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Monday, December 28, 2015

London: Literally Burger and Lobster @ Burger & Lobster, Soho

Have you ever wandered into a restaurant only to be confused by a menu that goes on for ages?  So have I.  That is until I started blogging.  But one genius has came up with a restaurant that serves 3 dishes and only 3 dishes with no options for sides whatsoever.  It is so simple that they do not even have a menu.  This is the famous Burger & Lobster and its £20 menu.  If its name does not give it away, the restaurant literally serves burger and lobsters.   Coming in for lunch at 2pm on Saturday, I was thankful to have waited for a short 15 minutes before being seated.  I have heard other people who have waited for over 2 hours!   

Diners at Burger & Lobster have a choice between the beef burger, the poached/grilled lobster and the lobster roll.  Jacques and I decided to share a serve of poached lobster and the beef burger.

The kind chefs in the kitchen help split them in half for us so there was no need for any cutting whatsoever.

The burger half:
We asked the burger to come medium rare to get the best of the juicy patty.  The burger came brilliantly red in the middle so it was no surprise that the first bite was intensely juicy.  Simply seasoned with salt and pepper, it was delicious!  Jacques on the other hand thought it was a little too red.  I can see his concerns as certain parts looked really red haha.

The lobster half:

To get the best of the lobster, we opted for the poached one.  Having it poached means you get a flesh that amplifies the naturally sweet-briny flavours of the crustacean.   Not to mention, the flesh stays extremely juicy if poached for the right amount of time.  Then comes the best part, the meaty claw!  Biting into its meaty flesh was every bit satisfying!  Almost like biting into a giant drumstick!  Dip it in the accompanying parsley butter for an extra kick of flavour!  

Burger & Lobster served me an enjoyable meal that day.  If the queue is not too overbearing,  I would definitely come back for another meal.  Thinking back, if I came back feeling really hungry, I might even consider ordering one lobster and burger for myself!  They were both amazingly tasty dishes.  In saying that, I admit that the lobster alone would might really small.  In fact, the body of the lobster was rather small, but remember so was my £20 pound note!  Thankfully their perfectly fried fries and salad made help complete the meal.

Visit 2:

Burgers & Lobster was an enjoyable meal for me back when I was in London. However, there was a lingering feeling of incompleteness as I have not been able to try their Lobster Roll which is the final item on the menu.  Fortunately I revisited the London and brought a couple of friends to try out Burger & Lobster. 

Lobster Roll 

Filled to the brim with sweet lobster flesh and served between a brioche bun brings heaven a little closer to earth.  It was essentially eating a lobster without the fuss of peeling the shells.  But is it the exact same? Well this is a definite no.  Nothing quite beats the flesh of the plump juicy lobster flesh you get from a freshly prepared lobster.  The Lobster roll was a convenient thing but for the best flavour, I would definitely call the Lobster which I did too :)!

Burger & Lobster Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, December 25, 2015

Bites NLD: Traditional Kaiseki @ Yamazato, Hotel Okura

Once again I was on the prowl for a great feast.  This time around, a trip to the capital,  Amsterdam.  Located on the outskirts of Amsterdam city centre is the Okura Hotel, a hotel that houses not one, or two but three different Michelin starred restaurants.  Tonight’s dinner was at the 1 star Japanese sensation, Yamazato. Nothing here gives Yamazato away as a 1 Michelin starred restaurant.  The entrance carries a similar vibe to that of a typical  upscale Japanese restaurant and the etiquette of the serve staff is unsuspecting as it is in the nature of Japanese people to be impeccably polite.  But when the food came progressively, things started becoming serious.

The Omakase started with a trio of appetisers called the “Tsukidashi”

Chopped up little pieces of water cress, amber jack flesh and roe in a tea consommé.   Very light on the palate but full in flavours.  I like how each individual element had a sense of individualism as their taste was apparent and not masked by seasoning.

