Thursday, September 5, 2013

Flesh & Buns

Flesh & Buns has been open for a bit now, and I've been quite excited to give it a try. I'm lucky to work very near Yum Bun, so I get to enjoy the trend of steamed buns anytime I like. They're a bit expensive, but I think good food is worth splashing out for every once in awhile. Or often in my case. Sure, you could get a really sticky pork bun from Chinatown for probably about 80p, but I can tell you the texture won't be as nice, nor taste as meaty as the more expensive options like Yum Bun, Bao, or Flesh & Buns.

So, me and the ol' flesh 'n' bun (sounds awkward) booked a table for two for yesterday. Imagine table in inverted commas though, because it appears that couples are brought to a really large communal table where we sit across from each other, haha. Luckily I've never been one to mind shouting across a room at somebody (being a red-blooded A'murcan and all) but if loud music and a bit of distance between the other member of your party is annoying, maybe skip at least the dinner service of Flesh & Buns - or go with a group of four or more.

We ordered a couple cocktails, the Watermelon & Kaffir Lime Collins and the Frozen Yuzu Margarita.
We were both super into them, although in hindsight I feel that mine was a bit weak for being nearly £10 - not that I expect to get sloshed after one cocktail, but maybe something. Can't fault the flavor though, it was lime and watermelon as promised, and very tasty. You might notice a trend in this review of me thinking some things are just that little bit more expensive than they should be.

We were advised that two or three small plates and a main 'flesh' would be good for two to share, so we ordered the Softshell Crab & the Tuna Tataki.
It was the first time I had tried softshell crab, so I coudn't really tell you if it was any better or worse than it usually is, haha. It was a bit strange to eat an entire like, crab's body, but then again it was only recently that I even tried lobster, so I'm still coming around to the whole seafood game. The jalapeno mayo was tasty in its own right but I felt like it sort of overwhelmed the taste of the crab. The crab by itself was very nice - with a bit of lime and deep fried, how could it not be?
The tuna tataki was very good - tataki is not the same as sashimi, its very briefly seared so if you are apprehensive about raw fish you might find this to be a good entry point. Now me, I quite like raw fish (never tastes nearly as 'fishy' as the cooked stuff) and this was just as good as it usually is. The grapefruit acts as a different take on your classic citrus zest to sashimi, and the yellow peppercorn-looking things tasted like popcorn. Not sure what they're supposed to be, actually - the only things listed on the menu for the tataki is grapefruit, coriander, and chili. It tasted very nice, though! I'd say the level of preparation and taste made this  one quite worthy of the £10 asking price. I don't know the going rate for softshell crab, but taste and amount wise the £9.50 price of the crab seemed alright. We both felt pleasantly sated after splitting these two plates, but with room left for the main course.

There was some minor debate between the two of us as to which flesh to get. I was in camp pork belly as I really like the pork belly buns I've had previously, and my husband was interested in the duck leg. In the end, he won me over to the duck leg side by promising that we'd try the pork belly next time. I'm an easy sell - I like duck, anyway.
It wasn't so blackened and purple like a lot of crispy duck I've had previously - I assume that it is better for it not to be so carcinogenic looking, haha. It tasted just great, like crispy duck should - fatty with a crispy, flavorful skin. The sour plum soy sauce was also great, similar to hoisin sauce but a saltier and definitely less sweet, probably due to the soy. It was also nice and thick and easily dolloped onto the buns. The maroon rose petal looking things to the right of the duck were pickled turnips, which didn't have a strong taste on its own, but nicely cuts the natural sweetness of the duck meat. The buns aren't pictured, but if you've seen one you've seen 'em all. In this case they were the slightest bit stickier than say, Yum Bun - more on par with your classic dim-sum type steam bun.

