Prado, Lisbon

When we were in Comporta this summer, we met an English couple that was looking to start up a biodynamic wine bar, and were deciding whether to start it in Lisbon or somewhere else in Portugal. He had been working in the restaurant industry in London, so right away, we perked up when they mentioned a restaurant they had loved in Lisbon, insisting we try it when we go through there.

So off to Prado we went! Right away, we got it, as we saw their list of (delicious) biodynamic wines, with a waitress that was very enthusiastic about describing them, and kindly remembered the wines we had drank when I emailed her about them the next day.

When we arrived to the restaurant, we were shunned by the hostess… she was very busy and annoyed that we had showed up early, and did her best to show us that we’d put her out. When we finally sat down, she came to tell our waitress that she couldn’t take our order yet…okay…

So we were given some bread with dips… the one on the left was fresh goat’s butter with smoked salt and sea lettuce. I’ve recently had several different seaweed butters and loved them (it seems to be the new thing), and this one was no exception! Next to it was some whipped Iberico pork fat, wiht some garlic and bay leaves mixed in… also quite good.

Then, finally, we were allowed to order… and were suggested to get 6 dishes total to share.

We staerted with the ox heart tomatoes, which we saw on the next table, that were served with watermelon and river mint. These were quite good and meaty… and the tomato juices mixed nicely with the fresh slices of watermelon, giving a tangy but sweet note to the dish.

Then, the steak tartare, which we had been told was good but not great, that there were other dishes that were better… but I was glad we ordered it! Served with shitake mushroom and some grilled cabbage, this dish had tons of taste and texture… imagine the soft, chopped beef with the crispy cabbage (ok, I thought it was kale when it arrived), nicely topped with some flakes of sea salt… and then, think of the soft, but vivid taste of raw beef, mixed with the umami of mushroom together… it was such a nice combination!

Another winner… and this one doesn’t look like much, this hispi cabbage was a knockout, served with whey (the creamy sauce), pumpkin seeds, and an gelled, herby topping… the mix of the soggy cabbage (doesn’t sound good but boy, was it), the crunchy seeds, and the milky whey… along with these green bits of herby oil… it was inventive and comforting!

Then, we went for one of the specials, the red mullet, served with a rich and smoky tomato sauce on the side. This was a nice dish, but there wasn’t tons to say about it… it was as advertised!

And then, another of my favourites… the Alentejo pork pluma, topped iwht lettuce and coriander. Over the course of our summer trip to Portugal, we had many a piece of Iberian pork pluma, that magical cut that is served medium rare with a bit of sea salt on top, and that is perfection. This piece of presa was no different, perfectly cooked, rare and juicy and tasteful. The toppings were nice, but unnecessary.

And finally, dessert. A toasted rice flan with pumpkin and hazelnut… this was essentilaly a creamy pumpkin puree topped with toasted rice kernels and crispy hazelnut… it was a good mix of sweet blended puree and crunch… nothing incredible, but it was also nice to have something on the lighter side after all of our food!

Dining underneath the tall ceiling with a canopy of lights… in a modern, green environment…

Overall, we had a very good meal here. The food was inventive, and some of the dishes were out of this world, but others were just okay, and felt like they were trying too hard. Over the course of the night, we probably tried 5 different bio wines, and liked each of them (and were surpised by their varierty!) It was a fun experience in dining, but given the number of new, exciting restaurants in Lisbon these days, this won’t be the first that I rush back to.

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Plum Valley, Chinatown

Another weekday, another restaurant in Chinatown…

I wonder where, exactly, my love of Chinese food comes from. When I was younger, we lived in Singapore for two years, but apart from some fried rice, I can’t remember eating anything especially exciting. Then, when we moved to Tokyo, my mother and  I would have Saturday lunches together at a Chinese restaurant near my ballet studio, and there, I would have… you guessed it, fried rice. So I’m not sure where this love of all else Chinese came from.

The Chinese noodle soup must have come from our numerous ramen meals in Tokyo, again on Saturday afternoons, when my brother and I would walk to the local town center and spend our weekly allowances on toys and beauty products. Later, at home, our mother made her own version of this noodle soup, adding egg noodles to a can of Campbell’s chicken broth… and we always thought it tasted almost as good!

