Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Lunch at Mr Arepas

I had first heard of arepas from one of my Spanish teachers who said they were one of her favourite things to eat and if we ever get the chance, we should try them. Arepas originally come from Colombia and Venezuela (and can also be found in some other countries) and sadly, I have not visited either country and cannot tell what the original arepa tastes like. Surprisingly, there is place in town that serves arepas which seemed like a great lunch idea.

Mr Arepas is a hole in the wall joint in Temple Bar serving arepas. It looks it caters to takeaway orders mostly but there are a few seats for people wanting to sit in; bit of a godsend as it was peeing down with rain outside when I arrived.

I plumped for the Pabellón which was an arepa with shredded beef, black beans, plantains and cheese. Not much of a looker but very tasty and super filling. The arepa tasted like a cross between grilled polenta and cornbread to me, yum! If I had one tiny criticism, it would be that parts of the arepa will a little burnt. Still, its hard to be for 5 yoyo which 
includes a can of soft drink :)

Saturday, 21 July 2012


The last time we were back in the Emerald Isle, we had popped into Crack Bird and Jo' Burger for a bite to eat and were impressed by both dining options. Since then, Joe Macken has gone from strength to strength and has now established a mini empire of eateries in the capital. Probably the most high profile of those is Bear, thanks partly to it being co-owned by an Irish and Leinster rugby player. 

I had a passed by the resto on one of my days in town so suggested that perhaps we try it our for an early Saturday dinner. Despite being around 7pm, the resto was pretty full (note to self: irish folk dine early) Service was polite but our waitress didn't exactly explain the cuts of meat to us very well (for example, meat is either tender with not so much flavour (fillet) or has more flavour and not so tender (rump) - it cannot be both). JD kept on having another waiter bump into him thanks to the tables being so close together which got a little irritating. Finally, our bill was tallied up wrong but was rectified by none other than Mr Macken himself (only figured who he was after we came home). Despite the service not being perfect, the food was pretty tasty and portions were generous. A real shame that having had such a nice meal, there was no desserts or tea/coffee options. I do not have a very sweet tooth but our meal just felt unfinished. A case of a chef who has focussed too much on the first 2 courses and does not care/possess the skills required for anything sweet, a real shame.....
Flank steak for 2 with chips, buttered leeks and beets - delicious! 
Cup of coffee and something sweet to finish would make this pretty perfect.....

Friday, 20 July 2012

Port House Dundrum

Our first Friday night out in the Emerald Isle took us to Dundrum to catch the latest Batman movie. Luckily for us, the shopping centre did offer numerous dining options and we plumped an evening of tapas at the Port House. A very extensive menu, with food tasting fresh and very quickly served. Remain unconvinced by the layout of the resto (large chimney in the middle with two tiny gaps on either side for access, one of which was a till area and the other hard to get by even with a normal person sat at the table, never mind a slightly fatter person!) and tables could be a little bigger - we had ordered so much we were practically having to eat and hold plates of food at the same time....
Poor design

Luckily, the food made up for the cramped surroundings - marinated anchovies and olives

Assorted croquetas - mushroom, chicken and ham. Ham was probably the best with the other two a little too stodgy.


Tortilla with txistorra

Pan amb tomaquet

Patatas bravas

Grilled lamb chops - yummy!

Roasted haddock - delicious and fresh fish


Baked Sierra Nevada - nice idea but too cloying and over-sweet

FYI, do not go to the cinema in Dundrum - the seats are so low that there are booster seats available out front, thought babies only needed these??

Friday, 13 July 2012

Last meal in London - Koguryo

It seemed a little daunting at first but our stuff is finally packed and the flat is now cleaned and ready to be returned to the landlord. Knowing that we needed to keep everything clean for checkout, we decided to head out for dinner on our last night in town. Rather than go somewhere central, we took a risk and headed out to Staines (only a 20 minute drive from us) to try out a Korean resto that had a few reviews online.

A real bummer that we didn't find it sooner - pretty decent Korean food :)
Some "Engrish" moments in the menu......Bossam = "pork valley"?!

Rice wine = "Mak Gul Rye"??!! (makgeolli, perhaps?)


Afternoon tea at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

I had read in an industry mag earlier in the year that L'Atelier had a new pastry chef in the resto. This was confirmed later by my friend P who then insisted that I try out the new afternoon tea at L'Atelier that had now been revamped by new chef Joakim Prat. Time was a little tight between finishing up at work, going to NYC and packing up all our stuff for our big move but I managed to squeeze a little time during my last day in the big smoke to go and try the tea. Many thanks for the invite P - it was truly delicious :)

Mango mango - verrine with mango coulis, mango mousse, joconde biscuit and exotic fruit sorbet

 Mini raspberry macaron with pistachio cream

Lemon and lime shortbread tart - my favourite of the set, the lime zest gave it the perfect zing!

