10.26.2014

HI SUSHI IZAKAYA

This weekend I went to my first 'All you can eat' sushi for my friends birthday. I was a bit perplexed about the concept, the amount of food and the quality of the food we will get. I went with three of my friends who are addicted all you can eat sushi. I was the only one who didn't know this restaurant in the group.

The 'All you can eat' menu is called Tasting menu in this restaurant. Far away from the usual Japanese chef's special tasting menu, here you were offered two pieces of paper (see pictures below). The first one is a limited choice of sushi, sashimi, nigiri and three specials called 'bonus dishes'. You can order 5 of sushi & sashimi and you can repeat these dishes 5 times through the meal, then you can select all bonus dishes but they are served only once. The second part is A La Carte - hot dishes, you can select ten of them from the list, they are served only once.  
The tasting menu is £19.80 per person and you have 1 and a half hours to order and eat. 

We started our meal with a miso soup, the soup was nice and tasty. Nothing more special than other Japanese restaurant I went to.
 Miso soup

When the first plate of sushi & sahimi arrived I was impressed by the quantity. The quantity varied slightly depending on the number of guests around the table. 
Salmon sashimi were very nice, the salmon was fresh and tender. Salmon nigiri were as good as they used the same slice of salmon on top of the rice.
I didn't try the California due to my crab intolerance but my friends didn't leave any of them. 
Salmon & avocado roll were good too, and the balance between salmon and avocado was well proportioned. Usually in 'bad' Japanese there is less avocado than salmon. 
The spicy salmon roll wasn't really spicy apart from the sauce on top, it was ok but not my favourite. I thought it will have some wasabi inside the seaweed - like I had once in Dozo restaurant in Soho but no. 
 California roll, Salmon & avocado roll, Spicy Salmon roll, Salmon sashimi & Salmon Nigiri

The second plate of sushi & sashimi we ordered we asked for some of the bonus dishes. We avoided the crab option as I'm allergic. 
Ebi nigiri was ok but I thought the prawn could have been better, they didn't really taste like prawns. Prawn tempura roll with tobiko was very tasty and the tobiko had a little touch of crunchiness to the roll which was great. 
Salmon sashimi, Salmon nigiri, Ebi (shrimp) nigiri, Salmon & avocado roll,  Spicy salmon roll, Prawn tempura roll with tobiko

Tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet), Chicken gyoza, Sweet potato tempura, Squid ring tempura, Prawn tempura, Spicy salmon katsu, Chicken teriyaki


As main we had chicken gyoza, they were ok but not the best I had in my life, there was not enough stuffing in it. All tempura were nice and crunchy, not soggy at all. My favourite one was the prawn one. 
We had tonkatsu, it was a little bit dry but edible when you dipped into the Japanese curry sauce. 
My favourite hot dish was spicy salmon katsu, the breadcrumb was very nice and crispy around the fish, it was a little bit spicy but not too much.
Chicken teriyaki was a bit bland, which is a shame as the beef one was very good and tasted great. Beef teriyaki was also served with vegetables and not on its own, which probably helped to taste less bland.

We also had Japanese chicken curry. At the beginning I thought it was only the sauce for the tonkatsu but when it appeared I found some chicken pieces in it. They could have been a bit more generous with the chicken in it.
 Japanese chicken curry
Beef teriyaki


Overall it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Sushi and sashimi were very good, fish was fresh and tender (which matters a lot in Japanese food). Some of the hot dishes could have been a bit better. 
20£ each was about right for the amount of food we had. 
We could have had more sushi & sashimi as we only ordered three times out of five. But we were all quite full at the end.

The only thing we were all disappointed about was more about the lack of great service and explanation from the team. 
You have one and half hours to eat. They didn't really explain the concept and didn't mention that the time starts from the moment you sit at the table and not from the moment you order. 
So my advice will be don't waist time with your friends catching up about life before you order the food as they might rush you to finish the food on time and also they charged if there is food wastage (£5 per person). Lucky us, we finished everything on time and didn't get charge for food wastage.
During the meal we request sometimes twice the same thing as they kept forgetting things (soy sauce, tap water, napkins...), they didn't forget to remind us about the time and the bill  at the end!

