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Wahaca, Covent Garden

13 May
Guacamole and chips.

Guacamole and chips.

I found myself in London recently. One recommendation that came through on twitter and from friends over and over was Wahaca. So I made sure I tried it for dinner one of the night’s on my trip. I met with a friend from college, who had never eaten with a food blogger before. She did very well, and waited for photos of the food to be taken before going near anything.

We arrived not long after 6, and there was already a wait for tables. We used this time to grab a refreshing beverage- and soon our buzzer was going telling us that the table was ready. We ordered some guacamole and chips while we perused the menu. The guacamole was very pleasant. It had some coriander and wasn’t too heavy-handed on the red onion. Very tasty.

Pork pibil

Pork pibil

I left most of the ordering in my friend’s hands, having been before but my influence did extend to the pork pibil, which was first to arrive. Tender marinated pork, served on soft tortillas, garnished with some pickled onions. It was very tasty but perhaps it lacked a little punch. This may have been due to the heat coming from my beer– which owing to a slight mix up in ordering, was served with chilli and all sorts of other stuff. Interesting and quite spicy.

There was a herring tostada which was sour and a little bit smokey. Delicious. We went for both the taquitos on the menu, the winner here was the sweet potato and feta one. A triumphant combination of sweet and salty. There was also a very flavoursome mushroom quesadilla, which had an earthy taste.

All of this was rounded off with a split order of churros, doused in cinnamon and sugar. Tip (from my mate): order a side of dulce de leche with the chocolate it comes with. Pretty tasty combo. Service throughout was helpful (for us first timers), not rushed and very friendly. In short, the food’s very good, it’s great value and it is a fun place for some casual dining and a few drinks. I just hope they don’t over-extend as they are expanding at quite a rate.

Wahaca, Covent Garden.

66 Chandos Place.

Phone: +44 (0) 207 240 1883 (but they don’t take bookings.)

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Kimchi Restaurant, Hophouse, Parnell Street

8 May

As the review tab of the blog will tell you, I’m working my way through Dublin 1’s Asian eateries. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the north inner city in years gone by, it is thoroughly refreshing to see it with a new lease of life and this is something I never tire of. I had heard good things about Kimchi and having not eaten much Korean food before/the prospect of pickled vegetables featuring heavily- I was eager to try it.

Myself and a friend arrived to a fairly busy restaurant for midweek and took our seats. It is an interesting set up. There are Korean bits of artwork on the wall and a few of these proved to be somewhat unsettling to my dining companion. We started with four chicken dumplings which were very tasty. Crisp and with a delicate interior, they were heavily flavoured and we were just sorry there weren’t a few more on the plate.

Chicken with some lurking pickles...

Chicken with some lurking pickles…

I opted for Dakgalbi. Pan fried chicken, in a chilli sauce. It was served with three ‘side dishes’ and some cabbage kimchi as well as some steamed rice.  The side dishes consisted of some fried tofu, pickled bean sprouts and pickled cucumber. The cucumber was by far the best, providing a sharp bite of contrast to the chicken. The sprouts didn’t benefit from whatever treatment they had received and myself and tofu had a falling out some years ago, and any hope of a rekindling of that relationship is unfortunately misplaced. I enjoyed the dish, but it was a little one-dimensional after a while.

The other main at the table was Bulgogi, which thanks to a helpful asterisk on the menu informed us it was a signature dish. It was a dish of thinly sliced beef, and had a nice flavour (soy sauce and Korean seasoning.)  My partner in dining felt it lacked any wow factor, and wasn’t sure the side dishes were in any way connected to it.

With 2 beers and some basic service the bill came to €42 ish. Kimchi is not bad, but nothing special.

Yum Yum at K108, Doha

18 Apr

Over the next few weeks there are going to be one or two posts about restaurants in Doha. There won’t be too many I promise. I know the taxi fare from Dublin to there makes a meal out prohibitively expensive.

We had heard whisperings that there was some good food to be had at Yum Yum by Hugo Coudurier at the K108 Hotel. So a group of 5 of us headed for dinner on a night recently.

The Hotel is  deceptive from the outside, its interior is very different to what you would expect. Upon entering the restaurant, albeit at an earlyish time, it was empty. I live my life by one main rule: Beware an empty restaurant. Soon though, other tables began to fill up and by the time we got to the menus and bread (very tasty, in particular a focaccia style creation) my fears were quickly being allayed. The restaurant itself is a large space, whitewashed walls and is quite cosy given its size.

I started with some grilled vegetables served with discs of Haloumi. It was a very pleasant way to start the meal, well cooked veg, tangy sauce and a well dressed salad. Another had the pea soup with shrimp. This was unfair on the crustacean in question, it was somewhere between a prawn and a lobster when served. Leaving said diner very content. Another notable starter for its presentation alone was the ravioli, slightly under perhaps, but that was the only niggle for what was a very pretty and tasty dish.

For my main I went for sea-bass, in a (I forget the name of the sauce) sauce served with risotto and crispy onions. The fish was cooked nicely, and there was a richness to the sauce and risotto. The crispy onions added a wonderful crunch. I would have liked something a little zingy perhaps for contrast, but it was still a delicious dish. Another main of note was the burger, which was off the menu, but apparently is a favourite at this place. It was munched very happily by said diner.

