Month: May 2010

Dotori – Finsbury Park

Despite being very tasty, and in my humble opinion not too ‘exotic’, I’m very surprised people (food bloggers excluded) don’t seem to eat a lot of Korean food in London.  There are far fewer Korean restaurants than, say Thai or Vietnamese.  I really loved Koba when I went there for their lunch special, but I every time I mention it to non foodies, I’m met with blank stares and sometimes fear over Korean cuisine, and that’s a shame.

I have a couple Korean restaurants on my list to try, but Dotori was a spur of the moment decision – one of those ‘I feel like Korean, where’s nearby?’ times. After the boy and I bowled a game at Ten Pin in Finsbury Park on a random rainy Sunday, I decided Korean was the way to go for dinner. Lo and behold, the closest Korean restaurant (well, half Korean, half Japanese) was across the street. Fate.

I had high hopes when I did a quick search for reviews and found that Douglas from Intoxicating Prose really liked it, but a week after my meal, and I’m still not sure how I feel.

The meal started out with an absolutely gorgeous Seafood and Spring Onion pancake.

This is what it’s all about, folks. Crispy/fluffy dough with perfectly fried squid.  The portion was more than generous. Coupled with a side of super funky (read: perfect) kimchi, the meal looked full of promise.

Our bibimbap arrived shortly after, and our server offered to mix the ingredients as soon as the sizzling bowl was set down.  I hesitated, as I generally like bibimbap to sit a little bit for the rice to properly crisp in the hot stone bowl (and also to get a pre-mix picture!), but I didn’t want to be that person, so I kept quiet.

It would have been a mistake anyway, but regardless of a ‘mixing strategy’ the bibimbap didn’t live up to expectations.  First off, there was no egg. Second, the gochuchang was bland and a bit runny – not at all paste-like. And finally, the rice – as well as not being particularly crispy – was off. Odd thing to say because I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong, but, with the runny gochuchang, it was almost like risotto.  The whole thing was a bit of a mess.

Much better was the Barbecue Pork:

This dish served with a lovely ginger paste and lettuce wraps was bursting with flavour. The pork was succulent and very lean, not too oily or greasy. Just right.

When I think about 3 out of the 4 things we had were excellent, but that one strike against the bibimbap, a staple of any Korean menu is something that’s left me feeling a bit cool towards Dotori.

Dotori on Urbanspoon

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Hawksmoor – Shoreditch

There’s not a whole lot more that can be said about the Hawksmoor. From when they graciously donated the restaurant as the scene of the Blaggers Banquet to the 1,600-ish mentions of the Hawksmoor Burger online right now, they’ve been the darlings of the food blogging scene for quite some time.

I’d been wanting to see what all the fuss was about their infamous burger ever since I heard about them. Being American, I look at the current burger obsession in London with a bit of a raised eyebrow. To me, a burger is  something I’ll go out of my way for if I have a craving. The idea of the ‘perfect burger’ doesn’t exist. A good burger is a good burger, and it’s going to taste even better if I’m in the mood for it.

Luckily I was in the mood for one, the day I went to Hawksmoor.

We arrived a bit early for our 1:30 lunch, so a drink at the bar was in order. Despite the pissing down rain outside, I decided on a summery Mint Julep:

Hawksmoor

Now, I generally don’t write about drinks, but I have to rave about this one. The bartender clearly knew his stuff.  This was an excellent julep that anyone at the Kentucky Derby would have been proud to have.

After we finished our drinks, it was burger time. We ordered two with bacon and triple cooked chips:

Hawksmoor Burger

The beef, flecked with little bits of marrow, was of obvious quality. The homemade catchup, just chopped lettuce and melty cheese was a gorgeous combination – one that certainly lives up to its reputation.  And the chips… wow.  Turns out when you bake and fry the crap out of potato, it tastes really really good. Figures.

My only complaint is that the mayo was served on the burger automatically.  I don’t really like mayo, and I had to scrape it all off.  Usually, places put it on the side like they do catchup, and unfortunately I forgot to ask if they did that at the Hawksmoor. I know I’m not the only one in the world who isn’t keen on the fatty condiment – I wonder if they get that complaint often…

So, yes – just as everyone has said before – Hawksmoor is overall worth it.  I’ll be back.

