Sakura at Sake no Hana | Lifestyle

sake no hanaSake no Hana | Japanese | Mayfair | Website | Nearest Tube: Green Park
– reservations available –

Last year I posted about fulfilling one of my foodie dreams – to visit Sake no Hana during cherry blossom season. The annual event of Sakura at Sake no Hana is one of beauty and simplistic indulgence. The restaurant is transformed into a sea of sakura, with blossoms adorning walls, ceilings, tables… The dishes reflect the decor, with hints of sakura and cherry making their way onto the set menu. Myself and VA (chopstick panorama) were invited to return again this year, and of course we couldn’t say no to this glorious event.

To Start…

We began with a cocktail so innovative, I doubt it could ever been outdone. The Kaori Arpége mixes gin, yuzu sake, cherry liquor, peach bitters, grapefruit juice and agave. It sounds wonderful, no? As delicious as it was, the presentation and use of edible perfume made the drink. Our perfumes consisted of 3 flavours: refreshing elderflower, spicy cinnamon and floral violet. My favourite was the unique use of violet, which smelt as wonderful as it tasted.

Mains…

After a light miso soup, we were served our boxes. These consisted of a Sushi & Sashimi Box and Salmon Miso Yaki. I can’t eat raw fish, so the chef kindly seared mine for me. Each mouthful was fresh and flavoursome. I could have easily eaten two boxes. However I’m glad I didn’t as the Salmon Miso Yaki with egg mustard sauce is not to be missed. We both noted that the portions of chunky salmon were of considerable size, and the mustard sauce was smooth and tangy, but not spicy.

And Dessert…

To end our meal I chose the Cherry Chocolate Sake Mousse with a side of Sakura Sencha (a special blend of cherry blossom tea). As always, Sake no Hana produced a beautifully light dessert. With subtle hints of cherry and chocolate, this is a dessert that almost anyone could enjoy. I was pleased to find that the blend of tea was the same as last year; sweet, bold and the perfect accompaniment to their Cherry Blossom Macarons.

Sake no Hana final thoughts:

VA and I spent the good part of 2 hours in the restaurant. When the food is this exceptional, and the decor this magnificent, time flies by. Even if you can’t make it for the Sakura Menu (£34pp for cocktail, soup, sushi and salmon boxes), I would suggest stopping by for the Sakura Sencha (£4.50) and Macarons (£1.80 each/5 for £8). As always I throughly enjoyed my experience of Sakura at Sake no Hana, and that’s exactly what this is, an experience. Relax and enjoy your time at Sake no Hana, because this is as much a feast for the eyes, as it is for the stomach.

Check out last year’s Sakura at Sake no Hana post here.

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Where to Eat in London: Nosteagia

nosteagiaNosteagia | Bubble Waffles & Bubble Tea | Nearest Tube: Shoreditch High Street

Every now and again I will complain about the lack of Taiwanese food in London. For some reason it’s a real rarity. So when I do find it, I hold onto it. Previously I’d found the delicious lunchbox offerings of Bian Dang, but a part of me was craving for something sweeter. Luckily, I happened upon Nosteagia whilst browsing Instagram one day. I noticed that they were located close to my office, at Pump on Shoreditch High Street, so I rushed down for one of their bubble waffles. Yes you heard me correctly, Taiwanese bubble waffles!

The Sweet…

On my first visit to Nosteagia I tried the King Chocolate Bubble Waffle; a mixture of M&Ms, Nutella, chocolate sauce and cream. It was delicious, and gave me a much needed sugar boost after a long morning. Since then I have tried waffles overflowing with coco pops, ones with matcha ice cream, peanut butter…even one with half a Snickers bar sticking out of it! These sweet treats are as delectable as they are Instagramable.

And The Savoury…

Believe it or not, Nosteagia offer savoury dishes as well. In fact when I popped by on my first visit I brought a friend, who ordered the Gyudon (Japanese dish of rice and seasoned beef). It was so authentic and delicious, that he comes back with me every time, and he always orders the Gyudon. In fact quite a few of my work buddies sing the praises of Nosteagia’s savoury dishes.

