New Year’s Eve
My dinner of steamed Brussels and cuttlefish balls covered with aligue (crab fat). The latter isn’t too good for anyone- triple bypass comes to mind.
New Year’s Day
And yet again no rest for the infernally wicked. Work and that was at 9AM! You see that silver cable coiled on top of my tool case; that is an ultra posh (actually in the hi-fi industry we call it state of the art) mains cable retailing at 11K GBP for a 2m run. You could actually plug that cable into your kettle, the boiled water might end up tasting like an elixir.
If I’m boring you then I might as well revel in it. The same cable draped over the speakers. Again in Hi-Fi terms you should spend at least 10% of the total cost of your system on ancillary cables (100 quid on a stereo that costs a grand). The system I was attending to that morning will set you back well over a 150K; and that’s only two channel (stereo- we’re purists and we don’t do home cinemas!). No, I don’t sell this kind of stuff every week and if did I would’ve employed a ghost-writer to maintain this blog.
New Year's Day Parade
After four hours of ensuring that the customer was well satisfied (he played Springsteen endlessly, an auspicious kickoff to 2010 and ewgh!) I ventured off to Piccadilly to catch a glimpse of the above. Personally I don’t think Londoners actually turn up at events like this; it’s instead one of those things that only the tourists would take the trouble and do so without the usual accompaniment of a hangover brewing from the night before.
Why did I bother turning up at this event. Well simple, the majority of the young kids have travelled afar from across the pond and away from their families just to enlighten us once a year with their talents. I thus felt inclined to be there (actually I’ve been part of the crowd for the past ten years and likewise the Notting Hill Carnival).
Lunch beckoned and the tummy rumbled in the midst of drums, brass and screaming cheerleaders. With Chinatown only a five minutes away, the thought of Dim Sum started to arouse my appetite. Now I would like to think of myself as a Mother Theresa figure of solo dining; I’ve been doing it for so long now and I relish the pleasure (oh reading material is essential otherwise one will be mistaken by the waiting staff and other diners as being a sad but solitary lemon). Like a barbecue, one simply can’t do Dim Sum alone; they’re both a social event and to do so alone would only confirm a thick-skinned character of anti-social leanings. So I called Marms with little or no notice, she obliged despite hosting her own evening the night before. Now as we all know MsM is a vegetarian (or possibly a reluctant fishyterian), I started to have doubts about Dim Sum in Gerrard Street- thoughts of vegetarian dumplings becoming contaminated by lard or meat stock ruled out the whole idea to smithereens. All dumpling emotions were banished and I decided upon some kind of Nippon tuck instead.
There were two choices- Tokyo Diner (365 days a year, no service charge, aged, indifferent feedbacks, blah, blah…) and Abeno Too. The latter was the first I showed MsM; it was busy, modern and projected a kind of magnetism of ‘be there or be square’ about it. And since it was also highly recommended by a fellow food blogger to MsM, we succumbed and entered.
The place looked like some kind of teppanyaki joint New Labour would be proud off; not too showy but entailing a hidden agenda or two. It’s also Benihana without the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon antics. In addition to the main communal dining area where diners congregate around a bar-like plan there were four separate tables for those who eschew elbow to elbow dining. The bench/seats double up as storage compartments for your cloaks or in my case a week’s supply of fishballs from nearby See Woo supermarket. Like in most Japanese eateries these seats are sadistically hard and promote discomfort (an ode to the misery of Ms Emma Royd is beyond validated). Each table is fitted with a teppan or iron griddle. I’m surprised that in this day and age no ‘Beware, Burns Likely’ disclaimers are presented to the diners at Abeno Too. Mark my word this place is a dream for injury lawyers to swoop on some ignorant buffoon who decided to sizzle his upper limbs; however unknowingly and gulp, knowingly.
We were famished by now, so the need for both food and some hair of the dog was absolute. As for the latter, whenever it was uttered by MsM to a member of the waiting staff whose command of English had been gathered from watching endless episodes of Mr Bean or plain half-hearted pidgin like mine; often provokes a clueless reaction of wtf?
A spicy burdock and carrot dish. I know that the comparison is poor but I’d rather have kimchi any day. I was confused as to why it was described as spicy; my mate Tapan from Calcutta would’ve cackled himself to death if he tasted it. The minuscule portion was priced at £2.80. I’ve been had.
A special dish of the day or possibly the last of the noughties. This is supposedly Cornish mack that’s been simmered/braised/boiled in a 'special’ (arghhhhhhhhhhh…hate that word!) marinade/sauce; that to my buds obviously pointed to a simple combo of miso paste and soy sauce. Good fish ended up in undignified circumstances; is what I thought of it. This was also one of those clever creations whereby the fish was cooked to mimic meat and a miserable attempt it was too. At £5.50, it was amateurish and diabolical value. I’ve been doubly had.
MsM’s Ume Croshi
Veggie udon soup. It took her only a few minutes to finish it. It must have been ok or perhaps even great for her, I didn’t bother tasting as my mind was rattling. From a perceived value point of view, it was poor; a packet of instant ramen at 55p to which I can add an egg, choy sum, shrimps, pieces of leftover roasts, auricularia auricula-judae, sea urchin, fake foie gras is more rewarding and it’ll still come to less than the £8.95 the above was charged. Waffle on I shall, in fact a bowl of wonton noodles (7-8 dumplings, take heed my dears) at Wonkys will only set you back £3.80 (oh free tea included and no service charge!). Help me if you can, for I’m well lost and in need of some reeducation on eating budget Japanese!
Abeno Too is part of a growing chain that thrives its reputation on the above. This is their description-
‘'Okonomi-yakis' are variations on a theme, the theme being a base of cabbage, egg and dough with spring onions, ginger and morsels of 'tempura' batter, the variations being any of the following in Deluxe or Super Deluxe size’
Hell, as far as I could observe it was simply a fried glutinous
MsM’s Tofu Deluxe
An immense amount of squirts of yummy Japanese mayonnaise was observed duly to make it more palatable (did you know that Jap mayo contains MSG, well I certainly didn’t tell her. We all love a umami kick without the need to know where it came from). She didn’t finish it and to make matters worse it was 9 quid eighty.
My Oshogatsu Super Deluxe
Super meant half a bowl more
The bill came to 70 quid to include a fair numerable amount of tips (this place doesn’t charge for service). A third of the total balance was for two flasks of house sake (280ml and £11 each). Why do Japanese restos insist on charging a premium for sakes? The stuff we had was hardly esoteric and I daresay the rice grains were hardly polished enough to justify their worth. A 500ml pot of superior Rhône at Terroirs would only set you back £11.50 and that spells common sense. I’ve been quadruply had. Stick to green tea methinks.
I suppose if one’s not fussy about tastes or harbour a grudge against MSG laced food in Chinatown, then come here; it’s all yours for the taking, I’m not going back (oh there are a few cash point machines in the vicinity should you overspend here).
You can read about MsM’s account here. Thankfully we ended up at the excellent Bou Tea.
*fumbled big time please see meemalee's comment. I'm well humbled.
17-18 Great Newport Street