Restaurants


Here’s another one from last year. I went to Southall one Saturday in search of a particular crunchy snack to bring back to my father in Vancouver. That search ended in failure (dammit, I can’t find that brand from Leicester anymore) but that day, I discovered a fantastic Sri Lankan place that served an a fantastic, budget-friendly lunch.

The place was Palm Palace, the lone Sri Lankan restaurant amongst all the Indian and Pakistani restaurants all around it. It’s a little grotty, a little dark…but my goodness, its food is fantastic. I ordered a seafood thali – and my choice of seafood was prawns (crab and fish were available too).

This is what arrived.

Sri Lankan Thali

This is the thali underneath the poppadom. That hard boiled egg is a good indicator of scale.

Under the Poppadom

It was fantastic! All the curries were medium-hot (which can be made Sri Lankan hot by request) and all were very uniquely spiced. The prawn curry had lots of curry leaves, there was an aubergine dish that was insanely good, that fried vadai on top was just like a gorgeous spicy lentil doughnut. And dessert! There was even a little portion of watalappam, a delicious coconut milk and jaggery custard, that you can see in the bottom left corner. There was plenty for one person and unsurprisingly, I couldn’t finish it all. Kudos to the waitstaff who offered to pack up the leftovers!

Remember that I said this was a budget meal? The thali cost £6.50. This and a glass of mango juice gave me more change than expected from a tenner. Definitely one to try if you’re not in the mood for the usual heavier grilled meats and creamy curries in the area.

Palm Palace
80 South Rd
Southall, Middlesex UB1 1RD

Palm Palace on Urbanspoon

When my friend KK visits London, he hits the ground running, eating at all the best and interesting places. And he can do this as he’s supremely organised, whereas I just bumble along and am not so great at planning in advance! Speaking of planning, yeah, even this blog post is a few months old as we dined here before Christmas.

Anyway, we both ended up ordering the same items off the lunch menu as our tastes are very similar. We first started with a salami plate (not on the lunch menu) – thin slices of their own house cured salami went down rather too easily. This was some glorious pork.

Salami Plate

Radishes, Black Sesame and Gochuchang was the first of the restaurant’s famous pre-meal snacks to our table. I loved the combination of nutty sesame, spicy gochuchang mayo and the crunchy fresh radishes. It’s a great snack to try and recreate at home.

Radishes, Black Sesame and Gochuchang

The restaurant’s famous Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Pine Salt were little cornmeal nuggets served on a bed of pine needles.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Pine Salt

Oak Smoked Cod’s Roe on Rye was like the best taramasalata you could imagine. Wonderful.

Oak Smoked Cod's Roe on Rye

Our starter of Roast Scallop, Chervil and Miyagawa Satsuma was the only dish that afternoon that didn’t work for us. While the scallops were beautifully cooked, the satsuma and chervil combination didn’t do anything for it and I’m not convinced that the combination even gelled well. I would have been plenty happy with the scallops on their own.

Roast Scallop, Chervil and Miyagawa Satsuma

Luckily, our second course of Roast Chop of Rose Veal, Chestnut, Spinach and Brussel Sprouts was excellent. Everything on this plate sang autumn – the chestnuts, the chestnut puree, the lightly cooked spinach, the tender sprout leaves. And that veal was truly just gorgeous – tender and pink and flavourful.

Roast Chop of Rose Veal, Chestnut, Spinach and Brussel Sprouts

Our dessert of choice, Amalfi Lemonade, had use scratching our heads at first. Were we going to receive glasses of lemonade? Our waitress assured us no! And what arrived was fantastic – white pepper ice cream topped with lemon foam and little crunchy tuiles. I loved that novel combination of the white pepper and lemon – peppery and zesty.

Amalfi Lemonade

On our way out, we peeped into the tiny little room where all the salami curing takes place. Neat!

Curing Room

With drinks and the salami and the lunch menus and service, it came to about £50 each. No, not cheap in any sense but it is a lovely treat. I’d love to return for dinner as they have a 5 course meal (with snacks) at £55.

