Tasty Bao Buns

I quite like Bao Buns. I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing.

Having enjoyed the buns from Master Bao the last time I was there, and needing lunch I decided to visit Master Bao again. As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works. I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish

I had this before, but did enjoy it, the Shiitake Mushroom Bao – teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso.

Shiitake Mushroom Bao - teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, pickled onions and miso

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second Bao was the Mr Bao – slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander.

Mr Bao - slow braised pork with house pickles, roasted peanut and coriander

The pork was very tender, and the peanut added a nice crunchy texture to the Bao. I would have liked a little more coriander, but otherwise it was delicious.

Both Bao buns were soft and fluffy and full of tasty fillings.

I had enjoyed the pork dumplings last time, but this time I went with the fried chicken.

fried chicken

This was not as good as I thought it could be, but the chicken was nice and crispy with a tasty sauce.

Overall I really did enjoy the meal,

 

 

Nice Bao Buns

I don’t actually recall when I had my first Bao Bun, a filled steam bun, but I think it was from the SheSellsSushi stall at one of the Bristol Street Food markets.

I’ve had some really nice ones, and some which were rather disappointing. I have also made them at home as well, well made is a strong word, I bought some ready prepared, steamed them, and added my own filling. That’s almost “made”, but I am keen to try and make some properly one day.

Needing lunch quickly and having parked at the Westfield Centre in West London, there was a wide choice of places to eat but in the end I did quite fancy giving Master Bao a try.

As this is a shopping centre, there are a range of outlets all with a common eating area. You order at the counter, take a electronic gizmo and when it buzzes you collect your food. Not the best way I think of having a nice lunch, a bit too fast food for me, but it works.

I ordered the lunch deal of two bao buns and a side dish. My first choice of bao was the shiitake mushroom bao.

shiitake mushroom bao

This was mushrooms cooked in a teriyaki sauce and served in a hot fluffy bao. It was rather nice, I wouldn’t say I was blown away, but I did enjoy it. The bun was warm and fluffy, and the mushrooms very tasty. It was a bit messy to eat, but I got there in the end.

My second choice of bao, was the chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander.

chicken bao made with 24 hour marinated fried chicken, fried wasabi, kimchi and coriander

I enjoyed the crispy chicken and the accompaniments added a nice spicy extra to the dish. The combination of textures, soft vegetables, crispy chicken and soft bao, was a delight.

As I had chosen the chicken bao, I chose a side dish and went with the pork dumplings.

pork dumplings

These were nice and tasty, steamed and then finished off in the frying pan.

Overall I really did enjoy the dish and would certainly go again.

Time to choose the squash

I wanted those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end it wasn’t to be. It was time for a another visit to Wahaca, this time the branch in Fitzrovia which I have been to before and had a lovely meal.

It was early evening and I hadn’t expected the place to be so busy, but it was basically full. The manager though was wonderfully welcoming and made a real effort to find me a table. This level of customer service was excellent and made me feel welcome. The place was really busy and noisy, but that really added to the atmosphere. As with other branches of Wahaca, this one had its own style and decor. It was quite dark in the restaurant, but I am not sure if that was intentional, or that on the occasions I have visited the place it has been in the evenings!

Since that previous visit the menu had changed, as it does quite often. I had intended to have one of the specials that I missed out on my most recent visit to Wahaca which were the grilled fish tacos. Alas that wasn’t meant to be, as they had changed their specials to the Christmas ones, and I didn’t fancy the turkey dinner taquito! I did think about getting those crispy cauliflower bites again, however in the end I decided I should choose something new.

I was quite hungry, so I did order some nachos and guacamole. 

nachos and guacamole

There was a decent portion of guacamole and the nachos were crunchy and not too salty.

So what of my street food choices? Well I went with three dishes and my first choice was the duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa.

duck croquetas, these are crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa

They were a delight, crispy outside and smooth tender inside. Great flavours and the smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa was delicious and really complemented the croquetas.

On my last visit to this branch I had really enjoyed the butternut squash.

I really enjoyed this dish, was full of flavour and very tasty. I think it could have been improved if the squash had been peeled, but the flesh of the squash did come away from the skin despite this. I really liked the chargrilled aspect of the dish and you could taste that in the squash. This dish is advertised as vegan, and I suspect people might avoid it, but if it comes back onto the menu, go for it, it was delicious.

