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London - Superb Chinese meal at Kai Mayfair (Best I'd had in London)

I stumbled upon Kai purely by accident while looking at reviews on Google for Princess Garden. I'm a bit dubious of Zagat ratings these days (26/30 here) but klyeoh, if you're throwing your weight behind it, I'm making the booking. If I get it, since it's for next week which I imagine is pretty short notice, I'll be back with a report!

Jun 21, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

London - Suda (Thai) vs Melur (Malay) dessert options

I love Suda's food - I find the flavours very authentic (I refer here to the pad thai and the tom yum). However, I find service here so unbelievably slow. Friendly and courteous, but sometimes I feel their floor staff are moving backwards!

Thanks for this report. I work round the corner and have bizarre sweet cravings more often than not, and am a big fan of pandan. This one looks great!

Jun 18, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

London - A taste of Burma at Mandalay Burmese Restaurant, Edgware Road

A quick Google search doesn't seem to show any other London restaurants offering it either. Strange since fermented tea leaves are available in London - http://www.mumhouse.com/ in case anyone wanted to attempt it at home.

May 22, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

Lunch at HKK

Are the prices for each menu listed somewhere? I had a look on the website but it was irritatingly unhelpful. I'd quite like to know what kind of financial beast to prepare for, before braving the arena.

From what I've gathered so far, there's an 8 and a 15 course. Are both offered at lunch and dinner? And then there's also an a la carte? As well as a 5 course Peking Duck menu? So confusing!

May 22, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

London - A taste of Burma at Mandalay Burmese Restaurant, Edgware Road

My only experience with Burmese food was in San Francisco (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/900789), but it was fantastic and locals rave about it. In particular the Tea Leaf Salad. Interesting to see this has yet to be mentioned here? I was led to believe it was something of a Burmese specialty?

May 22, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

dishoom, parsi cafes in bombay

I don't claim to be remotely familiar with Irani cafes, but went for lunch at Dishoom in Shoreditch today and it was tantalising. I sense I would be very wrong to label it Indian, but it was definitely refreshingly different to similar such culinary offerings from India, that I have had.

We were four and ordered quite a lot, but the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the mahi tikka. And I hate fish! It was perfectly cooked, well seasoned, and just the most delectable showcase of mild and understated flavours. Could eat this all day, every day.

The pau bhaji was another winner - great heat, good textures (with the chunky vegetables), and lovely soft, well baked buns.

The mattar paneer was also a hit - fantastic spice flavours, and really moreish consistency in the curry.

I wasn't a huge fan of the paneer and mango salad, but then, I don't generally like salad. It went down well with my companions, who enjoyed its light, fresh flavours. Though we all did note the mangos were a little under par - which I think is to be expected since we are in London, but I think if you're going to make something a headliner in the dish, it should be at least good.

The lamb raan bun was another one we didn't love. We found the flavours too bold as compared to the rest of our meal, and the meat slightly dry. We thought this was perhaps more of a case of the rest of lunch being so outstanding, rather than the raan bun lacking in and of itself. Was a popular item today though - saw lots of this going out to other tables.

A more thorough write up is available at www.alwayspacking.com.

I'd be intrigued to discover if there are any places in London where I can sample true Irani cafe offerings?

May 22, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

Trip report

This is what I was told. Will have to make another trip to confirm. What a shame! ;)

May 04, 2013
flaymzofice in San Francisco Bay Area

Prime rib dinner Sunday night, but where?

Yes, brokentelephone, you're quite correct in saying the Prime Rib will be served as a steak.

The Sunday Roast is very popular, though my personal cut of choice would never be the rump. It is a very flavourful and lean cut, and their method of cooking should leave it quite tender, if ordered pink (you're given a choice of pink or well done).

As far as atmosphere and service go, I would pick the Seven Dials location. It isn't much further than Air Street, and has a more intimate feel.

May 04, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

Trip report

It's been a month since I was in SF and I apologise for the delay with this but was thrown straight back into work upon my return to London. I still haven't managed to catch my blog up with our eats in NorCal, but I thought I would report back on my outings since you were all kind enough to recommend some great restaurants.

Per my earlier post regarding itinerary help, we never in fact made it to dim sum in SF, much to my dismay. We had a jam packed trip and after missing our planned lunch for day 1, never found an opportunity to go again.

We did make it to: Mandalay, PPQ Dungeness Island, Ippuku, Mission Beach Cafe, Mama's and R&G Lounge.

The stars of the trip were Mandalay and Ippuku. We had never had Burmese food before (to be honest, we had no idea what it was) and to be really honest, we were sceptical, though open to trying new things. We were beyond delighted and lament the lack of Burmese food in our respective homes (Toronto/London). The tea leaf salad is delicious! - and I'm generally averse to all things salad! The combination of flavours worked perfectly together to result in a well balanced dish that got all the taste buds going. The Burmese style noodles had a great chew to them, and was well dressed in sauce which enhanced the flavour, rather than drowning the dish and over flavouring it. The lamb curry with coconut rice was a hit - the rice was fragrant and aromatic and the curry had a great balance of spices without being too hot or spicy.