Hawksmoor on Urbanspoon

Chilli Cool – Bloomsbury/Kings Cross

After a lunch and vodka tasting at Bob Bob Ricard, a trip around the Eye, a bottle of wine at Gordon’s Wine Bar and some more drinks around King’s Cross, some random Chinese food sounded really good.  With Chinatown being oh-so-far-away, I took a quick look on the ol’ Urbanspoon iPhone app, and came across Chilli Cool.

Now unbeknownst to me at that very inebriated time, Chilli Cool already had already quite the foodie reputation. In fact, last year there was hardly a London food blog who hadn’t written something gushing on the modest 2-entrance eatery on Leigh Street.  But like I said, I didn’t know that at the time.

Pete, Leif and I made the rookie mistake of walking in the ‘hot pot’ door on the side of the restaurant reserved only for – yep – hot pots.  After realising our error, we shuffled back to the actually ‘restaurant entrance’ side, only to find no empty seats. The host then shuffled us back outside and over to the ‘hot pot’ door one more time.  People were beginning starting to stare.

Finally settled, we perused the menu, picking out a dish or two each to share.

Leif went for the Spicy Tripe and Beef:

and Pete, the Chilli Chicken:

Both of the dishes came out abnormally fast, and soon we tasted why – they were both served cold. And then it all became clear – Chilli Cool.  Get it?! Chilli Cool.

I won’t pretend it wasn’t a shock at the first bite (nothing like a surprise!), but it wasn’t unpleasant.  It was just like having leftover Chinese food the next morning, but you know… when you order it, instead. I’m not sure the boys were as impressed though.

For my dish, I chose the Shredded Pork with Hoison:

I loved this.  It was served warm. The rich hoison was coated on too thickly, and the just-cut spring onions gave the whole dish a very fresh taste.

The table shared a plate of green beans as well:

Lovely, oily, (but just so) with garlic and lemon – these are how greens should always taste.

After we left Chilli Cool, we all felt that we had discovered something very special: A tiny restaurant patronised only by Chinese UCL students in a part of Bloomsbury that’s mostly residential. How cool is that?  And then when I got home to write down my notes and see if anyone else had been… well… I felt about as silly as I probably looked shuffling back and forth from restaurant entrance to hot pot entrance three times.

Chilli Cool on Urbanspoon

Product Review: Tefal Acti-Fry

I was recently invited by the nice people who represent Tefal to the Greaseless Spoon cafe – a pop restaurant that is currently touring the UK. The cafe features food that is prepared by Tefal Nutritious and Delicious products, including the Acti-Fry, a futuristic looking machine that claims to make chips that taste like actual fried chips, but with only 3% fat.

Normally, if I want ‘healthy chips’ I just cut up a potato sprinkle the pieces with a bit oil and paprika and pop them in the oven. Usually they come out ‘just ok’, but they do the trick. Face it though, oven chips are by no means regular chips.  I was sceptical the Acti-Fry would be all that it was cracked up to be.

After going to the Greaseless Spoon, I was thinking my suspicions were correct. The chips and sausages I had that were cooked in the machine were just a bit too soggy for my taste. A lot of other people told me it shouldn’t be the case, so I was happy when I was given the opportunity to try the Acti-Fry out for myself at home. It was also welcomed because following my holiday in Turkey (which was amazing, thanks very much), I’ve been on a diet – and when I’m on a diet, I always crave bad-for-me things like chips.

And you know what? After careful testing, I can officially say that the Acti-Fry a [expletive deleted] amazing machine.  I am officially in love.

One potato weighing in at 150g, a quarter tablespoon of groundnut oil with paprika, red chilli flakes and 20 minutes in the Acti-Fry produced nice crispy chips comes in at under 150 calories – all at the push of a button. If I hadn’t made it myself, I would have thought they came from a takeaway.

So yes, thumbs up for the Acti-Fry.  It’s a pricey at a suggested retail price of £199.99, but Tesco is selling it for £174, and rumour has it you can get it at Costco for £99.  I’d say it’s definitely worth the £99, but in all honesty £200 is a bit steep. Still, if you have the money, it’s totally worth it.