February’s favourites: 5 Ramen bars in London I love

It’s been a while since I thought about writing a post about the best ramen bars in London and whoever read my post in the previous months, knows how I was dedicated at finding the best place in town that could satisfy my ramen craving here in this cold part of Europe.

Aware of the fact that London is full Japanese restaurants and the ramen fashion is rapidly picking up, I decided to visit the most popular ramen bars in town. After careful consideration (as those many rejection email I’m receiving start) I decided to briefly describe my personal favourite places, ranking them for a precise feature that makes their product stand out.

For first starters: Shoryu Ramen. This is the first place where I had the chance to eat ramen in London after my sublime foodie experience in Japan. The Origin Tonkotsu has a pretty well balanced harmony of flavour between the the broth and the toppings. A nice place to start your ramen appreciation. Unfortunately I don’t have a review for Shoryu, because I went there before I started this blog. However I still remember a pleasant experience.

For broth: Ippudo. A bowl of ramen without the perfect broth would just be pointless (see instant ramen cups) Here the broth is creamy and milky as it’s supposed to be after pork bones are violently boiled for 20 hours and release their collagen. Taste is meaty, satisfying, but at the same time it’s almost sweet,  “clean” I would define it, meaning it does not leave a strong greasy aftertaste in your mouth. Read my complete review here.

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Shiromaru Hakata Classic @Ippudo

For noodles: Tonkotsu. These guys make their noodles on the premises thanks to their Japanese noodle machine and the use of local ingredients (let’s not forget the research for the perfect alkaline salted water) that perfectly abide by the original recipe. I love their tsukemen noodle so much for their “bite”. Unfortunately they are available only at their Tonkotsu East location. Read my complete review here.

Detail of the noodles.

Noodles for Tsukemen @ Tonkotsu East

For the marinated soft boiled egg: Kanada-ya. Ok, I know, you think I am kidding right? Simply, I’m not. Everybody who had the chance to try a real bowl of ramen (no, the instant one you had in college don’t count) know how extremely important the egg is to the whole flavour of the recipe. It has to be still runny, so the yolk mixes a bit with the soup, and white should have nicely absorbed the soy sauce overnight or more. In other words it should be a concentrate of Umami. Kanada-ya’s egg was absolute perfection, but unfortunately it comes with an additional price of £2. This is not a deterrent to hungry customers, because it seems to sell out very quickly. Read my complete review here.

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Kanada ya. That egg over there is to die for.

For strong flavours: Bone Daddies. Considering that when on a diet, ramen in general might not be the best choice for your calorie count, Bone Daddies’ speciality requires customers who want enjoy the full flavour experience and preferably without any sense of guilt after eating. Rich (or fatty maybe?) and intense broth, contrasting aromas and different textures in just one dish. Read my complete review here.

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@Bone Daddies

The winner or should I say winners

I think it depends on the occasion and the the atmosphere I’d like to give to my meal. In fact I would definitely choose Ippudo for a girls’ night out both because the place looks a bit fancier than the other ramen bars and because the broth base has an authentic flavour, but at the same time it tastes clean, not greasy at all.

However if I wanted a foodie date without frills or a highly satisfying solo lunch experience I would definitely choose Bone Daddies’ insanely rich Tonkotsu ramen.
What about you guys, have you visited any of these five places?

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Review: Tonkotsu East, London

The first time I ever tried tsukemen was almost three years ago during my second visit to Tokyo. On a very busy sightseeing day, ruined by constant rain and freezing cold, a hot meal was just what could fix everything straightaway. The selected place was the popular Rokurinsha, in an area inside Tokyo station called ramen street. The last thing I wanted was to stand in a 1 hour long queue, but after I was served whatever I purchased at the vending machine at the entrance (that’s how you order and pay in some places in Japan), it was love at first bite. From that moment I decided I had a mission: to find that same flavour and texture outside Japan. So when ramen bar started to pop up like mushrooms in the London foodie scene, I felt that was a place to start.

I started trying the most popular ramen places in London, because I wanted to have an informed point of view about the current ramen scenario and also to create a personal ranking based on certain criteria like best soup, noodles, toppings etc.

