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Osaka: Sutoraikuken (ストライク軒)

We were starving and it was about 8.30pm when our Shinkansen pulled into Shin-Osaka. It was a mad scramble to find a hearty ramen joint to fill our rumbly tummies and a quick search on Instagram (yes, instagram!) unearthed this gem.

It has a non-descript, unassuming front which we passed by before doubling back. Pushing aside the plastic blinds, we were greeted with…a vending machine which we had to make our orders, completely in Japanese. Without the help of a fellow customer I think we would have spent about another 15 minutes deciphering the Japanese.

There are only two choices; shoyu or shio (salt). Both KYW and I have never been fans of either, but there were two of us and two types to try, so a bowl each we ordered. We got the ‘mini’ size, with an add on egg each.

It’s difficult to describe the taste of the shoyu – how something so simple can have a lot of depth is beyond me. It was comforting and exactly what I needed after a long day of traveling. I loved the bamboo accompaniment!

On the other hand, the shio came with slices of tender poached chicken and some clams. It was a lovely mix of seafood and chicken shio broth, and was reminiscent of a tonkotsu broth in that it was creamy, but the difference being that this was much lighter, and a lot more unique – both of us had never had anything like that! I think it was lighter on the palete than the shoyu and if I really had to pick one, I’d go with this shio though I’d recommend going with a friend to try both.

On the way out we spotted a sign on the wall where Sutoraikuken was awarded 373th out of 38,000 in Tabelog’s list of best ramen-ya. Didn’t even realise they were in the top 1% but they truly deserve this award. I’m definitely coming back the next time I’m in Osaka.

Address: 5-8-8 Tenjinbashi Kita-ku, Osaka

Bangkok: Inter

I really liked Inter. If Thais had a cha chain teng equivalent, I think Inter would fit the bill. It seemed like a very local joint (well… as local as you can get – they have English menus) with people coming in to takeaway food. Well, I can understand – the pad thai is possibly the best rendition of the dish I’ve had! It just the right combination of sweet, sticky and charred flavours, with more ingredients than rice noodles. Kind of how I like it. The wok hei (charred bits, for the uninitiated) would give some of the best hawkers a run for their money. Best part: the delicate rice noodles were not overcooked and retained some bite.

Slightly more unphotogenic was the green curry with catfish, a rendition which I’ve never had. Would recommend this instead of the old boring chicken / beef green curry that most restaurants offer. The catfish was firm and did not flake easily. We also had stir fried morning glory (it really does taste better in Bangkok) and tom yum soup which hit the spot. Between Krau Apsorn and Inter, I preferred Inter although I think Krau Apsorn had the better tom yum soup.

 Make a visit to Mango Tango opposite the road when you’re done with lunch! This was the only mango sticky rice I had all trip… it was a cute dessert in a cup, and great to take on the go. The sticky rice was utterly addictive & the mango ice cream on top was really the icing on the cake. A great end to lunch (105 baht, ~S$4, ~£2).

Address: 432/1-2 Siam Square 9, 10330, Thailand (Inter), Siam Square Soi 5 (Mango Tango takeaway stand – look out for Som Tam, the restaurant opposite which is famous for… yup, som tam.)

Honest Burgers

The Burger Chronicles continue.

I finally, finally, FINALLY tried Honest. Slowly making my way through my burger list PLUS since ZX raves about them all the time (they’re her fave) and Tess loves their chips, I had to taste them for myself!!! Went during lunch hour and we were incredibly lucky to score a seat immediately.

Honest is really simple – 3-4 varieties of burgers, chz burger, honest burger, chkn burger & veggie fritter burger which honestly sounded pretty good. Maybe I’ll give it a shot one day. This strategy of offering a small range of burgers is quite a smart one – focusing on fewer things ensures that the quality across the board is higher, and I guess also means burgers are churned out at a faster rate = HAPPY CUSTOMERS!



Anyway on to the burgers – on first glance it looked quite small but I was so full after the meal – when will I ever learn not to ever underestimate the size of the burgers. One thing that really struck me was how neat the burgers were. This isn’t a messy burger joint like AF or Meatliquor.. the patty is thick and there’s only one patty (more than enough!). I chose mine to be done medium, and on hindsight should hv really asked for medium rare.. but nevermind. I felt the patty was a bit dry for my liking even tho it was done to the right amount of pinkiness. But on all grounds, it’s still is a good burger. The red onion relish (in the Honest burger, which was what I had) added some sweetness to counter all the savoury in the burger. And yes, it went brilliantly with the bacon. I LOVE BACON. Zx thinks that the burger is let down by the bun.. which I don’t think is anything ‘bad’ per se, but I hv to admit this bun was quite forgettable. Patty&bun still has the best bun, imo.

