Review: Bon Gout Hamburg, Kamiyamacho (Shibuya)

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In Japan, one of the first things you should learn is just because a word sounds like a borrowed English word, or indeed is a borrowed English word, does NOT mean it is in fact that word.

Let’s get straight to the important difference between “hanba-ga-” and “hanba-gu”. The former is indeed a meat patty wedged in a bun; the latter a meat patty minus bread, often served on a sizzling hot plate with some kind of sweet sauce. For the sake of being easy to understand, let’s call them “hamburgers” and “hamburgs”.

It is my very professional opinion that the Japanese do hamburgers terribly, whereas hamburgs tend to be rather good. Continue reading

Review: La Taberna Alhambra, Madrid

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It took me over 35 hours to reach Madrid from Tokyo and three flights. The plus side was I got to hunt down noodles and night markets in China en route. But despite these indulgences I was starving by the time I arrived.

To make matters worse, little sister who kindly came to meet me at the airport was brain addled due her “sleep is for the weak” campaign. It took her nearly 25 minutes and several wrong transfer buses and escalators later to meet me at arrivals.

Fortunately, she had done some research (by research, I mean, looked up some decent restaurants) and she ushered me promptly into La Taberna Alhambra on the way home. Continue reading

Review: Village Vanguard Diner, Shimokitazawa; ヴィレッジ ヴァンガード ダイナー 下北沢

Oh how promising it looked...

Oh how promising it looked…

Village Vanguard… that name might seem familiar. But you may have noticed the strategically placed word ‘diner’. This is apparently the foodie offshoot of the legendary variety goods store, Village Vanguard – we’ll return to that in a bit.

I could sit and type out my woes at lengths about Village Vanguard Diner, but I’ll be brief. It’s the kind of place that tries to rock that shabby surfer scene look, culminating in a rather dingy, depressing and gauche interior with jumbled American artifacts. Potentially, someone just has a great sense of humour and foresaw photos like this: Continue reading

Tokyo Ramen Show 2014 / 東京ラーメンショー2014: ROUND 2

It's Ramen Time.

It’s Ramen Time.

Yes, you read that right. This is Round 2 – I went to Tokyo Ramen Show twice! For all the info on this heavenly event, read Part 1. I’m going to cut straight to the noodle and tell you what was worth eating – and believe me….

ROUND TWO WAS EVEN BETTER THAN ROUND ONE.

Continue reading

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

Burger Bonanza… Lucky Chip and Honest Burgers

Oooh what's hiding under that bun? Read on...

Oooh what’s hiding under that bun? Read on…

The past 24 hours have been tough. Very tough indeed. I may have reached my foodie limit. For I have consumed two very large, heavy burgers along with some not insubstantial other meals and some luxury gelato. I type this having awakened from a burger-induced slumber, although I’m struggling to reach the keyboard as my burger-belly is making tucking the chair in very difficult.

Oh, all right – I give in! I LOVE burgers and there’s no such thing as too many! It was an awesome 24 hours…or 18 hours to be more precise!

Lucky Chip’s Jesse Pinkman Burger

It started with an adventure on Friday night to visit Lucky Chip, who are somewhat legendary on the London burger scene and are currently residing in the Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green. They recently caused quite a stir with a Breaking Bad menu. Check out what they were ‘cooking up’ – sounds enough to make any foodie high.

One item proved rather popular that they injected a new lease of life into it by making it a special for this week – the Jesse Pinkman burger (£9.50). So if this inspiring chap…

Jesse Pinkman

…were to order a burger, he’d order this:

No, that's not ketchup.

No, that’s not ketchup.

What is that, you ask? This is a burger with PEANUT BUTTER and JAM (yes Americans, it will never be jelly to us). But it doesn’t stop there. It has the classic accompaniments of bacon and cheese, and some seriously hot red chillies.

What did it taste like? Well, to be honest, as weird as it sounds. The jam had almost no flavour at all, which meant that this burger was a complete salt-fest. I mean, it contains peanut butter and cheese and bacon – how could it not be salty? Still, I did love confusing my tongue; what’s that motto – try everything once?!

Beetroot-flavoured onion rings

Beetroot-flavoured onion rings

Chips with sweet chilli and wasabi mayonnaise

Chips with sweet chilli and wasabi mayonnaise

We also had some beetroot-flavoured onion rings (£4), which were not very beetrooty and disappointingly soggy, but Lucky Chip need to be commended for their chips with sweet chilli dip and wasabi mayonnaise (£4). Particularly the wasabi mayonnaise. This is a very good thing. Unlike wasabi ice-cream, which I recently bought from the Japan Centre, and which was just jarringly wrong.

Will definitely be back to give Lucky Chip another try – watch this space for a review of their normal  burgers!

