Month: July 2009

Recipe: BBQ Chicken

Oddly enough, I had a craving for BBQ chicken the other night. Since I couldn’t think of a place in London that does it well (*cough* Nandos *cough*), I figured I might as well give it a shot even though I’d never cooked it before. But I’m American, so how hard can BBQ be?

Not hard at all, I found out.  This meal turned out really well! I paired it with a nice sweet potato rice and corn on the cob to give it that extra Stars and Stripes oomph. This serves 4. Exactly. We had no leftovers whatsoever.

BBQ Chicken

  • 4 chicken legs/thighs
  • Flour
  • Sea Salt, ground pepper
  • BBQ sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Honey

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Mix the flour, sea salt and pepper and lightly coat the skin side of the chicken. Lightly pan fry the chicken until it’s golden brown and crispy on the outside, and place in a baking dish lined with foil.

Baste the chicken in a mixture of BBQ sauce, honey, and sriracha and cook for about 25 minutes.  Baste again and cook for an additional 20. Put the corn on the cob in the oven on the chicken’s second go, turning once after 10 minutes. I usually take that time to put a little butter and sea salt on the ears.

Sweet potato rice

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • A few pinches of brown sugar
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium sized red onion (or 3 shallots)
  • Lemon juice
  • Dried cherries

Before starting on anything, make sure you have your sweet potato cubed.  Sprinkle the lot with a little bit of oil and a few generous pinches of brown sugar.

While the chicken is pan frying, bake your sweet potato in the oven for about 15 minutes at 200C. After the oven, do a complete switcheroo (technical term) and put the chicken in the oven and the sweet potatoes in the frying pan.  Sprinkle a bit more brown sugar, sauté to crisp and put off to the side.

Start boiling the rice and cutting up the other ingredients. Sauté the garlic and onion in oil and lemon until brown, add in the broccoli and sweet potatoes.

When the rice is tender, mix all the ingredients together. Season to taste. I put in some more pepper, lemon and sriracha.

By this time, the chicken and corn should be done. Plate it up, throw a few dried cherries on the rice for an extra touch, and enjoy with friends.


La Fontaine de Mars – Paris 7eme

le fontaine de mars

Sadly, this is my last Paris restaurant review from my weekend. Honestly though, it’s probably a good thing. I spent way too much money on food than is healthy for one person in a weekend – and I didn’t even get into l’Astrance.

La Fontaine de Mars came on a recommendation from one of my favourite London people (and fellow American) TikiChris.  It’s situated on a side street right near the Eiffel Tower, where I promptly went to take a nap in front of when finished with my meal.

As it was lunch, and I had already put a considerable dent in my pocketbook, I couldn’t go all out. I had… a main course and a glass of wine. (Lo! For I can hear all the foodies in the world fainting at the prospect!)

I didn’t want anything too heavy, so I opted for seabass with homemade gnocchi and lima beans:

le fontaine de mars duraude seabass

Mmmm… Doesn’t that look lovely? It was.

There was a lovely glaze on the fish, rich like a gravy, but much lighter. The skin was nicely salted, which was balanced out by the creamy gnocchi.  The beans were slightly overcooked as they completely fell apart on my fork every time I tried to take a bite, but the taste wasn’t compromised at all.

With a glass of wine and a coffee, the meal came to 37 euro, which, in all honesty is extortion considering the amount of food I got for the same price at much fancier establishments. They charged me 6.50 for a cappuccino. I mean, come on… really? To my American friends, that’s like 10 bucks. Ridonkulous.

So, yes – Go to La Fontaine de Mars, it’s very tasty. But for god’s sake, don’t order a cappuccino.

La Fontaine de Mars
129, Rue St Dominique
, 75007 Paris, France

+33 1 47 05 46 44

Le Chateaubriand – Paris 11eme

le chateaubriand
Just like Le Timbre, I had my eye on Le Chateaubriand months before I left. But of course, after my my experience at Le Timbre, I was very very worried my high hopes would leave me high and dry. Luckily, this was not the case.