THE AMAZING ROSEMARY SALT FRIES. I will return to Honest for the fries alone – it is THAT good. There is a right amount of salt and the rosemary is strong enough. More often than not for most places when they advertise their chips with some form of herb salt, I always find the herb too subtle for my liking but NOT HONEST! I have finally found the best chips to go with burgers!!!!! Zx had the coleslaw as well, which was a good coleslaw, great crunch, not too creamy, and I love how they used red cabbage.

Anyway, honest is worth checking out if….. you are vegetarian (I swear the veggie burger really sounds amazing)/in the area/like thick burger patties/like burgers that aren’t messy/YOU LOVE CHIPS LIKE I DO. Btw, PRICES ARE SO REASONABLE FOR LONDON. Everything is £9 and under (except The Federation burger) and comes with chips. Loads of people were ordering the lemonade when I was there, so give that a shot. Watch out for the queue – go at odd hours, or in small groups!

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Honest Burgers
4 Meard Street
Soho
London
W1F 0EF

Bistrot Paul Bert

Bonsoir mes amis! I love Paris – the food is always amazing. Was in a mega grumpy state when I arrived at Gare du Nord because my train from Manchester to London was delayed because of an added stop at Rugby after 3 trains before mine got cancelled due to a maintenance fault. Was rushing to find a toilet at St Pancras as well – WHERE ARE ALL OF THEM!??? – and panicking that I wouldn’t be able to check in in time, but okay whatever, arrived at Gare du Nord safe & sound!!!

One thing to note, please don’t be late for your dinner reservation in Paris. We were 20 minutes late for ours and were greeted with disapproving looks. OOOOPS. Can’t really fault them because.. it technically was our fault. Well, Eurostar if you really wanted to pinpoint the blame.

Paul Bert does a menu prixe fixe thing where you mix and match the courses that you want to have. There are 5 choices in each category to choose from and I think the range is quite diverse and will provide for most people. The only problem was deciphering the French. Google Translate is a crappy translator because… I wanted to confirm if mulet was fish & all it gave us was ‘mule’… but after seeing diners on the other table get some white fish tartare I was SO GUTTED.

Yuwen started with the scallops in butter while I had the leek with foie gras. The scallops were fresh and chewy; the way fresh seafood should be and the butter really brought out the flavour well. The leeks were unlike anything I’ve ever tried – it is difficult to really describe them except they were marinated well and provided crucial balance to foie gras which can get really intense and gamey (in other words, gelat) after a while. Who would have thought foie gras and leek were such a good match?

For the mains, both of us naturally went straight for the l’entrecote having read SO MUCH about it online, and watching tables before us get served with the entrecote. Seems like it was a popular choice! The one that really sealed the deal was actually the frites. The wafts of freshly fried frites on other people’s tables were driving both of us nuts – one can only imagine our happiness when our steak frites arrived. FIRST THING: OMG THE SLAB OF MEAT. It was huge. SECOND THING: THE FRIES!!!!! Cutting into the beef was amazing, the cross-section looked suitably pink (medium was truly medium!!) and the beef was well seasoned and marinated, I didn’t even use the accompanying bearnaise sauce. Had it with mustard; I would say I’m a purist but then again, I guess if I’m truly a purist I wouldn’t even need mustard.. Yu Wen commented that the steak was way better than the one she had at CUT (by Wolfgang Puck, in Singapore) which was simply overpriced. The frites were on a whole new level. Lightly sprinked with salt, the frites were cooked perfectly with the taste of the potatoes coming through. I don’t know how they do their frites but everyone should take lessons from this Bistro because we couldn’t stop eating them. They were REALLY something. (Edit: Actually, France just does frites really well.)

Dessert portions were also MASSIVE. We shared the Paris Brest and the Tarte Tartin. Both were excellent. Paris Brest is a hazelnut pastry filled with hazelnut cream, in a shape of a wheel. The hazelnut cream was so light, and not overly sweet – it was addictive. The tarte tartin was also well cooked, with a slight smokiness to the apple. It was more like a stewed apple dessert rather than a tart… but not really complaining. So gooooood.

