Cheap Meat Eats: Gyukatsu Motomura, Shibuya / 牛かつ もと村、渋谷


Japan, having spent a good few centuries not eating a lot of meat, doesn’t always get it quite right. I’ve had steak so tough I’ve had to discreetly spit it into napkins (to be fair, this is also a very common crime in the UK). I’ve also had meat treated like fish. Sometimes this can really good – as it turns out, semi-raw chicken with wasabi is great. But sometimes, this is absolute sacrilege to the the poor animal that died. Thinly-sliced beef, with no seasoning, swished through water to then be dipped only in soy sauce can be dull beyond belief. Continue reading “Cheap Meat Eats: Gyukatsu Motomura, Shibuya / 牛かつ もと村、渋谷”

Review: Ikinari Steak, Plena Makuhari, Chiba

Hello beautiful
Hello beautiful

Sorry for the break everyone! It’s taken me a little while to get settled with daily classes, tests and homework, and moving to an apartment WITH NO REFRIGERATOR (can you feel my pain?!). I am, however, proud to report that I have not been lax on the eating front and have loads of delicious food to share with you all! 🙂 So without further ado, let me introduce…


You may well know that I am very fussy about my steak. I often order it despite the fact that I am invariably disappointed. So when I’m raving about a steak, this is your cue to stop slumping and perk up and listen (provided you’re not vegetarian, of course). I should warn you that there are a lot of meaty pictures to follow like this… Continue reading “Review: Ikinari Steak, Plena Makuhari, Chiba”

Review: Galbi Bros, Dead Dolls House Pop-up

Galbi Bros menu

Please study the menu above. Study it well. Feast your eyes upon it and notice words such as ‘spicy’ and ‘beef, and – for the really observant – “thinly sliced gochuchang smoked pork.”

Then, also notice the word ‘Korea’ and understand: HOW COULD I NOT ATTEND THIS EVENT?!!!

Not only does the menu involve ridiculous quantities of meat, and lashings of spice, but it involves Korean cuisine – three courses of it for only £20. And I’m a sucker for Korean cuisine – I actually don’t remember much from my one-week trip to Korea except stuffing as much food as I could into my mouth from bulgogi (grilled marinated beef) to dakgalbi (spicy stir fried chicken with noodles, sweet potatoes and loadsa good stuff).


Actually, I lie. I also remember hiking up Hallasan and a trip to Love Land, but that’s probably a story best told another time.

Getting it on at Love Land
Getting it on at Love Land

We arrive at the Dead Dolls House to find a hipster dressed as a soldier(?) acting as security(?) on the door, before being led into a room, with few furnishings as most of the ‘furnishings’ have been painted onto the walls in fiddly, black lines. Cue: discussion about how ‘poor’ and ‘poorly done’ becomes hip. Cue: stomach interrupts discussion and directs attention towards menu.

Lotus crisps and rice skewers
Lotus crisps and rice skewers
Lotus crisps and rice skewers
Lotus crisps and rice skewers

Having sampled the Galbi Bros’ ramen burgers and rice burgers at Urban Food Fest, I knew we were in for a treat. Starting off, we crunched our way through lotus chips, which – to be honest – are more crispy than tasty but great fun nonetheless. Then we sampled the dukkochi – the chewy rice cakes. These were definitely very chewy – perhaps a little too much so – but the spicy sauce from Moses’ hometown Yeokkok was like a drug. I wanted to lick my plate until I wore away the ceramic. Moses – please take me to your hometown. My life will not be complete otherwise.

These photos do not do this beast justice!
These photos do not do this beast justice!
Do I spy some gochujang smoked pork?
Do I spy some gochujang smoked pork?

Next up, the main course – the ‘Invincible Admiral Yi’: ‘beef marinated in homemade galbi sauce topped with thinly slice gochuchang sliced pork, cheese, kimchi, fresh vegetables’… with some ‘secret Brother sauce’. First of all, I should say that the Admiral is indeed invincible – he was demolished well and truly. However, in the flavour stakes, he truly is unbeatable. My dining partner turned to me, brow slightly furrowed in concentration, and announced: ‘This is the best burger that I have ever eaten!’ High praise indeed.

