Saturday, 7 July 2007

Wagamama @ Birmingham

This is a bit old story.

Dim and I went to the Birmigham brunch of Wagamama restaurant. For those who are not British, Wagamama is a very popular restaurant franchise that offers pseudo Japanese style foreign food (bit complicated, I know, but I will explain later).

I knew that it was very popular, but I never brought myself to eat there, because 1) I don't know even 1 Japanese who like Wagamama, 2) it is not so cheap that I can forget about the bad food.

But one day a colleague of mine spoked about it enthusiastically and even gave me a 2 for 1 discount ticket, I decided to give it a go.

The Birmingham outlet is in Bullring with the entrance facing to St. Martin's. There almost always is a buzz, and also that night, it was near full.

This is what I ate: seafood ramen. "Ramen" is originally a Chinese style noodle dish, but it transformed into something different in Japan and you cannot find the same thing in China.

The soup did have something reminded me of Japanese food, but it was a sort of the thing I did not tasted in Japanese ramen. Above all, the noodles were real trush: there was nothing similar to Japanese noodles used for ramen. Absolutely disappointed. I would get 10 times better noodle dishes in nearby Chinese restaurants for less.

This is Dim's seafood rice. Stir-fried food in gooey sauce poured over rice is the kind of dish you can find in Chinese restaurant in Japan. Again, the soup had something wrong about it, and had an unpleasant burnt taste. Although the rice itself was ok, it was a bit mean and not satisfactly. Again, better at nearby Chinese restaurants.

We, or at least I, went out completely mystified. Why the British people like Wagamama so much remained a mystery to me. Paying a bit less than 10 pounds, I felt ripped off. I would rather go to any of the Chinese restaurants in the area, and pay 15 pounds.

Only thing that impressed me was the service. It was very quick and the waiting girls were all smily (smily waiters are rarity in Chinese restaurants).

We won't return.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Khazana (Vegetarian Indian Buffet)

9 May 2007 Dim and I went to this Indian-Chinese Vegetarian Buffet restaurant in Handsworth area.

Interior (Khazana)

This is interior. It made us forget to be in Handsworth (for those who doesn't know Birmingham, Handsworth is not a particularly good area where gun crimes and even a riot happened recently).

We went for the weekend buffet for £9.99/head. For this price we could have about 30 kinds of starters, main courses, soups and sweets. There was a plenty to choose from.

There was also a la carte menu, but it seemed a bit over priced.

This is my starter.

My starter
There were good things and bad things. Chapatti and square gram flour cake were good, but the rest were so and so. The orange rice was rather insipid and cold. Dhosa was ok, but I think I don't like Dhosa from the start.

Below is Dim's dish. The noodles at the centre of dish were particularly disgusting: they tasted as if they were burnt even if they were not. Also the white stuff was very strang: something savoury with sweet yogurt with it.


This is my main dish. Different from the starters, there two curries were quite nice: one is muttar panir and the other was curry with sticky potato. Unfortunately rice was bit dry and devoid of fragrance. I would have faired better with chapatti.

Main Dish

But the best things I ate here were these soups: left is mixed beans soup and right is sambar. They both very spicy and flavoursome.

For desserts there were carrot halwa and this mango soup, which was soothing and enjoyable.

Mango Dessert

In total, it was interesting experience, but not entirely positive. There were very nice things, but also some less than average food. I might want to return, but I would choose more carefully what I will eat.

For those who interested, you can find all the necessary information on their website.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Mango Yogurt @ EAT.


This food franchise called "EAT." is making a fair success in Birmingham. In a short period of time, 3 outlets opened and all doing fairly well. In the photo above is an outlet in Bullring.

Their main menu is sandwich, soups and salads, just as in another big franchise Pret-a-manger.

I have been a bit curious but I am not that keen to pay £3 to £4 for a sandwich. For the same price, I would rather go to eat fish and chips or kebab on naan. These give me more satisfaction.

On the other day, however, we had a chance to try something from there. It was Yogurt with Mango puree.

