Japanese restaurant Akasiro
8 Little Newport Street
WC2H 7JJ London
Reviewed on Sunday 31 May 2009
View of the counter
This is my 6th review of Akasiro in 2 months! We really enjoy this basic but good Japanese restaurant and the staff are always very friendly and efficient. This time we had as first courses the age dashi tofu (£4.50) and buta kakuni (£5) followed by a tonkatsu (£9.50) and a sashimi set (£11.50). We were a little stressed by work so we had 4 bottles of Asahi beer.
First, the beer was very nice. Unlike many places the beer here comes really cold and it is very refreshing during this rare hot period of spring weather. The buta kakuni, which is a braised pork belly, was quite good and its taste reminded me the ones I used to eat in Japan when I was a child. The age dashi tofu was good but we think the portion has shrunk a little compared to the time this place was Zipangu. Still, it was hot and tasty. The tonkatsu was nice and crispy, maybe a little bit overcooked and personally we prefer to have the bulldog sauce to add ourselves than to have it already on the plate. The sashimi set was also good but I wanted a larger portion The tuna was excellent and the wasabi was fresh so seriously hot… The kind that hits your sinus instantly.
Great cold Asahi beer
Age dashi tofu
Buta no kakuni (one piece is missing, I ate it before taking the photo...)
Cost and conclusion: it was £42.10 which is not bad considering beside the two first courses and the two main courses we had four bottles of beer and the Asahi beer isn’t cheap. We will be back! If you wish to read previous reviews of this restaurant, go to the list of restaurants by alphabetical order and at Akasiro you will find five other reviews.
Pakistani restaurant Al Mirage
215 Upper Tooting Road, Tooting
London SW17 7TG
Reviewed on Saturday 30 May 2009
Restaurant Al Mirage
After the not so great experience at Kolam we decided to go again to Al Mirage to get fantastic curry. It has been over two months since we ate there (click here for the 25 March 2009 review). What we like at Al Mirage is the modern, clean style. You have room between tables, something that cannot be said for most restaurants we’ve tried in this location. The staff are friendly and efficient too.
We (two people) were quite hungry so we saw big, maybe a little too big… As a starter we ordered the Special Mixed Grill made of four grilled chops, four seekh kebabs, four pieces of chicken tikka and one grilled fish (£12) and for main courses we chose the Balti chicken tikka massala (£6) and the Balti chicken korma (£5.50). As drink we had two sweet Lassi (£1.40 each). They provided some papadum ( thin crispy wafer) and a basic salad while we were waiting for the first course.
Salad and papadum
The Special Mixed Grill was excellent! They have the grill within the dining area behind the counter so you can see the lamb, seekh kebabs being chargrilled. It does generate some smoke but the ventilation is quite good, you can feel the wind sometimes. The pieces of chicken tikka were great, with some bits burnt giving a barbecue taste. The seekh kebabs were really good, with a nice spicy flavour and a little crispy on the outside. The grilled chops were good too but too tiny to really enjoy them. We were already starting to get full when the grilled fish included in this starter arrived. We forgot about it! The fish was excellent too. Firm enough inside and the coating was crispy and quite spicy. For just two people this starter can easily be the unique meal.
The Special Mixed Grill
In the plate
Detailled view of the chicken tikka, seekh kebab and grilled chop
We were still eating the chops, seekh kebabs and chicken tikka pieces when the fish arrived...
We were still eating the fish when the two currys and the butter naans arrived. The naans were hot, crispy on the outside and covered by butter. The currys were really good. The balti chicken korma was extremely creamy, with a delicious smooth and lightly spicy taste. The balti chicken tikka massala was also creamy but less so than the korma and also more spicy. We can clearly tell the chicken pieces were grilled before being put in the sauce. By the way there is plenty of sauce in the two meals for good use of the naans. The sweet lassi drink, which tasted a little like yoghurt, was good to fight against the hot spices.
