Sunday, 28 April 2013

Shoryu, Take 2: where I thought love could be better the second time around

Some people say love is better the second time around. I loved my first experience at Shoryu so much I was cocksure the second time would be nothing short of amazing. 

I mean. How can you not love a ramen bar with super cute - and proper - tea pots?

Exactly.

K joined the ramen posse and the conversation flowed like tonkotsu broth: smooth, silky and punched with lots of flavour.
The married ladies
The not so married ladies

I really miss Japanese street food so I ordered chikuwa fishcakes (£4) to start. Chikuwa is a traditional Japanese snack made of mixed minced seafood and shaped like a tube. The texture and colour, when cooked right, is similar to grilled cuttlefish. Shoryu's fishcakes are panko-crusted and they looked so pretty lined up on the plate.

I didn't realise they were actually cocoons of cheese (of course the menu said 'chikuwa-cheese fishcake' but I was too lazy to bother reading the description) and only found out when I had my first bite. K's face popped in surprise as the cheese popped out and fell onto my napkin. Oops.
I enjoyed it for all the right reasons. It was perfectly crunchy, delightfully chewy, extremely cheesy. It may taste a bit salty for some, though.

We also got the soft-shell crab tempura (£6). Of course.
Hello love, we meet again.
I wanted to be a bit adventurous with the ramen and decided to order something I probably wouldn't have picked so I asked for the tori kara-age men (£9.90) with normal hosomen noodles (you can choose gluten-free rice noodles with this dish). I was super looking forward to my ramen fix - it was all I could think about the whole day - so I immediately dug in.  
Toppings:
nitamago (egg), kikurage (wood-ear mushroom), kelp,naruto (fish cake)
nori, spring onions, mushrooms, spring onions, fried chicken, sesame seeds 
I was a wee bit disappointed with the shiitake konbu soy-based broth, if I'm being honest. Fair enough, it was tasty but I thought there was something amiss. It wasn't bland but I had to douse it with some sesame and chili oil and vinegar to make it 100% perfect. 

But hey... with cute little toppings like this slice of naruto, it's really difficult for the dish to be unforgivable.

And the hosomen noodles are still still the bouncy-springy-chewy type of delicious.

Overall, everyone was pretty pleased.

So... was Shoryu-love better the second time around? Well, it's definitely different. It's a tiiiiny bit disappointing (for my ramen) but like anything you give second chances to, there was a fondness brought about by familiarity and there was still something new and exciting to try. Someone told me love is a choice and perhaps in a way this relates to that night. The experience boiled down to my choices and truth be told, I still enjoyed the overall dining experience. 

I still think Shoryu has the best ramen in town.

9 Regent Street, London, SW1Y | No reservations, walk-in only
VISIT THE POP UP STORE ON 3 DENMAN STREET, LONDON W1D 7HA AND ENJOY 50% OFF THE RAMEN MENU
Average spend: £10pp for ramen, £20 with sides, dessert and drinks (I had a recommended sake)

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Filo Supper Club: Com Viet & Carluccio's

A few days after I met up with Ate T, our Filo supper club decided to have dinner at Com Viet again. We were booked a table downstairs, which was a completely different atmosphere from the upstairs 12-seater area.

Side A: The married couples                                                                         Side B: Ate T and her 'adings'

Our little get-together was prompted by stylist PL's London visit. We all had to see his fabulous hair.

Most of the group ordered what Ate T and I had on our first visit so our table became a sea of spring rolls and noodles. I wanted to try something else so I had grilled bbq squid for starters (£6.90) and beef papaya salad (£8.50) for mains. The squid was marinated in some sort of seven-spice, garlic and onions. I loved that the squid was perfectly cooked. It was soft and had the right amount of chew.