Yogurt with Mango puree

It cost £1.10. If we had eaten in, it would have costed £1.25 or so. It was Greek style thick yogort with pureed mango with little sugar. It was ok, but cost less if I just buy a yogurt from Tesco.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Moroccan Cafe "Atlas"

After a delicious dim sum lunch, we looked for a place to get some coffee. Avoiding our usual haunts, we decided to go to a recently discovered Moroccan cafe.

We have seen it for long time through the bus window, but we guessed it was Greek, because of its name "Atlas", and of the use of colours (blue and white being two colours used on Greek national flag).

We only recently discovered it is in reality a Moroccan, so we went there to investigate.

Moroccan tea
We had one coffee (£1), one Moroccan tea (£2) and one baklava (£1). The coffee was freshly made with an Italian style coffee maschine, and it was quite nice. Tea was served in a traditional small tea pot, on a metal tray, which make it appear very attractive. Baklava tasted different from the Greek one being drier and having different flavour. I sensed a yeast-ish smell, although yeast should not be used to make phylo pastry. Strange.

Moroccan Min Tea

In the tea pot, there were some mint sprigs as well as dried mint leaves. It contained sugar from the start, and quite sweet.

As food, we saw hummous and other paste and meat on skewers. On the black board, it was written "ask for today's special", so there might have been other stuff, too. Next time we will try the food.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Kashmir Cottage, Bearwood, Birmingham

30/06/2007 (Sat.) We went to Kashmir Cottage on Bearwood Rd. This is one of the closest restaurants from our house, and for me this was the third visit. Three times are not numerous for average people, but for me who often want to visit new to me restaurants, 3 times are many.

This is how it looks from out side. There used to be a big banner saying "Monday Tuesday Buffet £7.95". Fortunately it is now gone, although the same buffet still is still on offer.

The place is very small. There are about 40 covers. It you want to make sure to be able to get in, reservation is recommended, especially for Fridays and Saturdays. At all three occasions, I saw it quite populated or many table already reserved.

First, Popadoms. They charge for these. I think I payed about £1.5 for 2 popadoms and dips. But, as you see at the end, as the other dishes are so well priced, we end up paying less than at other places. Anyway, you have choice not to order them. I think it is always good to have choices.

Kashmir Cottage, Bearwood, Birmingham

For starter, we shared stuffed chili from their special menu. The green peppers were filled with yellow mashed-potato like, spicy stuffing and deep-fried in chick pea flour batter. Very nice, with fresh heat. Look also this large salad. They cost only £2.50!


Following are the main dishes. First, Chicken shashilik. Big, succulent pieces of chicken and vegetable cooked in tandoori oven. You think some of the vegetable are burnt; they are bit burnt, but give pleasant bitterness. This is my favourite dish, and I ordered it at all the 3 occasions.

Shashilik comes with this salad. Often the tandoori main dishes are accompanied by token salad, but at Kashimir Cottage, it comes in a separate dish in a big heap! All these for £4.95.

Side salad
This is aubergine curry, Baingan Bhartha. Baked aubergine mashed and mixed with onions and spices. This again nice, but it is slightly too salty to my taste. I ordered stuffed paratha to go with, but this dish should have gone better with boiled rice.

Aubergine curry
My stuffed paratha, or, rather, a half of my paratha. I am not sure what was the stuffing. It was a yellow paste. It might be the same as the thing staffed in the peppers. This is the second time that I ate paratha in my life, and I just wanted to try again. I thought it was bit dry, but I don't have clear idea how paratha should be. On the other hand, Dim had cheese naan, his favourite.

Staffed Paratha
The final bill came to £17.65, including Dim's coke. The place is licensed, but we did not have any alcahole. The price we thought was very good and I left £20, to express my satisfaction. Service was very good as it was at the other occasions.

If you live in the area, and you have never tried, I would recommend heartily to do so.

This is their website, with map and menu.


If you are interested in this, you may want to read also about Teknaf Cuisine.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Shahi Nan Kabab in Balti Triangle

Dim and I visited Shahi Nan Kabab on 8 December 2006.

This is how it looks like from the outside. Curiously it has two kitchens, one on the front, and the other in the rear. For this reason, the waiters were running to and fro all the time.