The quality of the meat was what really shined through here, and we definitely had more than enough for two buns each. So much so that we had some to finish off after the buns. Cost wise, this was about on par with what I'd expect to pay at any of the fancy London-type bunneries at the moment. Four of the duck leg buns worked out to be about £3.50 each, which is almost exactly what you'll pay at Bao or Yum Bun. Of course, if you opt for a different meat you may end up paying quite a bit extra. So, I can't knock Flesh & Buns on cost when it comes to their main courses, lest I knock all of the London buns that aren't being fished out of an ancient cabinet in Longdan.

Anyway, the nice thing about Flesh & Buns versus the rest of them is the dessert offerings. Well, for me anyway. I love dessert, and I think having a pillowy soft, already slightly sweet steamed bun filled with Nutella, ice cream, or peanut butter would be amazing - but I don't know, maybe it's just too inauthentic for the still burgeoning 'bun' scene, haha. Feel free to steal that idea, bunsmiths. Just serve me one every time I come around. You don't even have to put it on the menu.

Anyway, Flesh & Buns is a place where I can eat a bun or two, and also have dessert, thus elevating it.

I was most excited for the s'mores, which seemed to be the big hit off the menu anyway, as I saw about a dozen of these little tableside s'mores kits get delivered to various groups.

My husband decided on the relatively boring chocolate fondant with strawberry shochu ice cream. "Shochu ice cream? This I've gotta try!" he was heard to me, at least.
My suspicions that it was going to be kinda dull were confirmed - even though it was a perfectly tasty chocolate fondant, that's just what it was. The strawberry shochu ice cream was more of a sorbet in texture, and even though I expected that the shochu flavor wasn't going to come through, my husband was surprised & disappointed by the apparent absence. Perfectly decent strawberry sorbet, though. I just rarely ever order a chocolate fondant because I think they're a bit boring. This was a good one, if for some reason you don't want to try one of the more adventurous desserts. I personally wouldn't waste the opportunity though.
Now, if you like your desserts with a just a bit more fanfare, perhaps even enough to make the person across from you gesticulate wildly, go for the s'mores. The waitress asked if I knew how to do s'mores, and I'm like "Honey...don't even get me started." Well, I didn't actually say that, I actually just said, "Yes, thank you." There's really not much to it. Hold a marshmallow over the fire until it gets to your preferred level of gooeiness, and then smush it up with chocolate and graham crackers.

Now, I've heard a lot of people say that the s'mores were expensive for what they are - and yeah, it works out to be £4 a s'more (which if calculated into dollars would probably make Lady Liberty weep) but considering how hard it is to get anything like a s'more here, and the little white box all nicely presented, I say its fine. I've spent more money on dumber stuff.

Besides, I'm sure the matcha chocolate and graham crackers are a bit difficult to source - I don't know if the matcha chocolate is being made in house, but it was paper thin and just perfectly balanced between the sweet taste of white chocolate and the slightly savory grassiness of a good green tea. It was like the best matcha chocolates I've had from Japan, so no complaints there.

 The marshmallows were normal, I was a bit disappointed by how slow they were to brown, but I think that was due to the heat source not being a raging bonfire in Minnesota, but instead a little white tinderbox in a crowded restaurant in central London. Can't expect the full experience, I guess. They did get warm and squidgy, and were starting to brown a bit before I got too impatient to wait.

The graham crackers were a nice surprise, too. Not sure how they were made, but they were thin, crispy, and salty-sweet like a good graham cracker should be. I'd like to know more about them, as graham crackers are one of my top missed staples from the USA.

I'd absolutely get the s'mores again, and maybe skip out on a cocktail or an appetizer to make up for the cost.

All together, we had two 'small plates' to share, two cocktails, one main split, and two desserts - for a total of over £70. I'd definitely say the cost sneaks up on you here, but if you skip the cocktails, split one dessert, and just fill up on the plates & a set of buns you'll come away spending around £40 or so. I'd say we would've been fine with just one 'flesh' and two plates, splitting a dessert - and that's what we plan to do next time we go.

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