Month: December 2015

New York, A Round Up

Prior to our New York trip I took food planning to a new level. Inside the depths of my iPhone were each district of the city, marked out with places to eat for each budget and every plausible occasion. Want somewhere to eat on the cheap in Little Italy? I have it covered. Breakfast in Mid Town? I’m your man. Except I’m not. Even the best made plans go to waste. It transpires that not everyone wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 10am, or that even I care where we eat after drinking all day. After already posting on our experiences at Gramercy Tavern and Momofuku Noodle Bar, here is a snapshot of the rest of our eating in the Big Apple.


I have been dreaming about Dos Toros ever since we came back. I don’t care that it is a chain – for me they have the perfect business model. It’s fairly priced, they have real ethics about meat sourcing, and, most importantly, a product that works. The burritos are absolutely the best I have ever had and make the UK’s efforts look pathetic in comparison. The braised meat (we tried both the pork and the chicken), the guacamole, the black beans, even the bloody tortilla. Even single element was handmade and delicious. Add a hot sauce with enough raw heat to induce tears and beer which is almost as cheap as water and you have one of my favourite places in the world.



This can not be said about a couple of other places.  We ended up at The Sugar Factory on the recommendation of a server in a bar whilst on the hunt for Americana in The Meat Packing district.  I can only assume she hated the Brits.  Its the stuff of nightmares; TGI Fridays seen through the eyes of Heat magazine.  The walls are plastered with pictures of awful celebrities whist awful staff serve awful food.  I never took photos as I was too busy looking in disbelief at the dead fly on the rim of my cocktail glass.  The scariest part was not the bone dry chicken, or the heart attack inflicting deep fried mac and cheese, but that the place was full.

The Jintan ended up our default diner when the queue at Momofuku Noodle Bar defeated us first time around.  In premise, its a great neighbourhood Japanese restaurant; low stools, dim lighting, a big sake list and a menu with some things in soup, some raw things, and other things battered and deep fried.  The reality is it wasn’t very good, with vegetable tempura that bordered on raw and a notably bad chicken katsu curry, which tasted a bit like my mothers stew did, only not as nice.  Add staff who were up there with some of the rudest I am yet to encounter and you have somewhere with no real redeeming feature other than it serving ramen across the road from somewhere where people may get fed up of queuing at for ramen.



That same evening we had a table booked at PDT, an achingly cool speak-easy through the phone box at Crif Dogs in the East Village.  Still hungry and getting drunker by the minute, I try a hotdog wrapped in bacon and loaded with kimchi spicy enough to make you question your choice the following day.  It was good, but then I live within walking distance of Chilli Dog Hotdogs, so perhaps I’m spoilt when it comes to sausages in a bun.


We finish our trip with an eating challenge at The Pullman Kitchen because my friend Phil and I would rather eat 5lbs of food than walk around Bloomingdales handbag shopping all day.  The Beast of Midtown East is just that; some deep-fried chicken, waffles, cheese, peppers, bacon, ham and the kitchen sink.  Did we finish it? Of course not.  But we had a great time trying, partially because the girl behind the bar exhuded the sort of charismatic service that we had stupidly hoped was standard in NYC, and partially because the sandwich was very nice.  It would make a great lunch for 2-3 people, but for one it was just daft.  The Pullman Kitchen is a lovely neighbourhood bar-restaurant, which just happens to house a stupendous sandwich. Here is Phil with The Beast of the Midtown East:



So, a mixed bag in this grand city, with unsurprisingly the researched places coming out better than those left to chance.  Not that this is a shock; look to any major city with a large foot-flow of tourists and you’ll have to search hard for the good ‘uns amongst those looking to make a fast buck from a good location.  But none of this has detracted from New York – its one of the finest places in the world.  It will take more than one or two dodgy meals to stop me going back.

Dos Toros 8/10

Sugar Factory 0/10

The Jintan NYC 3/10

PDT 7/10

The Pullman Kitchen 8/10

Dos Toros Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sugar Factory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

PDT (Please Don't Tell) Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Pullman Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Tapas Revolution, Birmingham

For those familiar with the old New Street Station and Pallasades shopping centre, the new look station and Grand Central are a breath of fresh air. What was once a concrete block of misery is now a spacious white dome straight out of a Stanley Kubrick dream.  Its detractors may complain about the lack of independent business within the curved walls and they are right in doing so, but I remember just how shit the shops were in the Pallasades. Call me whatever you want, but I will gladly now take Cath Kidston over Gimme Gizmo, and John Lewis over Poundland.

