Hakkasan – where my favourite dim sum is!

Hakkasan

17 Bruton St, London W1J 6QB, United Kingdom near Green Park Station

12212355_10154143694723714_21956087_nNo, it’s not 10 Downing Street, but 17 Bruton Street (Yes, that plush area apparently) where this sleek, modern, clubbish Cantonese restaurant, Hakkasan is located at. Ironic it may seem but this is where most Singapore Cantonese restaurants could not surpass. Not even restaurants like Yan Ting or Mitzo, as they could in my opinion only be at most on par with Hakkasan. It is that good.

hkk1Deprived of good Cantonese food for a few days already after so many days at the different meeting areas, I have been shuttling between Yauatcha and Hakkasan to bring the bosses and I thought the standard of the former has dipped a little when I visited a few days back while the latter felt more posh with its less gaudy interior, so Hakkasan it was for us!

hkk10Feeling upbeat already when we stepped in, we were brimming with happiness literally the moment the food kept swarming in as the bosses loved every single drop of sauce and every morsel of dim sum. Starting off with the luscious scallop siu mai topped with prawn roe, that just whetted everybody’s appetite. Freshness is a given here but rather the balance in taste and that thin yellow bag there is packed generously with crunchy prawns that would put a smile to even the most picky gourmet.

hkk11Jasmine tea leaves smoked pork ribs. I remembered I was floored by this awesome dish when I first tasted it a few years back and nothing less was felt this time round as these tender meat has been thoroughly permeated with the jasmine leaves fragrance while a light smokiness has been tightly locked in each piece. Full of flavours, already visibly so from the radiant colours, both the bosses were impressed.

hkk6Truffle Roast Duck. This was a smashing hit! Priced at a whopping £35 ($70) for half a roast, we were initially unsure if we should get this to rape our wallets but the boss urged for it and I was glad we did. Initially worried that the overpowering truffle sauce might mask that fragrant fats there, it was actually a huge compliment as it coats every piece with a thick umami body. And, you get real truffles on top of the duck too! A decadent plate here indeed!

hkk12Even details in seemingly humble dishes like the char siu mui choi cheung fen are paid very close attention to. The well-glazed slithery rice skin is one that I have not had any better in Singapore and the tightly packed fluffy char siu in it together with the mui choi makes it into a lip-smacking savoury!

hkk9Fried duck leg topped with a decadent truffle each. This too was impeccable, with no greasy lips stained.

hkk8And the flavourful cod fish dim sum that has been perfectly steamed to a moist, creamy consistency that is beautifully cut through by the lightly spiced pepper sauce. Yummy!

hkk2Having a very happy tummy after the savouries, we know dessert has to be settled here. And Hakkasan does not do traditional Cantonese desserts in case you are wondering if Yang Zhi Gan Lu or Avocado puree should be ordered. Rather, French influenced ones are served which I will highly recommend. This Chocolate Bomb was mind blowing with the thick creamy peanut butter praline ice cream contained within. The condiments by the side was a mash of refreshing pomegranate and nuts that have been made extremely fun with the hidden popping candy sauce!

hkk3Pear tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and pear sauce. A more traditional French dessert here, this was perfect as the thin slices of poached pear would melt in your mouth, further lifted by that clever pear sauce. Natural sweetness tasted and with that smooth vanilla ice cream feeling excellent, we gave our approval to it.

hkk4All three desserts that we got and despite without an individual photo, we were also smitten by the macaroons with its chewy crust and adequately sweet fillings. I love the coconut one most and that green one is made from South East Asian pride, Pandan.

hkk5It was only a weekday lunch, and this restaurant is already packed with businessmen. What I love about here is the boldness of the chefs, which also extends to those from the pastry section as everything doesn’t seem contrived at all while the chefs are still able to assemble all the elements into brilliant dishes! Definitely worthy of that bright star.

hkk13And I thought I had to take a selfie in that marble toilet!

Verdict: An excellent restaurant. 5/5

 

 

 

Flat Iron – a 200g steak at £10?!

Flat Iron

9 Denmark St, London WC2H 8LS, United Kingdom near Tottenham Court Road Station

f3The title says it all, doesn’t it! What else could beat a £10 flat iron steak in London when everything isn’t exactly cheap? But the caveat holds, as the sides, sauces and desserts could push your bill up to £20 eventually which was what we did. No regrets though as that steak was just beautifully done at Flat Iron. Infamous for their relentless long queues at the one near Oxford Circus, we decided to make our way down to the much quieter Tottenham Court Road branch that Sunday! Quality ensured, yet without the crowd, we had a great lunch!

IMG_9190IMG_9191Getting into that rustic, brick walled restaurant, and you realise it’s quite a hipster place actually. Laying on the table – Old fashioned mugs to fill your free popcorn appetiser which you munch on while waiting for the friend who is utterly late, a cute pepper grinder to spice up your beef, and that immensely cute chopper knife by the side (for what use I’m not so sure as the beef have been thinly sliced!). How creative could these cutlery get?