Even the table bread was wonderful – there is just something about French bread, isn’t it!? Paul Bert is a place that I would make a point to visit if I ever return to Paris. It was €36 for 3 courses, and I daresay we really did get more than our money’s worth, considering the portion sizes. Nowhere in UK/Singapore have I gotten anything this special and at such a steal. My only gripe was that coke cost me €5 😦 That was purely my fault though. Paul Bert is really special, and I like that it’s a bistro, which means it’s more intimate and personal, literally, as everyone is squished together – not much of fancypants dining, but just French classics done simply, and done well.

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Bistrot Paul Bert
18 Rue Paul Bert
75011 Paris, France‎

Yummy Yuzu!

Finding reasonably priced Japanese food is a challenge in itself. Needless to say, finding decent, reasonably priced Japanese food is a personal achievement of some sort. Here in Manchester, far, far away from Japan, good sashimi/japanese food is hard to find. We’re not the capital like London where most big names would flock to to set up shop first.. so offerings in terms of Japanese food are limited. We certainly don’t have what I’m used to in Singapore, the option of Sushi Tei/various eat-all-you-can buffets/high end omakase. Discovering Yuzu was a godsend.

We went for lunch with the chemical engineers who had just finished their last paper.

Maguro (£9.95)
This was Weiming’s. I didn’t ask him how fresh the maguro was but look at the fish! How rare is it that you get good maguro? Not just in Singapore (sometimes even good maguro is hard to find in Singaore) much less Manchester! It’s pretty amazing that they offer it in the first place. Note that this is not part of the set lunch menu.

Set lunch: Organic salmon don (£7.95)
What I like most about Yuzu is the set lunch menu. They offer a choice of 6 dishes for £5.95 or £7.95 each. This organic salmon don is £7.95 and comes with rice and miso soup. I had that the last time I went to Yuzu – while the sushi was fresh and melt-in-your-mouth, I felt that there could have been more sashimi given. Then again, at £7.95 it is a steal, all things considered.

Set lunch: Ton katsu (£5.95)
This was what I had this time! The breadcrumbs were so, so, so good. It was so satisfying to bite into the pork filet. My only gripe was that the pork was a bit too tough for my liking.. nonetheless, I enjoyed every single bite of this. The tonkatsu came with a small jug of sweet sauce as accompaniment; it complemented the pork cutlet well. Also, can I just say that I love Japanese rice – I don’t know how the Japanese do it, but they seem to be able to cook it so well. Sticky, chewy, and with the right amount of bite.

Side: agedashi tofu (£3)
Rach and I decided to order some sides! I felt like having tofu. This batter was so light and the broth it came in, I think I could drink it all. It was light and not heavy on the stomach, and I think, a perfect starter.

Side: Chicken katsu (£3)
This is completely different from my ton katsu. The chicken coated in the same crunchy breadcrumbs, but when you bit into it, it was so tender! A good alternative to the pork cutlet if you don’t really like pork, but I generally think pork is tastier than chicken.

If you’re in town and are craving a good Japanese lunch that isn’t too heavy on the pocket, try Yuzu. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I particularly like how everything is served to you in a tray, and it adds to the authenticity of it all. Finally, on each table there’s a mini blackboard of daily liquor specials – Yuzu offers a range of Japanese sake as well. The mini blackboard is written in both Japanese and English, and I think this is one of the more authentic, or even, most authentic Japanese places in town. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time you do it!

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Yuzu
39 Faulkner Street
Manchester
M1 4EE

Pollen Street Social: Revolutionising fine dining

Pollen Street Social is Jason Atherton’s restaurant that will change your perception on fine dining with a casual bar where you can sit around and mingle with a no-reservations policy. I was particularly lucky to get a weekend reservation for 3 a week before we were slated to go because weekends were completely reserved till April! It is a place where I can say with conviction that I will definitely go back. The set lunch menu is very value for money, and being starving students (ok not that starving admittedly) we went for that to try more dishes & the best part was the starters, mains & desserts were in threes, so 3 of us could share everything.

The service was very attentive and the staff, extremely friendly. The service was prompt and while clearing the courses they always asked how the food was – VERY GOOD THANK YOU VERY MUCH.


smoked hake, poached egg, wild garlic, curry puffed rice


cornish mackerel tartare, seaweed salsa verde, pickled turnip


terrine of pork knuckle, piccalilli, wild herbs, squid and coco beans

The starters did their jobs to open our appetites, I was so chuffed by my mackerel tartare & even Nick who doesn’t eat sashimi said the tartare was pretty good. I’m sorry I cannot recreate the taste in your mouth but.. I was amazed that it was not fishy at all considering it is mackerel afterall, and this tartare was very, very light despite the dressing. Nick’s dish tasted like.. pork porridge. I have no other way to describe the taste. It is all so amazing how various ingredients can come together and create such a distinct taste.


