Monday, 31 May 2010

Etxeko Jana, part 2

I don't think we have ever been on holidays somewhere and gone back to the same restaurant twice but there were a few reasons for us going back to Etxeko Jana:
  • as mentioned before, not that many great recoms for dinner in Bilbao (at a reasonable price)
  • the night we were there before, the table behind us shared a lovely steak which I had a craving for
  • I wanted to get to dessert the 2nd time around!
So we decided to head back to Etxeko Jana on our last night in town.....again the restaurant was very quiet (it opened at 9pm and people did not start arriving until around 10pm) and at one point I was even thinking what a shame it was that not more people were eating here!!

Anyhoo, we ordered more sensibly this time and had another lovely dinner before rolling out the door and waddling back to our hotel :)
Galician style octopus with paprika and olive oil - not bad but very large pieces and some a little on the chewy side!

Ham croquettes - tasty but would've been even nicer if they were piping hot (which they were not)

What we came back for, chuletón - T-bone steak for 2 served with chips and side salad..mmmm!

My dessert of puff pastry custard slice with vanilla ice cream 

JD's dessert of Basque caramelised cream cake

I have not seen Etxeko Jana being recommended in many of the guidebooks or blogs which I have come across but if you happen to be visiting Bilbao any time soon, I do recommend you pop in for dinner at least once if not twice :)

Holliers in País Vasco

JD and I are currently slumming it for a week or so in the Basque Country - we arrived here in the middle of last week and had a few days hanging out in Bilbao. So far, its been great.....catching a few sights, chowing down some pintxos and other nice food. The weather sadly has not been been brilliant but luckily, it hasn't dampened our spirits :)

We have been staying in a hotel in the old town of Bilbao which is a very central location and very handy for heading out to the famous Siete Calles area for pintxos. This is a pic of the place we hit on our first night out, Irrintxi. We sat by the bar, ordered a few drinks from the bar man. He handed us a plate and off we went.....grabbing whatever we fancied....they are very trustworthy here - you just have to remember how many tasty morsels you had when you are done and pay up before you go :) 

This may seem hard to believe but it was a bit of a struggle trying to find places to head for dinner in Bilbao. On our first night, we decided to head for a resto specialising in Basque cuisine called Etxeko Jana which was a little bit down the river from your hotel. We arrived after 9pm only to find the restaurant pretty empty - the Spaniards like to dine late! Since we had not eaten much during the day, we went a bit overboard with the ordering and ended up with way too much food. (what's new?), most of it good with one completely mystery dish which we are still undecided about :)
After a bit of research on the Internet, I have now found out that this is a kind of eggy-tomatoey terrine with flakes of scorpion that we ordered - it was called Kabratxo pudding on the menu and we thought we were going to be getting blood wrong were we??? It was OK but pretty rich (now we know why!!!!) and probably not something we would order if we knew what it was !!!

Another starter, the famous txangorra or baked spider crab - a local speciality and very tasty it was too!

My main of bacalao pil-pil - salt cod served with an olive oil and garlic emulsion, again a very Basque dish. Nice but  at this point, I was very stuffed and the emulsion is very rich when your belly is getting full ;)

JD's main of hake with potatoes, onions and garlic - very tasty.

Unfortunately, we didn't have any room for desserts (we had also ordered a 3rd starter of ratatouille!!) which was a shame but all in all, a good dinner.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Restos, c'est finit

So this post may come as a surprise to some but I have decided to quit my job at resto no. 2, one of the main reasons being that I just haven't been able to come to terms with working 16+ hours a day (and working 4 of these babies consecutively even though we have more staff in the team than we have ever had??). Some of the other reasons include:
  • the feeling of firefighting continuously at work and always being on the back foot
  • still not getting any kick out of doing service (if it was a good one)
  • not getting excited by any of the desserts we were making
  • not thinking that I would learn much more if I continued to stay
  • having a pastry chef who frankly wasn't up to par and had negligible team management or people skills
  • missing "baking" and wanting to work more in a shop environment because that's ultimately the environment that I myself might work in
When I did hand in my notice, naturally the "powers that be" weren't all that happy with my decision but I wasn't prepared for what assholes they would be and frankly, their behaviour validated my decision.

Anyhoo, its finished now and I am now off on hols for a week or so to relax for a little before deciding what my next step will be......I have a few things going on so watch this space :)     

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Sunday chowing @ Wahaca

JD had a burrito craving so we decided to grab a bite to eat at Wahaca on Sunday before heading to the flicks to see "Bad Lieutenant". Film was OK but the food for me was better :)
My main of fish tacos which were pretty good. JD ordered a steak burrito which was also good but not as good as the ones he had had in Cali last summer. We also ordered some quesadillas which were pretty decent.

