Friends of mine are constantly sending me pictures of the delicious meals that they have been cooking. I do the same. There is a real sense of pride and achievement when you cook something which tastes and looks wonderful. Unfortunately, a lot of the time there is no one around to fully appreciate it! This blog is for people who want to share their culinary triumphs with everyone else. Email me the recipe and a photo of the finished product on

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Raw Fish and Jellyfish

Last week I was mostly eating raw fish and jellyfish. Raw fish at Zuma in Knightsbridge and jellyfish at Mr Kong in Soho. And the two restaurants could not be more different...

Zuma serves contemporary Japanese cuisine, and is widely regarded as one of the most fashionable restaurants in London - one reviewer described it as 'a playground of the rich'. The decor is achingly trendy - no windows, dark wood and low orange lighting create an ambience that is reminiscent of a nightclub rather than a restaurant. If, for a moment, you can tear your eyes away from the glamourous, designer-clad (and only marginally ostentatious) clientele, take a moment to gaze at the open kitchen in the middle of the room, where serious skill and meticulous attention to detail is demonstrated by the chefs. All of this may already have you reaching for the phone to make a reservation, or alternatively, making a furious mental note to avoid it like the plague... Please, reserve judgment until I've told you about the food...

Crispy fried squid with green chilli and salt, and seared tuna with chilli daikon and ponzu sauce to start. I had to remind myself that one must not clean the plate with one's finger in this sort of classy establishment... Then, a selection of nigiri sushi (cooked rice topped with fish), sashimi (sliced, fresh, raw seafood), california maki (fresh crab and avocado) and softshell crab spider rolls, the quality of which have made it impossible for me to consider eating at YoSushi again (and I am no sushi snob). Amazingly, the main courses surpassed their predecessors. The whole native lobster tempura with spicy ponzu, the wagyu beef and the flakes of succulent, creamy, black cod (meal of the night) were enough to guarantee that I had utterly forgotten about the table of intimidating blondes to my left, abandoned my cautious reserve, and had resorted to clearing the table with my usual gusto, totally unembarrassed by my closed eyes and 'mmmmmm' noises.

Special mention must go to the grilled asparagus with wafu sauce and sesame and the 'secret' chocolate fondu (it's not on the menu).

So, onwards to Mr Kong. From a secluded backstreet in Knighstbridge to the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. The restaurant is on Lisle Street, smelly, noisy and slightly seedy. From the outside you would be forgiven for thinking this Chinese restaurant is nothing out of the ordinary - small, forgettable, nothing to make it stand out. Once inside, there is much of the same. Although over two floors, it feels cramped: there's only room for about 40 diners on each floor, and the tables (covered in a lurid pink chintz) are very close together. So, you sit down and take a look at the menu. Again... more of the same... this menu looks no different to any other standard Chinese takeaway. And if you were foolish enough to stick to prawn toast, crispy seaweed, sweet and sour pork and duck pancakes, you would go home feeling satisfied and full (the portions are large), but not inspired, and certainly not as if you had just experienced something special.

So, instead of ordering your average takeaway fare, take a look at the Chef Special Menu - (on their website it is called The Chief's Specials, which I love...) It reads like a dictionary of bizarre ingredients. Braised turbot with bitter melon and beancurd sticks in a black bean sauce. Braised eel with clove of garlic and roasted pork in hot pot. Spicy pig's knuckle with jelly fish (served cold). Deep fried pig's intestine with spicy salt. And for a finale, sauteed dragon's whiskers with dried scallops.

I have a confession to make... I didn't order the jelly fish. And I did order crispy chilli beef. Call me boring, call me a hypocrite, but the beef is delicious and the jellyfish is served cold. Maybe next time...