Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter, indeed. (Year 2)

My 'One Little Word' last year was 'POSSIBLE'. This year, I had a bit of trouble finding the right word until it came to me last night while reading an old blog post on some Easter weekend musings.

You see, I believe my 2012 actually started during Easter. It felt like a final wave to a chapter that needed to end and a prelude to something magnifique. I've had to really let go of a number of things, people, places and emotions last year and it wasn't the easiest thing to do. However, making it possible (and doing so) actually opened a lot of opportunities. It also made me see and appreciate an understated greatness in moving on and moving forward.

And that is my One Little Word for 2013: 'FORWARD'. I slept like a baby last night knowing this morning will come and I will wake up feeling ready to go. I did. And it feels like the new year has finally arrived.

♣ ♣ ♣ 

I am so overwhelmed with the feeling of absolute humility and gratitude and I know I couldn't have gone through the past 12 months, if not for the people who've come full circle with me.

♣  When you move forward from toeing the line of human nature complexities, it is possible to find your 'best man'. Thank you, M, for going through the past year (and a half) with me, for absorbing thoughts and corny jokes; judging when needed and not judging at all; sharing ideas and debating them over with. You have been a lifesaver, a fluffy rock and the ultimate Dudeparechong. *high five*

♣ I used to hang out with guys more so I was well versed in 'bar banter' but not so much in 'girly' convos. That said, I've found a steady set of ladies who have been my absolute support group in more ways I've imagined. It really feels like I have sisters from different mothers. Thank you London girl friends for giving me advice no man can ever understand or provide (I'm not just talking about makeup, tampons, prams), and for making this city more interesting. =)

♣ Last Easter, I wrote 'This week, it hit me. There's someone. And so far it's been pretty great. Happy.'  I get tongue-tied when I try to describe how amazing this situation turned out to be, partly because I still get giddy with the blessed happy feeling *yihee* and partly because even I'm surprised at how everything panned out. Life really has a funny way and though I didn't think it was possible, it's really been mind-blowing, this 'catching yourself falling in love everyday' type of thing. Thank you, Plaid Boy.

♣ The hardest part of being away from your family is being away from your family. I've been gone for almost seven years (?!?!?!!!) but missing the fam bam always gets to me. I was blessed to have been able to spend more time (on FaceTime and actual face time) with this awesome, loving, supportive bunch and it made me realise how much I miss home. Watch this space.  

♣ Thank You. It's been a tough and manic start of the year but thank You for giving me strength and for making me understand the real meaning of today. Thank You for waking me up in time to catch the morning sun break the silence of the city. Thank You for making the birds sing what sounded like a victory hymn outside my window. Thank You for giving me the feeling that from today, I am not going anywhere else but forward. With You.
Isaiah 40:29-31
 Have a happy and blessed Easter Sunday, folks.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Easter Weekend Playlist

Are you excited for the long weekend? I am! Well, whatever you're doing and wherever you're going I hope you do take time to reflect and remember the very true essence of the break.

In the meantime, here's my Easter weekend playlist best heard on the road. =)

Steve Mason - Oh My Lord
The Beta Band's Steve Mason comes with a pop-rock tune with awesome hooks heightened by some bluesy piano playing. My current on my way to work song. =)

Heard this song early in January and it reminded me of post-party spontaneous trips and bonfires on the beach. Made me want to strip to my bikinis til I realised the UK's having a cold spell til end of April. Oh dear.

Alt-J - Dissolve Me
Alt-J's debut album might as well be an album for road trips. This song's my current LSS and current happy tune. Check the Marlais Remix here too.

Long Beach Dub All Stars - Sunny Hours (reprise)
Definitely one of my favourite road trip tunes of all time. You've got to play this one on YouTube as it's one of those videos with content from the record label bladeeda, but it's worth it because the tune is really good.

Sound - Bossa Manila
I was obsessed with Sound's BossaManila album. It was stuck on loop for the longest time to the point where my dad would roll his eyes at me as if to say, 'That album again?' I'm not sure what happened to the band, or its members but I do miss the sound of Sound. 

