Tag Archives: corn

Okan, Brixton Village

Each time Shrove Tuesday comes around, I stuff my face with pancakes wondering why I don’t make them more often. They are so easy and versatile – this year’s combinations ranged from cheese, ham & mushroom to salted caramel & banana…via traditional lemon & sugar and the odd Nutella.

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I guess I’m just lazy, or eat so many I can’t bear the thought of more. So, for an alternative pancake experience, I turn to Okan – a tiny Japanese restaurant in the heart of Brixton village.

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Okan specialises in okonomiyaki – a savoury pancake that’s commonplace on the streets of Osaka, Japan’s second largest city. It means ‘as you like it’ and typically combines fermented cabbage (kimchi) with batter and a range of toppings.

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After our Otumami (starters) of warm, salty edamame (£2.20) and wonderfully aromatic Onasu (fried aubergine with soy, honey, ginger & miso dressing – £3.25), we ordered the Okan Special with prawn, squid and corn (£8.25), as well as a Kimchi & Pork (£7.95). This was topped off with a bottle of white wine (they also have a great range of Japanese beers and sake).

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Cooked in on steaming grills beside us, the okonomiyaki were large, thick and piping hot. The kimchi made them quite salty, but not to the point of unpleasant, and the fillings were in generous supply. The flavour was unique and took some getting used to, but it was refreshing to try something so different.

Okan was one of the first Brixton Village eateries –  no frills, charming and serves original food that transports you miles from the bustling streets of Brixton. For that, I’ll give it a LLE Rating of 8/10. A very happy – albeit belated -Pancake Day to you all.

Okan, Unit 39, Brixton Village, SW9 8PS

*To avoid embarrassment, it’s worth noting that Okan is Cash Only

Okan on Urbanspoon

Andina, Shoreditch

The word Andina is typically used to describe a ‘woman in the Andes’, so perhaps Martin Morales intended his second ‘Peru in London’ restaurant for ‘ladies who lunch’ in Shoreditch. Or perhaps he didn’t give it that much thought.

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We (four ladies, one man) went to Andina on a beautiful December day. The restaurant’s long windows, white washed walls and light furniture meant we could bask in the sunshine, despite being indoors. It’s lucky we weren’t seated in the back room or – at worst – downstairs. Not that it would have mattered during the great storms of 2013.

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Just like Ceviche in Soho, the menu is filled with smaller ‘sharing’ plates and plenty of ceviche. Unlike its sister restaurant, it also boasts a number of larger main course dishes for those who secretly don’t like to share (i.e. me).

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We started with a number of dishes from the Street Food and Ceviches sections of the menu. The slightly dry Quinoa Croquettas (£4) weren’t a patch on the enormous Pig Butty (£6), which we greedily ended up getting two of.

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Inside the soft, white buns was a mountain of tender confit pork with sweet potato ketchup and salsa criolla. We even had little pots of pork on the side, just in case we didn’t have enough fatty, oh so tasty, meat.

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Of the ceviches, we had Sato (£7.5), Siwichi (£8) and Cheeky (£8.50), also known as trout, seabass, hake & cods cheek. A complete contrast to the heartier street food, it didn’t have the wow factor I’d experienced at Ceviche. Some seemed over limed and the fish wasn’t as delicately cut as I’d have liked.

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I chose Skewered Lamb Kebabs for main, which came with giant Peruvian Corn and salad. I enjoyed the tenderness of the meat and overall lightness of the meal, but couldn’t help adding a few dollops of delicious lucuma puree for extra pizazz (thanks to the plate of Lomo next to me (£20)).

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Lucuma is a native Peruvian fruit that makes the most wonderfully sweet, creamy sauce. Take my word for it, it’s a wonderful alternative to mayo or ketchup if you can get it.

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Desserts were shared and in plentiful supply. First we had a tray of Picarones (£9) – Pumpkin Doughnuts that were as light as air and even more delicious when dunked in purple corn syrup or chocolate fudge.

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The Quinoa Chocolate Brownie (£5) wasn’t my favourite. The quinoa had dried yet another dish, destroying any chance of a gooey middle and crisp, chewy top.

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Instead, the Mousse De Lucuma took me by surprise (£5). The yummy lucuma fruit had worked its magic once again, producing a sweet, creamy dessert that couldn’t have been more delicious.

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Andina was a mixed bag. Some dishes were a delight, others didn’t live up to the reputation of Ceviche. Then again, the atmosphere, price and ridiculously close location to my office is bound to draw me back. So for now, I’m giving it a LLE Rating of 6 / 10.

Andina, 1 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, London E2 7DJ

Andina on Urbanspoon

Tacombi, New York

Tacos were high on my NY Bucket List, so when The Boyfriend’s Aunt recommended Tacombi in Nolita, it was the obvious place for lunch on our last day in the Big Apple.

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Tacombi is stripped back to reveal concrete floors, metal tables and chairs, crates of beer and a steel taco van ‘driven’ by two Mexican chefs. It has a bustling ‘street food’ vibe, with enough space so you don’t have to wait too long.

