Cafe East, [London Cheap Eats]

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

After watching Alice in Wonderland, we decided to make the short trip to Café East. Located next to Odeon cinemas in Surrey Quays, this was a nearby convenient choice, helped in no small part by various friends and family who commented this restaurant was as good as any on Kingsland Road.

Our party of six had to wait near half an hour before we had a table as despite the high turnover rate, there is no booking system; you come in, take a ticket, and wait till you’re called.

Cafe east, London 1

For drinks the PigPig had a fresh soya bean whilst I had a something-whose-name-I-forgot-but-resembled-lo-hon-kor (traditional Chinese herbal drink). I quite liked this sweet drink especially as it reminded me of my childhood. A friend also ordered a coconut drink which we spent a good 10 minutes debating its origin; we think it was canned.


Cafe east, London 2

1) Banh Cuon – Vietnamese style rolls filled with mushrooms and minced pork with a mild fish sauce. A favourite of one of our party, this was decent but nothing fantastic for me.

Cafe east, London 5

2) Cha Hue – labelled “deep fried Viet meat loaf” on the menu, I thought this was just like a fish cake albeit it had a slightly meatier texture and taste to it.

Cafe east, London 4

3) Goi Cuon – a typical “Summer Roll” containing the standard assortment of prawn, salad and vermicelli noodles. More than decent, but nothing special.

Cafe east, London 6

7) Pho Tai – half the table chose this typical favourite of rare beef strips with flat rice noodles (hor fun). As it was a bitingly cold evening, everyone chose the spicy soup so unfortunately I can only comment on this soup base, which both me and the PigPig found quite hearty and tasty but slightly lighter in spice aroma.

Cafe east, London 7

Cafe east, London 3

19) Bun Cha Nem Thit Nuong – essentially a bowl of vermicelli noodles topped with lots of fresh cucumbers and lettuce, julienned pickled carrots and turnip, fried spring rolls and a really awesome fried lemongrass pork doused with as much sauce (a mild fish sauce) as you want. This is my first time eating this (I normally order pho) so I can’t compare, but I liked the mix between the tangy pickled vege with the salty aromatic pork.

Cafe east, London 8

*the numbers in front of the names represent the dish number on the menu.

Altogether, the bill came up to £12 each and we were all stuffed to the brim (didn’t stop me from desiring some Hummingbird red velvet cake after a while for dessert though).


Overall the food was pretty good, although perhaps not quite as tasty as Song Que. Also the menu is quite limited, having just a few choices for starters and some pho, bun and rice dishes only (maybe I’m just moaning because I was hankering for some Viet pancake). It all felt a bit fast-food as well and this is probably reflected in its very affordable pricing.

Best bit: my lo hon kor drink.
Worst bit: waiting 30 minutes in a cramped waiting area.

Cafe East
Docklands
100 Redriff Road
Rotherhithe, SE16 7LH
Tel: +44(020) 8691 7777

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Penne with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Monday, 29 March 2010

I used the remaining home-made vegetable stock for another pasta dish. I made this just before I left for my long vacation as I wanted to get rid of whatever I have in my fridge and freezer. I used frozen Asian fish cakes and meat balls, which you can easily find at any Asian grocer.  These are usually vacumm packed and are normally used for steamboat/ hot pot, toppings for noodle soups (like this). The roasted bell pepper sauce was really tasty but the wild boar said he'd prefer this with minced meat instead of the random mix of balls and prawns.

