The Sunday Times
30 SeptemberAA Gill says Chrysan, a new Japanese restaurant from the Hakkasan Group in the City, offers an inspired and contemporary and artful version of Japanese food that is the best in London
Scottish lobster carpaccio was cut so finely it looked as if it had been poured onto the plate. It came with caramelised walnuts and ponzu sauce. Big-eye tuna sashimi was served with soy egg-yolk sauce and baby turnips and French radishes. The star of the main course was a crystal bowl set on a gas burner. Crystal distributes and holds heat better than glass and it's far, far more expensive. Inside were cooked slices of Angus beef with leeks dipped in yuzu egg-yolk sauce. The beef was perfectly aged and flavoured. In a city that now consumes its own weight in cows' arses every night, this is the most original and divine way to eat a steak. The Blonde had a grilled quail from Landes with tamari and sake and tissue-thin slices of apple, and there was a very untypical non-seaweed salad. For pudding, there really was pudding. Chrysan is the only Japanese restaurant that has edible desserts, and not the usual disappointment of green-tea ice-cream and tortured unripe fruit. We had an immaculately prepared minimal version of a tarte tatin, made with soy caramel, which gets my vote for dessert of the month, and a selection of ice-cream that tasted of things you wanted to put in your mouth and not on a sprained ankle.
Score: Food: 5/5; Atmosphere 5/5
Price: £250 for three, with one small bottle of sake
29 SeptemberTracey MacLeod isn't sure Champagne and hotdogs is a match made in heaven after eating at Bubbledogs, London W1
A menu consisting entirely of hot dogs doesn't require a great deal of deliberation. There are 13 varieties on offer, gussied up with on-trend toppings, and all available in pork, beef or veggie editions. Among the more appealing are the Buffalo (deep-fried and served with buffalo sauce), the New Yorker (sauerkraut and onions), and the K-Dawg, (red bean paste and kimchi). Others, such as the Trishna, provoke an involuntary shudder. Whoever looked at a hot dog and thought, "What this needs is some mango chutney"? Our order arrived at fast-food speed, and in fast-food containers: a red plastic basket for the dogs, and cardboard trays for the sides - an affectation dubbed "chicken-in-the-basket chic", by my other guest, Emma Freud. Cutlery is plastic and so bendy it obliges you to use your fingers. Not easy in the case of the Sloppy Joe, freighted with a mess o'chilli, cheese and onions. We were thankful that the Masterchef cameras weren't on hand to capture the not-entirely-ladylike scenes that followed. The sausages have an authentic burst and bite to them. But we found the fixings were too insistent to partner well with champagne. A side helping of tater tots - crunchy, hash-brownish potato barrels - proved a better match, but perhaps that's just because of the historic association of champagne and slightly underwhelming finger food.
Score: Food 3/5; Ambience 3/5; Service 3/5
Price: Hot dogs from £6-£8, champagne from £6 a glass to £99 a bottle
Scotland on Sunday
30 SeptemberChris and Jeff Galvin have restored the Pompadour dining room at Edinburgh's famous Caledonian hotel back to its former glory
Despite the tasting menu costing £68 (£120 with paired wines), £10 more than the £58 à la carte, we decided the seven-course extravaganza was the best way to experience the full breadth of what Sandle and the Galvins have to offer. After a trio of amuse-bouches in the bar area, we started with a tiny square lasagne of crab, scallops and beurre nantais. It was an exquisite opener that showcased the chef's presentational skills at the expense of the taste of the crab and scallops, which got completely lost along the way. The next dish was a minuscule and fairly run-of-the-mill terrine of foie gras that came with a chutney of Provence peach. This was followed by an ambitious but perfectly executed ravioli of rabbit with ricotta, sarriette and artichokes barigoule. From there, we were into the substance of the meal, a poached supreme of turbot with squash gnocchi and reisling nage, which lent a curious but enjoyable oleaginous sheen to this wonderful fish. Top marks, too, to the beautifully succulent seared and slow-cooked fillet of Angus beef, which came with potato galette and creamed spinach. If ever proof were needed that the best raw ingredients and a confident chef are the combination most likely to ensure satisfied diners, this was it.
