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.

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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!

Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden

A weekday summer lunch with Alicia, a friend that just recently moved back to the UK from New York (hurray!)… we decide to treat ourselves to a terrace, as the weather is great!

Petersham Nurseries, a great restaurant out in Richmond, had recently opened an outpost in central London, smack in Covent Garden… and the best part? They have a huge terrace!

What I love about the food at Petersham is that it’s all very fresh, straight from the farm, and seasonal. Usually, each dish has a few ingredients, but then end up being perfectly placed together, making a great combination.

We started by sharing some burrata served with white peaches and cured ham. Wow. Again, simple flavours, topped with some red pepper chili flakes, olive oil, and ripped basil, these ingredients spoke for themselves (especially the white peach, which was SO juicy and flavourful).

Afterwards, I went for the hake, served on a bed of sliced, muddled courgette with some herbs and fresh spinach. See what I mean? Well-cooked, fresh ingredients, simply put together… and it turns out really good!

Alicia went for the salmon, topped with a fresh tomato and onion “salsa”, along with some basil… all on top of delicious-tasting but kind of anemic-looking beans 🙂 She confirmed that it was very good.

… sorry about this picture, I tried my best but couldn’t fliip it! But this was the best of the dishes… it was courgettes cooked three ways (really, cooked to three different degrees), then slow simmered with more basil. Look at how creamy and broken down the courgette has gotten… it was mushy and soft in the best way, really bringing out the fresh taste of the courgette, with little flecks of basil coming up from time to time.

And there we go! We were good and didn’t have any dessert this time. But I can’t wait to come back and try a number of their other dishes, especially once they switch to another seasonal menu!

Pastaio, Soho

Of all the new pasta places in London, I’m so far loving Lina Stores the most, but the other day, went and tried Pastaio, which is also close to my office. They have a good-sized restaurant, lined along the window with seats for people that have come on their own for a quick lunch (perfect!)

I start with a salad, made of Castelfranco salad, pommegranate, and a soft but flavourful cheese (the menu said it was Peccorino, but I really don’t think so, neither the taste nor the flavour attested to it!)

Then, I went for the buccatini carbonara. Oh, yeah. And it did not disappoint. Cheesy, creamy, with a nice dose of pancetta, I doused it with black pepper… and it was perfect. The bite of the buccatini, which is slightly thicker than your regular spaghetti, was nice, amidst this great sauce… I licked my plate clean.

And so, I will definitely be back. If you follow Pastaio on Instagram, they post their delicious pastas every day (and typically have a few specials that are tough to resist), so why wouldn’t I be back?!