roasted cornish cod, mussel bouillabaisse, crab and winkle vinaigrette


pork belly, spiced pork cheek, pear puree, sprouting broccoli, lardo potatoes


marrowbone


braised irish ox cheek, smoked mashed potato, salt baked onions, ox tail and marrowbone

I love how food is a show at PSS & how waiters will explain your dish patiently. My cod was accompanied with this mussel broth and the kind waiter took the chance to explain he was pouring the mussel broth into my dish before he did so. Peter says the potato mash is ‘DAMN GOOD’ and I concur. I’m not a fan of potato in this form but I think they might have passed it through a processor to get it so smooth. Nick’s pork belly was ADUFHKJ#Q)(UROI (this is me speechless) and Pete’s ox cheek was so tender and so well marinated. Sigh, I’m recreating the meal in my mouth now. Also my cod with crab and mussel broth was like eating fish in the best seafood broth ever. I haven’t had this good fish since Floods in Weymouth, but I’m sorry Floods, the best seafood experience this academic year goes to Pollen Street Social. The thing is, I can’t believe they do both meats and fish so well. Definitely deserving of all their accolades!!!!


palate cleanser


yorkshire rhubarb sorbet, pistachio financier, ginger


70% bitter chocolate pave, vanilla ice cream, smoked vanilla crumbs

Desserts were a bit disappointing but by no means, terrible. I think the starters and mains have stolen the show so much so that I was expecting to be blown away by the desserts. I took a pistachio cake with rhubarb while the boys had the chocolate pave. It was.. pretty forgettable I think. The pistachio however went very well with the rhubarb sorbet it was accompanied with and I was really quite impressed at how two exotic foods can complement!!! I would recommend ordering desserts from the dessert menu instead because of all the rave reviews I have been hearing about the awesome dessert, especially the PBJ.

The service here is top notch and the servers are very attentive – always stepping in to refill glasses, sweeping crumbs off our table, bringing over a bag stool for Nick’s paperbag.. making the effort to ask how the meal was, and turning away while Pete keyed in his PIN for payment. It is the little things that count. Everyone was friendly and all smiles and I really love PSS, it is non-snooty, casual enough and the food, mindblowingly good & value for money.

Pictures taken by myself with Peter’s camera.
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2 courses, £22; 3 courses £25.50; including a bottle of water and service charge, we paid £90 for 3 people.

Pictorial: LOBSTER!!!!!!!!


LOBSTER ROLL: sandwiched between buttery toasted bread, this is God’s gift to mankind. The dressing is so subtle and the roll just steals the show. There isn’t that much lobster though, and um, it’s not something I’d order if I went to B+L on my own, but since I was sharing the lobster with Pete YESSSSSSSSSS lobster roll. I certainly didn’t regret this though. IT IS AMAZING. I think this is the star of the night, except it’s a bit..small (I’d rather pay £20 and eat the lobster)

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LOBSTER SHOT #1


LOBSTER SHOT #2


LOBSTER SHOT #3: Each platter comes with a side of fries & clarified butter & the yummiest garden salad with a balsamic vinegar dressing!!!! Um I swear the salad was actually pretty good – vegetables were crisp and not limp as though it’s been set aside for days. BEST PART: LOADS OF CHERRY TOMATOES!!!!

THIS IS NO SMALL LOBSTER. I was really surprised when it arrived at our table, cos it was REALLY value for £££ looking at the size of it. LOOKING THROUGH ALL THE PICTURES IS DRIVING ME NUTS I WANT SOME LOBSTERRRRRRRR NOW SIGH I COULD DREAM ABOUT IT I SWEAR. I will leave you with other raving reviews about this amazing place: x x x

Note: Having only opened about a month plus ago, B+L is taking London by storm. When Tess went on a Thursday night at about 7 plus, she was only seated at 9.50pm. Pete & I went at 3pm on a Friday and it was about 70% full; we easily scored a table. Weekend waits should be about 3 hours long. Call ahead to find out about the wait time, call to put yourself on the waiting list as they don’t accept reservations, or just simply go at non-peak hours.

Yeah trust me, I really didn’t know if I wanted to post this online lest one of the best secret spots will be known to public. But anyway doesn’t matter, since I’ve already tried it now HEHEHEHEHEHE ^^ Thanks Tess for the rec!!!!
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Burger + Lobster
29 Clarges Street
Mayfair
London W1J 7EF
Nearest Tube: Green Park