Monthly Archives: April 2010

Rasoi

10 Lincoln Street
London SW3 2TS
020 7225 1881
http://rasoi-uk.com/

Rasoi by Vineet Bhatia is a twice awarded one Michelin star Indian restaurant, the first ever with such a distinction. We’re currently in the midst of our exams, and felt like we needed to de-stress, plus it was a special occasion for us. We decided to have Indian food, since we’ve not had that for ages. After some research, we settled on this highly regarded restaurant, and made our reservations on toptable.com.

 

We were the first diners in the restaurant when we arrived, and the first thing that struck us was the deadly silence all around. We almost felt obliged to whisper when talking to each other. Only when the dining room slowly filled up did it feel less ‘silent’ and our conversation could carry on at our usual volume. Perhaps some light music could be played to fill up the silence.

 

Service was very good throughout our meal. Our servers were helpful and knowledgeable. The menu in Rasoi is very compact. We could choose from either a tasting menu, or a selection of starters, mains and accompaniments. Some of the dishes from the tasting menu looked really interesting, but we weren’t allowed to order them ala carte. That was a pity. The menu contains very interesting modern Indian food, with very few of the usual Indian fare that one would find in a typical Indian restaurant. It was hence a very interesting experience ordering since almost everything was new to us.

 

We were presented with a pre-starter that was more like a starter than an amuse bouche. In one corner was a lovely sweet fruit drink, which contained passionfruit and possibly some other exotic fruits as well. This was very clean and fresh, and was definitely very successful in awakening our palates.

This was followed by an Indian potato salad, served in little spoons. This was just a one very small bite, but contained so many different layers of flavor. It was quite exceptional.

. We were also given a basket of pappadoms with a sweet mango chutney and a coriander and mint dip. These were just wonderful. We loved the sweet mango chutney, and the poppadoms were perfectly thin and crispy. A loved the way the sweetness of the fruit drink complimented the sweetness of the mango chutney, and was fascinated by how different levels of sweetness were presented in one dish. Overall this was a very generous pre-starter, probably the best pre-starter we’ve ever had in any restaurant in the world. It was a great way to start off the meal and managed to get us all excited for the meal ahead by presenting such intriguing flavor combinations. 

When our starters arrived we were shocked by the amount of food in front of us. We were also very impressed by the presentation of the food. Everything was delicately placed on the plates and every single item there was well thought out and put there for a reason. It was very impressive to see the attention to detail and love that was poured into the presentation alone.

 

We ordered the Seafood medley – soft shelled crab, crab chutney, home smoked tandoori salmon, gun powder prawns. The smoked salmon came covered in a glass bowl, which was lifted with a flourish when it was presented to us. This was described as their signature dish, so it had high expectations heaped on it. We started with the salmon, and when we first put it in our mouths, we simultaneously looked at each other with that ‘OMG’ look. Indeed, this was the most flavor we’ve had in a single piece of fish ever. There was an amazing smoked flavor infused throughout the fish, and a strong taste of the tandoori marinate. This was easily one of the standouts of the whole meal for us. The raita underneath the salmon complimented the fish beautifully as well. Our gun powder prawns were also out of this world. They were absolutely yummy and daringly spiced. The soft shelled crab was a little disappointing though, and A thought that the batter was too thick. The crab chutney underneath the soft shelled crab helped balance the dish though, so I didn’t mind it at all.

 

We also ordered a Rasoi platter – south Indian crab cake, tandoori jumbo prawn, duck confit samosa, mustard and curry leaf infused chicken tikka, gilafi lamb seekh kebab. This was literally a ton of food. Everything in this platter was wonderfully marinated and bold. It was just mouthful after mouthful of flavor. The duck confit samosa was outstanding, and so was the lamb kebab. We even loved the little salad vegetables underneath and the spicy sauce accompanying it all was also super. Overall we were just floored by the explosion of taste with each bite, and highly impressed by the boldness of the chef in challenging our palates and pushing the boundaries.

 

We also had a trio of breads – one sweet, one with an Arabic spice, and one with wild mushroom. The sweet naan was really interesting, and just simply fascinating. The wild mushroom however, was just mind blowing. Even before I put it into my mouth I could smell the fragrance of the mushroom. We are used to eating naans dipped in curries, but these naans are just perfect by themselves. They don’t need any accompaniment. The mushroom naan was so amazingly full of mushroom goodness that we gobbled it up in no time at all.