I'm a bit of a pain when it comes to salads as I usually ask for the dressing on the side. That way I can taste the individual components first and assess how much dressing is needed. I forgot to ask this time and they may have gone a bit overboard (they also went nuts with the crushed nuts on top). Surprisingly the papaya strips, even the bottom bits soaking in the nuoc nam dressing, retained a nice fresh crunch. Pretty okay salad. I'd order it again but I'd make sure I share it with someone else.

The most interesting dish was R's bahn xeoh  (£7.80). It was basically a savoury crepe filled with prawn, pork and bean sprouts served with a wedge of lettuce, herbs and nuoc nam. You wrap strips of the pancake in the lettuce leaves and dip it in the sauce. I found this process strange but R thought it was nice so... okay.

We all went a wee bit shiny afterwards. Here's the group sans K (who took the photo) and The Don (who was ill).




We ended up at Carluccio's next door for afters as most dessert places were already closed. I was a bit hesitant because the last time I went to a Carluccio's franchise didn't fare well. The Covent Garden branch, however, was laid out in a really nice building and had a separate caf矇 space. We took over the big (and only) table in the room and it was nice because it felt as if we were just in someone's kitchen, having post-dinner coffee chit-chat.


The area also serves as space for their desserts, salad bar and their own line of ingredients for Italian dishes.

There's a little bit of something for everyone....







My choice: melon sorbet and almond macarons.

*burp* it was a good night indeed. Can't wait til our next supper adventure. =)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Com Viet: where comfort was served in a giant bowl


I once wrote about a lady who was quite an inspiration. On paper, we're entirely different people but since she and her husband moved to London and as we got closer through the years, we both saw how similar we are. (We even think we're starting to look alike.)
Of course, I had to be overly excited about my meal.
Last week, we met over dinner and the first thing she whisked out of her bag was the very thing that sealed our friendship. Exhibit A from 2008!
A friendship pact sealed with little packs of choco-nutty goodness!
It wasn't an extravagant pressie, but its significance moved me and I wanted to cry buckets of gratitude. It made me think about the first time I met her five years ago: she was a ball of warmth in the cold winter and a person so sweet and so comforting, just like the packet of ChocNut she brought for me. Exhibit B from last week!


 Dinner was at a Vietnamese restaurant in Covent Garden called Com Viet.

For starters we shared an order of the standard Vietnamese favourite, goi cuon tom (£4.80) or fresh spring rolls with prawn and rice vermicelli. The rolls were delicately and beautifully put together. The wrap held firm per bite and the amount of components were proportional so the balance of flavour was there. The dish had a fresh taste with just the right amount of herbs and the prawns really shone through. I find it strange that they served it with hoi sin sauce as I usually get goi cuon tom with nuoc nam at my usual Vietnamese haunts.

We also had the Ha Noi prawn cake (£6.80) which wasn't what I expected at all. I guess I thought I was getting something similar to those Thai prawn cake pucks but I got this instead:
Fried prawn and sweet potato, lettuce leaves, fresh mint and coriander, nuoc nam sauce
It was an interesting dish to eat eat as it was fairly 'interactive' and I'm a sucker for things where you get to choose how much of which goes where. The fried 'prawn cake' was actually pretty tasty on its own (sweet and salty) but having to wrap pieces of it in fresh lettuce leaves made it fantastic. The good thing? despite the cake being deep fried, it wasn't greasy at all.

Ate got herself a nice big bowl of chicken pho (£9.50) and as soon as they laid her bowl on the table I wish I'd gone for the same. It looked like a massive, steamy bowl of joy.

As usual, the veggies were served on the side. It was a vibrant plate of sprouts, fresh mint, coriander, chilies and, uh, a wedge of lemon (which was peculiar).

Her pho was so fragrant I wanted to dig in. But I patiently waited for mine because I was trying to be a good girl. =) Ate enjoyed it though and with every slurp she had I seriously had to stop myself from grabbing her bowl because it seemed so delicious.

I ordered barbecued pork loin with vermicelli noodles (£9.50) and we were both surprised when it came. It was the biggest plate of food I've seen in a while. Seriously, look! The diameter is practically the same length as my forearm!