A small serve of sushi from the counter in Yamazato.   The original Kaiseki menu serves a Mackerel and Anago sushi. 

For me, I got the salmon and prawn because I wanted to stay away from the fishy offerings!  

Both were amazing.  The rice was at the right temperature and the grain stay whole.  Picking it up, the rice held its weight and in the mouth it crumbled without much effort.  It carried a nice bite and more importantly, the rice seasoning was good.  However, a sushi is only as good as its toppings and Yamazato gave the glorious rice the treatment it deserved.

Slow braised daikon with mince and orange peel.

This was another sensational course served at Yamazato.  I could not fault with anything.  There was no bitterness in the daikon and the mince was super moist.  Above all, every bite carried a citrus note that really gave a sense of warmth and fruitiness.  Lovely.’’

After the trio of appetisers, we were served the Robin Mushi - Clear fish Soup in a Dobin Tea Pot

To ready us for our next course, we were served a fish soup that looked everything except basic.  The prawns was cooked just right, the shrooms plump and the pork mellow.  You can choose the squeeze lime juice into the soup but I thought it tasted best the way it is! A very refreshing course that cleanses the palate.

The Tsukuri, a sashimi course of brill, tuna, salmon and yellow tail.

Plate 1

Plate 2

Fresh fish! While it was every bit fresh, I was let down by the composition.  There was nothing wrong with what they served in terms of quality but it lacked dimension.  Give me some fish, some crustacean and perhaps an urchin too.  I was looking for different texture, and flavours if you get what I mean.  Perhaps, start off with a white fish, then some fatty tuna, a slice of smokey aburi salmon before sipping tea and enjoying the sweet crystal prawn and to finish, a briny sea urchin.  This is what I my expect from a great sashimi experience.

Orange Gratin -  Oysters with White Miso sauce

When I read the menu, I had in mind something that looked totally different.  Perhaps something baked and served on a shell.


Nevertheless, the flavours were what I expected but a lot creamier and decadent.  The way the fragrance of the white miso and orange complemented the dish was also another highlight.  That sweet miso bean flavour with a citrusy kick was a great pairing for the humungous oyster in the orange!  However, it can be a little daunting towards the end as it was a really rich dish!

Agemono - Tempura of King Crab and Scallops.

From the description, one would expect to have the best tempura of their life.  Unfortunately, this was not true.  In a case that the scallops was either left out for too long or not pat dry before being fried, so the batter fell of all the scallops when served.  Thankfully the king crab held together much better, so we did not have any such dramas.  But at this level of dining, every detail is critical and this is why my fellow diners were left wondering.

Shiizakana - Grilled Fillet of Beef

Grilled courgettes, mushrooms, minute fried pepper and an amazing beef fillet served with red miso.  Each bite was so tender with no resistance whatsoever.  It was lovely!  The best part was that there was no word of wagyu mentioned on the menu yet it was simply superb.  

Shokuji - Steamed rice with sea bream and miso soup

Most Japanese meals finish with a course of carbohydrate and this is no different.  Some might criticise this finishing course at Yamazato to be very bland and to a certain extent that is true.  But there is always something golden about a simple rice dish.  Perhaps this was the intention of the chefs at Yamazato after a roller-coaster of flavours presented in the earlier courses.

To finish the evening, we were served two desserts.  The first was the Japanese Ice Cream

Persimmon Pudding

A great end to the meal.  The Persimmon pudding at Yamazato was my favourite that night. It had the right consistency and balance with a pronounce fruitiness in it.  I was not bowled over by the ice cream for a couple of reasons.  The first being a soggy macaron and secondly, the ice cream itself was not churned to a state that I was looking for when I eat ice cream in a fancy restaurant.  I was looking for a sticky almost melting consistency that’s not icey but coats the spoon with a silky layer and is simply perfect for eating.  