Yo La Tengo - The Point of It
A favourite from the band's new album Fade. Perfect for when your mind is a bit troubled and you need a bit of time to reflect about the point of it all. It's an 'everything happens for a reason' type. Best heard when the sun's about to set.

Bonobo - Cirrus
Bonobo has a new album out and it's great because Black Sands needed a follow up. Buy it here.

Beyonce - Halo
All road trip tunes should have a super high mainstream hit. Total Eclipse of the Heart is quite predictable so we'll go with Beyonce cos she's just effortlessly chilled out whilst being halimaw with her voice. And if she can do it, everyone else should feel like a diva while belting it out. Windows down.

One of my favourite backdrop tunes for late night/early morning driving when the roads are clear and morning's about to break, when you're ready to go to bed but you just need to have a quick bite. Either a kebab or pancakes. =)
And because this song is such a classic roadtrip hit...

Eraserheads - Ligaya
Easily a classic, classic, classic crowd pleaser.

Have a happy Good Friday, folks. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

M Café/ Kabila: where we conquered the 'impossible'

After a gorgeous late lunch, A and I decided to continue our typical London date ritual in Manila so we went to (M)useum Café/Kabila for drinks and dessert. Kabila means 'other side' in Filipino and this is quite appropriate as the bistro opened late last year on the 'other side' of the newly refurbished M Café. They serve Filo favourites punched to another level - from preparation to presentation to taste.

The weather was incredibly pleasant so we asked for a table outside. We had a strategic view of punters we'd eventually gossip about and a good buzz from lounge tunes and passers-by. There was a tree decked with paper lamps nearby and it set off an almost ethereal vibe. The ambience was so nice and strangely comforting - I actually had a moment when I thought to myself what a lovely city Manila is and how blessed I am to be able to call it home.

I love that candle cage thing!

I didn't expect the cocktails in Manila to compare to what we have here in London, especially the ones at our favourite watering hole, LAB (London Academy of Bartenders). That said, when the first round of drinks came I was quite surprised because 1) they came in rather 'Go Large!' glasses, 2) they looked like they were handled with proper 'bartender care', and 3) no small paper umbrellas here, thank you very much.
A and her Pandan Mojito J

I had a sip of A's pandan-infused lychee mojito (PHP210) and it was super refreshing. My lemongrass and peach sake martini (PHP195) was pretty good too; the lemongrass twist gave it an intriguing flavour and the sweetness of the muddled peach complemented and enhanced the spirit (vodka) and other liqueurs. Both cocktails had a good ratio of alcohol and I guess you can say we were both happy after that round.
Martini and me. Of course.

We got free nibbles with our drinks: wee pots of shing-a-ling served in a block of, uh, concrete? *shrugs* I thought it was a cute way to serve such humble fare. This snack is basically just dried thick noodles, deep fried and seasoned with salt and pepper. Very simple, very moreish. 

'Date with Ana' wouldn't be complete without... eggs. I don't eat the stuff (at least not when I can actually see it) but I almost always seem to have something eggy on our dates! She's made me eat Japanese omelette, drink cocktails with egg white froth, and made me eat Mexican flan back when I didn't know they were made with egg yolks! (I don't cook much, sorry!)

The culprit this time was a slice of 'The Impossible Cake' (PHP195). It's a two-layer cake of chocolate sponge and leche flan (!!!) served with candied nuts. What a cool concept, it's like having three cakes in one! It's an impressive-looking cake - you prolly have to have amazing technical skills to master it. The layers tasted alright individually although I undoubtedly enjoyed the chocolate layer more than the leche flan part; the moist sponge had that nice bittersweet taste you get when you have good quality cocoa and the flan was creamy and smooth (although I thought the top part was baked a tad over). The flavour profile is quite interesting when you eat both layers in a forkful but the texture fell slightly strange to my taste. I'm not sure I like it enough to order it again but this is possibly just because I'm not an egg/flan person. I'd recommend you try it for yourself though.

We also had a slice of this delicious ube cake (PHP195). The actual name escapes me but it was really yummy. It had a bit of sponge and also a moist, creamy, almost jam-y layer with macapuno that gave it texture and a fantastic play on flavour. It was sweet but not sickeningly so. Hands down this one was the better choice for me.