The Clove Club
Shoreditch Town Hall
380 Old Street
London EC1V 9LT

The Clove Club on Urbanspoon

Korean/Mexican fusion! That’s the basis behind Kimchinary, started by Hanna Soderlund as a street food stand, and which has currently popped up at the back in The Catch Bar in Shoreditch. If you’ve been following this trend for a while (as I have – I love both cuisines), you’ll know that it’s been around in the States for a while now and Kimchinary is not the only place here in London that’s explored Korean fusion like this. However, it’s possibly one of the most talked about in the city as its menu is quite novel and exciting.

Anyway, by invitation, a friend and I headed to The Catch Bar for the launch night of the Kimchinary popup.

Kimchinary

That night, we had the opportunity to try a number of the tacos on offer (the menu may change since we visited). Tacos are priced at £6 for two and all come on freshly made corn tortillas (excellent!).

Buttermilk fried squid – Pickled pineapple relish, kimchi guac, herb salad – was delicious. The squid was fried to perfection and the accompaniments were excellent with it. I would have liked a bit more heat though – maybe a bit more heat in the kimchi guac or some hot sauce on the side.

Buttermilk fried squid - Pickled pineapple relish, kimchi guac, herb salad

To my surprise, the Braised cavolo nero – Soy pickled enoki, kimchi puree, queso fresco – was one of my favourites that night. There was some great contrast between the ‘green’ cavolo nero, silky mushrooms, tangy cheese. It was very well balanced.

Braised cavolo nero - Soy pickled enoki, kimchi puree, queso fresco

Corn flake chicken thigh – Doenjang buttered corn, potato salad, crispy chicken skin – was promising but needed a bit of kimchi to give it all a kick up the backside. There was a bit too much salt and something sour like lime was required to balance out the oily and creamy.

Corn flake chicken thigh - Doenjang buttered corn, potato salad, crispy chicken skin

“Bulgogi” ox cheek & tongue – Radish kimchi, blackened spring onion, horseradish – the bulgogi beef was delicious and the horseradish did give it all a great kick. I only wished there was more kimchi. Well, to be honest, I absolutely adore kimchi so I’d like lots of it all the time!

"Bulgogi" ox cheek & tongue - Radish kimchi, blackened spring onion, horseradish

The only non-taco we tried that night was the Dukbokki – Rainbow chard, crispy shallots (£4) – and this was my favourite thing to eat that evening. The sticky rice cakes had been deep fried, with a great crust, and then coated with a spicy sweet sticky sauce. Silky strands of chard and crispy shallots and coriander and sesame seeds completed the delectable bowlful.

Dukbokki - Rainbow chard, crispy shallots

Overall, the little bites need a bit more heat and a squeeze of lime here and there but they’re fine little treats otherwise, especially with drinks; I’m sure everything will be ironed out with time. Service at The Catch Bar, however, needs improving. But then I realise that this is a bar, not a restaurant, so I guess that’s ok. Kind of.

Thanks again to Hanna for the invitation! Kimchinary will be at The Catch Bar for three months from January 17.

Kimchinary at The Catch Bar
22 Kingsland Road
Shoreditch
London E2 8DA

I ate at Chef Hung’s both on the day I arrived in Vancouver and the day I left. They’re a Taiwanese chain that specialises in beef noodle soup and on the very cold day that I arrived, the idea of a soothing, comforting bowl sounded great.

That evening, I slurped down a bowl of their Champion Beef Shank with Noodle in Spicy Soup (with extra fire chilli soup) and felt all the better for it. I like that you get a choice of noodle – our favourite are their thin noodles though wide noodles, rice vermicelli and others are also available. The spicy fire chilli soup is indeed spicy and numbing too with lots of chilli oil and Sichuan pepper. The beef came in two variants – cubes of stewed shank that were falling apart and slices of another cut (not sure which) that were gorgeously tender. The noodles were just al dente and softened slowly in the broth as I slurped my way through them. This was an excellent bowl of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

Champion beef with noodle in spicy soup

The next day, this happened:

Along the Seawalk

Unfortunately, that was the only snow I got in Vancouver! Two weeks later, when I was due to fly out, it looked like this:

One week ago, I was here

Sure, all very pretty but dammit, where’s the snow?!

My last meal in Vancouver was also at Chef Hung’s. I love that place. Again we had their spicy beef noodle soup only this time we shared one bowl.

