Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Reviews

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Fed up with celebrity chefs drizzling sauces over undercooked pieces of meat? I am!

I regularly dine out and am happy to share my restaurant experiences, and views on food, with you.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Chicago Bans Foie Gras

Chicago Bans Foie Gras

Those of you with a penchant for foie gras may care to avoid traveling to Chicago, as the authorities there have banned it.

Chicago has made history as the first American city to outlaw foie gras. The only other place in America to ban foie gras is California, but the ban won't come into effect until 2012.

The decision to ban foie gras arose when Charlie Trotter, the celebrity chef, said that he would no longer serve foie gras on grounds of cruelty. This caused Rick Tramonto, another chef, to call him a hypocrite. The row was reported in the papers, and the local council led by city alderman, Joe Moore, went on to draw up the ban.

Fines of up to $500 will be imposed on those caught selling foie gras. However, chefs have devised a cunning plan to avoid the fine; they intend to give away foie gras with a $16 serving of roast potatoes.

Needless to say, the city that was renowned for its organised crime in the 1920's, which itself stemmed from a ban on alcohol, has not taken this ban lying down. Chefs in Chicago have staged a protest by loading their menus with dishes featuring foie gras, even the humble hot dog has a foie gras connection.

The 676 Restaurant served a seven course Outlaw Dinner, which included foie gras wrapped in prosciutto and covered with hot chocolate; together with a selection of foods that were once illegal, from absinthe to unpasteurised cheese.

Needless to say, the ban is ridiculous and makes a mockery of the local council.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dining Out

Dining Out

British eating habits are changing, according to official figures more money is now being spent on eating out than eating at home in Britain.

Dining out has rocketed in popularity in the UK in the last decade, as British people have higher disposable income and seek to avoid cooking.

UK government figures show spending on food and drink consumed outside the home has doubled between 1992 and 2004 to £87.5BN, nearly £2BN more than spending on food and drink for the home.

That being said, spending on food and drink at home still rose by over 50% between 1992 and 2004.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vindaloos Cure Headaches

Vindaloos Cure Headaches

It seems that a strong curry, such as a Vindaloo, may in fact be a cure for headaches.

Research, carried out by the Rowett Institute, has found that Vindaloos are better than aspirin at getting rid of headaches.

The key ingredient is salicylic acid, which is found in aspirin, and it occurs naturally in Indian food.

Spices found in curry such as cumin, turmeric and paprika are all rich in the ingredient.

Whilst aspirin can cause internal bleeding and ulcers, curry does not.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Odin's

Restaurant

Odin's
27 Devonshire Street
London
W1

Phone:- 0207 935 7296

Website www.langansrestaurants.co.uk

Overview

Eva and I went up to London the other day to try out one of the Langan's chain of restaurants, Odin's. It was founded by the late bon viveur Peter Langan, who partied hard, as per the New York Times:

"Langan was burned in a fire at his home in October 1988 and died on the 8th of December 1988 at the age of 47.

Mr. Langan, whose Langan's Brasserie in Mayfair was a favorite with entertainers, was co-owner with the actor Michael Caine
."

Odin's tries to stay true to his memory by serving indulgent food in a relaxed atmosphere.

Odin's serves hearty 2 and 3 course set meals that are English and French in inspiration. It is rumoured to be well liked by celebrities, keen to avoid the unwanted attention of the public and paparazzi.

You should note that it is not open at the weekends.

Ambience

The restaurant is a joy in itself to visit, as it houses a remarkable collection of artwork copiously hung throughout the walls of the restaurant. The walls are adorned with pieces by Hockney and Patrick Proctor, in fact the walls are positively groaning under the weight of the artwork hanging there.

The restaurant is luxurious, yet cosy and intimate, the tables are laid with linen cloths and napkins, and the seats soft and comfortable. Indeed our table was furnished with two rather fine low back armchairs, which definitely encouraged one to linger.

We had booked for 8:30PM, the restaurant was not that busy and indeed seemed a little "hushed". However, as the evening progressed a few more people entered and the mood livened up.

Menu

The menu offered an excellent range of French/English cuisine which can be taken in the form of two or three set courses. The dishes are changed regularly. However, on the evening that were were there the menu included; roast duck, stuffed guinea fowl, grilled seabream, veal, smoked eel and sausage and mash.

Service

The staff were highly professional and efficient. However, they were at first a little stiff not smiling as naturally/genuinely as they could have done. They did "loosen" up as the evening progressed, and managed to smile more warmly towards the end.

Food

I started with the tortellini with prosciutto ham in a tomato and garlic sauce. This was a highly enjoyable dish, small parcels of tortellini wrapped around delicately flavoured ham accompanied by an exquisite tomato and garlic sauce. A perfect combination of taste and texture, not overpowered by the sauce. I was more than pleased with this as a starter.

I chose the roast duck for my main course. This was undoubtedly, and I do not exaggerate here, one of the best ducks that I have had in a long time. The duck had been well cooked so that no blood oozed forth when I cut into it, yet it was still moist and flavoursome, the skin crispy and moreish.

I would also emphasise that the duck portion was a very good size indeed, consisting of; leg, thigh and a very large breast. A far cry for some of the dry disappointments that have been served to me in other establishments. It was accompanied by a very generous portion of home made sage and onion stuffing and apple sauce; these were ideal accompaniments for this noble bird.

