Saturday, March 28, 2015


One of the most recent big openings in London has been Jinjuu - already declared by The Independent as one of the restaurants you must visit in 2015, must, simply must darling...Well, that's what they say, but what about your ol' pal Creamy Steaks? Will this classy establishment reach the lofty heights set by oh, the Domino's Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza, or a Russell Stover Red Velvet Santa?

We were very lucky to get a lunchtime table last week on Sunday - checking again at the beginning of that day showed all tables taken up around that time for the next two weeks! However, I did notice quite a few empty tables when we were there. Not that the place wasn't busy, it just wasn't "no bookings, stack 'em on top of each other" busy, you know? For that reason I'd suggest not falling into despair if you can't get a table - it's worth just showing up, as they may have some tables reserved for walk-ins anyway!

So it's considered small, sharing plates for the most part - anju in style, Korean food best had with alcohol. So, clearly we had to order cocktails. I highly recommend both of the ones that we tried, and I'll try to remember the names: South Korean Sling and Soju-juicy, or something? They were both strong & fruity without being overly sweet. A great accompaniment to the meal! If they don't tickle your fancy, there are tons of cocktails to try, all of which have at least one exciting ingredient, other than booze.

It was with much despair that we decided to not gorge ourselves to the point of sickness and - spoiler alert - we did not end this meal with dessert. Regardless of how you hear that this place is small portions & sharing little bits, or you're advised to eat x amount of plates each, I think our amount of food was perfect for a big, sumptuous & very filling lunch.

We started off with Gochu Bombs, three served on a plate, jalapeno 'poppers' in style: filled with bulgogi beef & pork, cheddar & Parmesan cheese and served with ranch on the side. These were very nice - I was a bit worried they'd be overly rich with jalapeno, bulgogi-marinated meat, and all that cheese. Honestly though, for my druthers it could've been a bit stronger throughout.

The jalapeno ended up being the dominant flavor for me, along with a slightly sweet & spicy bulgogi pork. I didn't get much of any cheese, but that might've been for the best. I'd get these again, but maybe not for my very next visit. They just lacked a bit of heat, and I probably would've liked them more if instead of bulgogi it was gochujang pork & beef - certainly would've hotted the proceedings up, but maybe it would alienate people who don't have iron stomachs & mouths like me. The ranch sauce it was paired with was definitely more on the sour cream side of things than a full-flavored ranch, but again - probably for the best for the average tastebud.

Then we had the Bulgogi Beef Tacos, two served per plate. The beef was tender & sweetly spicy, not a ton of heat so these would be totally fine for a person with a more mild sensibility. The slaw & kimchi were both fresh & zingy, with a good amount of crunch. I'm not sure exactly how kimchi is meant to be prepared, but I like it both crunchy & floppy - this one was crunchy. These were super satisfying even though they weren't large, and both of them plus one more dish (and a cocktail) probably would've made for a decent lunch by itself. I'd like to try Korean-Mexican fusion in San Francisco, presumably the place it was born when you consider immigration patterns, sometime. If it's anything like this, it works really well. The asian slaw & kimchi acts almost in the same way as a salsa, bulking out & adding some freshness to some well-seasoned, spicy meat. I can see where the two marry well.

Then we ordered their sort of hallmark dish, the Jin Chick thighs (you can also get wings), 4 big pieces per plate, with both sauces Jinjuu Black Soy & Gochujang Red. The fry batter is crispy & light -bordering on tempura but a little thicker- with a savory & salty hit. It must be lightly seasoned before being fried. The meat itself is dark & well trimmed, with no odd bit of gristle or anything. I don't know how restaurants do it, because every time we've tried to cook chicken thighs at home they're quite dreadful. These were super tasty though. The two sauces, as recommended on the menu, do go best together & compliment each other very well. The dark soy sauce is a little bit sweet and a lot umami, while the gochujang red has a punchy, spicy heat. When you put them together, it's almost like all the best elements of Korean flavors & even more, that special different 'taste' that Asian cuisine in general has compared to Western spices & sauces. Really excellent stuff.

