Friday, 23 September 2016

YOSMA, LONDON

Having missed out on their soft launch, I was excited to dine at Yosma a couple of days ago, one of the latest openings in Marylebone that brings together the three pillars of Istanbul's social and eating out culture - meyhane, mangal, and seafood.
I don't exactly recall having Turkish food in the past, but I had a feeling that we were definitely going to be well-fed that evening ...

 The contemporary interior which was designed by Afroditi Krassa is inspired by Istanbul's vast history, with materials that reflect a traditional meyhane (tavern). Alongside normal table seating, the restaurant features an open kitchen with mangal grill and counter dining - ideal for those who love a bit of 'behind-the-scenes' action. A raki lounge bar occupies one side of the space, serving cocktails created by Matt Whiley a.k.a. 'Talented Mr Fox' - I sadly missed out on the cocktail tasting part of the evening as I was busy sweating it out to the tunes of Prince's 'When Doves Cry'.
I'm still curious to find out if doves do actually sound of couple's screaming at each other ... 

The kitchen is headed by Executive Chef Hus Vedat who is of Turkish heritage, and has previously worked at the AA Rosette Caxton Grill and Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa. 
 The menu is designed to showcase the depth, character and history of Anatolian food, exploring influences and flavours from his heritage.

As we settled outselves in at the dinner table, the lovely Spencer, who was our host for the evening, poured us glasses of Raki, Turkey's national aperitif. 
This was my first time trying Raki, which had a really strong smell of aniseed - we were encouraged to have it neat first, which was a bit of a shock to the system for me (!). We were each provided with chilled beakers of water which we added in equal portions, forming an opaque mixture that was then MUCH more palatable.
It strangely reminded me of this old Chinese medicine that I used to be given as a child when I had  stomach aches. Maybe Raki could have some similar medicinal properties ... ?




I was thankful when the food was brought out, realizing that I was drinking on an empty stomach, right after a workout - naughty, naughty.
An array of delicious starters and dips was spread across the table: kavun (melon) with cubes of salty feta, creamy hummus sprinkled with tahini, lemon and garlic, and fava which was crushed broad beans which held together firmly in a shallow cylindrical shape that spread quite smoothly onto the bread. 
I was a particular fan of the Köpoğlu (pronounced kop-og-loo) which consisted of aubergine, green pepper, tomato and yogurt - I do love anything with aubergine, although the texture may not be to everyone's taste, it certainly tantalizes mine.
The Pancar was also very good - thinly sliced pit roasted golden beetroot with a generous drizzle of garlic oil and dill. Garlic and dill seem to play quite a role in these vegetarian dishes. This dish interestingly felt and tasted a bit like smoked salmon, which slightly confused my tastebuds, but in a good way. 









After cleansing our palate with a few sips of fermented beetroot juice, we then moved on to the meat and fish dishes. Delicate slices of pastırma (air-dried cured beef of Anatolian origin) packed some strong flavours, followed by a tangy, refreshing dish of Levrek Marine - marinated seabass which had a nice balance sweetness from the grapefruit and heat from the green chilli. A Turkish version of ceviche that I am quite a fan of.



Then arrived the main highlight of the meal - huge trays descended upon our table which carried whole barbecued turbot, eyes and mouth gaping in my direction as I zoomed in to take a shot.
Sourced from day boats off Cornwall, the flesh was really fresh and was a delight to eat without the need for too much seasoning.
I was actually quite full by that point but refused to stop eating as I felt bad having to waste such good food (!)





It has been a while since I had a cup of Turkish coffee. My first cup was made by this guy that I used to date which immediately converted me - because it tasted good, and NOT just because he was rather good-looking ...
 Sadly there have not been many coffee enthusiasts in my dating ventures since, but I digress ...

We were treated to a trio of desserts, all of which I enjoyed - no surprise there. 
There was Şambalı which was a moist semolina cake with almonds and mastic ice cream on the side, and Armut Pişmaniye which consisted of a sweet poached pear topped with cotton candy, basil and walnuts.
The third dessert was Künefe, a heavenly Turkish dessert made with cheese and shredded Kadayif dough soaked in sweet syrup. Baked to a golden colour, the outside was nice and crisp, and we 'ooh-ed' in appreciation as the strings of cheese stretched with each pull.

We also attempted to read our fortunes when the leftover sludge in our coffee cups had dried up. Mine apparently had a blurry image of a running man and traffic lights.
I may have to ponder this over another cup of coffee.







I think we did well devouring most of the dishes, with hardly any leftovers - especially Duyku and I that tackled a whole turbot by ourselves, alongside our second round of Raki (!) #GirlPower *flexes biceps (rubs food baby)*

I have always loved the concept of sharing dishes and would recommend trying out the Meyhane set menu, if you, like me, are getting your first taste of Turkish food - a nice variety of dishes at a good price value (£29 pp - excluding dessert).
The menu does change regularly but I'm sure each one will be just as appetizing.
 There is also news that a breakfast menu will be launching soon at a later date that would definitely tempt me back for another visit.
And I also must return for that lamb ...

The Cheekster, signing out x

The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.