So when I saw the roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds, of course I had to choose it.

roasted butternut squash tacos, with a creamy cashew nut and herb mole, citrusy tomatillo salsa and pumpkin seeds

It was a very different dish to what I had before. As you can see it was a couple of tacos filled with chunks of roasted butternut squash. The dish before had been very different.

Chargrilled Crown Prince squash grown by Riverford Organic, served with kale & cashew nut mole

It had consisted of large chunks of chargrilled butternut squash.

However though it wasn’t the same dish, I really enjoyed the new tacos version, it was full of flavour and very tasty.

My third choice was hard, I did consider the mushroom tacos, but in the end I went with something I had ordered before which was buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo.

buttermilk chicken flour tacos served crispy fried with pink pickled onions & spiced mayo

They were delicious, great textures and flavours.

The table services was excellent, friendly and efficient. Despite how busy the place was, the food arrived in good time. You can tell how popular this place was, as I left there was a huge queue of people waiting for tables. Will I go again, well I will, if I can get in next time.

Time to kiss the hippo!

No I have not been eating hippo…

I was on my way to Coco di Mama in Fitzrovia when I noticed next door another really nice looking cafe, very fresh and smart. Lots of light wood, bright lights and wooden furniture.

Kiss the Hippo

A very bizarre name, Kiss the Hippo Coffee, but I am always willing to try a new place for coffee. I went in and there was a warm and friendly welcome. It was quite early in the day, so wasn’t too busy. I ordered a flat white. I was then able to sit down and the coffee was brought to my table.

I do like it when coffee places do that, so much nice, than standing around waiting for your name to be called in an impersonal manner.

So what about the coffee?

Flat White

Well it was lovely.

Time for Tacos and Cauliflower

I have been a few times now to the Wahaca branch at Soho and have enjoyed my meals there, so with time for lunch, I decided to head there again.

It was just after the lunch time rush, so the place was quiet, but I was given a warm welcome and lead to a table. Each Wahaca I have been to, has a different feel and look and the Soho branch has a unique individual environment. There is a somewhat industrial feel to the place, but it’s warm and friendly, not necessarily cold and inhuman.

I looked over the menu and as it has been some time since I last went to Wahaca, there were some new choices on the street food menu. 
I did think about having my usual grilled steak tacos. Last time I was at the Soho branch they did a new (more expensive) version of the dish with ribeye steak. Back then I said:

The new recipe called The Rib Eye, consists of two larger corn tortillas with chargrilled steak and is served with grilled cheese & fresh guacamole. You do get more steak and it is very tender compared to the skirt steak they use to do, but it is also more expensive, about three pounds more than the old steak tacos price (60% more expensive). It’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the tacos, I did, but I felt that the original recipe was really good and this wasn’t much of an improvement and certainly not a 60% improvement. I probably wouldn’t order them again.

The new version is similar to the original version, but you have to have the cheese, unlike the original version where it was an option. However this time I decided that I would have something different and would not go with the steak.

I did think about having the buttermilk chicken tacos again, I have enjoyed them before. However as I was thinking about having the crispy cauliflower bites, I decided that I didn’t want too much crispy stuff, so decided to choose something else. For similar reasons I also decided not to go with the duck croquetas, crispy duck & sweet potato balls with smoky hibiscus & chipotle salsa, which I really liked the sound of. When the waiter came to take my order, he showed me the specials, there were two, the grilled fish tacos looked interesting and tempting.

In the end I went with some beef tacos, grilled chicken tortillas and the crispy cauliflower bites.

The first dish to arrive were some slow-cooked beef tacos with mild spices, with black beans, served in three soft corn grilled tortillas.

slow-cooked beef tacos with mild spices, with black beans, served in three soft corn grilled tortillas

These were excellent, the beef was full of favour, not too spicy. I really enjoyed the addition of the pickled cucumber on top of the tacos. It was a great blend of tastes and textures. They are certainly something I would order again.

The next two dishes arrived at the same time. One of the things you either like about Wahaca or you don’t is that dishes arrived when they are cooked rather than all coming together. This is fine if you are sharing dishes or eating alone, but less great when as a group or a family you have ordered individual dishes.

