London Dining: Camino by King's Cross for Tapas y Jerez!

2 Jul 2012

Camino on Urbanspoon

I've been coming to Camino since a weekend trip in 2009, when I was working for 10 weeks in Altrincham.  I took the Virgin Train down from Manchester, and stayed at a hotel near King's Cross. A quick search for tapas places within walking distance came back with Camino, and now I try to include it into every trip to London or Slough I make.

Even though I've never had an issue walking up and getting a table at Camino, I decided to use their online booking. What with all that's going on in London this summer, I figured it was the safe bet. The place was busy, but there were a few seats at the bar, so I would've been OK as a single. The number of tables each server worked was a bit high, but the attitude of staff was good even if response time was a bit slow.

Wine flights! While perusing the menu, I really had no idea what I wanted to eat, so I went back to the wines first. When I saw the wine flight listings, I thought that would be a good change of pace from getting just a bottle of something cheap (since I don't usually buy a good wine all for myself). I decided to start with the dry sherry flight. Clockwise from front, Amontillado, Manzanilla, and Fino.

I paired the sherry flight with the "Tabla de Quesos," which was three lovely cheeses and various sweets, nuts, and crackers. I started with the Amontillado first, going to the Fino, then the Manzanilla last, comparing the wines with the cheeses. More research is required here; all the combinations were enjoyable.

Because of the big shift between a sherry flight and a red wine flight, I decided to have a glass of Camino's sangria (above) while waiting for the second set of tapas to come out. So, this meal became more of a starter-and-main sort of affair than just a bunch of small plates

Grilled asparagus with romesco sauce, and were they ever wonderful!

Conchinillo con Morcilla - Roasted suckling pig from Aragón with Burgos morcilla, apple purée and thyme. Morcilla is Spanish blood sausage...boudin to you New Orleanians, "black pudding" to you lot in the UK. The morcilla is underneath a generous slice of roast pork, which had a great skin and a lovely sauce. The applesauce was such a great addition, as well. Add some great brown bread to these two, and it was a real winner.

Red Wine Flight! Three Tempranillos, from Castilla y Leon, Rioja and Ribera. Lovely wines, all.

Dessert: Postel de Chocolate, a flourless individual cake with a "molten" chocolate pudding filling, ginger ice cream, and a bit of raspberry sauce. The wine is a all de Xaló Mistela, a Spanish fortified wine.

Service: this trip, a bit slow. Not sure if that's because of the crowd that evening or if there was a problem in the kitchen, but things didn't come out as fast as they have in the past. Gave me time to let all this food settle, but still, problematic.

Overall, however, this meal was a winner, continuing my appreciation for Camino.

Tarragon Turkey Cutlets with Risotto

28 Jun 2012

Turkey cutlets are great for a light dinner, but turkey alone can be a bit boring--it needs a kick!

Quick marinade of olive oil, italian seasoning, white wine, and fresh tarragon

I was going to add garlic, but one of the reasons I was going super-light with this meal was that kiddo had been sick all day, and I didn't want something too spicy upsetting his just-settled tummy.

Zuppardo's had several risotto packages from these folks, figured it would be worth a try. The rice came out nice and fluffy.

and an interesting little Pinot Grigio to go with dinner. All in all, it was a winner.

30th Anniversary Celebration at @AlonShaya's @Domenica!

27 Jun 2012

Domenica (Roosevelt Hotel) on Urbanspoon

We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary last week, with an overnight stay at The Roosevelt Hotel and dinner at Domenica, the hotel's restaurant. Domenica, a John Besh restaurant run by Chef Alon Shaya, is an edgy Italian pizza/pasta place that serves some very creative food.

Bubbles! We started with some sparkling wine to properly kick off the fesitve nature of the meal. I'd tell you what I ordered, but the wines aren't listed as part of the online menu. oops.

Perusing the menu was a challenge, mainly because so many things sounded interesting. Antipasti choices such as Grilled Calamari, Coal Roasted Eggplant, and Chicken Liver Crostini, all sounded delightful. Keeping the mains in the back of my mind, fish, goat, veal, and chicken, I wanted to exercise caution in terms of eating too much to start. But the pastas are also attractive! And everyone's been raving about the pizza for ages, particularly because of the occasional happy hour half-off special the restaurant runs on them. Chef Alon does his Primi dishes in small and large portions, so we decided on two pasta plates and then we'd split a pizza.

While we were sipping the #bubbles, our server brought some bread to nibble on. We both poured some of the olive oil on the table for dipping, and found it to be quite spicy. Double-checking that the bread didn't have a peppery crust, I then noticed this huge pepper in the oil bottle. Beware, if you don't like spicy olive oil!

