Monday, February 23, 2009

Arang in Soho: Best Korean yet

I'll be back for this... Hot Korean girl (Hi Viv!)
Name Arang Korean
Address 9 Golden Sq, Soho, W1F 9HZ, Phone 020 74342073
Web site
Main dish price range £6-10
Rating 5 Stars. The best restaurant in its genre in London.
Recommended dishes Soondubu

When ever I tell friends I am starting an Ethnic food blog or that I'm into "Ethnic Eating" some smarty invariably asks how can I possibly call I distinguish any food as being "ethnic" when in fact all food was produced by somebody according to some ethnicity. Today, walking into Aragi, I feel I finally found an answer.

It's a Korean restaurant in Soho, one of about a handful that I've been to -- but despite the tony location in Golden Square, this place appears to cater to exclusively Koreans. There were Koreans young and old, well dressed and fantastically fobby, crammed into every table in the dining area, and spilling into the basement karaoke lounge. I could tell this would be a great ethnic restaurant, and I immediately found my definition as such: a restaurant serving the food of a particular ethinc group, with an aim to primarily serving expatriates from that ethnic group.

We arrived around 8pm after a long walk in the cool evening, and were seated in a karaoke booth down in the basement. It was a small room with a large TV, and into it had been placed a large stone table. A little weird, but no big deal. The menus had a few pages only in Korean, but most of it was translated into English as well, with a few pictures to aid the novice along. Overall, there was a far greater variety of food than what I'm used to seeing in London.

I would have loved to have sampled some new Korean dishes, but I had been craving Soondubu all day, and my companions a Bibimbap and a Chapchae respectively. The menu also listed a number of the small banchan plates, suggesting that these must be ordered and paid for (these are complementary in most Korean restaurants around the world). We ordered three, and got six, so it appears Arang is splitting the difference.

The food was, I must say, very very good. Soondubu is not a hard dish to prepare, but is very hard to get right. All one must do to prepare passable version is simply add some Korean chilli paste and tofu to boiling stock, stir and serve. But the secret to a great Soondubu is to build up a great stock -- usually from well marrowed beef bones. Tonight, it was excellent. Hats off to a great dish, and at £7.50 for the main course, it was a steal as well.

I'm definitely coming back here -- for the food, but also for the Karaoke. I envision a fine evening lies in my near future...

Arang on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Baraka in Whitechapel: A Tayyab's Alternative?

Name Baraka Eatery‎
Address 38-40 Whitechapel Rd E1 1JX
Phone 020 74260550
Web site
Main dish price range £6-10
Rating 3 stars. Solid, you should go there if you are in the area.
Recommended dishes Achari Goscht

My first visit to Tayyab's, 10:30pm on a Sunday night, was a great success. My second, on a Friday evening, was a failure -- an epic line scared me promptly away. My 3rd visit, last Thursday around 6pm, was supposed to be better? Who could imagine a line at that early hour. Even when I got there and saw it with my own eyes, I had to actually wait in it for 20 minutes before I was convinced.

Ellen and I gave up, and headed around the corner to what looked to be a new restaurant, advertising South Asian food in the kind of colorful, modern, cheap environment that Londers seem to love so much. Normally, this kind of décor would have frightened my right away, but in this case a coupla dudes in kurtas and the location right next door to the massive East London Mosque and Muslim Center made me feel that it might have some worth. It was also largely empty, so I knew we would be seated and served right away.

It turned out to be a Bangladeshi restaurant which does a turn in Indian and Middle Eastern foods as well (to satisfy as many of the worshippers from next door as possible no doubt). I asked the eager Bangladeshi waiter for a few recommendations, and he inevitably directed my towards some of the "white people favourites" he assumed I could stomach. I took a Chicken Chilli after his emphatic recommendation, but then rounded the meal out with a few choices from the Bangladeshi side of the menu.

Chicken Chilli was OK, not great, but the Bangladeshi dishes really shone, especially the Achari Goscht, a lamb dish with a sauce made from pickled vegetables. I have never had anything quite like it in a restaurant, and it was great. A Chana Dal had perfectly al dente beans, and it was all served with some complementary salads and breads.

All in all, a solid meal, and a great alternative to the lines at Tayyabs. Easily worth 3 stars. Only the Chicken
Chili kept it from 4.

Baraka Eatery on Urbanspoon

Leong's Legend in Chinatown

My dou miao
Braised red pork Pork ribs
Name Leong's Legends
Address 26-27 Lisle Street, Chinatown, WC2H 7BA
Phone 020 7734 3380
Web site N/a
Main dish price range £8-12
Rating 4-stars
Recommended dishes Braised pork

Intrigued by the reports of good food and awful service, I've been meaning to check out Leong's Legend for some time now. The reviews have been decidedly mixed, and I've been intending to sort it out.

I've heard this was a good place to get a decent authentic Taiwanese meal, and so when we were seated in the small and crowded dining room I was surprised to see a undistinguished menu, headed by that classic Chinese dish "Crispy Aromatic Duck" (n.b. this dish does not exist outside England, let alone in China). Oh well. I picked out whatever looked not totally awful from this menu, and placed my order.

I speak a little Chinese, enough to be able to ask the waiter if they had "dou miao" , one of my favorite chinese vegetables (a kind of pea sprouts). The waiter, upon hearing my attempt at Chinese, said "Ah, you speak Chinese! Here, I must get you the Chinese Menu. He scurried away and produced a new set of menus. These menus, while written in both Chinese and English, were clearly "Chinese" in that they were designed to be offered to Chinese People. The menu was totally different, full this time of classic Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, enough to warm my heart.

I ordered a spicy braised red pork dish, in the Northern Chinese style, at the waiters recommendations. I also got my dou miao, as well as a tasty fried pork spareribs dish. It was all damn good, and the pork braise was as it should be, hot as hell.

This was not Chinese Haute Cuisine, but it was great to have a solid Chinese meal for a change -- I heartily recommend Leong's -- just be sure to ask for the right menu.

Leong’s Legends on Urbanspoon