Sunday, 11 May 2014

Zaibatsu, Greenwich

During the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, Z and I ventured to Greenwich in search for good Japanese food. I've read about a local restaurant on Trip Advisor, which received rave reviews and was ranked 12 in the whole of London! (yes indeed!). Given that it was not Michelin starred, I was a bit surprised at this. (I'm not a snob, but 12 out of the thousands of restaurant in London is really high!). Intrigued, we finally got the chance to visit it ourselves recently.

We took the DLR to Cutty Sark, and from there we took the 188 bus to the restaurant. It was about 5 minutes or so from Cutty Sark to the restaurant, so it wasn't too far of a distance. We did not have a booking, and when we arrived, it was packed! It was indeed our fault, what more, the restaurant was tiny. It looked like it could only fit max 25 people or so.

So we waited for a table for about 15 minutes- the waiter took my phone number and name down, and gave us a ring when they had a table available.

Our table turned out to be a small one next to the kitchen (but separated with a partition). Our table was against a shelf full with bottled mineral water and soft drinks, and was at the back of the restaurant. In short, it felt like we were dining in a store room.

This wasn't an issue at all to us, for a start, it actually gave us a bit of privacy from the rest of the customers in the restaurant! (the tables were packed very close to each other). I didn't mind it one bit, but it's probably worth flagging this as I suspect not everyone would be comfortable sitting there.

We ordered 4 items: a chicken noodle soup (yes, I know it's not exactly Japanese but I was craving for it. Plus the restaurant markets itself as a Japanese fusion restaurant), a tuna 'Sunkiss Selection', a 'Dragon roll' and a 'Black Cod' tempura.

Chicken noodle soup, with vegetables and shiitake mushrooms

The noodles (£5.90) came first. I opted for udon noodles. The grilled chicken breast was sliced into strips and was delicious - so was the broth. Portions were reasonable (in fact, rather cheap), and there were lots of vegetables as well,which were cooked al dente. Very lovely indeed, and really hit the spot.

The tuna Sunkiss Selection (£7.90) was next. Unfortunately, at first sight it was a bit disappointing. The portion was tiny! There were about 8 very thin slices of tuna, seared, and it came already dressed in a tangy soya sauce-based dressing. There was also a garnish of very finely sliced purple carrot (I think) which looked lovely and tasted very refreshing. No pictures; both of us dived in straightaway! It was delicious, but I felt the portion was too small. 
The awesome dragon roll
The Dragon roll ( £9.50, a prawn tempura roll, topped with avocado and salmon fish roe) was the highlight of the meal! What I loved about it is the fact that the tempura stayed crunchy and light when it was served. I've had it before when the tempura was all soggy, but this was just delicious. The avocado was creamy and went so well against the crispy prawns and rice. Well seasoned rice too. Absolutely spot on for me!

Black cod tempura
 We initially only ordered the 3 dishes above but as the seared tuna was too small, we ordered a portion of black cod tempura (£6.30). We have had black cod before, pan fried and we have absolutely enjoyed that (if done well, it just melts in the mouth). This came with some tartare sauce. Unfortunately this dish was a bit of a disappointment to us. The batter was rather heavy and too thick; it didn't have the lightness a tempura batter should have. Flavour wise, it was also rather bland. The portion was generous though.

All in all, we thought it was rather hit and miss. The Dragon roll was worth coming back for, and the noodles were delicious. Service was good, and the waiter was lovely. The prices were in general very reasonable as well.

96 Trafalgar Road, Greenwich
SE10 9UW

Disclaimer: This entry is not a sponsored post, and is entirely based on my personal tastebuds. I have not received any monetary or non-monetary payment to write this post.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Review: Starbucks bottled frappucino

I was at Tesco's today, grocery shopping. I usually have an eye for bargains, so when I saw that the drinks were at an offer of '2 for £2', I bought two, one for myself and one for Z. We got a vanilla frappucino and a 'mocha chocolate' flavour frappucino. As we don't often have packaged drinks at home, this is indeed a treat for us.