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Yet again, we ordered less than recommended, but still ended up with too much food. From the taco menu, we went for Pollo (chicken at $3.95), Pork Belly ($5.49), Barbacoa (a Caribbean way of cooking meat, coming in at $5.49) and Crispy Fish ($4.49).

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Each juicy taco excited my tastebuds with well seasoned, spicy meat, fresh herbs and crispy vegetables. That, and a strongly flavoured corn tortilla pulling everything together.

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On the side, we had average Ceviche ($5.49) and the star of our meal, Corn Esquites ($3.85) – beautifully sweet toasted corn, with lime and a thick chipotle mayo. Put simply, it was divine.

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Our meal at Tacombi was one of the cheapest and best we had in New York City. By the look on everyone’s faces, I could tell they felt the same. This was delicious food, worth having time and time again.

Tacombi, 267 Elizabeth Street, NY 10012

Chicken Shop, Kentish Town

Today I rushed at work because I had to. Today I rushed at dinner because I was told to. Yes, after just 45 minutes eating tasty chicken, fresh avocado salad, buttery corn on the cob and a wonderful slice of apple pie, our waiter at Chicken Shop asked us to finish our drinks and leave.

You might think we’d done something wrong. Got embarrassingly drunk and danced on the table perhaps. Think again. Instead, the speediest restaurant on record thought it was ok to ask us to give up our seats after less than an hour when all we wanted to do was sit, chat and reflect on our busy lives.

So, I’ll keep this post brief as I think it’s what Chicken Shop would have wanted. The food was great, the prices were even better, the waiters were friendly (even giving us an extra large piece of pie), but the rush at the end was inexcusable.

I left work at 7pm. Travelled to the other side of London and back. I’m home at 10pm. Enough said.

LLE Rating 5 / 10.

Chicken Shop, 76 Highgate Road, London NW5 1TL

Ceviche, Frith Street, Soho

It’s hard to ignore the ‘small plate’ revolution going on in London restaurants. Some, like me, love the chance to try as much as possible, whereas others, like my friend L, want to know what they own when their order arrives. That’s not to say L shares the view of my new favourite singer JJ Grey, who sings the warning ‘Stick ya hands near my plate, you’ll draw back a nub’  in Ho Cake, it’s just she’s one of many people whose heart melts slightly when they see the words ‘these plates are made for sharing’ written on a menu.

If you too hold this view, please don’t be put off by new Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar Ceviche. Yes, the dishes are small and shareable, but it’s refreshing to enjoy ‘tapas style’ food that isn’t Italian or Spanish. In fact, it’s refreshing to enjoy Peruvian food full stop, as its not easy to come by in London.

I went to Ceviche with high expectations last Thursday to meet M for lunch. We both agreed it’d be rude not to try a Pisco Sour, so quickly ordered two as we worked our way through the hefty menu. As neither of us are experts on Peruvian cuisine, or knew what to expect from the exotic ingredients, we let our friendly waiter order what he considered to be the best plates.

First up was Cancha – crunchy Peruvian corn that went perfectly with our delicious drinks. Even though it looks a bit like a bowl of roasted bugs (something The Boyfriend pointed out earlier), they were utterly moreish and went at lightning speed.

Next came two dishes from the ceviche bar – Don Ceviche, which is fresh sea bass in an ají amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, covered in ají limo chilli and red onions…

…and Sakura Maru, also known as thinly sliced salmon in Nikkei tiger’s milk made with satsumas, mirin, soy sauce and ají limo chilli.

I know I haven’t got to the other dishes yet, but the ceviche really did steal the show, as both had a perfect balance of sweet and sour, with delicate strips of fish that melted in the mouth.

The ceviche was followed by Corazón – beef heart marinated in ají panca chilli anticucho sauce, served with choclo corn (gigantic corn) and ají amarillo chilli sauce…

…and Arroz con Pato, which is an easier to understand confit duck in coriander and dark beer rice.

The Corazón presented itself as skewers of juicy, tender meat, brought to life by the spicy sauce – far more aesthetically pleasing than the entire cow’s heart I’d imagined. I’d also expected the Arroz con Pato to be dry, but instead the meat was moist and the rice had a warm risotto like consistency.

To make sure we got our five-a-day, we also ordered  Asparagus with Huancaína Sauce. Much like the genetically modified choclo corn, the asparagus was enormous so we only managed to get through a couple of sticks, smothering each  in the cheesy chilli sauce.

We finished with Peruvian Corn Cake, which was unlike anything I’d tasted before. Made with favourite ingredient choclo corn, the cake was sprinkled with cooked feta, had the consistency of a slightly under baked sponge and almost seemed to have a floral aftertaste. It wasn’t unpleasant and, being new to Peruvian cooking, I’m not in a position to critique it, but I expect I’m not the only one who would question whether I’d order it again.

Ceviche gets a LLE Rating of 8.5/10. I’d love to go back in the evening when it’s really buzzing. It may not be the cheapest restaurant in town, but considering the variety of great food we had, £65 including tip sure ain’t bad.

Ceviche, 17 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4RD