Alongside this one we had the Kimchi Fried Rice, which was the largest and cheapest plate we ordered. I was surprised at how generous this one was, at just £4 it was loaded with pancetta, vegetables, and of course, kimchi. All that topped with a fried egg? I'd happily order it for a lunch during the work week and be fully satisfied. It was soft, pickle-y from the kimchi, and the pancetta was salty & smokey. Nothing to complain about here, and I still can't get over the price.

I'd love to go back to Jinjuu, as a matter of fact, I must. I need to try the bibimbap & the Snickers Hotteok, of course. If they ever put something in the style of tteokbokki on the menu, I'd be there the very same night. It's a great place with a cool & unpretentious atmosphere, and I found the staff super pleasant and helpful. There were a table of older ladies next to us who seemed a bit unfamiliar with Korean food, and they got lots of attention and consideration. It's definitely not the kind of place that's 'too cool' for anyone, and the prices for the food is all quite reasonable given the portion size, especially on some of them like the kimchi fried rice & the chicken. The cocktails were expensive, but intriguing. If you could resist them, you'd actually have a right reasonable bill at the end of it all, I think!...but why resist? They're very nice.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Candy Adriatico, March Box

I was the happy recipient of the March Candy Adriatico box - I'm sure you recall my delight with February's offering. As you can see, there was a real red theme throughout that box (I was told by the lovely owner of Candy Adriatico that this was indeed on purpose for the Valentine's season) and this month it's much more green! There was also some green paper inside acting as a buffer, too.

 Not only did it make me think of fresh spring weather (still waiting on that one in London!) but also St Patrick's Day. Being an American of Irish descent, I really tried to make it a special day on the 17th, but it's just not as big here. That made it even nicer when I opened this box up on March 17th - it was like an American style St Patrick's Day celebration in London by way of Slovenia. What a wild ride, huh?

Without further fluff, onto the sweets.

Gorenjka Jaffa Cake Bar - This was quite a bit sweeter than the classic McVitie's Jaffa Cake we get here in the UK, but still had a bit of zing from the jaffa. I think the chocolate isn't as bittersweet, but still dark, and the jaffa jam itself is quite lightly zesty. The cake was significantly softer than a McVitie's, and it was a far bit bigger. It would make a nice treat with tea, and the main difference is the softer cake. I kind of like the stale cake texture of Jaffa Cakes, but this bar feels a bit more high quality. There can be no arguing that this was a biscuit rather than cake!

Šumi Silk Hazelnut Hard Candies - These were a very unique experience for me! I've never had a hard candy that tasted exactly like this - most hard candies are fruity & tangy. This one is hazelnut flavored, quite subtly at that, with a delicate hazelnut cream in the middle.I didn't get a photo of these, but they sort of looked like root beer barrels with a cream-colored swirl. I really enjoyed them, it felt very indulgent while still just being a hard candy. It reminded me of a classier chocolate flavored Tootsie Pop, with a creamy center & a nutty, natural taste. I'd like to hear what other people think of these, as they're so unique!

Kinder Bueno Bites - What can I say about Kinder Buenos? They're one of my go-to chocolate bars when I'm just craving something sweet. The crispy thin wafer, the milky nutty center, the delicious chocolate covering - Kinder Buenos are a 10/10, and when you put them in little bite form they're still a 10/10. These are just like the individual segments of a traditional bar, and I think I ate all four of mine in quick succession. What can I say, they're one of my favorites. People with more self control than I can probably use these individually portioned bites to have "just a little bit" of chocolate.

Kraš Bonko - These are little taffy 'fruit caramels' that are individually wrapped. The flavors are all really refreshing, but my favorite is definitely the pineapple. These are a bit softer than Starburst, but otherwise fairly similar in terms of sweetness vs tang. When I looked them up online I saw they had lots of different flavor assortments, including a cola one which I bet is very nice. Another plus is it's a big bag - I think I can't manage to get through an entire bag of candy these days, but years ago these wouldn't have lasted long at all around me.

Animal Kingdom Chocolate - This is a popular bar with children, and I can see why. I think it came with a cute squirrel sticker, and on the wrapper is a sweet cartoon lion. The chocolate itself is very thin so not too much for a little appetite, and it tasted a lot like Hershey's chocolate, which surprised me given how much European chocolate usually doesn't taste like Hershey's! I loved it, but if you don't like American chocolate you may find this one not so appetizing. Mine melted a bit in transit, but it was the only casuality - and it was still tasty!