Website: http://www.luckychipuk.com/
Where: Sebright Arms / Netil Market

Honest Burgers’ Chrismas Special

I think this is the epitome of the term 'food porn'

I think this is the epitome of the term ‘food porn’

For a much more palatable burger, I highly recommend Honest Burgers’ Christmas special, which I sampled at their Camden Lock branch. This is a juicy patty made from Ginger Pig beef (food snobs, you know what I mean), with deep-fried Camembert, cranberry sauce, smoked bacon and rocket, served with their legendary rosemary chips (£11).

When served to me, the waiter told me very proudly how it was best to squash the burger down so the very hot, gooey Camembert cheese coated the whole burger in its beautiful, cheesy goodness. This man was not wrong. What a frickin’ genius burger idea. I find Camembert quite strong but who can resist it when deep fried? With cranberry sauce? If I had to be picky, I could’ve done with a tad more cranberry sauce. But this honestly was a delight.

Honest Burgers are expanding their burgery empire and can now be found in four locations: Brixton, Soho, Camden and Portobello. Check their website for details.

Website: http://www.honestburgers.co.uk/

Eating Out in Stockholm

Not-Swedish-Meatballs: Chinese-style pork and mushroom meatballs

Not-Swedish-Meatballs: Chinese-style pork and mushroom meatballs at restaurant, China!

How To Eat Cheaply + Recommendations 

On New Year’s Day, I experienced a happy wake-up at 7.30am to get on a bus from Dalarna to Stockholm…to arrive to a dead city. “There’ll be plenty of places open”, my boyfriend said confidently. “The restaurants will definitely be open.”

“Are you sure?” I said doubtfully.

“Yes, us Swedes are not like you Brits.”

I rolled my eyes , got off the bus and found myself in a dead city. A few coffee chains were open and the usual fast food suspects. Nothing serving a hearty lunch could be found.

The trouble with Stockholm is that, even when the restaurants are open, the prices are going to damage your wallet almost beyond repair. The cheapest main courses start from around £15, and that will be for a pasta or risotto. You want meat, my friend? Well, be prepared to pay £25 upwards for a main.

You can try and see the positive side of eating out in Stockholm by visiting Norway, a land where no-one can afford take-out food (4 small portions of fish and chips at a street café = roughly £72).

Sweden isn’t nearly so bad, but for students and travellers on a budget, eating out in Stockholm is a challenge.

So how can you eat cheaply in Stockholm?

The short answer is: you can’t. Not really. You aren’t going to find much Swedish food at a reasonable price, and you are not going to find the same value that you can find in the UK. But here are some tips for those that find themselves in Stockholm without access to a kitchen.

  1. Eat your main meal at lunch
    We all make mistakes...

    We all make mistakes…


    Many restaurants and cafés offer a “dagens” or daily lunch, which is a deal that ranges from 75 – 15kr  (roughly £7.50 to £15). This is the best way to get a good meal at a reasonable price.

    Food quality can be hit and miss. Take for example the above picture of a “Mango chicken balti” at an Indian restaurant (Indisk Mukat Restaurang) that my boyfriend insisted was “all right for lunch”. No. No, it wasn’t. The chicken was the awful processed stuff that is like eating a very soft sponge, the sauce was so sweet that I felt sick pretty quickly, and that thin, orangey sliver is really all the mango I got. All for a reasonable 10,5kr (£10.50!). ARGH.

  2. Get fast food or take-out

    Falafel

    Falafel

    As a self-confessed food snob, this really goes against all my principles. But needs must. And weirdly, Swedish fast food isn’t quite as dire as some of the stuff served up in Britain. Pizzerias are commonplace, and are almost cosy. Take Pizza Hörnet by George, for example. The inside was clean, and the service friendly and efficient. As for the pizza, it was unfortunately the most salty thing I had ever eaten which, after one slice, left my mouth burning like I’d been ingesting seawater. I complained to my boyfriend and he shrugged. “Swedes like their salt. This pizza is normal.”

    Pizza Hörnet by George

    Pizza Hörnet by George

    Saltiest pizza in the world

    Saltiest pizza in the world

    Also common are kebab houses. If you don’t trust the meat, go for the apparently ubiquitous falafel.

    My boyfriend reports that this is the best place for falafel in Stockholm

    Falafel King!

    When all else fails, get a take-out and find somewhere to sit where you won’t freeze. I was lucky enough to get introduced to a Szechuan dish, “twice cooked pork“. The pork is first boiled with ginger and salt, and then fried with vegetables. Whilst the execution of this was fairly poor, I bet the authentic dish is fantastic, and it’s now on my “to-eat” list.