Then, there were the large bowls of noodles… in Tokyo, our maid was Filipina, and every now and then, treated us to some local food like adobo chicken or noodles. My favourite was her bihon noodles, vermicelli noodles sauteed in garlic and soy sauce, and mixed with lots of crispy vegetables and bits of pork. It’s still one of the dishes I think of when I think of comfort food, and the one I constantly try to make and perfect, but it never tastes the same as when she made them!

So maybe it’s just in my blood?

So what did we try here? These were the meat croquettes… fried on the outside and with a mushy, meat taste (but was there really any actual meat inside?) on the inside, these were very comforting and tasty.

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Oh, yeah

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Then, the prawns wrapped in bean curd, bits of prawn on the inside, in a moist, dribbled in juice package of tofu skin. These don’t look great, but I finally tried them when a friend was in town and ordered them, and I have to say that I’m hooked! The plump prawn on the inside of the slippery and soaked beancurd really does it for me!

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Then, the cheung fun, beef variety. Cheung fun is another type of dimsum that I love, probably because you get larger rolls of dough with the filling inside, topped in soy sauce.

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And finally, the pork and crab soup dumplings. These were the most disappointing thing there; with a thicker skin than most xiao long bao and not being able to taste anything like crab, these were mediocre…

IMG_4440But what about Plum Valley over all? It’s slightly nicer than some of the other Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, and most of their dimsum is spot on. I’d definitely come back, but maybe give the xiao long bao a miss the next time around.

Italian fish and seafood class, Divertimenti, Kensington

As a birthday present, a friend gave me a gift certificate for a cooking class at Divertimenti. SCORE. Thank you, Sara!

They have a diverse range of classes, so after having perused all of them (and the dates that worked), I decided to refine my Italian cooking skills and eat some seafood while I was at it!

There were six people in the class, so we divided into groups of two and each tackled a few recipes… My partner and I started on the warm prawn salad, which was simple but delicious… fresh, lukewarm prawns tossed with olives, tomato, cucumber and loads of parsley.. this would make a very nice starter course with prawns that to me tasted like my favourite prawn carpaccio at La Petite Maison.

The duo next to us worked on another starter, rice-stuffed mussels in a tomato sauce, baked and scattered with garlicky, parsley bread crumbs.

And the last group worked on stuffed baby squid, again, stuffed with rice, garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs.

Then, the roast sea bream. This was simply roasted on a bed of olives, pine nuts and potatoes, and splashed with some white wine before it went into the over and then again, halfway through the roasting process.

This was the finished plate… this sea bream was SO tender and moist, I would have gobbled it up, if it hadn’t been for all the other food that we had made…

Then, we watched the teacher make a sea bass in salt crust. Quite easy, actually, as you just whip the egg whites until they’re peaky, incorporate TONS of salt, and then pack it firmly (leaving no holes) around the fish in the baking sheet…. roast, then take off the salt crust when you’re done and serve the fish.

This dish is more impressive for guests to watch than actually complicated… but is good for dinner parties as it looks cool and yields some very moist (think about it, you’re basically steaming the sea bass in a salt igloo), very tender and perfectly seasoned fish!

Finally, the whole mackerel… stuffed with garlic and rosemary (also with a little douse of white wine!), off it went into the oven… and made for a lovely, tender flesh when it came out.

After all of our work, we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labour… tons of delicious seafood and fish! All of these recipes are easy enough to make on a regular night, but look fancy… you can be sure you’ll be seeing them soon at my place!

Orient, Chinatown, Soho

Over time, Orient has probably become my favuorite dimsum place in Chinatown. It’s large, clean and efficient, with a large variety of good choices.

They have all of the favourites, but also quite a few different or slighly creative dishes as well to try.

First of all, those yummy taro dumplings, crispy on the outside, and glutinous and sweet on the inside…

I espeiclaly like dipping these into the soy and letting the outside crisp get soaked in it. Then, the prawn cheung fun. Orient’s cheung fun is different from other places… typically you get three long noodles together on the plate, but here, they make you one super-long one. It doesn’t taste any different, but it mixes things up a bit.


Then, the pork and crap dumplings… nothing to write home about.

