Sabbatical time is approaching! I’m taking some time off work to rest, relax and of course, eat and travel 🙂 I’m not going to begin my travels properly until January next year, and I will be blogging all about it. So for now, I’m focusing on catching up on all the stuff I say I can’t do because I don’t have time – paperwork, de-cluttering, organising.. and did I mention resting and relaxing?
I was in Soho for a whole day last week – appointments, shopping, meeting friends for coffee. I walked around, taking in the Christmas decorations (a bit too early? Definitely!).
My favourite ones were down Carnaby Street – one word affirmations scattered everywhere – brilliant!
Before I knew it – it was lunch time. Spoilt for choice I decided to try a place that I had walked past on previous occasions, but never been. Keu! on Poland Street, basically a fast food Vietnamese restaurant. I toured Vietnam for 2 weeks with my brothers and I loved loved loved the food. All the curries, the rice bowls, the spring rolls, oh the spring rolls. I think I had them with every meal (erm, bar breakfast!). I obviously wasn’t walking into this place expecting a taste of Vietnam, but what I liked is they tried to make it look like a restaurant in Vietnam.
I ordered my meal and drink, paid at the counter – very quickly with no issues – and went to perch on a bar stool facing the world go by. My drink came in a couple of minutes – I went for a lemonade, just what I needed after walking around for a couple of hours.
I waited about five minutes until my mains arrived, entertained myself by watching Asian Provocateur in the meantime. Romesh Ranganathan is so so funny – both in these series and live. Back to the meal – I went for the only veggie/vegan rice bowl I could see on the menu – Com Chay. This was described as a smokey aubergine stew with tofu, mushrooms and tofu broth. What arrived was a massive bowl filled to the brim with rice and veggies and tofu.
Close up? OK – here it is:
The first few mouthfuls (bar the gigantic pieces of garlic) were delicious. Luscious pieces of tofu, firm yet delicate aubergine – no trace of the smokiness though – mushrooms, herbs, spring onions all added to the initial yumminess. But it did become a bit one dimensional after a while – there was A LOT of rice and I did have to pimp it up with a bit of soy sauce and some chillies pickled in vinegar. I ended up eating only 1/2 of it – it was waaay too much food – and I wanted to be in a position to look forward to dinner. So will I come back? Nope, not really.
After a bit more (essential) shopping, off I went to dinner to meet my friends who I will be going to Tromso with. We’re off in just over a week – and that was what the essential shopping was for – making sure I have enough long johns to keep me warm :). We met at Aqua Kyoto, just behind Oxford Circus station. I love the decor of this place – all dark wood and beautiful crockery.
Now this isn’t a cheap restaurant – but who said I was going a la carte? My friend saw an offer – £29 for 3 courses and a cocktail, and it being Japanese cuisine, although full of raw fish, I knew I would be OK with options. The last time I was here we had a terrific meal off the same set menu – and the service was excellent. Repeat performance this time? Yes, on the food for me, bit of a hit and miss with the meaty main (hair in a dish, argh!)
I didn’t take a picture of the set menu (and I can’t find it anywhere online) but there were three options for starters – sushi, sashimi or veggie tempura. Mains were a mushroom rice, and two other meaty options (obviously didn’t look). There was only one option for dessert – a pumpkin chawanmushi with a pear sorbet. I chose my veggie options, and asked for just sorbet for dessert.
My tempura starter arrived and was thoughtfully served with a bonito free dipping sauce (arigato!) even without me asking. Well, they did ask when they were taking orders if anyone had any allergies…
Benefits of your friends not drinking Christmas cocktails? More for me! Saying that, there was so much ice in the glass, any effects of the alcohol were virtually non-existent! My tempura was excellent – and a reminder why I love this restaurant. It wasn’t the usual tempura of button mushroom and baby corn. Oh no sireee! Here we had pumpkin, seaweed and shiso leaf – all hot and crispy. Yum!
My main of Mushroom rice was just as beautifully presented. Didn’t look like there was much in there, but I was wrong – it was more than enough.
So many different textures and flavours – and multi-dimensional from start to finish! It was essentially a mushroom risotto with more mushrooms, butternut squash puree, more shiso leaves, cubes of silken tofu (not sure what the sprinkles were, but I know they weren’t cheesy or fishy). What a beautiful dish – and it left me in a happy place – full, but enough room for dessert.
For dessert I was expecting a couple of scoops of pear sorbet, but instead I got passion fruit sorbet and sour cherry sorbet on a chilled plate – pretty! Perfect refreshing end to a lovely meal.
I do love this place, but to be honest the set menu changes often enough for me to stick to it instead of a la carte-ing it, and I will definitely be back.