To begin, the homemade galbi sauce, secret Brother sauce or whatever sauce was on there was sweet and delicious with just the right amount of tang to give the burger that umami moreishness (or I could just be blagging it here, but you get the gist – it was awesome). ‘Gochujang’ is the ubiquitous fermented red chilli past in Korea, and it is simply delicious and not overwhelming in its spice levels. Basically, it’s a very good thing to coat smoked pork in. Surprisingly, the kimchi (fermented pickled vegetables, usually involving cabbage) was not nearly as sour or strong as the  kind I’ve previously sampled, but just provided a gentle flavour that occasionally came through the decadence of the rest. The only thing that didn’t quite work for me – whereas it was a high point for my dining partner – was the firmness of the beef patty. It had quite a dense consistency, whereas I prefer the softer kind. However, within the layers and layers of the burger, the consistency was so obscured and mixed with other items that it did not detract from my enjoyment.

Probably the most fattening fries ever. YUM.
Probably the most fattening fries ever. YUM.

The fries were topped with all kinds of amazing things – namely, more smoked pork and cheese – but sadly were a little cold by the time they reached us.

Dessert was: “A trio of handmade ice creams: wasabi with a drizzle of olive oil, almond with a splash of toasted sesame oil and roasted green tea with pine nuts”- and it seemed to divide people.  Many people were very taken with the wasabi, much to their surprise, but I loved the almond, which was far less popular.


Fortunately, this didn’t cause any riffs because we were all united: the Invincible Admirable was in our hearts. And he remains there to this day.

You can find the Galbi Bros here or follow them on Twitter here.

Review: Holborn Dining Room

Roast Rib Eye
Roast Rib Eye

The stretch of road from Holborn station towards Chancery Lane is a bit of a no man’s land. You’ll find the standard lunch time take-out shops, a stationers targeting students and… not a whole lot else. Once the sun goes down, sleepiness properly settles in. It seems strange given that the area is a stone’s throw from Covent Garden and Tottenham Court Road. Of course, there has to be a divide somewhere… but perhaps it shouldn’t feel so much like a provincial town. Some people, somewhere, obviously agree as the area is currently part of a ‘Go To Midtown‘ campaign  – an effort to rebrand and invigorate the area.

Perhaps cottoning on this, or perhaps just trying their luck, Rosewood Hotel opened in October 2013. Naturally, this also entailed an restaurant – the somewhat functionally named Holborn Dining Room.

Holborn Dining Room appears every bit the well-furnished modern brasserie in its style – bare bulbs on metal frames throw shadows over the dark wood counters and tables that are surrounded by plush red leather seating. It’s tastefully done and consistent.

Swish interior and dim light aside, on entering the restaurant, we found the atmosphere to be relaxed – Holborn Dining Room could easily be a place to go for drinks and a catch-up with friends but it would equally work for a date. So far, so good.

The staff were on their best behaviour, probably because we were visiting for the soft launch; they attended to us with wide smiles, and created the illusion of automatic doors. Service was just below the overbearing mark, and they’ve probably all calmed down a bit by now.

Hello beef!
Hello beef!

My dining companion and I are FIENDISH meat eaters so there was only one thing on the menu that we were going to be ordering: the Roast Rib Eye ‘Club Cut’ with pepper sauce and crispy onions (£26.50). This is a giant chunk of tender roast beef served up like a steak, topped with thin onion rings. The flavour of the meat was beautiful, but it was a tad overcooked: I asked for mine medium-rare and it came medium, whereas my companion’s came medium-rare, despite asking for it rare. Nevertheless, we happily devoured our chunks of meat with some sell-executed chips (£4.25) and some delicious steamed spinach (£5.50).

Valhrona chocolate
Valhrona chocolate <– order this

For dessert, I tucked into an absolutely brilliant Valhrona chocolate pot with sweet cream (£6.50), which was essentially a very rich chocolate crème brûlée with a fantastically crisp top.

Bakewell tart - modern style?
Bakewell tart – modern style?

My companion was less lucky with her Bakewell tart and raspberry ice-cream (£6.50). In an attempt at a modern twist on the classic, the chef had produced a giant puff pastry version, which inadvertently created the game of ‘hunt the filling’ in the midst of a desert. Thank goodness for the ice-cream.

