Koshari Street, London

would never have discovered this place if not for the groupon trawling that took place while boredom struck a while back. yes, i am an #aunty and proud of it heh ūüėČ
(for the non-singaporeans: “aunty” when used on a young lady -cough- like myself -cough- usually means she is behaving more like a middle-aged to old female, hence the activity of¬†online bargain hunting being labelled “aunty” behaviour) saw what seemed like a really good deal – ¬£9 for a large koshari and drink for 2, did a quick online search to check out what exactly this “egyptian street food” entailed, and with my curiosity piqued and impressed by the rave reviews, promptly made the groupon purchase. am still very pleased that i made that decision¬†because i was far from disappointed!

occupying a small but comfortable¬†shop space along st martin’s lane at the fringe of covent garden, koshari street serves just one main dish, a type of egyptian street food known as koshari. you’re probably staring at your computer screen with raised eyebrows wondering what on earth koshari is; i can totally relate because i was once in that position. but i am proud to say that i now not only know what koshari is but have also had the great pleasure of trying some, and it is absolutely delicious!

koshari is a vegetarian dish consisting of lentils, rice, vermicelli, topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas, and caramelised onions. does that not sound like a wonderfully wholesome and warming combination of ingredients? well, even if you think it doesn’t, i assure you now that it most definitely is ūüėÄ

koshari street prides itself on everything being freshly-made with the best ingredients and bringing naturally healthy egyptian meals to londontown. upon entering the shop, you are greeted by a long stainless steel counter with the koshari condiments all very neatly and systematically laid out. service was extremely friendly and the server took the time to explain to us what exactly goes into a koshari, even letting us try the different tomato sauces with varying spice levels (mild/hot/mad Рdespite my penchant for spicy food because its a taste of home, i got the hot because i thought a cupful of mad sauce might really be quite mad) before we decided on the ones we wanted for our kosharis.20141007_132809
the koshari was then assembled before us and served piping hot in a huge cup (perfect for takeaways).

the groupon deal was for a large koshari and a drink, so that’s what we got:20141007_133229
large koshari Р£6.50 / fresh juice Р£2 (regular non-groupon prices)
not sure if you can see how big this cup really was because of the lack of proper scale, but it was really a¬†very¬†generous serving. (almost the size of an ice cream tub if i’m not wrong?)¬†they also do small and medium sizes and as we were devouring our large cups, we noticed that almost nobody¬†(there was a steady stream of customers coming in throughout our meal) except the odd large and famished-looking man ordered the large.

you’re probably wondering what lies beneath the glorious bed of glistening golden-brown shallots, so here are more pictures that reveal¬†the amazing goodness contained in a cup:20141007_133419
and now with everything mixed in:20141007_133933
my midnight hunger pangs are getting stronger by the second as i type this post (will need to promptly get into bed after this so morning will come quick and i can demolish some breakfast :P)… just looking at the pictures, i can remember the great satisfaction i got from this extremely¬†flavourful concoction that really packed a punch. what struck and impressed my friend and i most about the koshari was how fresh and well-done every single component of the dish was – everything was cooked to perfection and served piping hot. the lentils, macaroni and rice retained a delicious bite, while the crispy vermicelli bits, chickpeas and shallots on top added layers of crunch. the tomato sauce was extremely fresh, tasty and flavourful. it tied everything together wonderfully and as we were making our way through our mega cups, we were already imagining how happy we’d be on the cold winters day when we’d return to warm our souls with this yummy comfort food¬†ūüôā the ingredients were added so generously and in such¬†perfect proportions that¬†every mouthful was a burst¬†of flavours and textures in our mouths!¬†i did mention earlier that the cup was huge but what i¬†failed to mention was that i finished it anyway; i enjoyed it that much ūüėõ left the shop feeling¬†extremely¬†full, but a healthy full, having loaded up on a cup full of wholesome goodness.

besides koshari, koshari street also offers¬†some simple salads, a soup option that changes daily and a handful of puddings for¬†dessert. order a mix of things to make for a really satisfying meal¬†or alternatively, they do combo meals where you can get a koshari, side and drink for a reasonable price. given the quality of the ingredients and how filling and wholesome the dish is, i would highly recommend this little cafe if you’re looking for a quick bite around the covent garden area. the space the shop occupies is small so its ideal for takeaways, but they do have some counter-type seating within the shop so there’s always the option of dining in as well.

if you’ve never had egyptian food, now’s the time to change that! you have even more reason to because the groupon deal doesn’t seem to have ended yet: check it out here!

