Monthly Archives: February 2010

Pierre Hermé

72 Rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris, France
0143544777
http://www.pierreherme.com/

According to guardian.co.uk, Pierre Hermé is the best place in the world to have chocolate cake. So with such a strong endorsement, we had to check it out.

The shop is extremely small, with no seating room at all. The queues can be quite incredible, as from some online reviews, but we were there rather late, so we didn’t have to wait too long for it to be our turn. 

Naturally, we bought the chocolate cake. We didn’t eat it on the spot, but brought it back with us to London to eat. We bought as well 6 macaroons: pistachio, rose, praline, passion fruit (2 of this) and raspberry. These we ate while waiting for the train back to London.

 

The verdict: we like Laduree’s much better. The star of Laduree’s macaroons is the macaroons, which were crispy yet soft. The macaroons at Pierre Hermé focused much more on the cream fillings and not on the macaroons themselves, so we felt like they were too heavy. In fact, we hardly tasted any macaroon at all. Also, not all the cream fillings were pleasant – in particular, the pistachio tasted very artificial, almost like marzipan. However, the rose filling was surprisingly good. We didn’t mind that at all.

 

As with the chocolate cake, K found it a huge disappointment. I’ve to add that he likes his cakes creamy and soft, while the cake we bought from Pierre Hermé was a lot more ‘meaty’, if that is an appropriate word to use at all. I certainly didn’t mind it. Best chocolate cake in the world? Nah, not a chance, but it was definitely not bad. We wouldn’t bother going for another round though – once is good enough.

Food: 6.5/10

Ladurée

75 avenue des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris
0140750875
http://www.laduree.fr/

Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday 7.30am-12am
Sunday 8.30am-12am 

Ladurée was somewhere we were really excited to go to in Paris. We made a reservation for noon, and being so excited to go there we were 15 minutes early. However, we were told we couldn’t be seated since they were not opened yet – what a bummer. This however, gave us the chance to look in the pastry shop, and we got a chocolate croissant as our pre-meal starter. That was not too sweet, and beautifully flaky.

 

At noon we were seated, and we ordered a pot of Jasmine Green Tea (yes, we are huge fans of green tea, we have it everywhere!) which was nicely fragrant, and a pot of hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was shockingly thick, and A couldn’t drink more than a few teaspoons of it before feeling like she was going to have a sore throat coming. I found it way too strong as well, and tried diluting it with some water, which helped make it more drinkable.

 

For mains we had 2 sandwiches. A had the Club Ladurée and I had the Club Saumon (salmon). Both of the sandwiches were going to be served with salad and chips, but since we’ve both given up chips (well, actually, we’ve given up potato snacks) for lent, we asked them to give us all salads instead. Both our sandwiches came with horseradish, which we didn’t enjoy very much (personal taste) but it was bearable. The sandwiches were alright, nothing to rave about, but I do have to add that my sandwich came absolutely loaded with salmon. It was truly a generous serving of salmon on my plate. We both commented that having just salad instead of salad and chips made it feel like an extremely healthy meal. (Yay to Lent!)

 

Being in Ladurée, there was no chance we could pass on having macaroons. We ordered a few macaroons: pistachio, lemon and praline, 2 of each. The macaroons were crispy yet soft, and the cream was a good addition for us to be able to appreciate the texture of the macaroon, yet not distract from it. Ladurée prides itself on its macaroons, and we can fully understand why.

Overall, we weren’t wowed by the food we had, but we would gladly go in for pastries and macaroons anytime.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 7.5/10

Chez Fernand

13, rue Guisarde
75006 Paris
0143546147

We wanted to go to Pierre Hermes for chocolate cake, as it was listed in the Guardian’s list of top 50 things to eat in the world and where to eat them. However, we were too late and it was closed. So we walked around looking for a place to chill out and have some dinner. We walked along this very vibrant and exciting street with rows and rows of restaurants, and eventually settled on Chez Fernand. For some reason we were very drawn to this humble looking place. What clinched it for us was one of the locals who gave a thumbs-up sign to A as he was walking in for dinner himself.

Chez Fernand is a tiny little restaurant, with hardly any moveable space between tables. In fact, our server had to pull out our table in order to let A in her seat. The atmosphere in the restaurant was extremely homey and relaxed, and they had a list of daily specials, which they displayed on a chalk board.

We looked around to observe what the other diners were having, and it seemed like this dish served in a golden pot with rice was by far the most popular option. We asked our neighboring table for the name of the dish – Veal Bourguignon, and we ordered it, and also a steak with bone marrow.

The Bourguignon was very tasty. This is a home-style French country dish, and it contained delicious chunks of veal and mushrooms. The rice that it came with was ordinary, but was instantly flavored by the rich creamy sauce.

The steak was absolutely enormous. It came with a creamy mashed potato, and a piece of hollow bone with lots of creamy marrow inside. The marrow was smooth and buttery, and the steak was fantastic. It was a very generous size for its price, and the mashed potato balanced the dish very well, by countering the heaviness of the meat.

