Share your restaurant experiences/pictures/reviews!

ahpadt

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As more and more people have started to use the Food thread to post their reviews, I figured it could be a good idea to finally separate it into it's own thread.

I'll start.

So this weekend my girlfriend and myself went to London to celebrate my birthday. On the Saturday we had Dinner by Heston Blumenthal booked for lunch and Pollen Street Social for dinner. As a quick note I don't think I can recommend such a food heavy day to anyone - we felt sick when we were walking back to the hotel at night. But enough about that.


Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

The first impressions were obviously that since this place is located inside the Mandarin Hotel, it all felt very stiff. Lots of people walked around in full suits or dresses. Since it was incredibly warm that day we were very casually dressed, which I insisted, and still insist, is the correct way to dress in that restaurant.

It's almost a contradiction that this restaurant appears to be relatively simple, and the hotel extremely glitzy.

We arrived 30 minutes too early so we were seated in the bar and had a drink before we were guided to the table.

The menu is relatively small, but there should be something for everyone. For starters we both settled for the Meat Fruit, which turned out to be very good. Very soft and delicate centre of chicken liver parfait, with a slightly rubbery textured mandarin jelly on the outside. The jelly didn't have as much flavour as I had anticipated. I suspect it's got more essential oil in it, than actual mandarin juice. Still, it complimented the parfait very well, making it come across less heavy. It was served with some grilled bread, which gave the whole dish a nice smokey taste.

For main course I settled for the Black Foot Pork Chop and my girlfriend the Powdered Duck. The pork chop had loads of flavour and came with a simple garnish of sauteed new season cabbage. The waiter warned that it would be served pink - which is no problem for me - and it was just right. The fat on it melted like it was from a pork belly that had been braised for 5 hours.

I didn't have a chance to taste the duck, but I was told it was very good. The dish itself was 2 duck legs/drumsticks, served with smoked/fried fennel and potato puree.

One of the most talked about dishes is the Tipsy Cake, which I recommended to me girlfriend. It takes 35 minutes to prepare so you have to order it together with the starter/main in order to get it relatively quickly after the main course. The cake had an incredibly light texture, with a really hefty (for me anyway) boosy hit. It came with some spit roasted pineapple, which we could see being roasted from our table.

I had the Summer Tart. Which was a very crisp tart base (very similar to filo) filled with some green puree which was chamomile, strawberries, edible flowers and a biscuit ice cream. The ice cream was insanely good. The rest wasn't that special to be very honest, but it was still quite pleasant. The strawberries were the best bit together with the ice cream.

There had been so much hype about this place in the media, and combined with my own experience, I'm not so sure. It's a very nice place but it's nose-bleedingly expensive.

With 3 dishes to both of us and no alchohol, the bill ended up at 137 pounds, which is very steep for what you get.

Recommended only for those with really deep pockets (or get the bill paid for them, as a birthday present like me). :)

6/10


Pollen Street Social

I had been looking forward to going to Pollen St Social since last autumn. The opening of it had been delayed so many times I had almost given up my hope if dining there in 2011. :lol:

Immediately when you arrive it feels a lot more casual. When you arrive and leave your bags/coats you get a little key which you are told to bring back later - I'll come back to that.

We were first guided to a table which was located inside the bar area. The view was very disappointing - I was staring straight into a wall. I asked the waiter if it was possible to move table into the proper restaurant area and they said that would be no problem, which I was very pleased to hear as I had booked the table the 31st of March...

When you walk into the proper restaurant you immediately see the dessert bar, which is 6 seats for guests to go to eat their desserts if they want to (if it's full you can't wait and have to eat it at your table). There you can watch the pastry chefs make the desserts right in front of you, and you can ask them questions about the dishes.

We walked past the bar and guided to our table. The menu is not traditional in the sense that you can either have a straight 3 course meal, or you can opt for making your own tasting menu out of all the starters, half size 'main courses' or vegetarian courses. I heard that it's recommended to not go for any more than 4 or 5 courses - I went for 4 and my girlfriend 2.