6/10.
Hi Sushi Izakaya
27 Catherine Street
WC2B 5JS London
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10.22.2014

LA XALADA

Our last day in Barcelona was great, we joined the protest on Plaza Catalnuya : Espana por todos, it was a lot of fun and there was music.
For our last treat in Spain, we decided to go back again in Carrer de parlamente. The first place we went to was Passatje Tainos, it was a nice restaurant & boutique, we had only one drink there as we realised quickly it was a vegetarian restaurant. We don't have anything against vegetarian but we wanted to enjoy a last piece of meat, ham or fish.
The second restaurant Bar Caldes was again fully packed like the night before, we will try this one during a next trip to Barcelona.
We went to the last restaurant we noticed when we went to Lolita Taperia: La Xalada.
We enjoyed our last hours in Barcelona in the sun, having 'cerveza' and tapas... (maybe a little bit too much of cerveza).
Our first dish was aubergine chips with goat cheese, it was original and good. I never though about having chips of aubergine! On top they had my favourite cheese: goat's cheese and honey. Tasty and savoury chips.
Xips de berenjena con queso de cabra y miel  - Aubergine chips with goat cheese and honey

Second dish was dip fried calamari, I wasn't expected to have a full calamari. It was very nice, battered around was perfectly cooked and not soggy at all. My favourite one was the one made with ink. 
Andaluza, calamares a la romana - Traditional calamari
 Croquetas de carn de olla - croqueta fritters

Of course to finish this wonderful weekend, I had my last croquettas, this one was different than all the one I had before. This time there was no cream taste, only meat. The meat was nice and warm, it had the same texture as rillette.  
 Estrellados de Gallina Feliz, huevos sobre nido de patatas, jamon y salsa de trufa - Happy hen's eggs, over a nest of potatoes ith ham and truffle sauce.

We had the massive plate of patatas bravas, eggs and Iberia  ham again, this restaurant had a wonderful twist to this classic dish: truffle sauce. No foie gras this time, but the truffle sauce made the difference. 
Gambas a la sal - Plain Shrimps
To end our last lunch, we had shrimps, there had been I think marinated before cooking, there were served with lemon and salt only. There were tasty, a little bit juicy too. 

Overall I think Carrer de Parlamente and Poble sec area is a food gold mine in Barcelona. Most of the restaurant look nice, busy and they served good and affordable food. 
You are surrounding by the real population of Barcelona : Catalans, no tourists around so it felt more authentic than being in Barrio Gotico, El Raval or Barceloneta. 
La Xalada is one of those nice restaurants I will definitely come back with pleasure if I have the chance to go again soon in Barcelona. 
Service was good, waitresses paid attention to us and food was great. I just hope next time the weather will be as nice as the one we had. 

9/10.
La Xalada
Carrer del parlament, 1
08013 Barcelona

















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10.20.2014

LA REINA DEL RAVAL / SPICCA

The third day in Barcelona wasn't the best in terms of food, I guess it is karma, we had such good luck since the beginning, we couldn't find every day an amazing place to eat. 
The third day we were walking around El Raval, it was getting late and we were starving, so we didn't really walk further than the tourist area to find a place to get lunch. We went to a very touristic restaurants called La Reina del Raval, you know you are in a restaurant for tourist when you have an offer on tapas and drink, but also a men who start speaking to you to attract you into his restaurant.

We took the offer -7 different tapas and pan con tomate with two drinks 25€, we knew it would be not the best tapas of our life but it wasn't too bad.
Pan con tomate were done on dry white bread, one slice cut in third. 
At the beginning we thought we could choose 7 tapas from the menu, of course the offer was a lot different that was the men told us to attract us. 7 tapas were already chosen by the restaurant, it was meetballs, deep fried calamari, patatas bravas, tuna and coleslaw salad, chorizo, prawns and coquettas.
Patatas were well cooked so it wasn't too bad, meetballs were probably the only homemade dish of all of them and they were nice. Deep fried calamari were very soggy and cold, it wasn't great. Prawns were very fatty and so was the chorizo. Croquettas were as good as the one you can find in Spanish supermarket in the frozen area, so nothing exceptional.