Tonkotsu East was on my list of places to try for a long time and for two main reasons. The first is that they are the only ramen bar out of the four in the chain to make tsukemen. The second reason is that unlike other ramen bars, they prepare their ramen from scratch on their premises. A time consuming activity that the founder of the little chain researched thoroughly. Not only did they find a special English flour and alkaline water similar to the Japanese ones, but they also imported an interesting ramen machine that makes the job a lot easier.

The place: The place is located, like many others in East London, under an arch in what it looks like to be a former garage. Bright with a very modern hip style, wood and stone materials to decorate the atmosphere, the kind of interiors you would expect from the area.

We were seated at the bar, where we could observe the staff preparing the food and the famous noodle machine in the window, where one of the Tonkotsu guys was preparing the noodles.

The noodle machine @ Tonkotsu East, London.

The noodle machine @ Tonkotsu East, London.

G and I weren’t really hungry so we just ordered some karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and some tsukemen of course!

The wait wasn’t so long and staff was super kind to apologise for the few extra minutes we waited between the karaage and the tsukemen.

Karaage chicken.

Karaage chicken.

I am supercritical with karaage because I don’t find any other recipe that is as good as mine (sorry, just my humble opinion), but I’ll keep it short and I’ll just say it was crunchy and juicy but a bit bland in flavour.

Here we go, the moment I was waiting for, the tsukemen. Thick, elastic, porous enough to absorb the pork broth, in two words they were very good.

Detail of the noodles.

Detail of the noodles.

tsukemen

The soup was cloudy and tasty as it should be if pork bones are left to boil for more than 12 hours but unfortunately left a greasy film in my mouth. I usually have some problems digesting this kind of broth, because of course, let’s face it, it’s not the lightest healthiest thing on earth, but this time it went smoothly. The chashu pork was a bit dry for my taste but thick enough and the egg was perfect in cooking and flavour.

My vote is: 8! I believe that the fact that they prepare their own noodles is distinctive when compared to other ramen bars. In my case, the tsukemen I ordered were very similar in texture, thickness and elasticity to the ones I had in Tokyo, therefore the vote. Kudos, Tonkotsu East!

However, I feel I can’t give more because I didn’t have the ramen, which is the protagonist at this place, and my soup didn’t convince me entirely.

Have some of you guys been to Tonkotsu East in London? Let me know your thoughts about it!

Tonkotsu East, Arch 334,1a Dunston Street. London E8 4EB. Tel: 020 7254 2478

Kanada-ya ramen bar, London review: not bad.

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There’s always a tremendous queue outside Kanada-ya ramen bar. The place is undoubtedly small, but the fact that customers are willing to wait for their turn to eat, should often be taken as a good sign of superb food.

Kanada-ya was founded by Kanada Kazuhiro in Yukuhashi, Japan, back in 2009 but only recently their management has considered expanding abroad, with the opening of two new restaurants in Hong Kong and London. This one is located just opposite to the major competitor in town: Ippudo. Let the ramen war begin!

As much as the cold weather and the light rain put me off, the die-hard foodie inside me never surrenders, so there I was, waiting for my piping hot bowl of ramen.

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The queue was even longer.

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While waiting…

After 45 minutes outside in the freezing cold, I was actually questioning my intellect. “This is crazy, this ramen had better be the most amazing I ever had.” Which, of course I doubted, having tried the real thing back in Japan. Anyway, Finally G and I were seated at the main shared table, together with other 6 people.

The decor is minimal, with a dominant theme of aged wood tables and brick walls painted in white, that reflects the light from the two big windows and creates the illusion of a wider space.

At the table I immediately noticed a tall glass filled with reusable chopsticks and I could not hide a bit of disappointment. Just to be clear, I’m not some hygiene freak, and I don’t doubt the health and safety standards of the place. Plus I’m always in for green choices and reusable materials. The unbearable truth is: I can’t eat by using reusable chopsticks without looking stupid, because their lacquered surface lets slip the noodles and I end up splashing soup all over the place.

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Original Ramen

While I was wondering how to limit the damages, our order arrived quicker than the time spent queuing. Both G and I got Kanada-ya’s Original Ramen, which consisted in a bowl of noodles underneath a thick white and foamy 18 hour pork bone broth and topped with chashu pork belly, nori seaweed, wood ear fungus and spring onions. We both added the seasoned soft boiled egg, because without it, ramen would have been just profane, right?

