Tuesday, 16 December 2014

THE BACKBENCH #9, KOYA

Having missed the previous backbench to seek sunnier climates, I am now back at my usual spot!
I booked the lunch slot so that I could head straight after dancing - extremely hungry and ready to get my taste-buds excited.

 

A much anticipated once-a-month event, The BackBench is limited to five seats per session, enabling Chef Junya to create seasonal dishes and present diners with a more personal dining experience.
The menu on this occasion consisted of 10 different dishes. I chose to skip the sake flights this time, knowing how much of a lightweight I can be especially in the daytime, and instead went for the Cold Brew Oolong Tea.


 

| Amazake & Turnip |

Amazake is a traditional Japanese drink made from fermented rice and is commonly consumed in the winter months. The rice had been fermented overnight and the sweetness all comes naturally from the rice. Served at a cool temperature, it had the texture of congee, and tasted very pleasant.


| Wild Carrot & Cobnut |

Hand-picked during Chef Junya's forages, this dish had some nice earthy flavours, and also looked and tasted exceptionally healthy!


| Native Oyster, Wild Onion & Wild Horseradish |

The oyster was really fresh and the flavours from the wild onion and horseradish just worked so well together. A rather enjoyable mouthful of goodness, and one of my favourite dishes.


| Jeruselam Artichoke Surinagashi Udon |

A lover of noodles, I always look forward to the udon dish. The soup was warm and thick - perfect to be eaten during the cold winter months. Such simple and comforting dishes really do make me smile with satisfaction.


| Chicory & Mylor Prawn |

Another warm and tasty dish, served in a clear broth, with subtle taste of sweetness from the Mylor prawns.

 

| Leek, Onsen Egg & Potato |

You don't often see the roots of leeks being utilized in dishes, but Chef Junya had creatively preserved the roots to make an amazing tempura dish. The upper part of the stalk itself was maybe a bit hard to bite apart and chew, but those roots...I hope that they make an appearance on the Specials board soon!
Instead of the usual tempura dipping sauce, we were served a bowl of onsen egg which we broke apart to mix together with the starchy potato base. A really delicious twist.


 


| Eel, Chestnuts & Savoy Cabbage |

I have always loved the eel dishes prepared by Chef Junya. They have often been my favourites in the previous BackBenchs', and this was no exception. This dish was apparently inspired by his trip to Bologna, and the results were undoubtedly delicious.
Hidden under the savoy cabbage, were two perfectly grilled pieces of eel, so rich and full of flavour. I also really enjoyed nibbling on those chestnuts.

 


| Pheasant, Dandelion & Burdock |

I have really been into gamey dishes lately, and having tried a pheasant dish at Koya before, I knew that this would not disappoint. The pheasant was served boneless, and rolled inside the meat were those tasty burdock roots. Perfectly grilled, great textures, and a wonderful combination of flavours.

 


| Kaki Sorbet & Shochu |

The first of two desserts, a refreshing sorbet served with shochu which gave it a nice boozy kick. Mine even had a friendly smiley face...like it was happy that it was going to be eaten by me!

 

| Bramley & Sake-Kasu |

No sake-kasu ice cream this time, but instead we had delicious grilled sake-kasu which was utilized to make the first dish. Not an overly sweet dessert, with some hints of sourness and bitterness, it was a different kind of dessert that I am used to, in a good way.


And so that sums up another delightful BackBench experience. It's good to be back, and I do always get excited to see what new dishes that Chef Junya comes up with as the seasons change.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you at the next BackBench in 2015!

The Cheekster, signing out x



Sunday, 14 December 2014

#ZOMATOMEETUP AT CHOTTO MATTE

Just a few days ago, I attended Zomato's final #ZomatoMeetup of the year 2014. 
Chotto Matte specialises in Nikkei cuisine - a merging of Japanese and Peruvian, both cuisines of which I love.
I headed there straight after work, closely missing the rush hour crowd, so I was the first to arrive, and sipped away on some champagne whilst waiting for the rest to arrive.
I was also quite hungry (as usual), and started nibbling away on the canchas (Peruvian corn puffs) and the sweet potato and cassava chips...

The event was held at the Lava-stone cocktail bar on the ground floor, known for its pisco and sake cocktails. Surrounding this bar is a mural created by critically acclaimed graffiti artist Tom Blackford, aka Ink Fetish. Our evening was hosted by the lovely Head Bad Chef, Fabiano Latham, who kept us entertained with some cocktail masterclasses. 
The drinks that were demonstrated included: 

Pisco Sour - Pisco, lime, sugar, egg white, Peruvian bitters
Cuatro Uvas - Pisco, sake, elderflower, red grapes, lime & celery bitters
Chicana de tonka - Pisco, cucumber, lime, tonka bitters & ginger beer

Some of the other bloggers also had the opportunity to go behind the bar and shake up some cocktails, however I was too distracted by the food section so I didn't participate...

 

 

 

 

Sweet potato and cassava chips with guacamole and burnt yellow tomato salsa
 

Pisco Sour: Pisco, lime, sugar, egg white, Peruvian bitters

We later moved on to the food part where the chefs cooked up some tasty dishes for us to sample. Some of my favourites were the Eggplant Nigiri and the Nikkei Sashimi.

 

 

There was a lot of blow-torching going on...