Alas, Okura Hotel should be known as the foodies hotel with the amount of world class restaurants residing in it.  Yamazato, one of its oldest restaurant is delicious and fed me what I describe as “an over all  great meal”.  Was in an exceptional one that deserved 2 stars?  Perhaps not, but it definitely deserves its 1 star rating.  Note that despite the harsh comments I have made on several dishes, Yamazato is still a force to be reckoned with.  Its fully simple, yet sophisticated on the palate with all of its dishes retaining the original flavours of the core ingredients.  After my lacklustre encounter with Sushi at Morikawa in Den Haag, I am interested in going back for the sushi course at Yamazato!  Maybe next time.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bites NLD: Sushi Time @ Morikawa, The Hague

It has been over a year since I had eaten proper sushi.  No not those on the carousel or those that is served by the thousands.  But instead, a sushi place where the every detail is looked into.  The seaweed treated, fish handpicked and flavours carefully composed.  Do not misunderstand me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with bulk sushi (which I often eat) but there are times when you are looking for something that is extra special.  Naturally, when I heard that there was a place in town that specialises in sushi, I was super keen.  The restaurant is Morikawa and it is the most popular sushi place in the Hague and in a country like the Netherlands where the herring is eaten raw daily, I expected nothing less than the amazing.
Coming in, my colleagues and I were seated by the bar and ordered the sushi set meal.  The meal was a “trust the chef” or Omakase sushi meal that consists of 10 Nigiri Sushi, 2 types of Maki and a Tamago.  The reason why I chose to sit at the bar counter was so that the I can be served each sushi individually and the chef could explain each dish.  

Sadly, this was not the case.  The chef made 3 plates of Nigiri and gave it to us.
A bit of a disappointment to not be served the sushi individually I have to say.  But if the sushi served to us was of great quality, then nothing else matters.  My verdict on the 10 Nigiri Sushi:  It was decent, and over all OK.  The plate had a 50-50 mix of raw and “cooked” sushi.  The Tuna was really nice along with the Snapper topped with marinated ginger.  The prawns were mediocre at best and the Aburi Scallop Nigiri tasted repetitive as it was topped with a similar tasting topping.  The Tobiko Nigiri was a little boring honestly!  While I had no big favourites on the platter, the aburi salmon was good though I felt like I had tasted better at chain restaurant!  Last but not least, I was totally let down by the lack of attention to detail especially with the poached crab sushi that felt so un-cared and unloved when compared to my meal at Sushi Azabu last year! See this for comparison and tell me!

The second platter looked very attractive.  But did it taste as good as it looked?  I wonder!
Actually it was again another serve of OK sushi.  I do not think that anything on the plate particularly wow-ed the table.  The tuna roll tasted a little blend while the rolled covered in a colourful leaf carried a small piece of fish that was extremely potent in fishy flavours.  I think the table was quite appalled by that roll haha.  Last but not least, the Tamago was good and provided the most salvation for this plate of rolled sushi!
Morikawa was not a cheap affair but neither did produce a mind boggling bill.  However, the lack of sociability from entrance to seating to eating to finishing the meal made this an underwhelming sushi experience.  Then comes the part where I asked the chef whether there was an order which I should approach the sushi from and he said no.  He said "All the same just start where you would like to,".  That literally threw me off.  There is always a logic or intention in cooking.  At Morikawa there was none.  Was he for real?  Well, he walked off after serving us so I guess he was serious.  Morikawa has just came out of a long 2 week hibernation during my visit.  Perhaps it was a case of lost touch of some sort but I could in no way pair the level of respect present in the general public against the food I was served today. 


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bites NLD: Dim Sum @ Oriental City, Amsterdam

Dim Sum is a culinary art beyond the norm.  Its presentation is fine, food tasty and variety plenty.    Wherever its Malaysia or Australia that I am at, Dim Sum is a monthly ritual for me.  My colleague and I went recently went for lunch at Oriental City, a recommendation from his Chinese barber in Amsterdam.  Oriental City is a popular family spot on the weekends with a 30 minute wait for a table even thought it was 1pm. This shows how famous Oriental City is with the locals.