We had another round of cocktails. A had the Choc Nut martini (PHP210), a delicious alcoholic homage to one of the best snacking treats Filos love. The cocktail itself reminded me of mudslide cocktails we used to make in college, with the coffee liqueurs and the chocolate hit. The ChocNut pieces were an absolute treat though - I wish I thought of it m'self!

My second cocktail was the Mangga et Guava (PHP195) which looked like a pish posh fruit shake/ frozen margarita. It was meant to have guava-infused vodka but I didn't really taste it in the drink and I didn't feel any hit at all. It was still quite refreshing and just told myself that finally, my craving for a green mango fruit shake has been satisfied.

We downed our drinks and it was time to go. I was buzzed, not from the booze, but with pure joy of being in a nice Filo bar/restaurant with a nice Filo friend in a Filo city. I really enjoyed my 'Date with A' in Manila and our visit at M Café/Kabila was such sweet icing on the cake. Next time, I think we should do a proper museum tour before heading off to the restaurants for some grub. 

Museum Café/Kabila
Ayala Museum Complex Makati Avenue, Makati, Philippines | +632 757 3000 / +632 757 6000
Ave spend: PHP600pp  (£9.63 at current exchange rate £1=PHP62)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Lusso: where 'I think I want to marry you'

I was never a fan of sandwiches and this is ironic because I live in a country where the annual consumption of sarnies yields an average of 11.5 billion. Blimey baloney, I'm not part of that statistic *tears* There's been a few sandwiches in my life (I've experimented on fillers too) but I can honestly say that only one has ever really swept me off my feet. It was THE sandwich and if it were a man I would 100% marry it today.

Lusso is a little Gaita Fores venture in Greenbelt 5 (next to the Balenciaga shop in case you miss it!). The name is Italian for 'luxury' and you'd feel all inch of it in the restaurant's design: from the muted tones of gold in its intimate interior (they have a bigger al fresco dining space which is neat) to the plush velvet upholstered chairs, from the awesome marbled floor to the grand chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

The menu is the opposite though: printed on some parchment-esque type of paper (with some spillage on the corners), it screams a bit more French brasserie than Italian ristorante. But nevermind.

Gaita's other restaurants have always been my Manila favourites: Cibo was a standard comfort-food staple and (the now-closed) Pepato was always good for group dates or dinner before a night out. I thought Lusso was going to be another hit, so I went with my favourite brunch buddy A (we did go for a very late lunch though). 
The money shot!

As it was a sort of reunion (A moved back to Manila =( a few months before our chin wag) we had to have some bubbly. I like that they serve champagne by the glass but I wonder how they store leftovers from the bottle, or if they even have leftovers for people who just go there for pre-tanking.
I love the coasters, the elegance of the logo, and I love the lime in tap.

Our orders came quite promptly and we were definitely excited to eat!

A & I shared a pot of Asiago fries with truffle salt (PHP 250) I've heard inconsistencies about this but ours was pretty good. The cheese had a nice mature flavour and I thought it would be grainy like most mature hard cheeses but it was smooth as it melted, stretched and settled on the hand-cut chips. The truffle salt was subtly sprinkled but the flavour was strong enough without overpowering the cheese. I wish we ordered two of these, but we didn't want to overindulge.

I've had a number of pretty decent lobster rolls here so I wasn't overly excited to try the Lobster and River Prawn Roll (PHP 450). But it was the first I've seen in Manila and I wanted to compare. Unsure whether the lobsters are sourced in the Philippines, I asked the servers where they get their shellfish from (and their foie) but unfortunately they didn't know.

It came with thinly cut potato crisps and a simple side of greens. I didn't care much for the filling to be honest. Fair enough, it was a chunky cocktail of prawn, lobster and mayo and there was a lot of it. BUT. That amazing tiger bread stole the show for me. Most lobster rolls here are served on toasted brioche but the tiger roll was actually perfect for a sarnie like that; it balanced the acidity and creaminess of the filling and the crust gave it a nicer texture. You wouldn't want creamy filling with soft bread as it would just be mush on mush.

Now before we get all too mushy. Let's talk about THE SANDWICH. 