IMG_9195And there we go, the £10 steak we have all been waiting for. Devoid of fats, they were amazingly tender and juicy while beautifully grilled on the surface to yield a lightly charred fragrance.

IMG_9198While the Hong Kong buddy was satisfied without a sauce which I reckon could be eaten on its own, I preferred a traditional peppercorn one to cut through that meatiness. Very delicious, and with 4 other flavours to choose from, I will recommend the Bearnaise as that clarified-butter-emulsified-in-egg-yolk sauce sounds a decadent one to give it an extra umami body (Peppercorn was chosen as this was just one of the many less healthy restaurants intended). £1 for the sauce.

IMG_9196OK, I need my sides and there we got the Dripping Cooked Chips (No fries over here I’m afraid as this is British pride!) (£2.50) and Today’s Market Green (£2.50) – Poached broccoli salted lightly, this was cooked simply but tasted so fresh and crunchy. Delicious! And yes, we did end the meal with a rhubarb compote dessert that tasted so fresh and elegant!

f2 Not exactly a £10 restaurant, I was still satisfied even when the bill added up to about £20 each! Great service and food, how could we not recommend!

Verdict: An excellent restaurant 4.2/5 

Shackfuyu – buns buns and more buns, but darn lovely they are!

Shackfuyu

14A Old Compton St, London W1D 4TJ, United Kingdom near Leicester Square Station

s1Shackfuyu – Not exactly too keen to give this Asian fusion bistro a go initially, I actually left this as the last stop but am glad I still had it for my last meal in London with the buddy from Manchester. Two different menus available, we chose the lunch and that is when you could get those fusion Chinese bun burgers which I was highly skeptical of initially, due to the less tasty experience I had with Little Bao in Hong Kong that had essentially the same concept. Nice chic bistro with a pretty large interior, I love the energy of this bistro too.

IMG_9271The first bun served and I know these Chinese buns could actually be made to work into a burger concept. With such thicker and denser buns, your ‘patties’ have to be even tenderer and moister which is what Little Bao failed to understand. This Flat Iron beef slathered with a thick chipotle miso hit the spot as that slightly spicy miso, together with that heavier tasting beef was just full of umami (Never use a beef patty as it will taste really dry with that dense bao there). £5.50.

IMG_9276Grilled salmon with orange miso and yuzu mayo. That yuzu mayo was a little faint but that mayonnaise worked really well together with the heavier tasting miso, which definitely have given an extra body to the delightfully oily salmon. You could actually feel the effort placed in perfecting and pairing the sauces right. £6.

IMG_9269Crispy Duck leg with plum soy and enoki mushroom. I was worried this might disappoint as the duck leg could risk being fried dry if the timing wasn’t taken care of. Luckily, it still tasted juicy, adequately moist and fragrant to make this another hit. And though the enoki mushroom here did not help fortify the taste, it actually added an exciting crunchiness to it! £6.

IMG_9272Salmon box bento with kale cucumber in the nutty wafu dressing, tako (octopus) taco and vegetable fried rice. Simple yet adequately flavoured, this £9 bento though is evidently more westernised, could still definitely satisfy the picky Asian palates.

IMG_9281Kinako French Toast with Matcha Ice cream. This Kinako or soy bean flour, usually used on your mochi, actually worked on this thick sinful french toast as it gives it a light salted slant. And that Matcha ice cream gratified us tremendously with its intense flavour. We were impressed. £6.

s2Pretty impressed with this Asian fusion bistro, we say this bistro deserves to be checked out!

Verdict: A good – excellent bistro. 3.8/5

Dishoom – Indeed the cafe of the year in London

Dishoom

22 Kingly St, London W1B 5QB, United Kingdom near Oxford Circus station

IMG_9201This Bombay cafe seems to be taking over the cafe scene in London as it breathes a heavy breath of fresh air into the otherwise monotonous, stifled cafe culture that has been seeing fluffier waffles, runnier poached eggs, thicker french toast or yellower hollandaise sauce appearing everywhere (at least that is the scene in Singapore). Deviating greatly from the usual, Dishoom has taken a risky but very successful step in making Indian cuisine the norm in the cafe scene. Initially skeptical, I was floored the moment we got our first appetiser together with our drinks and I knew it would be an awesome lunch which then again brings me back to the point that I did not have a single bad meal in London this time. Highly excited to debut my 2016 London restaurants with Dishoom

IMG_9207Dark chocolate Chai. This hot chocolate was beautifully cut through by the light spices and we loved the light spicy aftertaste. £2.90.