After our starters we were left wondering if we had enough space for our mains. We were also filled with anticipation, after the wonderful orgasm of taste that our starters gave us, that our mains would also wow us.

 

We ordered the oven based spiced cod – coconut and roasted cashew nut khichdi with tomato ‘kadhi’, purple potato chips, chenna chutney. When it arrived the cod looked dry. However, it wasn’t dry like it looked. Having said that, we didn’t think it was as wonderful a dish texture-wise as other cod dishes we’ve had elsewhere. We kind of prefer the smooth melt-in-your-mouth feeling that cod gives. This was quite a different version. Nevertheless, it was seasoned well and very tasty. The rice underneath was a huge disappointment though. We didn’t like the coconut at all, and found it a very unnecessary addition; plus, they were too chunky. This was one thing we would have preferred to be subtle. We also didn’t quite like the quite large bits of cashew nuts in the rice.

 

Our second main was the Tandoori duck tikka – duck confit in a coconut korma, truffled potato khichdi, apricot chutney, foie gras brulee. The confit in the coconut korma was not something we liked. We found the taste quite strange and unappetizing. Strangely, our server told us that that was his favourite component of the dish. Well, I guess, to each his own.

The foie gras brulee was also something we found quite special. However, it was so rich that we couldn’t finish it even if we wanted to. The caramalised sugar on the top was amazing, and the foie gras underneath was just wonderfully creamy and smooth, but unfortunately far too rich. The tandoori duck tikka however, was absolutely divine. My brain refused to process the fact that it was duck I was eating. The flavours were so unexpected, yet the pairing of the marinate with the texture and taste of the duck was so perfect that my brain just couldn’t reconcile the fact that I was eating what I was eating. I don’t usually like duck, and was very apprehensive about ordering it. However, I’m a huge fan of this tandoori component of the dish, and this to me was the standout of the whole meal.

 

We had an accompaniment with our meal as well – Matka chicken and rice masala. This came in a cute little pot, and was just chockfull of awesome flavours that it was a shame that we were so full that we couldn’t finish it all. It was rich and tasty and was good enough as a main by itself.

We were completely stuffed after our mains. However, we thought we had to go for desserts, and ordered a Rasoi chocolate craving. Before this came, we were served a pre-dessert – jelly with ice cream. This was not the most successful of dishes. We were challenged with a strong lemongrass taste (or, what we thought was lemongrass), which we thought didn’t work at all. The jelly underneath it all was really nice though.

Our dessert was the Rasoi chocolate craving – white chocolate kulfi pan chutney, cumin hazelnut chocolate fondant, caramalised nuts and silky chocolate delice, warm marbled white and dark chocolate samosa, panna cotta (Indian flavor). We worked our way through the different components in the order they were introduced to us. After such a wonderful meal with bold flavours we were excited to try their desserts. However it pains us to report that we didn’t enjoy desserts very much. There was definitely a very strong Indian influence in every single one of the components of this dessert. For example, the panna cotta had a really strong jasmine taste. Even the chocolate fondant had an Indian infusion. The effort in making all these desserts fit the style is truly commendable. However, we’re not sure it worked as well as with their mains. The panna cotta for example, was so shockingly overpowering with jasmine that it was quite uncomfortable to eat. It just took over all the other tastes in our mouths, in an unpleasant way.

On our way back we reflected on the desserts, since it was so controversial to us. We felt that having prior experience with Indian food, we could appreciate the bold flavors and welcomed the extent to which the chef played around with these flavors. However, with the desserts we are perhaps more conventional with our approach, and hence when we’re challenged with different tastes and flavors we are put out of our comfort zone. To those who are unused to Indian food this whole meal would have probably been quite a shock to the senses, somewhat like our experience with the desserts.