Le Chateaubriand is making quite the name for itself. Self-taught chef Iñaki Aizpitarte was just rewarded a debut place on San Pellegrino’s Top 50 Restaurants in the World (no. 40) and the fantastic reviews keep pouring in.  That was good enough for me, but really sold me as mentioned previously was value – the 5-course dinner prix fixe is 45 euro. You can get lunch for 14, but it’s simpler.  Dinner, I hear, is much more worth it.

The restaurant itself is small, but not too crowded. I didn’t feel out of place dining alone. For dinner, no matter if you’re 1 person or 10, you absolutely must book a table. I’ve been told that trying to do so is hell as they rarely answer the phone, but I didn’t have a problem.

The Menu

chateubriand menu

My first reaction: W00t! Pigeon. I heart pigeon. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Amuse Bouche – Salad with large (raw?) prawns

amuse bouche chateubriand

I love ordering food in France when you’re not fluent in the language.  I get by well enough, but my vocab is definitely not up to speed, especially with more obscure ingredients or fancy names for different types of crustaceans. When I tried this, it ‘looked’ like raw shrimp, and it kind of tasted like shrimp, but I wasn’t quite sure it was.  Whatever, though – you just kind of have to go with it. It was delicious. Very light, almost minty.  It was the perfect palette cleanser to start my amazing meal. 8/10

Starter – Cow’s milk mozzarella with fennel and salmon roe

starter chateubriand

It’s odd – I wasn’t sure what to expect with this. I assumed it would be pleasant ( I mean, just look at it!), but I had no idea how well it could work together. On the plate, there was a lot of fennel, which can often be overpowering, but the subtle creaminess of the cheese and the saltiness of the roe (I love it when those little things explode in your mouth) balanced it all out. It was light and refreshing and perfect in every way imaginable. 10/10

Fish course – Monkfish with carrot

monkfish chateaubriand

After my high from the starter I was ready for things to go downhill, which it did with the fish course (picked back up again after, don’t worry).  Monkfish is ok, but it’s certainly not my favourite fish. Carrots are ok, but they’re certainly not my favourite vegetable.  So when you put the two together, well… you see where it’s going.  What I did like though was the nice sprinkling of fresh sea salt on the fish, the light foam with a hint of carrot and the fact that it was so perfectly portioned, there was ne’er a bite where I didn’t have a little piece of carrot, a little piece of fish and dollop of foam all together. 6/10

Meat course – Pigeon with beetroot

pigeon chateaubriand

Pigeon makes me feel bad for vegetarians.  Every single time I eat it, I make audible noises and lament in disbelief how one could willingly give up such a fantastic bird.  This pigeon was amongst the best I’ve ever had.  It was perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked and perfectly accompanied by slightly sweet beetroot slices and slightly bitter radicchio. I dream about this bird. 10/10

Dessert – Strawberry Chantilly

strawberries fraises chateaubriand dessert

Well, it’s not much to look at, that’s for sure… Underneath the giant layer of foam (which looks curiously thick and heavy in that picture, but in reality was very cloud-like) are fresh strawberries and chunks of macaroons.  Yum! After the pigeon, I was looking for something very light, and this was perfect. It wasn’t the most inventive or the best dessert I’ve ever had, but it was definitely good.  7/10

Le Chateubriand was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Service was great (and great to look at too I might add).  Classically French, but brimming with ingenuity. Quite simply, anyone visiting Paris should eat here.

Le Chateaubriand
129 Avenue Parmentier
, 11th 75011 Paris

+33 1 43 57 45 95

Le Bonbonniere de Buci – Paris, 6eme

Le Bonbonniere de Buci

No trip to Paris is complete without swinging by a patisserie. Le Bonbonniere de Buci was recommended to me by Tim, who stops by there every time he’s in Paris for one specific reason: their Grand Marnier cake.

