Sunday, 28 December 2008

Stir-Fried Whelks

Do you remember that I went to Han Dynasty try whelks dish, but slightly frustrated because whelks were frozen, thus probably not British? (If you don't, please read here).

To not to remain defeated, I bought boiled whelks from the Indoor Market and stir-fried them myself.

These are 200g of boiled whelks, £1.20 per 100g, so these cost £2.40 (I bought them on 24th December, so I might have paid Christmas Eve premium; don't know).

I don't know this photo does justice, but 200g was too much for me; if you are going to making a similar dish as I did, you can count 100g per person.

[Sorry for the lack of presentation, but I cannot be bothered to make an effort only for myself.]

I chopped up random vegetables sleeping in the fridge and in cupboard, and stir fried with hoi shin sauce.

The whelks were actually delicious, better than the ones I ate at Han Daynasty (OK, it is rather predictable, isn't it?) I thought, however, hoi shin sauce was too strong for delicate whelks, and next time I will cook them with less strong flavoured condiments.

If you like whelks, it is really well worth trying. Recommended. Just a few pieces of advice are that whelks should either be sliced or chopped in smaller bits, as they are not softest thing and that they should not be cooked in wok too long, as they are already boiled and if you overdo, they become even more rubbery.

Buon appetito!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Holidays and a Splendid New Year!

New Entries: Cafe Ikon and Turners

I have just uploaded two reviews.

Café Ikon

Honestly, I was rather disappointed on this occasion.

Instead, still excellent was this place.

Turners in Harborne, Birmingham.

duck breast

I am not sure if I can upload more stuff during the holiday period.


In Ananda Bhavan the other day, a guy of the restaurant asked me if the group of Chinese people who had visited there were my acquintances.

I asked him if he was sure that they were Chinese and not Japanese. He said he wasn't.

Although I look pretty much like a Chinese, my actual nationality is Japanese and don't speak Chinese (I do read Chinese characters, as all the Japanese and most of the Koreans do). I don't have any Chinese acquintance who knows about my www activities. So, it is improbable that they were Chinese and my acquintances. They could be my Japanese acquintances, but in that case, they did not tell me, so I don't know.

I really don't have a clue who is reading my website, except those 5 or 6 kind souls who dropped me a line either on this blog or to my e-mail address.

Dear readers, you are really mysterious!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

December Balti Triangle Walk 2

Apart from the restaurants, another thing that I look forward to seeing in Balti Triangle are fresh and/or exotic vegetables.

Here are some examples.


Evidently it is a kind of gourd.

These green leaves are over-grown rocket.

I bought these. The leaves can be eaten as salad and the stalks in stir-fry. Yum yum. And only 60p a bunch.

Red mooli (radish).

I don't know how they taste like.

And these. Look like chesnuts, but these are 'Sangara' according to the name plate.

I heard that they taste like water-chesnuts. To be boiled to eat.


Although these were very interesting, I did not buy them, as they did not look fresh enough.

Balti Triangle walk continues...

Monday, 22 December 2008

New Entry: Han Dynasty

I revisited Han Dynasty this month.

Unfortunately, this visit wasn't as good as the previous ones for the reasons I explained in the review, but it was not as bad as to make me stop visiting.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

December Balti Triangle Walk 1

Having not been to Balti Triangle for some months, I just went there to check things out yesterday. I will write about this walk little by little, as I don't have time to write a long post.

The first discovery was this: A new site acquired by Al Faisal's.

It is near the beginning of Ladypool Road, about in front of Yaadigar.

The shop is still occupied by a video shop, but I don't imagine Al Faisal' keeps on running it and I would suppose it will be a restaurant, or at least some food related business.

Al Faisal's has renewed their premises in Stoney Lane, and recently opened an Italian restaurant Il Piatto in Ladypool Road. Evidently their business is going very well. As the Balti Triangle itself is rather in decline, it is shining like a star of hope.

Il Piatto's black board saying "Bono Sera" (the correct Italian expression being "Buona sera") let me down, though.


An irrelevant topic. Yesterday, I went to Savannah Eritrean-Ethiopian restaurant for late lunch or early dinner.

On my way to Savannah, I passed in front of Jacky's Kitchen 美食坊 and read a notice that it will be closed on 24th and 25th December.

I could not believe my eyes as I did not think a restaurant dare to close on Christmas days. Evidently they don't have much demand for Christmas bookings.

I wondered if also the other Chinese restaurants close on these days.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

New Entry: Rajdoot Tandoori

This week I went to Rajdoot Tandoori and sampled Christmas lunch.

Rajdoot Tandoori

Truth or not, Rajdoot claims to be the first to introduce tandoori oven to UK (their website says 'Europe', but I assume this Europe includes Great Britain).