I first tasted the soup, which was intensely rich, meaty, just as I imagined it would be after boiling for 18 hours, but unfortunately it left an unpleasant greasy residual in my mouth. Stop! I know what you’re thinking: pork broth is fat, no wonder that ramen is so high in calories. Yes, true, but I tried a lot of ramen places where broth tasted “cleaner”, without leaving any oily feeling on my tongue.

Noodles were thin, but with firm texture. As for the toppings, the seasoned soft boiled egg was cooked to perfection, with some of the yolk melting heavenly into the soup. However, I wasn’t really convinced by the pork belly, because it was sliced so thinly to the point of looking like prosciutto. It should be thicker, as everybody who tried ramen in Japan knows, otherwise the texture and meat juices are noticeably reduced to the detriment of the overall flavour.

I have to say that I was not super impressed with Kanada-ya’s ramen. I think that after 45 minutes queuing outside, I was expecting an almost perfect bowl of noodles. Unfortunately, some characteristics of this dish did not meet my expectations.

For this reason, my vote for Kanada-ya is 7, because although I find the product not bad, I think that some aspects of both the management of the place and the ramen itself should be improved.


Kanada-ya, 64 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LE London.

Sunday Brunch at Lantana Shoreditch: my review.

It happens every Sunday. I roll out of bed with semi closed eyes uttering weird sounds and wander in the house before realising how late it is and regretting those two hours I overslept, because the bed couldn’t let me go. The routine continues like this: usually after drinking some coffee in slow motion, I call my mum to catch up with the latest family gossip, but every time I end up getting scolded. Why? Simple, because it’s almost lunchtime and I preferred sleeping rather than waking up and do the preps for Sunday sauce, as every good Italian woman should do according to my mother’s and gran’s thought. At this point I have two options: 1) Lie and tell her that the sauce is on the stove simmering since 7 am and if I am convincing enough I also can find a quick excuse for my sleepy voice. Unfortunately I am such a bad liar, so I go straight to number 2. 2)Tell her I’m going to have brunch.

Her reply is always immediate: “Why? You’re not American.” Then it becomes melodramatic: “Hearing you’re losing your national identity makes me so sad.” Seriously, mum? I should probably take her to brunch next time she visits to try to change her mind.

After a quick search, G. and I decided for Lantana in Shoreditch, a trendy Aussie style café renowned for their excellent coffee blend and their signature drink, the flat white. I had already tried their coffee and cakes at their original location in Fitzrovia during my MA year at SOAS, and I kept going back at the time just to reward myself with quality products after classes, exams, you name it. This time it was all about brunch.

We arrived around 12:15 and we joined the long queue, because the café was packed with customers. Good sign.

The place has nice aged wood interiors without frills, in line with the trendy simple but absolutely vintage style, which is common to many independent coffee shops in London. Not really bright I would say, as the room can only benefit from two windows, so in rainy days like yesterday, the artificial light becomes necessary even at midday.

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The very kind waitress asked us if it was ok to wait 20 minutes, and of course we were more than happy to do it, but 20 minutes soon became 40 when we finally got seated. Well, it can happen when the kitchen is particularly busy and orders keep piling up, right?

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Soon another waiter came to our table and when I was about to order, he informed us that the food would have taken another 15 minutes. Fair, our order needs to be cooked and plated. Plus, what could have we possibly done after queuing 40 minutes to get a table, stand up and walk away?

Too bad that 15 minutes became 30. At this point I was very hungry and, honestly, annoyed, but our food finally came.

Smashed avocado and streaky bacon on sourdough toast with a poached egg and rocket (£7.5) for me and slow braised beans with ham hock served on corn bread with grilled chorizo, a poached egg and spinach for G (£8.5).

Well, I have to say that the kitchen staff made up for the wait with their flavourful dishes.

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A matter of perspective: the portion was bigger than it looks here.

My choice celebrated the always winning union between bacon and eggs, with a fresh note added by a creamy mellow avocado and the final bitter touch given of rocket to complete the dish. Nice, without any doubt. However, I would have seasoned the avocado with some pepper, smoked paprika and sumac just give it a spicy kick.