The first of the pair of dishes was two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa.

two larger corn tortillas, grilled and filled with grilled chicken and avocado, with ancho rub, guacamole & green tomatillo salsa

These were generously filled and I really enjoyed them. The chicken was sightly over-grilled for my liking, but they were still nice. I liked the avocado and the green tomatillo salsa added some nice spice to the dish.

My final dish was the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli

These sounded really interesting and they looked great and tasted even better. I was really pleased to have ordered these. The little florets of cauliflower were covered in a light buttermilk batter, deep fried and were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. When I have tried to cook this kind of dish at home, I find that my batter is too thick. This kind of dish and inspired me to try again with a lighter thinner buttermilk batter. The roast serrano allioli was interesting and really worked well with the cauliflower. I think this was my favourite dish of the trio I ordered and would like to have them again.

The service was excellent, warm and friendly welcome, attentive, efficient service. Overall these were three excellent dishes and I really enjoyed them.

I actually wanted the chicken…

So after going for a walk over my lunch break I decided after thinking about it for a while that I fancied something spicy, so decided to visit Nusa Kitchen.

Nusa Kitchen

It’s at times like this that I really should read my own blog, as on my previous visit there I wasn’t impressed.

My initial reaction on opening the box was one of disappointment, I was expecting grilled chicken, it wasn’t grilled, well it might have been but there was no grilled look or flavour. The sauce was scattered across the chicken, however it lacked flavour. I couldn’t detect the coconut in the coconut rice, but it was otherwise cooked well, nice and separate and not sticky. The salad was fresh and interesting. Even with the disappointment of what it looked like, alas the eating experience didn’t change my perspective, and it was a disappointing meal overall. I don’t think I will return.

One of there reasons I blog about my eating experience is to remind me not to buy and eat at places I had eaten at.

So forgetting about my last experience completely I went there again. I vaguely remember eating from there before, but I couldn’t recall exactly what I had ordered and what it had been like… simple solution read my own blog!

I chose the Vietnamese Chicken, fragrant flame grilled chicken served with coconut rice and salad, which is what I had before and was disappointed with.

This time I was disappointed again, not because it wasn’t any good, but I never got any, as they had sold out of the chicken.

Looking over the menu I went with the Asian Inspired Tofu & Mushrooms.

Asian Inspired Tofu & Mushrooms

The tofu was interesting, but the mushrooms lacked flavour.  The sauce was scattered across the tofu and the mushrooms (as before) and it also lacked flavour. The menu describes the rice now as just rice, no mention of coconut, this was cooked well, nice and separate and not sticky. The salad was fresh and interesting. 

However as before the overall experience was this time just okay. I must remember both this meal and the previous one, next time I go out for lunch.

Argentine Steak from the market

Near the office there are plenty of places for lunch and on Wednesdays in New Street Square there is a street food market. On my most recent visit to the office I had forgotten about the market, so it was a nice surprise, when popping out for lunch that the market was running.

There were a wide range of stalls with a variety of choices. I was tempted by the Polish pierogi stall, then there was the Bao stall, I do like a nice steamed Vietnamese bun. I quite liked the look of the paella as well. In the end I went with the Argentine Grill, Criollo. They had a steak sandwich or a steak and salad box on their menu. I went with the steak and salad box.

Criollo street food stall

It comprised a box of mixed green leaves, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers with grilled bavette steak cooked with cheese. It was served with a fresh chimichurri sauce.

steak and salad box

This was one tasty box, the steak, though not melt in the mouth, was tender and full of flavour. The salad was fresh and delicious. The salad was simplistic, but complemented the steak and cheese. I think the only thing missing was some staple, I actually popped into Coco di Mama and bought some bread to go with my lunch.

Overall I was pleased with the dish and enjoyed it.

Time for an Italian salad

Fetter Lane

When the weather is hot and sunny and I am working in London, I usually prefer to have a salad for lunch rather than a hot lunch. Near the office there are plenty of places for lunch and lots have a wide choice of salads. I have enjoyed those from the Natural Kitchen where you choose from a selection. Another place I have had salad a few times is the branch of Coco di Mama which is close to the office. They have a wide choice of pasta dishes as well as salads.

