Tarsanas, Tinos, Greece

That night, we tried out a restaurant in town that had many good reviews, and we weren’t disappointed. Tarsanas is located slightly off from the main port of Tinos but still on the water. As it was very windy, they hadn’t kept any tables outside, so we were all indoors, and the atmosphere was lovely. A mix of locals, young and old, along with tourists, some chilled music and great decorations (check out this painter!) made for a great environment.

Andre tried the local beer, which he really liked… And once again, we ordered a feast. We started off with some grilled, local cheese (not haloumi) that was served with a delicious tomato jam (the jam was more revolutionary to us than the cheese, but both were good).

Then, a good classic, a Greek salad, which as you can see was served to us in a HUGE bowl… again, after these two dishes, we would have probably had enough to eat. But no, we ordered on…

The grilled, local sausage. This was also a generous portion, as we were expecting maybe a 1/6 of this. It was nicely grilled, had the same texture as a saucisse de Toulouse but a taste closer to a Corsican figatel. A mix of Andre and I, go figure 🙂 We managed to eat this whole plate.

And then, some fresh fish (again, we thought that we were under-ordering by just getting starters…) The fish was very fresh and perfectly cooked… but the real winner?

The accompanying rice, mixed with dill, charred spring onions, and probably a lot of butter. It was delicious and addictive. Even after everything else that we ate for dinner, we managed to wolf down this rice… and I can’t wait to make it again at home! What a great meal…

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Hippie Fish, Mykonos

Back to Mykonos and back to Hippie Fish for a meal – they were still closed when we came by in May, so this is the first time this season, and they’ve switched up their menu somewhat.

Luckily, they still have their king crab papardelle (whew!) but also new dishes… The seafront view hasn’t changed, though 🙂

The first and best new dish is the griled octopus. Last year, they would cut up the leg into small rounds that were grilled… and just okay. This year, they’ve kept the legs intact and let it caramelise on the grill… the flesh still has a little bite to it, and tastes really sweet…

I liked it so much that over the course of the week that we were in Mykonos, I ordered this octopus leg every single time that we had lunch at Hippie Fish (which was at least three). Once, I just had the octopus for lunch.

Then, the seabass ceviche, served with sweet potato. The seabass itself was nice, but I found that the rest was a bit too much… too much sweet potato puree, which didn’t work well with the ceviche liquid, it all mixed together into a mush… too many onions sprinkled on top, that hadn’t been treated (usually, they’ll soak them in water for a bit to take the initial bite out)… so overall, it was just ok.

Then, the zucchini dumplings fritters, which were new to the menu and a real winner. A mix of grater zucchini, feta and egg mixture, they were generous with the fresh zucchini, so this was basically all you can taste, with a bit of creamy feta binding it together. Served with a tzaziki dip, this was a light, lovely dish.

And the spinach salad, served with tomatoes, soft cheese and local, cured ham. I thought that the soft cheese would be the kind that is typically crumbled over the top of a Mykonian salad, but it turns out that it was slices of cheese that didn’t have much taste. The ham was also “fine,” though Andre spent the meal trying to decide if it was really ham, or maybe some kind of fish carpaccio? (not a great sign). This salad was just fine with its balsamic vinaigrette, but I wouldn’t order it again, given all of the other options on the menu.

And there we are! After a long lunch and snooze on the couch, we sat and watched the sun set for our first night in Mykonos and what was going to be the best week of our lives!

Hostal Empuries, L’Escala, Spain

A girl’s weekend in Catalunya… after our big night out in Barcelona, we headed up the Catalunyan coast for some R&R by the beach. We stayed at the Hostal Empuries, a lovely four-star eco-resort on the water that has a gourmet restaurant. Starving, we sat down at this restaurant right after arriving.

We started the meal with an amuse bouche, a mussel in seawater foam, served with small vegetables. It was a spoonfull of briny goodness, but nothing amazing.

Then, the appetisers. Sara went for the white asparagus, served in a white bechamel with salmon eggs.

