Sunday, 20 December 2015

Jun Tanaka's The Ninth

It is no secret that Jun Tanaka is my favourite chef, so when I heard that he was opening his very own restaurant it was a no brainer booking a table.
Jun's background is pretty impressive working at some of the very best restaurants around such as Le Gavaroche, Chez Nico and The Square until landing himself an executive role at Pearl.
The Ninth (located on Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia)  showcases what Jun is all about. Putting his experiences and his training over the years and translating it into mouth watering and out of this world food.

The Ninth is a classy joint and not over the top. It's laid back, casual décor is perfect for all you FoodPunkers wanting to enjoy some of the best dishes that Jun is serving at this moment in time.

As for the food, I could go on all day and night about it. It was probably the best I've had in a while. I was really impressed by the menu.  The choices that were there made it tough for me but luckily I was in a small group which meant that a number of dishes could be picked for us to share.

I think you'll agree that by looking at the menu it's hard to decide what to have. It's a well thought out menu and the flavour combinations are very impressive. There is no doubt that you will end up going back again, but hey that's not a bad thing obviously.

If you have a big appetite, then my advice is to order a little bit of everything from the top to the bottom of the list, picking a few from each section. Whatever you pick, I'm sure you will get excellent plates of food.

As for the food I hear you say? Well FoodPunkers, this is what I had! Take a deep breath and feast your eyes on these banging dishes.

Oxtail Croquettes

Pitta, Oregano and Sea Salt

King Prawn Macaroni, Chives and Ginger

Duck Scotch Egg

Ossobuco Tortellini and Bone Marrow

Razor Clam Cerviche

Sea Bass Carpaccio, Salsa Verde and Pickled Kohlrabi

Salted Beef Cheeks, Oxtail Consommé, and Charred Cabbage

Pan Fried Gnocchi, Ceps and Shallots

Lamb En Croute, Jerusalem Puree


Pommes Cocotte, Rosemary and Confit Garlic

Honey Roast Vegetables, Bleu D'Auvergne

Whole Roast Quail, Smoked Bacon, Foie Gras, Lardo and Grape

Beetroot Tarte Tartin

Toasted Fregola, Pecorino and Butternut Squash Risotto

Cheese Plate


Pain Perdu, Honeycomb and Vanilla Ice-Cream

Apple Tarte Tartin

Rosemary Ice-Cream

Superlatives are useless right now because everything was spot on. Every single dish was a winner in my eyes.
A special mention has to go to the sea bass carpaccio and lamb en croute. They were to die for. What was great about the dishes was that it had the perfect balance, whether you fancy something light or something a little more hearty. Whatever you pick, I'm sure its going to be pretty special.

Meeting Jun capped off what was for me a cracking evening. I must stress that everyone needs to visit The Ninth because believe me this restaurant is going places and will only get bigger and better. 2016 will surely be Jun's year.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

All Bao Down

Over the last couple of months people have been telling me to visit and check out Bao. Not only that I've read many positive reviews about the place via Facebook and various magazines/websites. Therefore I got off my arse and decided to give Bao a FoodPunk visit.


Located at the end of Lexington Street in Soho, the restaurant is very difficult to miss. Why?. Because from 12-3 or 5:30-10:00 you'll notice a swarm of people queueing up opposite, eager to get a piece of the action.
Admittedly I tried a few weeks ago to get in but with the weather being crappy I wasn't in the mood to wait.

This time around however I was going to make it my mission to eat there regardless. I was planning to go there for lunch and as I said earlier they open from 12-3. But because of my laid back approach I didn't get to the restaurant until 2 and with only an hour left I decided to have a few pints at the pub and had a cheeky tapas lunch at Brindisas waiting for Bao to open again at 5:30.

Luckily Brindisas is only twenty seconds away from Bao but by 4:30 there were already hungry punters loitering outside the restaurant. By five o clock a queue was already starting to form, so I quickly ran across the street so that I wasn't right at the back of the line. I was ready to get inside this much hyped place. 

Now before I go on about the restaurant and the food itself, let me stress that so far what you have read is no exaggeration. You really do need to give yourself plenty of time to avoid disappointment.

Bao has an incredible atmosphere due to the fact that there's not much room to manoeuvre. Its tight space and polished wooden interior really gives it a supper club type feel. The staff are an excellent bunch and really do make you feel at home in their tiny abode.
I sat by the kitchen and the amount of dishes flying out was astonishing and it was only ten minutes into service by that point.

The menu is short, concise and very easy to read. The prices for each dish are more than affordable and definitely worth spending the money. If it's your first time going to Bao, fear not, the staff are on hand to tell you how many dishes they recommend you get.

