Jukai, NYC

A little over a month ago, I headed home for a week long, unbelievably overdue trip to my hometown of New York. It was such a fleeting visit that I spent most of my time meeting up with friends for drinks at old haunts, spending time with my family and stocking up on essentials in Sephora – nothing particularly blog-worthy in my opinion, with the exception of the tasting menu at Jukai, located in basement-level in midtown Manhattan.

Jukai, NYCJukai NYC - Oysters

For the quality of the fare, the tasting menu at Jukai is an absolute bargain at $55 per head. As expected, the menu varies depending on season, as well as the catch of the day, but the oysters – served with ponzu, spring onion, and lime – as well as the homemade tofu (in the assorted starters), the Chef’s choice sashimi (which included an amazingly fresh yellowtail and maguro tuna) were outstanding, and seem to be a semi-regular fixture on the menu. In terms of the quality of the sushi, I haven’t found anywhere in London that compares to the quality of the fish found in New York – it’s definitely worth keeping in mind for your next visit.

Jukai NYC - OystersJukai NYC tasting menu

The fillet steak was perfectly cooked to my liking (the rarer side of medium rare) – although the only drawback from the meal was the bland and unmemorable broiled fish, which escapes notice almost entirely.

Jukai NYC - SteakJukai NYC Tasting Menu - uni and ikura

As a rule, I tend to be all about the starters and the mains – I don’t have a sweet tooth, and could quite happily do without. But I’m so glad I went against my usual nature at Jukai – the white sesame blancmange and black tea pannacotta have easily become one of my favourite desserts of all time, although the white sesame blancmange has the edge over the latter, as it has the nuttiness of sesame but with all the creaminess and texture of a traditional blancmange – a true culinary feat.

Jukai NYC, SashimiJukai NYC, Sashimi

With the meal, we had a sparkling rosé from Long Island. I’m ashamed to admit that when it was recommended to me by my waiter, I grimaced – I am not the biggest rosé fan, and I know absolutely nothing about Long Island wines. It was, in fact, really pleasant, and a great accompaniment to the meal – I stand corrected! It’s worth keeping an open mind at Jukai – the gambles certainly paid off for me.

It’s worth booking a table in advance, especially for the tasting menu, as this cosy little basement venue gets quite packed – but in terms of ambience (very modern Japanese), quality of food and value for money you would be hard placed to find better.

Jukai, NYC

Jukai is located on 53rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue, Manhattan, New York.

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Gluten-free Kinako White Chocolate Cookies

My mother is an excellent cook. I mostly got my love of cooking and food from her, especially when it comes to Japanese cuisine. I was lucky enough to grow up in New York, where there is an abundance of Japanese supermarkets, making sourcing ingredients like dashi (stock), tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and nori (dried seaweed) really simple. When I went to Manchester for university, I found myself really stuck in terms of finding the basics I was so used to at home. Luckily, there are a few more options in London, like the Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus or Atariya. They both have great selections, but they’re either completely rammed (Piccadilly is always horrendously crowded due to all the tourists) or quite far out (the end of the Northern line, for both Atariya locations), and getting home can be a massive hassle when you bulk buy rice and other basics, like I do.

Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free CookiesSo I was completely thrilled when I was contacted by the lovely team from the Japan Food Hall, a Japanese online supermarket based in the UK. They have a great selection of products – everything from Japanese candies and snacks to sauces and mixes for dishes like sushi or hotpot. The website is clear, easy to use, and has great customer service (they even sent along a few snacks and treats with my first order!) It’s perfect for getting all the essentials, without the expense of lugging it all across town.

Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free Cookies

One of the first items in my order was a bag of kinako, or roasted soybean flour. I love kinako, which is usually eaten with a little bit of brown sugar with roasted mochi, a Japanese rice cake. Kinako flour is gluten free, and has a rich, nutty flavour, which makes it great for incorporating it into Western-style desserts in new and interesting ways. I really like topping vanilla ice cream with it, or having it with some Greek yoghurt, honey and blueberries. For this recipe, I combined some of that nuttiness with some rich white chocolate, in a gluten-free and egg-free biscuit recipe that goes perfectly with a steaming cup of matcha tea.