 

 

 

Sato Maki: seabass, salmon, asparagus. marinated peppers, courgette and shiitake mushroom flamed
Eggplant Nigiri: aubergine topped with den miso flamed

Tuna sashimi tostaditas with wasabi

Heritage tomato Aburi tostaditas

Nikkei Sashimi: yellowtail sashimi, yuzu truffle soy, purple potato crisps, jalapeno, coriander, cherry tomato

Padron Peppers: den miso and sea salt

Towards the end of the evening, we were given a little tour of the restaurant, which included the  exposed Robata grill, serving smokey Nikkei BBQ, and the Nikkei sushi bar, where Chef Kaito Sato creates his magic!
 The menus for the Robata grill and sushi bar have been specially created by Executive Chef Jordan Sclare (ex-head chef at Aqua Kyoto and Nobu) alongside Chef Michael Paul

 


We ended the evening with a sweet glass of Perfecto Amor - Peruvian wine fortified with Pisco and aged in sherry casks. After a few group photos, we each grabbed our goody bags and went our separate ways...

For more photos of the event, click on this link for photos taken by the lovely Alexandra.
Mischevious KS (aka the eating machine!) had a little play around with Alexandra's camera and surprisingly took a decent photo of Angela & I.
That man has skills...


If you ever do visit, don't forget to go down to the lower ground floor where you can see the captivating UV artwork from Houxo Que. That's also where the toilets are, which are pretty high-tech - just go in, even if you don't need to (!)

This was my first time at Chotto Matte, and after a pleasant evening, I am now tempted to go back to have a proper sit-down meal and get the full Nikkei experience.
 
Thank you, and well done again to Alexandra, Sarah, and the rest of the amazing Zomato team for organizing another fun and enjoyable event. And to all the other bloggers, old and new, it was nice to meet you all - looking forward to more exciting times in 2015!

The Cheekster, signing out x 

 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

64 DEGREES, LONDON

64 Degrees is situated on the ground floor of the Artist Residence Boutique Hotel - the second branch to be opened after the success of the original 64 Degrees in Brighton which opened in 2013.  
Created by chef owner Michael Bremner, the philosophy is that the food rules, the kitchen is the heart of the restaurant, the chefs are its lifeblood and centre of all the action.
There is an open plan kitchen with counter seats, which are usually some of the best seats, where all the fun happens. A slightly larger dining space than the Brighton site, they also offer booth seating and traditional style table service.
The interior, like many restaurants these days, is very industrial looking, with exposed brick walls, and plenty of metal and wooden surfaces and fixtures.

We ordered a carafe of wine to share whilst we perused the menu, which consisted of three categories: Meat, Fish, and Veg - each with four different selections. I love sharing plate menus which are not too extensive, as it means that I am able to order most of the dishes on the menu without feeling like I have to miss out on too many other dishes...

 


We were served some ceviche of whiting with thin slices of apple to whet our appetite, before our orders arrived.

 

From the Fish category, we ordered a couple of oysters which was served with a lemon and Tabasco granita, which was tangy and refreshing. The lobster gyozas were deep-fried until the skin was nice and crisp, but there wasn't really much flavour in the meat. I think we would have both preferred them to be pan-fried so that we may still be able to taste the subtle flavours of the lobster.
The scallops was one of my favourite dishes - nicely seared and served with a delicious piece of black pudding on the side. I am not usually a fan of black pudding, but I do love one if it is made well, like this one. A nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours.

| Lindisfarne oysters, lemon, Tabasco |


| Lobster gyoza, ponzu |


| Scallops, cherry, raisin, black pudding |


For our meat dishes, we had the pheasant, lamb and chicken wings. The pheasant, served two ways, was delicious, with really nice flavours and textures. The lamb was perfectly cooked - juicy and tender, with a nice shade of pink. We both however were not fans of the quince, which was slightly too sharp and sour for our tastes. With the exception of the quince on the side, the lamb dish was also one of my favourites. The sound of the chicken wings with blue cheese AND kimchi intrigued us, and was actually quite tasty.

| Pheasant, celeriac, sprouts |

 

| Lamb rump, quince, sea beet |


| Chicken wings, blue cheese, kimchi |

 

I initially didn't know what Knodel was, so I was intrigued to try it, which was also highly recommended by our lovely waitress, Chloe. There are apparently different variations of them, and these were made from potatoes, which were light and fluffy, and kind of tasted like tater tots. I was having a bit of craving for some carbs, so I did enjoy this dish. The chargrilled cabbage which had a slight hint of bitterness was tasty, and went well with the smoked butter.
The duck egg was definitely a winner for both of us. The duck egg was still slightly gooey on the inside and dribbled out onto the bed of delicious mushrooms. The potato espuma, or foam, was really smooth and creamy and had us wanting more. 
| Knodel, cabbage, smoked butter |


| Duck egg, wild mushrooms, potato espuma |

 

After we had finished our main meal, we requested to have our desserts in The Lounge. There was a private dinner being held downstairs, but they had conveniently started moving into the private dining room, so that we had the whole lounge to ourselves, right next to the warm fireplace. 


 

 
 


For dessert, I had the brownie with chocolate which was served in a cute red cup, whilst Viv had the banana, malt, miso dessert. Both were good, and Viv who particularly liked hers felt that it was one of her favourites, alongside the duck egg dish.
Wine, desserts, and an empty lounge all to ourselves on a Saturday evening, now this is definitely my idea of a perfect evening. 
Overall, it was a really pleasant experience and a place that I would return to again.

For those looking for a place to have a drink, there is also the bar, 64° Below, where you can enjoy some cocktails, beers, and freshly prepared bar dishes.
And, if you happen to be visiting from outside of London, you may also like to consider booking a room in this boutique hotel which has just 10 bedrooms, with two suites and eight individually designed 'House Rooms'.

The Cheekster, signing out x

Address: 64 Degrees, 52 Cambridge Street, London, SW1V 4QQ
Tel. No.: 0203 262 0501

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