Making the trip to New Orleans for work and a quick stop over to LA just for Top Chef favorite M. Voltaggio’s new Inkwell restaurant proved to be a bit sad and disappointing. Considering the miles flown for food it was a let down. The hype and maybe the expectation was too high. First we reserved way advance and the restaurant was quite empty. Service was friendly but sometimes a bit snobby when we said the food was salty. I don’t like people to tell me how the way the dish is supposed tot taste. Salty is Salty. Period.
Masculine Minimalistic look – Black Leather Sofas, White Walls Clean lines very sleek look.
The drinks we ordered were the blended whisky and sloe gin. Prices were sort of reasonable i mean for the amount you expect to pay at a restaurant and from a Top Chef restaurant no less.
The blended scotch tasted ok not memorable however the sloe gin tasted like a chinese medicine brew with a coffee aftertaste. Like not good. You can smell it and a lingering after taste in your mouth. The menus seemed kind of reasonable for some dishes and pricey for others. Again I ate at Craft many years ago and prices was higher although the food was impeccable. (Skirt steak was still soft 5 hours later)
The waitress suggested 5 dishes to share for the two of us but we went a bit over board as it was a loong way from Thailand. The waitress also said the kitchen will determine the order of the courses according to taste. Sounded smart to me.
All components was yummy. Tomatoes fresh – Lovely Taste – Feta strong and Delicious. Yet the dish had no ooomph to it. It was not something you remember forever.
Of the evening this was one of the dishes that i will remember. Simply well dressed greens – Crispy delicious Pork Ears. And underneath.. A supremely eggy pudding/custard that was so fine, delicate without being too eggy even if it was very egg yolk. Together the combination was marvelous. I admit. Savoury, Creamy, Sharp Vinaigrette, Crispy Pork, crunchy greens, soft smoothness on tongue from pudding. 10 / 10
Cheese was delicious and the puffy Chip was delicious. Stops there. The creamy corn was saltier with every bite and we informed the waiter but he said that was how it is and that it’s not salty. So we left it at that.
The tartare was yummy (but not memorable) we didn’t see any Vietnamese flavours aside from the asian herbs on top. The mayo was the star of the dish – Airy, fluffy cloud of deliciousness. I will remember this mayo forever. 9/10
The interesting part of this was that the fish dishes came after the heartier savoury beef tartare. Even in the menu the meat dishes was listed after the seafood ones.
I thought this dish was rather well executed, i think the delicate tuna meshed well with the celery root. However I didn’t really understand the tofu mustard. Didn’t taste like tofu or mustard.
The balance of fattiness and the crispy celery root was well done. The green powder wasn’t really needed as there was so little of it and can’t taste the flavour but i thought it was quite fun and easy to eat. 9/10
Unfortunately things are going downhill. The octopus was burnt and over cooked. Like a dog’s chew toy. Quite awful sadly. The pasta was way undercooked – Not al dente. You can see the raw pasta in the middle when you bit into it. The flavours seemed alright however i couldn’t get past the rubbery octopus and hard pasta. It was very sad.
I was really looking forward to this dish. I love bellys of every animal. It’s fatty, rich and tender. Strangely it was stringy, chewy and not a great texture of lamb belly. The pine nuts felt like it’s past it’s prime. When nuts aren’t creamy but has that stale taste it’s a bit of a huge let down. The yogurt curds was delicious. Creamy, sourish and thick. That was it. Kind of heart breaking at 30 bucks for delicious yogurt. Curds…..
Sadly it was a memorable evening but i remember more of the bad bits rather than the good. I think it was the expectation and considering i was a huge fan. I would rate the overall experience at 4/10. More of an ink blot than ink.well……
On our way to another restaurant we spotted the Poster of Whale’s Belly. All you can eat weekend brunch chosen from their Brunch menu. The pictures looked very well presented and in dainty portions. We detoured and set for the restaurant. The warm welcome that we received from the staff already signaled the level of service for this restaurant. Warm. Inviting. Sincere. Unpretentious. This was a 10/10 for me already.
Lovely Table Setting
The drinks menu ranged from cocktails, imported mineral waters, juices, beers, virgin cocktails and coffee all ranging from 150 onward. Let me say that the honey lime soda was exceptional and worth it’s price. It was fresh, and well balanced drink – To make it perfect i think is very hard which they executed perfectly.
They have a nice variety of choices that should satisfy everyone – Maybe some more non fish options would be nice but considering it’s called Whale’s Belly maybe the lean was on seafood. We ordered the Tuna, Salmon Tartare and Onsen Egg to Start with a Lobster Bisque and the Truffle Soup to start and nibbled on warm I think Charcoal and Sunflower seed bread with salted butter in a nice swirl pat. I appreciate the spreadable butter still cold but not rock hard. I believe that in fine dining restaurant this should be something that is cared about. 10/10 again.
