Friday, 25 September 2015

Dozo: where you can get your Japanese fix without breaking the bank

Dozo's appeared on this blog a couple of times and it has to be said that my first visit was an absolute contrast to the second. Since then, it's been a relatively reliable spot for a quick Japanese fix with a fairly inexpensive price range to boot.

The floral decor on their sashimi platters is, quite frankly, cheesy and ridonculous but I have to admit the fish always tastes fresh and you really can't complain about three types of fresh sashimi for £14, non?

I can get a wee bit snobbish when restaurants serve salad leaves that seem shop-bought. Dozo's salad greens may seem like they've come out of a bag but I'm not one to complain about their soft-shell crab (£9.80) nor their salmon skin salad (£7.80) because they always hit a spot of comfort when I want something relatively healthy.

I never used to appreciate grilled eel until late last year when I had the most amazing unagi nigiri in Singapore. Dozo’s unagi kabayaki (£14.80) is a great option to satisfy that craving.

Dozo’s suzuki shioyaki (£10.80) is a good option for your Omega3 boost. It comes with its own pot of salt which I find clever, as you can season as you like.

The yakiniku (£16.80) is a decent option for beef eaters although make sure you tell them how you want it cooked otherwise it may come medium well (and slightly on the tough side).

Dozo does aburi, too. I’ve tried the otoro (£6.30) before and though it was a pretty decent bite, it was the salmon aburi (£3.80) that tasted better.

The volcano maki (£15.80) is a sushi roll creation that caters to the Western palate. It’s a roll of eel, leeks, avocado, topped with bonito flakes and swimming in a creamy concoction of “eel sauce” (I shudder at the thought of what goes in here) & mayo. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my sushi but I get why people go gaga for this.

The nasu dengaku (£6.80) is a superb treat. A humble eggplant fillet shines through in taste with an almost meaty texture. Flavour-wise it’s a veggie alternative to the gindara saikyo miso which I totes love.

Do you like fish jaw? If you do, Dozo offers hamachi kama (£9.80) and sake kama (£7.80). Both are good-sized portions with sufficient fish and good flavour.

I've previously mentioned how I find service in Dozo heaps better than its competitors. They're just more attentive and considerate and for the price you pay that's really good value for your pennies. The quality of food won't compare to high end Japanese restaurants like Roka but it's decent enough without making you feel like you've settled for something less. It's definitely a decent cheaper alternative.

Square Meal

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Cha Cha Moon (Kingly Court): where you step into a Wong Kar-wai film

I've walked past Cha Cha Moon countless of times but have never given it a second glance, primarily because in a quad filled with food-trend beauties (ie Wright Bros, Shoryu, Pizza Pilgrims, and soon the much anticipated Dishoom) CCM seems like the older sister whose beauty had faded into the limelight. But she's there and she still aims to please a crowd. 

Share a seat, win a friend?

Walking into the dimly lit space feels like walking into a scene from a Wong Kar-Wai film until you realise how chaotic the acoustics are. Punters are sat on sharing tables and it's a feat to have a proper conversation. My friend F and I couldn't hear each other so we asked to be transferred to the bar by the front (good vantage point for people watching). This noodle bar is definitely no space for secret gossiping nor confidential tête-à-têtes but a place for observing human nature.

Food is mainly Chinese (which may be slightly confused by the logo's noodle-type font - I thought it was South East Asian like Thai for yonks) with a focus on noodles, but they do have other Asian favourites too. Like dumplings.

I love me a good portion of Schezuan wonton especially when the weather calls in the sweaters. CCM's wontons (£5.25) weren't what I'd expected them to look like but they were very ballsy. 

The sauce could have been spicier but I was very happy with how much filling there was in each dumpling.

The mushroom and chestnut quotie (£4.95) was a different story. They looked incredibly amazing pan fried with sesame seeds seared on one side...

...but it was more dough than filling. And though there was an addictive crisp to the dough, I had hoped for a burst of that earthy, mushroom flavour.