Penne with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Ingredients: serves 3
  • 240g penne
  • 1 1/2 cup home-made vegetable stock
  • 2 red bell peppers - halved, deveined, deseeded
  • 60g (about 5 slices) sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 3 shallots - diced
  • 1 1/4 cup Asian fish cakes/ meat balls - chopped into bite size
  • 6 prawns - peeled
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • About 4 tbs mixed mushroom antipasto
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbs grated parmesan cheese
mushroom antipasto

mushroom antipasto with fresh herbs
Directions:
  • Mix together mushrooms and fresh herbs.
  • Pre-heat oven to 220°C.
  • Rub oil all over bell peppers, roast until softened and skin lightly charred (about 20 - 30 mins).
  • Blend vegetable stock, roasted bell peppers,sun-dried tomatoes and mixed herbs in a blender until smooth.
  • heat up a bit of oil in a pan.
  • Add shallots, fry until soft and translucent.
  • Pour in blended sauce. Bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for about 10-15 mins or until slightly thickened.
  • While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to manufacturer's instructions. Drain and leave aside for later use.
  • Add fish cakes and prawns to simmering sauce, leave to simmer until prawns are cooked.
  • Season with salt, sugar and pepper.
  • Mix in cooked pasta.
  • Stir in parmesan cheese.
  • Stir in mushrooms and fresh herbs.
  • Enjoy!
Penne with Roasted Pepper Sauce 2
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Misato, [London Cheap Eats]

Friday, 26 March 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Misato is a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown specializing in serving no frills simple to prepare food in large quantities for minimal prices. As such its no surprise it’s hugely popular amongst students and the queue is often at least 30 minutes on weekends.


Misato, London 1


The PigPig ordered a calpico, a Japanese non-carbonated soft drink which tastes sweet, yet a little bit sour, similar to a slightly diluted lassi. I just had the house tea, which was weirdly coffee-like in taste.


Misato, London 2


One of our favourite udons in town has to be Misato’s gyu udon (beef udon). The noodle itself is slightly soft but still have a nice chewy texture and wonderful to slurp up. The beef seemed a little different from the past, but is still served in large amounts and tasty. Be warned though that the beef does have quite a lot of fat on it, although some people do like it that way *cough cough*. The soup base is also delicious but probably laced with generous splashes of MSG.

Misato, London 4

Meanwhile I had a tori kara age (deep fried chicken nuggets) with rice. The chicken nuggets were a bit tougher compared to before but seasoned well. I also ordered some curry sauce to go with the rice as it would be a bit plain otherwise (cost £0.40 for the sauce; teriyaki sauce is another option).

Misato, London 3

Misato, London 6

Altogether, the bill came up to £7.50 each.


Let’s face it, this is more of a canteen style establishment and as long as you bear that in mind, it’s hard to be disappointed. The food is simple but pretty tasty and excellent value for money; I know girls who would eat half the plate in the restaurant and take the rest home in a doggy bag for tomorrow’s meal.

Best bit: Cheap and big.
Worst bit: The queue and can't make reservations.

Would I eat here again? There are lots of other temptations around, but if there isn’t a queue Misato is always an option for me.

Misato
Chinatown
11 Wardour St
Soho, W1D 6PG

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Hare & Tortoise Mini Review, [London Cheap Eats]

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Hare and tortoise, London 1

Dragon roll’ – a maki containing prawn tempura. It was not bad (can’t really go wrong with a fried prawn in the middle), but the rice was a bit disappointing and broke apart quite easily.Tastety nonetheless.

Hare and tortoise, London 2

Chive & shrimp gyoza’ – a bit below average. The pastry is decent but the filling was a bit sparse and lacked sufficient taste.

Hare and tortoise, London 4

Curry laksa’ – pure awesomeness. Better than most stalls in Malaysia (where it originates from), this slightly spicy but very creamy soup is very well flavoured. The soup has a lot of santan (coconut milk) which may be too much for people not accustomed to it though.

Hare and tortoise, London 3

Miso ramen’ – below average. A Westernized ramen dish, this wasn’t my cup of tea as the soup stock seemed a bit bland after the curry laksa.

Hare and tortoise, London 7

Singapore rice noodles’ – good. Although it lacked “wok hei” (hard to translate, but approximately: the taste and smell cooked food gets from being cooked in a very hot wok), the taste was still pretty good overall.