IMG_9206IMG_9205Okra fries that have been fried to render a light crispy,spicy overcoat while retaining the stretchiness within. Definitely a very addictive appetiser! £4.20. (Vegetarian) And that is it, at this point, we know we are set for a great lunch!

IMG_9215House Black Daal. Termed as the Dishoom signature dish, this black, plump daal was simmered for over 24h for the extra harmony; is dark, rich and deeply flavoured, as it has been permeated thoroughly by the flavourful sauce. £5.90. (Vegetarian)

IMG_9212Chicken Ruby. Redolent with spice and flavour, this is definitely a good thick bowl of curry while the tender chicken is brilliantly soaked in this rich silky Makhani sauce. £8.50.

IMG_9211And how else to finish every drop but to mop it up with the crispy, fragrant garlic naan. £2.50 for 2 pieces.

IMG_9209Chicken Berry Britannia. This biryani, slow-cooked and layered beautifully in a pot, was thoroughly perfumed by the light curry-like spices and refreshing cranberry aroma. Where’s the chicken we remarked and we then realised a generous portion buried right underneath. £8.90.

IMG_9216Mango Kulfi on a stick. I have had kulfi in Singapore before and felt that that overly thick creamy texture overpowered any other tastes. But the one over here was not only creamy and thick, the mango flavour came through strong yet not tasting too artificial. We like. £3.50.

And there we go, everything spot on the first time at a London Bombay cafe with the great balances in the numerous spices used. Just to emphasise how good it is, Dishoom was revisited just after a few days during the precious 9 days in the United Kingdom (turned precious due to a last minute meeting scheduled with the collaborators).

d1And these two foodies were satisfied!

Verdict: An excellent cafe 4.5/5

Coriander Leaf – Trust the immaculate waitress there I say

Coriander Leaf

Chijmes near City Hall MRT

IMG_8567Located on the second floor of Chijmes, it might not be the most conspicuous location, but this chic – looking Coriander Leaf still receives a sizeable number of customers as we continue late into the night.

I always have my reservations for tapas in Singapore as they are always, like what the foreigners I met a couples of weeks ago describe as, anorexic portions served at an exorbitant price. Which truly enough is exemplified by Coriander Leaf to a certain extent. Food is decent, not bad and I say listen to the recommendations from this immaculately dressed lady there as she really knows what’s good. Menu broken into 5 different categories, from which we had 1 each.

IMG_8570Coriander salad with wood ear mushroom, chilli and barbecued baby squid. While I was hoping for a really refreshing mix, this looked and tasted more like a garnish than a wholesome salad, as it was lacking the fragrance that it really just needs. Tasting sour throughout without really much flavour, the pairing between the barbecue squid and coriander seem out of sync. $12. The other salads though, sound more appetising than this.

IMG_8573Charcoal grilled baby lamb chops with harrisa pepper paste, yoghurt, dried chilli paste and pickled onions. These were delish, the thick pepper and chilli paste overcoat that the smokey tender lamb chops had, lifted the savouriness of these smokey tender lamb chops. $29.

IMG_8576Before we forget the unassuming looking Naan, they paired really well with all our dishes. Very well balanced texture over here; stretchy and yet so fluffy. $3.

IMG_8578Samia’s signature frontier chicken, coriander seeds, chilli, yoghurt cream, mizuna and lemon. These coriander seeds tasted somewhat slightly similar to peppercorn and together with the yoghurt cream by the side, this dish felt interesting and szechuan / Indian influenced in flavour. $20.

IMG_8579Fried baby market fish, tamarind, palm sugar, fish sauce, chilli padi. The best dish of the night, and one that isn’t anorexic without a heavy price tag. Super crispy fish lashed with the umami tasting fish sauce spiced up with the chilli padi, it was a overall familiar taste that excelled on the Asian tastebuds. $20.

IMG_8572Soft Shell crab, salted duck egg yolk sauce, curry leaves. This must sound like a must order for most I believe which indeed went well with us with its robust, thick creamy egg yolk sauce. $18.

IMG_8580White rabbit condensed milk ice cream, mango granita, leche flan, sweet potato, jack fruit, frosted flakes, shaved ice. The initial thought of forgoing desserts for another restaurant was reverted when we saw how beautiful and luscious they looked when served to other tables from afar. And the regret set in immediately after a spoonful. Really rough, bland unevenly shaved ice which felt more like ice cubes. The tastes of the many seemingly alluring ingredients unfortunately could not manage to reconcile with each other and it was quite a complicated mess. $16. I reckon the other desserts that go with a theme will be the safer options.

Definitely fusion-oriented, Coriander Leaf still remains a decent restaurant despite some of its misses in this dinner as they seem to have the potential. I reckon, go for the more familiar dishes that have a theme and leave the unexplored to the waitress to decide for you! Then again, service is pretty good while ambiance is definitely lovely for a slow, relaxing meal.

Verdict: A good restaurant.