"Squid Ink Taglioni" - this is the small-sized plate. As fascinating as the dish sounded on the menu, I was well and truly afraid that Mrs. YatPundit wouldn't like the notion of "squid ink." She really liked it, though! The pasta has a very unusual taste. Coming in, I was prepared for a fishy-seafoody taste, but it was just...different. Very hard to explain, but also very good. The mixture of herbs, along with lovely lumps of crabmeat, made for a great taste when it hits the mouth.

Cavatelli, with roasted chicken, tomatoes, olives, and basil. Somewhat less adventuresome than the squid ink, but nonetheless delicious. This is the large-plate size portion; I knew we'd be splitting these back and forth, and I was also worried about how much of the tagloni would get eaten. That concern was obviously unfounded, but this was a good dish. In terms of "conservative" Italian dishes, I'd say this and the Paneed Veal are the top two on Domenica's menu.

Pizza! Prosciutto with tomato, fresh mozzarella & arugula, and me not fast enough to get a pic before the missus grabbed a piece! The choice of pizza was also difficult. Among the finalists we bandied back and forth were the "Tutto Carne," with fennel sausage, bacon, salami & cotechino, and the Roasted Eggplant, with tomato, tahini, red onion, goat cheese. The Prosciutto won out because we both love the ham, and because Mrs. YatPundit was thinking back to a pizza we shared in the food mall at Harrod's in London a couple of years ago, that was topped with rocked salad. Lots of greens on pizza is very much a European thing, and it just seemed right for this meal.

I'd love to tell you specifically which Montepulciano we drank with the pizza, but I didn't take a pic of the label, and the wine list is still not on the Domenica website. oops.

For dessert, we had the "Dark Chocolate Torta with black pepper fiore di latte gelato," and I had a cup of coffee. The torta was delicious, and the pepper on the gelato was interesting. I'm a big fan of savory ice cream, and this was a neat contrast.

After this lovely meal, we had a couple of drinks in the Sazerac Lounge, then retired for the night to this very-comfy room upstairs. What a great experience overall!

#CoffeeThursday - Nespresso storefront in downtown Oslo...

21 Jun 2012

x-posted to YatCuisine, YatTravel, and Google+

This is the storefront window display at the Nespresso store on Karl Johan's Way in downtown Oslo. I was on my way to a curry place near the Stortinget station on the Metro and noticed this when I walked by. I was thinking about all my friends who swear by their Nespresso and Keurig machines with their little cups and thought, this is the size some of y'all really need. :-)

I don't really have an opinion on the k-cup machines. I'm still on my momma's old drip pot when it comes to making coffee at home. The one time I've used a k-cup machine was at a Courtyard hotel near Times Square in Manhattan. Usualy I don't putz around with in-room coffee service, but I had to play with this machine!

Vienna Dining: Tapas at Bodega El Gusto

18 Jun 2012


Mahlerstraße 7, 1010 Wien, Austria
+43 1 5120673 ‎

What a lovely little tapas place! It's located just down the street from the Vienna State Opera House. On my first visit, I was seated at a table in the dining room, but it was packed on the second visit, so I ate in the bar.

Sangria kicks the evening off. Half a litre of this wonderful beverage. On my second visit, I had a version of El Gusto's sangria made with sparkling wine. It came as a quarter-litre cocktail. #bubbles

Tapas! Manchego cheese, garlic bread, chorizo sausage, and seafood paella. It's rare that you find a Spanish place that serves a small-plate portion of paella. Not only that, the restaurants usually insist you wait 20-40 minutes while it's cooked up to order. This was a lovely treat. The cheese and chorizo were very good, and the bread was outstanding.

On my second visit to El Gusto, I had a more-classic starter/main dinner. The starter was anchovies in olive oil, which I will get as part of a tapas meal on the next trip. Delicious!

Andalusian-style beef stew. Not too spicy, but not boring, either. Intense flavors.

Is it ever possible to have enough garlic bread in one's life? I'm thinking no.

Crema Catalana for dessert and a glass of Pedro Ximenez sherry to go with it. While the crema was tasty, the flan I had on the second visit was by far the better dessert.

Nothing like a Spring evening at @KatiesMidCity

16 Jun 2012

It's been a while since we went over to Katie's in Mid City, so that had to be rectified.

Erstas! Chef Scott knows how grilled oysters should be done.

Softshell crab over pasta, topped with a creamy crawfish sauce. Wicked. Just Wicked. Softsshells are seasonal, so you gotta jump on them when you can get them.

Mrs. YatPundit did Katie's "build your own" pasta, doing chicken in a cream sauce with Parmesan cheese on top. Subtle and flavorful.

"Red Velvet Elvis Cake" - yeah, it was all that.