It came to us looking quite unassuming (as most good things do), looking like a boxed lunch gently glamourised on a plate. It was, after all, just a sandwich, a simple side of greens and potato crisps. But there was a certain je ne sais quoi about it that made it look so bold and so elegant and it had nothing to do with the poncey name. Ladies and gents, say hello to Lusso's Foie Gras Croque Monsieur (PHP450).

It was a rich sandwich but it was delicately put together and all the elements just worked fantastically.

The bread? An amazing sheet of toast thin enough to make the dish look sexy and easy to eat but thick and firm enough to hold after a major bite.

The cheese? A really nice blend of creamy bechamel and salty gruyere. The type of creamy-salty that melts on your bread and is awesome in your mouth.

The filling? Surprisingly heroic foie that rose to the occasion. It was the perfect amount; cut any thinner you'd lose it to the cheese, cut any thicker you'd lose interest and your belt. It gave the sandwich a great flavour profile and rightly so, because when you say you're having an ABC123 sandwich you want the ABC123 to shine.

I could easily eat five of these, but I won't.

I fell for this sandwich. I fell hard and I feel like I have a long distance love affair with it. Can't wait to fly 6,600+ miles to eat it again.

Overall I think Lusso is a fantastic spot. I can see groups lounging by the al fresco area but I think the dining experience is best inside. It's a great place for a light snack, a mid-afternoon buzz, or maybe afternoon tea with a friend or a significant other. They're famous for their Demi-pound Foie Burgers too, but I'll report on that some other time.

Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City, Philippines | +632756LUXE / +6327565893
Ave spend: PHP1000pp (£16 at current exchange rate £1=61)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Come on, skin-y love.

A few weeks ago, my friend J called to say that after 28 long years, he's finally bought his first facial moisturiser because he's noticed a few teensy wrinkles under his eyes. Hooray, welcome to the fascinating world of skincare for men, J.

My mother didn't give me make up lessons nor did she teach me how to cook (because she can't!) but one thing she taught me at a very early age was to invest time in taking care of my skin. Rebel that I was, I didn't really bother much as I felt I could ride on the forever-young-looking gene my parents have. It's actually quite flattering when people comment on how my mother and I can pass off as sisters.
With my parents, fresh(?!) off a long haul flight. Mom & I are makeup free.
There's 135 years worth of life in this photo. December 2012.

Last year, there was a time when felt like the years of embracing the sun with minimal SPF, late nights and not putting enough slap on my face finally caught up. My skin didn't feel like a baby's butt anymore and this made me realise how serious my mother was. One may be blessed with youthful looks but it seriously is true when they say beauty is skin deep: the minute you see a little line here or a wrinkly spot there, no matter how small it is, you will definitely feel it.

So I started to really take care of my skin. Here are some tried and tested products I use daily.

The best facial wash I've ever used. It's mild and gentle on the skin yet it really helps cleanse your face. I've tried a number of facial wash products before but Cetaphil is the only one that really made a difference. It has never left my face any sort of irritation or blotchiness after washing.

Some exfoliants tend to leave red patches on your skin but it's really important to exfoliate so your skin gets to feel healthy and glowing. St Ives Apricot Scrub is an absolute classic and it's a cheap trick that's been handed down from generations to generations. It really gets rid of unwanted dead skin cells (which you get more than you feel) and leaves your skin feeling as fresh and as polished as a new sports car. I like that I can use this for my face and for my body too.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner is good for sensitive skin. I used The Body Shop's Vitamin E toner before but my consultant said that though Vitamin E has a lot of benefits, it actually made the skin on my face thinner. This meant that when I go for facials, my dermatologist would find it hard to touch some areas for fear of making the peeling worse. I've been recommended this oil-free toner from Kiehl's and I'm loving the results. I feel like my skin's gone healthier and stronger and it feels hydrated all the time without feeling oily. It also acts as a post-cleanser cleanser, removing all traces of remaining dirt.

I have a splattering of freckles over my face which I adore, but I don't want to have more and look like an Asian Lindsay Lohan. Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution has actually worked wonders helping minimise the appearance of my freckles. It's also known to help prevent them from developing while evening out your skin tone. I only use two drops daily; this little bottle goes a very long way!