Final thoughts on : Nosteagia

Nosteagia may be offering up Instagram worthy foodporn for the people of East London, but there’s more to this street food vendor than meets the eye. It is run by two of the loveliest people I’ve met in the London street food scene – two students who wanted to bring Taiwanese Bubble Tea to London. The ingredients used are fresh, and the food is made on the spot. The introduction of a weekly special has also been a real treat. I always look forward to seeing what they will come up with next. In my opinion, the savoury dishes are just as worthy of your lunch money as the waffles. However if I had to give one tip, it would be to come here for a savoury lunch…and stop by later for dessert!

Read more in my Where to Eat in London series.

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Where to Eat in London: Wa Cafe

wa cafeWa Cafe | Japanese Patisserie | Nearest Tube: Ealing Broadway

Some may say that France has the best patisseries in the world, however I would have to disagree. Japan has learnt from it’s European counterparts and created something altogether unique – fusing traditional ingredients with modern techniques. I’m sure you won’t find it odd when I say I miss Japanese food. However you may be surprised that a lover of savoury items such as myself, misses Japanese pastries. I can’t begin to explain how delicious and light they are. It’s something sweet and savoury fans alike should experience at least once in their life. So when I heard that Wa Cafe (an authentic Japanese patisserie) had opened in Ealing Broadway, I knew I had to try it. Skip ahead almost a year, and I was back again for my birthday weekend.

The Savoury…

 The first time I visited Wa Cafe they had run out of sandwiches, so I knew I had to grab one this visit. Two soft, chunky slices of bread encompass the Chicken Katsu Sandwich. Inside, the breaded chicken is accompanied by lettuce and a delicious salad dressing. This is one gigantic sandwich; perfect for sharing. However a dish this delicious may leave you wanting a whole one for yourself.

And The Sweet…

The savoury dishes here may be wonderful, but I know you’re all wondering how the cakes are! This visit I had the Strawberry Shortcake, and I was not disappointed. Japan’s Strawberry Shortcake is very different to the UK kind. A light sponge is layered with cream and strawberries. It’s very popular as a birthday cake in Japan, so it seemed fitting for this particular visit. Wa Cafe’s is just as light and airy as those I ate in Japan. The cream is sweet, but not sickeningly so. And even as someone who dislikes strawberries (yes, I’m weird), I enjoyed this cake immensely.

Final thoughts on : Wa Cafe

Wa Cafe is well worth the journey (around an hour from my East London dwellings), and well worth the wait. The cakes are as delectable as they are aesthetically pleasing. I spent around £17 on this particular visit, and I don’t regret spending a penny of it. Previously I tried the Matcha Swiss Roll, Curry Pan and the Melon Pan – all of which I would have again…once I’ve worked my way through the rest of the dishes. Of course. I could easily have breakfast, lunch and dinner here. In fact I’m not even upset that visiting means becoming more acquainted with my gym membership.

Read more in my Where to Eat in London series.

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Celebrating Chinese New Year at Yauatcha

yauatchaYauatcha City | Dim Sum | Broadgate Circle | Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street

Last week Yauatcha invited myself and VA (chopstickpanorama) to come along to their City location, to celebrate Chinese New Year with them. I don’t usually celebrate new year, whether it’s British, Chinese etc etc…you get my point. However when Yauatcha told me that this particular celebration would involve copious amounts of food – and gin – I found myself unable to say no.

Dim Sum

We ordered all of the dim sum dishes from the CNY menu, which includes: Caviar siew long bun (full of soupy deliciousness), Foie gras roast duck puff (beautifully presented rich parcels of goodness), Caviar taro dumpling (a dumpling by any other name…) and Black truffle edamame sesame ball (oddly sweet). The Caviar siew long bun was the best dish by far for me that evening. However the Foie gras roast duck puff came in at a close second. Controversy aside, this is a delicately rich and buttery dish, and I love the heart shaped pastry. I could easily have ordered both of these numerous times, and gorged on them for the rest of the night.

Main

For our “main” we ordered the Yauatcha scallop pushing (a light, refreshing salad), Hakka fortune pot (a variety of meats & seafood) and Dried oyster fried sticky rice (to accompany). The Yauatcha scallop pushing was a mixture of textures and zesty flavours. Our server also explained that this traditional dish comes with an added bonus; by mixing it as high as possible you can make one wish for the new year. Let’s see if VA’s comes true (she did all the mixing)! I was excited for the Hakka fortune pot as it included abalone (a new taste for me), however I felt slightly let down by the dish. Alongside the Dried oyster fried sticky rice, it all just seemed like a classy version of a Chinese takeaway…which to be fair, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not for me.

