Month: September 2009

The Warrington – Maida Vale

No sooner did I leave The Warrington in Maida Vale did I read in The London Paper (rest its soul) that Gordon Ramsey’s pub had failed a health inspection. Apparently they found mouse droppings in the kitchen, under the sink and in the window sills. I’m writing this review as if I didn’t know that, but be advised that mousecrap supersedes whatever tasty things I had at The Warrington

I started out with the potted duck with apple and onion chutney.

Is there nothing better than duck with fruit? It’s like peanut butter and chocolate or steak and stilton.  I wasn’t sure if the lukewarmness of this dish was intentional or not, but I found it to be a nice light start to the meal. Bread was meh.

The main was a braised lamb shank with sweet potato mash.

Lamb shank should fall off the bone and melt in your mouth.  This did that, but unfortunately what fell of the bone was mostly fat. Ick.  I also wish there was some sort of a vegetable served along with this. Lamb is good, sweet potatoes are excellent, but I need something to cut the salt and sweet. That said though, there were some really nice flavours out of this. The broth was really nice.

For dessert: bakewell tart.

I think I’m just not cut out for ‘pudding’ pudding.  When I was little my grandma would make strawberry rhubarb pie and Christmas pudding and I just couldn’t handle it.  Bakewell tart is the same. It’s just…. too much.  What I thought was ice cream on the side of the extremely rich and dry tart ended up being just one huge hunk of cream.  It just needed something to hydrate it, and dessert shouldn’t really be like that at all.

The Warrington was fine. If I didn’t mention it before, the building itself is absolutely gorgeous. Really, really beautiful.

Considering the whole mouse crap thing, I won’t go back to the restaurant proper, but I enjoyed my meal enough when I was there. I would definitely spend time in the pub downstairs though.

It was also nice they had a California Zin on the glass list. You don’t see that every day in England.

Warrington on Urbanspoon

Thursdays in Ann Arbor: Melange and eve

I spent nearly every Thursday night of my last year in Ann Arbor eating and drinking with my friend Kyo. We would start out at Melange for Happy Hour (half off sushi and glasses of wine) and make our way over to eve for dinner and more drinks.

So being back in Ann Arbor on a Thursday, I was more than keen to repeat our ritual.

First up: Melange

They changed the Happy Hour just a little bit. Instead of half off all sushi and starters, they now have a limited sushi menu. Still, three rolls and two glasses of wine for $24 total? Brilliant.

Then on to one of my favourite restaurants: eve

Chef and owner, Eve Aronoff, opened the restaurant in 2003. She’s made a little bit of a splash having been on the last season of Top Chef in Las Vegas. Even though she was eliminated on the second episode, it’s not a reflection on the food.

Kyo and I usually get a whole bunch of small plates recommended by our friend and eve bartender, Travis. Portions are pretty large, and splitting three of these is more than enough.

(Apologies for the crap photos. It was really dark in there… Also, descriptions are from the menu; I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘festooned’)

Tenderloin Chimichurri
‘Spice rubbed and seared medallions of beef tenderloin served over a bright parsley-garlic purée with coconut ginger rice and festooned with spring peas, Bermuda onions and grape tomatoes’

I love that the spice of the chimichurri, while strong, is not overpowering. It’s very nicely balanced with the ginger rice.

Thai Barbequed Chicken
‘Spicy grilled chicken rubbed with chilies, peanuts and tamarind- accompanied with coconut ginger rice and vegetables of the season’

I don’t think I’ve ever had such moist chicken in my life. This dish is slow-roasted for about 40 minutes. It shows. Delicious.

Lamb in Brik
‘Sweet, savory and spicy ground lamb with pine nuts and golden raisins rolled in brik pastry and dressed with a salad of fresh spinach and mint’

This dish is very strong. I don’t think it’s for everyone. It says savoury, but that doesn’t even begin to describe it. The lamb is like an explosion of cardamom, star anise and clove. It is quite strong, which is why I think it could turn people off, but I love it. The pastry this time around wasn’t the best, but that’s an exception to the rule.

Pair all of these with some brilliant wine and one too many White Grape Martinis and you have yourself one hell of a Thursday.

Eve on Urbanspoon

*If you live in the States, you should check out eve’s cookbook. It will give you even more appreciation of what goes into this food. I swear, every recipe has at least 20 ingredients, which is why I’ve never actually made anything with it. Someday, though… someday.

Zingerman’s Roadhouse – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Zingerman’s is something of a legend in the Midwest. It started out as a small deli in Ann Arbor and has expanded into something short of an empire.

People come from near and far to queue for an hour outside in order to eat $15 Zingerman’s sandwiches at a picnic table outside with no server. It’s something I’ve never really quite understood. Seven dollar brownies, $4 biscuits. I mean, everything is good and very high-quality, but it can not justify the exorbitant amount of money they charge.

And so, it’s no surprise that the 4 times I’ve been to Zingerman’s Roadhouse – the empire’s only full service restaurant – I always feel like I’ve been cheated out of a boatload of money. (Like the time I paid $17 for macaroni and cheese that was basically a block of lukewarm cheddar)

Anyway, the only reason I went this time is because my girlfriends and I really wanted to go to Aut Bar for brunch on the only Saturday I was in Ann Arbor, but as we quickly found out, they’re only open for brunch on Sunday. Bummer.