I was reluctant to try this because my skin didn't seem to be compatible with other Olay products so I was surprised that this daily moisturiser has been good to me. It's so important to wear products with sufficient amount of SPF even if you do not work outdoors. People with desk jobs and computer facing roles still need to use it so their skin is protected. I love that Olay's Complete Care Multiradiance Daily Moisturiser has SPF 15 protects my skin while making my face feel bright. It also works as a good primer!

Wrinkly eyes can definitely make anyone look older than their years. Kiehl's Line Reducing Eye Brightening Concentrate really does what it says on the package. I've only been using it for a month but my eyes look brighter and the darks circles seem gone. The lines also feel and look reduced and I feel like I've been sleeping more than eight hours a day instead of my usual four.

I love the Shue Uemura range of cleansing oils. My favourite Fresh Cleansing Oil serves as an awesome make up remover, leaving face spotless even when I wear waterproof makeup. It emulsifies amazingly and serves as a decent facial wash at night. I've ran out of it (it lasted me for almost a year) so I'm now finishing up on my Ultime8 cleansing oil travel bottle. The Tsuya Skin Serum is a wonder serum I slather my face with when I don't feel like wearing makeup. It isn't a tinted moisturiser but it does give your skin a sort of radiance and smoothness that doesn't need any coverage.

One of my favourite night time products, Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate is something I would really recommend to girls my age as it kinda acts as a paracetamol for the skin. Two drops of this serum each night makes my skin feel relaxed in the morning, even after a heavy night out! My face definitely feels refreshed and smooth when I wake up and I swear it feels like they've packed some facial fairies in this bottle to work miracles as we sleep.

I interchange the Midnight Recovery Concentrate with No.7's Protect and Perfect Intense Night Cream too. They have the same effect, except I actually like that I can use this cream on my neck without feeling guilty!

*Whew* (Trust me, some people actually use more products than I do!)

You see taking care of your skin is a really intense process because:
  • you have to really invest time and make sure you don't get too lazy for it - especially at night time when your skin is tired after a long day and all you want to do is burn sleep. You have to be super diligent and super disciplined in using your products for maximum results.
  • some products can be pricey but they can also work wonders for you.
  • you really need to find the right product for you. All products are different just like how our skin types are different. You can buy the most expensive, most promising, most positively reviewed product in the market and still end up with minimal effects. Instead of trying and testing products on your own, consult your dermatologists and ask them which products could work best for you and your skin.
  • you also have to know how to apply your products and when to stop. Some people tend to put so much slap on their faces thinking the more products they use the quicker they see results. It doesn't work that way. This can also be very dangerous because some products should only be applied in the littlest amounts to avoid further skin damage! Read the label, consult your doctor!
  • you should also remember to nourish your skin the natural way. Don't think that just because you have amazing slap you can forget about drinking your daily eight glasses of water, having enough sleep and eating your 5-a-day portion of fruit and veg. The natural process is still, in my opinion, the best way to have glowing, healthy skin.
I realise now that there is more to skincare than just looking great on the surface because it really benefits you in the long run anyway. It's never too early nor too late to start taking care of your skin and the best way to kickstart the whole process is to definitely pump up the positive attitude and wear a genuine smile. 


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Wardrobe inspiration from Lichtenstein

When I shop for ready-to-wear garments, I usually gravitate towards colours I'm comfortable with: monochrome/black/white/gray. This is partly because when I had my colours done the consultant suggested my skin tone 'glows best' with pinks and corals, and I am not quite keen on those hues at all. I always promise (myself and my girly girl buddies) to exert a bit more effort in wearing colour but I always end up purchasing or wearing the same black, white or grey stuff. I know it's been said that a girl could never have too many Little Black Dresses, but I think one has to stop when you end up buying the same LBD twice. (I thought I lost one in the oblivion of my very dark-themed wardrobe).

I was definitely inspired by a recent visit to the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective exhibit at the Tate Modern. Lichtenstein is famous for his depiction of American society and art itself through parodical pop art paintings. His style is very distinct, as he used a sort of comic book style of painting, with the prominence of Ben-Day dots, black outlines and very basic colours. His pieces looked very simple, but they were all absolutely intriguing.