The name Rajdoot reminds me of an Indian guy I met in Birmingham. He was from South India and was doing PhD when we met. We used to live in the same area of Birmingham and to take sometimes the same bus from the University to our flats.

He was a very handsome guy, although too short to be really good looking. He had a really nice character as well and was always oozing his kindness and charm. He was here with his wife and I thought it cool how nicely he treated his wife. We used to chat in the bus when it happened. So, it was not a great relationship, but he was one of these persons that you cannot forget and don't want to forget in your life.

He must have been very good in his subject and, when he finished PhD, he was invited to do PosDoc in Princeton.

It was about two years ago, but I often remember about him, when I take a bus home from the uni. His name was Rajdoot.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

How much do you pay for a dinner out?

I had a very confusing experience tonight (yes, about just a couple of hours ago).

A friend and I met up for a drink after work. She said we should go dinner before Christmas, and after come considerations and happenings, we decided to go actually tonight. She suggested Michelle La Bastille, but I opposed as 1) it should be Christmas dinner season, and 2) I did not like the food when I ate there 3 years ago (the food now might be well different, but might not).

So I suggested to go to Chinese and took her to Han Dynasty, which I like very much and consider as a good-value (not cheap, but get better fare for what I pay) restaurant.

It was absolutely heaving, but luckily enough we managed to get a table which has just liberated.

But, when she saw the menu, she started to complain, saying "Expensive!", "It should be more than £15", "Does this price include rice?" And in the end, "I don't want to pay more than £5". So we left.

What I did not understand is if her budget was £5, why did she bother to ask me to dine out in Christmas season. She isn't foreigner. She was born here and close to 50 years old.

Outside the restaurant, she tried to explain how she could eat at Michelle's under a tenner. Listening her, I said to myself: "So what? I ate at Han Dynasty under a tenner a few days ago". I did not tell her, but I did point out that there is no way you could do the same at Michelle's during the Christmas dinner season.

£5 a pop category, the best I like is Tung Lok, but it was closed. Arcadian Palace was closed as well. So we ended up in New Sum Ye.

She ordered one of the cheapest chicken and rice dish (£4.50), and I got Stir-Fried Ho Fun with Beef (£4.80) plus Chinese tea for 70p.

Food was fine for the price and the portion was generous, but it wasn't a quite the same thing as what I would eat at Han Dynasty or at Red 'N Hot.

The good thing is that I finished the obligation to go to dinner with her. I hope it won't happen ever again. It is so difficult to dine out with someone else. I really should keep on dining-out alone.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Del Villaggio Gone?

Passing Broad Street this evening, I noticed the Italian restaurant Del Villaggio was worringly dark, so I went close to find this notice.

Closed until further notice.

Both Del Villaggio restaurants and Del Villaggio trattoria were closed.

Sounds very bad, especially in this season when the restaurants should be heaving with Christmas parties.

I had a dinner in Cafe Ikon. I expected it to be full, but it wasn't. It was busy, but not full.

It could be so just by chance, but under the current economic climate, it was rather worrying.

Monday, 15 December 2008

New Entry: Jojolapa

Uploaded a review of the lunch I had last week in Jojolapa Nepalese restaraunt.

Nepalese curry

Food was brilliant, especially the Nepalese dumplings called Momo. I would return only to eat momo again.

And I wrote also extended the version of Cafe Ikon review.


Yesterday I revisited Han Dynasty, one of my favourite Chinese restaurants in Birmingham. Very unfortunately they served me a lukewarm dish. It is a clime in East Asia not to serve hot food hot. Otherwise, it tasted good and rice was the best among these I have eaten for a long time in Chinese restaurants.

I wish a very good week for everyone.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Strolling and shopping in city centre

It was cold and dump yesterday.

I did not want to go out, but as my flat is very cold during the day time (I have central heating in the morning and in the evening only) and as I was running out of milk, I eventually went out.

On normal Saturdays I go to shop in Cape Hill, but as I am leaving for Greece in 10 days, it was unwise to buy too much food (besides, I have some plans to eat out in these days). Consequently I just went for a quick shopping in city centre.

I slightly regretted my decision seeing so many people there doing Christmas shopping. I don't like crowded places.

But, I could not resist going to see the last days of Woolworth's.


It is a historical moment in which the scenery of British high streets will change forever. Well, it might be an exaggeration. But it is still a symbolic moment of this period which will be rememberd in history as "Global Recession".

The one in the photo is the Pallasades branch of Woolworth's. There were lots of people and some of the shelves were already empty. Many of the things are getting fixed rate discount (like "20% off anything from this section"), so you might find some bargain.

But, I escaped in 5 minutes. Too many people.

Fortunately the Open Market was not too crowded, for it was still around 3 o'clock and it was very cold.

I bought some vegetables that looked to be in season.