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup

I’ve got to mention the pickles. These are provided with every bowl of beef noodle soup and they are the perfect accompaniment, all tangy against the rich meat and broth.

Pickles

We also split an order of a crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside fried pork chop…

Pork Chop

…and a marinated beef wrap made with a freshly griddled flaky flatbread, slices of stewed beef, hoisin sauce and cucumber and spring onion. Brilliant stuff.

Marinated Beef Roll

The flaky bread was delicious and the whole thing was made less heavy with the inclusion of the vegetables.

Marinated Beef Roll

Portions were so big that I was able to bring most of the beef rolls and pork along with me to the airport to supplement the terrible offerings by Air Canada. Yes, they packed up our leftovers very nicely indeed.

What a great place – it’s yet another chain that I wish would open up in London!

Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle
1560 Marine Drive
West Vancouver, B.C.
V7V 1H8
Canada

Other branches are listed on their site.

Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle 洪師父牛肉麵 on Urbanspoon

And that ends my Vancouver posts this time! As usual, all my Vancouver photos from this Christmas trip can be seen in this Flickr photoset.

Heading to one of these Asian malls in Vancouver is the quickest way to immerse oneself into a totally different culture. Aberdeen Centre in Richmond feels very much like Hong Kong. My family have been visiting this place for years – the food court is excellent and there’s a great Asian supermarket and, best of all, there’s the largest Daiso in North America within. (Daiso’s a 100 yen shop chain in Japan; in Canada, everything’s $2. They sell amazing things and are as far removed from pound shops as is possible.)

Anyway, we first needed lunch. The restaurants all looked fantastic there and some even had ginormous queues that lunchtime but we headed to the popular food court on the top floor. Among the teppanyaki, noodles and juice stalls was this gem – Saboten, a cutlet chain from Japan.

Saboten Express

I immediately ordered a Saboten set, which included a bit of pork tenderloin (melted in the mouth), pork loin, and a prawn. Each had been crusted in the flakiest, crispiest panko crumbs and were fried beautifully. The only downside was the pre-ground sesame seeds (to be mixed into the tonkatsu sauce) – these had lost some of their flavour. But considering that it was from a food court, this was all excellent!

Saboten Set

From another stall, I ordered shengjianbao – the juicy pan fried pork buns that are a specialty of Shanghai. Many tables seemed to have an order of either these or the steamed xiaolongbao from the same stall.

Shengjianbao

Over to another Asian mall. If Aberdeen Centre was Hong Kong, The Crystal Mall in Burnaby (next to Metrotown) felt like mainland China. We headed there on New Year’s Day in search of a bit of adventure – neither of us had ever been but we’d heard good things about it.

Market

Again there were some restaurants (all packed and with queues outside) but we again headed straight for the food court. It may look empty below but be rest assured that you’ll be fighting for a seat close to midday.

Food Court

There were so many options that we ended up running around buying bits and pieces from various stalls. From a northern Chinese food stall, we had hand pulled noodles in soup with stewed pork ribs. The lady manning the stall pulled those noodles right there and then! They were wonderfully smooth and chewy – it’s a shame the broth was a little dull though.

Hand Pulled Noodles with Pork Ribs

From a Sichuan stall, dry wontons with chilli oil and fried peanuts. This was insanely good and burning hot and crunchy and tasty and yes, just excellent. They’re addictive – you can’t stop at one!

Dry Wontons with Chilli Oil and Peanuts

From a Xinjiang stall, we got a few skewers coated in chilli and cumin. There’s aubergine and the usual lamb/mutton and, quite interestingly and totally inauthentic, pork skewers too!

Skewers

We saw a woman walk by with bowls of hot tofufa (or dou hua) – extremely silky soft dessert tofu served hot and with syrup. That was it! We packed up the rest of the food that we couldn’t finish and my father ran over to the stall to order some. It was perfect – warm, silky, smooth, soft, and with just the right amount of sweetness.

Tofufa

The malls are certainly good fun and both are close to Skytrain stations, making them easy to access for the tourist who’s looking to see something a bit different in Vancouver and who’s depending on public transport. And you’ll eat very well!

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