Tag Archives: Italian

The Petite Coree. Time to unblur the lines

Love. Passion. Compassion. Do you remember when these words started infiltrating job descriptions? It is no longer enough to be excellent. We must be empathetic, endearing, and enjoy the hours we spend in the office. Isn’t it ironic that we are expected to give our 200% at work, in the same breath that we are lectured on work/life balance?

If you love what you do, then it won’t feel like work.” I hear it all the time. I say it all the time. Doesn’t feel like balance to me. Fact is, for most of us who don’t work for ourselves, no matter how much we love what we do to make money, it still is work.

Did I just spend 10 days straight working more than nine hours a day? Yes.

Could I have done an excellent job in fewer hours? No.

Did I love every minute of it? Yes.

Do I love the exhaustion I feel right now? No.

All I could think of at the end of day 10 was that I did not have the energy to cook myself a meal, I did not want to go home to an empty flat, and for a very long minute, I questioned why I spent the last few days the way I did. I may not have anyone to speak to when I get home, but for the first time in my London life I have a local “where everybody knows my name”. Where my extra chilli sauce arrives even before I realise I want it.

The Petite Corée and I are unlikely friends. I was wary of a restaurant with an Asian chef and a French name. I can’t speak for them, but can only imagine what they must have thought of an Indian customer telling the Korean chef his kimchee wasn’t Korean enough. I’m glad we both moved past first impressions because tonight, there was no place more welcoming than my neighbourhood bistro.

This restaurant serves popular European dishes with a Korean twist. I have now eaten my way through their entire menu (several times over) and haven’t had a single bad meal.

No visit is complete without an order of Mandu (steamed pork & glass noodle dumpling, rocket, balsamic), £6. This dish is as Asian as they come, with the rocket and balsamic hesitant European sidekicks to the dumplings, the delicious stars of the dish.

Mandu IITheir version of arancini swaps the traditional filling for kimchee flavoured rice with mozzarella and served with gochujang dressing, £5.5.

Kimchi Rice, panéed kimchi rice, mozzarella, gochujang dressingAnother favourite is the Italian cheese appetizer with honey and a spicy Korean sauce, £5. I’ve had this with mozzarella, burrata, and most recently with pecorino cream cheese – all luscious, moreish and so very clever!

downloadFresh on the menu is a Smoked Sword Fish, £6, with fish chunks that come wrapped in gem lettuce, drenched in a zingy wasabi & lime dressing and shiso. Then there is a butter roasted “Kimchee”, £5. One could spend the entire meal just on their appetizers, as I often do.

Smoked Sword Fish, wasabi & lime dressing, shisoOn the rare occasion I order a main it is always the pork belly in Korean “BBQ jus” (£13.5). Chefy terms aside, this is one of the best preparations of pork I have ever had the joy of tasting. If I was one to make lists this would be on my London top 10 without any hesitation.

The modest bistro is run by Chef Jae and his lovely wife Yeon. Jae trained in the hallowed kitchens of Nobu and Hélène Darroze before choosing exhaustion for himself rather than someone else. Chef Jae chose to blur his lines between work and life; but each time I dine here too exhausted to cook for myself, I know its time to unblur mine.

-p

If you live in London, get yourself down to The Petite Corée for Jae and Yeon’s heartwarming food and service. For added incentive they have BYO Tuesdays and Wednesdays!

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Filed under Bistro, Italian, Korean, London

Bocca di Lupo. About time

A man I love very much said to me, “If you were 30, I would give our relationship a go. But you’re 37 – if I go out with you, you will start expecting marriage soon.

I still haven’t found the words to respond to this, but I did add him to a long list of my people obsessed with age. Nobody I know seems to want to be their age at the moment – through mind-numbing food plans, bad hair dye jobs, inappropriate sexapades, and best-selling alter egos, I have found myself in the midst of a lot of people’s age-crisis. So it wasn’t quite by accident that I was drawn to the New Year Day release of The Theory of Everything – a film about Stephen Hawking and his theories of time. Hawking writes an equation to prove that there was a beginning of time. He then proposes the end of time. We go about our lives quietly accepting beginnings and ends of sunrises and sunsets, of days and meals, of relationships and jobs; and yet, we get so sensitive about our age. We fight it – everyday.

As I wandered around Soho and pondered my people’s preoccupation with age, I walked past a restaurant, I’ve always enjoyed visiting. Bocca di Lupo has a chef-owner who has written a wonderful book on pasta through the ages – The Geometry of Pasta. A book that was born of a preoccupation of a more delicious kind – of the Italian’s obsession with the right shape of pasta for the right sauce.

I love a little time travel as much as the next person. Especially if I can taste my way through the travel, as I did tonight.

Agnolotti dal plin

AgnolottiLike all interesting food history, the origin of the agnolotti, a semi-circle stuffed pasta from Piedmont, is attributed to several legends. Some say it’s name comes from the tool that was used to cut the pasta – the anolot. Other stories give credit to its stuffing – agnello (lamb). Or perhaps it was named after the chef, Angeloto, who first made these to celebrate the end of a siege? The version I ate – Agnolotti dal plin (£9) was pinched into delicate pleats and stuffed with pork and veal. Not the best bowl of pasta I have ever had, but tonight I wasn’t after excellence. Instead, reading about its history added texture to my meal – about how this pasta used to be made mainly for festive occasions, given the dainty pleating; or in the winter, when “housewives had to fill long winter evenings with some sort of activity.”