Holborn Dining Room 3/5 – Whilst the food is of decent quality, it is far from exceptional and, at those prices, it can’t really afford not to be. It made us very grateful for the soft opening offer!

Food 3/5
Value 1.5/5
Atmosphere 4/5
Service 4/5

Where: 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
When: Mon – Fri 7am – 11.30pm; Saturday 8am – 11.30pm; Sunday 8am – 10.30pm

Honest Burgers March Special: The BrewBurger

The BrewBurger - containing four different kinds of beer :)
The BrewBurger – containing four different kinds of beer 🙂

It’s impossible to ignore the burger trend across London. To be honest, if you want to ignore it, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog; I’ve done my best to consume as many burgers as possible in one giant burgery bonanza.

One of my favourite places for a burger in London is Honest Burgers. They’ve got a quality product pitched at the right price, and, as a result, their empire is expanding – expect the sixth branch to open near Oxford Circus later this year.

I fell in love when I first when I went to their Soho branch, and then had a passionate affair with their Christmas special, before drooling over their HOT February special. Their regular menu may only contain three different types of beefburger but their monthly specials really keep the romance alive.

Their latest offering has got me punch-drunk in love. For starters, it is possibly the first burger ever to require an ID to order it.

Honest Burgers have taken things to a new level this March and have collaborated with the awesome BrewDog. BrewDog is a Scottish craft beer company that is taking over the world with quality beer and their very own chain of bars, stretching from Shoreditch all the way to São Paulo! (Japan fangirl squeal: And they’re also in Roppongi in the expat area of Tokyo!) Even if you’re not a beer fan, you have to love BrewdDog because they took on Putin’s homophobia and produced the world’s only beer that’s definitely, absolutely and certainly not for gays – the Hello, My Name Is Vladimir!

Hello, my name is Vladimir and I am zuper hetero!
Hello, my name is Vladimir and I am zuper hetero!

Hello, my name is Vladimir. I am a beer for uber hetero men who ride horses while topless and carrying knives. I am a beer to mark the 2014 Winter Olympics. But I am not for gays. Love wrestling burly men on the Judo mat or fishing in your Speedos? Then this is the beer for you!

I think they’ve got their sales pitch spot on, don’t you? Now onto the BrewBurger itself….

Pervy close-up
Pervy close-up

This is one incredibly boozy beefy treat:  it’s a 150g aged beef patty with Comté cheese and bacon candied with BrewDog’s amber ale, 5AM Saint. It’s then topped with beef dripping and beer fried onions using BrewDog’s flagship Punk IPA and a BBQ reduction made from BrewDog’s Paradox cask-aged Imperial Stout. And, just in case that wasn’t beery enough for you, it’s served with Bourbon Baby, a 5.8% barrel-aged baby scotch ale that Brewdog created just for this collaboration. All this for £15.

More photos make it more real
More photos make it more real

Oh….this was a beery burgery beauty. For me, the bacon got a little subsumed by the other flavours but those  beer-fried onions were fantastic. All of this, of course, comes with Honest Burgers rosemary-salted chips. After a BrewBurger, you will wake up seriously thirsty but smugly satisfied.

Get yourself along to a branch of Honest Burgers before April 2nd. And don’t forget your ID!

Bourbon Baby
Bourbon Baby

Review: One Blenheim Terrace (much steak love)


Oh, what’s this? A review of a Michelin-recommended restaurant? How is Pheebz affording this, then? Well…

1) I had a Groupon voucher that gave me £40 of food for just £20.

2) The food is really not that outrageously priced, especially for the quality and portion sizes.

We were sat in a chic, modern and airy restaurant and presented with a tantalising menu. A very friendly and genuine waiter came to take our order.

As this is an upmarket place, little complimentary items arrived. Not only did we get some fresh bread, but we got miniature… plant pots.

Super kawaii! ^_^
Super kawaii! ^_^
Plant pot
Plant pot – everything is edible save the pot 😉

Yes, once we’d done the obligatory squealing at its cuteness (I have spent too much time in Japan where anything small is automatically cute), we investigated this beautiful presentation. The pot was filled with a mayonnaise-like sauce, and covered in “earth” – soya pieces. Little veggies were then artfully arranged. My co-diner found the dip a little tangy and peculiar, especially as the veggies weren’t enough to eat all of it, but I’m a sauce-fiend so I ploughed through it in seconds.