Hare and tortoise, London 6

Unagi don’ – good. The unagi was quite good and had a nice melt-in-your-mouth texture but flavoured a tad too strongly.

Hare and tortoise, London 5

Total cost: £10 each including green tea for all.


While the quality isn’t the highest around, the quantity of the food and general taste is well worth the price. It’s also pretty damn popular and the Kensington branch we visited had quite a large queue.

Would I eat here again? For the curry laksa!

PS The prawn noodles at the Bloomsbury branch is really good. Not sure why but they only serve prawn noodles at the Bloomsbury branch, not sure about the other branches as we've only been to these two.

Hare & Tortoise
West Kensington
373 Kensington High St
Kensington, W14 8QZ
Tel: +44(020) 7603 8887

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Kedgeree

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Kedgeree is a traditional British breakfast from colonial India that consists of smoked fish, boiled rice, parsley, hard-boiled eggs, curry powder and ghee. To be honest, I've never heard of or tried this dish before until Lizzie blogged about it. My breakfast is always cereal with milk or oats. sad I know. But the lazy me always wins. I served it with poached eggs instead of hard-boiled eggs, oozy egg yolk just makes everything better...and very photogenic! It's really tasty with a nice balance of spicy and smoky flavours.

Kedgeree 1
Ingredients: serves 2
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Recipe
  • 2 Eggs
  • 200g undyed smoked haddock fillet
  • 1 bay leave
  • 130g basmati rice
  • 1 tbs butter/ ghee
  • 1/2 tbs grated ginger
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 1 clove garlic - peeled and minced
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 1/2 tbs mustard seeds
  • 125 plum tomatoes - halved
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 handful fresh coriander
  • Salt

Directions:
  • Put the fish and bay leaf in a shallow pan with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from pan and leave to cool. Remove the skin from fish, flake into chunks and set aside.
  • Boil the rice in salted water until done (about 10 mins). Drain.
  • Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.
  • Add the ginger, onion and garlic. Fry until softened.
  • Add the curry powder and mustard seeds. Cook for a further few minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes and lemon juice.
  • Add the fish and rice to a pan and gently heat through.
  • Season with salt.
  • Mix in coriander.
  • Serve with poached eggs.
Kedgeree 2
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Hello From Home!

By home, I mean Malaysia!


Picture taken from wikipedia.

Yes, I'm currently on a super long vacation. Will be heading to Hong Kong tomorrow for a week then to Taipei. I won't be cooking much (or maybe at all) during this period but I will try to clear all of my backlogs (hopefully). I managed to set up some scheduled posts so stay tuned! I will try to catch up with your blogs once I get back. So at the meantime, happy cooking and eating!

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The Ledbury**, London [Restaurant Review]

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Even before being awarded the second star this year, The Ledbury has been a restaurant garnering many a compliment. I’ve had the pleasure of eating in its sister restaurant The Square** and had a great dinner there, so my expectations were high to say the least.

Lured by the great set lunch deal of £27.50 for three courses, we were the first to arrive at noon into a large airy room. It was one of those rare occasions in London when the sun deigned to come out to play, so we were delighted to be placed next to one of the many large windows.

The Ledbury, London 01

We started off lunch with an excellent amuse-bouche of beetroot meringue with foie gras mousse (I forgot what the sprinkles on top were, but I do remember making a mess of the table with it). It tastes even better than it looks, with the beetroot flavour coming out of the light airy meringue and marrying the deep rich foie gras flavour extremely well.

The Ledbury, London 02

Three different types of bread were on offer. We managed to sample all, but our favourite was always going to be the bacon and onion brioche. Whilst not as memorable as the fougasse at ADAD, the sweet-ish nature of the brioche was off-set quite well with the bacon flavour, although I did find the bacon used here was not only fatty but slightly chewier than it should be.

The Ledbury, London 05

The other two breads were sourdough and walnut. From what I understand, all the bread was made on site as well.