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Koshari Street
56 St Martin’s Lane
London WC2N 4EA

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Kanada-Ya, London

first london post of the new (academic) year! the first week of school has come and gone, and i’m pleased because i had an extremely foodful week. the fact that i’m now in final year has definitely fuelled this food frenzy to try out as many new places and try as many things on their menus as possible ūüėõ guilt is starting to settle in though, because it was definitely far from being as fruitful on other fronts (which may or may not include readings)… need to get back into school mode pronto! #newweeksresolution

i had heard lots of good things about and seen good pics of one of london’s newest¬†ramen shops while home in singapore for the summer, so jumped at the chance to check it out last tuesday night when my friends and i were craving some oodles of¬†noodles. the choice of dinner venue was between koya (tried and tested, guaranteed satisfaction) and kanada-ya (new and exciting), and i’m glad we went with the latter because we were not disappointed! arrived just slightly past 6.30pm on a weekday evening and we were greeted with this queue before us:
20140930_183916undeterred, we hopped into line. it helped that almost everyone both in the queue and in the shop¬†was asian and the majority were japanese actually – a sure sign of the shop’s credibility ūüėČ some menus were handed down the line to keep patrons occupied while they waited, but the menu isn’t very extensive at all so like us, you’ll probably make your choice before the queue¬†even¬†moves an inch.

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it took us about 45 minutes to be seated at a table for four so it was great that the food came pretty quickly once we filled in and submitted our order sheets. we each got an original ramen with an egg added, and also ordered a serving of original onigiri for the table to share.

the onigiri came swiftly:
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plain onigiri Р£2.50 for 2 pieces
unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed by the onigiri. it was literally just plain japanese rice moulded into the classic onigiri shape and placed atop a sheet of seaweed. i suppose when the menu described it as plain, they really meant that it would be completely plain… we suspected that they’d be a letdown once we saw them brought to our table, but still clung on to some hope that there’d be some sort of seasoning in the rice. alas, we were wrong and even sprinkling some sesame on top couldn’t save them. we certainly weren’t expecting any toppings, but all agreed that we had imagined at least some japanese spices or flakes of some sort sprinkled over the top. many of their japanese patrons seemed to be ordering the onigiri though, so maybe this is actually the¬†traditional and legit stuff, just not what we’re used to. the ones with plum or salmon are¬†probably more appetising; maybe (just maybe) i’ll give them a try when i return.

thank goodness the ramen arrived before us hot on the heels of the onigiri, so we didn’t have much time to feel despondent about our poor rice ball choice. it could have been that our expectations were slightly lowered because of the onigiri (but i doubt so), but we all thought the ramen was very very good, so satisfied was one of my friends that she¬†declared it the best ramen in london at the moment, and i concur.
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original ramen with hanjuku egg Р£10 + £1.80
the super tasty soup is an 18 hour pork bone broth; the thickness and milky porkiness of it is testament to its very lengthy cooking time, and will leave you wanting to slurp up every last drop of it. what i liked most about the broth was that it was very satisfying, but not heavy. as for the chashu pork belly, it was perfectly seasoned and cooked and so tender that it¬†was very nearly worthy of being described as melt-in-your-mouth goodness. very very nearly. as for the noodles, like ippudo, you can choose how well you want them to be cooked. i always prefer my noodles firm so i opted for the hard, and was not disappointed – they retained a great bite even after sitting in the soup for a while, far from turning into fat mushy strands. and now coming to my favourite part of the bowl… the egg (nothing new there)! i would definitely recommend adding an egg (or two) to your ramen. at ¬£1.80 it does seem pricey but i thought it was worth it. after all, its not every day that you come across such a perfectly cooked and seasoned onsen egg. just look at the bright orange yolk and its wonderful consistency – still wet but not running all over the place and into the soup! besides the yolk, the white was also very well seasoned and i finished my 2 halves wishing i had another two to finish. or four. or more. ūüėõ will seriously consider ordering 2 eggs when i return! our bellies were happy¬†and as we were making our way through the big bowls, we were already imagining how perfect it would be to have this soupy¬†goodness to warm our chilled souls in the dead of winter when its freezing outside.