I got to see a lot of his iconic stuff, including Drowning Girl, Whaam!, his art deco inspired sculpturesPicasso- and Mondrian- inspired art about art, his Mirrors and Brush Strokes series (the early paintings from this series looked different from the ones he made later in his career), his nudes, and Chinese landscapes. Seeing these amazing pieces in real life was a super fun experience.

Since then, I have become super appreciative of the primary colour trifecta. I've realised how these colours, albeit basic, can instantaneously make things pop (no pun intended) and more interesting. And this definitely gave me the motivation to add more colour into my wardrobe. I thought if I started on the basics, then maybe I'd be more adventurous in the future aye?

Some of you may know that I'm not really a shopper but last I had the shopping bug, I ended up buying a few black tops and this awesome black and white knit dress. I know, I know, I know! But you have to admit that the advantage of monochromatic/black/white/grey dresses is that they are so versatile and most of them are day-to-night pieces. I thought I'd have a play on Polyvore to see how I can jazz it up with some pop of colour or a dash of blingage, inspired by the reds, blues and yellows/golds from Lichtenstein's art.

Primary Play by thegirlnextshore

See what I mean? One dress, three ways, popped with blues, reds and gold. I know the colours are still asn't as bold and as bright as Lichtenstein's art but it should be a good starter peg, don't you reckon? Super excited for this 'project'. Watch this space. Next time you see me I might be in a fluorescent dress. =)

If you're interested to see Roy's (yihee, first name basis cos we're tight!) prominent pieces, the exhibit runs at the Tate Modern til 27 May. Tickets are £14 for non-members. Enjoy!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Shoryu: where ramen (finally) arrived with a bang

We always want something hearty when the weather's drab so the girls and I planned a little chin wag over girl talk and comfort food. We decided to go for something warming, something complete and substantial, something with a bit of soul that reminds us of home: ramen. But where exactly can you find decent, authentic ramen in London?

Well folks, the ramen bandwagon has finally pulled up in town and there's been a few recommended places to try. After reading reviews (and considering its proximity to Japan Centre), we picked Shoryu near Piccadilly Circus. It's a Japanese ramen bar, the first of its kind in town, and there's been so much rave about their Hakata tonkotsu broth.

We got there for early supper in time to skip the notorious queues but the small ramen bar was already buzzing. An elderly Japanese dude in chef whites warmly let us into the bar, through white curtains, and I swear I felt like I was stepping into a cartoon. We were further greeted with a loud 'Irrashaimase!' and then someone gave us three bangs off a Japanese drum. I wondered whether ninjas were going to jump out of nowhere to serve us.

We were quickly crammed sat by a teensy corner table and were given some nibbles while we decided on our feast...
Fresh, raw cabbage strips drizzled with sweetened rice wine vinegar? Really? Really! What a revelation this small plate of nibble was. It's a really nice, easy snack anyone can copy at home too.

The servers were very helpful (and patient!) explaining their menu. They had 15 types of ramen to choose from (with tonkotsu (pork bone), shōyu (soy sauce), and miso broth base) and a decent number of starters and sides, plus a good drinks list. After choosing our food, we asked if we could move to a bigger table and they kindly agreed despite the queue forming outside already. Plus points for customer care!
We had some chicken kara-age (£5) to start and it was pretty straightforward. The meat was juicy and tender and the coating reminded me of fried chicken dinners our angels cooked at home.

We also had the soft shell crab (£6) which was nice and sweet, but I thought the crab at Ukai was better. Shoryu's was a tad bit oily too, but nothing some table napkins can't rectify. I still enjoyed this very much.

And then there was ramen. Three massive bowls of ramen.

Being the spice girl that I am (if you wannabe my zigazig...... uh, yeah no), I chose the spicy miso ramen (£9.90). It was a massive massive massive bowl and I immediately fell in love with its vibrant colours and its fragrant aroma. Topped with barbecue pork, marinated soft boiled egg (which I gave away as I don't eat egg), sweet corn, beansprouts and spring onion, I seriously knew this was exactly what I needed and wanted.
The miso broth was delicious. My first spoonful was so orgasmic I had to stop myself from doing a Meg Ryan (circa When Harry Met Sally). It was a very balanced broth - a bit salty, a bit spicy, a teeny bit sweet - and it didn't give you a greasy after taste. Plus it's quite light, every spoonful begged for another one straight after.