The same argument appears to have been rolled out for the restaurants here.  Walking around the open plan floor it does feel a little predictable with the usual suspects of nationwide brands and a smattering of smaller groups still trying to find their feet outside the stampede that is London.  It is one of these smaller brands, Tapas Revolution, that would feed us tonight.  I am sorry if you have come here looking for your corporate fix, though if you want to read someone trying to ascertain just how cheeky a Nando’s really is, please do me a favour and never visit this page again.


Tapas Revolution already feels polished enough to be in every city.  They have a glossy brand, modern interior and counter seats.  More importantly they have a menu that screams ‘EAT ME’ in every possible way at a price that wont break the bank.  There is proper hams from the correct pigs, regional dishes such a Asturian sausage and the promise of a lot of garlic.  I want to love it but I cant.  Everything we try was flat in flavour and lacking in love.


Take the paella.  At best it is a textural delight of rice – some bits crispy, others tender – heavy on the flavours of chicken stock and saffron.  Here it was one level of overcooked rice and metalic saffron, with meagre pieces of chicken and green beans.  It is under seasoned to the point that I fail to detect any salt at all – a problem which would repeat itself nearly as much as the alioli the following day.


The disappointments never stopped there.  Pisto should have been the Murcia version of caponata; a punchy salty, sweet and sour display of mediterranean veg at their best.  Nothing.  If my doctor ever tells me to cut salt out of my diet I will show him this dish and load the revolver for him.  We make the most out of a bad situation by piling it on to bread smeared with alioli overloaded with intense garlic.  A tortilla with potato and onion suffered similar levels of blandness.






Perhaps the best thing we ate was hot croquettes, big on ham flavour and deep fried to a crisp exterior.  These and a potato, chorizo and egg dish indicated that there was a degree of skill in the kitchen, though just how much is debatable.  The bill at £35 with a couple of beers puts it in the same bracket as the brilliant Rico Libre.  I know which one I would choose.  If convenience is your thing, please head to the domed roofs of New Street Station.  If its big, gutsy Spanish cooking is what you are looking for take a left at the stairs of the station and keep walking until you hit Digbeth.


Tapas Revolution Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato




Sabai Sabai, Moseley

I have a soft spot for Sabai Sabai. Its a place that I have rekindled a gentle love again for with frequent revisits at a period in my life where I seldom eat at the same place twice. I can walk there, eat well for a modest amount and stumble back home.  And I often do. The location in Moseley is small and comforting, with a waiting team who permanently look happy to be working there.  They must be fed a lot of the food.  Its serious cooking with its heart in the right part of the world and an eye on affordability.  There are other places to find Thai food in Birmingham.  None are as good Sabai Sabai.

I was invited to eat there to celebrate Loy Krathong, a festival that I am ignorant enough to know nothing about, which coincided with eating the planned Christmas menu, a festival I know a little too much of.  I have previously written about the virtues of the cooking here, so I will spare you the minute details and say that once again every dish served sparkled with the core principals of Thai cuisine.  A mixed platter started it off with the most handsome of chicken satay and unctuous pork spare ribs.  There were crab cakes, spiked with heat and tasting of crustacean instead of mashed potato, which reminded me that that in the right hands they can be a killer starter.  Best of all were perfectly timed scallops with garlic and peppers that had me emptying the last of the shells juices on to a prawn cracker.


Seabass is served in a similar sauce to the scallops and is just as remarkable.  The delicate flakes of fish fold away from each other and more than hold there own against the gentle aromatics and more punchy hits of garlic and chilli.  Its about as good as Thai food gets.  Curls of monkfish hide green beans wrapped in aubergine.  Its the yellow curry sauce that lifts the dish with high notes of ginger and the comfort of coconut milk.



I’m a sucker for duck meat.  Show me crispy skin and I am yours.  Honestly, you just try it.  Here is no different, with sweet meat and skin that cracks on impact.  Fried shallots and pak choi are there to provide both ends of the textural scale, with a tamarind sauce adding more sweet and sour interplay.  006

There was dessert, but I was too busy dreaming of the duck to take pictures or notes.  No usual score out of ten this time, as I only gave them the major thumbs up five months ago.  This time it just a major endorsement of what they have to offer.  The Christmas menu is £25 for three courses, which is incredible value for what is a far more interesting prospect than some overcooked turkey in a chain pub.  At this price it is not a question of if you should go, but when.  I’m already booked up to go in December, and so should you.

Sabai Sabai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I was invited on this occasion and did not see a bill