Slight explanation here, the PigPig chose from the set lunch menu, while I chose from the ala carte lunch menu, mainly because we wanted to try more options.

Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish”. Luckily for me, this bore no real resemblance to more traditional lemon-drenched ceviches. Instead, the juicy little slivers of scallop were swimming in a pool of aromatic herb oil. The truly interesting part was the frozen horseradish which was in a similar manner to shaved ice, which gradually released more flavour as they melted into the dish. I’m not entirely convinced that the horseradish (mild though it was) complimented the scallop’s flavour, but this is an interesting twist.

The Ledbury, London 04

Raviolo of Potato and Egg Yolk with Bianchetti Truffle, Onions cooked in White Beer and Grated Vacherin”. Continuing with our recent love affair with eggs for starters, this complex looking little dish smelled incredible with both the truffles and cheese aroma wafting from the plate. The mashed potato encased within the skin provided the body to taste the various sauces while the beer onions added another subtle flavour aspect to enjoy.

The Ledbury, London 03

The Ledbury, London 06

Best End of Lamb with Crushed and Smoked Artichokes, Green Tomato Juice and Garlic”. Looking far more complex than the name suggested, the pink slices of saddle of lamb were perfectly enjoyable on its own but we both thought the artichokes complimented it well and made it more fun. Both the roasted shoulder (7 o’clock in the picture) and the kromeski (2 o’clock) were good and tasty and provided an alternative type of cut to sample. However, the green tomato juice was more decorative than anything else and I didn’t feel it added anything substantial to the dish.

The Ledbury, London 08

Loin of Sika Deer Baked in Hay with Root Vegetables, Chocolate Malt
and Homemade Sauerkraut” I feel slightly guilty in retrospect after eating such a cute deer

The Ledbury, London 07

Anyway when ordering I was slightly apprehensive it might be a bit too gamey or tough, but the waitress reassured me it wouldn’t be. She proved to be correct as it was delightfully tender and juicy while exuding a flavourful but not overpowering gameyness. Hidden underneath the red meat was the sauerkraut which I thought lacked sufficient zing, yet the pickled mushrooms provided enough sourness for the dish. I didn’t particularly enjoy the chocolate malt (out of focus on the far side), but I never have enjoyed chocolate mixed with meats; the PigPig quite liked the mild chocolateyness though.

Chocolate Pave with Walnut and Pepper Ice Cream”. Essentially a very dark rich chocolate mousse, this was a dessert for adults as it was quite light on the sweetness but had a very strong dark chocolate flavour. It would have been very difficult to eat this actually without an ice cream on the side; luckily the pepper just added a subtle aftertaste and didn’t overpower it. The walnuts meanwhile added crunchy textures.

The Ledbury, London 09

We were extremely full so we only shared one dessert between us two but we did manage to sample all the petit fours on offer with our cups of filtered coffee. They were pretty good on average, except for the macarons but then we did have the pleasure of sample Pierre Herme recently.

The Ledbury, London 10

Altogether, the bill for a 3 course set lunch menu and 2 courses from the ala carte as well as a bottle of still water and two cups of coffee came up to just under £90 for two. Service throughout was warm friendly and generally attentive without intrusive throughout. The atmosphere was actually quite lively and there were more younger diners than normally found in two starred restaurants (only one table occupied with grey hairs).

Food – 8.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 5.0


Overall the food was quite tasty, expertly cooked and had several unique touches to differentiate it from the average dish. However I think that there were some minor niggles around. Their complex main dishes are a bit of a double edged sword; it makes things more interesting but it also detracts a little from enjoying the meat purely.

Best bit: probably the amuse-bouche.
Worst bit: nothing truly awful stands out really.

PS. Just want to mention about the single diner beside our table who spent his entire meal chatting to the waitresses and eating a total of 3 starters, 1 main and 3 desserts. I was quite full just eating my starter and main but he single handedly polished off more than twice the amount I ate. The PigPig thinks he was a chef and from the conversation I picked up he is a frequent visitor to Ledbury.



