Archive for July, 2009

Korean at Gama

July 14th, 2009

It’s a good thing that I don’t tend to give much weight to customer reviews on some of the popular restaurant sites that cover the London area, otherwise I’d probably never eat out. According to the reviews, Gama is a Japanese restaurant with bad toilets, bad food, and worse service.

Shall we have a little reality then? Gama is a Korean restaurant, which happens to also have a small Japanese section to their menu, which is common in a fair few Korean restaurants in London, and typically the Japanese meals are of a much lower quality than you’d expect elsewhere, but the Korean dishes are authentic and definately worth a try.

The first time I ate at Gama, the place was bouncing with Korean music, and at first we didn’t sit down at a table big enough to have any of the BBQ options from the menu but despite the fact that the staff aren’t very proficient in English, they still went out of their way to move us to a table that had space for us to enjoy Korean BBQ.

Only thing that would have been nice would have been a warning to put a napkin on and prevent spatter from the BBQ going all over our clothes, which understandably might cheese a few customers off.

After bypassing all of the police barriers in place to cordon off Dean Street due to the #sohofire that has taken Twitter by storm, we decided to give Gama a second try and see what other picks on the menu were like.

Much deliberation led us to the following:

  • Kim chee
  • Mixed namul
  • Fried tofu
  • Dol bibimbap
  • Chicken wings

The portions for the mixed namul were generous, as were the portions for the fried tofu, which came with a sauce that was similar to agedashi sauce, only with more spring onion and something else in it. Never really had thin slices of fried tofu rather than cubes of tofu in a restaurant before, but what the hell, it was tasty.

My dol bibimbap (beef, vegetables and rice with an egg cracked on top in a hot pot) was really tasty, and very spicey, at first the waitress only mixed in some of the sauce, but I gave in and mixed the rest in half way through.

Somebody couldn’t eat all of his way through the chicken wings, they arrived on a sharing platter so I’m guessing they weren’t meant for one person, but I was too full to help out other than taking a nibble at one to see how they tasted. They looked pretty funky but tasted really crispy on the outside and the meat was still really tender.

The negatives? No Korean music on the second visit, all American pop trash… and my Jasmine tea was made from a bag which is always a bit of a let down, but I’ll live, maybe.

Taiwanese at Leong’s Legend

July 5th, 2009

Yesterday was a busy day, recovering from a hangover from what was meant to be “a quick drink” with friends from work, funny how quick drinks end up being an entire evening of drinking cocktails by the pint. Had my back and neck cracked by my chiropractor, leaving me in a state of bliss, had a guitar lesson, and got a bit of shopping in as well.

By the time 8pm rolled around, we were looking for somewhere in town to have something to eat, and Soho was mostly off limits unless you wanted to be blasted by gay anthems from what was left of the London Gay Pride celebrations.

Gerrard Street seemed to be one of the only places not absolutely crowded in London, so we went from restaurant to restaurant admiring the almost identical and unappealing menus, until we stumbled onto Macclesfield Street and discovered Leong’s Legend, which had some really interesting food scattered over the tables and a queue to get in.

We spent about 15 minutes both in the queue and at the table scanning the menu and trying to work out what to get, and it wasn’t easy, there are a lot of really interesting sounding dishes, some of which I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try.

Eventually we settled on:

  • Vegetarian Spicy Soup
  • Chicken Hot & Sour Spicy Soup
  • Leong’s Long Bao
  • Taiwan Mini Pork Kebab
  • Belly Pork
  • Beef with Garlic Slices

I have to say, the food smells and tastes amazing, but if you’re one who judges food with your eyes then you might struggle, for example the belly pork came in a hot pot in a thick gravy, and was absolutely full of fat, but cooking it like that meant that the belly pork tasted absolutely amazing after a bit of manual spoonage and struggling to remove the fat.

The beef was a bit disappointing until we discovered that the random bowl of black stuff was actually the dressing, which was mirin and something else and made the beef absolutely sing… shame we hadn’t noticed the dressing earlier.

The soups were a thick broth and very tasty, but overall we found them a bit overwhelming, neither of us managed to get further than half way into our soups.

I’d never had Long Bao before, or even knew what they were, so probably didn’t eat them properly. Having had a sneaky peek on Google I’ve discovered that the are soup dumplings, so I shouldn’t have been quite so shocked at the liquid coming out of the dumplings! They were very tasty though, even if they did remind me of stuffing.

There is a lot more on the menu that I’d love to try, next time I think it’d probably be more sensible to go in a larger group so that a lot of dishes can be sampled without anything being left to waste.

Fusion at Haozhan

July 5th, 2009

I’ve been naughty and haven’t been keeping track of the restaurants that I’ve been trying, so here is my attempt to catch up since I’m awake bright and early on a Sunday morning (typically unheard of).

On Thursday of the week just gone my friend Chris was made redundant, and these hard times he’s probably one of the only people that wanted to go out to celebrate the news, his settlement is going to fund a three month safari around Africa.

I wasn’t being very useful at making decisions, so Chris demanded that we were to try Haozhan on Gerrard Street, in the hustle and bustle of China Town.

I’d spotted Haozhan in the past but wasn’t sure if it was just trying to sound like Hakkasan, the incredibly expensive and well reviewed restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Haozhan was actually opened by Chee Loong Cheong who was previously head chef at Hakkasan and even more pleasantly surprised that the prices were at least affordable!

The menu is somewhat of a fusion of different cultures, there seemed to be a lot of Chinese dishes, with a peppering of Schezuan (get it? doh), Malaysian, Thai and so on.

The staff are attentive and incredibly humble and polite, the interior was dark and modern, and most importantly on the sweaty Thursday evening, it was chilled!

We ordered a mix match of dishes from the menu to share:

  • Prawn Won Ton Soup
  • Haozhan Beef Rib Eye (red wine, black pepper, garlic, spring onion)
  • Schezuan Duck (sliced and delicious)
  • Haozhan Tofu (topped with spinach and a scallop)
  • Black Sesame Ice Cream
  • Custard Bun

The food was absolutely delicious and the presentation looked like it was a labour of love, the head chef clearly cares deeply about everything leaving the pass without a single flaw.

The Schezuan duck slices were probably my favorite because of the use of chilli to give a strong warm flavour without the urge to cough up or drain several glasses of water like you have to at some Schezuan restaurants.

The beef was tender as promised and packed with flavour, but I’d already had steak three times in the past week so it didn’t notch it’s way into the favorite spot.

The tofu was something else, and I’m still undecided if I liked it or not. The “supreme dressing” that is layered on top of the tofu above the spinach looks and tastes pretty much like lemon custard, and the tofu is very soft, which makes for an interesting experience at the very least!

Dessert followed on the trend of perfection, the black sesame ice cream was lovely even if it did leave a nice trail of black dots stuck in your teeth afterwards that you can give people crazed miles with. The custard buns were evil and naughty, smelling like fresh doughnuts, perfectly round with a crispy outer layer, coconut layer, and then slightly cooked custard so that it doesn’t gloop out.

Belly full, the waiter asked if we’d like to try some of their teas, which are apparently exquisite, and he looked so utterly disappointed when we declined.

Haozhan is definitely on the list of places to go after the next pay day, and this time I’ll have to try some of the tea as well otherwise I risk upsetting them ;)