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Same goes for G.’s choice.

G’s order as well had a nice harmony in the combination of ingredients. In fact, the hearty beans braised in tomato sauce and ham hock gave respectively acidity and texture to contrast with the distinctive sapidity of chorizo and extremely peppery corn bread.

I give Lantana 7.5 that could have been easily transformed in a higher score, but the long waiting at the entrance and then at table was a significant source of influence. I perfectly understand that Brunch can be a busy time, but more communication and coordination of the staff could significantly improve the customers’ experience.

Lantana Shoreditch, Unit 2, 1 Oliver’s Yard ,55 City Rd. EC1Y1HQ

Ippudo London, one of the best ramen in town

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During the event “Nanban: Japanese Soul Food” (read about it here), chef Tim Anderson mentioned the famous Japanese ramen chain Ippudo was about to open its first ramen restaurant in Europe and London was the chosen city to start their European adventure. Ippudo has currently 43 restaurants all over Japan and other stores in Asia, but with the opening of Sydney’s and New York’s branches, the chain started another chapter of their entrepreneurial adventure for the promotion of ramen outside Asia.

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I never had the chance to try Ippudo in Japan as I always idealistically preferred the little family owned Ramen-ya (ramen restaurants), fantasising about secret recipes passed down from the old generation to the younger ones. However, I’m not in Japan at the moment – I would add unfortunately – therefore the combination of my insatiable curiosity and, most importantly, my weakness for food was enough to lure me into the brand new Ippudo London restaurant at the base of Renzo Piano’s bright orange building in Central Saint Giles Piazza.

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Japanese television filming.

The location is trendy and modern, perfectly embracing the urban design and the style of the area with a hint of sophistication. In fact, the restaurant is surrounded by glass walls, whose brightness contributes to create a contemporary ambience, enhancing the contrast between the wood materials and the bold interiors. In all fairness, I would expect such a stylish atmosphere to be associated more with high end restaurants rather than ramen bars, which in Japan are often unsophisticated, definitely less bright, and more cramped places.

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Entrance

 

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Ramen bowls decorating the wall.

While I was lost in this reasoning and in the meantime I was questioning the suitability of my casual clothes for the place, I was surprised, and admittedly a bit scared, by the entire staff greeting us with a loud “Irasshaimase!!!!” (lit. welcome) in unison.

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Counter

After few minutes I realised there were precise guidelines for greetings: every time new customers were assigned to a table, one of the managers escorted them while shouting in a very polite Japanese something like: “There are 2 new customers!”, so the staff would reply with “Welcome!”. Then, after placing the order the waiter/waitress would shout: “Table 13 has decided!” and the chefs would reply “Correct!”. Then when the order was ready the waiter/waitress would shout that the food was leaving the kitchen and again the chef would respond something like “Correct!”. Needless to mention the choir of “Arigatou gozaimashita!!!” (lit. Thank you very much) with the entire staff smiling and staring at the customers when they leave.

The hearty welcoming atmosphere and the related loud greetings seem, at first, to be tailored exactly to bring the authenticity and informality of the original Japanese ramen restaurant, which are mainly visited by students and salary men, therefore not a really refined or exclusive target audience.

However, in Ippudo London’s case, this way of dealing with customers seemed to me too much forced as well as clearly contrasting with the trendy environment of the restaurant. I really hope the members of staff don’t lose their voice at the end of each shift, otherwise it would be a huge problem!

I cannot judge the entire menu, as I was at Ippudo’s only for their famous ramen, but I can openly express a bit of disappointment because I sincerely expected more to choose from, rather than only 2 types of pork ramen along with their two vegetarian version with seaweed and fried tofu. Don’t get me wrong, it’s undoubtedly positive that they don’t have 20 or even more different types of ramen on the menu, otherwise I would start questioning the quality and the freshness of their products. However, another two variations – say a seafood and a seasonal recipe – would have been a nice addition.

My fiancé and I went for the two original signature recipes, the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and the Akamaru Modern.

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Shiromaru Hakata Classic

Shiromaru Hakata Classic  according to Ippudo’s menu: “Our original tonkotsu pork broth; homemade thin noodles topped with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, bean sprouts and spring onions.” The broth was so rich and thick that its opaque surface covered the noodles underneath. A bold statement of a full intense flavour, and it was indeed: meaty but at the same time smooth and mellow, I would say also reassuring.