The noodles they use at Shoryu are traditional Hakata hosamen noodleswhich they also sell to take away for £1.50 if you wanted to make your own ramen at home. They were so ridiculously flavourful, you'd think they've been soaked in the broth eons before serving. But they seriously remained, firm and springy and each mouthful was just a delightful chew. Those noodles are so good and I'm happy there was a whole lot of it in my bowl.

I thought the char siu was a wee bit of a let down in appearance at it looked unappetizing in its gray-er shade of pale. However it was quite nice, with an almost melt-in-your mouth texture and a clean full-on pork taste. It did give a decent flavour profile to the ramen itself but I would have liked it a bit more charred.

We all had a great time trying to finish our big bowls of soul. G had the Hokkaido Curry Ramen (£10.90) which was quite nice and had chicken kara age instead of the char siu. Ate T had the Sapporo Miso Ramen (£8.90) which I thought was the milder version of mine.
Can you guess who finished everything in her bowl?

After finishing our ramen, while contemplating whether we had sufficient belly space for dessert, a server asked if we could share our four-seater with a solo diner. I've never actually seen the 'Share A Seat, Win A Friend' movement in restaurants here so it was rather refreshing to know that Shoryu does that. They also have a 30-minute tachigui (eating while standing) service which is great for those who don't have much time.

We decided that we had room for one more on our table, and more importantly, for dessert. We really didn't to think much about that last bit.
We shared two matcha based desserts. Immediately you can see the copious dusting of matcha powder.

The matcha motchi (£3.50) was okay. I liked the mochi crust but I thought the green tea paste filling was a bit too much, and the powder they dusted the dessert with gave it a bitterness that fell strange to the palate. We had to blow the powder off, and that made it a whole lot yummier.

The matcha cheesecake (£4.50) had a good creamy texture, but just like the mochi dessert, I wish they didn't go OTT on the green tea powder.

We left Shoryu feeling full, comforted and happy as our dining experience was super pleasant. Service was really good despite a very busy night and the waiters were really helpful without being all snooty. The ramen was excellent and I am so pleased that finally we have good, authentic Asian bowl of soul here in London. I cannot wait to go back to try the other types. So far, this is my 2013 favourite restaurant in town. =)

Shoryu Ramen Bar
9 Regent Street, London, SW1Y | No reservations, walk-in only
Average spend: £10pp for ramen, £25 with sides, dessert and drinks (I had a recommended sake)
Shoryu Ramen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The YouTube Remedy

I've been in an on-off relationship with a little flu for the past few weeks and my doctor advised us to lay in my sickbed for the next seven days so we can break-up for good. My room is equipped with stuff a sick person needs to keep entertained/calm/distracted (save for hugs and fresh grapes) but somehow the joke that is UK daytime telly has left me anything but. Think chop suey of antique pricing, Springer-esque family drama and re-runs of re-runs of re-runs. So I've resorted to YouTube.

For someone who likes sharing music videos and dance clips on the social networks, I'm actually not a huge fan of virals, funnies and random clips people 'share' and 'like'. I'm always last to hear about these flash mob proposals/cutesy animal tricks/gyrating big breasted girls/dance memes. (No offense to people who may have been moved by the fad but If I see another Harlem Shake video on my social media feed I will go crazy.)

Admittedly, I've found a few clips that were quite entertaining/interesting enough to keep me company. My turn to share.

Jimmy Fallon + Justin Timberlake and the history of rap and hiphop.
Two white boys paying homage to rap and hiphop without coming off as cheesy? Tres cool. Plus I'll always have a geeky crush on Jimmy Fallon so yay! =) Here's part one and part two-three

The City is London - Ithaca Audio Mashup
I've written about Ithaca Audio and their mashups before and I'm glad they're back with some new good ones. Plus they've featured artists from London! Woot woot!

What Would You Do is a show that tries to get reactions from normal people when faced with awkward situations. The first one I saw was the one where customers taunted a store clerk with Down Syndrome. Interesting way to observe human behaviour; some clips have been inspirational, some have just been shocking.