Eva started with the seared scallops in saffron sauce. She was absolutely delighted with her choice, as the scallops were tender and beautifully complimented by the delicate sauce.

She chose the breast of guinea fowl, stuffed with bacon and tarragon in a Madeira sauce for her main course. A true delight, the breast had been cooked to perfection and the taste when combined with the stuffing was unctuous.

Our main courses were accompanied by paprika potatoes and carrots.

Rather unusually I decided also to have a dessert, and went for the date and ginger pudding. This was superb, a strong ginger flavour matched by an unbelievable sweetness.

Eva had the creme brulee which was a real treat, a crispy caramlelised top contrasting against the moist decadent underside.

The meal, which included a bottle of Chablis and liqueurs, came to £131 including service.

Opinion

A first class restaurant which is well worth a visit. We are more than happy to recommend it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fabada

Fabada

Continuing the temporary Spanish theme of this site, here is a simple fabada recipe that I have made a few times since we returned from holiday in Spain. It serves 4.

Ingredients

2 large tins (400g each) of cannellini beans, drained

4 medium sized chorizo, sliced thickly

2 Spanish blood puddings, sliced thickly

1 head of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped coarsely

Olive oil

4 thick slices of belly of pork, cut into thick cubes

Saffron

4 bayleaves

Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Lightly saute the garlic, add the pork and chorizo.

Gently saute for a few minutes, then add the blood pudding and the beans.

Cover with water, adding the remaining ingredients

Simmer gently with the lid on for around 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Transfer into earthenware dishes, place these in a preheated oven (180 degrees) and bake for around 15-20 minutes.

Serve immediately with bread.

Ideal for a late supper or as a hearty starter.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

el Yantar de la ribera

Restaurant

el Yantar de la ribera
Roger de Flor
08013 Barcelona
Spain

Phone 93 265 63 09

Website www.elyantardelaribera.com This contains a video of the chef cooking.

Overview

As noted previously, Eva and I went to Barcelona a few weeks ago for a well earned holiday. Despite being on holiday, we managed to continue on our mission to seek out new dining experiences and tried out a number of very enjoyable restaurants and eateries.

One of my personal favourites was this restaurant, situated near the Victory Arch some 30 minutes walk from the harbour.

el Yantar de la ribera is a traditional rustic restaurant, that specialises in Castilian cuisine cooked in open wooden fired ovens.

Ambience

el Yantar de la ribera is tucked away on rather quiet and unassuming road, unless you knew where you were going you would miss it. The entrance is modest, a thick old wooden door, behind which is a rather pleasant small entrance vestibule.

The entrance vestibule leads into the main dining rooms, one for smokers the other for non smokers. Now here is a tip, if you like to smoke you will need to book; as they reserve that part for their regulars, who come in at around 10:00pm, and stay to the small hours smoking and drinking after their meal.

The dining room resembles a rustic wine cellar, the tables were neatly laid with white linen cloths and towards the far end of the dining room the chefs laboured in the open plan kitchen (the wood fired oven clearly visible).

The restaurant is clearly very popular with local families, many of the tables were occupied by family groups of varying ages, Eva and I were the only non Spaniards there that evening.

Menu

The menu offered a most wonderful selection of hearty Castilian dishes; black pudding, roast lamb and suckling (spelt sucking) pig were on the menu. I saw no evidence of any form of vegetarian offerings.

Service

The service was of a high quality, although the staff had only a modest command of English. That being said we had no trouble ordering, as the menu was in English and we had a phrase book. I would also point out that of course I speak no more than a few words of Spanish, so it is not my place to criticise.

We were though made to feel very welcome.

Food

We both started with the selection of regional specialties these being ; black pudding and two types of chorizo (one spicy the other mild).

This dish was presented in one large dish in the centre of the table, from which we helped ourselves. The black pudding was rather like haggis, and the chorizos both spicy and mild provided a juicy and flavoursome contrast to the pudding.

The freshly baked bread that accompanied it was an unnecessary, but very pleasant, indulgence.

We selected another dish to share for our main course, this time the house specialtiy; a whole quarter joint of lamb (leg, ribs and shoulder) roasted in the oven.

The cooked joint was proudly borne to our table on a large earthenware dish by one of the staff, who asked us to approve it before he took it away for carving.

Given the size of the portions, the restaurant does not offer vegetables or potatoes as an accompaniment. Instead they provide a rather good quality green salad which, together with the bread, provides a more than adequate accompianmnt to this most noble of dishes.

The lamb itself was absolutely unctuous. The meat tender yet full of flavour, juicy and oozing with goodness; culinary heaven.

I make no apology in stating that we pigged out on this, and enjoyed sucking the bones dry at the end.

Quite unecessarily I opted to try the egg custard to round off my meal. This was rather an interesting dish, as it resembled in taste and texture a traditional school egg custard and a creme brulee all in one. Rather jolly I thought.

When we had finished our meal, we were rather impressed to see that the liqueurs consisted of a large wicker basket of quarter bottles of various spirits (such as vodka) that was deposited on our table together with two ice chilled shot glasses.

The basic idea being that we could have as much as we wanted, at no extra cost.

Now there's something that you don't encounter every day!

We managed a couple, then reluctantly decided that it was time to call it a night.

The meal, which included a bottle of good bottle of Cava and the basket of spirits, came to 80Euros before service.

Overall Opinion

An outstanding restaurant, you would be very foolish not to visit it if you have the opportunity.