I will recommend to avoid this kind of restaurant,  tapas are made from frozen food. They are usually quite cheap, but flavour less. Only flavour you got from those tapas was a fatty, oily taste. 

2/10.
La reina del raval
Rambla del Raval, 3
08001 Barcelona

For dinner we went to the street we found the night before: Carrer de Parlamente, unfortunately the restaurant we wanted to go to was already too busy and no seats were available. We went to the next restaurant with available seat: Spicca. From outside the restaurant looked cosy and had an original decor.  
We started the meal with a platter of charcuterie and cheese. The platter came with pan con tomate. It was a bit weird because we waited for a while to get the platter and the pan con tomate wasn't already made, instead they brought garlic, tomato and olive oil and you had to do it yourself !  
Pernil de pais, paté, manxego y pan con tomate - Iberico ham, paté, manchego and pan con tomate.
Pimiento escalivado con queso de cabra - Roasted red pepper with goat's cheese

The second dish was good, roasted pepper were nicely cooked and served with hot goat's cheese on top. Nothing spectacular but it was nice. It was served with crackers. 

Service in this restaurant was very slow...we wait a long time between each course. We didn't really understand why we waited so long all the time as not many things in the plate required a long preparation. The long wait totally ruined the experience.
The last dish was a big piece of bread with sobrassada and mozzarella on top, we had one each. It was good but I didn't understand why it took 30 minutes to arrive on the table.
The problem with this place I think it was that waiters were not organised and they didn't pay attention to customers. We requested the bill twice and because it took too much time, we stood up and went inside to request and pay the bill straight to escape quickly and had dessert in another restaurant.
We thought it would have take one hour to get the dessert coming to our table in this place. 
Our meal lasted nearly three hours ! I would have understood if it was for a 8 courses menu with elaborated dishes, but at Spicca the fact you had to do some dishes yourself and you wait 30 minutes for a toast was inexplicable. 

3/10.
Spicca 
Carrer del Parlament, 9
08015 Barcelona












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10.19.2014

VERMETURIA LOU / LOLITA TAPERIA

My second day in Barcelona was probably the best one, we went to so many different areas...we walked kilometres. It was also a great day because we found excellent restaurants, full of local customers.  

After visiting Parc Guell, we decided to lose ourself in small streets on the way to Sagrada familia, we arrived around Joanic station and found a nice local restaurant. Customers in this restaurant were all Catalans, some of them seemed to know very well all waiters. 
There wasn't really a menu option there, some boards indicated outside the special of the day but you could ordered anything really, you just had to point what you wanted on the counter.
When you walked to the loo, you walked passed the kitchen where you could see it is an old women who cooked every single dishes for the whole restaurant, my friend and I wondered if she was not the wife or even the mum of the head waiter behind the bar. 

We had some exqueisada, cod has been marinated in lemon, it was served with cooked red pepper and tomatoes salad. This dish was amazing, fresh and light. I don't usually think about eating 'raw' cod but it was really nice. 
 Exqueisada - Marinated cod with tomato, red pepper and olives
Pan con tomate was ok, not the best but it was free so you can't really complain for it. It had a little bit too much oil and not enough tomato taste. For the garlic they put the right amount on it. 
 Pan con tomate - Bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil
My friend had tuna empanadas while I was having a few croquetas. Those croquetas were very nice, homemade, there were a little bit creamy and full of ham. 
 Atun empanadas and croquettas - Tuna empanadas and ham croquette
Our main dish at Vermeturia Lou was impressive, a massive plate of fries served with eggs, wonderful slice of Iberico ham and foie gras on top. For sure it wasn't the most healthy dish ever, but it was so good. A rich dish well deserved after 5 hours walking. I would recommend you share this dish. 
 Plato estrella : huevos, fritos patatas, virutas de jamon - Star plate: fried egg with ham and foie
In the counter, there was some nice langoustines, unfortunately after the plato estrella, I was too full to have even one of them, such a shame. 
Langoustines and prawns

I really liked Vermeturia Lou restaurant. It was a small typical restaurant full of local people, like I was hoping to find in Barcelona. There was no extravagance, food was simple, good and well executed. Prices were very cheap considering the portion in the plate. 

