Monthly Archives: December 2009

Zuma

5 Raphael Street
London SW7 1
020 7584 1010

Opening Hours

Lunch:
Monday to Thursday 12-2.15pm
Friday 12-2.45pm
Saturday to Sunday 12.30-3.15pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday 6-11pm
Sunday 6-10pm

We went to Zuma on the eve of New Year, and it was absolutely packed. The dining room had golden balloons all over the ceiling, and we were told by our server that last year, one chap took every single balloon and gave it to his date (the cheap fella). We nicked one ourselves (pardon the hypocrisy).

Anyway, Zuma is owned by the same dude as Roka is, and if you thought Roka was expensive, wait till you try Zuma. The menu is very similar to Roka’s, and everything we had was very good. The clientele that Zuma attracts is quite different to that of Roka’s. In Roka we see more families and the atmosphere is quite relaxed. In Zuma however, the people around us were more of the young, model wannabes, and in the words of one of our dining companions in Assaggi, you’re likely to see a Russian prostitute sitting at the table next to yours at Zuma. Strangely, I thought the lady at the table next to ours looked just like what I thought a Russian prostitute would look like. This is translated to the menu as well, as there is a slightly more pretentious feel to the food at Zuma.

We had the crispy fried squid with chili and salt, which was very good. The soft shelled crab was also very good, and our server was attentive enough to our request for no wasabi in any of our food and warned us beforehand that there was wasabi in the dipping sauce for the soft shelled crab.

The deep fried prawn was a real pleaser as well. We think it’s hard to go wrong with fried food. Maybe we should train ourselves to be a bit more discerning in this aspect.

The sake grilled chicken wings were also very nice, though there was no sign of the sake in the wings at all. A reminds me that one usually never tastes the alcohol in such dishes, which makes me then wonder why bother with it at all.

We ordered the wagyu beef with truffle sushi, and it was one of the highlights of the meal. We happened to order this by accident, as we thought this was another dish that the lady in the table next to us was having, which we wanted. Turns out we ordered this instead, which we didn’t mind at all since it was very, very good. In a strange twist of events, the same good lady in the table next to us saw us having this, and ordered it for herself too.

The other dishes we had were the lamb cutlets, which A thought were on the salty side, the tempura, black cod, and a selection of sushi and sashimi. All of these were pretty good.

The desserts were excellent. We read many reviews about the desserts, and on hindsight we should have just ordered the whole lot. The lady next to us had 2 desserts for herself – we should have just taken her cue on that, bless her soul. (As you might be able to tell, we were very entertained by her throughout the evening. It’s not everyday that one gets to sit next to such an interesting character.) We had the green tea and banana cake which doesn’t sound like much, but was absolutely divine. We just came short to licking all the goodness off the plate. We also had the green tea ice-cream, which came topped with a delicate sesame seed biscuit. That too was amazing.

In short, Zuma is pretty much Roka’s very spoilt sister. It definitely has the goods to back it up, but we think that we’d probably not be going back as we prefer something less obnoxious, and will happily settle for Roka instead. (The money earned goes to the same person anyway).

Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10

Roka

37 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RR
0207 5806464
http://www.rokarestaurant.com/

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Monday to Friday 12-3.30pm
Saturday to Sunday 12.30-3.30pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday 5.30-11.30pm
Sunday and Bank holidays 5.30-10.30pm

Roka holds a special place in our hearts. The first time we celebrated our anniversary together, we went to Roka. Since then, we’ve reserved Roka for special occasions, and every time we’ve been there we’ve not been disappointed. It is perhaps for this reason that we’re slightly more biased in our ratings here, giving it a 9 for food, when it should probably be an 8.5. However, we had to give it just that little bit more, to emphasize how important this restaurant is to us. In fact, on one occasion, when we nearly burnt our house down (stupid, stupid mistake), we felt so crummy that we went to Roka to cheer ourselves up, and it did. We feel that food should be more than just the taste in your mouth, but also the experience and memories it leaves you, so we feel justified in giving Roka a 9 for food. (And also, it’s OUR blog so we do whatever we want!)

