Monday 27 October 2014

@HungryHoss October Round Up

Some words and pictures on places that I have not got around to blogging in full.

Mughli, “The Curry Mile” is undoubtedly the enfant chéri of Manchester’s food bloggers. The “street food” menu is widely considered the way to go when ordering. Many don’t even bother with the curries. Star dish: most would say the Tandoori Lamb Chops cooked over their ‘fire pit’ but the Mumbai street staple Pau Bhaji is my current favourite.

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, Withington is a charmingly friendly, family owned Chinese restaurant in the Withington area of Manchester. As the name suggests, they specialise in vegetarian food with many of the dishes including gluten based meat substitutes, tofu and, of course, vegetables. Star dish: Salt & Pepper Crispy Chilli Aubergine

The Pig & Whistle in Cartmel is Simon Rogan’s local (in the sense that he lives around the corner and it’s his). After a recent meal at L’Enclume (here) I hung around for a Sunday Roast and a few bar snacks.  Star dish: Roast Suckling Pig and all the trimmings.

Not that I ever need any excuse to visit Yuzu, Manchester but a little bird tweeted that they had Fresh Oyster Katsu on the specials board. They were excellent; as were my usual faves including: Chicken Karage, Prawn Gyoza, Daikon & Wakame Salad and Agedashi Tofu. Star dish: Fresh Oyster Katsu

SoLiTa, Didsbury… everyone’s* favourite NQ “burger joint” (*some prefer Almost Famous) has now got a big sister in the burbs. I like this sister – she has lots of neon and artworks by Stan Chow. All the favourites are there: The Big Manc, The Manc-Hattan, Krabby Patty, big juicy steaks and lots of deep fried goodies. Star dish: still has to be the Big Manc but the ‘Bloody Mary Mayo’ that comes with the Lobster & Sweetcorn Fritters deserves a special mention. (I am friends with the owner and ate some of this food for free so ignore me if you wish.)

Volta, West Didsbury is one of those effortlessly cool places; it always reminds me of one of the ultra hip Parisienne bistronomiques. It has an interesting menu of small sharing places and some of the best value steaks in the city. Star dish: Dexter fillet

Côte, Manchester is a ‘chain restaurant’ and, being an unashamed food snob, I usually avoid these like the plague. I visited the other day because I fancied steak tartare and could not find anywhere else in Manchester that had it on the menu. The food was a mixed bag overall – the crayfish salad tasted ridiculously briny - but the fish cakes, steak frites, pissaladière and steak tartare were all good value. Star dish: Sautéed Salmon Fishcakes

It’s well documented on here that I *heart* Sticky Walnut. It seems that other people do to; what was supposed to be a quiet meal for one soon turned into a table for two, three and then four when some friends heard about my plans. The friends happened to be three of the NW’s most successful chefs and restaurateurs… they loved Sticky too! Star dish: all of them but a special mention for the 18oz Chateaubriand for two, truffle and parmesan chips, honey roast carrots, green beans, meat juices

The Art School, Liverpool is a glorious space. The overall experience from setting and front of house is excellent. The food was good in places and roughly on a par with some of the best available elsewhere in the city but if they genuinely have ambitions for Michelin stars, for me it falls some way short. Star dish: Northop Red Leg Partridge with Cox apple tatin, cabbage parcel and Claremont Farm potato gateau

Ending with something sweet, the ‘new’ French Patisserie Bisous Bisous, Didsbury is a quality place that you should all know about. The macarons are very good, the pastries are great and the bread is excellent. Star dish: go for the Boule Tradition but don’t leave the shop without getting a couple of Financiers, and some Chocolate Macarons… oh, and throw in some Chouquettes too.

Sunday 26 October 2014

A Beginner’s Guide to the best Vietnamese Coffee in Ho Chi Minh / Saigon

Firstly, please don’t be fooled by the word ‘guide’ in the title… this post is just a collection of some of the places I visited but I really just scratched the surface.

I always knew that they liked their coffee in Vietnam but whilst walking around Ho Chi Minh on my recent culinary adventures (see here & here), I came to realise how much they LOVE their coffee!