Balti chicken korma
Balti chicken tikka massala
The naan bread and curry
Seekh kebab and fish from the starter mixed with the curry
Overview of the table
Cost and conclusion: this is the best place for eating curry in London! Definitely a better (less diner-like) surrounding and also better food too compared to the curry houses in the area and we did try almost all of them in that street! My minor complaint is about the timing between first course and main course. All the dishes arrived a little too quickly, which was ok but we would have wanted more time between them. Possibly the cook thought we were four as this starter was for four people but he could have looked at us or the waiter could have told him to wait a little. Still, all that for just a little over £26 is a very good value for money! We will be back!
60 Upper Tooting Road, Tooting
London SW17 7PB
Reviewed on Thursday 28 May 2009
Kolam Indian restaurant
We had intended to go to to Al Mirage since it has been a long time since we were there. On the way, we noticed Kolam and its promotion of £15 for two for two starters, two currys, two bread or rice, and a bottle of wine. Actually it is the bottle of wine that caught our attention since many restaurants in this area are Pakistani and alcohol free. So can we eat well for a little over the price of two fastfood menus?
Outside, the restaurant looks small but inside it is pretty long to the point to waitress has to walk to come near your table to check everything is all right. It is decently decorated. It does not look like an ordinary curry “diner” but more like a comfortable restaurant (with tablecoths, etc). For the starters the requirement from that £15 deal was to take a South India starter. The menu is quite extensive so the choice was in no way restricted. We chose a dosai masala and a dosai “special” masala. A dosai is a crepe stuffed with potato curry, onion and for the “special” masala it also had some chicken. It is a meal that can be eaten for breakfast too, apparently. They were both good, with crepes that were crispy on the outside. They were surprisingly spicy, and even hot. The two sauces were good too. The green one was served cold while the other one was warm. I do not know enough about Indian food to tell what they were exactly. It is a very filling meal. Seriously, after eating it we wondered how we were going to eat the main course! As main courses, we had to choose between currys and we decided on the spicy chicken vindaloo curry and a chilli chicken curry. We had a problem with them: they were both very spicy, which is fine as we are both into hot spices, but they were WAY too salty. The vindaloo was salty but could be handled. The chilli chicken was just too salty. It was more salty than spicy (and it was seriously spicy, so that tells you about the amount of salt). The two currys looked similar but had different taste in case you wonder about it looking at the photos below. The naans could not soak up the salt. They were on the heavy, dense kind of naan. They could be good if things were not that salty. The wine included in the menu was a bottle of Marcel Hubert dry red. It is of course a cheap wine that costs around £3 but it was not too bad. If you do a search for that wine you can find other restaurants charging about £10 for this same wine!
Marcel Hubert red wine included in the £15 menu for two.
Not too bad for a cheap wine
Inside the dosai
The sauces served with the dosai
Naan and vindaloo curry
Chilli chicken curry
Details of the vindaloo curry
Cost and conclusion: two starters, two main courses and a bottle of wine for £15. Hard to beat it! Just too bad the currys were so incredibly salty because the surrounding was pleasant, the waitress very nice… Without that problem (which completely ruined the meal), it would be a good value for money and we can only think and hope it was a one time mistake. In the area, you have Al Mirage if you are into curry (2 minutes walk toward Tooting Broadway) and the Kings Head if you are looking for a pub (same way as for Al Mirage but it is closer).
French restaurant Bellevue Rendez-vous
218 Trinity Road, Wandsworth Common
SW17 7HP London
Reviewed on Tuesday 26 May 2009
French restaurant Bellevue Rendez-vous
We have been many times in this excellent French restaurant next to Wandsworth Common (click here for the previous review done 8 May 2009).