Packaging wise, I'd say they are attractive. The drinks come in  250ml glass bottles, so they are a bit heavy but it helps in the aesthetic appeal.  

The vanillla frapuccino was delicious- creamy and sweet. I'd say the coffee flavour was not strong and the vanilla fragrance was very subtle. 

The 'mocha chocolate flavour' had stronger coffee flavour and was less thick in consistency compared to the vanilla one. It was also less sweet. I don't understand why they called it 'mocha chocolate flavour' though, as mocha already means there's chocolate in the drink.

I'd say both were delicious- the vanilla frapuccino taste more like a dessert than a drink, and I would need to order a similar drink at a Starbucks outlet before I can judge further.

Disclaimer: This entry is not a sponsored post, and is entirely based on my personal tastebuds. I have not received any monetary or non-monetary payment to write this post.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Review: Maxwell's, Covent Garden

I went to Maxwell's during my Christmas/New Year break. I was craving for some good American food and did some googling. Maxwell's came up and upon a quick look at the menu,- they had what I love so much - Pulled Pork Sandwich. There's just something I absolutely adore about juicy hot shredded pork sandwiched in a soft pillowy bun, with some cold coleslaw. Yums!

Anyways, Maxwell's also does a weekly promotion on Mondays, called 'Monday Madness', where some of the dishes are discounted up to 50%! A bargain I have to say, especially for a restaurant in Covent Garden. The cocktails sound delicious too. So we decided to try it out on the following Monday.

We booked a table for half 7. When we arrived, the restaurant was packed and there was a queue. Even with the booking, we had to wait for our table (not impressed) for about 15 minutes or so. I could tell that they were understaffed, however the lady and gentleman at the front desk were very polite and apologetic.

Once seated, we didn't waste our time. I was looking forward to the pulled pork sandwich and Z was going to have steak. Alas, they didn't have the pulled pork sandwich on that day!! Upset is an understatement to how I felt at that moment. I went for my second choice, a chicken and bacon sandwich. Yes, sounds boring, but it had fried onions in it! ( LOVES!)

My chicken and bacon sandwich. Look at those fried onions!

The portions were massive! I did think they would cut down on the portions, as it was 'Monday Madness' but nope- I was well happy :) The grilled chicken was juicy and goes very well with the bacon and fried onions. I did notice that one side of the chicken was overdone however. The sandwich/burger came with a side of fries and coleslaw. Both were pretty good- the fries were crispy and fluffy in the inside.

Z said his steak was good- he had no complains :) It came with half a grilled tomato, a mushroom and fries. I thought it looked a bit dry, but Z enjoyed it.

Z's sirloin steak

I don't have pictures of our cocktails, they were ok but I noticed they were not very alcoholic. Guess I can't complain with them being only about £5 each. I wouldn't say that they were something to write home about.

Overall, our meal at Maxwell's was good, both in taste and value. The meal came to about £30. I might go back to try the pulled pork and perhaps the ribs to give a better judgment. The restaurant comes across as a good place to bring some friends around, it had good atmosphere but it wasn't too loud that you can't have a good conversation. Definitely worth trying if you're in the area, especially if you're there on a Monday!

Maxwell's8 James St, London WC2E 8BH (nearest tube station: Covent Garden)

Disclaimer: This entry is not a sponsored post, and is entirely based on my personal tastebuds. I have not received any monetary or non-monetary payment to write this post.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis

It's Valentine's Day! Well at least it was, about a week ago! :) I asked Z what he would like to have for dessert as a treat and he said Panna Cotta! 

