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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Duck and Rice Dining Menu Reviewed - A Mixed Bag

Name: The Duck and Rice

Where: 90 Berwick Street, London W1F 0QB, http://www.theduckandrice.com/

Cost: A meal at this restaurant costs on average £50 per person, not including beverages or service. Starters range from £6.50 to £16.50, main from £6.50 to £45. There is a small, largely ice-cream-based dessert menu, priced from £4.80 to £6.50. 

About: A former Soho pub converted with no expenses spared by Alan Yau's team (who is no longer affiliated with this restaurant), The Duck and Rice still has an all-singing, all-dancing pub on the ground floor, featuring massive copper coloured beer tanks, filled with fresh and unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell imported from the Czech Republic. There is also a long list of ales, stouts and porters, and even a beer cocktail list.

Upstairs, the dining room is decked out in gorgeous bespoke stained-glass windows, discreet wood panelling and lighting and huge, hand-painted blue and white ceramic tiles, more like wall panels, which were commissioned specially for the restaurant.

The look is modern, elegant but unstuffy, and the atmosphere buzzy and lively at pretty much any time of the day. The Duck and Rice is one of my favourite dim sum eateries in London, and I visit it often. This visit however was to experience their evening, dining menu. The menu has a mixed-Asian feel, with plenty of Cantonese dishes, but also featuring a few dishes from Japan, Singapore, Korea and Vietnam.

What We Ate: We started with wasabi prawns (£10.50) – this featured deliciously fat sweet prawns deep-fried in batter, served with a delicate wasabi mayonnaise coating, topped with salted almond flakes. This was delicious.

Next up was the salt and pepper squid (£10.50) - well seasoned and crispy, despite the dull presentation, it was served deep-fried with spring onions, caramelised garlic and red chillies. We enjoyed this, though the portion was not terribly generous, I expected more at this price point.

The signature Duck & Rice (£15.50) is my favourite dish of the house, and one I order on every visit. A quarter Cantonese roast duck, with the finest, crispiest skin, this was sensational and served simply over steamed jasmine rice and slices of cucumber. Heavenly.

Jasmine smoked pork ribs (£16) looked sensational, with a tempting glaze. The meat was tender, with aromatic, smoky flavours, but for me the ribs were excessively sweet and sticky which sadly detracted from the overall dish.

Things looked up with the crispy duck fried rice (£9.50) - this was richly flavoured with the poultry and edamame beans.

The Kung Po chicken (£12) was a stir-fry of chicken, cashew and peanuts, spring onion, Sichuanese peppercorns, and dried red chillies. Kung Pao or Po is one of my favourite Sichuanese stir-fries, I love it spicy and gutsy, though The Duck and Rice’s version was again intensely sweet and with none of the heat I was so much expecting.

Our vegetable choice was slow-braised Japanese aubergine, tofu and shiitake mushroom served in claypot (£12.50). This was an exquisite dish, with silky textures and surprisingly intense flavours from the black bean sauce, Shaoxing wine and sugar.

For dessert, we shared a black coconut ice cream, made from coconut and coconut ash for a startlingly black finish. Served with toasted coconut shavings, this was creamy, intensely tropical and refreshing.

What We Drank: We started with a Hayman London Dry Gin, with Fever-Tree elderflower tonic, blueberry and raspberry (£10.50) - refreshingly aromatic with luscious red berry aromas. Equally good, the Negroni (£11) was classic, powerful and well made.

With our meal, we shared an excellent bottle of Franciacorta Corteaura (£42). Franciacorta is a fantastic sparkling wine from Italy (rivalling some of the best Champagnes in France), and this was a great example at a reasonable price for a restaurant, with elegant citrus fruit notes.

Likes: Standout dishes for me were the signature Duck & Rice, the claypot dish of aubergine, tofu and shiitake mushroom and the wasabi prawns. The wine list is small but well thought out and surprisingly reasonable value for money.  

Dislikes: Whether by accident or by our poor choices, the dishes we selected were almost all intensely sweet, which did not make for a balanced meal.  The jasmine smoked pork ribs promised so much but under-delivered in my opinion, as did the Kung Po chicken and the salt and pepper squid. 

Verdict: The Duck and Rice is one of my go-to eateries in London whenever I crave good quality dim sum. Though their evening dining menu was a mixed bag – some dishes were exquisite while others excessively sweet and gloopy. Still I would love to return and order some different choices. Recommended.

This restaurant feature is a collaboration with This Is Soho (http://www.thisissoho.co.uk/) which aims to highlight this exciting West End district as well as some of its best eateries. Soho is one of our favourite areas of London, although in writing this feature, The London Foodie retained full editorial control over its content as always.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Hestan’s NanoBond™ Technology – The Crème de la Crème in Cookware or Just Another Marketing Ploy?