I had a couple of Abita Ambers with dinner, and wife had some Pinot Grigio.

Twilight in Mid City...ahhhhhhh :-)

Katie's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Dinner and Drinks at @ChibaNOLA!

8 Jun 2012

Chiba on Urbanspoon

My friend Gina constantly raves about Chiba, so we decided to go there for our just-about-once-a-month lunch outing with Terri. It's always nice when a restaurant lives up to the hype! In the course of lunch, we were talking about how to help Terri promote the "Toyota 100 Cars for Good" contest that Second Harvest Food Bank is trying to win. The conclusion was to have a gathering at the Food Bank out in Elmwood, then a second tweetup/meetup at Chiba, for drinks and food. Since the food and drinks were awesome both trips, this is a combination of both outings.

"Sake Blu" - Gina started off our lunch with this concoction of Tyku Sochu, Tyku Silver Sake, muddled blueberries, with a splash of grapefruit and soda. It looked neat, so I had one last night. One turned into two. :-)

Pork Belly Steamed Buns. Our expert on the place insisted we start with what Chef Keith says is his most popular appetizer. They naturally made a second appearance last night as well.

Sushi: We ordered lunch specials off the menu, but also had one of Chiba's specialty rolls. The photo at the top is the "Satsuma Strawberry Roll" - Scallop, yellowtail, wasabi tobiko, mango, jalapeno, tempura flakes, and spicy sauce. Each piece is topped with a thin slice of strawberry and the roll is drizzled with satsuma ponzu. Without the strawberry and satsuma, this would still be a wonderfully-upscale crunchy roll. With those two additions, it's truly something special!

Chiba also does the standards's a California Roll

A Spicy Tuna roll and a "Let the Good Times Roll" - Crispy shrimp, crab, cucumber, tuna, and a sweet chili sauce.

I asked Chef Keith to get us a different specialty roll from the two we'd already seen at this point, and this is what appeared:

The "Mardi Gras Roll" - Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, white tuna, cucumber, lemon, jalapeno, tobiko, and spicy mayo. We will have this one again!

While eating this one, Chef Keith explained Tobiko to me. It's flying fish roe. The reddish-orange color (fourth piece from the left) is its natural color. Various things are used to dye it other colors: Squid ink for black, yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit) for the yellow, and wasabi for the green. When Keith said the green color came from wasabi, it totally explained why Gina food-gasmed over the piece of the roll she grabbed.

Chicken Teriyaki off the lunch menu. Don't you just love those plates?! Chiba's chicken was tender and tasty, and the rice cooked just right.

Assorted tempura lunch special. Crispy and tasty!

Since Gina had the chicken teriyaki, I got the salmon teriyaki. I got the better deal!

Dessert! Tempura-fried bread pudding with a blackberry sauce...wicked, just wicked!

To sum it up, we had a lovely lunch, then a great evening event with good food, excellent drinks, @TequilaAvion, and wonderful company!

Great dining experiences at @ChefBrianLandry's Borgne

8 Jun 2012

Borgne (Hyatt Regency) on Urbanspoon

"Fish in a Bag!"

I've been to Borgne

recently, for both lunch with a friend and a celebratory post-graduation dinner after kiddo's big night as Valedictorian and Golden Crusader at Brother Martin High School's graduation.  We chose Borgne for the dinner celebration venue because they're open late (as NOLA restaurants go), seating all the way up to 11pm. Borgne is located in the newly-revived Hyatt Regency Hotel by Da Dome.

On the lunch trip, I started with Borgne's take on the French 75. For the dinner, we got a bottle of inexpensive #bubbles: Cavasegura Viudas, Brut Riserva.

Starters: on both trips, we got the Duck Poppers (above), and the Crabmeat Croquetas, and we added the Slow Smoked Pork Empanadas on the dinner trip. Alas, we killed the croquetas and the empanadas before I could get a pic!

There's an interesting side note on the Duck Poppers, though. They're duck wrapped in bacon, and for many, that's good enough. But look at what they're sitting in, and the sauce drizzled on them. That's Borgne's version of good-ol' fashioned "Pick-a-Pepper" sauce, and they're sitting in cream cheese! So, after you scarf down the poppers, you're left with one of the classic dishes found at parties in New Orleans. Invariably, someone not into doing a lot of work for their contribution to a pot-luck or some such will buy a block of Philly cream cheese, pour a bottle of Pick-a-Pepper sauce on it, and set that out with a box of Ritz crackers. It's easy and tasty, and Borgne's tapped into it.

Gumbo! Usually you see a seafood version, and/or a chicken-andouille version. Chef Brian Landry

does a shrimp-andouille gumbo, and it works nicely.

