Thursday 31 January 2013

Umezushi, Manchester

The aisles in the shops are red with hearts and rose themed tat and singletons are blue – this can only mean one thing… Valentine’s Day is on its way!

My inbox and twitter timeline are full of restaurant ‘offers’ (some exceptional value; others exorbitant). Luckily, like last year, my wife and I managed to bag a table at Marc Wilkinson’s Michelin starred Fraiche (see here).

Re. love - I’m a firm believer in love at first sight… I met my wife in an Internet chat room on the 25th February 2000 (A leap year!) Four days later on the 29th she took her chance and proposed!

It’s taking me a little longer to fall in love with Umezushi… but I’m certainly growing fonder.

After my first visit to Umezuzhi (see here) I was not exactly running down the street clicking my heels, blowing kisses to all I met or shouting from the rooftops but I vowed to give it another go.  

I revisited for lunch just before Christmas and was impressed enough to take my wife along to sample the ‘Tasting Menu’.

The House Pickles were less acidic and much more palatable than on my last visit.

On my last post, my main gripe related to the quality (seasoning) of the rice. This too seemed to have been improved.

Without the luxury of access to daily deliveries from Tsukiji Market, many sushi joints in the UK struggle to get the quality of sashimi grade fish that they would like. I know Umezushi are constantly striving to get the best fish they can and this shows in the quality on offer.

The Maki Selection (Salmon Hosomaki, Cucumber Uramaki with Sea bass on the outside and Tuna Uramaki) was fresh and well formed. It’s also good to see decent wasabi that is not a lurid green and gari (ginger) that’s not artificially pink.

The Nigiri Selection (Brill, Salmon, Tuna and Sea bass) was also pleasant and attractively presented. The Prawn Nigiri, which arrived after the main selection was plump, firm and beautiful, served intersected by a slice of lemon.

Served over ice and shredded daikon, the Sashimi (Salmon, Sea bass, Scallop and Tuna) was also enjoyable - the scallop especially delectable.

Where Umezushi really excels is with its Tempura – some of the lightest, crispiest batter I’ve had. It was particularly pleasing to be served Sea bass roe.

The Hot Dish was a little disappointing. Firstly, the specials board listed two hot dishes for the day, a Seafood Udon and an Oxtail dish - following the previous fish dishes it would have been nice to have had the meat option. I suppose we could have requested it but ‘Tasting Menus’ are supposed to be an opportunity for chefs to showcase their food and creativity. As such, tasting menus are typically are made up with several ‘smaller dishes’ – the Seafood Udon was a rather large potion, which jarred in the overall scheme of things. Separately to this, we found the noodles to be a little rubbery and the batter on tempura prawn turned into unpleasant ‘sog’.

The Miso Soup was very rich and tasty.

The Fruit / Dessert aka slice of bought-in lemon tart with a couple of raspberries was a real let down for us - the pastry base was just claggy and unpleasant to eat. I just couldn’t eat it and I hate to leave food uneaten! A simple serving of a green tea ice-cream with some fruit would perhaps have been more of a fitting end.

For a simple love of the Tempura and some of the best sushi in Manchester, I’m certain to return to Umezushi. The Tasting menu however, did not win my heart. 

Sunday 27 January 2013

Fraiche, Marc Wilkinson & the BBC

Yesterday I received a tweet then a phone call from one of the producers of BBC 1’s Breakfast show - in response to an article  published in the Independent Newspaper (see here) They were after a food blogger to talk about the rights and wrongs / dos and don’t of the ever increasing trend of diners taking photos of food in restaurants.

A handful of restaurateurs in New York (especially) have decided to ban photography altogether. David Chang who runs the Momofuku restaurants has never permitted photography in his 2 Michelin starred ‘Ko’ (This didn’t stop me blogging about it – see here).

Marc Wilkinson's Michelin starred Fraiche
This is unusual (unheard of?) in British restaurants but I do believe some restraint and respect for other diners and the chefs is needed.

In the article three for the North West’s finest chefs, Marc Wilkinson (of Michelin starred Friache), Aiden Byrne and Simon Rogan offer their opinions that seem to generally agree with mine. Another opinion was offered by my fellow bloggers (and excellent photographers), The Critical Couple.

When I take pictures I always use my small, compact Panasonic Lumix LX5 camera. I never use flash and try and to be as discrete as possible.

I have seen people getting out of their seat to take pictures at different angles; getting their dining companions to hold plates at different angles; using tripods and cameras with interchangeable lenses (many of which, I’m guessing, are considerably larger than their penis.)

I have seen some blogs where people seemingly take a photograph after every bite… I rarely do this unless wanting to show off a perfectly poached egg, a pink juicy steak or an oozing chocolate pudding.

Of course, I wasn’t the BBC’s first choice but Food Blogger / Journalist Simon Binns who writes Eat / Drink / Manchester (see here) was unable to make the entire show.

