two ex-Hakksan dim sum chefs, Bao Chen and Seng Chow. Consequently, in 2007, the restaurant became a finalist in the best dim sum dish category as awarded by the Craft Guild of Chefs and Restaurant Magazine. So despite its Wembley location – which entailed three tube changes – I just couldn’t resist going to see just how good the dim sum at Alisan might actually be.

The restaurant is spacious and airy with lots of natural light. But with Wembley stadium in view, it’s hardly the most glamorous location. The surroundings feel a little like an industrial site, and the walk from the tube wasn’t the most exciting.

But it’s the food that counts, and we started with a perennial favourite, har gau (prawn dumplings) (£2.80). The prawn filling was wonderfully crunchy and tasty and possessed a strong aroma of sesame oil. The wrapper was nicely done but could have been a little lighter in texture.

Right in a clockwise direction: har gau, tripe & seafood rolls

Right in a clockwise direction: har gau, tripe & seafood rolls

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Atari-ya Sushi Bar

Mixed selection of sushi and sashimi at Atariya

Mixed selection of sushi and sashimi at Atariya

Atariya is a little hole-in-the-way Japanese sushi place nestled amongst a string of restaurants along James Street, just north of the shopping pulse of Oxford Street. Actually, it’s part of a chain, although I’ve only been to the one on James Street. The great draw card of Atariya is that the sushi is resoundingly fresh. Just ask Jason Atherton, chef of one star Michelin restaurant Maze and his adjoining Maze Grill. I did, when I bumped into him at Atariya last year and got chatting to him. Apparently he’s a bit of a regular for the simple reason that the sushi is so fresh. And Atariya, being a stone’s throw away from his restaurants on Grosvenor Square, means it is all quite accessible when he’s taking a break.

I too have visited Atariya many times. It’s where I go when I’m in need of a sushi fix, and I’ve never been disappointed with its freshness, although the most stringent and rigorous of sushi connoisseurs might challenge the slight inconsistencies in the sizing of the sashimi pieces which occasionally seem to change from time to time. But this is a minor detail. It’s the freshness of the seafood that counts the most, and this is pretty assured. Furthermore, the vinegary sushi rice is authentic, with that required level of stickiness and sweetness.

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