I decided to have the Sun-Sational Speck & Bufala Salad. This has crispy speck, bufala mozzarella, mixed Italian beans & quinoa, mango, avocado, pepper pearls, capers, pesto-harissa and pea shoots. It was quick and easy to pay and the service was warm and welcoming.

Sun-Sational Speck & Bufala Salad

It was a really tasty salad, it didn’t overdo the mixed leaves unlike some pre-packed salads I have had from other places. I like the use of mixed Italian beans in the salad which was something I do have at home, but not often seen before. The mango added colour an sweetness, as did the pepper pearls (with a hint of heat).I like pea shoots and these were really nice and added a distinctive flavour to the salad. I wasn’t enamoured with the buffalo mozzarella, and I didn’t think the crispy speck added anything to the salad, I would have preferred to have fresh speck. Having said that, these are minor criticisms, of what was a really tasty salad. Something I would certainly have again. As well as tasty food, they have great service, so a return visit is very likely.

Time to grab some Thai

One of my favourite places to eat Thai food is Sais’s Thai in the covered market in Oxford. I now rarely get the chance to eat there having stopped working in Oxford in 2015. I did manage a return visit earlier this year and it was just as tasty as I remembered it.

Looking for somewhere to get some lunch when working in our London office I found GrabThai on Fleet Street. Looking at the menu it bought back memories of the delicious Thai food from Sais’s Thai.

Grabthai on Fleet Street

There is quite a bit of choice, from stir fries to curries to pad thai.

So what of the food?

I went with the Pad Prik King Pork, this is pork and fine bean stir fry in red curry paste and kaffir lime leaves served on a choice of rice. I went with the brown rice and extra cashew nuts.

Pad Prik King Pork

It didn’t look anything like the image on the website or on the menu, which was disappointing.

Pad Prik King Pork

Well it was quite nice, but I had such high expectations that no wonder I was slightly disappointed. There was a nice spiciness to the dish, the pork belly was tender, though I think I would have preferred it meatier or even slightly chewy! The brown rice was tasty and added texture. I did ask for extra cashew nuts, these were scattered on top, so I needed to mix it into the stir fry. There was a good proportion of stir fry to rice, sometimes I have found places give you loads of rice and very little of the main dish.

Would I go again? Well I think I might, but with so much choice in and around Fetter Lane, it might be some time before I go back.

Time for some delicious pasta

Paesan restaurant close to the Exmouth Market

I seem to be spending more time in London these days, and generally I am only up there for the day. Last month I was there for most of the week so stayed overnight. I was staying in a hotel that I actually wasn’t expecting to stay in, so I hadn’t had the time to do much research about places to eat nearby and I really didn’t want to end up at the hotel restaurant, as they can be terrible food and over-priced.

I really liked the look of Paesan close to the Exmouth Market as I walked past on my way to the hotel, and decided that this was certainly a possibility. I also liked the look of the menu at Paesan, simple yet sounding really tasty, as well as authentically Italian.

Inside the plain brick walls, wooden floors and simple furniture gave the place a rustic warm atmosphere. You can see into the kitchen and see what the chefs are doing.

The staff were friendly and welcoming and I was shown to my table and I looked over the menu.

I was tempted by lots of the small plates, particularly the carpaccio or the calamari alla griglia. To be honest I think I could have quite easily ordered all of them, however I wasn’t hugely hungry and I was on a budget.

There was a wide range of pasta on the menu, in the end I ordered the a large portion of the orechiette pasta with nduja, pancetta & cime di rapa.

orechiette pasta with nduja, pancetta & cime di rapa

I could see into the kitchen and it was interesting to watch the chef cook my food.

Paesan restaurant close to the Exmouth Market

The food arrived in good time and looked great. I did expect it to be slightly larger than it was, but glad I didn’t go for the smaller “primi” size (which would be ideal for smaller appetites or lunch).

To be honest this was the best pasta I have had from any restaurant. The fresh pasta was cooked to perfection, al dente, the sauce was just about right.

I finished my meal off with a very Italian espresso, more like a ristretto.

Ristretto coffee

The menu changes quite frequently so I am tempted to go back and try something new.