Ciocori Rice Chocolate - This one wasn't as nice as the Dorina rice chocolate that was included in the box last month. The rice wasn't very crispy, there wasn't that much of it, and it was just a bit sweet & plain. Not memorable for me, it was the only one in the box that left me a little cold. Then again, other people may really enjoy this one.

Bauli Croissant - I've had one of these before, and it's quite impressive how soft & fresh they stay even though they're shelf stable! This one is no different - soft & buttery, but not really flaky like a traditional croissant. Hey, you can't have it all! The vanilla custard innards are delicious, they even manage to get an eggy flavor in there. This one was really good - maybe my favorite in the pack, outside of the delicious Bueno Bites, of course.

Over all it was a really great surprise box! A nice variety of things - something for everyone. Candy Adriatico is a sweet company in many ways - I recommend a sign up.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Shackfuyu is the latest opening from the Bone Daddies/Flesh & Bun family of restaurants. Allegedly only open for the next year, but with any hope that's not going to be the case. For you see, this place is far too delicious to only be around for one measly year.

It's sort of a small plates place, so go with a large group if you want to try a bunch of stuff. There were a few 'mains' on the menu, including beef with kimchi butter tare, a whole seabass with coriander miso, and presumably the hot stone rice could serve as a main as well. My suggestion if dining for two (like we did) is to split two 'small plates', one main, one dessert. I mean, depending on which small plates you get - we went with two of the heartiest and it made for a very filling lunch.

Beef Picanha with Kimchi Butter Tare - I've never had this cut before, apparently it's from the rump and quite popular in Brazil. It had a nice beefy taste with a bit of resistance, but the tender fat is left on. The sauce is amazing - hot & slightly sour like kimchi. I'm ashamed, or maybe not so ashamed because here I am writing about it, to say that I took my spoon to the sauce after the meat was gone. I absolutely loved it - hot, spicy, a little bit sour & high quality beef. It's got every right to be the highlight of the menu.

Fried Potatoes and Japanese Curry Sauce - Excellent curry sauce, better quality than your curry roux blocks that are now fairly easily found in the UK. Thick but not unctuous, hotter than standard Japanese curries (probably, funny given the history of curry in Japan, made that way to appeal more to English palates) with crispy diced potatoes.

The indulgent freak & me wondered about topping them with cheese - but they totally didn't need it, I'm just a freak for cheesy potatoes like all red-blooded humans. I can absolutely see this being served in Japan too. Either at one of the 'family restaurants' that are popular there (like Jonathan's or Denny's) or at Cocoichibanya. Curry sauce & potatoes is universal - and if it's not, it damn well should be.

Mentaiko Mac 'n' Cheese - Every time I see mentaiko, I think 'mental', as in "That's mental!" - an exclamation you may use as you eat this. See that big plop in the middle is mentaiko: AKA fish roe, AKA fish eggs. I've had it before but never in a proper form, just as a pasta sauce or a Cheeto (reviewed here) - so I wasn't sure what I'd think of it as a straight up plop. I'm not the biggest fan of very fishy things, but I'm pleased to report that it's not strong at all. It's very mild - not that it tasted like lobster mac & cheese, but it had a similar level of "fishiness", which isn't that much. The cheese wasn't very strong at all, which is probably for the best in order for the subtle taste of mentaiko to shine. I really enjoyed this one.

Kinako French Toast with Green Tea Softserve - The green tea soft serve is lovely - strong and not overly sweetened, it's a very refined dessert and would've made for a lovely light finish served all by itself. They don't stop there, however - the kinako french toast alongside is a big ol' thick slice of sweetness. We all know the best sort of french toast has three distinct textures: crispy edges, sturdy top 'n' bottoms, and a nearly gooey middle. Right, we all know that.

This one has it in perfect balance. The kinako flavor is subtle, and while I really enjoy toasted soy powder, I can see the need to keep it light. Kinako can tend to have the slightest savory edge, like peanuts or sesame in a dessert. I think it's presence here keeps the french toast from being overly sweet.

