Saturday, 1 November 2014

LE CHALET, SELFRIDGES

Having missed out on the previous On The Roof with Q during the summer months, I was curious to check out Le Chalet, particularly after having a glimpse of the desserts on offer.
Yes, it doesn't take much to lure me in, especially when there are sweet treats involved. 

Operated by Des McDonald, the pop-up winter restaurant can be found on the Roof of Selfridges, and offers the best seasonal and locally sourced ingredients with a view of the bustling Oxford Street.

Thanks to Mr F, we managed to nab a table for dinner on a busy Friday evening. Cutting it quite close on timing, and after dodging the hordes of people on Oxford Street, we eventually arrived at the Christmas Express Lift. 

 

We walked down a path lit with pretty fairy lights before entering the cosy candle-lit restaurant which takes inspiration from a traditional ski chalet - decorated with wintry ferns and timber branches.


We were sat at our little table in front of the open kitchen, which thankfully had much better lighting - which is always works for me.
We started off with some champagne, or rather 'I' started off with some champagne...can't let a good glass of bubbly go to waste can I?

 

Followed by a delicious Gingerbread Slipper...


Moving on to the food, we ordered several starters to share between us. The peppered tuna was nicely seared around the edges, with a nice hint of spicy heat from the pepper and wasabi. A really pretty dish that was nice and light to start with. The cured salmon was served with some crisp breads on the side and beetroot and orange which added some zest to it. The Cornish crab dish was also very fresh with a nice hint of spice from the mustard. The fourth starter that we had was the oxtail and winter root broth with herb dumplings - not quite as pretty as the other starters, but it was one of our favourites. Warm, hearty, and perfect for the cold wintery months.


| Peppered tuna, wasabi avocado |

 

| Scotch cured salmon, beetroot and orange |


| Cornish crab, pickled celeriac, Colman's mustard |

 

| Oxtail and winter root broth, herb dumplings |


For mains, we had the venison and pork dish. The slices of venison were quite tender with a nice tinge of pink in the centre. I've never heard of "neeps" before, but later informed by Mr F, with his Scottish heritage knowledge, that it was basically short for turnip, otherwise known as a swede by others...? Maybe I should just refer you to Mr F for further clarification... 
I wasn't a particular fan of the "neeps" and the sauce... probably for the same reason that I don't like cranberry sauce with my Christmas dinner...
But that's just me, and I'm sure this will appeal to other people's tastes and preferences.

The pork was really tender and moist. Although not mentioned on the menu, the meat used is actually pork belly, which some may find quite fatty. I generally like pork belly dishes, so this dish gets a tick from me. Topped with some crunchy crackling and black pudding on the side.
We also ordered a couple of sides to share - broccoli with chilli and garlic, and the cabbage and chorizo.

| Smoked Highland venison, black pepper "neeps" |

 

| Spit roasted pork, chorizo cabbage, apple sauce |





And then it was time for the highlight of the evening - the main purpose of our visit, before we became distracted by the rest of the menu. As usual.

The dessert menu has been specially designed by Siobhan Ambrose, Head Pastry Chef for Des McDonald Restaurants. 
The general rule for me is to always order more desserts than the number of guests at the table, or to be exact, double the amount. I'm glad that Mr F and I were in agreement on this matter.


The first was the steamed chocolate and toffee sponge - served warm, it was nice and moist, contrasted by the cold and creamy scoop of ice cream. The second was the apple streusel tart, which had a light and flaky pastry, and served with a warm jug of creamy custard.
The black forest cheesecake was the prettiest dessert amongst the four that we ordered. Smooth and creamy with a nice oreo biscuit base, topped with sweet and crunchy meringue pieces. Overall a stunning looking dessert.
My favourite dessert was probably the eggnog snow egg. The trick is to first crack the crunchy layer at the top, before cutting into the light and fluffy egg white below. A simple process that dessert lovers would naturally understand, unlike some... (Sorry Wilkes, I couldn't help myself!)
A really great way to end the evening.

| Steamed chocolate and toffee sponge |


| Apple streusel tart with lashings of custard |


| Black forest cheesecake |

  

| Eggnog snow egg |



On the whole, I was rather pleased with the food and experience at Le Chalet, and I would definitely recommend a visit. If you're not quite feeling hungry, they also have a delicious list of drinks and chocolate cocktails (!) that look pretty tempting...
A great place to stopover if you're shopping in the area, or just looking for a warm escape from the wintry chill.

I'm starting to get that festive feeling, and now that Christmas is less than two months away, I feel that it is now the right time for me to start humming Christmas tunes...

The Cheekster, signing out x


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

LONDON RESTAURANT FESTIVAL: JAPANESE JOURNEY

On the final day of the London Restaurant Festival Japanese Journey, Wilkes and I grabbed our 'passports' and set off to visit six of London's best ramen bars, sushi restaurants and Japanese Izakayas.