For the Shokunin in Japan, craftsmen who specialize to an extraordinary degree to be masters of their profession, the search for excellence and even for perfection is a never-ending journey. 

Ninety-one year old Jiro Ono is Japan’s highest expression of Shokunin; he has worked tirelessly from the age of 7 to become the greatest sushi craftsman alive today. Ono is still to be found at his sushi counter at Ginza station, serving up perfect morsels of vinegared rice, yet his drive for perfection is far from finished.

Reading about Hestan’s founder Stanley K Cheng in Napa Valley USA, I found a lot of resonance with the work of Jiro Ono and hundreds of other Shokunin I have encountered in Japan and across the world.

Cheng’s lifelong quest has been to innovate and excel in the cookware industry. Since the 1970s, he has been at the cutting edge of his field, including the introduction of non-stick surfaces to hard anodized aluminium, the breakthrough which led to non-stick cookware. Today, his company (Hestan and Meyer Corporation) is the largest cookware distributor in the USA and the second largest in the world. 

Cheng has created a culture of excellence around the Hestan name that goes far beyond its cookware. There is the Hestan Vineyards in Napa Valley, as well as Hestan Commercial and Hestan Outdoor cooking appliances. Hestan Commercial reinvented the restaurant kitchen with a lineup of well-designed commercial cooking equipment, one of their most notable advocates is Head Chef and Shokunin Thomas Keller of the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant The French Laundry.

Most intriguing for me though is the Hestan Barn, a culinary “think tank” and laboratory that brings together a team of outstanding chefs, engineers, designers and winemakers to revolutionise cookware and think of different ways to cook.  It was here in the Hestan Barn that the USA team trained for the most prestigious international cookery competition, the Bocuse d’Or, winning the gold medal in 2017. 

It was also here at The Barn that Stanley Cheng and his team developed a new cookware range with Hestan’s NanoBond™ technology.

With 14 global patents, NanoBond technology uses a triple-bonded construction: thousands of titanium-based nano layers bonded directly to stainless steel, itself wrapped around a central core of pure aluminium.

The resulting super-dense cooking surface is said to be stain and scratch-resistant, and the titanium coating to last a lifetime. It does not use any chemicals or coatings that might wear off over time like what happens with standard non-stick pans.

Pans with NanoBond™ technology are also said to have 35% better heat conductivity and to be 400% (four times) harder than stainless steel pans. They certainly have a gorgeous design, with elegant ergonomic handles and flush rivets.

Besides this, Hestan states that their NanoBond™ technology results in pans that:
- are ‘stick resistant’ rather than non-stick 
- maintain their titanium lustre and beauty for a lifetime
- have no limit to the heat they can withstand
- do not affect or react with foods
- are easy to clean
- are highly resistant to oxidation at high heat
- have five times the lifespan of a normal stainless steel or aluminium-clad cookware. 

Launched in the USA in January 2017, the NanoBond™ range is sold exclusively there by Sonoma-Williams, and in the UK, you will only find it at Harrods, where it was launched in September 2017. 

I was approached by Hestan to put some of their claims to the test with four of the range of pans, and have been doing just that over the last five months. The Hestan pans I used for this review included:

28cm frying pan - £269 - https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/hestan/frying-pan-28cm-p000000000005730165?bcid=1504779447433

20cm saucepan with lid - £299 - https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/hestan/covered-soup-pot-20cm-p000000000005730181?bcid=1504779447433

26cm stockpot with lid - £449 - https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/hestan/stockpot-and-lid-26cm-p000000000005730180?bcid=1504779447433

36cm wok - £499 - https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/hestan/frying-pan-28cm-p000000000005730165?bcid=1504779447433

First Impressions Count

The pans feel really sturdy and solid, substantial without being too heavy. On closer inspection, the design is beautiful with a pewter-grey tinge to the surface. The surfaces are silky smooth, and even the rivets binding the handles to the pan are recessed to avoid food getting stuck and making them very easy to clean.

The handles are ergonomically designed from case stainless steel, being wide and flat to enable a good grip without risking them over-turning. 

The Hestan logo is beautiful, written in full at the base of the handle, and with an embossed H at the tip.  Frying pans and saucepans have an oval slot in case you want to suspend them from a hook, or alternatively they stack efficiently.

Performance under Pressure

During my time at Le Cordon Bleu, I got to use and was impressed by top quality cookware from the American firm All Clad, and by de Buyer from France. Top professional kitchens around the world will be familiar with these, as they have been considered to be the best of their type and to deliver consistent cooking results.  Hestan's is, however, aiming to raise the bar by introducing its NanoBond™ technology to their pots and pans.