The beef ho fun (£9) came plentiful of meat, a welcome break from all the noodles I've seen with extenders and little protein. The downside is that it was a little bit too salty. F couldn't finish it.

I was chatting way too much (because we couldn't hear each other!) until I realised I haven't perused the menu. In one quick glance I just pointed to the Malaysian fish and prawn curry (£9.95) with the hopes of having something comforting and homey.

My curry came in a yellow sauce so vibrant I had to shield my eyes. The seafood swam in this sea of curry and I prayed for my dear life that the fish and prawn weren't overcooked. 

They were slightly over indeed but there was a hefty amount of seafood in the mix. Surprisingly, the sauce I feared actually made the dish and I enjoyed eating it with the rice it came with more than the fish. I doubt its Malaysian authenticity but it was satisfying enough for a quick bite to eat.

Overall, Cha Cha Moon is not the best Chinese/noodle bar I can recommend. Nor is it the best place to catch up with friends. But if you're up for a quick bite to satisfy your Chinese comfort food cravings in between shopping along Carnaby Street then you can head down Kingly Court and grab a seat... if you can.

Cha Cha Moon
15-21 Ganton St, London W1F
Average spend pp: £25
Cha Cha Moon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoSquare Meal

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Monday, 21 September 2015

Ciao Milano! Duomo Cathedral

Milan Fashion Week is just around the corner and I can't wait to see iconic Italian brands strut their stuff on the runway.

But nothing depicts the city in a more stylish representation other than the iconic Duomo di Milano

It's the fifth largest church in the world and is definitely the most famous Gothic cathedral in Europe. Dare I say, it's the most flamboyantly beautiful church I've seen as well.

I mean... there are more statues in the Duomo than any building in the world, with a count of over 3,100! Most are seen on the church's exterior and atop the spires, including the the precious golden statue of the Madonnina or Little Madonna, the symbol of Milan. 

This magnificent cathedral took about six centuries to complete to look the way it does today. Restorations are still being done to make it even more spectacular but if you ask me, it's already such a mindblowing sight.

One thing you MUST do when visiting Milan is to walk along the rooftop and terraces of the Duomo. We opted to go up the stairs (all 300+ feet of it to burn off all the gelato we've eaten) which is not for the faint hearted nor the claustrophobic. You can opt to go up by the lifts... but where's the fun in that, non?

Up the roof, you can have a closer look at the intricate details of the cathedral including the bas relief statues, gargoyles, etc. But the highlight for me is seeing the amount of work and care put into the forest of spires, each mounted with a statue of important Milanese and biblical characters. The highest spire stands over 100 meters and holds the Madonnina. There is actually a law that states no building in Milan should go past this spire's height.

In recent years, the rooftop terraces have housed art installations including Cracking Art Group's  blue snails and British sculptor Tony Cragg's Paradox.

The views are also amazing, you get to see Milan's cityscape and skyline (can you spot the Unicredit needle?). On the clearest of days, you can even view the Alps from up there!

Inside the Duomo is a different story. Despite tourists roaming around, there is definitely something calming about the place. It's breathtaking in its own right, with glass stained windows lit from the inside depicting Milan and Catholic history; Pellegrini's altars; mindblowing statues including Marco d'Agrate's St Bartholomew carrying his own skin; the Trivulzo candelabrum; the #fwis and #ihavethisthingwithfloors worthy marble flooring; and the red bulb atop the apse where one of the nails used in Jesus's crucifixion was supposedly placed, the beautiful 52 pillars that represent each week of the year, etc.

Make sure you dress (relatively) conservatively when you decide to walk inside the church for whatever purpose. Shoulders need to be covered and cleavages must be kept safe under your jumpers!

The Duomo is truly an amazing sight. It's rather captivating and intriguing in architecture and construction (especially when you consider they didn't have it easy many centuries ago). You clearly can't miss it when visiting Italy's fashion, commercial and financial centre, but more than taking selfies in front of it to tick the tourist bucket list, do take some time to explore it and appreciate its beauty and be mindblown. You seriously won't regret it.

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