Introduced to coffee by the French in the colonial days, the Vietnamese sweetened the strong dark roast with condensed milk due to the unavailability of fresh milk.

My first observation of Vietnamese coffee culture is the role reversal it plays with food compared to the UK. In England, people are much more likely to sit and eat food in a comfortable setting and grab a coffee on the go in a paper cup; in Ho Chi Minh, food is usually eaten street side whereas coffee is enjoyed in a more modish setting. Certainly many of the coffee houses I visited would not be out of place in trendy hipster hangouts like Manchester’s Northern Quarter or London’s Shoreditch.

The most common ways to drink coffee in Vietnam are: Cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk), Cà phê đen đá (iced black coffee), Cà phê sữa nóng (hot coffee with sweetened condensed milk) and Cà phê đen nóng (hot black coffee). Most coffee is served with a side of iced, weak unsweetened green tea; this is called Trà Đá. Of course, all the usual preparations such as Cappuccino, Espresso and Flat White are also available… as is ‘Weasel Coffee’ (don’t ask).

All these places were great but I have ranked them in descending order of my favourites based on quality of coffee and overall vibe.

Bâng Khuâng Café – 9 Thái Văn Lung (2nd floor), Quận 1

She Café158D Pasteur (1st floor), Quận 1

Chez Vous Coffee House – Phan Bội Châu (1st floor), Quận 1

The Morning Café36 Lê Lợi (2nd floor),  Quận 1

I.D Café34D Thủ Khoa Huân, Quận 1

M2C Café44B Lý Tự Trọng, Quận 1

Thức Coffee – 156A Pasteur, Quận 1

Saigonista38/1 Lê Lợi (2nd floor), Quận 1

La Rotonde77B Hàm Nghi (1st floor), Quận 1

Shelter13 Lê Thánh Tôn, Quận 1

Strata Café (50th floor) Bitexco Financial Tower 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

Les Amis, Singapore

** Les Amis was awarded 2 Michelin Stars in 2016

Les Amis happens to be the first restaurant I ever blogged (see here). Since then it has continued to secure a ranking in the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ top 100 (No.86) and No.14 on the ‘Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list.

Despite its accolades and enjoying it the first time, I had not returned on subsequent visits to Singapore because when in Asia I like to eat as much good quality Asian cuisine as possible. As such, my return to Les Amis was unplanned.

I had travelled into Orchard Road to do a bit of shopping with no real designs on where to have lunch apart from a vague notion that I may hit up one of the ramen joints.

A walk around the Japanese department store Takashimaya got me in the mood for sushi and thinking if I could secure a seat at the counter of the Les Amis owned Aoki – it turned out that they were full.

Les Amis and Aoki sit side by side on Scotts Road. Expecting that they too would be full, I thought I would chance my arm anyway. It was my lucky day; the maître d said that they would have a table in available in half an hour. A quick mooch about the shops and I’d soon be dining in one of the world’s finest restaurants… there would be time for ramen later.

I’m not going to add anything to the menu descriptions as they are beautiful enough in French. I rarely talk about the crass subject of money on my blog but for S$55 (about £30) for four courses, including bread, tea/coffee and petit fours, this was exceptional value in a city famed as being expensive.

Le Foie Gras del Landes, cuit au naturel et légèrement viellie, escorté de mangue en ‘chutney’ et pain levain grillé – Duck foie grad terrine from Landes, 10 days dry aged, accompanied with mango chutney and sourdough toast.

Les Cèpes de Printemps, en duo avec des pois princesse, servit en soupe chaude – Spring Cep mushrooms in a duo with green pea hot soup.

Le Boeuf l’onglet émincé, servi en tartare, dans la pure tradition Parisienne, pommes frites – Traditional Parisian flapmeat beef tartare served with French fries.

L’Abricot et l’huile d’olive de Provence en soufflé, crème glacé à l’amande douce – Apricots and olive oil from Provence in a soufflé, sweet almond ice cream.

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