For starters, we tucked into artichoke soup (~£6?). It had a very mild and slightly earthy flavour, but we really appreciated its subtlety. Plus, the portion size was very generous.

Artichoke soup
Artichoke soup

The main course meant I ended up like this:


You may already know that I am OBSESSED with beef. Obsessed. My mother craved it when she was pregnant with me and I therefore blame her for my carnivorous addiction. The smell of roast beef in the oven results in me half-stumbling and drooling towards the kitchen and hanging around vacantly until the beef is served on the table.

Therefore, when I saw Bone-In Rib-Eye Steak and Chips (£27) and I remembered my lovely Groupon offer, my excitement was extreme. Behold this glorious piece of meat and admire its 300g of beauty:

I am in love with this whopper
I am in love with this whopper

The steak was succulent, flavoursome, tender – and perfectly cooked. In short, it was everything I could have wanted from a steak. Not even the rather strange Café de Paris butter could detract from its majesty – although a garlic butter accompaniment might have elevated it even further. It was still, however, the finest steak I’ve eaten in a while.

Top this off with expertly crisp chips and perfect vegetables, and this was heaven. Quite often restaurants let themselves down on the vegetables – poor quality, bland and/or overcooked. Not One Blenheim Terrace – the asparagus and spinach (£4.50 each) really were mouthwatering.

Veggie heaven
Veggie heaven
Veggie heaven
Veggie heaven

For dessert, I took deep-fried Oreos with vanilla ice-cream (£6), which, despite sounding gloriously gluttonous, I actually found a little bit unexciting.

Deep-fried Oreos
Deep-fried Oreos

My co-diner took freshly-made Madeleines – simple little sponge cakes – with a rich, chocolatey hot sauce (£4). This was by far the better choice for the quality chocolate hit and for the price.

Madeleines with hot chocolate hotness

Just when we thought the delights were over, we were presented with complimentary chocolate brownies to take home.

Yay for complimentary brownies!
Yay for complimentary brownies!
All packed up for home
All packed up for home

All this was accompanied by really warm service. One minor gripe – we paid with cash, including tip, and a waiter who hadn’t served us ‘forgot’ to bring us out £4 of change. A little bit of a disappointing ending to what was a fantastic meal.

One Blenheim Terrace 4/5 – Great portions and great quality. Beef-lovers – go and eat their steak. And take me, please.

Food 4.5/5 – Delicious.
Value 4/5 – For the quality and portion-size, I won’t complain.
Atmosphere 4/5 – Laid back.
Service 4/5 – A really lovely team, save for the one waiter at the end of the meal.

1 Blenheim Terrace, London, NW8 0EH
When: Tues – Sat 9am – 11pm, Sun 10am – 4pm

Review: Flat Iron Steak, Soho

Flatiron steak
Flatiron steak

A couple of year’s back I was on a Japanese language  study programme in Tokyo. Towards the end of our three month course, we were given a pretty piece of paper and asked to use our basic skills to write a piece entitled “My favourite….” (私の好きな。。。 / Watashi no sukina…)

I took this as an opportunity to write about all of my favourite things. I began my essay like so:

“My favourite food is beef.” (私の好きな食べものは牛肉です。/ Watashi no sukina tabemono ha gyuniku desu).

“No, no, Phoebe!” The teacher interrupted me. “We’re only writing about one favourite thing.”

I looked at my paper. This now had to be an entire essay about beef. Gyuniku. I was Gyuniku Girl. There was nothing to be done but to write the best eulogy to beef I could muster in simple Japanese.B

Being Gyuniku Girl greatly influences my eating choices.  So when I discovered that Flat Iron Steak served up a rather tender-looking offering for £10, there was no doubt that I was going there.

Flat Iron
Flat Iron

Flat Iron Steak is crammed into Soho. Inside you have to squeeze onto a table next to other customers and sit uncomfortably trying not to elbow the other. But if steak’s the name of the game, we’re willing to play right?

Pepper popcorn
Pepper popcorn

On arrival, we were served a pot of peppered popcorn, which was far too peppery but somehow strangely addictive in a masochistic way that only the very hungry resort to.