I opted for the cauliflower and squid to start with. It was cubed up bits of squid served to look like a risotto. On top of it was slices of raw cauliflower and various sea vegetables, and when it was served to you, a squid consomme was poured on the side. This was the low point of the evening for me. The squid was very rubbery. It had a very good 'sea flavour', but it just didn't hit the mark for me, despite the rave reviews I had read about it. It also turned out that I am allergic to squid, so my throat felt numb for 30 minutes afterwards.

The next dish I opted for was the Full English Breakfast. This dish was basically a slow poached egg, with a tomato compote, mushroom puree, morells, bacon and parsley. It was SO good. I was a little embarrassed after having demolished the whole thing in 1 minute flat. :lol: The tomato compote overwhelmed the egg a little bit, but that was the only thing I could say about it.

After that I opted for a half sized main course of pork. Sous vide pork belly, beetroot (raw and cooked), hops, grains and sesame. The seeds gave the dish a slight bitter edge which worked well. The belly was soft and yielding - everything you'd want.

My last dish was a half size ox cheek, tongue and sirloin. The loin was served very rare and turned out to be very tough. The cheek and tongue were amazing. I've never had braised meat that soft before. Between the cheek and tongue there was a little caper and raising puree, which gave the dish a little lift of sweetness and acid. On the side I got horseradish mash and some larger chunks of sauteed carrots. At this point I was so full I couldn't finish it all, altho I wish I could. :lol:

My girlfriend opted for the breakfast (same as me) and pan fried cod with sea vegetables. I didn't taste that either but the fish looked perfectly cooked, as did the accompliments. She said it was the best cod she ever had.

At this point I had already asked our waiter if it was possible to have our desserts in the dessert bar. She said that you'll only get a seat there if there are available seats. We were lucky and there was indeed 2 seats free so after about 10 minutes we were guided over.

This was the best bit of the night. When you were seated you could look straight into the kitchen and into the dessert bar with all the pastry chefs working on the desserts. Before we ordered we got 2 very sharp sorbets - lemon and mango.

There's a regular dessert menu and then they have a 'micro menu' which is mini version of 3 of their desserts. I opted for the strawberry and tomato gazpacho, girlfriend strawberry cheescake and then we wanted to share a tiramisu in the end.

Even without any desserts I could've sat there for a long time just watching the chefs at work.

The gazpacho dish had a black olive sorbet, various wild and regular strawberries, a slice of sweetened, crisp bread and micro basil. The chef then poured the slightly thick gazpacho over the dish. The whole dish was a good interpretation of sweet and savoury, bit critically more sweet. It was delicious.

I sadly couldn't taste the cheesecake as it had hazelnuts on it, but I can report that even as a slight cheesecake hater, she said that it was over-the-top amazing. The dish had a long 'stick' of set cheese mixture, which was rolled around in grated hazelnuts and then dressed with strawberries, wild strawbarries and more crushed hazelnuts.

Then as the last dish we shared a tiramisu, which had so many elements I can't even remember half of them. As I can remember it had a set vanilla cream, chocolate ice cream, tia maria jelly(?), chocolate discs and a soft chocolate crumble. To finish the chef poured over a 'mocha coffee' - we got the rest of it in small cups. It was easily one of the best chocolate desserts I've ever had, but I still think I preferred the gazpacho.

I think this dessert bar concept will most definitely catch on and appear in other restaurants very soon. The interaction it provided was great fun and the desserts were ace.

Many chefs do have their name above the doors these days but rarely they are actually inside the kitchen. I can happily report that Jason was in the restaurant, talking to a few customers and being busy at the pass. I did pass him downstairs by the toilets twice but I was too shy to say anything. :neutral::wall:

This bill ended up at 131 pounds, which included 2 alcoholic drinks. I would say this place is much better value than Dinner, with more freedom for the customer.