We himmed and hawed about where to go when Lauren suggested the Roadhouse. I had my reservations about it, but finally gave in.

As a special treat, we indulged in some doughnuts as a starter.

Looks good, doesn’t it?

Yeah… try biting into something that is seriously only grease. Like, ‘run down your chin’ hot grease. It was ludicrous. Ick.

I had higher hopes for the Eggs Benedict with lump crab:

Looks good, doesn’t it?

Yeah… try stale cold bread, one overcooked poached egg/one undercooked poached egg and about 2 shreds of crab.

I almost NEVER do this, but I sent it back. It was inedible. And my friend Emily who ordered the same thing, did as well.

To replace it, I ordered the black bean and hamani burger:

Looks good, doesn’t it?

Actually, it was! But unfortunately by this time, I was super full and could barely finish. It was a messy burger, indeed, so I had to eat it English-style with a fork and knife. Really tasty though, and a relatively good deal (Zingerman’s wise) at $12. The sweet potato wedges, in particular, were fabulous.

Yummy sweet potato wedges or not though, I still think Zingerman’s is ridiculously overpriced and so not worth it at all.

Zingerman's Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Grange – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Opening up a restaurant is extremely difficult.  There is so much to prepare, so much to anticipate, and so much to work out before you actually know what can and could go wrong.

That’s the kind of pressure Grange is under at the moment.  It’s the newest nice restaurant in Ann Arbor. With big shoes to fill, it’s in the loacation of the former Bella Ciao and right next door to my beloved Pacific Rim.

Grange is the brainchild of Chef Brandon Johns (Vinology and Chop House).  The restaurant aims for something that I’m actually quite shocked that Ann Arbor hasn’t gone for yet: sustainable, in-season, fresh ingredients from the farm to the table.

The other thing about Grange you should know, is that one of my best friends, Lauren, (also known as Wifey) is the front of house manager. So obvs, she was really excited for me to try it out.

Being friends with the manager does have it’s perks.  Us VIPs (as designated in Open Table!) enjoyed some starters on the house. w00t!

Fried green tomatoes, cumin scented goat cheese fondue:

Good, but unfortunately a bit cold.  The goat cheese sauce could have been a bit more pungent.

House cut fries, duck fat, roasted garlic mayo, smoked salt:

You know what? I’m just convinced that everything tastes better in duck fat. Yum!

Scotch duck egg, mustard sauce:

Never met a scotch egg I didn’t like. Especially Heston ‘Effing Blumenthal’s

Plate of radishes, butter, sea salt, crusty bread:

I think I told Lauren about this dish: ‘I love you, but no’.  I mean, it did what it said on the tin, but it was – in all honesty – a bit  boring. They charge $7 for this and I think it probably costs them about 75 cents to make. I would not have been a happy camper had I paid properly for it.

For my main: “Fox River Breakfast”, cornmeal crusted trout, duck confit hash, fried egg

My friend Emily and I both got this dish.  We couldn’t resist egg and duck and fish all together. It was a bit odd though. Mainly because I could tell in which order this dish was put together.

The potatoes were plated first (they were the coldest), followed by the trout (a little warmer) and then by the egg (piping hot!).  Emily’s was in the same fashion, but it was clear they were in a hurry to get it out of the kitchen because in a rush they threw her egg on top too quickly. The yolk broke and was leaking all over the place.  In the rush of that, they also forgot to give me the sauce that was meant to go on the dish. That, however, may not have been a bad thing, as Emily said it was a bit too salty in the first place.

Needless to say, I was not in love with my main.  It was good, definitely. But not $25 good. And that’s not about the taste, but more about the temperature.

After a ridiculous amount of starters and my main, I was so not hungry for dessert. But, of course we shared one anyway.

The plum tart:

Ah! This was fantastic.  The crust was light and buttery, the fruit not too overpowering. Just a wonderful summer dessert.  Only thing was that the ice cream was served in a warm ramekin and so it was all half melty. Still really tasty, but temperature was off. I’d say that pretty much sums up my feelings about Grange…

The thing with this restaurant is that they need an expo. Like, now.  Service was wonderful, and the food was really good, but the issue is consistency and presentation in the Back of the House.  The fact that two of us at our table ordered the same thing and it came out looking different and at different temperatures is a huge problem for a restaurant that charges $25+ an entree.  Ice cream that’s all melty and cold fried tomatoes should never make it out of the kitchen.

It’s the little things that end up making a huge difference.

That said, I will of course be back at Christmas to see how it all pans out. It’s a new restaurant, after all.

Grange Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Egg Yolk Ravioli in London?

I just received an e-mail from a dear reader and friend that I have no clue on the answer.  Foodies of London: HELP!

I saw on professional master chef (which by the way is one of my favourite shows) egg – yolk ravioli where they place a raw egg yolk in ravioli (with other fillings) and the yolk should stay runny when you cut open the ravioli- this combines my 2 favourite foods basically – pasta, cheese and runny egg yolks! yum!
do you have any ideas where one could eat this in london???
If you know the answer, please comment or e-mail me. Ta!