Michelle went for the grilled prawns, which had a nice, grilled taste and looked lovely on their blue plate…

I had the baby squid in their ink, served with broadbeans and mint. The squid was cooked so delicately that they were barely cooked, but light in taste, and really nice, with the more substantial beans and squid ink puree in the middle.

Then, the mains, and remember, we are in paella country…

I went for the fresh snapper with peas and cream. The fish was also very delicately cooked, so it fell apart in your mouth, and tasted really nice with the fresh peas. The sauce itself was nice with a bit of parlsey, but nothing to write home about.

The girls went for one of two rice dishes… either the risotto with broadbeans and jamon Iberico (what a nice combo! the salty ham with the fresh, green broadbeans)

Or the lobster rice, which was cooked in a lovely broth and gave a light seafood  flavour to the whole dish and leaving a gravy on the dish that brought the rice together… again with rice that was cooked al dente, giving the inside of the rice a nice bite while the outside was still soft.

And for dessert? After all fo that food, there wasn’t a need for a heavy dessert, so I got the thyme sorbet. I wish it had had a little more flavour, it had a slight hint of the herb, but not more. But it was a light, refreshing end to my meal.

Overall, some very good dishes at the restaurant, and worth coming back to try some of the other ones out! You can’t go wrong, whether you come to the high end or bistro restaurants at this hotel!

Xiringuito Escriba, Barcelona

A weekend in Catalunya for my bachelorette party, whoo-hoo! We spent the first day/night in Barcelona, hanging out by the beach and relaxing, then having a big night of tapas and Barcelona bars!

But first, around midday, we headed to lunch along the beach, at Xiringuito Escriba, which is supposed to have some of the best paella… and we were not disappointed!

We started with some creamy croquettas and salad… if you ask me, the croquettas were slightly over fried, ie, they left them in the fryer just a few seconds too long so that they were over-crisped and slightly tasted burnt… but the insides were quite good, a nice, creamy bechamel with bits of ham… but because of the outside, they were slightly off.

The salad was quite good… a nice mix of veggies… and since there were five of us, we ordered a second one to share as well.

But let’s get on to the more interesting dishes… the steamed clams in white wine and garlic were light and delicious, the natural briny-ness of the clam juice mixing with the olive oil, garlic and wine, creating a sauce that you wanted to drink from the bowl…

And the paellas, oh, the paellas..

We went for the Escriba especial fish paella, served with all sorts of seafood, including mussels and clams, langoustines, prawns, and cuttlefish. The rice was perfect, nicely marinated in the sauce but perfectly crunchy. You see those wooden spoons? They’re meant to help you scrape the rice off the bottom of the pan, where it’s sticking, and you get to enjoy the crunchy texture of the rice, still hard on the inside but nicely cooked on the outside.

With this, we had the surf n’ turf fideo paella, which is made with vermicelli noodles instead of rice… and which I actually prefer, even though it doesn’t crisp up like the rice does and give you a crunchy texture.

The Dumpling Shack, Spitalfields Market

A Saturday in April, the weather is warm, and Andre and I head to Spitalfields Market to change things up a bit… The last few times I’ve been there, I’ve walked through the clothing and goods market, but only can remember seeing restaurants lining the exterior of the market, all of them, proper sit-down restaurants. This time, they had erected a new structure with a variety of different food stalls in the middle of the building, from dumplings and Burmese food to pastrami sandwiches and roasts.

We obviously went to try out the dumplings.

Andre went for the prawn wonton dumplings in Sichuan chilli oil. They were as expected and quite good, with thin, delicate wonton wrappers and spongy prawn fillings… the chilli oil was a nice addition that gave the dumplings a bit of a kick, though the oil itself had more of a steady, fragrant burn to it instead of a temporary kick.

I went for the pork and leek shengjianbao, their soup dumplings. I didn’t realise at the time that they were pan-fried, not steamed… they were not what I was expecting, but why not try them for a change?

So how are these different from the typical shao long bao that you have? Again, the basic answer is that they’re pan-fried instead of steamed. Oh, and they’re harder to ruin as you’re picking one up!