Our first three starters arrived in succession. The salmon tartare was a pretty sight, i appreciate the generous topping of ikura. Sometimes chefs think garnishes are really a garnish but i think if it’s on something it contribute to the taste at least. If you are going to add an ingredient make sure you can taste it. And yes the saltiness of the eggs counterbalanced the creamy wasabi dressing and the yuzu cut through your tongue plus the firmness of the salmon was very good. I liked the fluffy chip on top for some texture. It was a bit different from most Parmesan chips i had this one was definitely fluffy. It was a great start definitely.
Now on to our Iron Chef winning dish. It really peaked our interest that this dish won – It came in a very pretty looking noodle spiral and the chunks of tuna on top.
I like how the layers work together – The Blue crab was not watery and tasted like fresh gulp of the sea. I admit i think there was a bit too much capellini but it was al dente and felt like those HK abalone noodles in texture. The lumpfish caviar helped with the saltiness and the tuna was fresh and dense with flavor. This time the yuzu is cut with a more intense peppery taste. I like the spice factor with this dish. But less noodles. Let’s say this portion is 2 bites – Perfect for sharing.
Our third course was the warm onsen egg with beurre blanc and crispy bacon pieces. Even though i prefer a more sharper beurre blanc but this dish had a dimension of creaminess although not overpowering until it was too creamy. The crispy bacon bits gave that nice crunch with every bite. Only problem is it wasn’t a 62 degree egg. I think the yolk over cooked somehow. I think the problem with Bangkok is fresh eggs are a bit hard to find. To find a new egg to make that perfectly poached egg with complete whites will holding together if a bit difficult.
I think maybe it waited a bit too long in the sou vide and the yolk set. All in all it’s still a beautiful dish and tasted how eggs should. Creamy, buttery and bacony. 9/10
I’m not a truffle oil fan. Usually it’s artificially flavored you can feel the fakeness of the oil. Mushrooms on the other hand i love. I think it’s the combination of mushrooms used to make a soup sometimes it feels grainy. This was a thick watery puree of well made mushroom pillowy goodness. The milk foam on top lent that pillowy feel. Then you crunch on an almond sliver. This is the best mushroom soup i ever had. Truffle oil… Not so much. But they should rename this the Best Mushroom Soup ever… Period. It didn’t even need the truffle oil.
Lobster bisque is a tricky thing. That delicate creaminess and lobster taste with the booze. There must be a balance. I’m not a fan of those heavy roux based soups. Sometimes the flour is too much and you can taste the uncooked roux or it’s just too thick and not in a good way. This bisque was made well – Balanced Boozy , creamy mouth feel with a sweetness i figure from the carrots. Slightly too sweet for my liking but as mentioned i like boozy bisques. Everyone mopped the bowl clean with the bread. Every foodie has a mean streak. Either they like to complicate menus just to see how the chef will perform or ask for crazy food combos. I do the opposite.
I like to order the most basic thing on the menu and see how well they performed. Thus this is what i ordered to test the chef…. Can you guess?
Spaghetti Aglio – I never understood why it was so appealing until i went to Italy. Before it was an oil bland tasting dish. But Italy was another story. I must say Whale’s Belly impressed me. I would prefer a bit more garlic and a more firmer pasta but they had that nice balance of dried chillies, basil and the dried tomatoes for a bit of a kick. Although i wouldn’t call this traditional it was done well. I dare to say better than 90 percent of the ones i tasted in Bangkok. Good Job. Maybe a smaller portion with the same ingredients would have made this a 10. Let’s throw another curve ball to the chef with another annoying dish made so badly in many restaurants it’s a pity.
I doubt that alot of people know that it’s created in Mexico – Although the owner was Italian American but it’s not a traditional dish per se. A Caesar salad done well is a nother rarity. Usually it’s over dressed, or too little dressing – too sharp tasting – too watery. I think the perfect Caesar salad is right here. Salads need to be done right. Each leaf cleaned dried and coated with just the amount of dressing and served right away. Balance of saltiness – sharpness – creaminess i like a heavier hand of anchovies but this is a perfect salad.
Lovely – Totally Ethereal feel. The crab was light and tasted of the sea and not waterlogged which seems to be a big problem many times we had a crab salad. Very well done. The rocket was fresh – dressed and gave that not overpowering bitterness to compliment the crab. The dressing was a fruity lightness that really went well and made this dish a 10.
Good ratio of Filling
Buttery Buttery Sauce
The raviolis came under a puffy cloud of milk foam. Well i presume it’s milk foam. The buttery taste felt like creamy savory warm milk shake. Fluffy and not dense and heavy. I like that there was a lot of stuffing and the spinach was well seasoned. Sometimes you get a spinach ravioli which is a watery yucky mess.
Finally on to the main course…..