If I wasn't being my greedy self and avoided eating so much at Brindisas, I would have ordered a few more dishes. I still mixed it up a bit and in my opinion ordered cracking food.
Within minutes of ordering, food started to arrive on my table. I highly recommend the guinea fowl rice. Thin tender slices of meat, a runny egg yolk, crispy shallots and fragrant rice, whats not to love? And like I was advised, mix that egg yolk everywhere. Its a real treat.

For something so simple, the beef soup with braised daikon is bloody delicious. It's rich, meaty stock packs so much flavour and the daikon bathing inside just soaks it all up. After one sip I just wanted more and more and before I knew it, there was an empty bowl. Next time I'm gonna order two!
If you want something less heavy to start off with, then the aubergine with the wonton crisp is the perfect alternative. Its light and the aubergine is smoked bang on point allowing the subtle Asian flavours to come through. Oh and if you like a little kick then this dish is for you.

Now for the main event. The Bao's on offer make it difficult to decide which one to pick. Heck you probably could order all of them due to the size of them.

If you're like me and you love fried chicken, Bao's is to die for with a crispy bit of tender chicken lightly coated in hot sauce and sandwiched in between a soft fluffy bun.
I absolutely loved the daikon bao. It was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and it carried a lot of vibrant flavours.

If you still got room for sides, go for the sweet potato chips. We've all had a soggy sweet potato chip but at Bao's, they're super crispy and the sweet plum ketchup drizzled on top makes it a winner.


Bao is ultimately a cool, funky joint to go to. The menu is short and simple but it delivers in tremendous style. I honestly can't wait to go back there again and hopefully next time try all the different Bao's. Queuing up for half an hour was worth it and I encourage everyone to check it out for themselves.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A Little Piece Of Levant Heaven

Edgware Road is one of the many parts of the City that is rich in ethnic culture. The area is particularly distinctive for it diverse communities from across the Middle East and Africa. Naturally because it is so rich in that culture, the area contains many shawarma and kebab type restaurants. There are so many of them ranging from big establishment to small cafes, all giving Londoners a taste of what the Middle East is all about. But because there are so many, it is hard to know which is worth spending your money on and which is not.

However if you're crying out for a place that will serve up great, traditional Middle Eastern food and at the same time want to avoid the hustle and bustle and non stop traffic of Edgware Road, then look no further as I have one restaurant in particular that will definitely suit your needs.

The other week I checked out this really stylish  restaurant right in the heart of Borough Market.
Arabica, a place that is heavily influenced from the Turkish and Levante area produces fantastic dishes inspired from that region.

Now when it comes to food from that part of the world I think of light, fresh flavours and combinations and Arabica delivers just that.
With its low lighting, relaxed mood, you can be sure to kick back and relax and enjoy the many plates of food on offer.

At such affordable prices, the restaurant creates a whole range of tasty looking dishes from a variety of different cooking methods such as using a clay oven and grilling. The great thing about Arabica is that they have an open kitchen where the chefs cook fresh fish and quality meats.

Just like going to any tapas restaurant, you can pick as many dishes as you like and with so many to choose from it can be tricky (in a good way of course) as practically all of them sound bloody tasty. If you were to go as a large party the choices would probably be so much easier.

On this particular occasion I ordered a mixture of dips, fried, charcoal, clay oven and veg type dishes.

To start with I had a lovely smooth, light homous with a healthy amount of olive oil in the centre. As well as the homous, I also had Moutabel which is basically Babaganoush. Warm homemade flatbread was also accompanied with the dips to help mop up every last bit of them.

I love my fried food ( lets face it who doesn't)  and I'm as sucker for onion rings in particular. These onion rings were gigantic and they were coated in a crispy light batter, finished off with spicy chilli and lemon zest.
As well as the onion rings I had falafels which are perhaps the most recognisable and popular vegetarian food from the Middle East and Arabica make in my opinion the best falafels. They're crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside.

The Cheese & Za'atar Man'ousheh was definitely a firm favourite of mine. It had salty halloumi cheese, subtle sesame flavour and fragrant thyme combined with the sharpness from the sumac. Not one of those components overpowered the other. The balance was spot on.

The meat and fish are an incredible part of what Arabica is all about. The lamb meshwi in particular is a must have with its tender pieces of lamb marinated with mild flavours and spices and with the coarse walnut harissa paste it gives the meat another dimension. As all of you know by now, I'm a big a hater of nuts but the walnut harissa was the perfect partner for the lamb.
As for the mackerel plate, Arabica do it plain and simple. House smoked and finished on the grill with a healthy dollop of homemade saffron mayonnaise. What more do you need?

I had a really enjoyable evening at Arabica. With the food they create and the prices they're at, you're really onto a winner and not only that, the staff are incredibly friendly and cater for your every need. So if you're in the Borough area and more importantly want to discover the lands of the Levant have to offer then this place is definitely worth a visit.