Dessert of churros with chocolate - OK but a bit greasy

Monday, 24 May 2010

A spot of baking - alfajores

I recently borrowed Pim's foodie guidebook from the library for a peruse and came across a recipe she had for alfajores (yummy Argentinean cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche). I decided to try it out on my day off with mixed results. As a pastry chef, I should've known better than to attempt the recipe without the full amount of ingredients but decided to chance my luck and go ahead sans 20g butter(!). Needless to say, I got into trouble as my resulting dough was just not wet enough meaning that it was virtually impossible to roll it out and cut into cookies. I then had to use all my pastry chef guile to rescue said dough and in the words of Tim Gunn, "make it work". After incorporating a bit of milk into the dough, a bit of chilling in the fridge and some delicate dough-handling, I managed to salvage my hard work and produced some alright looking and tasting alfajores. The consistency of the biscuit was a bit stodgy for liking (there is a lot of cornflour in the recipe) so will need to look into that then next time I make them.....oh, and remember that all important 20g butter!! ;)


After a gruelling 4-consecutive double shift stint (64 hours+), it was time for a couple of days rest and also some nice food. After a bit of research on the interweb, I found out that there was a nice Japanese restaurant a couple of tube stops away from us (Ealing Common) so we decided to try it out a couple of Friday nights back. The restaurant is called Kiraku and serves izakaya-style (Japanese pub) food as well as some nice sushi and sashimi. Nice meal and very polite service.......would definitely recommend it over our other local, Tosa and price wise, very reasonable :)
Grilled mackerel with salt - a simple dish but always very tasty. The one we had at Asakusa was probably a little better but this version wasn't too bad. The long white and pink specimen was some kind of pickled ginger, methinks?

Boiled spinach with sesame

Shishamo (smelt fish) - was introduced by my Korean friend as a popular izakaya snack. The fish are grilled and then you eat them whole. These were really yummy and way better than the ones I had at Sakura......JD wasn't a great fan though 

Grilled aubergine with sweet miso sauce - nice but the miso is too sweet for me - have never been able to fully appreciate this dish

Fried chicken (tori karagge)

Soft shell crab roll

I can't remember the name of this but it was very good - eel, cucumber, egg and tobiko roll

Zaru udon

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Brighton eating - Jamie's Italian

For our final meal in Brighton, we decided to try out Jamie Oliver's new chain of restaurants, Jamie's Italian. It was conveniently located on the street next to our hotel meaning that we could pop in for lunch and then pick up our bag after before heading home. The restaurant was packed to the gills at lunchtime - cue "ka ching" for Mr Oliver!!

The decor of the restaurant was not what I was expecting at all - it reminded me more of a US steakhouse than rustic Italian restaurant. The food was pretty good though, a notch better than Carluccios but not cheap. I'm glad we got to try out the restaurant in Brighton but am not sure whether I would make the trip across town to the Canary Wharf branch when back in London :)
  Our starters of antipasti board and rustic tomato soup - our table was too small to fit everything so we were provided with a couple of canned tomatoes so the antipasti could then perch on them!

My main of clam linguini - very nice and the addition of cherry tomatoes and chilli gave it an extra oompf :)

Brighton eating - Riddle and Fins

Since we were by the sea, it seemed fitting that our one dinner in Brighton would be in a fish/seafood restaurant. After a bit of research on the web, we decided to head to Riddle and Fins - a popular champagne/seafood bar. We had a bit of a problem trying to find it in the afternoon (it is situated in the Lanes which is a warren of windy pedestrianised streets) but after a bit of guidance from the hotel reception, we found it no problem come dinnertime.

It was a lot more casual than I had expected (the whole of Brighton just has a laidback vibe though) - food was great but service was a little haphazard. I'm never too fussy about service generally but you definitely notice it when you get bad service :)
JD's starter of pan fried squid with chilli sauce - some of the best squid he has ever eaten, very fresh and super tender

My starter of crab cakes - nice but not outstanding (I really wanted to try their razor clams but unfortunately, they were not on the menu on the night)

 JD's main of crab linguini - nice but not "Sardo" nice :)

 My main of pan fried skate with caper butter - very simple but so delicious

JD's dessert of chocolate brownie - OK but my version is better and more chocolatey :)

My dessert of rhubarb pannacotta - perfect flavourwise, the only minor flaw was that it was not wobbly enough!!

Brighton eating - Bill's

Bill's came highly recommended in a magazine in our hotel room so we decided to head there for lunch and see what all the fuss was about. It's a pretty funky, part yuppy supermarket and part cafe/deli. We arrived early for lunch but the place was packed within half an hour, demonstrating just how popular it is with Brighton folk. Nice lunchtime food (think salads and sandwiches), great juice combinations and yummy (if not aesthetically pleasing) cakes :)
Cheddar buck rarebit - posh cheese on toast with some spinach, very good (JD ordered the steak sandwich, a little pricey but you get what you pay for - highly recommended!)

House salad