8/10.
Vermeturia Lou
Carrer de l'Escorial, 3
08024 Barcelone

The place we went for dinner was recommended to me on Twitter by Sabrina Ghayour, she was the only one who haven't recommend Tickets from Ferran Adria, finally someone who thought outside the box. We had a little bit of wait when we arrived, but after 10 minutes we managed to get one of the best seat, at the counter with a view on every side of the kitchen where the food was prepared. We start our dinner with two glasses of Cava while we were looking at the massive menu plus the special on the board. I should have listened to her advice and come twice on that day as it was very hard to select only few things as every thing sounded and looked so good!
The first tapas we ordered was La del quimet, it was a nice toast with marinated salmon served on greek yogurt and truffled honey. It was succulent and light, Salmon and honey was a great combinaison and the little taste of truffle add a little extra. 
 La del quimet - salmon, greek yogurt and truffled honey


Then we ordered one of my favourite ingredients - sobrassada. Usually it is seved on its own, at Lolita taperia it was served with juicy and tasty fresh tomates and oregano. Such a great dish. Even if sobrassada is a very fatty ingredient, the whole dish felt very light thanks to the freshness of the tomato. 
 La Mallorquina - Sobrassada, fresh tomato and oregan


The dish below was one of the special, apparently Feo de Tudela tomatoes from Navarra are very famous in Spain and very sweet. When they arrived I was a bit perplexe because of the colour, I thought there were not ripe, but they were. A great balance between soft and crunchy and very sweet and juicy. Wished we can find tomatoes like this in the UK. 
 L'Amanida de Tomàquet 'Feo de Tudela' - Feo Tudela tomato

I know what you are thinking when you look at this dish... a basic kind of croque monsieur. It wasn't! El Planxat amb tofona was succulent. It was such a great sandwich mozzarella and boiled Iberian shoulder and truffle matched so well together. Mozzarella was perfectly melted, the bread wasn't soggy, and there was truffle spread all over the Iberian shoulder.
 El planxat amb tofona - Truffled mozzarella and boiled Iberian shoulder


We had after La bomba de l'eixample which was fried meat in a potato ball, meat was pulled inside. Again en explosion of good taste in the mouth. 
 La bomba de l'eixample - Fried meat in potato ball


When they brought this dish I was expecting chicken and patatas bravas, I was really surprised to discover that the breaded was actually crisps! 
Crisps were not soggy and or greasy, the whole crusted chicken was very good, I really liked the kurkuma sauce served with it. 
 Les 'rabas' de pollastre - Crusted chicken nuggets with potato crisps and kurkuma sauce


After all the dishes we were very full, but we thought it would have been a big shame to leave such a great restaurant without having desserts...We shared a creamy cheese and the special of the day : figs and greek yogurt.
The cheese was served with a pot of rosemary honey, I was very happy as it was the kind of cheese I liked. 
 El Recuit de Drap de Fonteta - Creamy cheese with rosemary honey


The special dessert was delicious, figs were amazing, massive and packed with flavour. We had a little bit of the rosemary honey on the greek yogurt as it was very good. 
 Figue amb mel i iogurt grec - Figs with greek yoghurt


To finish the meal our waiter offered a shot of sambucca and raspberries. 
This restaurant was gold, Sabrina Ghayour was right about this place, every dish was very good. After the meal, we  had difficulty with my friend to decide which dish was the best. I think all of them were amazing. For one time also in Spain I felt like tapas even if they had fat and oil on it, tasted very light and fresh. We were full at the end but it was in a very nice way. Our blue eyes waiter was also very nice, if he reads that he will probably recognise himself! We had a great spot, looking over the kitchen where every one was focused on their task and having a bit of fun. 
It is such a good taperia, it will be so good to have one like this in London. (I know we have Barrafina, but this one was different!) 

10/10.

While we walked to Lolita Taperia we found the perfect street for our future dinner: Carrer de Parlamente in the middle of Poble Sec. We had a drink there after Lolita Taperia. Again the street was full of Catalan enjoying the late warm night in Barcelona. 
Lolita Taperia
Carrer Tamarit, 104, local2-4
08015 Barcelona











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