At the table, you are given a list to tick the type and quantity of dim sum you would like to order.  Naturally, I quickly ticked the usuals suspects and before we knew it, we had about 10 dim sums presented before us (not all pictured).

The Siu Mai; Pork Dumpling


The Har Gow; Prawn Dumpling


The Char Siew Cheong; BBQ Pork Rice Paperoll


The Hor Yip Fan; Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf

These are some of the most traditional offerings that you can find at every Dim Sum place.  Oriental City did prepared them quite well although I was not too convinced by the thicker than usual Har Gow skin.  This was a surprise for me because the Char Siew Cheong skin was pretty thin which allowed the dark red colour of the BBQ pork to be exposed!  My favourite Dim Sum dish the Siu Mai was quite refined unlike the ones I usually have in Perth and Hong Kong where the meat inside is quite chunky.  Still every bit as more-ish!  The glutinous rice was average at best.  I felt that it was lacking something! 


The Oriental City Dumpling; Roast Duck, Prawn and Coriander Dumpling.


Shanghai Soup Dumpling


Fried Noodles

While Oriental City excelled with the classics, the same could not be said for its other offerings.  The fried noodles were good, I dare not call it classic Soy Fried Noodles in any way.  If it was, then its a reinterpretation by the chefs at Oriental City.  The reason why the Shanghai Dumpling and the Oriental City Dumpling joins the list of my dislikes it because of the skin wrapping the dumpling.  It was seriously thick!  So much thicker than the Prawn Dumpling ones! Eventually, I ditched the skin and only ate the fillings :P!   


Mango Pudding

Last but not least was the Mango Pudding.  Flavour wise it was spot on.  But then comes it consistency which was super hard and not like what the Chinese would often describe “Q-Q” which means springy jelly like!  Did I like it?  No.  But did I absolutely hate it no?  It was just not a good one that is all.

Oriental City was a promising prospect.  Serving over 3 floor of hungry dinners simultaneously shows how busy this place is.  But perhaps the 40 minute wait got the better of me and had me set my expectations rather high. Would I come here again? Perhaps yes if there was no wait!  The food was at best decent for a fussy eater like me!

But also note that prices for Dim Sum in Europe is more expensive compared to other places too!  Be prepared to fork out some €25-30 for decent meal here because 1 bamboo basket is typically around €4.70.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bites NLD: Deep-dish Apple Pie @ Winkel 43, Amsterdam

Beyond the raw herring, Gouda cheeses, and frites fronting the Amsterdam food culture is another iconic feed.  The deep-dish apple pie.  To have a slice of what is supposedly the best apple in the country, I took a trip to Amsterdam to visit Winkel 43.  This breakfast cafe stops preparing all freshly cooked breakfast on the weekend to cater for the greater demand of their famous deep-dish apple pies.
The walk to Winkel 43 is some 15 minutes or 10 minutes tram from Amsterdam Central Station.  The walk at 9am through the canals are amazingly beautiful and it did not disappoint.  So if you are up for some morning exercise before sugary treat, definitely go for one!

Winkel 43's deep dish apple pie!
At first glance, the slice of pie looked every  bit plain.  But do not be fooled.  The generous amount of juicy apples slices that Winkel 43 packs between those pastries shell were all the rave.  Every bite into the warm juicy slices of apple coated in bite of sugary cinnamon was yummy.  Occasionally you get little raisins that gives that burst of sweetness too!  Note that the pastry was not your typically crumbly short crust.  Its consistency was a little chewy but very nice  I would say!