Wine: Lacrima di Morro d’Alba, 2012 (£7.70)

Pappardelle with venison ragú

Pappardelle“They are best served with a chunky, flavoursome, oily sauce in Tuscany; with a chicken liver or hare ragú, in the Veneto and Romagna with a pigeon one.” I had mine with a venison ragú (£9) – a wholesome sauce that lovingly attached itself to luscious ribbons of hand made pappardelle. The book talks about how this pasta has been around since the medieval times “when they were cooked in a game broth, thickened by blood.”

Wine: Primitivo Fatalone, 2010 (£7.50)

KitchenAs I watched 4 chefs cook traditional recipes for a 100 diners, I had to wonder if they ever stopped to think about how old they were. Working in unspoken conversations, the only place they could be was in the moment.

In this moment, it is exactly the time it is. We are exactly the age we are.

-p

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Filed under Italian, London, Pasta, Soho London

Nico Bombay. Style over substance

Me:                        “What is that white cream?”

Waiter:                 “One moment ma’am, I will send the manager.”

Me:                        “What is that white cream?”

Manager:            “It’s part of the dish ma’am.”

Me:                        “Uh… OK, but what is that white cream?”

Manager:            “It’s the aubergine paste.”

Me:                        “I think that is the brown smear under the white cream.”

Manager:            “It’s a clam paste ma’am.”

Me:                        “That would be another item on the menu.”

Are you exhausted yet? Multiply this with 100 and you may come close to my exasperation during lunch at South Bombay’s newest restaurant.  Just back from London, a restaurant serving non-Indian food would not have been my first choice; but I was going to meet a real Bombay food blogger, Prachi Joshi of Deliciously Directionless, and didn’t let the small matter of cuisine get in the way.

I had to read other reviews to understand Nico Bombay’s style of food – Modern European apparently – because neither the staff, nor a studious review of the menu, with an odd mix of roast chicken, Kadaifi wrapped prawns, and pizza, revealed anything.  Nico Bombay will focus on fresh ingredients (!), locally sourced (!!). Even though there is nothing local about Italian burrata or Hungarian salami I hope they are serious about the other ingredients being fresh.

We were welcomed with complimentary glasses of Zampa Sparkling Wine (if you haven’t tasted this yet I would recommend you stay far, far, away), but the restaurant had no filtered water for its guests. We were asked to buy a bottle – costing Rs. 150 – if we were thirsty. Not the kind of start I was hoping for.

We ordered three mezze and one Neapolitan flatbread (not to be confused with pizza, even though it arrived looking like one). And this is what we subjected ourselves to:

Smoked sardines, aubergine compote on sourdough toast (Rs. 375) of white cream fame. The white cream turned out to be a sardine paste, and so this dish which had such promise turned out to be a sardine overload on a piece of toast that was definitely not sourdough.

Veal tenderloin, tuna tonato (Rs. 400). I think they meant tonnato. Just as I’m sure the chef meant to add salt to the veal, and anchovies, capers and lemon to the tonnato. This classic Piedmontese dish arrived on a piece of slate, looking great and tasting of nothing.

Pulled goat meat, red onion, micro greens (Rs. 275) –   such a wonderful choice of meat, maybe inspired by a current global trend for pulled pork buns. It was not the most tender of cuts, but this was the best thing we ate today. And they weren’t kidding about the greens being “micro”.

Ciro: Bocconcini, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Hungarian Pic (k) Salami (Rs. 600) – where do I start with this pizza, uh… sorry, Neapolitan flatbread? I can rarely resist a dish that promises oven roasted tomatoes. A simple oven can coax even the most stubborn tomato into a luscious sauce so I am not sure why the chefs at Nico Bombay chose to create a tart, sloppy mess. We’re not sure if the bread was tough or the knives blunt, but had to throw in the towel a few mouthfuls later.

We left without dessert and treated ourselves to the fantastic coffee and cakes at Kala Ghoda Cafe around the corner instead.

I am quite willing to look past average food at a new restaurant, but when that is coupled with shoddy service, I find no reason to be kind. The waiters didn’t know their burrata from their elbow. We did not finish a single one of the dishes ordered but not one of the three waiters, one bartender, one manager, or two owners present in the restaurant at the time cared to check if there was a problem. Considering we were one of only four tables occupied, it could not have been because they were busy.

I should probably say something about the décor, but a designer we bumped into on our way out said it best, “It’s wonderful that the city’s Art Deco elements are brought into the restaurant; but the space is clearly designed as a bar for the evening.

Uncomfortable as we were in the director’s chairs, the meal wasn’t a total fail. I met a new Bombay person! Prachi and I, probably brought closer by the trauma of the meal, bonded over a shared disbelief over “food critics” who cannot cook, hilarious stories of Internet dating, and a mutual love for Italian holidays and Shah Rukh Khan.

-p

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Filed under Bombay, India, Italian, Mediterranean, Open kitchen, Pizza, Restaurant