Our dessert menu was presented to us on another chalk board. By that time we had already made our minds by observing the other table beside ours. We decided to have the sorbet. This also came in a huge bowl. The berry flavored sorbets were extremely refreshing and woke us up immediately. A found them a bit too sour. The mango sorbet was delicious though.

Overall we felt very lucky to be able to quite literally stumble upon this fantastic restaurant. The food is very simple and rustic, and the whole concept is very warm and inviting. This is definitely worth a repeat visit the next time we go to Paris.

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10

Taillevent

15 Rue Lamennais
75008 Paris, France
01 44 95 15 01
http://www.taillevent.com/

We were going to Paris for the weekend, and we wanted to experience eating in a really posh French restaurant for the first (and probably only) time in our lives. We decided to really splurge on lunch at Taillevent, having read awesome reviews about it online. Taillevent was awarded 3 Michelin stars for 34 years, and only recently was it demoted to just 2 Michelin stars. (Hey, if you have to do something only once in your life, make it count!)

The dining room was very modestly decorated, and we were ushered to a table and sat side by side. This gave us the chance to observe the servers at work and the other diners in the restaurant as well. Our servers were all very professional, and we liked how they presented our dishes to us in pairs, laying down the plates at exactly the same time.

Almost immediately after we sat down, we were presented with a plate of 6 bread balls with cheese. I’m probably not doing it any justice by calling it that, but I forget the French name (excuse moi). Being novices at dining in such fine establishments, we didn’t know whether to use our hands or not, and our server very politely told us “it’s ok to use your hands”. So we dug straight in, and they tasted heavenly. The taste of cheese wasn’t overpowering, which was good as A doesn’t like cheese very much, and they were light and almost pastry-like. We should have finished them immediately though, as once they got cold they lost their fluffy texture.

We were offered bread at almost every opportunity, and every single bread roll was still steaming as it was served to us.

We were given an amuse bouche, and this was a delicious foam with foie gras. It was amazing how something so light and inconsequential as foam could be so tasty, and I loved every bit of it. A found the buttery texture at the bottom of the cup too much for her, and I happily offered to finish her portion.

Our starters came next. I had the Pumpkin Risotto, with bacon. The bacon was the most thinly sliced item of food I have ever had, I’m not kidding you, and it was just wonderfully delicate. I didn’t understand the connection between the bacon and the sweet risotto, but I’m sure definitely not complaining! A had a Scallop Carpaccio starter, which was delicious as well. The slightly sour fruit salad it came with brought the entire dish together perfectly.

For mains we both had the lamb cutlets which were good, but once again, not the best lamb dish we’ve ever had. The lamb was tender and juicy, and didn’t smell too much of lamb, as it generally tends to.

My cheese platter was incredible. I didn’t think I would enjoy the brie initially, but I really did. The apple slices that were served together on the plate were the perfect companion to the cheese, which was not too pungent. A doesn’t like cheese, so she had a salad, which was slightly too over-dressed and too sour for her liking.

Our desserts were both very good. I had the Chocolate puff with ice cream, and A had the Mango with coconut ice cream. The coconut ice cream was surprisingly full of flavor, and the mango lent a nice tropical touch to the dessert. My chocolate dessert was adequately rich without being too overpowering, as I still managed to taste the coconut ice cream that A had after a bite of my chocolate.

Overall, we had a very good time pretending to be members of high society. We felt that the service was very professional and the food very well cooked. Throughout the meal we kept asking ourselves what is special about French cooking and French food. We didn’t come to a conclusion at the end of our meal, as we’re both not experts in this area, so we welcome comments and discussion to help us widen our food horizons.

Additional Comments: Formal wear recommended, and their menu changes constantly, so there’s very little chance of ordering what we had for yourselves.

Service: 9/10
Food: 8.5/10

Tsunami

93 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4PY
020 7637 0050
http://www.tsunamirestaurant.co.uk/

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Monday to Friday 12-3pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday 5.30-11.30pm

Being so near to where we stay, we have frequented Tsunami on a couple of occasions. It has hardly ever disappointed us, though A notes that it has lost a little of its appeal, perhaps because the novelty of having such food has worn out.

The décor in Tsunami is very pretty, but the dim lighting and the red hue makes it very hard to take good photos of anything at all. The toilets are also very dark and almost claustrophobic, and in general the whole place could do with a lot more light.

Food wise, Tsunami serves some very nice dishes. The quality is a notch below places like Roka and Nobu, but its price makes it much better value for money. One can’t always have the best food everyday – Tsunami is our alternative to Roka, its poor sister if you may.

The assorted seafood tempura is always something we order. At £6.50, as compared to £4.90 for just shrimp tempura, it’s a no-brainer. However, as with most seafood tempura, we can never make out what fish they are serving us. We are told it’s black cod, but it could very well be something else and we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

We also always go for the deep fried baby cuttlefish, though it has never been very good. It could definitely do with a little more salt. Till today we have no idea why we never stop and tell ourselves not to order that dish ever again.