Although this ramen was served piping hot as it should always be, noodles were al dente and kept their perfect texture for the whole time I was waiting for the broth cool down a bit. Pork was tender and succulent retaining all the juices of the soy sauce sake and sugar seasoning used for the marinade before being slowly braised. Kikurage mushrooms and spring onions added respectively earthy and acidic notes, contrasting the smooth flavour of the broth. I chose to add a seasoned boiled egg as extra topping for £1.50, because a ramen bowl wouldn’t be complete without it.

Akamaru Modern

Akamaru Modern

 

Akamaru Modern according to the menu: “A bolder translation of the original pork broth; homemade thin noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret Umami Dama paste, pork belly chashu, bean sprouts, sesame kikurage mushrooms, spring onions and fragrant garlic oil.” The bright red spicy miso paste slowly melting in the broth, together with the sharp garlic oil and the nutty sesame, gives the soup a daring kick to the overall well balanced meaty flavour.

So you liked your noodles very much and you almost finished them but still have plenty of soup, what do you do? if you are anything like my fiancé you would shout “Kaedama please!”, and soon a waiter would bring another serving of noodles for £1.50.

My vote for Ippudo London is 8.5 and here’s why: I loved their ramen because it’s prepared with excellent ingredients and traditional methods. I frankly believe it is one of the best, if not the best, ramen in town, but I don’t feel like giving Ippudo London a higher vote because I would like to try more ramen variations. Ippudo cherishes tradition, but the team behind it’s always open for testing of new ingredients and combinations, so who knows, let’s give them time to familarise with the European tastes and its influences and let’s see how it goes.

I’m still not convinced about the contrast between the trendy modern interiors and the idea of the typical ramen bar, but if this strategy works for all their restaurants, then it’s a winning one.

http://www.ippudo.co.uk/

The ultimate Valentine’s Day dinner at your home

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It’s that time of the year again! Shop windows are full of heart shaped anything, chocolate and teddy bears. So cute, so romantic. Too bad I hate Valentine’s Day! Why? Don’t let me start with its fake, commercial meaning, because it would definitely be too mainstream as the expression: “Make every day Valentine’s Day”. I hate Valentine’s Day because it’s impossible to dine out: restaurants are packed and try to rip you off with “special” or so called “aphrodisiac” food, washed with bottles of questionable quality rosé.

So, what’s left, you ask. My suggestion? A cosy night in. And I have a couple of tips for you guys.

First, if you want to spend a romantic, but most of all fun and special night, why not cooking together with your partner? It doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy, expensive or complicated food, because the aim is to have fun together. And maybe after that…

My idea would be to choose a theme for the dinner because it would be fun to think about the cool outcomes together. And the internet is here to help because it’s full of recipes to look at, from foolproof to more sophisticated ones.

Here are some examples of what I would choose:

Ethnic: for example, easy Japanese food like the izakaya one: chicken karaage, bacon mochi, gyoza, you name it. You could even buy Japanese soft drinks and beer just to stick to the theme. Another option I would choose, of course, would be Italian cuisine. For example, pasta with creamy gorgonzola and toasted walnuts paired with Barbera wine and for dessert, pannacotta with raspberry sauce. Really easy, delicious and quick to prepare, although pannacotta requires time to set.

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Ok I get it, then the quickest option would be chocolate covered strawberries. International, easy, delicious, and sexy.

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Photo: annieseats

Revival: how cool an 1980s themed dinner would be? I’m thinking about prawn cocktail, deviled eggs, savoury crepes with white sauce, pineapple upside down cake or profiterole. Very 1980s flavours indeed.

Contrasts: I would probably go for black and white. Think about an appetiser made of two types of bruschetta: goat cheese and caramelised onion and black olive pate. Then a black risotto with prawns, and Guinness cake for the happy ending.

These are just few ideas that could create a fun and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy with your partner in the intimacy of your own home. So for those of you who will celebrate Valentine’s Day, enjoy being in love! and most of all, enjoy your homemade meal.

Disclaimer: All images are copyrighted by their respective owners unless otherwise stated. Links/Credits are provided via click-through link or caption.  Clicking the link of the image will lead you to its source.