The Ledbury**
Notting Hill
127 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill, W11 2AQ
Tel: +44(020) 7792 9090
Official website

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Filipino Chicken Adobo

Another way to use up some of that delicious home-made vegetable stock. Adobo is apparently Philippines' national dish. It is made up of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorn, stewed to create a characteristic salty and tangy flavour. To be honest, I have never had this dish before. I just kept stumbling upon various adobo recipes, and I couldn't resist sauces like this - oily, thick, brown...so good with rice.

The first time I made this, I added 1/2 cup vinegar and according to the wild boar, it was way too sour. The second round, I halved it and turned out much better. It was nonetheless still quite sour, this dish reminds me of pork trotters with black vinegar 猪脚醋 - a common dish served during confinement after pregnancy. I love the tanginess but not the wild boar, well, he's generally not very fond of sour stuff anyway. It was generally very tasty, really good with rice. I like how you get a sudden burst of spicy flavour when you bite into the black peppercorns. I added some fresh basil, simply because I had some on the verge of wilting in the fridge, which added a nice aroma and fresh flavour.

Chicken adobo
Ingredients:
  • 720g (about 7) chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion - sliced
  • 1/2 bulb garlic - peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 1 cup home-made vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorn
  • 1 handful fresh basil - torned (optional)
Directions:
  • Heat up a bit of oil in a large pot. Brown chicken pieces on all sides. Leave aside for later use.
  • In the same pot, fry onions until softened and translucent.
  • Add garlic, fry until fragrant.
  • Mix in all the other ingredients including the chicken.
  • Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer until sauce thickened (about 30-45 mins).
  • Stir in basil.
  • Serve with rice!

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Spaghetti with Mushroom & Meat Sauce

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

My first batch of home-made stock was a success! I don't think I can go back to store-bought ones anymore...sigh...I'm glad I tried out the vegetable stock recipe as it was really good, so flavourful. I was so tempted to season it with a bit of salt and pepper and drink the whole batch! Anyway, I resisted and had a lot of leftover from the Daring Cook's challenge. I've been using it in almost every dish I cooked for the past week and here's my first pasta dish made with HOME-MADE vegetable stock *grins with pride*

Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 8
Ingredients: serves 3
  • 230g Spaghetti
  • 500g minced beef
  • Portobello mushrooms (from making vegetable stock) - chop into small pieces
  • 1 cup mixed dried mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, porcini)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 large onion - diced
  • 3 cloves garlic - pressed
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 box (390g) chopped tomatoes in a concentrated tomato juice
  • 1 1/2 cup home-made vegetable stock
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp condensed milk
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A handful of parsley - coarsely chopped
Directions:
  • Soak dried mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water until softened (about 30 mins). Drain, press water out. Keep the soaking water for later use and coarsely chop the mushrooms.
  • Heat up a bit of oil in a pan.
  • Add minced beef, stir fry until dry and brown. Leave aside for later use.
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 1
  • In the same pan, add onions, fry until soft and translucent.
  • Add garlic, fry until fragrant.
  • Mix in softened dried mushrooms and portobello mushrooms.
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 2
  • Add cooked beef, dried mixed herbs and tomatoes.
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 3
  • Pour in the water used for soaking mushrooms and vegetable stock.
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 4
  • Bring to boil, lower heat to simmer for about 30 mins.
  • Stir in tomato paste.
  • Pour in evaporated milk and condensed milk. Leave to simmer for a further 15 mins.
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 5
  • While the sauce is simmering, boil pasta in a large pot of water until it's almost done.
  • Drain and mix pasta into the sauce and let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce.
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 6
  • Season with worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  • Stir in parsley.
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 7
  • Enjoy!
Spaghetti with Creamy Wild Mushrooms and Meat Sauce 9

I'm sending this to Aqua from Served with Love who is hosting this week's Presto Pasta Night.

presto pasta nights
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