And the prawn wrapped (and soaked) in beancurd… always one of my favourites, and these did not disappoint!

Then, the taro dumplings, crispy on the outside and sweet and yammy inside… I love these though I find they typically have a bit too much crisp. But I love dipping the crispy bit into some soy sauce and watching it soak up…

Next, the prawn and radish dumplings, which were okay… but as you can see, have a relatively thick dough… these were fine, but I prefer the prawn and chive or coriander combo to the radish.

And finally, their delicious glutinous rice… mmmm. This seems to have a similar standard in most places, and the differentiated ones tend to be different in a bad way rather than a better one… this one was as expected. 
Some delicious yolk, bits of meat, and some mushroom mixed in with that delicious, glutiny rice… mmm.

Homeslice, Fitzrovia

A Friday night in Fitzrovia and we were searching where to go for dinner… The initial intent was to come pick up the scooter that had been here a few days after we left it, deciding we couldn’t drive home after my brithday dinner. But after a cocktail and thinking advance to dinner, it was clear that the scooter was again going to spend the night on the street and we’d have to come back another time!

We had walked by Homeslice earlier in the night, and seen their incredible pizzas… and while we went and looked at a number of other places and menus, it was clear that their pizza was calling… And a bonus? Outdoor seating.

The pizzas at Homeslice are MASSIVE. Like 40 cm in radius. You can get them in halves… so half one type, half another. We did that, going for the lamb pizza on one side (spiced lamb, savoy cabbage, and sumac yogurt… on the other half, we went for a Caesar pizza (yep, that’s right!) which included gem lettuce, pancette, anchovies and Parmesan.

Both were delicious. I think I slightly preferred the Caesar, as I’m still not used to having braised meat on my pizza, but it was also really good…

I love the unique flavour combinations and ingredients on Homeslice’s pizzas, along with the massive size, doughy sides and otherwise paper thin crust… they really have a good thing going on!

We’ll be back for sure, and I can’t wait to try some of the other combinations they serve!

Dumplings Legend, Chinatown, Soho

Another day, another Chinatown dimsum lunch… this time to Dumplings Legend, which is best known for its xiao long bao, but I’ve had them here before and aren’t too impressed… so we go for some new dishes instead.

First, the spicy duck dumplings, which are nicely cooked (and still moist) inside, with a little kick but nothing too strong. And, aren’t they pretty?

Then, the cheung fun with a different taste… ginger, spring onoins, and pork liver. This wasn’t as good as I was hoping, as I found that the taste of the ginger and spring onion overpowered the taste of the liver.

Then, the crab meat and vegetable dumpling, which was also not super tasty.. they weren’t BAD per se, just didn’t have much taste and I found the dumpling layer too thick.

And finally, the chicken, mushroom and pork rice bowl. I love this dish, it’s quite simple, but the meat and mushroom are always tenderly simmered until they come out very soft and flavourful, and all the juices from them drop into the rice, usually leaving a layer of juice at the bottom of the otherwise pretty dry rice.

So there we go. Stay away from the xiao long bao and go for some of the other bits and pieces, and you’ll be quite happy at Dumpling’s Legend!

Rochelle Canteen, ICA, St James

A quick lunch with my friend Sara, who was in the hood and could grab lunch… I dragged her to Rochelle Canteen’s ICA branch (have you tried out the original in Shoreditch? Delicious).

Sara went for the fish, the plaice in a bouillabaisse broth, served with rouille and fennel. Yum. She enjoyed this, a good fishy broth with the rich rouille and the bitter fennel to cut the taste some.

We also had some salad, as we’re super healthy girls 🙂

And I went for the rabbit, braised with carrots and prunes. I got a HUGE piece of rabbit (check it out), mostly along the bone, so I had to cut around it, but the carrots were very tender and so was the meat. I don’t love stewed plums, but they gave a nice, sweet taste to the otherwise fatty meat.

I’ve been here a few other times since its opened (Andre and I have started doing movie nights at the ICA, which always has a fantastic selection of foreign and indie films, with the added benefit that we get to eat HERE beforehand!), and I think my favourite dish has been the onglet steak, which is cooked medium rare and is just delicious… but that said, even the fresh bread is good here. Come and try it!