No cocktails this time around! They do have some great ones though, and I think it's cute that they're served in a little bottle for you to pour at your own discretion. Not sure if that means they've been aged, which would be quite cool, or if it's just a fun way to serve them. Either way, I've got my eyes on the sake cherry gimlet for my next trip. Really looking forward to returning, especially as they'll be changing the menu periodically!

Thursday, March 19, 2015


I was pleased to be contacted by Pastinos and asked to write a review about their snacks. I've seen them before, I believe in Selfridges and a small Italian cafe in my old town. Here is a list of all the places stocking Pastinos at the moment. They have four flavors:

Lemon & Black Pepper, Chianti & Olive, Arrabbiata and Tomato & Sweet Basil.

These are made with real pasta, and I have no clue what they do to render them into crunchy but not tooth-shattering crisp style snacks. It's very cool, though! I also really appreciate the unique flavors that remain true to the pasta roots of the snack.

Perhaps my favorite flavor of them all was the Lemon & Black Pepper, which was tangy whilst remaining savory, with a strong hit of black pepper. It's a classic combination in life, but not so much so in snacking form, so if you like lemon & pepper with meat, chances are you'll like it on crispy pasta snacks as well. What's really nice about this one too is that you can sort of taste the 'pasta' behind the flavoring, which makes it seem even heartier of a snack.

I also really enjoyed the Tomato & Sweet Basil, which was a very accurate name. This one had all the familiar comforts of red sauce kind of Italian food, your marinara, your tomato sauces of all shapes & varieties. I enjoyed it - I shared this one out with a couple of co-workers who also liked the flavor, so it seems like an easy pleaser.

The Arrabbiata flavor was a lot like the above Tomato & Sweet Basil, but with an added chili backdrop. They come in as a close second favorite, but the Lemon & Black Pepper just pips it - in part because it was such a unique taste.

The Chianti & Olive was interesting, tasted a lot more like an olive than I was expected which was good news for me as an olive fan. The chianti, well, can't say I've ever actually drank it (also never had fava beans, funny enough) but I think perhaps it made them a bit sweeter? If these had been just olive flavored I probably would've really enjoyed it, but the combination of something slightly sweet with olive just didn't do it for me as much as the others. I will definitely give it this - it was a very different flavor!

Over all, I really enjoyed these snacks and I think there is lots of room to grow in terms of flavors while staying true to the pasta roots - flavors like macaroni & cheese, saffron cream, and maybe best of sauce? Sounds good to me! These are a great change from regular crisps, and definitely feel more filling with more exotic flavors.

(Pastinos provided me with these snacks for a fair and square review)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oats and Nutella Cookie from Starbucks UK

Starbucks UK has, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, recently seemed to push for a stronger lunch time & snack time presence. Like I said before, it's hard to imagine going into a Starbucks & not ordering a hot drink of some sort, but I generally don't have coffee in the afternoon and hot chocolate at lunch seems to indulgent for an average weekday, which is usually when I go to Starbucks.

Regardless, it's pretty easy to manage a cookie for breakfast and get a coffee. It was with that thinking that I grabbed the new Nutella Cookie from Starbucks as my breakfast this Monday. You'll notice a different quality to the images today (and even more so, a different background) as I was at work instead of at home.

It was about palm sized and quite heavy - with hazelnut choco-filling, we can presume.

It's described as being 'lightly spiced' and I was surprised to taste that it was indeed relatively spiced. It reminded me of the flavor profile of an American molasses cookie, with a deep sweetness & a touch of cinnamon sugar spice.

It was also similar to a molasses cookie in that it was chewy & hearty - the oats definitely boosted this one up to be quite filling. It's funny, even though it cannot even border being healthy, the hearty texture and gently spiced flavor made it feel a bit more wholesome & therefore okay for breakfast than a regular cookie.

The layer of Nutella inside was substantial, and took up a lot of the diameter of the cookie if not tons of vertical height. Probably for the best not to just have a couple inch high blob of Nutella in the middle...who am I kidding, that would've been more than welcome. As it was, it was quite well balanced and again, made me feel like what I was eating wasn't entirely unhealthy. It was at the level of perceived health of say, a banana nut bread with Nutella spread on top.

I did receive this product for free from Starbucks in exchange for a fair & square review.