We did not eat very seriously. I had only vegetable biryani.

It is quite wet for Biryani (as wet as Italian risotto), and it was very hot (biryani is usually only slightly hot). First, the waiter did not bring the curry sauce that was announced on the menu, and I had to call his attention to it. It was quite nice, and again very hot.

Dim had mixed kebab, chips and garlic naan.

I don't remember exactly how much did it cost, but it looked bit too steep considering significant part of the chops was bone. Lamb chops were very nice, though.

This is garlic naan. Loads of garlic. Average.

All these and 1 tin of coke cost about £16. It is not particularly of good value, as we did not have full meal.

The interesting thing about this restaurant is that the most of the people were eating with their hand. If you want to feel to be in Bangladesh or Pakistan, this is a good place to go.

Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate juice

A portion of the British people have health obsession and, when some health food specialists speak for a particular food, a boom starts. These health food in fashion are called "superfood".

I guess it is already passed fashion, but pomegranate was one of them. As I cannot give a damn to every advice of the dietologists (usually not enough proven scientifically), I don't know what the pomegranate is good for, but for curiosity sake, I drank Pomegranate juice on sale at the House of Fraser (the pic taken there).

I could hardly tell the taste of pomegranate. It was just red and sugared water, with some artificial flavouring. I barely think it is good for health, although it is possible that it is slightly better than pops.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Dim Sum @ China Court

On 6 June 2007 (Sat.) we went to the China Court restaurant in China town of Birmingham for Dim sum.

This place is the best reputed among my Japanese friends, so I had high expectations. When we visited, the most of the patrons were Chinese or Chinese looking people. The family sat next to us was paying even with foreign banknotes (I don't know if they were Chinese or Taiwanese, but definitely its like). In Birmingham, I have never seen so many Chinese people in a place at the same time.

The menu was as long as the other places' Dim Sum menues. There is a printed sheet to fill in on each tables, and you just have to tick the ones you want. The sheet printed only in Chinese, but the items are numbered exactly as in English menu. So no worries.

The interior is spacious and much brighter than Chung Ying Garden. As I was depressed by the dimmness of the CYG, I much appreciated the sunlight of China Court.

As we did at Chung Ying Garden, we chose 5 dishes: these are the photo of what we ate.

Usual Cheung Fun with King Prawns.

As you might be able to tell from the image, this Cheung Fun is not as soft and delicated as it should be. Even prawns were a bit stinky. This is inferior to the same thing in Chung Ying Garden. As Cheung Fun is my favourite, I was quite disappointed.

Rice pot with Chicken and Chinese Mushrooms.

Rice is nice, but again, difficult to eat because of small bones in the chicken. I will not order rice pots any more (but don't take me wrong: there was nothing wrong with China Court's rice pot, just personal preference). £4 is over-priced for this small pot of rice.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

This is deep-fried dish for Dim. Came with sweet chili sauce. I don't remember what there were inside, but the skin was too hard and bit too oily for me. Even Dim did not like them so much.

King prawn and scallop dumplings.

King prawn and scallop bits wrapped in transparent skin. This is potentially good dish, but, again, the prawns were stinky. On the other hand, scallop was sweet and tasty.

Stuffed bean curd rolls.

There were 3 pieces of them, but I ate one before taking this photo. This is interesting one. Various stuffings rolled in bean curd skin, and stewed in soy sauce. They might have been fried once before being stewed.

Summing up, it was not bad, but not too good neither. Probably I need to choose dishes to order more carefully.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Greek Garlic

Nowadays, all the garlics we can find in market come from far abroad, especially from China. I found organic garlics from the South America, which is still very far.

Some time ago, Dim's mom sent us this garlic from Greece. Evidently in Greece, they still can buy home grown garlic.

They are much larger than Chinese ones, and there is no green part at the centre that I usually find in Chinese garlics. Is it because the Greek ones are fresher, or is it because they are different varieties? I don't know.

Taste is also stronger than Chinese one. Some times Chinese ones do not smell garlic, but these ones do.