Then we ordered – surprise surprise – the flatiron steak for a tenner, which came with a salad. (I did a bit of geeky research – a flatiron steak is meat taken from the shoulder of the cow, cut in two to remove a touch connective tissues that runs through it. Read more about it here.)

"Salad" and chips
“Salad” and chips

The first thing I noticed was…. that is not a salad, that’s some leaves in a glass. The dressing was pretty tasty though.

The second thing I noticed was….a 200g steak isn’t actually that big.  Thirdly, it wasn’t as pink as the pictures I’d seen.


I tucked in and found it fairly tender. However, it was poorly seasoned – sprinkled only with a bit of salt. And as much as I’d like to say the flavour of the beef was such that it didn’t need seasoning, that wouldn’t be true. So it was an average if pleasing steak – perfectly inoffensive, but it didn’t stand out in any way. I enjoyed it because it was beef.

Flat Iron do a range of sauces you can add to your steak for £1. But suddenly that concept of steak for a tenner has gone out the window.

Of course, we also needed some sides. My friend took Sophie’s Salad (£2.50) – a pear and blue cheese salad, which he enjoyed although the blue cheese was very mild.

Sophie's Salad
Sophie’s Salad

We shared some dripping cooked chips (£2.50) which were perfectly crispy.

We also had a lot of fun with mini-meat cleavers, which brought out the inner-psychopath in me. One thing was true though – we certainly didn’t need them for cutting our steaks.

My inner-psychopath was unleashed
My inner-psychopath was unleashed

Flat Iron Steak 3/5 – I wasn’t wowed, but it’s tender, cheap steak. And if you’re not such a steak-obsessive as I am, you’ll probably love it.

Food 3/5
Value 3/5
Service 3/5
Atmosphere 3/5
(Yes, some rather non-committal scoring here…I’m undecided as to whether I’d go back.)

Flat Iron Steak

Where: 17 Beak St, Soho, W1F 9RW
Mon – Sun: 12:00 – 23:00

Japanese Food – The High Quality Stuff!

My most read blog post to date – The REAL Japanese Food – highlights the everyday junk you will find in Japan in attempt to dispel the pervasive image of delicate sushi being eaten at every meal. So it’s only fair that I take your saliva glands on a tour of the more traditional stuff, especially the over-the-top feast we got served at a luxury ryokan (Japanese-style hotel with baths).

Back in Janaury, Calle and I snagged ourselves a bargain – a bargain so good that you’ll think I’m lying. Let me explain…

Tanabe is a small, rural town, in Wakayama prefecture, to the south-east of Kyoto. It’s a depopulating area with agriculture as its main industry. As a result, the Tanabe Tourism Bureau is striving hard to change this quiet, mountainous region into a must-see tourism destination. Combine these factors with the Japanese government’s attempt to gain back all the tourists scared away by the tsunami and earthquake, and you’ve got a lot of money being thrown into new tours for tourists.

Of course, someone has to go on the “trial” tour and provide feedback, namely, a questionnaire at the end. Of course, Calle and I were more than happy to be the test subjects. Especially when we got a three-day tour, all transport and accommodation (farm-stay and top-quality ryokan) for a mere 10,000円 (that was about £85 at the time, currently £76.60). Whatever the conversion, the tour was practically free.

Lunch: rice, pickles, stewed veg, tempura, miso soup.

The tour got off to a good start when we were informed that we would be eating in a very good quality restaurant in central Tanabe. Not the fanciest of lunches, because we wouldn’t have time. But it was more than substantial. Tempura, stewed vegetables, rice, soup and pickles. Although tempura is, by its nature, deep-fried and battered, the quality was really evident – the flavours of the vegetables and shrimp stood out, and the batter was crisp and non-greasy. I’m making myself hungry just thinking about it.

Tempura. Those shrimps were fantastic!
Veg, egg and “fish cake” stewed in an awfully bitter sauce. I was not a fan but it looks pretty.

Our evening meal was with with a Japanese family – the “farm-stay” part of the tour. Dinner consisted of yet more tempura (you can definitely have too much of it – in fact, you get sick of it very quickly!) but also these amazing rice cakes. The rice has spinach and some other kind of leaf in it. It’s topped with grated egg and minced chicken / salmon. Intriguing and more tasty than it sounds.