Was Winkel 43’s deep-dish apple pie worth my 45 minute journey to Amsterdam?  It really makes me wonder.  Yes it was good, the apples were generously packed in there but to a certain extent I could not justify the effort if apple pie was the sole purpose of my trip.  Well, perhaps if I had my entourage and a driver then I could buy an entire apple pie like Bill Clinton was famously rumoured to have done back when he was President.  Nonetheless, if you are in Amsterdam looking to start your morning with a kick, Winkel 43’s apple pie is definitely the way to go!  Come early too as it gets seriously busy once the clock strikes 10am!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Paris: Duck Confit @ Bosc Alain, Champ de Mars

It was the final day in Paris and I was keen to end it with an authentic French lunch.  But with no internet to help, I had to walk on foot and decide what was best.  Eventually I ended up at Bosc Alain nearby the Eiffel tower area.  The 3 course set menu was simple but every bit French.  

Escargots in a lovely parsley butter
The escargots taste a little earthy, with a mild chew but generous amount of butter and parsley made this dish really tasty while developing a very nice fragrance. 

Duck Confit
While the accompaniments were authentic, I could not help but wonder whether the duck could have been cooked better.  The skin was decently brown but a tad longer to let the skin become crisp and fat cook away would definitely be the way to go.  But on a positive note, the duck was not overly salty and the frites that came with it were super crunchy and nice.

Cheese plate to finish.
The plate felt bare but I guess the highlight was the cheese anyway. While I was expecting a little sweet side like dates/pear/jam, there was none.  Even then, the cheese tasted good!  Could have been better for sure.

Was it amazing?  Well, perhaps no.  But my expectations were not the highest as it was a super touristy area where tourists would come by the masses anyway.  But alas, it was still a decent meal with some notable highlights like the escargots and the duck in some aspects.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Paris: Nepalese fare @ Buddha Restaurant, Gobelins

Having dinner out on Saturday is a big thing and its no different in Paris.  With no bookings, you can forget about walk-ins even at 9pm.  After getting rejected by one of the more popular bistro’s, we were quite lost.  But considering how windy and cool it was that night,  we decided to go for a curry meal at Restaurant Buddha just round the corner. 

I have to say, we were quite lucky because a few patrons had just left leaving us with a couple of tables around.  I was salivating when I saw the menu.  The food was typically Indian/Nepalese with all the usual suspects.  You get the lovely Momo dumplings, Chilli Chicken, Vindaloos, and Briyanis.

Eventually we decided to share and called many different dishes.  I believe we had the Chilli Chicken, the Momo, a Briyani and a Lamb Korma.  Also as the food came out a little slow, Buddha restaurant very kindly served us some Aloo Naan or stuffed naan.  
Could not be happier at 9.30pm.  We literally devoured it the moment it hit the table.  That was how hungry we were!

Our platter of Momo’s which is a traditional Nepalese dumpling.  I had it before at Himalayan Nepalese Restaurant in Perth and these were equally tasty!

The Chilli Chicken was the highlight of the night.  Tender chicken pieces coated in a spicy, sticky sauce that was also mildly sweet.  It was very flavoursome.
My meal at Buddha Restaurant was every bit satisfying.  We ordered a lot and we were absolutely stuffed.  With four mains, several naans and drinks for the table, we paid €25 per person which is considered pretty decent in this side of France.  The service was a little slow but it never lacked courtesy for one moment.  Buddha restaurant was easily a delicious meal in Paris and I would thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for something beyond the norms of a Parisian bistro.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Paris: Amazing Sorbet @ Berthillon Ice Ceam, Île Saint-Louis

Walking the canals and relaxing by one is a great way to enjoy the relaxed Parisian lifestyle.  After a great meal at L’Avant Comptoir, I continued my journey to the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Needless to say I was not convinced that the many hours of long queue to see the iconic church from the inside was worth my time.  So after quickly snapping a few photos from the outside, I was off to pick up a cone from the famous Berthillon Ice Creamery kiosk.
This amazing ice cream shop has been operation for tens of years and rightfully so considering the amazing ice creams they make.  While I have been saying a lot of the word “ice cream”, their specialty is actually the amazing sorbet they make.