Gin Cocktail Flight & Macarons

The cocktail flight was a lovely accompaniment to our meal. Each of the 3 cocktails was served at separate times throughout the evening; to compliment the food we were served. Of course the Saffron gin and tonic was my favourite. Ever so sweet, and a pleasing colour  – kudos to Monkey 47 for this dry & complex gin.

The macarons (Gin and tonic, Juniper berry, Bitter orange almond, Elderflower ginger, Rose rosehip and Camomile) were a delight, as they always are at Yauatcha. Their innovative use of ingredients never fails to produce a unique flavour and texture. My favourites of the evening were the Rose (tastes just like Turkish delight), and the Camomile (the buttercream is almost custardy in texture).

My thoughts…

Our meal came to just over £157 (£79 each), including the cocktail flight. Taking this into consideration I can’t say I would go back and spend that much. However I would happily go back for the select few dishes that helped make my evening so delicious (see bolded items).

Head to Yauatcha to view their Chinese New Year menu.

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A London Life… at Sushinoen with Nuffnang UK

sushinoenSushinoen* | Japanese | Whitechapel | Nearest Tube: Aldgate East

London is a culinary melting pot of cuisines. We have the complete A-Z of food, from Algerian to Zambian – Foodies need not be disappointed. Whereas I do enjoy discovering new cuisines, there’s one I always go back to – Japanese. After living there, I have a handful of recipes that I like to re-create at home. However there’s nothing better than having someone else cook for you, am I right?

This past weekend I was lucky enough to be a guest at Sushinoen, courtesy of Nuffnang UK. A cute Japanese restaurant tucked away in the heart of Whitechapel, Sushinoen serves up a variety of Japanese dishes. We were sat at a sunken table (horigotatsu), which I always find super comfortable. After everyone had arrived we ordered a bottle of plum wine (umeshu) – my favourite Japanese tipple. Conversation flowed as the first round of food was brought to the table: Butakakuni, Agedashi Tofu, Beef Tataki, White Tuna Carpaccio, Mixed Seaweed Salad, Shumai, and Chicken Gyoza. Honestly I would recommend it all, but it was the Butakakuni and the Agedashi Tofu that really had something special. Agedashi Tofu is probably my favourite Japanese side dish, the crispy outer is complimented by the soft inner (and a wondrous tentsuyu broth). However it’s the Butakakuni that surprised me the most, as I’m not the biggest fan of pork belly. This though was so tender it fell apart and melted in the mouth – definitely my dish of the day!

At this point I was already starting to feel full, and then a wild plate of sushi rolls appeared! We had the Bravo Duo (seared tuna & salmon on California roll) and Spider (prawn tempura on California roll) rolls. I could only manage a couple of bites, but I was left wanting for more  – thank you Hidekazu Tojo for this marvellous invention! Unfortunately we were all too full to eat any Sukiyaki (the next dish on the menu), but nothing was wasted as we were given boxes to take home. The dessert of matcha ice cream & mocha was a light & refreshing end to the meal. Of course I always have room for something sweet – my friends say I have betsubara – especially if it’s matcha.

For any bloggers interested in working with brands, I’d highly suggest checking out Nuffnang UK.
And for those with a rumbly tummy, Sushinoen is definitely worth a visit.

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Where to Eat in London: FOLD Vietnamese

fold-vietnamese-restaurant-brick-lane-london-2FOLD | Vietnamese | Brick Lane | Website
– reservations are available –

My love affair with Vietnamese food started over a year ago, shortly after meeting V.A (chopstickpanorama). It was a new venture for me, and one that I would undoubtedly come to love. Much like my love for Japanese food, I enjoy the light, subtle flavours in Vietnamese cuisine. Luckily my office is close to Kingsland road (the best place for Vietnamese food in London), so I am able to enjoy these flavours pretty often. That said, my favourite dishes are those made by V.A herself – a restaurant could never compare to good home cooking. Thanks to her kind nature she has introduced me to a variety of dishes, of which my favourites are Banh Cuon and Shaking Beef. So when she told me of a new Vietnamese restaurant opening even closer to my office, I just knew we had to check it out.