Broccoli shoots.

I am not sure of the name. They are similar to purple sprouts, except that these are green. 3 or 4 packet of these were for £1 depending on stalls. I suppose they can be boiled like broccoli or stir-fried like Chinese Gailan. If you boild these with spaghetti in salted water, they make immediately one plate added with olive oil and Parmiggiano cheese. Fast food.

Also in season seemed are Savoy cabbages, 1 costs from 50p to 60p.

This cabbage does not exist in Japan and first I did not understand how could I eat such a hard cabbage. Apart from the tendre core, the leaves are quite tough, so they needed to be cooked until soft, more than 15 min in boiling water. As it is so hard, it can withstand long cooking like minestrone. The outer leaves are hardest, but if you cut them very small or thin, they are sill edible and I guess rich in minerals and vitamin judging from the colour.

I met savoy cabbage earlier in the week in Turners.

Just boiled cabbage, but only the inner leaves. They were soft and paler in colour.

Then I went to Marks and Spencer's to buy milk. As I wrote about my organic milk obsession several days before, I buy milk only from certain shops.

The pricing in M&S is beyond my comprehension. Some of the items are double or three times higher than the supermarkets/discounters I usually go. The broccoli shoots as above cost in M&S 99p a packet. I guess it is ok to buy ready-made foods here, as they look quite different from the ones I see in other supermarkets, but I would not buy veggies and meats here, as green grocers and butchers give me better deal (and I am not speaking only about the price).

And the cashiers were SO slow. I really missed ALDI/LIDL, even Tesco's and Asda. The woman at the till was nice and smiley, but it did not make me forget the 10 minutes waiting time in a very short queue (3 or 4 people, and only 1 of them had a basketful, the others only 3 or 4 items).

M&S FOODS business model baffled me.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Turner's again

Yesterday I returned to Turner's in Harborne for Christmas lunch, alone.

I discovred that I enjoy eating alone in good restaurants. To me, savouring is just like appreciating paintings or music: if you cannot find a good companion with similar taste, you'd fare better enjoying alone, because, otherwise, they will ruin your enjoyment with irrelevant - no matter how interesting - conversations distracting you from the art or music. I do go to social meals, but in these occasions, I don't expect to be able to concentrate on food. In such occasions where and what I eat have secondary importance.

Well, Turners.

I had a £20 per 3 course Christmas lunch, not because I wanted to feel Christmassy, but because there was no usual 3 course for £17.50 deal. Although it cost extra £2.50, having got an amuse-bouche and a very elaborate main course, I am totally satisfied and not in the least feel ripped off.

I am not sure if I am going to write a review on this meal, as I have just written and published one. And maybe there are people who don't want to see what they will get before actually eating it (different from usual lunch menu that changes everyday, the Christmas lunch menu stays the same for December). I might show the dishes on this blog later in the year, after Christmas.

What I love about Turner's is that there is no compromise in ingredients and in cooking. Even if Mr. Turner use cheaper ingredients and spend less time in preparing dishes, I don't think most of the people will notice. But he wouldn't. There is no trick at all. I feel that I am given all that he can do for the money I give, or, rather, more than I can expect for what I pay.

I already placed next reservation in January and am very much looking forward to that.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Ikon Cafe

Today, I went to Ikon Cafe for the first time. If you do not know, Ikon Cafe is a spanish tapas restaurant in Ikon Gallery in Brindley Place.

I had some business in the area and needed to finish lunch within 50 min. 50 min is a delicate time. It is too long for a quick sandwich break but too short for a proper lunch in a restaurant. I mean, we can finish eating 2 course in 50 min, but we have to leave a large margin of time in case they cannot serve us as promptly as we wish.

For this reason, I ordered a sandwich (bocadillo) from cold tapas menu thinking that it should not take much time to prepare it in the almost deserted restaurant (there were some other people, but they were there for coffee).

I was wrong. It took about 15 min to prepare. It was partly because there was a problem in the kitchen (so I was informed later) and partly because the sandwich wasn't to be served cold but should be warmed up, even though it was on the cold tapas menu.

Although I was slightly annoyed by that, I am most pleased to say it was well worth the wait. It was the most beautiful sandwich I have seen for a long time. My order was Serrano ham and Manchego Cheese sandwich. I was afraid that it was served only with ham and cheese, but actually it contained also salad leaves and sliced tomato. The most remarkable thing was the bread. It was focaccia style bread scented with fresh Rosemary, visibly made from continental flour. I was most happy to have found such a nice bread in Birmingham.

It was also enormous, and when I finish a half, I ran out of time and took away the second half.