Chicken rice cake

We also got given some chicken and shrimp sushi (due to a misunderstanding of Calle’s “vegetarianism”. Chicken and shrimp is OK, right?!)

Egg and shrimp sushi and minced chicken sushi

But I want to particularly commend my host mother on the breakfast. I’ve always been a breakfast person. Within half an hour of waking, I’m ready to turn to cannibalism unless someone feeds me quickly. I can pretty much eat anything in the morning. Fortunately, my host mother was a woman who understood my desperate needs and prepared a feast, including freshly baked bread and the most delicious pumpkin soup.

Pumpkin soup – warming and delicious!

Next up…dieters, get excited by the best diet food in the world – こんにゃく (konnyaku). It’s a gelatinous substance made from the corm (fleshy, potato-like bulb) of a potato-like plant. Virtually tasteless, it’s about 97% water but incredibly filling, making it a great diet food. Of course, your body may also be nutrition-starved…

Konnyaku with a miso sauce

Check out the other delights:

Crisp, fresh salad
Rice wrapped in cabbage – surprisingly good!
I’m not a tea drinker but I loved this!

Finally, the ryokan. 

Reception area

Fujiya Ryokan is a luxurious ryokan with an outdoor bath and two indoor baths (and ping-pong that cost 250円 per 30 mins – rip-off!) It’s located almost opposite the Kawayu Onsen, a natural wonder where 73degC spring water flows into the river and is cooled to ~40degC, making it bearable enjoyable to humans. We could glimpse this wondrous bathing area from our bedroom window but sadly, by day, it looks a little like a gravel pit. At night, however, it was very relaxing to sit in it and gaze up at the trees and moon.

Kawayu Onsen

Our room was a perfect example of interior design – minimalist and simplistic. I find the style too sterile for my liking – although I feel it works very well in a hotel context.

Our room
Calle is Guardian of the Window

Plus we arrived to a snack and hot tea. And we got to wear Japanese bathrobes!

Tea and snacks! The snacks were a sweet rice puff bar with some kind of dried fruit – sounds naff, but they were really addictive!
Well, this is a fetching ensemble! (Yes, I know the shoes shouldn’t be on the tatami!)

Of course, the most important aspect of our stay was the food. Now please don’t judge me too harshly. But I didn’t get the fish dinner, I got beef. I love beef (gyuniku in Japanese). I love gyuniku so much that an unfortunate essay on “My favourite things” in beginners Japanese class earned me the nickname “Gyuniku Girl”.

To my delight, this is what greeted me when I took my place at the dinner table.

Look at that beef! And the beautified mushroom.

This is prime quality beef, as can be seen from the beautiful fat marbling. The Japanese really understand the need for fat in the meat to infuse it with taste, whereas people in the UK seem to commonly make the mistake in trying to find the leanest joint.

I had to quickly boil the beautiful beef and the accompanying vegetables and dip them in a soy-based sauce. The method supposed to emphasise  the natural and delicate flavours of the ingredients, which I am all for – I wouldn’t want anything strong to mask the taste of the beef. But couldn’t everything have been boiled in some kind of broth? Surely salt in the water is a basic necessity? As a result of this minimalism, I was a little bit sad as the potential of the beef wasn’t realised.

Fortunately though, I was also served this:

“Roast beef”

Have a look at the other delights we got served:

One large shrimp
Home-made udon – delish!
More konnyaku – this time with wasabi
The obligatory pickles to go with the rice. Includes an umeboshi – pickled plum, a speciality of the Wakayama prefecture.
Aubergine gratin – the only fail of the evening. Cheese isn’t common in Japan. Being able to cook well with it is even less common.
I’m allergic to strawberries 😦
What would be considered cheap sponge cake in the UK but is apparently luxurious in Japan. Cake blog post coming soon…

At breakfast, it really was fortunate that I could eat anything at any time in the morning.

Strong, bitter, green vegetables with fish flakes
More pickles
Tofu *sigh*
Mushrooms with sesame
Baked egg with broccoli

Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the ryokan experience. I’m not someone who likes relaxing. And I don’t like lounging around in baths. Hot springs normally make me feel very faint. But with careful “heat management”, good company and good food, I could easily go again. In fact, the plans are currently being made…