Selma – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Not to be outdone by all the pop-up private supper clubs around, a family in Ann Arbor has started ‘Selma’, a Friday morning breakfast club from 6am-10am*.

Like most of these outfits, Selma doesn’t do any traditional advertising or marketing and  is thriving by word-of-mouth, but that doesn’t stop it from being very very busy.

My friend and I got there about 9, a triumphant feat considering I had drunkenly collapsed into bed about 3:30 that same morning. The place was hopping.  We were given nametags and were asked to wait a few minutes while they cleared off a place for us to sit.

In the laundry room, the cupboards were covered with nametags of past visitors. Really cool.

About 10 minutes later we were sat at the kitchen island in full view of the cooks furiously labouring over the savoury-sweet goodness.

We had a choice of four entrees, but at least two of them ran out during the course of our meal.  I went for the frittata, my friend, the waffles.

The waffles were pretty good. Freshly made and with nice blueberries.  My frittata on the other hand had been sitting around quite some time.  One piece of cold bacon and even colder way-too-oily potatoes did not make up for it at all.  It was like eating the last piece of everything at a buffet.

I paid the lower end of the suggested donation of $10-$15.  I paid it happily because I love the idea and I want to see it survive, but if I was in any normal restaurant, I might have scoffed a tad bit.

*I can’t remember the exact address, but the house is at the Eberwhite on the right before you get to the school. There’s a sign out front and chickens in the back.

Pacific Rim – Ann Arbor, Michigan

I’ll admit that I am a biased party when it comes to this amazing Michigan restaurant. I worked for Pacific Rim for nearly three years in University and after. When I had my first job in PR, I kept on working there two nights a week for extra money. They treat their employees with respect, I made good money and I made fantastic friends there. 

This time round was the first time I really felt like I didn’t work there anymore.  The recently opened a gorgeous expansion, had quite a few new starters, and even hired some new people. I think the latter was more of a shock considering the turnover rate for that place is, like, three years at the minimum.

I dined there twice, as one should when visiting Ann Arbor.

The first night I tried some newer dishes (or at least new to me): the spiced quail for a starter and the short rib bibimbap for my main.

I always have a hard time describing quail for those who haven’t had it. (‘Sorta like chicken, but better?’).  The bird was lightly breaded and fried – a succulent little morsel perfect for wetting the appetite, but not spoiling it. It left me wanting more.

Then comes the soup: chilled avocado with crab.

They always feature this soup in the summer. It is light and refreshing, despite being made pretty much of pureed avocado.  It’s made with a tiny bit of jalpeno oil which gives it a slight kick. Lumb crab and crispy wontons garnish the dish.

For the main, here’s some background. The restaurant used to be open for lunch where they served a more low-key menu that included many more Korean dishes, including the best dol sat bi bim bop I’ve ever had in my life.  You would always be able to hear the rice suzzling on the hot stone bowl as it came out of the kitchen before it hit your table.  The ingredients were prepared fresh including the gochuchang. Mixing the veggies, marinated beef, the egg, the spicy sauce and the extra crispy rice was like heaven.

Now that the restaurant is no longer open for lunch my only chance to get anything ressembling the bi bim bop was this featured entrée:

Basically it’s a plain bi bim bop with fancy ingredients.  Lovely shortribs and all, I still miss my hot stone bowl.

My second meal at Pacific Rim was three nights later.  I went back for some old classics:

Unagi Terrine: Smoked BBQ eel served over avocado and sushi rice with a sweet soy glaze and wakami seaweed.

If you love an eel and avocado roll, you’ll love this. ‘Nough said.

Lemongrass beef: Beef skewers marinated in a spicy lemongrass served with greens and mango.

This dish is a take on a salad that used to be on the menu.  The beef is zesty, but the mango balances it out. Yum.

My friend brought with him two wines that would dictate our mains.  Both were robust reds, both called for red meat: 1989 Brane-Cantenac Margaux Grand Cru Classe and the 2004 Jean-Luc Colombo Syrah.

I went with the 5-spice duck: Duck breast marinated in grilled and topped with a Chinese 5 Spice sauce, served over duck confit risotto with bok choi, asparagus and snap peas.

My friend went with the rack of lamb: Lamb grilled and served over a spicy peanut suace with sweet potato gratin, bok choi and asparagus.

Sad to say, but both of these wines completely overpowered my duck.  It’s not that the duck wasn’t perfect (it’s one of my favourite dishes!), but it just wasn’t spicy enough to handle these ‘grow hair on your chest’ reds.  The normally-rich clove, pepper and anise flavours got lost in the mix.

The lamb, on the other hand, was the perfect choice, and I found myself stealing probably too many bites of my friend’s entrée.

Both meats were served rare/medium-rare to perfection.  Portions are on the large side, but that didn’t stop me from finishing every last bite.

Pacific rim is honestly one of, if not, the best restaurant in Ann Arbor.  But, like I said, I’m totally biased.
Pacific Rim By Kana on Urbanspoon