Few opted for dessert, I was one of the brave souls who did. A well presented lemon tart was happily eaten. You are  going to have to take my word for this- as the lighting was perfect for dining, awful for food photography. Thankfully. My darling sibling went for a chocolate fondant, which I didn’t get to taste, which would lead me to believe she enjoyed it. Throughout service was brilliant. Not overly formal as often can be the case in Doha and our waiter was happy to suggest dishes along the way. He was very attentive and yet you barely noticed him.

I was a guest at dinner (Thanks again), but the menu is very reasonably priced for the food and service you receive. Definitely one of the best places in Doha.

The Hot Stove, Parnell Square

26 Mar

Dublin has a lot of new restaurants. They are sprouting up everywhere. One such example is The Hot Stove on Parnell Square. It’s in a basement on the square, on the Rotunda entrance side.

Off the bat, the room didn’t appeal to me. It was nearly painfully bright. Personally I do better in soft lighting. The white walls, coupled with bright lights, meant that if you were there with the in-laws it could feel like an authentic interrogation chamber. On the plus side- the photos of the food turned out really well. Nicely lit.

We were greeted warmly and our soggy outer garments were taken, it was biblically wet that day. Other waiters circled, and gave some solicited and unsolicited advice re: the menu. The wine recommended was towards the pricier end of the spectrum, and coupled with one of the more expensive dishes on the menu, would be quite pleasant for my taste-buds I was assured, but perhaps not for my wallet. Additionally when we were asked did we want a side dish and the duck fat fries at €5 were recommended, we skipped them and went for the crushed artichokes. We were then asked *again* did we want fries. Up-sell tastic. Apart from that the service was attentive and friendly throughout.

An amuse-bouche of parsnip soup, parsley pesto and chorizo was exactly what we needed to start our defrost from the night outside and was very pleasant. Breads, one home-made and one from the Paris Bakery nearby were lovely and served with in-house churned butter.

I started with the seared mackerel. A nice piece of seared mackerel, the rilette was a little unremarkable, but it was with a crunchy and fresh fennel and apple salad. The cube of apple jelly, added nothing to the dish as it lacked any discernible flavour. The confirmed foodie, again my partner in dining went for the oxtail raviolo. The filling was flavoursome and unctuous but I thought the pasta was a little under, but she reckoned it had just been overworked.

Rabbit and some glare

Rabbit and some glare

Mains- I went for the rabbit. It was seasoned nicely, but a little over, and the confit cannelloni was quite rubbery. The lentils it came with were very tasty. My companion’s hake was a nice dish, served with black olive gnocchi and salsify. The salsify was delicious, and cooked perfectly, however overall it was agreed the dish lacked seasoning. The side of crushed Jerusalem artichokes was actually the dish of the night. Wonderful texture, and had bags of flavour.

For dessert I was served a perfectly cooked chocolate fondant. I didn’t like the orange-blossom sorbet, it reminded me of a Vitamin C cordial I was force-fed as a child. Herself got a rhubarb crumble- which was her favourite dish of the night. The rhubarb had just been cooked enough that it fell apart so retained a very pleasing bit of bite.

All in all with a bottle of wine and two double espresso, it came in at €121. There is great potential in The Hot Stove. The menu reads well. They just need to turn down the lights, turn up some of the flavours and cooking- and stop the unnecessary levels of up sell.

M & L Szechuan Chinese Restaurant, Cathedral Street

28 Feb

I went to school in Dublin 1. Back then, on the verge of Celtic Tiger Dublin, it was colourful. Colourful in the ‘mind your wallet’ kind of way. This coming from a proud northsider. Back then one passed boarded up shop-fronts on the way to school. Dry cleaners and corner shops with grandiose names called after American cities. On a recent trip to my alma mater, with my food-blogger hat on, I was amazed and tantalised by the number of eateries on my old walk to school. One of which is M &L Chinese.

This came onto my radar on twitter a few months back- via Stefano over at WholeMeal. I was due to meet a school friend of mine for dinner- he is accustomed to good food- so I sought out recommendations of the ethnic and Dublin 1 variety. Many recommended this place, so I decided it was time to try it.

My dining companion, Dr. Food as he shall be known, was a little late arriving- no doubt a life needed to be saved (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.) While I waited, I was seated and some very friendly staff provided water and menus and encouraged me to ask them for assistance in choosing my meal. A good start.

When the good doctor arrived, fashionably late, we ordered a variety of dishes with some guidance from the friendly wait staff. I started with pork dumplings. I think these were the highlight of the meal- delicious little things- packed with pork mince that left your mouth salivating after the bang of umami. The good doctor started with some prawns in egg yolk- these were eaten cheerfully- a little unremarkable and dry for my taste but they were far from unpleasant.

After this himself had chicken with dried chillies and peanuts. This was happily munched on.  I had crispy duck with mushrooms and chillies and it’s not on the English menu. If I can digress for one moment- I find the best way to eat in these places is to ask the staff what to order. Often they take you off the beaten track with glorious results or indeed they suggest mythical dishes, not on the menu. This was one such dish. It was crispy, spicy and savoury all at the same time. It was also gigantic- to the extent that after the dumplings I was far too full- it made for a wonderful lunch the next day.

We didn’t bother for any dessert- we just lingered and gave a nod to the staff when we wanted to leave as they enjoyed a post work meal in the corner. They didn’t make even the slightest attempt to rush us out and let us chat away.

With 3 beers each and a side of fried vegetables the total came to €58. M&L is worth a visit- it came with good recommendations and didn’t disappoint. The staff are great and are eager to ensure you enjoy your meal. Can’t ask for much more.

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