We started off at Shoryu Ramen on Denman Street, which specialises in tonkotsu ramen from south Japan. There are currently four locations in London, which includes Shoryu Go on Air Street, and they are best known for serving up bowls of piping hot pork broth noodles created by Hakatan native Kanji Furukawa, a chef dedicated to championing his hometown's signature dish.

The first dish was a taster size Kotteri Tonkotsu - their signature ganso ramen with a richer, thicker, fattier tonkotsu broth made with pork back to help keep the soup hotter for longer.
And the second was the Wagyu Beef Hirata Bun - the bun was quite fluffy and not too chewy, and the meat was nice and tender.

For drinks, we had the option of the Suntory Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve highball, or the Suntory Hakushu Distiller's Reserve highball - both of which were served in all six restaurants for this event.

| Suntory Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve Highball |

 

| Taster size Kotteri Tonkotsu |
- hosomen noodles, char siu bbq pork, nitamago egg, kikurage mushrooms, spring onion, sesame, ginger, fried shallots, nori & mayu caramelised black garlic oil -


| Wagyu Beef Hirata Bun |
- succulent wagyu beef yakiniku with shiso, daikon & shimeji in a fluffy steamed bun -

 

Our second stop was Tonkotsu on Dean Street. Opened in Soho in 2012, Tonkotsu specialises in ramen and Japanese small plate classics along with Japanese and London Beers.

There was only one dish to choose from which were the home-made gyoza dumplings, filled with pork, prawn or shiitake - a tasty and light dish to snack on.

| Suntory Hakushu Dsitiller's Reserve Highball |


| Fresh home-made gyoza dumplings |

 

Third stop was Sticks 'n' Sushi in Covent Garden, one of the two branches in London that opened in November 2013. Founded 18 years ago by brothers Jen and Kim Rahbek and Thor Anderson, Sticks 'n' Sushi are known to serve high quality, fresh food based on a unique combination of traditional sushi and yakitori sticks from the grill.

There was a bit of a wait for our food, which threw us off our pace a bit...but we eventually got our food along with the rest of the row of guests who were also doing the Japanese Journey.

There were two different options, so we ordered one each of the Sushi Plate and Sticks Plate. Both had a nice variety and were tasty, but being a huge sushi fan, I personally preferred the Sushi Plate.


 

| Sticks Plate |
- Sasami chilli (chicken breast topped with chilli dip, teriyaki, and spring onion), Asparamaki (bacon wrapped asparagus), Tsukune (chicken meatballs in teriyaki), Edamame with spicy miso sauce -


| Sushi Plate |
- Salmon sashimi (2 pieces of salmon served with supreme soy), Hells kitchen roll (2 pieces of tempura shrimp, avocado, spicy sauce, tuna and barbecue sauce), Ebi panko roll (2 pieces of tempura shrimp, spicy sauce, avocado, sesame, tsume soy), Monte Carlo roll (2 pieces avocado and cucumber topped with cray fish and miso aiolo and trout roe) -

 

Our fourth stop was the recently opened Kanada-Ya, a ramen bar based at St. Giles High Street. Founded by Kanada Kazuhiro in Yukuhashi, Japan, this is the brand's first UK opening, and specialises in serving authentic tonkotsu ramen.
The venue is pretty small, and after a half hour wait, we eventually got in.

We both ordered the Chasiu Men, which consisted of 18 hour pork bone broth, deluxe charsiu pork collar, wood ear fungus, nori and spring onion. Both bowls came as full sized portions, which was extremely rich and filling! I had the hard noodles which were nice, and the pork collar was extremely soft and tender, and literally melts in your mouth...so good. Considering that we still had a couple more restaurants to visit, I sadly had to leave half of it unfinished... I did eat all the pork and ingredients though.
It is however with no doubt one of the best ramen noodles that I have had in London so far, and is of no surprise that there will always be a queue of hungry customers outside...

I will definitely be back again soon, and this time I will go on an empty stomach.


Our fifth stop was a bit of a distance away from the rest of the restaurants - Kurobuta on Kendal Street, close to Marble Arch. This Marylebone venue takes its inspiration from the Izakayas of japan, where tapas-style plates are served to accompany drinks in a casual setting.

We were served a variety of little samples to nibble on, some of which I had tasted before when I had dinner there a few months back.

 

| The Kurobuta Sampler |
- Nasu dengaku with caramelised walnuts, BBQ pork belly buns with spicy peanut soy, Jeruselam artichoke chopsticks with truffle ponzu, Salmon nigiri with bearnaise salsa and fries, Smoked duck tataki with burnt ginger amazu -


And finally our sixth and final stop - Chisou in Mayfair. Opened in 2002, Chisou Mayfair is known for its reputation for traditional and authentic Japanese cuisine, making it one of London's most popular izakaya style restaurants.