Service at Roka is excellent. We’ve been there 4 times now, and we’ve gotten different servers each time. However, all of them have been professional and respectful, and we are always made to feel welcome there. (The door staff however, tends to be a little more ‘cool’ in that aspect.)

We’ve had so many items from their menu it’s quite hard to keep count. The first time we went, we had the premium tasting menu, which gave us a very good feel of the restaurant. The food is modern Japanese fusion, and every dish is well thought and a stand alone in its own right.

The outstanding dishes at Roka include (and we order this over and over again):

Sashimi: These are supposedly supplied from the Atari-ya group, and everything is fresh and delicious. You’re definitely paying the premium for dining at one of the most stylish restaurants around, as for a fraction of the price, you can get the same at Atari-ya. However, since you’re already at Roka, it would be a sin to skip sashimi there. (We would skip the squid though – not a fan of it.)

Yellowtail Tartar/Tuna Tartar: Very good, and we love the sesame seed cracker at the side. Our only complaint would be that the portions are too small!!

 

Wagyu Beef Tartar Sushi: We had this when A’s sisters and cousin came to visit, and they absolutely loved it. So do we. 

 

Lamb Cutlets: This is far better than the version at Tsunami. The lamb is not too fatty, and the sauce has a nice kick to it that we love. Unlike Tsunami, there is only just a little sauce on the side, but we don’t think it’s necessary, as the whole dish is incredibly flavorful by itself.

 

Baby Back Ribs: The combination of the cashew nuts and spring onions with the tender ribs is perfect. This is a real pleaser.

 

Soft Shell Crab: Roka has one of the best soft shell crabs around. The soft shell crab is the star of this dish, unlike many restaurants, which coat everything in too much batter that it completely distracts from the crab.

 

Scallops: A’s youngest sister loves scallops, and when we first tried it, we knew we had to order it for her when she came. The scallops are absolutely huge, and perfectly cooked. You really feel like royalty when you pick up the scallops with the skewer and put it in your mouth. The sauce it comes in is very subtle, and allows the natural freshness of the scallops to truly shine.

 

Black Cod marinated in Yuzu Miso: We’ve had this dish in so many restaurants, and though Roka’s isn’t the best (that distinction is given to Nobu), it is still pretty darn good.  

Chicken Skewers with Spring Onion: This doesn’t seem like an intuitive choice, after all, how spectacular can chicken skewers be, and why should I pay so much for it? Well, go try it. This comes with a little spoonful of sea salt, which gives the wings a burst of salt with each bite. Each wing is perfectly grilled, and we’ll willingly overlook the price and order it without fail.

Dark Chocolate and Maccha Pudding: Just one word: DIVINE.

 

The dishes that we tried once, but won’t order again include:

Foie Gras with Umeshu Plum and Nama Nori: The Nori is amazing. We were fascinated by how thinly sliced it was. The Foie Gras on the other hand, let’s just say we haven’t quite acquired the taste yet. It was too much foie gras, too full on.

Rice Hot Pot with King Crab: Nothing too special, its purpose would be perhaps to fill you up.

Marinated Quail: This was very tasty, but I guess quail just isn’t one of our favourite meats.

Lobster and Black Cod Dumplings: The black cod is quite non-existent in the dumplings, and could have very well been any random fish. But having said that, it is a very good dish, and A did like it. She disagrees with me on this, and thinks I’m overly harsh.

Fried Eggplant with Sesame Miso: Just alright, not bad, but not worth a second try for us.

The sushi and maki selection is quite limited, but sufficient to satisfy. We particularly love the Shrimp tempura roll, and the Ikura sushi always puts a smile on our faces. This part of the meal is not the most spectacular, and we would recommend going more for the other dishes, as they are truly wonderful and shouldn’t be missed.

Service: 9/10
Food: 9/10

 

Cha cha moon

15-21 Ganton Street
London W1F 9BN
020 7297 9800
http://chachamoon.com/

Opening Hours
Monday to Thursday 12-11pm
Friday to Saturday 12-11.30pm
Sunday 12-10.30pm

We’ve heard a lot about this restaurant since its opening. Opened by noted restauranteur Alan Yau, Cha Cha Moon opened in mid-2008 with a massive promotion of dishes costing less than or about a fiver. Now it charges for its food at more market-rate prices, and it is extremely student friendly. The restaurant consists of a few rows of very long tables, and is a nice place to sit around over a couple of drinks and small dishes.