Chocolate and coconut tart

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Le Gavroche

JD and I (well, mostly me) are regular viewers of Masterchef Professionals and admirers of Michel Roux Jr. Over the last few years, we had been thinking about having a meal at Le Gavroche but couldn't justify it with the exorbitant prices being charged. This year, we were given the opportunity to go there as JD's siblings very kindly and generously gave us a dinner voucher as JD's Chrimbo pressie. Despite not having to worry about the financial part of the dinner, we then had to find a suitable time to go - not easy, with JD doing a lot of travelling for work, working crazy hours and Le Gavroche not open 7 days a week. I tried ringing around February time to get a reservation only to be told that you need to book around 2-3  months ahead for Friday/Saturday evening seating and all they had left for the next few weeks was Monday/Tuesday seatings at either 6:30pm or 9:30pm??!! With such limitations, we decided to try and book a table for our 10 year anniversary in July. You would think that this would be relatively straightforward planning ahead in February but think again! Le Gavroche's booking system only allows diners to book 3 months in advance, meaning that I would have to ring back in April for a reservation in July.

As it happened, the day the reservations opened in April, I was in the middle of criss-crossing Belgium/France to try and get home and forgot to ring until around midday whilst on the Eurostar. Even at this early stage, no Friday/Saturday dinner times available for the whole month of July (again, unless you want to dine mega-early or mega-late). Our anniversary date was on a Friday so the only "reasonable" reservation I could make was for the day before on Thursday at 7:30pm. All this rigmarole for one dinner!! 

Fast forward a couple of months and our plans have changed drastically; we had made the decision that we would be leaving the big smoke with the actual leaving date around the time of our dinner reservation at Le Gavroche. I was back on the phone again to see if we could tweek our reservation to a more suitable date/time but alas no! The person at the other end of the reservations line seemed bemused at how utterly ridiculous this was........changing times/dates a month prior to our dinner??!!! In the end, we coordinated our moving plans to accommodate this dinner and as you can imagine, with all the hoops we had to jump through to get our coveted table, I was less than enthusiastic about our meal (oh, and one more thing, gentlemen must wear a jacket!)  

Le Gavroche's dining room is like being time-warped back to the 1970s and is very, very old school. Service was very attentive and polite but to the point of being excessive and trying too hard. As it happens, 7:30pm is a very early time to be dining at Le Gavroche as we were one of the only tables to be seated at this time. The dining room had so few diners that we could clearly hear chef Michel shouting his orders out to his brigade in the kitchen - not quite sure whether that's the sort of ambiance you would like in a 2-Michelin star resto (at the time, I thought maybe he was shouting loudly at a bunch of inexperienced stagiaires or smthg?)

We toyed with the idea of trying the tasting menu but it looked a bit too much to get through so we decided to stick with the a la carte. We were almost regretting our decisions after eating our starters and main courses as we were still left hungry. Luckily, the desserts were rich enough that our tums were satisfied by the end of the meal. As mentioned before, our dinner voucher was more than generous for a meal for 2 (especially since JD does not drink and I am a bit of a lightweight too) but even so, the voucher just covered our meal of 2 starters, 2 main courses, 2 desserts, 2 tea/coffees, 1 glass of champagne, 1 glass of wine and 1 glass of dessert wine! There was only a fraction of the voucher left which cannot be refunded so the maitre d' gave us chef Michel's new cookbook as a substitute.  I am very grateful to JD's siblings for giving us the opportunity to try Le Gavroche. Unfortunately, when compared to other 2 Michelin star dining experiences that I have had (which I admit, are not many), this ranked as the least satisfactory which is a shame as I was hoping to like it more. Dommage :(
The corner of our banquette with Le Gavroche overlooking us

A very traditional dining setting - perhaps we are not the right demographic? (we were the youngest diners in the dining room)

Our nibbles of fish goujon (think they were lemon sole) and tartlets with smoked salmon and aubergine puree - these were delicious

Amuse of brown shrimp - nice but a little on the salty side. JD is allergic to shrimps, I offered to ask if we could have an alternative but he refused. I ended up with 2 plates of amuse.... 

My starter of L'assiette de crabe royal, including meat grilled with curry and another part deep fried (right side of the pic). My favourite part was the part of the left side with picked crab meat which was lightly dressed. It was the only part of the dish where I could really taste the true sweetness of the crab. Initially, I did not want to order this dish because it reminded of the French chef cliché of trying to make things "exotique" by adding curry. I don't think the curry added much to this dish.   

 Main of Dover Sole on the bone with langoustines, smoked aubergine and olive and white balsamic dressing. Everything was cooked perfectly with the highlight being the langoustines. The balsamic dressing tasted nice at first but became too sweet and cloying by the end. Disappointing that the dining room was so dim; as viewers of Masterchef Professionals will know, chef Michel emphasises the importance of presentation and eating with our eyes. Whilst the presentation was good, I could not experience the full colour of these dishes.

Raspberry and praline millefeuille - super rich but pretty tasty

Our desserts took a while to be plated. I think they were plated to go and then at the last minute, they were replaced on these plates. I had mentioned on one of my earlier phonecalls that we would like to come for our 10 year anniversary but since we could not secure the Friday night table, did not think anything more of it. Obviously, we were pretty  shocked when this arrived and I get the feeling that the waiting staff probably didn't believe us. Whilst it was a nice gesture, it seemed unnecessary. If I was being particularly harsh, a little pointless - for all they knew, we could be celebrating our actual anniversary with another dinner? 

Petits fours of coffee financiers, palet d'ors chocolate coated physalis and sesame tuiles

Chocolate coated orange peel and nougat - these were super yummy but my guess is they were not made in-house.