But like with the shao long bao, you place a spoon under the dumpling and take a delicate bite, being careful not to burn yourself with the steam or juice coming from inside the dumpling, then pour the broth from inside the dumpling out into the spoon and slurp it up.

Then, you put some vinegar in your spoon and dip the dumping in it to eat the rest… the pork filling was similar to what I’ve had in other dumplings, but the dumping itself was different (again, because it was pan-fried dough instead of steamed, thinner dough). I have to say, I prefer the dumplings I’m used to, but I liked the pan-fried dough, which was not cooked uniformly; some parts were browned and crispy from the pan frying, and some parts were almost slightly doughy and less cooked…

Still good, but to be honest, I was kind of wishing that Andre didn’t like his dumplings and that I could eat his instead.

So, next time, I’ll order an order of his dumplings, along with the dan dan noodles that other people had ordered… with thin egg noodles and minced beef on top, they looked really good!

Nom Nom, W Hotel, Montreal

A trip to Canada for work and I get into Montreal pretty late the Sunday night. Luckily, I arrived just before the hotel restaurant closed… I rushed to the bar and ordered just before last call.

Nom Nom just recently opened in the W Hotel and has a cool vibe… and a pan-Asian menu, with little twists.

I started off with the onion soup dumplings, which were dumplings served in a broth (an onion soup, duh). I was expecting actual soup dumplings, with broth within the dumplings, but given the cold outside, a little soup was nice! The dumplings themselves were stuffed with something… turned out it was Brie cheese, which I didn’t realise, but it was actually quite nice, not too overpowering, just nice and gooey.

And then went for the tartare of the day, which came with grapefruit, green tea, and coconut milk. Today, it was sea bass. And sooooo good. This was quite a cool interpretation on a tartare, I loved the dusty, matte taste of the matcha against the citrusy grapefruit, the coconut milk tied it all together (I mean, who doesn’t love coconut milk?!) and the fish was neutral enough to take all of those flavours.

As it was late, this is all I ordered, as I didn’t want to go to bed on a full stomach, but I can’t wait until my next trip to Montreal, to try some of the other dishes on the menu!

American Airlines Business food… they’ve still got it!

On my last trip to the US, I flew American Airlines instead of my regular British Airways… and was pleasantly surprised by the food… going to NY, I had a full meal, starting with some appetisers… a red chicory salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and a balsamic vinaigrette, simple but nice, as the cheese and walnuts were well distributed..

This was served next to marinated “heritage” carrots, hummus, dried fruit and some curry oil. Also simple but good… nothing too heavy and you felt like you were getting a healthy dish in!

Then, I went for the king prawns and chorizo, served with saffron basmati rice and asparagus tips… It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world when it arrived, but same thing, it has good, fresh flavours (the chorizo was a nice complement but didn’t overpower the prawns in the spicy tomato sauce). The asparagus was soggy, but then, veggies tend to be soggy on planes, I’m not sure if there’s a way to work against this!

For dessert, cheese… nothing much to say about this, though the goat cheese was a nice touch! Overall, a solid meal!

Coming home, I got a single dish as I wanted to get some sleep on the flight – I went for the buffalo chicken, served with a corn bread and coleslaw. The chicken was…. okay. The chicken itself was nice and moist, but the fritture was soggy, so I took it all off… you were supposed to mix the spicy sauce and blue cheese on the side to create the buffalo chicken.. and it was really just okay at best. The coleslaw had been sitting under the soggy fried chicken, so was also kind of limp… not great.

But in the morning, when I arrived at Heathrow and headed to the arrivals lounge, I was in for a treat!

The menu of breakfasts that they will make for you is quite diverse, I went for the tartine with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers and red onion… just like a NY bagel.. and it came with some avocado on the side! Brilliant!

So, overall, the service surrounding the AA Business Class trip was quite good, and I’ll definitely take them again versus British Airways (actually, I’m not sure I have a preference between the two, but it’s nice to switch it up sometimes!)