All reader reviews by Eric Pettigrew

Eat Tokyo

From the irashaimaseh welcome you receive upon entering, to the cloth curtains, the hot sake, the plastic enclosed menus with pictures, you might think for a moment that you are in the back streets of Hibiya rubbing elbows with some Japanese salarymen. Eat Tokyo is the real deal. Don't get the normal things you get in your bog standard Japanese restaurant. Go off-piste. Kaki fry (fried oysters), nasu-dengaku (aubergine with miso paste), the cucumber and seaweed salad, soft shell crab, a myriad of tofu, in addition to very high quality sashimi, sushi (the rainbow roll gives you a greatest hits of different types of fish). Of course you can if you wish get everything (tempura, ton-katsu etc.) you can get elsewhere, or a bento. However each dish chosen at random stands alone. Together, it is a non-stop tasty delight. This is not the refined elegance of Nobu, or a typical mass market sushi place, or a place which caters to deep pockets. It is a wonderful, natural, unpretentious place to get great food with friendly service at a reasonable price. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 06, 2012
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 10


Chuen Cheng Ku

Whilst taking into account previous less than glowing comments (including the one by Mr. McDonalds goer....nuff said), I felt it necessary to add my own. I have been to Chuen Cheng Ku many times. If you time it right (say 12PM on the button) what you get is authentic, fresh, steaming hot, varied dim sum. As for the non-Asian clientele, this Sunday it was 50-50. There are of course, some dishes better than others: scrumptious duck, cheung fun (broad rice noodle wrapped around shrimp, beef or pork), a variety of dumplings, aubergine stuffed with shrimp.

It is functional inelegant food, served by waiters and waitresses whose English is less that perfect but who cares. This is not homogenised sweet and sour High Street stuff, altered for Western palates, but genuine Cantonese fare.

And reasonably priced (£60 for three, with beer and tea).

I have, on the other hand, been there on a dark winter's Sunday evening (recycled dim sum, sullen service, and pedestrian dishes) but hey! Horses for Courses. Stick to the lunchtime fare, be adventuresome (even if you have chicken feet) and you will NOT be disappointed.

Monday, September 21, 2009
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7


Kensington Place

Way back in the dark ages, Kensington Place was my wife's favourite restaurant. It had been a while, so for our wedding anniversary we cautiously ventured back, knowing that there had been changes afoot and not knowing what to expect.

Let me tell you what not to expect. Don't expect the same buzz of its star-gazing gloried past . Don't expect pristine service. The staff follow the socialist model (no private ownership of clients) and so meandered backwards and forwards and required a lot of coaxing for both the basic (bread. water) and the absolutely necessary (wine). Don't expect to have to say : "haven't they redone the decor nicely!" They may have, but it is more or less a case of same old same old and indistinguishable from my memory of the place.

But the food. Ah the food. Isn't that what you really come to a restaurant for? It is rare that I pigeonhole a waitress and ask the chef's name, but I did, and I will tell you why. Two of the three dishes I ordered were quite simply very memorable, and for the right reasons. Braised Pig's Cheeks on a bed of sour cabbage (not to be confused with sauerkraut), piping hot and succulent as a starter. A dessert I shared with my wife, called a crunchie, which comes as a mousse mountain which fills the plate with little surprises hidden inside (a hot chocolate fondant, honeycomb crunchies, ice cream.) Definitely off-piste, both in presentation and taste. The confit de canard with cassoulet was correct, as the french say, with crispy breadcrumbs an unusual touch, but not in the same class. Henry Vigar. That was his name. Give him a chance. The guy is 27 years old, and has already been around the block a time or two. Buck up the service a bit, Henry but keep up the good work back there in the kitchen. You were certainly on your game the night I came, that is for sure. And that was in the depths of January, when a little post-Noel dip in form could be expected.

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 8 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7


Mimino

Mimino, which means sparrow-hawk in Georgian, is one man's quest to introduce Georgia to the UK. Zauri Goreli, the owner, has a business card which says "Bringing Georgia to Kensington" on the back, and "You don't need to be Georgian to feel at home here."

And if our experience on a raucous Friday night was anything to go by he is succeeding on all counts. In marked contrast to the negative comments which focused on service, Zauri shepherded us personally through an introduction of wines (we got to sample all of the wines on offer before ordering...when was that last time THAT happened in a restaurant?), throwing in some added historical colour (for instance Stalin, Georgia's most famous son, took time out during the vigours of WWII to allocate resources to getting the sugar content just right on one of the sweet wines in the 1942 vintage). He then went through the menu in detail, helping us choose an assortment of starters (my favourites were badrijani or aubergine in a piquant walnut sauce....(walnuts featuring prominantly in almost every dish, in the background as part of the sauce), espanakhi (a spinach mousse) and adjaruli ,a buttered bread fillied with cheese. My favourite main was dead simple, a spatchcocked young chicken with matchstick fried potatoes call tsiplyonok tabaka....(try saying THAT fast three times), but we also had lamb shashlik and pork, both of which came with a spicy dipping sauce. Pomegranate seeds also feature a lot.

Overall, good hearty fare, with no frills, and clean plates afterwards, always a good test.

But what distinguished Mimino was the sheer enthusiasm brought by Zauri to his venture, and the unique atmosphere. At an L-shaped table were 30 or so wrestlers, boxers, and weight lifters from Armenia, Ossetia, Kazakhstan and elsewhere, quaffing food and drink in equal measure and toasting each other in Russian, the reluctant common language. After our main, Zauri enquired if we would mind moving tables (our was prominently in the middle) as the lads wanted to dance. And so they did (mostly the men, though there were 4 ladies). To the pleasure and amusement of us all (except perhaps the sullen Russian couple next to us) we watched these hugely muscled athletes strut their stuff. Not your average Friday night out entertainment.

In short, Mimino, is a warm, earthy outpost of Georgian warmth and hospitality in the island of cool Britannia which is Kensington.

And oh yes, for those of you for whom "the facilities" are a good measure of a restaurant beside the food...they were spotless.

A big Madloba* to Zauri and Mimino.

*Georgian for thank you...if you have got the time and the curiosity, with Zauri's help you can increase your knowledge of this far off land which was the southern outpost of the old USSR with the Black Sea to the West and Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the south, by 5000%. And why not? Got a better idea to bring on the weekend?

Sunday, March 30, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 9


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