I wondered whether I could finish the whole lot but the deconstruction of the dish reminded me of those portion control plates dieters use. The carbs here (bouncy vermicelli noodles that held together and remained firm even after being soaked by the nuoc nam), the veggies here (super fresh shredded lettuce, daikon, carrot, cucumber and coriander) and the protein there. Oh and they threw in a fried vegetarian spring roll too.

The pork was really good! It was salty, tangy, garlicky. I wondered what the marinade was but it reminded me of a subdued pork adobo. As they've chopped the loin into bite-sized pieces I worried they might have been overcooked and tough. I was wrong - every little piece was almost melt-in-your-mouth tender and packed with flavour. There was also enough fat - just the right amount to make it juicy and exciting.

Yes, the dishes were served in massive portions. Yes, we finished everything.

Our meal at Com Viet was the perfect fit for my company that night because in more ways than one it's a reminder of how I feel about her. The meal was fresh and light, which is exactly how I feel everytime we have conversations. It's comforting and reminiscent of home, like how she has been my adopted big sister faraway from family. And it definitely filled my happy belly just like how she fills my heart with such great joy.

Com Viet
4 Garrick St  London, City of London, Greater London WC2E 9BH | 020 7497 2779
Ave spend pp: £20 (no desserts, but there's a lot of caf矇s and froyo places around)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Six tracks for April 2013

So did you fall for YouTube's April Fools trick earlier this month? I did for a while. Annoyingly I did, until my alarm when off and I realised it was all a prank. Good one, at that. Heaps better than Google Nose!

Anyway here's the usual six-track playlist of the month.

The 1975 - Chocolate
The intro hook reminds me of the early '90s (Ace of Base - The Sign). The vocalist's hair reminds me of the mid '90s. The delivery reminds me of boy bands from the late '90s. You wouldn't think this is from a Mancunian indie-rock band would you? Off their third (and my favourite) EP 'Music for Cars', this track is catchy, kitschy, happy-go-lucky. Just like the '90s.

Peace - Higher Than The Sun
Super stoked that the debut album is finally out! The wait since Follow Baby and Bloodshake is over! The tracks are all pretty surf/sun stroke cool, which I find funny because these boys are English, where the weather is gray and the sun is elusive. 

Junip - Your Life Your Call
Jose Gonzalez and his band are releasing a new album end of this month and this is the second single released off it. It's as laidback as Mr Gonzalez himself but an awesome tune for sunny days and getaways, too.

My favourite track off Everything Everything's Arc album. It's one of those songs that aren't catchy but memorable enough to get stuck on repeat for ages. 

Noah And The Whale - There Will Come A Time
Don't you feel uplifted everytime you listen to a song by this band? There were some feel good folk-rock tunes off their previous LPs such as 5 Years Time, First Days of Spring, etc. Oh and how could we forget the 'pay it forward'-inspired video for Give A Little Love? This track has a different tone from the usual, but it still makes you feel really good after.

Cold War Kids - Miracle Mile
I miss hearing rock/alternative songs like this - songs that sound like they've been practiced heaps of times in a garage and songs that get everyone hyped when it's played. Then again that's how I always feel about tracks by Cold War Kids. =)

Enjoy! =)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Post-Break Up Phases


I've been chatting to a few friends who are feeling a bit glum and as much as I want to take their pain away I know it's not as easy. Getting by and reaching the complete phase of 'fine' takes a lot of patience, a lot of effort and a lot of time.

My personal healing process has five phases.

PHASE 1: UNTOUCHABLE



"Ouch!" factor is extremely high as everything feels fresh and shockingly deep. The hurt is so confusing and you spontaneously combust. You lose it when you hear a name/word/song or when you see a place. You are emotionally unstable and everyone's on tenterhooks around you. But, just like any other wound you can't put any 'antiseptic' just yet until you squeeze all the icky, possibly infected stuff. So you do everything to exhaust all that. Cry over sad films/songs. Vent to your friends then tell them you don't want to see anyone just yet. Scream at the top of your lungs. Deactivate and reactivate your profile on the social networks. Have a drink to remember, have two to forget.