From the few things we ordered (we weren’t very hungry), we surmised that Cha Cha Moon is good for their starters. Our steamed taro cake was one of the best we have ever had, and it came with a generous amount of shallots and spring onions, just the way we like it. One gripe is that restaurants here never give us enough chili oil, which goes very well with such dishes.

Our mains were Shiitake yi mian and a lamb curry noodle dish that I can’t find anymore on the menu put on their website. No wonder, since it wasn’t good at all.

The noodles managed to be crispy and soggy at the same time, and though the curry looked very appetizing, was utterly devoid of taste. It left me quite speechless. The shiitake yi mian was slightly better, though an unusual option for us, since we generally avoid vegetarian dishes. The mushrooms added very little to the dish, and it could have benefitted from a generous dash of soya sauce.

Service: 6.5/10
Food: 6/10 (only because of the taro cake, would have gotten a 4 otherwise)

Soseki

20 Bury Street, 1F
London EC3A 5AX 
020 7621 9211

Soseki is fortunate to be located in a building with a beautiful view of its famous neighbor, the Gherkin.

Note to restaurants: first impressions are very important. The way your customers enter your restaurant is one of the first things they notice. The sliding doors outside Soseki refused to slide, and we had to almost push it with all our body weight to get into the restaurant – truly bizarre. The same happened on our way out – not good.

Once inside though, we were seated by the sushi counter in a discreet corner and presented with the menu. We must have interpreted the toptable offer wrongly as we were told we could only have the Haiku (sushi kaiseki kappo) set at 50% and not the Hanashi (kaiseki kappo). That was fine though – the Haiku was cheaper than the Hanashi anyway.  One thing to note about dining at Soseki is that it is a Japanese Kaiseki restaurant. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. When you order, you do not know what will be brought to you – everything is left to the discretion of the chef, who creates the menu based on what ingredients he has for that day. So this was extremely exciting for us, and we were prepared to be wowed by the day’s offerings. Having said that, there is still a very limited selection of a la carte dishes, designed possibly for those who are less trusting.

Our first dish was Chawanmushi, which was very light and flavourful – an excellent start. Our Sashimi came next. We had requested for no wasabi on our sashimi, and we sent this back since it had wasabi on the pieces. When the fresh portions came, it was very quickly gobbled up (read: small portions). We happened to be sitting just in front of the sashimi part of the sushi counter, and K very much wanted to reach over and grab some sashimi for himself while the chef wasn’t looking.

Our next course was something wrapped in a parcel. We don’t remember what it was called, but the dressing had a very nice acidity to it, which complemented the fish inside the parcel.

On the side, we ordered tempura, which came at this point. The tempura was good, but not outstanding.

The main was quail with mushrooms and Chinese vegetables. By this point we were beginning to wonder about the flowers that were placed in almost every single dish. K happily ate it not even stopping to think if they were indeed edible, but since he’s still alive, we guess they were.

Our palate cleanser was less successful. Once again this came with flower petals, and while it did cleanse our palates successfully, we’re not sure if that was for the better.

The sushi selection came next. This was very nicely presented and tasted pretty good. Nothing stood out for us though. We tend to see a general pattern with sushi platters. Hardly any sushi platters seem to wow us – they’ve all just been competent, though fortunately, never bad. Maybe we should just be thankful for that.

The penultimate course was salad, miso and pickles. This was once again rather ordinary, bordering on the sour side.

As earlier mentioned, the nature of the Kaiseki dinner is such that you do not have a choice of what you will end up eating. Hence, we were praying for this particular dessert which we had heard about from an online review. I’m not sure if we got it, but it seemed pretty close to the description given by said review, and it was very good. Our dessert was a chocolate lava cake with a very nice ice-cream and vanilla sugar underneath.

Overall this was an interesting experience. We probably won’t go back again, since it’s not the most affordable restaurant around, and the food is just alright. The novelty of not having a say in what you’re going to eat wears off very quickly, and I’d rather go for the certainty of being able to order what I feel like having instead.

Additional Comments: We had the toptable offer of 50% off their set menu.

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10