 

And now in Italian.

E’ di nuovo San Valentino! Le vetrine dei negozi sono piene di qualsiasi cosa che possa assumere la forma di un cuore, cioccolatini e orsacchiotti di peluche a gogò. Tutto così carino e romantico, ma io odio San Valentino! Perché? inutile cominciare dal significato commerciale di questa ricorrenza, perché sarebbe scontato e obsoleto come l’espressione “Per noi è San Valentino tutti i giorni”. Odio San Valentino perché uscire fuori a cena è impossibile: i ristoranti sono strapieni e cercano di spennarti con menù creati appositamente e che comprendono cibi, a detta dei gestori, “afrodisiaci”. Il tutto annaffiato con litri di rosé di dubbia qualità.

E quindi, vi chiederete, cosa resti da fare. Il mio consiglio? Rimanete a casa. E ho qualche dritta per dare un tocco diverso e interessante alla vostra cena.

Prima di tutto, per avere una serata romantica, speciale, ma soprattutto divertente, la cosa migliore è cucinare insieme. Non è necessario che la scelta ricada su pietanze complicate o costose, perché l’importante è divertirsi insieme. E poi magari…

La mia idea è quella di scegliere un tema per la vostra cena, perché sarebbe divertente pensare alle innumerevoli possibilità creative che possono venire fuori. E fortunatamente c’è internet, che è pieno di ricette, dalle più semplici a quelle molto sofisticate.

Ecco alcuni dei temi che sceglierei:

Etnico: per esempio piatti semplici sullo stile degli izakaya giapponesi: pollo karaage, mochi arrotolati nel bacon, i gyoza e tanti altri. Potreste anche andare in un qualsiasi Asia Market per comprare birra e soft drink giapponesi in modo da rimanere fedeli alla tematica della serata. Un’altra opzione che sceglierei sarebbe, ovviamente, la cucina italiana. Per esempio, pasta con gorgonzola e noci in accoppiamento ad un Barbera e, come dessert, una pannacotta con salsa ai lamponi. Queste sono ricette semplici, molto buone e veloci da prepare, anche se la pannacotta deve riposare qualche ora in frigo per ottenere una texture cremosa. Se poi non avete tempo, suggerirei delle fragole ricoperte di cioccolato, perché sono semplici, veloci e sexy.

Revival: ma quanto sarebbe carina una cena anni ‘80? penso a piatti come il cocktail di gamberi, le uova ripiene, le crepes alla besciamella, la torta rovesciata all’ananas e il profiterole. E’ passato proprio qualche anno da quando ho assaggiato questi piatti. Già, solo qualche anno.

Contrasti: direi bianco e nero, e penso ad un antipasto di bruschette al paté di olive nere e al formaggio di capra con cipolla caramellata. Poi un risotto nero con i gamberi e un lieto fine con la Guinness cake.

Queste sono solo alcune idee che potrebbero creare un’atmosfera divertente e rilassata da godervi a casa vostra. Quindi, per quelli che festeggeranno San Valentino, godetevi il vostro amore e soprattutto la vostra cena!

Disclaimer: tutte le foto sono protette da copyright e restano di proprietà dei loro autori. Cliccando sulla foto si potrà accedere direttamente alla sua fonte.

 

The Water Sommelier. Is this really necessary?

Still or sparkling? is the usual question after ordering water in a restaurant. Then the waiter takes your order and that should be it. Well, it seems that water is becoming a big deal in the world gastronomy, because now customers could be asked to have a look at the water list, in order to pair different kinds of water with their meals. So, top restaurants are willing to push the eating experience to a new level, therefore the Water Sommelier is increasingly becoming a reality.

What does the Water Sommelier do? they give advice on the most suitable water to drink, according to the chosen meal, in order to enhance food flavours. According to Michael Mascha, author of the book Fine Waters, choosing the right water is possible keeping in mind three variables: the carbonation levels, mineral content and the PH levels. For example, while steamed food, or salad, requires a still and light water (low percentage of minerals), full bodied courses like red meat, require a carbonated water with high content of dissolved minerals.

Of course, still and sparkling waters require two different glasses in order to preserve their distinctive characteristics: while still water is always served in tumbler glasses, the sparkling one requires stem glasses because warm hands could reduce bubbles.