Le Bonbonniere de Buci

Looks rich, doesn’t it? Actually my stomach aches just thinking about it. I don’t know the recipe for this cake, but I would imagine it might go something like this:

  1. Take a bottle of Grand Marnier, add two cups of sugar, shake thoroughly and let it sit over night
  2. Then take the richest, sweetest piece of yellow layer cake you can make and place it in a large mixing bowl
  3. Pour the entire bottle of sugar-laced Grand Marnier over the piece of cake and let that sit for, oh, about a week or so
  4. When Grand Marnier is completely absorbed, remove from bowl, cover the whole thing in coarse sugar and take a creme brulee torch to the top

If that sounds a bit much to you, you’d be right.  I actually felt a little tipsy after eating half of it. At that point I gave up.  I had quite a mess on my hands too:

Sorry Tim, not sure I could stomach this one again.  There are far less messy dessert to be had at the Bonbonniere, and I intend to try one of those next time instead.

Le Bonbonniere de Buci
12, Rue Buci, 75006 Paris, France
+33 1 43 26 97 13

Le Timbre – Paris, 6eme

I had been planning my trip to Paris for a couple months, which means that I had been researching and planning what restaurants I wanted to eat at for a couple months too.

My requirements:

  • French
  • Under 50 euros for food, but preferably under 30
  • Good reviews or recommendations
  • Not touristy

le timbre

My first stop was Le Timbre, a charming little place in the 6th arrondissement.  It is owned by Mancunian chef Christopher Wright, and wow, it is small. Really, really tiny.  There are rows of tables on either side of the restaurant with absolutely no space between them. The wait staff has to completely move the table into the middle of the restaurant for one to sit on the booth side of the table. It’s sort of like eating in a much more comfortable church pew, but with less leg room. I couldn’t even cross my legs.

I was so excited for Le Timbre because every single review I’ve read was glowing. And three course for 26 euros for a Michelen-starred restaurant? Well, you can’t beat that.

To start: Soupe de Poisson a l’estragon (fish soup with tarragon)

le timbre soup starter

This soup was not at all what I expected. First off, there was no fish in it. There was a teensy bit of fish flavour, but for the most part it tasted and looked like a bowl of olive oil. The tarragon made it taste a bit dirty, gritty even. After sprinkling a healthy amount of salt on it, I could tolerate it a bit better, but this wasn’t a great start to the meal. 2/10

Main: Magret de canard avec pêche rôtie (Duck with roasted peaches)

le timbre duck

I do love a nice duck, and this was a completely respectable interpretation of a classic. The duck was served rare, but managed to have a perfectly crispy outside. The peaches, as with any fruit, was a good accompaniment for a rich meat. It too, however, needed a bit of salt. 6/10

Dessert: Mieulle Feuille

le timbre mieulle feuille

Anyone else think the T in powdered sugar is a bit overkill? Yeah, me too. This mieulle feuille was too big, too rich and too greasy. If you’re going to have 1,000 layers of something, it has to be as light as air. This was definitely not. It’s dessert though, so it can’t be all bad. 3/10

I really wish that I liked my time at Le Timbre more. The service was fantastic and everyone so incredibly nice. And seriously, there are so many amazing reviews of this restaurant (no. 3 out of 5,926 on TripAdvisor) I just keep thinking that it must be a one-off bad experience.  Maybe I just ordered the wrong things. But even though 37 Euros for 3 courses, water, a glass of wine and a coffee is a good price for fancy Paris standards, I’m a little reluctant to say I’d go back and spend it all again to try for a better time.

Le Timbre
3, Rue Sainte Beuve

, France

+33 014 5491040

Benja – Soho

My friend Katrina and I needed a place to eat by Piccadilly last Wednesday. We were going to see the new Harry Potter at the Trocadero (don’t ask – awful theatre) and didn’t want to end up somewhere too touristy or too expensive. After a quick peruse of the Top Table deals, we settled on Benja, a Thai restaurant on Beak Street offering one starter, one main and a cocktail for £15.