Anyway, overall we were amazed by the bold use of spices throughout the meal. By spices we don’t mean chili, but all the wonderful things that make Indian flavors so unique. Such glorious cooking like this really puts most other restaurants to shame. With such a multitude of spices available in the world, there really is no excuse for bland food at all. It’s such a pity that such spices are not more adventurously used in other cuisines and cooking. Halfway through the meal we just gave up trying to discern what went in each dish. We were just blown away by the fascinating textures, tastes and aromas of the whole experience. Based on our experience, Rasoi truly deserves its Michelin star.

Service: 8.5/10
Food: 8.5/10

Tempo Doeloe

Utrechtsestraat 75
020/625 6718

As mentioned in our review of Aneka Rasa, very good Indonesian food can be found in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, our first experience with Indonesian food in Amsterdam didn’t go well with Aneka Rasa. We were determined then to make sure that our second and final Indonesian experience in Amsterdam went well. Based on online reviews, we found Tempo Doeloe. We wanted desperately to find a good Indonesian restaurant, so we decided to go for the best, and check out Tempo Doeloe.

 

Reservations are recommended. We were around the area in the afternoon, so K popped in to make a reservation, and very luckily managed to snag a table for 7pm. Tempo Doeloe is famous for being a good restaurant with an attitude. We could see why – some of the servers were indeed quite haughty, but we were very lucky to have a very good server. She was from Suriname, and was very friendly and attentive throughout our meal.

The menu in Tempo Doeloe is quite complicated. They have a few pages of set meals (rice table style) and a very limited a la carte selection, and supposedly dishes from the rice tables can be ordered a la carte as well. Anyway, it was very confusing, so we went for the easy way out, and ordered the rice table, which would give us a huge range of dishes, all in small portions, like a tasting menu.

We wanted something soupy as well, so we went for the spicy Indonesian chicken soup. Our server knew we were from Singapore and that we have a very high tolerance for spicy food, so she gave us some extra chilli to increase the heat. She popped off for a while, and when she came back she started to warn us to be careful with not adding too much chilli into the soup, but we had already dumped a good portion of the chili in our soup and were happily drinking it. So she very quickly got the idea that we meant business, and that we weren’t bragging when we told her that we have a super high tolerance for spicy food.

The rice table was truly impressive. Our table was very quickly filled up with dishes and dishes of food, and we had to shift our water to the bar counter as our table simply didn’t have any more space for anything but our tiny dishes of Indonesian delights.

 

It would be impossible to review every single dish, since there were so many of them – about 30 in all. Overall, we found the taste extremely authentic. It could be the correct type of herb or spice used, or the cooking technique, or both, but anyhow, we were very impressed by how authentic everything tasted. In short, Tempo Doeloe could well have been opened in Indonesia, and it would fit right in with the best of the restaurants there.

 

We were particularly drawn to the vegetables, since we haven’t had any semblance of greens for a while now. They were all very nicely cooked and fresh. We loved the crackers as well, and A was intrigued by the coconut flakes and kept mixing them in everything she ate. Our satay was also excellent. We were given a stick each, and we just wished we had more! The sauce was wonderful, and just night and day from the appalling one we had just one day ago at Aneka Rasa.

 

Our dishes were arranged very thoughtfully for us, with a gradual progression in spice level. We were encouraged to begin with the mildly spiced dishes and to work our way towards the hotter ones. The mild and medium spiced dishes were no kick to us. The ones advertised as spicy were indeed more spicy than the medium ones, but still very manageable. There was one particular dish which our server told us was dangerous spicy. That was impressive. The spice was really bold, and we could feel our tongue getting numb and our lips tingling.

After our meal our waitress was impressed that we managed to eat our way through all the levels of spice, so she brought us a complimentary last dish, a devilishly spicy chicken dish. She told us that this was the spiciest dish that they have. This got us both excited and quite scared. When we first tasted it, we didn’t feel that it was any different from the dangerously spicy one we had earlier. However, after a while we started to feel our tongues and lips getting numb and then start burning, and the chili heating up our stomach walls. It was really one of the spiciest things we have ever had, and it was an amazing experience. We’ve definitely met our match. Now we can say that we’ve tried something that was truly spicy beyond words. The burning sensation lasted us for a couple of hours, and it was just extraordinary.

Overall, we had a great meal in Tempo Doeloe. The food came in very small portions, but there were so many of those small portions that we were well stuffed by the end of the meal. We were just thrilled to find a good authentic Indonesian restaurant, which made the whole trip even more memorable.

Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10

Manneken Pis

Damrak 41
1012 LK Amsterdam
030 2444954

Signs outside Manneken Pis announce that this place sells the best fries as voted by the people. Manneken Pis is Dutch for “little man urinating”. With such a yummy sounding name, and with the public’s endorsement, this is a sure winner!

 

Well, the fries at Manneken Pis are indeed pretty good. They only sell chunky fries, which is a shame, since we would have preferred having skinny fries over chunky fries. However, they are quite tasty, and you have the option of adding some sauces (at additional cost) over your fries. We tried the curry sauce and the cheese sauce.

The curry sauce was pretty good and got A’s stamp of approval. The cheese sauce was also quite decent, though it was definitely the processed kind.

The fries are sold in a paper wrap, which gets soggy really quickly, and can get quite annoying for those who like their fries crispy and fresh from start to finish. Nevertheless, this shop attracts customers by the bus loads, and the fries are perfect for a late night snack in nightlife-heavy Amsterdam.

Food: 6.5/10

Aneka Rasa

Warmoesstraat 25-29
Amsterdam 1012 HV

Our friends know that we travel a lot. However, we have been going easy on our travels this academic year for various reasons. Our one and only trip this Easter was to Netherlands (Amsterdam) to catch the tulips in bloom. However, no trip for us is complete without trying lots of food. The Dutch were once colonial masters of Indonesia, and as a result, there’s a wide variety of Indonesian food in Netherlands. The Indonesian cuisine is most well known for its satay, rendang and sambal dishes. Since these foods are very familiar to us, and since we are massive lovers of spice and anything spicy, we were determined to get our fix in Amsterdam (food wise).

 

Just a short stroll from our hostel, we found Aneka Rasa, which was recommended by a blog we read just before leaving for Amsterdam. It wasn’t listed in many reviews, and is definitely not considered to be one of the best places in Amsterdam for Indonesian food, but since we stumbled upon it, and there seemed to be some Indonesian looking customers, we decided to go in.

A was starving because of her very unsatisfying lunch at Boom Chicago, so right off the bat we ordered quite a bit of food. First up, we had the Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay). The chicken was quite tender but the satay sauce that came with it tasted very clearly of peanut butter. Well, we know that most recipes for satay sauce call for peanut butter, but this was too obvious.

We also had Daging Rendang (Beef Rendang). This was one of the better dishes we had. The beef was cooked till it was soft and tender. However, A commented that it would be better if it was spicier. In fact, we felt that all the dishes we had were very conservatively spiced – not shiok enough for us unfortunately.

The Ikan Pepesan (Assam fish) had some nice spice on the outside, but was extremely dry on the inside. The fish was way overcooked and it was very disappointing. Our Sambal Goreng Rebung Tahu (sambal tofu with bamboo shoots) was equally bad. The entire dish tasted like it came out from a can, and we suspected that canned bamboo shoots were indeed used. We also had Nasi Kuning (Rice with coconut) which was bland and dry, and Bami Goreng (Fried noodles) which fell flat too.

All in all, it was a terrible meal and I think the restaurant fell way short in presenting the exciting fiery flavours of Indonesian cuisine. What a pity. 

Service: 7/10
Food: 6/10

Boom Chicago

Utrechtsedwarsstraat 17-2hg 
1017 WB Amsterdam
020 5300232
http://www.boomchicago.nl/en/

We went for the free walking tour by neweuropetours and at the end of our walking tour, our tour guide recommended lunch at Boom Chicago.  They supposedly serve good, typical Dutch food. They are actually a comedy club, and between 2pm and 5pm they become the ‘personal chefs’ for neweuropetours. We went ahead with the idea and it turned out to be quite disastrous.

Firstly, we waited for over an hour for our food to arrive. When our food finally arrived, it was nothing but a huge plate of disappointment. All of us ordered the traditional mashed potatoes with bacon and sausage, as recommended by our guide.