on top of the great food, service is friendly, fast and quite efficient. the shop itself is cosy and does not have a large seating capacity at all, so be prepared to queue when you visit. we all agreed that it was better than bone daddies and shoryu which made the wait to get a table worth it; hopefully you’ll feel the same way too!

next ramen conquest: ippudo london, which is opening right opposite kanada-ya (ooooh competition). london be upping its ramen game and i’m not complaining ūüėČ

Kanada-Ya
64 St Giles High Street
London WC2H 8LE20140930_190349

Flesh and Buns, London

i’d been wanting to try flesh & buns since i heard that it was owned by the same people behind one of my favourite bowls of ramen in london at bone daddies.¬†the thought of roasting your own green tea s’mores was also too good to resist, so it was flesh & buns that we headed to to celebrate one of my housemate’s birthdays!

occupying a pretty large space in the basement of a building at seven dials, it is an izakaya restaurant (drinks accompanied by food) that made its debut quite recently in the london dining scene. decor is simple and modern, with large tables that make it a good venue to meet up with larger groups of friends. it was rather quiet when we visited on a sunday night:
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its a really dimly lit place so unfortunately the photos aren’t going to be great because all i was armed with was my s3 camera ūüė¶

as their name suggests, they pride themselves on their handmade buns, which are to be eaten with their mains. their buns are basically kong bak pau buns (for those who have absolutely no idea what i am going on about, kong bak pau are chinese braised pork “burgers”) – delicious steamed buns that are eaten with different fillings:
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the menu seemed to be going in the direction of fusion, with a mix of interesting asian and western dishes. they do things tapas-style, the idea being for you to order a number of dishes that the whole dining party can sample.
here’s the menu:20131208_203234

the first dish to arrive at our table was the beef tataki:
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beef tataki with onion ponzu & enoki mushrooms Р£10.50
this was probably my favourite starter of the night. the sauce was delicious and the beef was fresh and sliced to just the right thickness – not as thin as beef carpaccio but not thick to the point of chewiness. neither was it stringy, which is another huge plus point! eaten with the condiments that topped it, it was a really yummy burst of flavours in the mouth.

the second appetiser we had was the fried squid aka calamari:
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fried squid with japanese pepper and lime Р£8
there was nothing very outstanding about this starter, in my opinion. we really wanted to try the grilled beef skewers (with kimchi & yoghurt) but they had run out by the time we placed our orders ūüė¶ it was good calamari and the batter was light and tasty, but nothing exceptional at all.

we also ordered the eel cucumber roll and the softshell crab roll:
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eel cucumber roll (grilled eel, sweet soy) Р£10/ softshell crab roll (jalapeno mayo, chives) Р£9
we all thought the rolls were rather pricey for the serving size (5 pieces each?!). they weren’t anything to shout about; i think you can easily get better rolls elsewhere. the jalapeno mayo was an interesting addition i suppose, but again it can be recreated pretty easily at other joints, i feel.

the last starter we ordered was the grilled corn:
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grilled corn with lime spice butter Р£4
i loved this starter, especially because i adore corn!!! the corn was grilled to perfection and slathered in butter, naturally sweet but yet made even yummier by the extremely tasty butter. i. love. corn.

now on to the mains, which definitely impressed me more than the appetisers (thankfully!). we ordered 4 to share among the 6 of us.
first up, the crispy piglet belly:20131208_210208
crispy piglet belly with mustard miso & pickled apple Р£14.50
the crispy piglet belly was basically like chinese roast pork. but it was a pretty good rendition of it! the meat was tender and juicy, and the skin was thin and crispy. the layer of fat wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t too oily too! it went well with the mustard miso, and we all really enjoyed the amazingly thin slices of pickled apple that were a very refreshing twist to the meat!

we also had the crispy duck leg:
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crispy duck leg with sour plum soy and beetroot pickles Р£13.50
the duck was also really enjoyed by all of us – it was like duck confit with a slight asian twist. the skin had that yummy melt-in-your-mouth texture, while the meat within was moist and tasty! if i return, i would probably order this if i’m looking for a meat to go with the steamed buns.