I could not resist getting two scoops that afternoon.  The scoop on top was the passionfruit sorbet while the bottom one was a ripe berry sorbet.  Both flavours packed some serious fruit flavours.  Like Anthony Bourdain puts it, biting into a Berthillon sorbet feels as though you are biting into the frozen fruit itself.  That statement I find very accurate as the fruity flavours were really intense!


Several of my friends opted for the chocolate ones and thought that it was only “OK”, so it really depends on what you like I believe.  But go with the sorbet and you should do just ok!  So remember if you are in the Île Saint-Louis area, definitely come-by Berthillon for a scoop of amazing sorbet!


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris: Fine Tapas @ L'Avant Comptoir, Odeón

After an absolutely rubbish steak by a random restaurant at Eiffel tower the night before, I was more determined than ever to have a proper meal.  My research game was strong and brought me to a little tapas bar in town called L'Avant Comptoir in Odeón.  

Hidden behind a takeaway Creperie, this is a stand only tapas place and strictly no reservations.  How to order?  L'Avant Comptoir’s standard menu is hung from the ceiling with a price and picture while everything seasonal is written in chalk on a small blackboard.  

Note that L'Avant Comptoir only has one sommelier, maître d and waiter so its a one man show at the counter.  He (Mr Eric) remembers everyone better than you do, so if you feel ignored it is because someone else is waiting before you.
This rule applies no matter how sure you are that you were the first in line lol.

Bread, butter and condiments are communal (and seriously good too) so do not freak out should someone reach over your shoulder to take a slice of bread or smear butter from your tray haha.  

The tapas at L'Avant Comptoir is simple, interesting and extremely flavourful.  My first dish was a bowl of super sweet shell fish right which was a seasonal special off the black board. 

Cooked in a tomato based sauce with wine and finished with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley, the shell fish was faultless.  Sweet, juicy and mildly briny, this was a great finger food.

The second dish I got was a classic favourite for the table, creamy potato croquettes with bits of yummy ham.

Creamy potato on the inside, crisp on the outside makes the croquette a tapas that is hard to beat.   Its seasoning too was balanced and really quite tasty!

The Jamon de Paris at L'Avant Comptoir to share with paprika and horseradish.

Its hard to explain how a humble ham can make an good lunch become an amazing lunch.  But if you appreciate your ham slightly juicy but not wet, mildly salted and intense in flavour, then you will enjoy this a lot!  A pinch of horseradish drops a load of kick so do not put too much! 

My fancy pants attempt at L'Avant Comptoir before dessert was a Foie Gras Meringue with Citrus Jam.  

Creamy, fragrant and a sweet altogether in one bite.  What can I say?  Wow.  It will be overwhelming for those who dislike the richer things in life but this was a seriously interesting morsel.  If I had one criticism, it would be that the macaron could be a little thicker!  I think there was more Foie Gras than Meringue in this dish haha.

There is no better way to end a great meal but with a sweet ending and when in Paris, eat Burnt Cream or Creme Brûlée.

The twist?  Creme Brûlée at L'Avant Comptoir is not a really sweet dessert but instead is velvety smooth and simply fragrant.  You could smell the burnt sugar the moment the dessert hits the table.  After hearing the beautiful crust break, its time to explore the beautiful cream.  Spiked with a little coffee, the cream has an aromatic kick that paired perfectly with the burnt sugar.   An amazing dessert over all. 

The wines were pretty good too according to the boys.  I thought it was OK but nothing life changing.  No discrimination of prices between per glass and per bottle, so do not hesitate to try all the different wines L'Avant Comptoir has to offer :)!

The L'Avant Comptoir was packed at 1pm and several patrons who waited to get in were visibly frustrated by the lack or service or rather no service.  So be sure to come 5-10 minute before they open at 12 or risk having to wait.  The more popular sitting restaurant next door L'Comptoir St Germain Bistro had people waiting in line since 11.30am!!  Paris is a big city with plenty of good food.  But it has plenty of people too.  So queues are a norm and bookings essential where possible.