Price: Taster menu £68 (with paired wines £120), three-course à la carte dinner £58
30 SeptemberThe Heliot has a theatrical setting at the Hippodrome casino, London WC2, but the menu lacks glamour and focus, according to Jay Rayner
A main course of "mandarin roasted" sea bass with a cucumber salad and roasted rice was OK but in no way lived up to its billing. This was just a standard sautéd piece of fish, with a bit of tang to the salad. Elsewhere, the menu is designed for those in various states of winning and losing. Millionaire's mac and cheese with gruyère and black truffle for £28 sounded like the sort of thing you might do if you were living it large. Or pretending to. I headed for the comfort food, clearly designed for those who'd had a bad night and wanted their mummies. A shepherd's pie made with lamb shank was a humongous portion in its own copper, under too loose a potato topping made with goats' cheese. It was an unnecessary fix for a dish that isn't broken; if I had been on a losing streak, this would have let me down further. Dessert was very good: a coal-dark chocolate torte which managed to stay the right side of cloying, and a light lemon meringue tart with crisp pastry, a brisk filling and just the right volume of stiff peaks. Service was swift and charming, and the wine list not too punishing. It is clearly a professional operation. Right now, though, the Heliot is like an undisciplined gambler at the roulette table putting money on every number in the hope that something comes home. And as everybody knows, that ain't the way to make money.
Price: Meal for two, including wine and service, £120
26 SeptemberAndy Lynes says Dabbous, London W1, which is booked out into 2013 already, fully lives up to the media hype
The idea of peas with mint as a starter might not set the heart racing but the dish itself is a real pulse-quickener. The small earthenware bowl of pea mousse topped with mint granita, fresh peas in the pod and pea shoots is a riot of intense flavour. The humble vegetable has never tasted as good as this. The savoury richness of an eggshell filled with coddled (slow-poached) egg, woodland mushrooms and smoked butter reminds me of the last time I had Heinz mushroom and bacon Toast Toppers - but in a very good way. Making a clear broth from goats' cheese sounds utterly bonkers, if not virtually impossible, but they pull it off with élan here, serving it with a pink-roasted veal rump, lightly cooked summer vegetables - including yellow courgette - and chrysanthemum leaves. It looks unassuming but tastes outstanding. Desserts sound risible. When I tell my chef son that I've eaten a "ripe peach in its own juice", he bursts into laughter: "Did they open a tin? That's the sort of thing you do when you haven't got a pastry section." He may be right but with some fresh almonds and a few herbs it's a revelation and utterly in keeping with the restaurant's light style of cooking.
Price: A meal for two, including wine, water and service, costs about £110
London Evening Standard
26 SeptemberDavid Sexton says Bibigo, a new Korean chain that brands itself fine dining, doesn't quite warrant the label
Red chicken (£8) was small pieces of thickly battered crisp-fried chicken in Ko-hut sauce (Korean hot?), garnished with sour green shishito peppers and more chilli - palate-crushing as a starter, nothing special, a bit Chicken Cottage. The mains are steeply priced. Traditional chargrilled bulgogi (£20) is a modest (300g) serving of small pieces of crisped-up, lightly spiced beef, with shiitake and courgettes, served with a "ssam basket" of salad, with the suggestion that we construct little wraps with the lettuce leaves - pleasant enough, if fiddly. Black cod (£20) was a straightforward Nobu knock-off, in a very sweet miso sauce, served with asparagus and mange-tout - maybe not a wholly traditional Korean dish but one now compulsory in all Oriental restaurants aspiring to "fine dining". It was, in fact, identical, not just in taste but appearance on the plate, to the same dish I had when I reviewed Roka in Canary Wharf three years ago.
Price: About £120 for two
By Kerstin Kühn
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