Gluten-free Kinako White Chocolate Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Kinako flour is gluten free, and has a rich, nutty flavour, which makes it great for incorporating it into Western-style desserts in new and interesting ways. I really like topping vanilla ice cream with it, or having it with some Greek yoghurt, honey and blueberries. For this recipe, I combined some of that nuttiness with some rich white chocolate, in a gluten-free and egg-free biscuit recipe that goes perfectly with a steaming cup of matcha tea.
Author:
Recipe type: Cookies
Cuisine: Japanese Fusion
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 80g Kinako (roasted soybean) flour
  • 200g Crushed white chocolate
  • 200g Gluten-free flour
  • 125g Butter
  • 50ml Maple Syrup
  • 200ml Agave Syrup
  • Maldon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Matcha tea powder and hot water (optional, to serve)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix the flours until fully incorporated.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, fold the remaining ingredients with the exception of the chocolate.
  4. Stir in the remaining chocolate pieces with a spatula until evenly distributed.
  5. Using a baking tray lined with parchment paper, spoon out the dough.
  6. Leave space between each biscuit as these will spread!
  7. Top each biscuit with a pinch of sea salt, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.
  8. These are crumbly when hot, so take care when placing these on a cooling rack.
  9. Let them cool – they should be quite chewy, with a creamy flavour.
  10. Serve with some matcha or Darjeeling tea.
Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free CookiesKinako White Chocolate Gluten Free CookiesI absolutely love using traditional Japanese ingredients and using them to take a new spin on the classic British afternoon tea. For summer, I’ve been thinking of matcha cheesecakes, cucumber maki rolls instead of cucumber sandwiches and roasted hoji-cha tea – with some sparkling fruit sake, of course!

Kinako White Chocolate Gluten Free Cookies

Japan Food Hall have a great selection sure to get your creative juices flowing – and until May 31st you can get free UK delivery when you use the code ErinFreeDelivery3105. Japan Food Hall deliver throughout Europe, so if you’re outside the British Isles you can use the code to get £6 off your total order. To find their site, simply click on the link below, or find links to their social media site at the end of this post!

Let me know what you end up getting – I’d love to hear your ideas!

JFH_Logo_WhiteOnGreen

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This post was in collaboration with the Japan Food Hall – all opinions are fully my own, and I wouldn’t blog it if I didn’t love the service! What recipes and ingredients will you try? Comment below, and be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

I’m back! It’s been a long time, and I’ve neglected my little bit of the internet for one of the hardest and most heartbreaking months I’ve ever had. But I’m so glad to be getting back into the swing of things – and what better way to do that than a post about BRUNCH!

The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch
The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

The Jones Family Project has been one of those places that since I first heard it mentioned, it seems to have been mentioned about a million times since, either recommended to me by friends of friends or popping up on other blogs. Located right across from the Hoxton Hotel, it’s in a great location for a quick bite before scouring all that Shoreditch has to offer (I got a fabulous hat and leather skirt from the The Vintage Store close by, as well as a great deal on a light pink skater skirt from the American Apparel sale rack down the road).

Spring had just sprung when we popped in – we’d reserved a table for quarter to eleven – but we didn’t really need to, though it did begin to fill up as we left. The venue itself is really light, and on-trend, too.

The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch
The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

After our morning mimosas, my brunch date ordered the eggs benedict, which looked amazing (and got her seal of approval).

Eggs Benedict, The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

I opted for the Jones baked eggs – two free-ranged eggs served in a terracotta pan, but without the toasted bread (which arrived anyway). I went for the baked eggs with chorizo, peppers, red onions, white wine, potatoes, tomatoes and rosemary. The dish was very Iberian – it had a distinct Spanish/Portuguese flavour to it, and was really delicious – the combination of the baked eggs with the chorizo was divine.

Chorizo Baked Eggs, The Jones Family Project, ShoreditchChorizo Baked Eggs, The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

The cocktail menu, as well as the bar snack and lunch selection also looks really appetising – and with such a great location Jones Family Project looks like it would be great place to go slightly later in the day too.

My brunch, including mimosa, tea, and the eggs came to around £20, which is pretty standard given that you are paying for the location.

Jones Family Project is located 78 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3JL.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Recipease, Notting Hill

Recipease, Jamie Oliver, Notting Hill

There is so much choice in London for eating out – so many fabulous independent restaurants and hidden gems to choose from, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to try, and to be invited to, some really incredible places.

Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting Hill

I’ve never reviewed an establishment negatively before, but after my recent meal at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease in Notting Hill, I wanted to give an honest account of my time there.

The venue itself is light, spacious, and conveniently located a stones’ throw away from the hustle and bustle of Portobello Road. Recipease is a shop, cafe and a cookery school, part of Jamie Oliver’s chain of restaurants. I’ve been to several Jamie Oliver establishments, and although it’s never earth-shattering, on the whole they’ve been reliable and enjoyable dining experiences.