Fish in a bag! This is a wonderful homage to Restaurant Antoine's "Pompano en Papillote." The dish is fish with all the accompanying herbs and spices wrapped up in parchment paper, then baked. It's wonderful. When you go to Antoine's, you order the dish off the menu, but the waiter will yell out in the kitchen, "one fish in a bag!" Borgne uses sheepshead for their version, and that fish works well in the bag, tender and spicy.

Ten Clove Garlic Louisiana White Shrimp. You have to really like both main ingredients for this one to work for you. Don't worry, there are many other possibilities for those that garlic really isn't that into you.

Crawfish and parmesan over cavetelli. Yum!

Black Drum a la Plancha. Grilled drum in a brown butter sauce topped with pecans and crabmeat. The meuniere is more a hint than the sensory experience of a dish where that sauce is the main event, but this is compensated nicely by the nuts and crabmeat. Both the crabmeat and the pecans are sauteed in butter, so the total experience is just the right amount to complement the fish.

Other entrees at the table that I didn't get pics of: Oyster Spaghetti, which kiddo's girlfriend enjoyed, Grilled Gulf Pompano, which Ensign Firstborn had rivaled my drum. Kiddo had the Crabmeat and Pork Belly Hot Pot--a fascinating local take on a very asian concept. He destroyed it.

Desserts! Gelatos...

Chocolate Hazelnut Flan. Both trips, this was sinfully delicious. That's a piece of peanut brittle sticking out of the flan, and house-made ice cream on top.

Pontachoula Strawberry Crumble. Think classic blueberry cobbler, but with local strawberries and house-made ice cream. This was absolutely incredible. Very seasonal, so it might not be around again until next spring.

Churros with chocolate sauce! Can't go wrong with fried dough. :-)

We stuck with the cocktails on the lunch trip, but we had a Rhone white (primarily Chardonnay) from Gabriel Liogier, on the dinner trip. Ensign Firstborn chose this one, and it was a good choice. There are so many nasty Chardonnays out there, it's enjoyable to get one that's done right.

Service was great on both trips. The dinner outing was so late that the place wasn't terribly busy, but Borgne was packed on the lunch trip. Still, our server and the staff kept up with us, right down to a manager checking on us once or twice.

Bottom line: Chef Brian has left his mark on the Besh franchise. Borgne does great seafood, and is a place you'll want to put on your to-eat list.

Coffee Thursday - @FrenchMktCoffee at home

7 Jun 2012

My morning coffee usually comes from either a hotel restaurant or a local coffee shop here in New Orleans. I much prefer someone else to make my coffee, so I'm a tea person at home. A couple of weeks back, I was teaching from home, an online class via WebEx. That meant I needed something more than just a cozy cuppa, so I pulled out my momma's old drip pot, and picked up some French Market Coffee. The white thingy on the right is my electric kettle. I bought that at a Target on Planet Hooston in the immediate aftermath of the storm in 2005. The coffee pot is in two sections. the top is the "pour water here" part. Then there's a small tray for the coffee. The metal is punched so it's already a filter. The bottom is where the finished product ends up. It's as low-tech as it gets (that pot is older than me), and I love it.

I'm not a big fan of these "vILT" classes taught via WebEx, but teaching while enjoying chicory coffee isn't such a bad thing!

The "Build Your Own" menu quandry...

5 Jun 2012

One combination on Chef Scott's "Build Your Own Pasta" section of the menu at Katie's

It never fails that Chef Scott Craig says something in passing when we're eating at Katie's that inspires a blog post. On our last visit to the restaurant, Mrs. YatPundit went with their "build your own" pasta plates, picking grilled chicken in a creamy alfredo sauce. When he stopped by to check on us, Chef pointed out that Fitzmorris doesn't approve of "build your own" dishes, but he disagreed. Scott thinks keeping the various combinations on the menu challenge the kitchen to keep up the quality.

Both Chef Scott and Mr. Fitzmorris make good points. Tom is right that building a menu totally on the do-it-yourself concept isn't a good idea. You're then left with "signature" dishes. A few years back, there was a place out in Kenna (bra), on Williams, called TeCoRo. The menu was almost totally DIY. No doubt there were other factors contributing to the short lifespan of this restaurant (pity, actually, because the food was good), but there's definitely something about having a couple of dishes people absolutely rave about to get diners talking, yelpers yelping, and buzz moving.

It would be easy to fall into an assembly-line mentality with such a menu, and quality suffers when imagination goes out the window. Chef Scott takes the opposite view, however. By keeping the DIY section of the menu, he makes the staff rise to the occasion for each order. So long as the boss keeps a handle on what's going out, it works, as you can see from the dish above.

It also doesn't hurt that Katie's has a strong lineup of dishes people do talk and rave about, like the "Terranova" pizza!