 

The mashed potatoes were horrifyingly dry. It completely lacked the buttery and creamy texture that any good ole mashed potato should have. It didn’t help also that my plate did not have sufficient sauce. When I asked my server for more sauce, he said that the kitchen was running out of supplies. Great. He did manage to find some sauce somewhere in the kitchen though, and brought it over. However, I’m not sure it helped. The sauce was extremely salty and J (we were travelling with 2 other friends, J and J) commented that he could taste a very strong alcoholic flavor in it, which was also very unpleasant.

The only edible portion of the meal was the sausage, and that was simply because the kitchen did not make them. They were obviously store bought. Well it makes no sense for me to be reviewing store bought sausage, so I’ll quickly move on. Lucky for the boys, we were allowed as many seconds as we wanted, and they made sure they got their money’s worth by ordering more sausages.

While on our tour, our guide told us that there’s nothing much to say about Dutch food because nothing of that sort really exists. Dutch food is more snack-ish, and we had our share of it in terms of stroopwaffles (which are delicious and easily found in any supermarket or tourist shop) and marinated herring, which K loves. A proper Dutch meal doesn’t actually exist, and Boom Chicago did a very job in proving that point. All in all it was a complete waste of money and time. We don’t know the quality of their comedy, since we were very anxious to get out after such a shocking meal, but we hope for their sake that it’s better than their food.

And for those who understand, there is nothing boomz about this place. It’s pure shingz. :S

Service: 5/10
Food: 4.5/10

Hawksmoor

157 Commercial Street
London E1 6BJ
020 7247 7392
http://www.thehawksmoor.co.uk/

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Monday to Friday 12-3pm;
Saturday to Sunday 11-4pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday from 6-12am

Hawksmoor is a steakhouse situated near Liverpool Tube Station. It was going to be A’s birthday on Sunday, and we wanted to celebrate this occasion the day before and go somewhere we have never been to. We have heard a lot about Hawksmoor. In fact, we intended to go there some time ago, but had to cancel our reservation unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances. This time round, we were determined to make it there and boy were we glad we did!           

 

We started off our meal we a spring cocktail (gin, lemon, mint, and some other yummy stuff inside) which was for two to share. It came in an enormous glass, and it was light and refreshing – very spring-y indeed.

 

We asked our server for recommendations and she was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. It was very useful to learn about the different kinds of meat as it helped us make our decision and we could avoid the cuts with a lot of fat, which A would not like. We settled for an 850g Porterhouse steak, and we added a portion of bone marrow, some steamed spinach, triple cooked chips and macaroni and cheese.

 

There is a blackboard listing the various cuts of meats and the weights available. Once one of them has been ordered, the servers will strike it off the list – so it pays to go early and order quickly. The steaks are large enough to share (ranging from 800g to 1.1kg), and 400g per person is a reasonable (and very sensible) order. The table of two next to us ordered an astonishing amount of food – practically double of what we had, and we were just horrified when they actually managed to finish almost all of it.

The food took a while to arrive – for a while there was absolutely no food leaving the kitchen, which reminded us of the episodes of Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen we watched. When the food arrived, we couldn’t stop marveling at how wonderful the steak looked, and how delicious the macaroni smelt.

In short, the steaks were out of this world.

Our porterhouse steak came nicely sliced for us, with the bone dividing the fillet and sirloin portions. The meat was cooked a perfect medium rare, just as our server had recommended. Having both sirloin and fillet in the same cut allowed us to get the best of both worlds – the fillet was very meaty and intense, and the sirloin was more tender and had just the right amount of fat to A’s liking. There was a very subtle sweetness to the meat, which was absolutely lovely. I thought initially that the sweetness came from the sauce, but A pointed out that it was the caramelisation process while grilling the meat that produced the natural sweetness. This was a sign of the meat being properly cooked.

The marrow was heavenly. The bone was split into two, which made scooping the marrow far easier than it was in Chez Fernand. A wouldn’t have any of it – she wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway – it was creamy and rich and everything that she wouldn’t like, so I polished the whole lot by myself in an instant. The triple cooked chips were quite disappointing though. We expected them to taste far better than they did. By the sounds of it we expected something that was crispy and slightly charred, but to be honest, they were just about slightly above average chips. The ketchup sauce that accompanied them was very special though – it was more watery than the normal bottled ketchup, and there was a very nice fresh tomato-y taste to it – perhaps it was home made?