Flowers, Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting Hill

So last Sunday afternoon, when we were looking for a quick bite, we popped into Recipease. Considering that Recipease is part of a large, well-established brand, the cafe was ridiculously understaffed. Despite several empty tables and benches, we were made to stand around for a good long while as the only two waitresses dashed around, clearly completely overwhelmed. For Sunday lunchtime, in my opinion this could have so easily be avoided.

The service was slow and unprofessional, requests for additional cutlery and condiments had to be repeated multiple times, although I did feel this was down to mismanagement, and not the wait staff themselves.

Guacamole with Tortilla Chips, Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting Hill

As a starter, I ordered the spicy smashed guacamole on homemade toasted Recipease tortilla chips. What arrived was a tasteless, texture-less avocado mush on a burnt chip. In my opinion, guacamole needs to be chunky, and full of flavour, enhanced by the taste of lemons, chillies and other spices. The offering at Recipease seemed to have no flavour, and was the texture of baby food – devoid of any joy. Although presented nicely, the burnt chips showed a lack of attention to detail, and was a really disappointing start to the meal.

Guacamole and Tortilla Chips, Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting Hill
Seabass with tomatos, olive and spinach, Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting Hill

The main, a pan-fried fillet of seabass with baby potatoes and a tomato, red pepper and olive sauce, is the only reason this review got the (spoiler alert!) two and a half stars it did. A simple and uncomplicated dish, it was executed well.

Seabass with Tomato, Olives and Spinach, Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting HillSeabass with tomatos, olive and spinach, Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting Hill

Unfortunately, this was followed by an incredibly tepid latte – after such a disappointing experience, we didn’t stay for dessert.

Coffees. Jamie Oliver Recipease, Notting Hill

It’s hard to say whether or not I got there on a bad day, or whether, like many chains, Recipease is simply riding on the reputation of the brand without providing quality service. If anything, it’s another argument in favour of patronising more independents.

What’s your opinion? Are you in favour of the big restaurant chains?

Recipease can be found at 92-94 Notting Hill Gate, W11 3QB.

2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

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Pure Taste

According to Wikipedia, the ‘Paleo’ or ‘Paleolithic diet’ is a fad diet based on the foods our ancient ancestors might have eaten, such as lean meat, nuts and berries. Also known as the ‘caveman diet’, the diet is divisive and not without controversy, generally splitting people into one of two camps – the devout, almost evangelical paleos, and those staunchly against the diet. Before last week, I really didn’t have an opinion on the matter. I considered the diet the same way I considered the gluten free diet, before it became part of my daily reality – just one of those things that some people did.

Pure Taste, Westbourne GrovePure Taste, Westbourne Grove

So when I was invited down to Pure Taste, the first paleo restaurant in the UK, I was incredibly curious and excited, although not without some reservations – the strict paleo diet excludes wine and coffee, which I’m quite partial to. We met the nutritionist and head chef behind the restaurant, Holly Redman, in the elegant, intimate and understated private dining room to find out more.

Orchid, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

Pure Taste started as a pop-up, and after raising over £30,000 through a successful Kickstarter campaign opened up shop in December 2014. Redman is a coeliac, as well as being a nutritional therapist, chef and chemistry graduate. She came up with the concept behind Pure Taste after seeing a gap in the market for a delicious dining experience for those needing special dining requirements, but without having to compromise.

Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

Pure Taste is entirely free of refined sugars, as well as gluten and dairy, meaning that I wouldn’t be suffering from food envy at dinner, as well as being able to eat without fear of accidental cross contamination. The restaurant also caters for those on legume free, egg free and low FODMAP diets, as well as vegetarians and vegans, making it the perfect place to take a motley crew of diners (if they have dietary restrictions of any kind).

The best part? As the concept behind Pure Taste is largely inspired by the paleo diet, they serve a range of biodynamic, organic wines from a vineyard in La Mancha, exclusively produced for the restaurant – and gluten free, organic beers and ciders too. Alcohol and meat? Always, always, count me in!

Organic Red Wine, Pure Shiraz, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The menu I sampled was from the newly launched Spring menu, created with seasonal ingredients for a truly Paleolithic dining experience.

Green Soup with Chicken Heart and Prosecco, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

A key part of the paleo diet is to use fresh, seasonal ingredients as well as the whole of the animal, meaning that the use of offal is encouraged, as it’s largely unprocessed and provides essential nutrients. Our first course at Pure Taste was the green soup with chicken hearts, a brightly verdant concoction of parsley and wild garlic. The dish is labelled vaguely, as it’s subject to change – Pure Taste’s green soup can be made with nettles, given the right season, but is always includes the use of wild garlic. For a dish that had the potential to be so bland, the parsley and wild garlic soup was delicious, made rich and indulgent with the addition of the chicken hearts, which were perfectly seasoned. The dish has inspired me to use chicken hearts more in my cooking, as when it comes to offal I too often stick to what I know.

Green Soup with Chicken Heart, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The second starter I sampled was the squid, seasoned with lemon and Japanese sansho pepper, delicately placed on a bed of shredded pak choy.

Squid, pak choy, lemon and sansho, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

This starter was one of the main highlights for me. The squid was expertly cooked, with none of the rubbery texture that squid is so prone to, and the combination of seasonings was really full of umami, with a delicate balance of flavours and textures.

Squid, pak choy, lemon and sansho, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The third and final starter I sampled was the salmon fishcake with celery and radish, served with an avocado paste and a tapenade.

DSC02812

I enjoyed the combination of flavours and textures in this dish, though it didn’t impress me as much as the other starters. The salmon fishcake was light, yet moist, and combined with the black olive tapenade was really delicious. The avocado and radish was not at all memorable, and rather bland – I prefer my avocado dishes to have a bit of a kick, and be more firm, instead of blended down into mush (which to me always impacts the taste, too).

Salmon fishcake, celery, radish, avocado and tapenade, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The main courses included a beautifully seared smoked mackerel, beetroot, horseradish and hazelnut dish, which was let down somewhat by the addition of the side of cucumber which had a gummy and unappealing texture. I particularly enjoyed my little copper pot of the braised ox cheek, which was served with orange, spring greens and a wonderful celeriac puree.

Ox cheek braise, orange, celeriac and spring greens, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The final main was a succulent and flavourful piece of lamb, served with burnt shallot, baby gem and carrot. This was incredible, and beautifully seasoned, although not necessarily what I would order if I went again as the smoked mackerel and braised ox cheek dishes (with the exception of the cucumber) were vastly superior, as well as being slightly more complicated to recreate at home, which, face it, is half the reason we dine out. Isn’t it?

lamb, baby gem, burnt shallot and carrot, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

Already stuffed to the gills at this point on delicious food and a rather lovely shiraz, I didn’t think I could fit dessert in – but I’m not one to shy from a challenge (particularly if it’s food related).

I couldn’t say I enjoyed the tonka bean chocolate and coffee cheesecake, which was deserved with a delicate sliver of dark chocolate and a dollop of espresso gel. I did enjoy the creamy texture of the tonka bean, and couldn’t believe it was vegan, but the combination of chocolate and coffee was too much like tiramisu for me to enjoy it. There are few dishes I detest, but tiramisu is one of them, and I honestly have no idea why – surely a dish a coffee and chocolate should make me incredibly happy, but I’ll just have to put it down as being one of those things.

Tonka bean cheesecake, chocolate and espresso gel, Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

It was, however, beautifully presented, and the base of the cheesecake was delicious.

After being somewhat let down by the tiramisu masquerading as a “cheese”cake, I was so, so impressed with the chocolate lava cake. It was incredibly rich, and tasted the same as a chocolate fondant, and came with a side of stem ginger ice cream. What’s more incredible is that they have managed to recreate it with no refined sugars, gluten or dairy. The stem ginger ice cream was made with coconut milk and honey, and tasted absolutely divine – creamy and cold, but with the pleasant warmth of candied ginger coming through. The chocolate fondant lava cake was incredible, and I’m definitely going to need to have the recipe as I can’t believe they’ve managed to recreate a classic dessert so well.

Paleo Chocolate Lava cake, ginger paleo ice cream. Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The inside was molten too, and was served with a dark chocolate shard.

Paleo Chocolate Lava cake, ginger paleo ice cream. Pure Taste, Westbourne Grove

The great thing about Pure Taste is how accessible it’s made dining out, but without compromising on quality, flavour or being unimaginative in their menu. It will definitely be a place I’ll be recommending to gluten free visitors to London, and it definitely won’t be my last time there – I’ve got my eye on the gin pannacotta and the rabbit next.

In the long run, I think I’m a bit too keen on dairy to take the leap into living and eating the ‘paleo’ way. Pure Taste has inspired me think outside of the box when it comes to ingredients and recipes, and was a great dining experience regardless of dietary restrictions.

Have you ever tried the paleo diet? What are some of your favourite recipes?

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Pure Taste is located at 115 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UP – for reservations, call 0207 727 5000.

My meal was complimentary, but all opinions are fully my own.