First courses: the scallops were excellent! They arrived piping hot, and were beautifully crispy on the outside, with perfectly cooked inner and nicely tender coral. The presentation was very pleasing, as the scallops came in their shells. I love scallops, and these were amongst the best I’ve had in a long time – so certainly memorable and excellent value. The parma ham and celeriac was also very good, and also with a pleasing presentation. The celeriac was very light and made a nice complement to the ham (possibly a touch of vinaigrette may have enhanced).
In main meals – both were excellent. The rabbit was perfectly cooked, sliding easily off the bone. The meat was wonderfully tender, whilst the outside was nicely browned and flavoursome. Rabbit is an excellent meat (which I’ve had several times in this resturant) that makes a wonderful meal when as well cooked as it was here. What is really nice about this restaurant is their flexibility and readiness to suggest dishes you may like. The salmon was not technically on the menu – but after some discussion with Pablo (chef and owner) about a pan-fried cod and other dishes, we accepted the suggestion of pan-fried salmon instead. It was a good choice! The salmon was cooked to perfection – with a fantastically crispy skin and moist tender inside. The sauce was wonderfully creamy with a hint of ratatouille sauce giving a nice touch. The 2006 Cahors wine was very pleasing.
Nice Cahors wine
Parma ham with celeriac
The two starters
Panfried salmon with asparagus
Rabbit with white asparagus
Fondant au chocolat
Gâteau de Pablo
The two desserts
Cost and conclusion: it was £71.50 for a 3 course meal for two, with a bottle of Cahor red wine (£17) and an espresso (£1.50). The service charge is not included into the total bill which is nice and should be followed by all restaurants. We think this place offers the best value for money in London and it is very reliable. It is about the 10th time we come here and the meals were always good.
Japanese restaurant Okawari
16 Lisle Street
London WC2H 7BE
Japanese restaurant Okawari
Instead of going to our usual Akasiro we decided to try Okawari which is on the same street as Tokyo Diner and Akasiro. From outside (see photo above) it does not look great but inside it is a lot more spacious with a modern design, although a little bland. It is possible to eat on a tatami on the floor (see photo below). Despite the place having a Japanese name, the people who served us were not Japanese but Chinese.
Inside the Okawari at Leicester
We were quite hungry so we decided to take two starters plus two bento boxes. We ordered the Agedashi Tofu (5 pieces, deep fried brean curd with ginger and spring onion served in a sweet soy sauce – £3.80) and a Tuna Tataki (raw tuna lightly cooked on the outside served with ponzu sauce – £9.90). The tofu was very good, quite warm and even a little crispy on the outside. The tuna tataki was very good too, and nicely presented with the sauce stored in the red pepper in the centre of the plate with all the slices of tuna around it. See the photos below!
The two Bento boxes we had were the Bento box B with pan fried fish, tempura, pickles, steamed rice and fried vegetables (£10.50) and the Bento box E with tonkatsu, tempura, pickles, steamed rice and salad (£10.50). We also had two Asahi beers (£5.60). I have to admit my choice with the Bento box B wasn’t the greatest as it had too many fried food. The grease got me quickly and I was not feeling very well. That said, my friend who took the Bento box B started with the tempura and the grease got her too and usually she can handle tempura quite well, so it was not just me. If you go there, take the Bento box A with deep fried chicken, sashimi (6 pieces), pickles, steamed rice and salad (£9.80) as it looks more balanced… The salad was full of mayonnaise, soaked in it in fact and it contributed to the grease factor. See photos below.
Bento box E
Bento box B
Detail of the way too greasy tempura
So few pickles and nasty salad overdone with mayonnaise
Bill and conclusion: the bill was a little over £44 including a service charge (not that visible since it was only written sc on the bill) but when I was handed the machine to pay with the credit card they dared to make it ask for a tip! I am already against the service charge automatically added to the bill but I never had a situation with a second service charge requested. Also, the waitress took my bill for putting the amount into the machine but did not give it back to me as I expected! When I asked, she just wrote the names of the dishes we ordered on a piece of paper. Another first time for us too!