The dog that cannot fecking run.
I'm not usually moved by animal videos but this poor little pug is super adorable. Inspiring too. 

Managed to find some full performance sets online, including sessions at the superfamous Abbey Road Studios and actual footage of the BBC Electric Proms. How awesome is that? My favourites so far: Foals' set on BBC Radio 6 Sessions and Alt-J's set live on KEXP. SCORE!

And of course, because they say laughter is the best medicine....

VJ Greg!
This never gets old.

Teehee. That last pick really gave my abs a workout from laughing. I'm exhausted. Hahaha!
Let me now get back to my bed. The flu beckons a sleep-sparring session.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Dumpling's Legend - where xiao long bao and claws came out pt 1

Something didn't feel right when I got back from my end-of-year Asia trip. It bugged me a lot as it was not the usual post-holiday blues and felt worse than the rubbish weather I came home to. There was no telling what it was until I walked past Chinatown on my way to meet a friend. For some weird reason I stopped in front of a restaurant, gazed at the window and the answer came to me: I had post-xiao long bao depression.

Such serious situation needed to be dealt with so I called my girlfriends and we headed off to Dumpling’s Legend for a serious war of diets and a serious serving of xiao long bao. There was a long queue for tables but we managed to charm the hostess as we walked in. As soon as we were seated we ordered two servings of XLB: one spicy, one classic. At £6 for eight pieces per serving this was such a treat.

The little soldiers came soon and powered by a hunger I've not felt in a while, I picked one. It wasn't exactly love at first sight - it looked a bit too thick-skinned and a tad too tall. It didn't move as smoothly and it didn't look as promising as the ones that came before. I had a sudden fear that it won't be good enough, that it's not going to satisfy, that this was a doomed choice to begin with. But I had to give it a chance. Substance over form.

The first bite was good enough to land second base. 

Yes, we are still talking about dumplings. 

I shared the spicy pork XLBs with The Don and it was quite tasty. There was enough broth and the heat kick definitely came afterward. The filling was porky enough and you can see from the specks of chili that they've upped the spice level for those who like their food hot. I guess my only problem with this was the major aftertaste of chinese five spice (I'm really not a fan of anything aniseedy). Admittedly, it was bearable once I ate it with the soy-vinegar and ginger sauce but I'm not a huge fan of having to add sauces on food. 

I didn't try the classic pork XLBs because the aftertaste of the spicy ones put me off a bit but G&T both seemed to enjoy it. Nonetheless, I was somehow pleased my craving was satisfied. But they were no Din Tai Fung (and I know that even DTF do not serve the best XLBs).

And of course we didn't stop there.

We had some sir-fried morning glory (aka overpriced kang kong at  £7.80) and stir-fried beef with chinese broccoli (£10.80). Both dishes were pretty average. The meat was tender and the broccoli was cooked just the way I liked it (crunchy stalks and firm leaves) but flavour-wise, I wasn't totally moved. Pushed, maybe.

Our last dish was possibly what saved the night. Surprisingly.

I do apologise for the lack of photographic skill but hello, black pepper crab! At £15.50, this is 'reasonably priced' for London standards. We were crazy for the sauce. It had a nice consistency, silky but thick and not gloopy, with a good balance of sweet-salty-spicy flavour (even G who has low spice tolerance enjoyed it), and it did not overpower the sweetness of the crab. The crab itself was meaty and there was quite a lot of it hidden under all that sauce! I swear they threw in an extra claw or two. Possibly even three. I had no shame grabbing the last few legs, I was really happy with this dish.

Overall I'd say our dining experience was just alright. The service was brisk but attentive despite a busy night and I guess we were lucky we didn't have to queue. As for the food, I think it was a decent enough meal and that crab was super delicious. However I did go there for XLB and as I've only tried the spicy ones (which apparently is the least favourite), I can't rate them yet on the first date. So I'll give this restaurant another chance later on but overall, I think I somehow got over my post-xiao long bao depression with a little help from my friends. 

And that extra crab claw. 

15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London, W1D 6JE | +44 020 7494 1200
Ave spend pp £20. Set meals start from £14pp