Let’s imagine that after listening all these notions from you waiter, you want to act classy and choose a particular water from the water list, how much are you willing to spend? because those waters are often quite expensive, from the overrated Fiji Water (average price of 5 € per litre) to the Japanese Fillico Water (200 € per 0.75 L), basically a rip off.

I have never seriously paid attention to water, until I accidentally bought a particularly light water, meaning I did not feel any mineral bitterness. In that moment I realised there could be difference in waters, but I have never really thought about water lists, food pairing or even Water Sommeliers as necessary as for wine.

It is a matter of different complexities because, while wine’s organoleptic qualities depend on several variables and thus require someone knowledgeable, water owes its characteristics to the composition of the soil where the source is, so it’s easier to understand (feel free to disagree).

I am skeptical about the increasing attention on mineral waters and I do not really think it is necessary to designate a member of staff just for water tasting and pairing, maybe training waiters would be sufficient.

Oh, and I’ll have tap water with my order, thanks.

And now in Italian.

Liscia o gassata? è la solita domanda che ci viene fatto quando ordiniamo dell’acqua al ristorante. Poi il cameriere prende l’ordine e dovrebbe finire lì. Sembra che l’acqua stia acquisendo sempre più importanza nella gastronomia mondiale, perché ora ai clienti potrebbe anche venir chiesto se desiderano dare uno sguardo alla carta delle acque, in modo da scegliere l’acqua più adatta alla pietanza ordinata. I ristoranti più importanti stanno spingendo l’esperienza del gusto sempre di più verso nuovi livelli, ecco perché la professione di sommelier dell’acqua sta diventando una realtà.

Cosa fa il sommelier dell’acqua? consiglia l’acqua più adatta alla portata scelta secondo le sue proprietà, in modo da creare equilibrare il sapore del piatto o per esaltarlo maggiormente. Secondo Michael Mascha, autore di Fine Waters, scegliere l’acqua giusta è possibile tenendo presente tre variabili: il livello di anidride carbonica, la quantità di minerali presenti e il livello di acidità espresso con il PH. Per esempio, mentre delle pietanze cotte al vapore, o un’insalata, necessitano di un’acqua leggera (con basso contenuto di minerali), piatti più corposi come carni rosse richiedono un’acqua frizzante con un notevole apporto di minerali disciolti.

Per conservare le loro caratteristiche, le due acque devono essere servite in bicchieri diversi: quelli bassi per l’acqua liscia, i calici per quella frizzante, in modo che i calore della mano non danneggi le bollicine.

Immaginiamo che dopo aver sentito tutte queste informazioni dal cameriere, vogliate fare i sofisticati ordinando una particolare acqua dalla carta delle acque, quanto vorreste spendere? perché si tratta di prezzi abbastanza alti, dai 5 € per litro della sopravvalutata acqua Fiji, ai circa 200 € per 0.75 L della giapponese Fillico, praticamente una rapina a mano armata.

Non ho mai dato tanta attenzione all’acqua, fino a quando mi è capitato di comprarne una molto leggera e dolce, cioè con una quantità di minerali molto bassa. In quel momento ho capito che le acque non erano tutte uguali, ma comunque non ho mai pensato che cose come una carta delle acque, abbinamento alle portate o, addiritttura, ai sommelier dell’acqua fossero necessari come accade per il vino. E’ una questione di complessità, perché mentre le proprietà organolettiche del vino dipendono da tante variabili e quindi una figura competente è necessaria, le caratteristiche dell’acqua sono dovute alla composizione del suolo dove c’è la sorgente. Per questo motivo credo che l’acqua sia più facile da comprendere ed interpretare.

Sono scettica riguardo questa crescente attenzione rivolta alle acque minerali, e non penso sia necessario designare un membro dello staff solo per la degustazione e l’accostamento con i cibi, probabilmente sarebbe sufficiente formare i camerieri per questa funzione.

Ah, per me acqua di rubinetto, grazie.

 

Sources:

I sommelier dell’acqua

Thirsty? talk to the Water Sommelier

Water Tasting

L’Acqua a tavola si abbina come il vino, ci pensa l’idro-sommelier