In this phase, you can get away with being ever so slightly irrational, but remember that you can never get away with not showering for days.


PHASE 2: SPRING CLEAN

One day you will chance upon your reflection or a fairly recent photo of yourself and panic because you seem to have aged a hundred years since the first "Ouch!" moment. You finally realise how things have dragged you and your facial epidermis down and that you really need to take action. So you invest in makeovers: physical (hair-chops and colour, spa treats), lifestyle (room change, taking in more work, a new diet or health regime), spiritual (prayer or peer group).

In this phase, you will throw out stuff from your 'box of memories' like a few receipts and that stuffed animal you got for a special occasion (which you thought was a sweet gesture then but in total honesty you would've preferred something more practical). You will still hold on to some letters because you're just not quite ready to let go of some old things yet, but you are ready to embrace a brand new you.


PHASE 3: FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT


The "Ouch!" factor in this phase is tricky because it usually surprises you at the worst timing ever. With your new makeover(s) you feel a new sort of energy: you think you're ready and that you're okay... until you hear or see something that takes you down again. Like finding an old photograph hidden in your purse on a first date or bumping into the ex with his new flame. So what to do?

Fake it 'til you make it. Throw the photo away. Walk away from the couple or strut directly past them and pretend they're nobodies.

This phase requires a whole lot of willpower because getting past it depends on how much effort you put into it. You have to plaster a smile on your face no matter what, kinda like having Botox without Botox. Unhappy? Force yourself to laugh and smile. Or watch VJ Greg. Not in the mood? Go out, be with good friends. Demotivated? Tell yourself you will be fine. Out loud. Don't believe it? Say it a thousand times until you do. Say it a thousand times more and you will.


PHASE 4: BAND AID


The "Ouch!" factor is not as high anymore and the only way to feel the pain is when it's self-inflicted. The determination to move on is stronger, but you're actually not conscious of it because it just comes naturally to you. You finally realise that the world is moving on and you've got a lot of catching up to do.

At this stage, you have accepted your fate and you also realise that you're so ready to go out there and try again. You go back to phases 2 and 3 until you realise that you've thrown away all the letters and stuff from your box and that your fakery is actually genuine enough for you to say you're fine without forcing a smile as you do. Sure, the scars are still there but you only see it when you take the bandages off. Most of the time, you won't even notice. You've reached a sort of zen-like/comfortably numb stage and you can finally see sunshine again.


PHASE 5: TITANIUM


This phase is the most surprising because you can never tell when it is going to happen. It's hard to explain, but usually it goes like this. You will wake up one day feeling different. It would seem like you've finally let go of everything and the feeling of loss is replaced by a rather strange feeling of redemption.

You will search for your scars and you will feel them there but the hurt is gone. You will feel tougher as you are actually unaffected by their presence. You will feel better as you recognise the brand new you is excited for the things to come. You will feel smarter because you know a lot more about yourself and that though love maybe crazy and stupid, you most definitely are not.

And if anyone asks you if you are okay? You only have one real, genuine answer.


♣ ♣ ♣

Some heartbreaks heal quicker than others but they're all the same in a sense that we have to go through them to love ourselves more, to appreciate people who care for us (especially family and friends) and most importantly to learn. There's no time pressure in moving on - we all go through these phases differently. But remember: it all starts with your own individual desire/attempt to move forward. Scars will always be a part of your history but you are always going to be in control of what lies beneath and what goes on.


And don't forget: there is always going to be someone better, someone who will fill the void you never realised was there, someone who will love you more than you think one ever could.


And because I can't think of anywhere else to put this...



Ryan Gosling GIFs from here, here and here.