When I returned to Japan about 6 months ago, I could not find Chinese garlic any more, and on the supermarket shelves are Japanese garlics prised about £1.5 (US$2.8). My mom told me that the Japanese consumers don't trust Chinese vegetable any more after some incidences of prohibited insecticides found in them.

So far as I know, British consumers still trust vegetables coming from poorer countires. What they care is only carbon foot print issues so far.

Anyway, for the Japanese people who don't use garlics so much, paying 1.5 pounds does not hurt so much, but for us who eat pasta almost every day, it is too expensive. I wonder if we cannot import reasonable garlics from south European countries.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Duck Eggs

I bought duck eggs.

Back then I had never eaten duck eggs, but I got curious when I saw chefs cooking them in tv programmes.

6 eggs cost 90p. More expensive than chicken eggs, but not so much. Free range chicken eggs can be more expensive.

As you can see, the duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs. They are greyish blueish white, but sore some reason, they look as if they are dirty, even if they are not.
Duck eggs

I heard that the poached duck eggs were very nice, so I poached them and ate with rice and beans. Duck egg gad denser flavour than chicken eggs and really delicious. Do try them whe you have a chance!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Polish cheese for the first time

From the Polish grocery Polka in my neighbourhood I bought this Polish cheese. This is one side of the package (for those who know Polish).

And this is the other side of the package. Inside is white sweet (meaning "no salt") cheese, similar to Italian ricotta cheese. The Polish guy in the shop told me that it could be eaten also with sugar.

When I tried it raw, however, it had a bit unpleasant taste, similar to milk going sour (but I don't think the cheese was actually going bad). I would not eat even with sugar as it is.

So I decided to cook it.

I mixed the cheese with little salt, fresh chili and fresh dill and put the mixture inside long red peppers I bought from supermarket.

After 30 min. in oven, something like this came out.

After being cooked, the cheese lost unpleasant flavour, and tasted actually better than ricotta cooked in the same wise. Very nice. Similar to the stuffed peppers in Greece. I will try again.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Dim Sum @ Chung Ying Garden

As far as I know there are four Chinese restaurants that offer dim sum lunch in Chinatown. 1) Chung Ying(中英), 2) Chung Ying Garden (中英花園飯店), 3) China Court, and 4) Golden Pond. Each of them has its followers and when I asked around my friends and acquintances, I could not get the consensus. So I decided to try out all of them. This is the first one.

2/6/07 (Sat.) Dim and I went to a Chinese restaurant called Chung Ying Garden in Birmincham city centre.

This is the eating area inside. It was dim, although it was lunch time.

We had 5 dishes, no. 9, 19, 42, 70 and 99 from the Chinese menu. Obviously I don't remember exactly what we ate...

This is king prawn cheung fun (£3.00). Cheung fun is my favourite dim sum and I try it whenever I find it, so I have eaten in many places in several countries. These contained big chunks of king prawn (satisfying quality) , and cheung fun itself is soft and delicate. Very good.

king prawn cheung fun

This is mixed meat and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves. Lotus leaves have particular perfume and it gets infused into the rice when they are steamed together. Very good, again.

mixed meat and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves

This is how it looks like when opened.

mixed meat and glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves

Spring rolls. I ordered these for Dim who is more conservative in food than me. Indifferent to me.

Spring rolls
Steamed pork dumpling "Shao Ron Pao". Nice but not perfect. The juice was not separted from the meat filling. I would liked some vinegar to go with. Dim did not like it as it was quite gingerly (he hates ginger).

This is rice with chicken and broccoli. Nice, but chicken had small bones and difficult to eat.

Total bill was about 18 pounds. A pot of tea is provided for free.

Next in the list is China Court Restaurant.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

European Market @ Harborne

Here are some photos from the European Market at Harborne, Birmingham, end of last month.

There were about 30 stalls selling various things from handbags and candles to cheese and paella.

This is a stall selling French cookies. They looked nice, but I don't particularly like cookies, so I did not try any.

This is a stall selling stir fried noodles. They were selling also paella. 4 quids for a plate of fried noodles on a plastic plate, however, seemed too pricey for me.

This photo has nothing to do with the market. There was a cafe selling these terrible looking dry pastas. I wonder if they look appetising to the English people.