Ah Panna Cotta, the lovely, silky bouncy Italian dessert. I have to admit, before trying this myself, I did think that Panna Cotta was a difficult dessert to make. I have never used gelatine before and to be honest, I didn't know how to work with it. But alas, I'm so glad I tried this as it was SO easy! and delicious too! :) This is a must try for anyone who's a lover of Panna Cotta :)

(Makes two standard size ramekins, adapted from the BBC website)

1 1/2 gelatine leaves (I used Dr Oetker's)
125 ml whole milk
125 ml double cream
2 tablespoons of sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste

For the coulis

125 gms of raspberries 
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons of water

  1. Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water till soft.
  2. Combine the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla paste into a saucepan.
  3. Bring it to a simmer and simmer gently for 1-2 minutes, stirring to ensure that the sugar is melted and the vanilla paste is mixed through well. 
  4. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, and put them into the saucepan. Stir through the milk/cream mixture and simmer for another 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into the ramekins.
  6. Leave cool for about 5-10 minutes, and put them in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours. For a special Valentine's treat, I used heart shaped ramekins :) You can cover with clingflim to prevent a 'skin' from forming but I skipped this step.
  7. To make the coulis- put all of the ingredients(reserve some raspberries to garnish) into a small saucepans and  bring to a boil. Leave on heat for a few minutes until the raspberries soften and break down (this shouldn't take more than 2 minutes once the mixture boils). Add more or less sugar to taste- I prefer my coulis to be tangy to contrast against the sweet panna cotta.
  8. Leave to cool.
  9. To serve, pour the coulis onto the panna cotta, and garnish with the reserved raspberries. I left my panna cotta in the ramekin (less dishes to wash up!) but if you prefer, you can warm the ramekin slightly (just soak with hot water from the tap for a couple of minutes) and turn the panna cotta over onto a plate.
  10. Sieve the coulis to achieve a smoother consistency.
  11. Enjoy!

I have yet to try it but I believe this recipe is very giving in terms of flavours of the panna cotta. I might try chocolate panna cotta next time!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Quick dinner- Minced lamb pasta sauce

Hello All!

This was a quick and easy dinner I knocked up for myself this evening. I defrosted some minced lamb the night before and used it to make a 'quick bolognese-style' sauce. I find that using lamb makes up for cooking the sauce for a shorter period of time- traditional bolognese often involves cooking for a long period of time to intensify the flavour. I personally love the flavour of lamb and plus as I don't take beef, lamb is a delicious alternative!

When I cooked this, I did think of a friend of mine, A who is half Italian. I remember his expression of horror when I told him once that I often use lamb in my pasta sauces. He even said he would have to consult his mom ( who's Italian) on whether that's acceptable!

Quick pasta sauce + spaghetti

Makes 2 portions

300 grammes of lamb mince
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of capers
1 tin of plum tomatoes
1 generous tablespoon of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of mixed herbs
Salt and sugar (yes you read it right!) to taste.
1 tablespoon of vegetable/ olive oil

  1. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan on medium heat. In the meantime, cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Fry the garlic until slightly brown. Add the capers and stir through.
  3. Add the mince and fry till cooked through.
  4. Add the tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
  5. Season to taste. By this time, your pasta should be done and voila, dinner is ready!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Char Siu Sou - Cheat's version

Hi All!

I promised Z to make char siu bao but when I googled recipes to make the bun itself, it looked a bit too time consuming for me (I will be baking a cake as well this weekend, so was rushed for time- more on that later). So, I made char siu sou instead. And to save time even more, I used shop bought puff pastry (yes yes, I know, disappointing!). This saved a lot of time, and left me with less worries as to how the pastry will turn out! I got the idea from here- I thought it was very clever!

BUT.. I did make the char siu! (Hooray!) I marinated it for two nights, but I suspect one night will be sufficient. I used the tenderloin for this recipes, so it's less fatty. Some people would prefer char siu with a bit a bit of fat (I do as well!) but for some reason, I feel that a leaner cut of meat will work better in this recipe. 

the lovely insides! :)

Char Siu Sou
Makes 5 large char siu sous

Marinade for char siu
200-300 grammes of pork tenderloin- I cut it to several large chunks
3 tablespoons of hoi sin sauce
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of red food colouring (optional)

Additional ingredients for the filling
1 teaspoon of dark soya sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of sugar/ honey- to taste
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (or any oil that does not have a strong odour)
1 tablespoon of corn flour diluted in 2-3 tablespoons of cold water (important to use cold water, otherwise you'll have congealed mess!)

500 grammes of puff pastry (I used JusRoll's puff pastry)
1 beaten egg


  1. Marinade the pork for a few hours, or if possible overnight.
  2. Roast the pork in a pre-heated oven at 150 C  (fan) for about 30-40 minutes. Reserve any juices/leftover marinade. I checked my meat halfway through to see if it was cooked- it should bounce ever so slightly upon being pressed.
  3. Leave the meat to rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the chopped onion on medium heat till soft and lightly caramelised. This will take probably about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Chop the rested pork into small cubes and add it to the work.
  6. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Add any leftover marinade and heat through. 
  7. Season to taste and add water accordingly - the filling should be slightly sweet and slightly wet.
  8. Roll the puff pastry to about 5mm thick. Don't roll it too thin, otherwise it will not puff up.
  9. I cut the pastry to about 5 relatively large rectangles using a sharp knife. This will take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling.
  10. Put the filling on one side of the rectangle and brush the edge of that side with the beaten egg. Fold the pastry over and seal the parcel. 
  11. Poke some holes on the parcel with a fork- this allows any steam to be released to avoid additional moisture.
  12. Brush the parcels with the egg wash.
  13. Bake in a preheated oven at 150 C (fan) for 30-45 minutes until golden brown and pastry is cooked through. I made the mistake of turning my pastry halfway through the process- don't! This results in a flattened top of the parcel. Using the lower rack is advisable, to make sure that the bottom of the parcel is cooked at the same rate as the top half of the parcels.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

It's been a looonnng time!

Wow! without realising, it's been more than a year since I last posted! So what has been happening since then? Well, I got a new job, I moved to another location, and I have been baking as well! I also *hopefully, with lots of fingers crossed* have sat my last written exam for now. So lots of exciting things, and it's been a bit of a rollercoster ride.

So to end a long hiatus, let's have a review rather than something I cooked recently ( which has been mostly stirfries, which I personally enjoy but not sure if it can fit into 'exciting eats'. It's also been more than a year since I had a meal at this place, so I think it sort of fits the post!

It's a restaurant I discovered when I was still at my old job, thanks to a friend of mine who was eating there almost every evening for a few months! It's a no fuss restaurant, more like a cafe. I find the food delicious, non pretentious and just some good old filling grub. It's a place where you go for the food rather than the atmosphere. The service is basic, friendly but not over the top.

On this occasion, I had it as a takeaway instead. I was busy packing my stuff (yes, it was among my last meals in Birmingham, where I was based until September last year). I had a 'mixed meat rice' dish- roasted chicken and duck with steamed rice. It was SO GOOD (in fact, I wish I have a plateful now). You can sort of see some steamed chinese cabbage underneath the pile of meat. It was comforting and really satisfying- gave me the energy to continue packing my things afterwards. The meat was tender, well cooked, and the duck was oh so juicy!

I often call the place 'dodgy lane' restaurant, not because it's actually in a dodgy area (far from it, it's smacked in the middle of Chinatown), but because it's along one of the smaller lanes in Chinatown, places where people don't venture to unless they know what they're looking for. Despite being back to Brum a few times since I left, I have not had the chance to go back to this beloved cafe. Only because I'm usually there to meet a big group of friends, and the cafe doesn't really have the capacity to take large groups.

Prices are reasonable (I think the dish above was about £7), and portions are generous. I would definitely recommend this place for a good, wholesome Chinese meal!

Peach Garden
34 Ladywell Walk, Birmingham
B5 4RX

Disclaimer: This entry is not a sponsored post, and is entirely based on my personal tastebuds. I have not received any monetary or non-monetary payment to write this post.