    Classic Szechuan dish: Twice-Cooked Pork

    Classic Szechuan dish: Twice-Cooked Pork

  3. Just eat cinnamon buns, pastries and/or sandwiches
    Salami and brie sandwich: dry and unmemorable

    Salami and brie sandwich: dry and unmemorable

    Stockholm is packed with cafés, bakeries (bakerei) and cake shops (konditori) serving sandwiches, which always seem to include a salami and brie combo. Be warned – these sandwiches will set you back £7 – £8, and they’re often dry.

    If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of cakes to try. Popular are Sarah Bernhardt biscuits / chocolate biskvi, which consist of an almond biscuit base, a chocolate cream middle, topped with chocolate. All in all, it’s a little too sweet for me. However, these are valued national biscuits as I saw them on the Swedish equivalent of the Great British Bake Off, Hela Sverige Bakar (“All of Sweden is baking!”)

    Chocolate biskvi / Sarah Bernhardt biscuits

    Chocolate biskvi / Sarah Bernhardt biscuits

    Inside the biskvi...

    Inside the biskvi…

    There are also plenty of chocolate balls. These used to be called  negerboll (“negro balls”).  I say no more.

    Chokladboll

    Chokladboll

  4. Avoid Gamla Stan
    Stortorget Square

    Stortorget Square

    Gamla Stan – or Old Town – is the centre of tourism in Stockholm. Don’t even think about eating there, not even in a café. It’s very pretty and there are LOTS of things to check out, including Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace) and Storkyrkan (church), which has a spectacular interior with a very impressive statue of George slaying the dragon. So by all means visit Gamla Stan – just make sure you’ve eaten well in advance.

    We were desperate for refreshment and visited Chokladkoppen, which is a take-away and sit-down café. I can’t remember how much it stole from my wallet – although it is definitely not the worst offender price-wise – but I had a miserably milky hot chocolate and the cinnamon bun was underwhelming too, even if it was HUGE.

    Giant cinnamon bun

  5. Starve, and go back to your respective country

It’s a great excuse to lose some weight, right?!

Recommendations

Well, you’ve probably guessed by now that, for obvious reasons, I haven’t eaten out extensively in Stockholm! But there are a few places that I would recommend.

  1. The Muffin Bakery
    Drottninggatan 73 or Linnégatan 42

    The King of Muffins: Chocolate Brownie and Cheesecake

    The King of Muffins: Chocolate Brownie and Cheesecake

    The coffee might not be up to much, but it’s all about the Chocolate Brownie and Cheesecake muffins. I cannot visit Stockholm without devouring one of these. It’s cheesy but chocolatey and gooey in the middle. It’s 34kr but one can easily be shared between two. There are other varieties of muffins and they also do decent sandwiches at prices that are reasonable for Stockholm. There are two cafés – I go to the Drottninggatan one as it’s really central. Their website (Swedish only) can be found here.

    Goats cheese toasted sandwich

    Goats cheese toasted sandwich

  2. Nagano
    Rådmansgatan 58, 11359 StockholmNaganoFriendly lunch place that serves up tasty and reasonably-priced Japanese set lunches. I had a surprisingly good chicken katsu (breaded cutlet) lunch here and my boyfriend appreciated the veggie gyoza (dumplings). The portions are decent too.

  3. Café 60
    Café 60

    Café 60

    Really trendy, slightly kitsch café that is eternally busy. I’ve only eaten here once where I had a cake that was almost as good as Nando’s choc-a-lot cake, but not quite. There are plenty more scrummy looking cakes, and sandwiches and salad. It has free WiFi so it’s often packed with laptops/iPads and coffee cups.  Their website is here.

  4. China!
    Ringvägen 110 – 116 61 Stockholm

    China!

    China!

    Hoi sin pork with steamed buns and spring onions

    Hoi sin pork with steamed buns and spring onions


    It’s always a good sign when a Chinese restaurant is packed with Chinese people! I only had two dishes here – some meatballs (pictured far top) and some amazing hoisin pork with dumplings and spring onions – but I was impressed with the quality, flavours and presentation. The food is flavoursome but light and I didn’t end up feeling sick, which often happens to me after a Chinese. China! is not cheap, but it’s not outrageous – sharing two dishes might set you back £30, but you’ll leave satisfied.

I’m by no means an expert on Stockholm, so if anyone has any recommendations, please get in touch 🙂

Update: One recommendation I’ve received is to target Stockholm University’s restaurants and cafés. Apparently, the restaurant next to Södra Huset in Stockholm University serves dagens for 60-80kr. You can choose one main (fish, meat, vegetarian), and enjoy an all- you-can-eat salad, pasta, and bread bar, and an all-you-can-drink drink bar. Thanks to Toru Anraku for the suggestion.