FOLD is based on Brick Lane and offers up “Vietnamese folding food” – aka rice paper dishes. Walking in I was impressed with the contemporary, clean interior. We took a seat on a communal table, and began to browse the menu. This is where I start to sound pretentious – the dish names are not in Vietnamese. Instead they have descriptive English titles, which is a little confusing. I searched the menu for my beloved banh coun. I think V.A could see the worry in my eyes, so she asked the server. Luckily we were told it is indeed on the menu (Steamed Rice Paper Pancakes). We ordered a selection of other dishes and were served pretty quickly. Most of these dishes can be prepared in advance, which makes the service very smooth.

For me the stand-out dishes were the Beef Carpaccio Folding Set (reminiscent of shabu shabu), the Salt & Pepper Tofu Folding Set (light and crunchy) and the Vietnamese Coffee (come on, as if you weren’t expecting that). Unfortunately the Banh Cuon was a bit too thick, and lacked flavour. That said, I liked how they filled it with egg rather than shrimp or pork – making it edible for almost everyone.

I can see myself going back for lunch, and sharing a folding set with a friend. However I’m afraid to say that I probably won’t go back for dinner at this price. These are not expensive ingredients, and whereas I understand Brick Lane is not a cheap place to rent, I just can’t justify £40 a head (we paid £21 with a cocktail thanks to the discount). I’d suggest trying it out with the 50% off during their soft launch (on until 6th Nov) though. Check out FOLD Vietnamese for more info.

Thanks to V.A (Chopstickpanorama) for the photos of me.

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Where to Eat in London: COUNTER Vauxhall

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COUNTER Vauxhall | European | Vauxhall Arches | Website
– reservations are available –

Brunch isn’t something you get to enjoy every day of the week. And in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. Brunch is a relaxing occasion where you gather with friends/family to fully enjoy your food and free time. I try to have brunch at least once a week, as it spares me the time to appreciate the food I’m eating, and the company I’m keeping. Plus, who doesn’t love getting up late on a Sunday and eating tons of food? Step in Zomato. Or more precisely, a Zomato meet-up at COUNTER* in the far away land of Vauxhall.

COUNTER is a modern restaurant based in Vauxhall’s railway arches, less than a minute outside of the station (it’s literally next door). Walking in I felt a real Mad Men 1950/60s vibe to the place, albeit with a contemporary twist. A pianist was playing by the front of the restaurant – whom I would later find out took requests – and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. It’s so nice to walk in to a restaurant where people are talking, rather than sitting on their phones (yes, I did just go there as a blogger). We started with Peach Bellinis (one of my favourites), which was actually part of a £20 DIY menu that included a bottle of Prosecco, peach puree and sliced peaches. That’s really not bad for a boozy brunch with your fave group of people.

I ordered a flat white and the New England Crab Cake, with artichoke, smoked salmon, poached egg, and chive mayonnaise. My coffee was ok (I sound like a coffee snob), but it was my Crab Cake that rightfully stole the show. It was soft, flavoursome, presented beautifully, and just the right size. You couldn’t ask for more. If I had the option of eating it again, I most certainly would. I also shared some Bacon, Mac & Cheese Balls with the ladies (so so good) and some sourdough toast (toast is toast). After our brunch we were offered a dessert menu. Dessert…with brunch!? Of course, I love finishing my brunch with something sweet! Being the peanut butter fiend that I am I chose the Peanut Butter Parfait. I am most definitely a peanut butter snob, and I can tell you that this dessert had the perfect amount of the holy paste. However there was a little too much jam for me in some parts – I’m not a PB&J kinda gal – so I didn’t finish it entirely.

The wait staff were friendly and incredibly helpful, making sure we had everything we needed; I noticed this was the case for the tables around us also. Price-wise my brunch came to about £20 – including my share of the Prosecco deal. We were at COUNTER for almost 4 hours, so the £20 doesn’t seem like a lot, when I consider how much I ate and drank. I had a wonderful time. My tip? Ask the pianist to play your favourite song…or the Jurassic Park theme tune – it’s awesome!

Check out the rest of my Where to Eat in London series.

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COUNTER Vauxhall Arches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato