Shawarma Soldier

Two years ago, I ate the kebab to end all kebabs. My always-hungry friend Z was visiting. I had an appointment to get my hair cut on Church Street, near Marylebone. I told him he could come along, poke around the antique sellers, and get a kebab from Lahore restaurant across the street, which sets up a kebab stall on market days. An hour into my appointment Z turned up with the most gorgeous lamb shish roll. The lamb was succulent, tender, and medium-rare with a hint of char, and complemented by crunchy salad, the homemade roti wrap was warm with that perfect chewy bite to it, and the sauces – one a garlicky yogurt sauce, and one a hot sauce – struck just the right balance of salty, savory, tangy, and spicy. The kebab plunged us into a fevered discussion of why there are no proper kebab shops in Seattle and spawned my quest to try all the delicious kebab rolls in London. Continue reading

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Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

The concept at Kitchen Table is straightforward: 19 diners sit at a U-shaped bar encircling an immaculate kitchen and watch their 12-course tasting menu being prepared and plated by chef James Knappett and a small team of sous-chefs. I suppose it’s logical that the television-viewing public’s seemingly-unquenchable enthusiasm for behind-the-scenes perspectives on fine dining would eventually lead to actual tableaux vivants. Well, if food is theatre, then Kitchen Table is French art-house cinema: edgy, stylish, and very, very sexy. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Szechuan Chef

Living in London for three years has wholly transformed the way that I think about food in the United States. When I go back to visit, I have no interest in fine dining. I want the food I can’t eat in London. Period. Give me proper Vietnamese food, give me Mexican food, give me homestyle Southern cooking, sushi, and yes, give me Szechuan food.  This last may perplex English readers. There are some excellent Szechuan restaurants in London. However London does not have Szechuan Chef, and, more importantly, London does not have Szechuan Chef’s Szechuan style crab. Continue reading

Eating in New York City — Ippudo

Whenever I come to New York, I have every intention of eating out as much as possible. Usually what happens, however, is I gorge on bagels and smoked sable from the Polish district in Greenpoint (which my mother buys in bulk, and which is one of those foods that permanently alters your DNA so you crave it forever), and/or I stay at home and eat my mother’s delicious cooking. Last Monday, however, friend K asked me, “Have you been to Ippudo?” “Iiiipppuuudddoooo,” crooned friend C, her eyes glazing.

Ippudo is a Japanese chain founded by “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara. There are 43 shops in Japan, but according to Ippudo’s website, New York is Ippudo’s first international outpost. I love noodles in soup, and for me, ramen is like the Holy Grail; I will go on the modern-day equivalent of a knightly quest if good ramen is promised at the end of it. K claimed this was “the best ramen.” She was right. Continue reading

Dabbous

When I announced to a friend that I had a reservation at the hardest table to book in London, I am sure there was a note of unholy glee in my voice.  “What, the Ledbury?” he asked. “No,” I said. “Dabbous.”

In the few short months that Dabbous has been open, the cascade of glowing reviews from London’s most difficult-to-please critics has been followed by extraordinary hype. Giles Coren pretty much sealed the fate of London diners with his rapturous write-up in the Times (which I still haven’t been able to read in its entirety thanks to the Times’ pay-wall). I hear that the wait for a table is now several months long. Nevertheless, when I idly clicked through Open Table on Sunday trying to book a table for four in May (no luck), to my utter surprise there was a table available for two people that Tuesday. The decision required no reflection. I booked it immediately and invited reliable fellow-lover of decadent dining experiences V to join me. Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Sitka and Spruce Taco Monday

There’s a good reason why you start a Mexican meal with a shot of tequila and a bite of bracingly sour, salty lime. The two open your palate, preparing you for the subtle, delicate, complicated flavours that follow. Which brings me to a myth about Mexican food. This myth is that Mexican food means flabby flour tortillas and great big larded heaps of beans and rice and loads of cheese and two sauces: red and green. This could not be further from the truth. Mexican food – real Mexican food – is about slow cooking, refined flavours, and balance. Above all, balance.  In fairness, I think that thanks to chefs like Rick Bayless and the prevalence and huge popularity of taco trucks lately, most people know this, or are learning it.

This is the story of Taco Monday, as it was told to me by my one of my favourite Seattle dining buddies. Continue reading

Eating in San Francisco – Dos Burritos

A couple of weeks ago, I was in San Francisco for exactly 48 hours.  I was guided by a single purpose:  to eat as many burritos as possible. Jonathan Kauffman (a.k.a. SF Foodie), a food writer I revere, had just published his top 10 San Francisco burritos, and the plan was to go on a burrito crawl (a great idea, right?), ideally hitting every one of them, as well as some of my own standbys that hadn’t made it onto his list.  I made it through exactly two burritos before admitting defeat. I know, I know – I wimped out – but in my defense, it’s HARD to eat ten burritos in two days, especially when your friends bring you morning buns and take you to Mission Chinese Food (so worth it!) and fancy taquerias. Also, my friends love me, but it didn’t seem fair to force them to eat only burritos just because I am obsessed.

All the same, I am EXCITED to write this blog post, because one of those two that I did manage to eat was the best burrito I have ever had. That is a statement of cold fact, uninflated by hyperbole. Continue reading

The Delhi Grill

Although I’ve eaten at the Delhi Grill several times (months ago!), the fact that I have not yet reviewed it has been been niggling at the back of my brain like a guilty conscience. I’m not sure what the hold-up has been. Maybe that ‘everyone’ had already written up the Delhi Grill. Certainly the fact that I felt that, in order to be thorough, I needed to come not only for dinner but in the daytime, when the Delhi Grill sells delicious roti wraps at the Chapel Market. A few weeks ago, however, I had a friendly conversation with @delhigrill on Twitter about visiting one of my other must-try London-on-a-budget restaurants Continue reading

Eating in Seattle – Brunch at Skillet Diner

Four years ago, when Skillet Street Food’s shiny silver airstream trailer first appeared, in Seattle’s Lake Union neighborhood in a parking lot near a construction site (if I remember correctly), I went the first week they opened. Delicious food that’s bad for you, cooked with heart. I was smitten. Poutine! My god! French fries with cheese curds and brown gravy! And bacon jam! It was a sunny day and I took the afternoon off from work and played Cornhole with Skillet’s genius co-founders. (Never heard of Cornhole? Nor had I. It’s seriously fun.) So perhaps you can understand my level of excitement when friend Z reported that Skillet was opening a diner (a diner!) a mere THREE BLOCKS from where I used to live in Seattle. Continue reading

Medlar: What A Gem

If you have not yet had the unmatchable pleasure of dining at Medlar you must drop everything and make a booking immediately.

I have been trying to get to Medlar for months. (I am not just saying this because by now everyone has eaten there, written a (glowing) review, and I am trying to catch up.) It has been difficult, however, to persuade my London compadres to voyage to a part of Chelsea where there are no nearby tube stops. So I took advantage Continue reading