Ippuku was almost a miss as we were headed to LA and told that LA does most Asian food better. However, for two reasons, we're beyond glad we went. 1) It was amazing. 2)We never made it to any Chowhound reputable restaurants in LA as we were so pressed for time.

We enjoyed every dish we ordered at Ippuku (and we got a pretty comprehensive sampling of most of the menu) except the cold tofu - nothing wrong with the flavours, but the tofu itself wasn't as smooth or silky as I would've liked. And also, I had actually wanted agedashi tofu, which they had replaced with this item in a recent menu change, so really, this dish was set up for failure from the get go.

Outstanding dishes included the chicken gyoza - more delightful little parcels of joy there never were! The wrapper was thin and light, well seared with a nice texture. A bite into it and the soup and chicken inside came through, with lovely vinegary hints. We were just sad there were only 5! We also loved the black sesame ice cream with mochi - perfect portion sizes and one of the best black sesame soft serves I've ever had. Basically, dining at Ippuku made us feel like we had never left Japan.

Mission Beach Cafe was a really mellow, chilled out breakfast. I got the MBC huevos, without the creme fraiche, because they didn't have it that day. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't quite sure how to eat it when it first arrived because I'd never seen it (or, clearly, had it) before. But I figured it out (I think!) The tortilla chips were crisp though a little greasy. The tomato-chilli sauce had a really good kick to it, perfect to jumpstart the day! The guacamole was delicious - could really taste the cilantro, which I absolutely love. My boyfriend got the MBC classic benedict - I'm not a big fan of hollandaise, which he had poured all over the muffin and egg, but I did try the yukon potatoes, which were super more-ish!

Mama's was a fun experience though, as advised, not something to rush back to. We arrived 15minutes early and there was already a line, though not substantial. I had the smoked salmon scramble - there was so much food!! In my humble opinion, you can't really make bad breakfast, especially with such classic ingredients, but it's also difficult to make really outstanding breakfast too. So, yes we enjoyed our items, but we would've been peeved if we'd have had to wait over an hour for it.

PPQ was a lot further than we expected and we happened to be biking on this day, so we were ravenous by the time we got there. I happen to love crab, but my boyfriend is a lobster fiend, so while I couldn't get enough of my peppercorn crab, he was less enthused. I do have to say, I'm not sure they left the meat speak enough for itself; I loved the peppercorn, but the fact it's fried onto the shell made me want to eat the shell more than the actual crab, and the flavour of the peppercorn and the deep frying, almost overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the meat. We also made the mistake of ordering a crab each - we've always considered ourselves big eaters, but maybe the crab was particularly large when we went (!?). In any case, we were so full after it, we barely touched the garlic noodles everyone raved about. The few bites we did have, we were left somewhat disappointed. But again I say, we were STUFFED, so it's highly likely we were biased against it.

And there you have it. An essay. Thanks again to everyone who helped with suggestions and recommendations. I'm officially beginning my newly enhanced foodie-dom in London, so hopefully when any SF locals come to visit, I can make a valuable contribution to your eating itinerary.

A more in depth review of Ippuku can be found at my blog, along with pictures. The other restaurants will be up soon as I find time! www.alwayspacking.com

May 03, 2013
flaymzofice in San Francisco Bay Area

Prime rib dinner Sunday night, but where?

Hawksmoor Seven Dials. They do a Sunday Roast, but it's oven slow roasted rump. Or you can order a bone in prime rib to share, with the roast trimmings as a side.

May 03, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

London - Best Singaporean-Malaysian Ever at Sedap, Old Street

Went for dinner tonight with high expectations - we make annual trips to Malaysia to see family, and have always over indulged to compensate for lack of this type of food in London.

We ordered char kway teow, roti prata (with chicken curry), blachan chicken, chicken satay, Hainanese chicken rice and Nyonya desserts. Accompanied by teh tarik.

Char kway teoh had great 'wok hei' as compared to other Asian restaurants. Good balance of flavors (we asked for not spicy) and not overly salty, nor oily, as is often the case.

Roti prata, never missed when in Malaysia, were delicious. Cripsy and flaky, and not at all greasy. I can eat these all day, sans curry. Which was good tonight, since we found the curry resembled more of a mains dish, rather than the more watery version which typically accompanies. It was also a bit too spicy, rather than being spice heavy.

Blachan chicken is not something I think I've eaten before. For me it was not unlike Japanese karage - deep fried perfectly to retain succulence, though not a great deal of other flavours going on. We did order the sweet chilli sauce on the side to accommodate one of the DPs tastes, being unsure of the level of spice. Am reliably informed this dish has definitely been modified from its original form to appeal to Western palettes.

Chicken satay - delicious! But lacked the characteristic charcoal flavour. The satay sauce also could have used a more prominent peanut flavour. Well cooked meat though.

Hainanese chicken rice - went down very well. Chicken was succulent and juicy, and cooked just right. Rice was the right texture and fragrant, though missing the chicken aroma, and also typical spring onion hint. Would definitely get this again.