Yosma Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

BENIHANA 30TH ANNIVERSARY, LONDON

I love Teppan-yaki and all things Japanese, and recently had the pleasure of dining at Benihana in Chelsea, in celebration of the restaurant's 30th anniversary in London, hosted by Benihana CEO Keiko Ono Aoki.
 The first Benihana restaurant was opened in 1964 in New York City, by
Hiroaki "Rocky" Aoki, the pioneer of “Teppan-yaki” dining, who was the first to commercialise the homestyle Japanese method of cooking on a hot plate. In each restaurant, a private chef is provided to every table, where the meals are served in several courses.

Since opening in Swiss Cottage 30 years ago in 1986 (closed in 2011), Benihana has firmly established their retro appeal, unchanged menus and flamboyant performances for diners in Piccadilly and Chelsea. Both prime locations locations are known to frequently host royalty and celebrities; Princess Diana was known to make regular visits for supper with the young princes to the original Swiss Cottage branch, and Michael Jackson and his entourage once took over the entire King’s Road restaurant on a visit to the Capital (!)

After being given a brief history of the restaurant, followed by the Kagami-wari sake barrel-breaking ceremony, we were seated for dinner in Rocky's Room. 
There were some pretty impressive performances from the World Teppan Champions, and I made sure that I kept my hair a safe distance away from the fire ...
 That evening, we were treated to Rocky’s Choice which is taken from the "Speciality Dinners” section of the menu:
Benihana Onion Soup, Salad with Ginger Dressing, Hibachi Vegetables, Prawn Appetiser & Steamed Rice, Hibachi Steak and Hibachi Chicken.

Plenty of theatrics were thrown in in between to keep us entertained, such as the 'Onion Volcano', 'Dancing Shrimp' and 'I Love You Rice'. 
We finished off with an indulgent chocolate cake - because what's a birthday celebration without cake? 




 














Rocky's Choice £30 offer is available for 30 days from September 1st until 30th - just remember to mention "Benihana 30" to claim this offer.
And if you have kids under 10 who love a bit of art and creativity, why not let them have a go at the Kids Colouring Competition which is running throughout the month of September - the winner can invite up to 20 kids to have a party at Benihana (!)
Now only if I was _ _ years younger ...

Check out their website for more information.  

The Cheekster, signing out x



The meal was complimentary, but views remain my own.
 
Benihana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 10 September 2016

64 DEGREES, BRIGHTON

It has been almost two years since I last visited 64 Degrees when they were situated at the Artist Residence Boutique Hotel in Pimlico. I recall me and my cousin enjoying most of the dishes that we had, and our lovely and attentive waitress, Chloe, that made the experience even more memorable.

After much procrastination, I eventually made it to their original site in Brighton during an impromptu daytrip. Set up by chef-owner Michael Bremner, this little gem is quietly tucked away in the Lanes. The first lunch customers to arrive for the day, we tried not too look overly desperate and hungry for food, as we stepped in just as the clock struck 12 - noon, as opposed to the more dramatic midnight in Cinderella ...

The place is quite small with an industrial-like interior and an open kitchen that occupies about half the space. There was a choice of regular table seating or the more casual interactive counter seats - we perched ourselves onto a couple of wooden cubes by the little table by the window, sipping on some chilled rose whilst we perused the menu.





The menu is categorized into Fish, Veg and Meat, each with a variety of four dishes, which made the ordering process pretty straightforward.
We started with a fresh and appetizing mackerel dish, complemented by the sweet and sour notes from the passionfruit puree and gooseberry slices. The vibrant colours were also really eye-catching which made it a really 'instagrammable' dish ...
The scallop dish was one of my favourite dishes on my last visit, and a firm favourite on this visit as well. The scallops were cooked perfectly, and I loved the pieces of crispy kale and that creamy sauce ...




The tagliatelle was one that caught my eye at the beginning, topped with shaved truffle and a bright runny yolk that when mixed together formed the perfect pasta-lover's dream. 
I would have been happy to have second orders of that anytime. 
We also had the cauliflower with blue cheese. The batter was maybe slightly a bit too thick for me, but overall the cauliflower was well cooked through.






The beef tartare was finely chopped just the way I like it, with an added crunch from the toasted sourdough crumbs and a nice balance of saltiness and sourness from the capers.
The lamb was cooked medium rare with a lovely shade of pink, tender and flavoursome, with a side of crispy sweetbreads and a smooth and creamy yogurt sauce.
There was also a duck leg dish on the menu which sounded really tempting, but we decided to reserve ourselves for dessert - maybe next time!





After a cool palate cleanser, our dessert arrived consisting of a rich chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries, caramelised hazelnuts and a crisp tuille, alongside my "rum bear jelly" that was tangy with an alcoholic kick. A pleasant end to our relaxing meal.



I will most certainly be popping back in the next time I make a trip down. Voted 16th in the National Restaurant top 100 list 2016, I can imagine that the place does get quite packed in the evenings, but as long as the food is good, I think that this would be something that I would be willing to put up with.

The Cheekster, signing out x





Square Meal64 Degrees Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato