Food reviews and recipes

Matsuri St James, Mayfair

Matsuri St. James has some of the best Japanese food in London.  It’s a stones throw from the Ritz, and in my experience is one of the most authentic Japanese places to dine in the UK.

Matsuri St JamesMatsuri St James Matsuri St James

The dining area is situated in the basement, and is full of hibachi (grill) tables. I opted for the Matsuri course menu, which had a little bit of everything.   We started off with some seasonal appetisers – a delicate salmon tartar flavoured with yuzu, a Japanese citrus.  Yuzu is used frequently in Japanese cuisine – while it looks like an orange grapefruit in appearance, it’s slightly more lemon/lime-like in flavour, but without some of the tartness.

salmon tar tar

Followed by a chicken appetiser with leeks, and a clear broth soup,  or Dobin Mushi, served in a teapot. Dobin Mushi is a clear broth, flavoured with matsutake mushrooms, limes, chicken, shrimp and soy sauce.

ChickenDobin MushiDobin MushiDobin Mushi

Given a choice between raw food and fried, I will always go for the raw option, and had sashimi while the others had tempura.

Sashimi

For the main course we were given a choice of lobster with black cod, fillet or sirloin steak, which is cooked in front of you on the hibachi tables. I went for a sirloin steak, barely seared and as rare as possible.   It was exquisitely flavoured and seasoned, and was accompanied by a side of rice and a wasabi mayonnaise sauce.

HibachiHibachijapanese steak

All the flavours of Matsuri were quintessentially Japanese – delicate and complex, and without the clumsy seasoning of the fake-Japanese chains you are frequently served in London. It was all delicious,  and presented beautifully (bonus points from me).  To finish off a perfect meal, I went for a kinako (soybean flour) ice cream, while others opted for the green tea (matcha) tiramisu, or something called a dragon ball, which seems to be ice cream which has been set on fire.

dragon ballkinako ice creamgreen tea tiramisu

It is always an absolute pleasure to dine at Matsuri St James and this time was no exception!

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Simple Korean-style BBQ Recipe

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish, usually made with fermented cabbage. I lived in Seoul from the age of 1 to 3, and so this deliciously spicy and sour dish has always been a staple in my family – our fridge is rarely without it. Kimchi is low in calories and full of fiber (a winning combination), and has the added bonus of being addictively delicious. The first time I made this meal for Mr. A, I woke up in the middle of night to find him raiding the fridge for the leftovers – it’s that good.

Kimchi

Despite having lived in South Korea, the only words that still remain with me (besides the first word I ever spoke, which was 고양이, the Korean word for ‘cat’) are off a menu. If you have never tried Korean food, you should – get yourself down to a restaurant and get yourself an order of kimchi, with pajeon (a Korean seafood pancake) and Bulgogi (Korean marinated beef). I’d recommend those dishes for a newbie – but definitely not for a first date, as Korean cuisine is very garlic-heavy!

As with all my recipes, this isn’t a strictly traditional recipe for Korean BBQ. In my family, we usually have this for Sunday lunch – it’s perfect for eating family style, and can get quite messy.

Simple Korean-style BBQ Recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
As with all my recipes, this isn’t a strictly traditional recipe for Korean BBQ. In my family, we usually have this for Sunday lunch – it’s perfect for eating family style, and can get quite messy.
Author:
Recipe type: BBQ
Cuisine: Korean
Serves: One Portion
Ingredients
  • Some steak, or good-quality beef
  • Sesame oil
  • Coarse salt (I use kosher salt)
  • Lettuce
  • Rice
  • Tongs
  • Frying pan and camp stove, or hot plate
  • Kimchi (one packet)
  • A lot of napkins
Instructions
  1. You really can’t get more simple than this – prepare all the trimmings.
  2. Cook the rice, wash the lettuce, decant the kimchi into bowls.
  3. Put sesame oil in a small dish with a small heap of the coarse salt (around 5 tablespoons of oil).
  4. Once you are ready to eat, turn on the hob to a high heat and start frying the beef.
  5. There’s no need to oil the pan, and I recommend cutting the beef into small, bite-sized strips.
  6. Take a lettuce leaf, and fill with a small spoonful of rice and some kimchi.
  7. Once the beef has cooked, pop that in as well, and wrap it up into a deliciously crunchy bundle.
  8. Dip the parcel into the salty sesame oil, and enjoy the different textures and flavours.
Korean BBQKorean BBQKorean BBQKorean BBQKorean BBQKorean BBQKorean BBQ

It’s fresh, but also feels indulgent – and is a fairly fuss free meal, too! Perfect for having friends round, as everyone can take part, and is a great for a dinner party, especially if the guests don’t all know each other.

Korean BBQServe with a nice red wine, or even some sake or soju!

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RA Blogger Preview Event | Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album and Le Relais de Venise Entrecote

This week has been one of the busiest and most exciting I’ve had in a while. I attended my first two blogger events, the second of which was a blogger’s viewing event at the Royal Academy of Arts for their new exhibition – Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album. Dennis Hopper is better known for his cinematic work, in Rebel without a Cause (1955), Blue Velvet (1989) and Easy Rider (1969). He was also a keen photographer, and The Lost Album presents photographs he took between 1961 and 1967 in America.

Dennis Hopper Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964 Photograph, 16.69 x 24.92 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Dennis Hopper
Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964
Photograph, 16.69 x 24.92 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Dennis Hopper Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney and Jeff Goodman, 1963 Photograph, 17.25 x 24.74 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Dennis Hopper
Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney and Jeff Goodman, 1963
Photograph, 17.25 x 24.74 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

As a child of the 90s, this event and the exhibition really made clear to me what a confusing, frightening and exciting times the 60s were. Through the lens of Dennis Hopper, all the different aspects of the 60’s we are all familiar with came together for me. In the Lost Album you see the decade in all its glamour, with portraits of models, artists and actors like Paul Newman, Andy Warhol and Jane Fonda, as well as struggle, which you can see in the photographs he took at the height of the American Civil Rights Movement. It took all the events that I had only understood previously as these discrete events or moments of history and visually presented them to us within the context of the time. As a former anthropology student I was far more fascinated in these images, of people during the civil rights movement and of the artists then I was at some of the photographs later on in the exhibit.

Dennis Hopper Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim at Their Wedding in Las Vegas, 1965 Photograph, 17.02 x 24.87 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Dennis Hopper
Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim at Their Wedding in Las Vegas, 1965
Photograph, 17.02 x 24.87 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Dennis Hopper Untitled (Blue Chip Stamps), 1961-67 Photograph, 24.97 x 17.12 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Dennis Hopper
Untitled (Blue Chip Stamps), 1961-67
Photograph, 24.97 x 17.12 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Aside from the dramatic and moving photos of these events the photograph that really drove it home for me was a picture of Roy Lichtenstein in front of one of his pieces. When I was in high school in New York, I lived in a group of apartment buildings connected to a plaza by the river, which had a couple of diners and cafes attached to it. We used to hang around there and eat onion bagels coated with butter on our lunchbreaks at the diner, which was decorated with large scale Lichtenstein imitations on the walls – the whole place was yellow and red and it just seemed so tacky, loud and almost pedestrian. I hated it. But in the Lost Album, seeing Lichtenstein sitting in front of his work, and in the context of the whole exhibition it was so incredible to see how fresh and new his work was in its time.

Dennis Hopper Double Standard, 1961 Photograph, 17.45 x 24.87 cm The Hopper Art Trust © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

Dennis Hopper
Double Standard, 1961
Photograph, 17.45 x 24.87 cm
The Hopper Art Trust
© Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. www.dennishopper.com

The exhibition took place in the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Gardens in Piccadilly. We arrived a little early so we got a glass of wine before we went in to the bloggers preview area. The cocktails for the event (a deliciously summery fruit mojito) were provided by the Atelier cafe, in the lobby of the Royal Academy. The cafe is gorgeous, and looks like how I’d like my kitchen to look – I’ll definitely be back for a spot of lunch!

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album Royal Academy Dennis Hopper Royal Academy Wine Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album 2014-06-27 13.49.14 Atelier Royal Academy Royal Academy Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album

Wine Atelier mojito

After the event, I took Mr A to somewhere I’d wanted to take him for a long time – Le Relais de Venise Entrecote. I almost don’t even want to write about this place as I don’t want more people to go! Le Relais de Venise have several branches internationally, in New York, Manchester and France. We arrived around 8.30 on a Friday night, and waited 45 minutes to get in – they don’t take reservations, but boy is it worth it.

Le Relais de Venise

Le Relais de Venise only has one item on the menu – so if you are a vegetarian or not a fan of steak then this place isn’t for you. The first item that arrives is a gorgeous walnut salad with a lemon-y dressing with some french bread. It is absolutely divine, and a lot more exciting than it might sound!

Walnut salad le relais de venise

The main is a gorgeous steak cooked to your liking – blue, red right up to well done. A fan of all things raw I took mine blue, and it just melts in your mouth. It comes with a side of fries and coated in the most incredible sauce. The first time I went to Le Relais de Venise a colleague of mine claimed he wanted to bathe in it, it’s that good. It’s almost a curry like flavour to it, but it’s creamy and delicious and a well-guarded secret. A few years ago a French newspaper claimed they had cracked the sauce, which they claim contains chicken livers so I’ll have to try it out for myself soon!

le relais de venise

We washed it down with a bottle of their house red, and the waitress came by again with seconds after we had cleared our plates. It was absolutely divine – I only wish they’d open up a branch in Muswell Hill! At this point I was so full and an incredibly happy girl, but Mr. A wanted to got a tarte au citron after all that queuing which was also delicious.

tarte au citron It was also lovely to see the lovely lady behind the Wonderlusting blog at the RA bloggers event, who I had met at the BGO blogger meetup event the night before, which I’ll be covering in my next post!

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Cambodian Mango and Coconut Cupcakes

Despite the title, this recipe isn’t Cambodian – but it was inspired by my time in Cambodia, and contains Cambodian ingredients and flavours. The mango jam I used in this recipe is homemade, made by my stepmother who is currently living in Cambodia, and I’ve done a Khmer twist on the usual cupcake mixture by adding palm sugar instead of caster. I also made a coconut cream cheese icing, but I’m not sure if you can get good quality cream cheese out there – I definitely wouldn’t recommend these for a Cambodian garden party at any rate. But for our English summers I think they do quite nicely – I took them along to a barbecue last weekend and they went pretty quickly.

Palm sugar

Cambodian Mango and Coconut Cupcakes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This recipe was inspired by the ingredients and flavours I encountered when I was in Cambodia - the palm sugar, mango and toasted coconut I found and fell in love with when I was over there.
Author:
Recipe type: Baking
Cuisine: Cambodian
Serves: Dozen
Ingredients
  • 250g butter
  • 250g palm sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 185g self raising flour
  • 60g plain flour
  • 185ml milk
  • 300g cream cheese
  • 60g butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of dessicated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. For the cupcakes, whip the butter and sugar together until it has a light and fluffy consistency.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients – remember to sift! – and pour into the cases.
  4. I made 18 cupcakes by filling the cases ⅔ full.
  5. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the cakes are golden brown.
  6. For the icing, whip the butter and cream cheese.
  7. Slowly work in the vanilla extract and sifted icing sugar until it has achieved the desired consistency. Place in the fridge.
  8. Once the cupcakes are done, place them on a cooling rack while you complete the topping.
  9. In a small saucepan or frying pan, add the palm sugar and dessicated coconut to toast it lightly.
  10. This step is one you have to keep an eye on – once the coconut has turned brown pop it into a bowl.
  11. Add a dollop of mango jam on top of every cupcake once they have cooled.
  12. With a piping bag, pipe the cream cheese frosting over each cupcake before sprinkling the coconut.
2014-06-07 13.43.58dessicated coconutmango jam

And there you have it – creamy, fruity and summery cupcakes, perfect for a garden party or a BBQ!

coconut mango cupcakescoconut mango cupcakescoconut mango cupcakes

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Atariya sushi bar, Swiss Cottage

On Friday, Mr. A and I went out for dinner to celebrate. With a massive craving for toro we decided to go to Atariya, in Swiss Cottage. I’ve been familiar with Atariya in the past, as they have several Japanese supermarkets dotted around London, which I frequent to stock up on all my Japanese condiments and supplies. The Atariya group also supplies restaurants with their sashimi so I knew that at the very least, their sushi bar would have the freshest produce.Atariya swiss cottage

I had really worked myself up all day on Friday, getting overly excited for all the uni (sea urchin) and toro I was going to eat that night. Toro is the fatty part of the tuna, and it’s buttery texture and flavour makes it highly sought after (and rather pricey). Toro, in my opinion, is even better than the juiciest, rarest steak – and there is little else I like more than a good steak.

So I was absolutely gutted when the waitress told me that they had run out of toro and uni for the day. Luckily, Atariya sushi bar impressed me enough to give it a good review – I was able to (somehow) overcome my devastation.

All the fish was amazingly fresh, and perfectly prepared – the sushi rice still slightly warm, at the perfect temperature, and everything was absolutely divine. Of course, I already knew that – the second I walked in, I could see that the restaurant was full of Japanese people, which is always a good sign, and surprisingly quite a rare sight to see in London.

atariya swiss cottage

Japanese businessmen, always a sign of a good sushi bar.

seaweed salad

Seaweed saladeel Eel

black cod rolls

Black cod rolls

salmon nigiri

Salmon nigiri

atariya sushi

Clockwise: natto (fermented soybean) rolls, spicy tuna rolls, salmon avocado rolls.

takoyakiThey did amazing takoyaki – fried and battered octopus, covered in sauce and mayonnaise resting on a bed of cabbage.

We had our meal with a bottle of red, and sampled some of their desserts. I had matcha and vanilla flavoured mochi ice cream (sticky rice cakes filled with ice cream), while Mr. A tried the red bean (azuki) ice cream.Mochi ice cream

I was particularly fond of the black cod rolls and the spicy tuna. We also had several plates of karage (Japanese fried chicken) and several dishes that we were absolutely stuffed by the end of it. Atariya was quite reasonable when you consider the quality of the ingredients, and I couldn’t find fault with any of the dishes. It’s quite an informal atmosphere, so while I was quite dressed up there’s really no need to be! For a delicious, simple and traditional Japanese dining experience in London you can’t get much better than Atariya. I’ll definitely be back – to sample their toro and uni, this time!

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