The Gin Dara (Black Cod with Miso) is a must have for us. We have had black cod done this way in a couple of restaurants, and there is definitely a difference between say, Roka’s and Tsunami’s. Tsunami’s Gin Dara has a slightly slimier texture than Roka or Nobu’s, but for the price, we’re very willing to look beyond that imperfection. One plus point to Tsunami though, is the dipping sauce that comes with the black cod. There is a very special taste in the sauce, and we can never get enough of it. If they sold it in bottles, K would buy it and drink it. But I wouldn’t let him.

We usually try to go easy on the maki rolls, but we simply can’t. We love the unagi and foie gras roll. You have to try this for yourself to understand what we mean. The unagi is grilled to perfection, and the foie gras lends something very special to the dish. The first time A tried foie gras at Roka she hated the buttery texture, but at Tsunami, this foie gras is done perfectly well. You also cannot go wrong with the dragon roll (shrimp tempura) and the soft shelled crab roll. Sashimi at Tsunami is also very nice.

Another dish we like a lot is the Lamb Cutlets in Korean Chili Sauce. Once again, the star is the sauce. We usually end up just eating the sauce by itself because it is that good. The lamb cutlets are also very nice in their own right, though they tend to be on the fatty side.

Overall, we love Tsunami, and highly recommend it to everyone. A brought her sister to Tsunami when she flew over to London for a holiday, and she loved it as much as we do.

Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10

Nandos

We love Nandos. We love Nandos. We love Nandos.

That should be enough for this post, but A reminds me I have to write more about the food – so here goes.

This should be classified as fast food I suppose. We insist that this is the healthier version of KFC, since the chicken at Nandos is flame grilled and not fried. We’ve been there so many times that we have had countless free chickens from their loyalty card promotion. It is ridiculous how often we go. Well, the chicken there definitely satistifies.

We always order the chicken, and some sides, which usually include chips (though not for now since we’ve given it up for Lent) or spicy rice (which isn’t spicy at all, but nevertheless very good) or coleslaw (which A loves, and even our resident health freak QJ, who doesn’t mind it as much since it tastes ‘fresh’, which it indeed does, unlike those at cough-kfc-cough) or garlic bread (which is actually quite good too).

For the chicken, we always order extra hot, and we will grab all the delicious sauces that go oh so well with it – garlic herb, extra hot, and extra extra hot (oh the joy). It is always very consistent – tender and juicy, and spicy, just the way we like it.

Service: 7/10
Food: 6.5/10

Jamie’s Italian

24-26 George Street,
Oxford, OX1 2AE
01865 83 83 83
http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/

Opening Hours
Monday to Friday 12-11pm
Saturday 10am-11pm
Sunday 10am-11.30pm

We ventured out of London for this meal. This was a birthday treat for our friend C who was doing his Masters degree in Oxford, and since we wanted to try the food from this celebrity chef, we decided to have lunch at Jamie’s Italian.

We were early, despite our train being slightly delayed, and by the time the doors opened there was a substantial queue outside. This restaurant definitely enjoys the benefits of having a celebrity owner. What seemed really nice though was that despite being owned by such a well-known chef, Jamie’s Italian is extremely casual and relaxed. The servers were very friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed the happy atmosphere in the restaurant.

The philosophy of Jamie’s Italian, according to its website, is “good food for everyone, no matter what”. The menu simple and short and the prices were extremely reasonable. We took full advantage of the option of having smaller sized portions and ordered 4 different pasta dishes to share, and some seafood.

Our starter of crispy squid with really garlicky aoli was not very crispy unfortunately, though the dip it came in was indeed really garlicky as advertised. The amount of squid was disappointing, though we all liked the fried leaf that it came with.

Our Fish in a bag came next. This wasn’t that good as well – the portion was extremely small and it wasn’t very tasty. A good dash of salt would have elevated the dish for sure.

Our pastas came next. K absolutely loves carbonara, and after his excellent experience in Rome with carbonara he has never had another plate of carbonara since. Today he decided to give Jamie’s carbonara a shot. This however completely missed the mark. It was more of noodle soup than a carbonara, and he was quite disappointed by it. However, having said that, it did mention on the menu that this was “Bucanti Carbonara”, so perhaps he just wasn’t used to the style of this particular carbonara.

The other pasta dishes were much better though. The prawn linguine wasn’t bad, though it could have been much tastier.

The 2 other pasta dishes however, were excellent. The Spaghetti Bolognese and the Sausage Pappardelle were fantastic. The pasta, and this was the case too for the earlier 2 pasta dishes as well, was obviously freshly made, and cooked to a perfect al dente. The tomato sauce in those 2 dishes was very simple but very good, and all the previous issues we had with the earlier dishes were forgiven. Fresh pasta is something that completely elevates a dish, and we thoroughly enjoyed this detail that Jamie Oliver has put into his restaurant. In fact, the pasta making process is demonstrated in the side window for everyone passing by to see.

We ordered a nice Tuscan and Hazelnut Chocolate Cake for C, and this ended our meal beautifully.

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10