The service was not very good (one of the waiters knowingly ignored two customers waiting to be served: it is most annoying) and the place isn't very comfortable (rather cold and not very good chairs), but the sandwich was very nice. It would be nice if I can try tapas dishes sometime.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

New Entry: Lalehzar

Yesterday, I published a review of Lalehzar, Persian restaurant in Hockley, Birmingham.

As I have already announced in the previous entry, this is a BAD review. So, read it. Bad reviews are always more entertaining than good ones! Well, at least I enjoy more when I read bad ones.


By the way, today I went to Jojolapa in city centre for lunch. I won't be able to write the review until the weekend at the earliest, so a sneak preview.

Two course meal for £9 or £10 (I am not sure here), and you get a generous quantity of delicious food. If you make it for weekday lunch, it is a good deal. I do recommend


It is really cold tonight, but the heater seems to be broken. Have to call the landlord tomorrow, again. Grrrrrr.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Bad Meal

Yesterday, I went to a Persian restaurant in Hockley called Lalehzar.

It was a memorably bad meal. Maybe it was the worst, or the second worst I have had during five years in Birmingham.

I have read many good reviews on this place: great food, great service, and great price. In my experience, only the last was true. But, when the food isn't good, I cannot say it was cheap. It would have been cheaper eating at home, or at a fast food joint just around the corner.

In recent months, I have had nothing but good meal. I immensely liked Turners, Ananda Bhavan, and Red 'N Hot. I had a bad meal in Portugal in October, but all the rest was from good to superb, as far as I can recall. If you are a regular reader of my restaurant reviews, you should be wondering if I can score less than 7/10, like Mr. Paul Fulford of Birmingham Mail who seems to have good experience in every restaurant in Birmingham (which, actually, isn't so strange when virtually all the restaurateurs in town know he is a restaurant critique).

Actually I can. I am terribly critical when I have to. Just, honestly, I have not had bad meals, partly because I have been lucky, partly because of a matter of course. Different from professional food critiques who are sent to certain restaurants for specific reasons, I just go to the restaurants I want to go after having carefully studied reviews and menus. As I have to pay from my wallet, I do all I can to avoid the places where I might have bad meal.

I hate to write a bad review of a privately run restaurant. But I will. There are too many good reviews on this place and I need to redress the balance.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

New Entry: Turners of Harborne

Yes, finally, I went to Turner's.

Turners of Harborne

I am afraid I cannot afford £40 a la carte (not because it does not worth it, but just because I don't earn enough!), so I went for lunch. £17.50 for 3 is a good price, but with a coffee and petits fours, it got more expensive than the lunch at Edmund's. Read the review for the detail.

As I liked the food so much, I had already made another reservation. I hope Mr. Turner won't kick me out for what I wrote!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Organic Milk

I like organic milk.

Not because it is organic, environment friendly, and animal caring, but because it tastes better.

There are people who can tell good wine from bad wine. I cannot. But, I can tell good milk from bad milk. Ha!

Organic milk tastes sweet and has some kind of umami in it. If you put a glass of organic milk and a glass of normal milk in front of me, I can tell which is which even before drinking it.

Recently, however, I noticed that not all the organic milks taste good. When I lived in Beawood I used to buy it from Somerfield's. It was fine. When ASDA came to Cape Hill, I started to buy ASDA organic milk, which is also good.

Then I tried one from Saintsbury's. Surprise. I could not sense the difference from ordinary milk. I felt cheated and decided never to buy organic milk from Saintsbury's.

Tesco's organic milk tastes slightly better than Sainsbury's, but isn't distinct enough to be 'organic' for me.

Now that I live in Edgbaston Reservoir area, the nearest supermarket is Tesco's and the next one is city centre Sainsbury's. Where I can buy my milk!?

What happens is that I have to go back every weekend to Cape Hill to buy organic milk in ASDA.

But, two days ago, I discovered M&S organic milk is just as good and costs the same (although an iceberg lettuce costs 99p in M&S while in other supermarket I can find for less than 80p). It is also very creamy (I wanted semi-skimmed, but I god full-fat one, as the organic semi-skimmed they had were to expire in 2 days!); I can see the buttery substance sticking at the top of the bottle. I went to Harborne M&S, but the city centre one should sell the same thing.

Did you imagine the quality of milk is so different from one supermarket to the other? Certainly I did not.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

New Features in University Centre

Went to the University Centre in the University of Birmingham. That is a building containing various shops and facilities of students and staff.

And I notices a few new features.

First, this. It is a display showing bus timetable of the departures from uni. Wow. New technology.

If only the bus runs more punctually...

This is the International Food Shop (I think that is the name) saying that now they sell Greek and Polish foods (they used to specialise in East Asian food).

When I passed there, it was still closed. I have to go back to see what they have on offer.

By the way, tomorrow (3 December) there will be a special Christmas Farmers' Market outside the Staff House. If you live near the University or work/study there, watch out for it.