Today at my supper club events and cookery classes, my Hestan pans get heavy use and are bashed around a lot. Even though I do not have Le Cordon Bleu’s budget, I have always looked out for cookware that is well made, and of as good quality as I can afford.

Beautiful as new after 5 months use!

The Hestan pans I have used over the last five months still look nearly as perfect as they did when I first came out of their boxes. Though they have not been scratched or dented, I noted some colour tarnish at the bottom of the pans.

Light colour tarnish

Stick Resistance

From my years of cooking experience, I know that fried food does not stick if the pan has either a non-stick coating or if it has been proofed with a built up layer of oil and salt over time.

Although not completely non-stick, I found that Hestan’s 28 cm frying pan’s surface was indeed ‘stick resistant’, and this did not wear off over time, as non-stick coatings do sooner or later in my experience.

The Dreaded Non-Stick Egg Frying Test

Though there were some desirable signs of food caramelization visible on the surface of the pan, food did not stick. There was rapid heat conduction on either my Aga hot plate or a conventional gas flame, and even fried eggs cooked uniformly and came away smoothly from the pan.

Image courtesy of Hestan

Heat Conductivity and Evenness 

But for me, the major advantage of the Hestan pans was the evenness of heat distribution and the rapid conductivity of heat. Don’t you hate it when you are cooking something and parts get burned while other areas are still not cooked?

Image courtesy of Hestan

This was definitely not the case with Hestan’s 36cm wok – with no limit to high heat and improved conductivity compared with other standard pans, Hestan’s wok quickly achieved searingly high heat, just ideal for imparting that desirable ‘wok-breath’ (a wonderful charred flavour) into my stir-fried food.

Versatility – From Hob to Oven and Table

Hestan’s range of pans are all metal, with no plastic, rubber or other materials, making them ideal for use in the oven as well as on stove. In many professional kitchens, steaks and other meats are usually caramelized in the pan over a high flame (pan-fried), and then finished in the oven to complete their cooking under an even heat.  Hestan’s range are well designed for this purpose, while looking great on the table too.

Image courtesy of Hestan

The Verdict

Over the five months I have used Hestan’s pots and pans at home and at my supper club events, I have been reassured that the company’s claims really do stack up. With great heat conductivity and evenness, the pans are also durable and will probably last many years. They are sturdy, well-designed and gorgeous too.

A decent, well-designed pan can make or break your meal. Choosing the correct vessel (for both its quality and size) to cook a dish is an important decision that will help you make the most of your cooking. With busy working lives and less time now spent in the kitchen, pans like Hestan’s will make this time count giving you consistently good cooking results.

Image courtesy of Hestan

Hestan pans are not cheap, but good quality equipment never is. If you want the best pans you can afford in your home and business that will last a lifetime and take up that up that precious kitchen cabinet space, consider buying Hestan’s.

Image courtesy of Hestan

You do not need to be a Shokunin or 3-star Michelin chef to cook a great meal at home. But in your pursuit for kitchen excellence, Hestan is here to help along the way.

To discover more about Hestan and their range of cookware, visit their website here - https://hestan.uk.com/

To purchase Hestan cookware, visit the Harrods store or website here - https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/designers/hestan.


To celebrate the launch of the luxury cookware brand in the UK, Hestan is running a competition for a chance to win a gastronomic weekend in Paris!

The prize includes flights for two from any UK airport, a 2-night stay at the prestigious hotel in the centre of Paris, La Maison Champs Élysées and a gourmet culinary experience at Le Jules Verne, Michelin star restaurant owned by the most renowned chef of his generation, Alain Ducasse.

For more details and to enter the competition, visit their website here - https://hestan.uk.com/2017/10/16/weekendinparis/

This review feature was commissioned and sponsored by Hestan. The London Foodie maintains full editorial control over all content published on this site as always.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Brunching Nikkei Style at Chotto Matte London

Name: Chotto Matte Brunch Menu

Where: 11–13 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4RB, http://www.chotto-matte.com

Cost: £50 per person for brunch with alcoholic drinks, or £45 per person with non-alcoholic drinks, available on Saturdays and Sundays only, between 12 and 4pm.

About: This was a revisit to Chotto Matte, a Peruvian Nikkei restaurant set on Soho's busy Frith Street, you can read my first Chotto Matte review here.