The macaroni and cheese smelt heavenly when it first arrived, so we had all sorts of great expectations for it. It was definitely a great tasting dish, but we had to add a little salt to it first. A thought that the macaroni was overcooked though. Our spinach was perhaps the healthiest part of our meal. We consciously went for steamed spinach instead of the buttered or creamed version, which was very wise as it gave us a clean, healthy contrast to all the other rich and fatty foods we ordered – a palate cleanser between each sinful bite, if you will.

We thought of ending this wonderful meal with desserts, but unfortunately their dessert menu was quite meager, so we skipped it. Anyhow, we were suitably full from all the food and it would have been too much to eat had we ordered dessert.

Overall, Hawksmoor is a place we highly recommend. Their steaks are fantastic, and if you are quite clueless about steaks, as we are, you will find yourself learning quite a lot just by asking your servers, who will help you find the perfect cut and size to order. We thoroughly enjoyed this meal, and think we will be back for more.

Service: 8.510
Food: 8.5/10

Golden Harvest

15-16 Gerrard Street
London W1D 6JE
020 7494 1200

Our Maltese friend G organized a get together lunch after mass on Sunday. Since he has never tried Chinese dim sum before, we went to Golden Harvest restaurant in Chinatown, recommended by J who has been there several times. We were in a group of 8. Luckily for us the restaurant was quite empty when we arrived so we managed to get a table immediately without having made any reservations.

 

The restaurant lets in quite a bit of natural light which is very sensible, since it was such a lovely sunny afternoon. The interior is spacious and bright, which is very rare for restaurants in Chinatown. The tables were not packed closely together, and there is a comfortable walking space and sitting space between tables and people. Based on first impressions Golden Harvest definitely places far above the other restaurants found in Chinatown.

The dim sum menu has a wide selection of items. We had the usual char siew bao, har gao, siew mai, cheong fun which were alright. None of them were outstanding. Our char siew sou (BBQ pork pastry) was, however, slightly above average. The pastry was firm and the honey glaze on it was quite good. We also had the xiao long bao which was also above average. The skin of the xiao long bao wasn’t too thick like the ones we had in other places, and the broth was good as well. (It is probably quite apparent that we aren’t too excited about this restaurant from the lackluster writing – this will be clear why in a few paragraphs.)

 

They also had claypot rice selection in their dim sum menu, which was something different from the other restaurants around. We ordered the chicken feet with pork ribs in claypot rice as well as the chicken claypot rice. Both these were surprisingly flavourful. They were also decently sized, and probably one of the better dishes to order if you’re there.

The highlight of this restaurant has to be their selection of chicken feet dishes. Despite the unpopularity of chicken feet amongst the locals, Golden Harvest has several different styles and flavors of the dish available. We ordered 3 of them (excluding the one which came in the claypot) and kudos to G for trying all of them. The first one which came was boiled chicken feet, served cold. The skins of the feet were too tough, and they were very tasteless. The boneless chicken feet Thai style was far better. These were very tasty and probably the best of the 3 chicken feet dishes we ordered. This was also served cold. Our final chicken feet dish was commonly served steamed version, which was yummy and satisfying.

Overall, the food at Golden Harvest is nothing to rave about. The selection of dim sum is pretty good, and the quality is adequate. However, while dining in a restaurant that is not all. A key component of the experience is the service. The service in Golden Harvest is as bad as its peers in Chinatown, maybe even worse. The servers we had were very inexperienced and rude, and they managed to annoy every single one of us at the table. Along with G, there were 2 others with us who didn’t understand Mandarin or Cantonese, and they were very amused by our reactions when our servers made mistake after mistake. We also had to ask the waiter four times to check on our order, and it took them forever to deliver our egg tarts and chicken feet which were placed in our first order.

Overall, Golden Harvest has a lot of potential. They’ve got the exterior right: inviting and modern. They’ve got the interior right: bright, spacious and clean. They’ve also got the menu right: a good balance between traditional items and modern takes on traditional ingredients. However, the quality of their food has to improve desperately. Also, if it were up to me, all their current servers would be fired, and new, more competent ones employed and trained from scratch, probably by a different manager.

Service: 5/10
Food: 6/10