Nyonya desserts - not sure if I'm confusing this with something else, but we've also had these cold, so were pleasantly surprised to be served it warm. Delightful combination of sweet, savoury and gelatinous though. Enjoyed so much we ordered a second.

I don't know that this is the most authentic Malaysian Chinese food I've ever eaten, but from the sounds of it, Sedap tops the list for offerings in London. Definitely great food, even if not the most authentic - and I understand that most transplanted cuisines do get the Western makeover.

Pictures at www.alwayspacking.com.

May 03, 2013
flaymzofice in U.K./Ireland

First visit to SF, itinerary feedback appreciated!

We don't mind travelling, SF seems a lot more negotiable without a car than some places we've been i.e., LA, but good to know there are options nearby if we have a lazy day :)

Mar 14, 2013
flaymzofice in San Francisco Bay Area

First visit to SF, itinerary feedback appreciated!

Thanks! Off The Grid looks right up our street!

I suppose the key difference between SF dim sum and that in London, is the trolley factor. I haven't seen a trolley in London...ever? So they never run out. I think we'll stick with HK Lounge for noon, but if the selection isn't great, we'll just come back another day. I'm tempted to come to the city a day early just to be there for a weekend dim sum, but by the sounds of it, it's not a worthwhile trip.

Pho sounds like a great suggestion for breakfast; how many days in a row can we really eat eggs and French Toast after all.

Thanks for your help!

Mar 14, 2013
flaymzofice in San Francisco Bay Area

First visit to SF, itinerary feedback appreciated!

Unfortunately, my boyfriend is the one hailing from Toronto and I've never eaten dim sum there. London's offerings are rather slim these days. I've always gone around noon at home - if we get to HK Lounge by then, that'll be alright?

Weekday breakfasts seem to be a difficult one! I really wanted some market fare (even though Roli Roti does lean more towards lunch than breakfast). I think then we may go for something completely different such as Out the Door?

Mar 13, 2013
flaymzofice in San Francisco Bay Area

First visit to SF, itinerary feedback appreciated!

We are two travellers from London and Toronto, making our first real food visit to SF (we've been to the city once before but it was by no means a productive food trip.)

We've worked in our fair share of restaurants but don't have particularly refined or discerning palettes. We definitely are not as technically savvy in critique of food, as compared to some of the notes found within these boards. This being said, we like good food. We are pretty adventurous in trying new things, but the focus for our four days in SF will be making sure to not miss out on what is deemed to be done well.

We will be staying in Pacific Heights, with no car, and are not looking for fine dining experiences - no meals over $100. We are after honest, authentic food, made with passion and care.

So to our proposed itinerary!

April 1st:
We'll arrive in the city around noon and dim sum is a must in every new city we explore, so we have chosen Hong Kong Lounge. I know dim sum is a board divider but it will be difficult to get to Koi Palace, and I don't really want to spend more than $50 for two, as might be the case at Yang Sink.

For dinner we thought we'd try Mandalay for Burmese, which neither of us has ever had, and we have a shortlist of recommended items including the tea leaf salad and Burmese style noodle.

April 2nd:
I've seen some great recommendations here for breakfast spots but most seem to be weekend destinations. So I found Mission Beach Cafe. I was hoping B. Patisserie might have some good items but there doesn't seem to be a menu online to check out. I know people rave about the kouign amann so we'll probably grab some for snacks but if anyone has been to B. for breakfast, please do let us know!

Dinner - PPQ Dungeness Island, as opposed to Thanh Long, because I hear it is quite pricey, but the quality is similar.

April 3rd:
Breakfast at Mama's. I know it's a bit of tourist trap, but we are not above this in hopes of discovering what made this place so great and talked about, even if the hype may be disproportionate to flavours.

Dinner - need some help with this one. I have been craving good Japanese food ever since we lived there for a few months last year. I am more interested in izakayas than sushi orientated offerings. I see Ippuku in Berkeley hits the spot for quite a few people, though a bit expensive for what an izakaya 'should' be priced at. Will the bill top $100 for two after tax and tip, if we don't drink? And of course, we don't have a car, but are planning on exploring Berkeley this day anyway, will it be a huge schlep for not much reward? Should we go to Izakaya Roku instead? - we do like yakitori and I note that great things have not been said about the grilling here.

April 4th:
Breakfast at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, hopefully/maybe Roli Roti?

We will be in Sausalito/Marin this day, and I see Sushi Ran gets some good reviews?

Notes: we will also have two days in LA, and it seems lots of people recommend the Japanese/sushi scene here. Is it worth forgetting Ippuku/Roku/Sushi Ran altogether for a 'better' experience in LA, and instead enjoying some of SF's other culinary delights?

Also, I haven't made specific plans for lunch any days, because we want to fill the middle of the day with doing/seeing stuff, rather than going out of our way to locate a good spot. That being said, any recommendations for general areas that have good cheap eats, e.g., Mission, would be well received.

Thanks in advance! (bit nervous about what might be made of my list, eeep!)

Mar 13, 2013
flaymzofice in San Francisco Bay Area