Walking into Benja, you think it’s a rather small restaurant, but as we’re led up a flight of stairs, you quickly see they have the whole building. We’re the first table seated in the dining room at 7pm. I wonder how they ever fill it up…

I ordered a cocktail with vanilla vodka cinnamon and lemongrass. It had a name, but I’m never good at writing those down:

Benja Cocktail

Kat got a fruity one that was pleasant, but not nearly as tasty as mine. We were off to a good start.

For starters I went with a duck salad:

Benja duck salad
I could understand what they were trying to do with this, but it was off the mark. There was a lot of spice and quite a bit of tartness, but there was really no depth of flavour. The spice, in fact, was overpowering and it completely overshadowed what could have been a lovely little dish. 4/10

Kat tried the satay:

Benja satay

The beef was seasoned and cooked very tender. The chicken – a bit over done with not a lot of spice – got ‘meh’ marks on both sides of the table, as did the peanut sauce, which really did not much taste like Thai peanut sauce at all. It was sort of like watered-down peanut butter that someone put in blender with a bit of flour to thicken it up. 3/10

For my main, a lightly battered seabass with chili sauce:

Benja Sea Bass

I actually quite liked this! The fish itself was delicate and light. The batter was moist, not soggy and just very lightly coating the fish. Delicious! Sauce was not as entertaining, but certainly didn’t take anything away from the fish. I would definitely get this again. 7/10

Kat had the pad thai with prawns:

Benja Pad Thai

Unfortunately this was also pretty bland. I don’t get how if you’re a moderately successful Thai restaurant, you shouldn’t be able to get away with having a bad pad thai. It’s what most people order when they go to a Thai restaurant, right? I don’t get it. There was just nothing to these noodles. Very blah. 2/10

Overall, I liked Benja ok. It wasn’t the best and it wasn’t the worst.  Sort of like the Harry Potter film we saw after…

Benja on Urbanspoon

One-o-one, Knightsbridge

After a tough week, I decided to treat myself to lunch at Asia de Cuba. I made a reservation, didn’t have breakfast and did a quick check on Google and TFL to make sure I was going in the right direction. Google said South Kensington, and so that’s where I went.

Except that Asia de Cuba is not in South Kensington. It’s in Covent Garden. Which I quickly learned after getting to 15 Cromwell Place (as below) and found a completely different restaurant.  I was already 25 minutes late due to a late Circle line train and completely on the other side of the city. Defeated, I called and canceled.

Asia de Cuba FAIL

Asia de Cuba FAIL

Not having any clue where to go for my fantastic stress-relieving lunch, I walked Westward – and then – success! One-o-one in Knightsbridge – a place I’ve been wanting to go for months.

Even better, a 3 course lunch for £19. Ace.

Starter – Crab lasagna with squid and a tomato cream bisque

one-o-one Crab Lasagne

one-o-one Crab Lasagna

Heaven. The crab was delicately sweet, the squid perfectly cooked and the tomato cream sauce a perfect accent. I sat there thinking what an awful tine I was going to have trying to describe it on here. The picture probably does it better justice.

Main – Lamb with parmesan gnocchi and English asparagus

one - o - one Lamb

one - o - one Lamb

Another winner here. As you can tell, the lamb was perfectly cooked. The gnocchi was a little overcooked as was the asparagus, but I wasn’t bothered. Paired with a zesty Italian red, and Asia de Cuba was (nearly) forgotten.

Dessert course – Camembert and Gruyere with red oak salad, raisin bread and quince jelly

one - o - one Cheese Plate

You know, I never thought much of raisin bread.  It’s always been good, but you know, it’s… raisin bread.

The raisin bread on this cheese plate may be some of the best bread I’ve ever had in my life. The rest of the cheese plate, lovely as it was, doesn’t matter.  Order it for the bread.  And go back for breakfast, where they serve it with honey.

That is all.

One-O-One on Urbanspoon