Born from the Japanese diaspora living in Peru, Peruvian-Nikkei cooking is much more than just a trendy fad – it was born out of necessity in the early 20th century as most Japanese immigrants lacked the necessary ingredients to cook their home fare. Instead, they resorted to using the fantastic produce of Peru, from Pacific fish and seafood to the high altitude vegetables of the Andes, and the fruit of the Amazon. Today, Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine is very much part of the mainstream diet in Peru, with dishes like Tiradito and Maki Acevichado being just as popular as ceviche or causa.

I wrote about this style of food in my cookbook “Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way” available on Amazon here. You will also find one of Chotto Matte’s recipes in the book as they kindly contributed towards it.

Set over 3 floors with an outdoor seating area great for people watching, Chotto Matte has an uninterrupted funky soundtrack that certainly makes for a party atmosphere. The décor is bright and colourful with plenty of natural wood, stone and glass. On the ground floor, there is a vast, UV-illuminated mural created by Tokyo-based graffiti artist Houxo Que. Chotto Matte is undeniably a beautiful restaurant.

What We Ate: There are two choices of brunch menus - one featuring fish and meat, and another for vegetarians. We tried one of each. 

We kicked off with a ceviche of seabass sashimi, served with sweet potato, crunchy Peruvian corn, coriander, chive oil and a zingy leche de tigre (tigers milk – the dressing used to ‘cook’ fish in ceviches and tiraditos).

The vegetarian opener was Chotto Matte’s famous paper-thin vegetables – a crunchy and refreshing medley of daikon, carrot, beetroot, quinoa, physalis, lime and chia seeds.

The fish sushi had a selection of fish, each topped with its unique seasoning. Tuna, scallop, and yellowtail were delicious, and I particularly enjoyed the salmon with dots of aji amarillo, and seabass with truffle cream.

The vegetarian sushi selection was equally good and very creative – this included tamago omelette, nasu (aubergine), avocado, shitake mushroom, courgette and yasai (vegetable) truffle roll.

The tempura course was Nikkei Sepia - calamari with an aji amarillo and yuzu emulsion (a Japanese citrus) with sugar and mayonnaise. I loved this but wished the portion was a tad more generous.

The vegetarian tempura featured tender stem broccoli and shiitake mushroom, with a delicious scattering of tempura diced chilli.  Though the batter was light and crunchy, the broccoli was slightly overcooked.

From the robata grill, Asado de Tira was in our opinion the best of all dishes on the menu - a wonderfully tender beef short rib with asparagus, purple potato puree and teriyaki jus.

The Pollo Den Miso (chicken with a miso-based sauce) was also excellent – this had deliciously smoky charred chicken, carrot, daikon and yellow chilli salsa.

The vegetarian robata grill equivalent was Calabacin al la Parilla – this was a platter of chilli courgette, pickled shallots and crisp-fried sweet potato. We enjoyed this although we felt this was a little uninspiring and more like a side dish than a main course in its own right.

The Nasu Miso was cubes of aubergine marinated in Japanese miso, with apricot, puffed soba, and sesame seeds.

Both robata grilled options came with sake-sautéed broccoli with Huacatay sauce. I enjoyed this particularly for the sauce, a deliciously zingy one made with the Peruvian huacatay, a mint-tarragon type of herb which is the base of this sauce together with the fruity aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli).

For dessert, both menus had an intensely rich, creamy and bitter chocolate pot, frozen mochi balls of mango, and of yuzu, with a passion fruit brûlée topped with pomegranate seeds. The desserts were very well conceived - rich and intensely flavoured. The menu offers a choice of tea or coffee.

If you visit the restaurant, not everyone in the table needs to order the same menu. For example a couple can order one menu each containing the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Even tough I felt that the non-vegetarian menu was the strongest menu, this way you would get the best of the variety that the restaurant can offer. 

What We Drank: There is a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails on the brunch menu, and we opted for the Bloody Mary – made with Belvedere vodka and Chotto Matte’s own cocktail mix.

With the food, the menu includes a choice of a half bottle per person of a Prosecco, an Albarino or a Rioja Reserva. We chose the Albarino, Irexario de Saiar, Bodega Sucesores de Benito Santos, Spain, 2016. Crisp and refreshing, this had plenty of citrus, apricot characteristics to balance the flavours on the plate.

Likes:  The robata beef short rib was for me the highlight of the meal. We also enjoyed the sushi and particularly the vegetarian sushi platter. The Bloody Mary was refreshing and spicy.

Dislikes: Some of the vegetarian courses were weak including the grilled courgettes, I would have felt short-changed if that was meant to be my main course.

Verdict: Chotto Matte's brunch menu is a great opportunity to try a range of the restaurant’s signature Nikkei dishes, a cocktail and ½ a bottle of wine per person. At £50pp, the quality and variety of food offered makes it a good deal not to be missed. Recommended.

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