our third choice of main was fish; we got the grilled sea bass:
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grilled sea bass with coriander miso and kimchi pickle Р£16.50
i remember this to be very yummy, probably something i’d order if i return! the fish was extremely fresh and grilled to perfection. the skin was crispy and coated in just the right amount of coriander miso, while the meat was firm, moist and naturally sweet. our only gripe was the small serving, given the price we were paying.

the above 3 mains are meant to be eaten with the steamed buns or vegetables (which come together with the buns):
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i thought it was good that they had lettuce and other vegetables to eat with the mains – too many buns would fill you up really quickly, and veggies are always a healthier and lighter accompaniment.

finally, we went for the spicy beef hot stone rice aka flesh & bun’s take on bibimbap:
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spicy beef hot stone rice with mushrooms and sesame butter Р£8.50
i think this was probably the most reasonably priced out of all the mains we ordered – the serving was definitely the biggest of everything we had ordered! i really enjoyed this dish and how the many ingredients and sauces added culminated in a big bowl of goodness. i felt that there was something different about it when compared to what you get in regular korean restaurants, but couldn’t quite place it. it was really tasty and the veggies added were fresh and retained their crunch. this dish¬†had me scraping at the burnt bits at the bottom of the pot when we were done (not the healthiest thing to do, i know).

and finally, definitely last but not least, we had our dessert – one of our main motives for going to flesh & buns. out of the 4 we ordered though, i felt that only 2 were worth the hype and out of those 2, only one was something i’d return for.
the dessert menu:
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first, we had the bone daddies sundae:
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bone daddies sundae: matcha ice cream, blueberries, jelly, honeycomb, cream Р£7
i felt there was too much going on with this sundae – it was nice and exciting to have a huge range of toppings added to the sundae, but the (major) downside is that i thought the matcha taste of the ice cream was almost completely masked. there was also something in it that we could not identify, but that made the whole thing kinda sour..? i’d probably give this a miss if i visit again.

we also had the yuzu meringue pie:
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yuzu meringue pie with raspberry yuzu sorbet Р£7
this was very refreshing! the combination of yuzu and raspberry made for a very tart but yet not too sour dessert, and was a good break from the sweetness of all our other dessert choices. i thought the yuzu pie was delicious, as was the raspberry sorbet. i’m not really a fan of meringue so can’t say much about it! if you’re into sour things, this is definitely for you!

we also had what flesh & buns has become pretty famous for (how could we not) – the green tea s’mores!
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s’mores: marshmallows, biscuits, green tea chocolate – ¬£8
we were beyond excited when the charcoal stove was brought to our table for us to roast the s’mores. there was definitely a major novelty factor there – the idea of DIY roasting not just regular s’mores, but green tea s’mores at your table. it was a really fun experience (though the marshmallows ended up being kinda burnt), but i wouldn’t rave abut the taste. we all agreed that the green tea chocolate was pretty lightly flavoured, but teamed with the biscuits and melty marshmallows, still made for something rather satisfying. given that we were only given 2 s’mores though, i would again say this isn’t really value-for-money though it might be worth paying for the fun experience.
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birthday girl with the completed s’more

and finally, on to my favourite dessert and quite possibly my favourite dish of the night:
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kinako donuts with black sugar custard Р£8
these. were. amazing. DELICIOUS. amazing. they were like giant sugar-coated exploding donuts. pictures to illustrate my point:
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just look at that!!! the outside of the donuts were as good as the inside – they were light and fluffy, of just the right thickness to hold the amazing oozy custard, and coated in sugar. so sinful but so good, especially because they were served warm. the black sugar custard actually tasted quite like normal custard, but it was extremely smooth and creamy and not too sweet at all! if there’s only one dessert you have space for after dinner, its these amazing balls of goodness that you must go for!!!

all in all, we had a pretty good experience at flesh & buns but i’m not sure how soon i’ll be returning just because i thought it was rather pricey (though looking at the pictures of the donuts again, i now realise that they are indeed quite hard to resist :P)! some of their dishes are rather novel though, so i suppose its worth trying at ¬†least once. they also have a lunch set-type thing, which seems quite reasonable!
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Flesh and Buns

