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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The new Kikuchi: wow!

The charming Kikuchi (on which we reported here) has had a facelift! From a slightly old-fashioned room to a slick, contemporary black-dominated environment (and the toilets also are now very stylish, too - pity the makeover did not include any electronic Toto WC :) ).

We found the food as good as ever, the impeccable sushi of course

but also a special of airy tempura

(sucking those prawn heads was a task reserved for Man only, though) and especially a special of grilled fatty tuna ,

a concentrate of plump, oily smokiness.

Just send this all down with some cold, fat, thick noodles:

And we declare an addiction to their aubergine with sweet miso!

Coming just after a disappointing dinner at Gauthier, we found this evening as joyful and relaxing as ever. Out of the media and blogger circus (ehm) Kikuchi is a little gem, a secret which we like to share only with our seven readers. Here you can have a feast for less than £100 for two.


Gauthier Soho: A disappointing experience

 (Please read also the subsequent commentary here)

At the end of our dinner at Gauthier we were not happy, we were not satisfied, despite the fact that the truffle risotto (above) was luscious and intense as usual (with a £15 supplement it had better be).

This looks like the typical example of a restaurant that is being harmed by its own success. They are trying to fit too many diners in a space that might be charming and lovely, but in this way is rendered cramped and claustrophobic. On that night it was also unbearably noisy.

As a consequence, service suffers. While after so many years together we still enjoy our conversation...we could not ignore the disconcertingly long pauses between courses. Nor the fact that our dirty plates were left on our table for an eternity, just like in a crowded trattoria, much unlike a Michelin starred venue.

And any sauce tends to pool on one side of the plate: the sloping table - due to the sloping floor - that at the beginning of the evening looked rather charming, now adds to the air of decay. Here is an exhibit (veal sweetbread) if you want to exercise with your spirit level

In the past we used to appreciate Gauthier's understated and precise cuisine, but this time the pressure was felt by the kitchen, too. While an amuse of 'buillabasse' was creative and good (with the components of the traditional dish served dry and separate, as little miniatures), and no sloping sauces here,

there were cooking slips, which pinnacled with an overcooked seabass featuring a very unpleasantly soggy skin.

At dinner you can have 3,4, and 5 courses for £35, £45 and £55, respectively. Consider that 5 courses at Gauthier count more or less as three normal courses. Personally, we don't think our experience justifies these prices and when in London we'll be looking elsewhere in the future (beside our eternal Italian favourite which we never fail to visit, of course!).


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Martin Wishart: the best in Edinburgh at the mo

Martin Wishart, one of three Michelin starred restaurants in the Edinburgh gastro-strip in Leith, is producing at the moment some of the most accomplished cooking in the UK.

Our last two lunches there, last year and a few days ago, were phenomenal. The control and intensity of flavours shone in dishes of remarkable intricacy. As in this very Mediterranean FILLETS OF RED MULLET WITH ISLE OF MULL DIVED SCALLOP with
braised fennel, artichoke, crisp aubergine, confit shallot and tomato vinaigrette

or this Moreish CHAR GRILLED PRESA OF ACORN FED IBERICO PORK with minted peas and runner beans, pop corn of pork skin with a sour cherry sauce

(the one in the back is not a scallop but a potato sublimely crispy on the edges and moist inside).

Wishart has long been an enthusiast for mixing land and sea, and he succeeds spectacularly, like in this breathtaking starter of LANGOUSTINE TORTELLINI AND PIGS TROTTER with Soubise spinach and langoustine cappuccino.

in which the powerful flavours were resting against each each other with monumental grace. Or like in this more ethereal
LOCH FYNE CRAB “MARIE ROSE” AND VEAL TARTARE with white radish and Basque pepper

which however presented the interesting geometrical problem of how to remove one stick without destroying the rest of the structure.

At the start of our meal, we were intrigued by an amuse bouche of scallop with ink, that harked back to, and yet was so different from, a Pierre Koffman's classic that we love.

While in Koffman's version the play is all netween sweet and salty, here there is also an exciting acidic dimension generated by the foam of ??? - well, wish we could remember, surely there was some vinegar.

Everything is frighteningly meticulous here, including the service. When we were taking one of the photos, a waiter anxiously sprinted towards us begging us to let him fill our glass (which we had declined a minute before) because 'it would look like a service error'!

The only other frightening aspect here are the prices of water (£5.50 for 0.75 l), of coffee & petit four (£6), and the steep markups on wine (around here however you'll not be frowned upon if you ask for a jug of tap water). However, since you can have what is essentially a full 2* meal for £65 (or a tasting menu at £70, or £60 at luch for a slightly reduced one), with top raw material prepared at the highest level of fine cuisine, it's a fright one easily gets over.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Piazza Duomo (Alba)

We started with this:

and ended with this:

Not your usual salad, not your usual pannacotta...

For these are Enrico Crippa's interpretations of these humble dishes in his restaurant, Piazza Duomo in Alba.

They taste as good as they look. What was in between was equally, in fact even more, ravishing, in a spectacular 'traditional' tasting menu (there is also a more innovative one) which elaborates with great imagination, precision and a touch of magic on some classic Piemonte flavours and dishes.

Here are the traditional Agnolotti:

Prices are at the lower end of what you'd expect from a 2* restaurant currently producing, with a couple of others, the very best of Italian cuisine.

Crippa is assisted by a very capable and lovable front of house team. The wine list offers a long, truly excellent selection at all prices, even ones so low that such numbers simply do not not appear in London restaurants...We know, as we asked the sommelier to guide us on some wine around the 100 euro mark to match the food. But, to our surprise when we got the bill, we think he misunderstood 100 with 30 - or he just decided on the basis of our modest appearance that we could not afford an expensive wine...

It can be a great drinking, as well as eating, experience at Piazza Duomo (markups are generally well below 100% except for the very bottom of the list). We were moved indeed by this lunch.

PS: sorry for the long absence. Under time pressure, we stopped blogging, and mostly even taking photographs in restaurants. But we intend to come back with some suitably 'downsized' reports such as this one!
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