It was about 5.45pm by the time we had arrived, and had thankfully missed the crowd of earlier customers.
We were served a dish of Gyu tataki and Spicy Hamachi Carpaccio - both really fresh and very well prepared, and a pleasant end to our Japanese Journey.

| Gyu Tataki |
- thin slices of seared rare beef fillet with ponzu sauce and daikon -

 

| Spicy Hamachi Carpaccio |
- Kagoshima line caught Yellow tail carpaccio in a spiced dressing -



Despite starting an hour later, we still successfully visited all six restaurants within 5 hours!
It was nice to be able to sample the different dishes from all six restaurants - some with dishes more impressive than others, but overall a pleasant experience.
 I know which places that I'll definitely be going back to....

The Cheekster, signing out x


Sunday, 26 October 2014

THE BACKBENCH #7, KOYA

Another one of my monthly visits to The BackBench at Koya - visit number 7!
This time going solo again for the lunch seating straight after an invigorating morning of dancing - always good to build up an appetite beforehand.

Held once a month, The BackBench menu is especially created by the talented Chef Junya, utilizing the freshest ingredients in season. Limited to only five seats per seating, it enables him to present diners with exciting dishes that go beyond the Specials board. 
I didn't go for the sake flights, but I did start off with this sweet glass of Nanju Bijin "Ume Rose".



And now moving on to the food... 

| Ashed Overgrown Beetroot, Irizake and Red Shiso |

The beetroot was first grilled in charcoal, before being kept in ash overnight, resulting in the more intense flavours. The smokey flavours were complimented by the deep aroma of the irizake - some old-school seasoning made from cooked down sake and umeboshi (pickled plum).

 

| Mustard Spinach and Hazelnut | 

Here was a simple dish of mustard spinach topped by a lovely paste made from fresh hazelnuts. The hazelnuts weren't fully ground down and still had a bit of a nice, crunchy texture.


| Kombu Cured Mackerel |

Delicious fresh slices of mackerel topped with grated mandarin skin and served with a ginger soya sauce. The Cornish mackerel was cured in kombu, a type of edible kelp, which gave it a firmer and denser texture. 

 

| Venison Sashimi, Horseradish, Cook's Cabbage, Green Shiso and Nira Flower |

This was my first time trying venison sashimi, which had a light game-y flavour, and the grated horseradish gave it a bit of a spicy kick.
I ordered the sake pairing for this dish - Kamoizumi, Shusen "Three Dots" Junmai. It was served warm and had a lovely aroma of shiitake mushrooms with some earthy, woody tones - which went well with the venison and the mushroom rice after.


 

| Scottish Mushroom Rice and Egg Yolk |

Rice has always been a staple food for me since childhood, but because I don't really have it that often nowadays, a simple dish like this does excite me... The rice had a slight sticky texture and had absorbed all the delicious flavours of the mushrooms, topped with a brightly coloured egg yolk which was still nice and gooey on the inside.


| Cornish Mylor Prawn, Mallow and Fermented Tofu |

Cornish Mylor prawns cooked tempura style and a mallow leaf - both really light and crisp. On the side was a cube of tofu that had been fermented in koji and was really smooth and creamy, almost like a cheese-y texture.

 

| Red Mullet, Marrow, Turnip and Miyagawa Mandarin |

I got the head (!) which although had quite a few bones, was still really delicious with firm flaky textures. A pleasant dish with light, clean flavours.


| Pheasant, Negi and Manganji Miso |

The meat was perfectly cooked with a tender yet slight springy texture. Full of flavour and nicely complimented by the sweet and salty flavours of the manganji miso.

 

| Pheasant Soup and Alexander Udon |

Being a huge noodle (and carbs!) lover, the udon dish is always one of my favourite courses. Although there were no additional toppings in it today, the warming flavours and aroma of the pheasant soup was enough to tantalize my tastebuds.
And their handmade udon is still one of the best udon noodles that I have eaten so far.


| Kabocha Pumpkin and Stout |

A nice twist and interpretation of the creme brulee dessert version. A shiny and crunchy caramelized top which cracked open to reveal the smooth and creamy centre.

 

| Sake-Kasu Ice Cream and Bergamot |

And last but not least, the sake-kasu ice cream which has had a regular appearance on the menu since the first BackBench - I would know this since I have been to all of them so far...
But of course I would never get bored of it - I mean, who doesn't love ice cream AND alcohol?
For those of you who haven't tried it before, it is basically made from the lees left over from the sake production, which give it a nice, boozy punch.


And we have once again come to the end of another amazing BackBench experience.
I have been fortunate enough to have been able to attend every single one so far, but sad to say, I will be missing the next one in November as I will be away in Malaysia...
Which may be good news for one of you lucky ones who will be able to keep my seat warm for me!
The next one if on the 17th and 18th of November, so make sure you get those dates in the diary - I'm sure it will be as amazing as all the other ones. 

Thank you once again to Chef Junya and team Koya who have as usual done an excellent job. And a word of thanks to lovely Anna who helped send me replacement photos for the first three dishes after memory card reformatted itself and wiped out all my photos... you're a star x

For my previous BackBench posts, click on the links below:

The BackBench #1
The BackBench #2

The BackBench #3
The BackBench #4
The BackBench #5 
The BackBench #6

The Cheekster, signing out x