41 Earlham St
London WC2H 9LXProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_20131209_101906
night out with my chicas bonitas aka best housemates ever ūüėČ ‚̧

Shake Shack, London

shake shack has finally made it across the pond! the once elusive only-in-US burger joint has made its highly anticipated appearance in the middle of london’s happening covent garden. it opened sometime over summer and having heard so much about their burgers for so long, it was one of the first few places i checked out upon my return to school (hello year 2!!!).

we had our burger fix on a rainy thursday afternoon and were pleased to find that there was no snaking queue in sight at all! we attributed our luck with the lack of fellow burger-hunters (some of my friends who have been have had to queue) to the wet weather plus the fact that we were there close to 2pm when the lunch crowd had thinned out. there were only about 5 people ahead of us in the queue, and given the number of people taking orders and working in the kitchen, it moved very swiftly:
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the system they have going at shake shack is that you queue to place your order, then proceed to the seating area where you queue again to be seated. you will only be allowed to take a seat if you have the buzzer they give you after ordering, so you can’t go with a bunch of friends and have someone reserve a table while the rest go and order. i think this makes for a pretty efficient system that helps them make the most of the tables they have. it didn’t take long for our buzzer to vibrate and our food to be ready for collection, yay!20131003_135322¬†shack burger: cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and shacksauce – ¬£5

more of the famed shack burger in all its half-eaten glory:20131003_135522i was actually a little disappointed by the burger! but maybe it was because i went with extremely high expectations given how much i had heard about it from people who had tried the burgers in US. it wasn’t bad at all; it was certainly above average, but just not a case of love at first bite for me hahaha. as a very typically american-style burger, it was compact and relatively small (big eaters should opt for the double option).

the burger bun was soft, warm and tasty, while the lettuce and tomato were fresh (as you can see from the pic; i hate it when veggie that has started browning is put in a burger!). as for the burger patty, it was juicy (but i wish it was even more juicy – the juice-dripping-down-my-hands kind of juicy) and everything together tasted very yummy although i would also have preferred the cheese to be a little more melty! given its price though, i really shouldn’t be complaining AT ALL – we all thought it was good stuff for the ¬£5 we paid ūüôā

one of my friends who is a vegetarian opted for the ‘shroom burger:
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‘shroom burger: crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted cheese, topped with lettuce, tomato and shack sauce – ¬£5.25

it looked REALLY good (just look at that cheese oozing out!!!) and my friend could not stop raving about the mushroom and cheese combi, so this is definitely what i am going to get the next time i visit shake shack! YUM.

i must also mention the fries – we ordered 3 portions of fries to share among the 5 of us, 2 plain and 1 with cheese!
20131003_135238we were originally rather skeptical about the fries because we saw when peering into the open kitchen while queuing that they were frozen and not freshly made! we later discovered that our worries were unfounded though, because they were goooood fries. we could tell that they were fried with fresh oil and they weren’t overly greasy at all; it almost made me feel guilt-free while eating them. remotely healthy-tasting but still very yummy fries… strange huh!

we also ordered dessert to share because we thought what they call “concretes” sounded too good to resist:
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union shack concrete: double Р£6.50

this was like a dense frozen custard ice cream blended with a bunch of mix-ins. we got the union shack, which was made up of chocolate custard, st john bakery chocolate hazelnut brownies, fudge sauce, paul. a. young chocolate chunks and sea salt. i actually think it sounded better than it tasted, because it sounds amazingly amazing, doesn’t it? and it just tasted… not bad, pretty good! hahaha. i thought there was nothing fantastic about the ice cream itself – it was smooth and creamy, but nothing exceptionally extraordinary. the mix-ins were yummy though! especially the hazelnut brownie, despite the fact that it was very sweet. i’d probably have been more satisfied with gelupo gelato or something, though.

it was definitely a much-needed visit to a much-raved about place, and despite the fact that it fell below my expectations, i wouldn’t mind going back if i’m in the area and looking for a cheap (by london standards) and satisfying meal.

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Shake Shack

24, Market Building, The Piazza Covent Garden
London WC2E 8RD