Despite the fact that it would have made my ole’ mum proud; with a face much more suited to radio than TV I decided to turn down the offer of this potential route to international stardom and instead set my alarm to ridiculous o’clock to watch Mr Wilkinson and Mr Binns offer their opinions.

If you were also lucky enough to be dining at Fraiche one Sunday lunchtime in November last year, it may have been me at the other table taking photos of every course. If you were, I apologise if my picture taking in anyway intruded on your enjoyment of the excellent experience Fraiche strive to offer.

To Marc, I apologise if any of my pictures do not ‘do justice’ to your food (hopefully that’s where my words come into play).

To any readers that, a) were not there, or b) are not Marc Wilkinson – I hope the pictures tempt you enough to make a booking and go and experience (and perhaps photograph) Fraiche’s amazing food for yourself!

Course / Photoset 1: Goat’s cheese cream with edible soil, grissini and beetroot and seaweed wafers.

Course / Photoset 2: A dish inspired by the a ‘Spanish Omelette’ – quail’s egg, chorizo jelly, crispy shallots, potato cream and, an ingredient that would improve many a Spanish Tortilla…  a few shavings of the excellent Montgomery Cheddar.

Course / Photoset 3: Fraiche’s usual bread selection, Mk.1: Cheese, Five Nut, Mixed Seed and Granary & Treacle.

Course / Photoset 4: Scallops with smoked butter and lime served alongside a Scallop Ceviche with clams, oyster leaf, yuzu jelly with samphire and brioche.

Course / Photoset 5: Fraiche’s usual bread selection, Mk.2: Organic Oat, Tomato, Mushroom and Black Olive.

Course / Photoset 6: Monkfish Tail with black olive, chive and hazelnut crust. Garnished with blood orange gelée, black olive purée, hazelnut powder and a black rice crisp.

Course / Photoset 7: Black Face Suffolk Lamp Rump with pea shoots, pea purée, braised salsify, Girolles, roasted shallots and a mustard and mint dressing.

Course / Photoset 8: ‘Cheese brûlée’ of Camembert, cherries, hazelnut, almond and pan d’épices and a Sour Cherry Pannacotta with dehydrated grapes.

Course / Photoset 9: My cheese selection - Munster, Bleu de Basque, Taupiniere, Époisses de Bourgogne and Camembert Calvados and, knowing it’s my favourite, James squeezed a little wedge of Livarot on the slate too. To go with the fairly typical quality cheese selection at Fraiche I particularly enjoyed the new condiment on the menu of Pickled Blueberries made with blueberry vinegar and thyme.

Course / Photoset 10: After Eight with chocolate and mint textures – snow, soil, granita, sorbet and shards of meringue and tempered chocolate and Vanilla Rice Pudding with fresh mango, mango sorbet, topped with a nutty wafer.

Course / Photoset 11: As usual, I ended the meal with a fresh mint tea and a selection of petit fours including a bit of table theatre with an espuma gun and a dewar of liquid nitrogen.

‘Three is a crowd’ but my wife, my camera and me will be at Fraiche on Valentine’s Night. My wife and I will be sharing our love for each other and a love for Fraiche and Marc’s food. Afterwards, I’ll be sharing my love for Marc’s food with you! 

Saturday 26 January 2013

Mishkin’s, Covent Garden

Since I became a globe travelling internationally renowned food blogger my wife and I have been leading a pretty much non-stop rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle…

To give you an idea of the kind of crazy things we get up to during our foodist adventures, on a recent culinary trip to London, my wife fancied an afternoon nap so (to avoid disturbing her) I went for a walk with the intention of buying some socks.

Whilst strolling about I happened to notice Opera Tavern and Mishkin’s side by side on Catherine Street.

What Michelin say: “The Jewish-American deli, but with cocktails, was the inspiration behind this fun spot from the Polpo people. Lox beigel, chopped liver and salt beef sit alongside nibbles like cod cheek popcorn; the Reuben sandwich hits the spot.”

Like I say, I didn’t want to go back to the hotel too soon and disturb my wife’s well-deserved sleep so I did the only decent thing and went inside Mishkin’s for a coffee.

It seemed rude to order just a coffee but I was also mindful that we were due to eat out later that night. Magnanimous as ever, I decided to do the decent thing and ordered the Reuben Burger.

Barely contained within a Brick Lane Beigel, the burger featured an 8oz beef patty (served pink); layers of thinly sliced spicy pastrami; mounds of Sauerkraut and melted lashings of oozing Swiss cheese.

With a side of delicious skin on chunky fries; crispy onion rings, with a side of Schmaltzed Radish and a dip of Russian dressing, it was truly certainly one of my tastiest sock shopping experiences!

The Lyle & Scott shop on King Street had some lovely socks on sale for £7.50 a pair. As for Mishkin’s - Altz iz gut… ess gezunterhait! (All is good… eat in good health!)

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