When we went to grab our bags we gave the key back and then got a little parcel which included 2 small lemon muffins and one of their special tea bags - it came with a card saying "Breakfast on us" which is a very nice touch.

8/10

(I'm too tired to do any spell checking, so be nice..)
 
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RaptorJesus

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Went to Arun's Restaurant in Chicago, Kedzie and Irving Park for any interested in going. Might be the best Thai food I've ever had, it certainly outclassed anything I've had in LA, Chicago, NY or San Francisco. It's not fair to compare though, as this was a high-end cuisine restaurant and Chef Arun Sampanthavivat has won a James Beard for best Midwest chef. It was a 12 course meal and I forgot to take a picture of two of the appetizers, it was 6 appetizers, 4 entrees, and 2 desserts. Price was around $110 a person, and since it was Asian that was without wine and I didn't really miss it. Not cheap, not super-expensive either, and since I wasn't paying for it I was more than happy to cram it down my gullet. To compare Alinea, Tru, L20 and Charlie Trotters are all around $150-210 a person, and another $100 per head for a full wine pairing.

To the food, the appetizers I'm missing are a ginger, beetle nut amous bouche with tamarind sauce served on a beetle leaf. It was so good I knew the meal would go great. Next up was another appetizer, a delightful crab/lobster salad that was very refreshing on a hot day, with some hidden kick from some Thai birds-eye chilis.


This was a seafood spring roll, with jicama and served in a chili sauce that was sweet hot and sour.


Next was a shrimp wrapped in fried noodles, served with a spicy noodle and tofu over a omelet. Frickin amazing, the spice was great and the noodle over the shrimp exploded in your mouth into crackling.


This was Larb, which is a diced pork dish that is nicely spiced and delicious. This version was a lot more subtle that the larb you get in regular Thai restaurants, and had more depth of flavor.


Next up was a soup, served with pork belly, noodle, and a tea smoked egg. Maybe my favorite dish of the night, the broth was exceptional, and the tea smoked egg managed to not be overpowering.



On to the entree's, first was a green curry served with rice. The curry was well spice with good tenderness and bright flavor. I would say the meat was a bit washed out by the curry, and this was the worst dish of the night. Tasty, but not up to the exemplary standard of all the other dishes. It might be because I've had sublime green curry in some hole-in-the-wall Thai places, and this wasn't sophisticated enough to be among the other dishes.


The fish was great, sea bass with a beautiful ocean taste. I could tell they used sashimi grade fish and seasoned it perfectly. The sauce complemented the subtle flavor without being overly assertive. Also served with rice.


Third entree was a minced chicken dish, this had some balls. Really spicy with a beautiful texture that was crisp and soft and the same time. Also served with rice.



Last entree was diver scallops served over a japanese eggplant and potato in a squash puree. Holy shit, these are the tastiest scallops I've ever had. The potato seemed like an afterthought, but the squash was exceptional.



Finally, we have dessert. This was a crepe with vanilla custard inside, served with cherry compote. Tasty and refreshing, without being too heavy which was nice after 10 courses already.


Lastly a lychee sorbet served in a cardamom cookie shell, with ginger poached Asian pear and vanilla/cardamom sauce. Tasty end to a great meal.


Overall I would give the meal 8/10, not quite as good as I've had but still excellent. Price was reasonable for a 12 course meal, and the service was nothing but exceptional. Chef Arun and the sous chef both came out and were very warm, treating our table like family and asked us for our preferences. He made dishes special for my grandmother who is allergic to shellfish, and tailored the meal to our spice tolerant palates. For our party of 6 we had 2 dedicated waiters who attended to only our table. French Laundry was a 10/10, and hopefully Alinea will be as well when I can get a goddamn reservation.
 
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ahpadt

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That 2nd-to-last dessert looks kinda dumbed down if you compare it to the main courses... :|
 
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