Sea Bass is so plentiful in Thailand it became a boring fish. It’s everywhere. So again, let’s see how the chefs here made it amazing. Firstly Sea Bass is quite a delicate fish – You over cook it and it’s tough. At Whale’s Belly they made the skin so crispy like you can hear it popping between you teeth. Like you were eating a very thin pork belly in HK. Fluffy Ethereal crunch of dry crispiness deliciousness. The meat was not overcooked at all. The thin fillet was a yin yang of crispy and soft flakiness. I see the base creamy sauce here in alot of the dishes with a few tweaks to make the taste not boring so I think it’s not a crime that isn’t unforgiving. This is the best Sea Bass i had in a not Asian Way. it’s a 20/10 dish. I think the next time we come we’d have 10 of this.
Lamb Chops are everybody’s favorite dish. My mom in particular. She wont eat lamb any other way. It’s because stewed lamb has a tendency to become stringy and dry. I stopped making lamb stew at home cause she wont eat it. Period. To my surprise. This lamb shoulder was dense and moist enough not to be dry and stringy. IT was tender and delicate. Then the peppery, sweet rich sauce kicks in to flavour the dish. The black pepper has that bitter spiciness which can stand up to the strong flavour of the lamb. I’m not sure if the Chef learned the insane Potato Puree from Joel Robouchon – It was such a smooth light buttery heaven that just mixes with everything and takes it to another level. Maybe a danger to your heart but it would sure mend a broken one.
The Wagyu Cheek was alright – I think it was the superbness of all the dishes that made this poor Wagyu last. We actually ate in order – Fish, Beef and Lamb as to not overpower our palate. Poor Wagyu – The delicate pickled roll up daikon which cut so sweetly with a balanced sourness through the red wine sauce and the pull apart cheek shed a poor tear when he heard us discussing we like the other two dishes more. It wasn’t his fault poor thing – sometimes getting a 9.5/10 just isn’t enough.
With barely enough room for dessert the 3 of us managed 1 Brownie and 1 Affrogato. I like crusty brownies. I’m not a fan of oily rich brownie mixes that half of what you are eating is vegetable oil. I like dark rich crusty brownies which puts up a fight with the cold ice cream.
With sucha heavy meal i was hoping the espresso will wake me up.
It came in a cute little up with chocolately crumbs on top. The espresso was so rich rich rich. The ice cream did it’s best to soften the blow and you chomp your way through delicious balls of crunchy cookie / chocolately bits. It’s a dessert. Not a drink.
I would say for this price range it was one of the best tasting menus made to order meals i’d ever had. You can spend the same somewhere else and get a crappy pizza and half hearted pasta with rushed service. Are we coming again? Definitely. Will i spread the word around? I promise. Thank You Whale’s Belly for reminding me and Bangkok what 5 star service and a fine dining experience for a reasonable price looks like.
*** Review is entirely from my point of view and we paid for our own food.
Another part of the Young Family Dinner Challenge… Making a version of Inspired Japanese Curry with no Roux Cubes, no artificial flavorings seemed like a very long challenge. I did my research and used the following ingredients for my Japanese Curry.
1 Pound of very very sinewy beef shank
A mix of Veggies – 1 Onion, Baby Potatoes, 3 Carrots, 20 Baby Carrots — Depending on Taste & Haricot Verts Beans quarter of a Pound & 3 Apples for the Sweetness & Sauce Thickness. Half a Pound of Chopped tomatoes – Skin Removed.
Curry Flavor – Tumeric Powder, Cumin Seeds, Mustard Seeds, Paprika, Saffron & Dark Chocolate. I flavored as i went no measurement but roughly 2 heaping table spoons of each except for the saffron – Maybe 5 strands.
First up the beef: – Marintate with Pink Himalayian Salt and Black Kampot Pepper and lightly dust with rice flour.
Sear on High Heat with Rice Bran Oil until browned – Stir in Onions for 10 mins until softened.
Add water and simmer with apples and chopped tomatoes. – Let Simmer for 2 Hours Low Heat stirring gently.
Add all the seasonings and stir to combine. The color should now turn quite dark. Let simmer on the same low heat for another 2 hours – Try smushing the apples into the sauce after the 2 hours. As it’s on low heat the cooking time is much longer. I prefer the oven but this time i wanted to try using the stove which i thought worked perfectly fine.
Enter into the 5th hour. Add Carrots and Potatoes – Always cut potatoes larger ad carrots smaller to ensure similiar cooking times. Taste after almost done – 45 minutes – At this stage i add in brewers yeast for a darker flavor and color. You can leave this step if you prefer and add in some chicken stock if you like. I like my curries sweet and light.
Add in the baby corn and beans – 5 Minutes and close the lid, turn off gas and leave over night.
The Beef sinews becomes like a fatty expensive cut. It melts and breaks in the mouth with a rich fatty mouth feel without the fat. Really nice.
Megan’s Kitchen caught my eye many years ago when i stumbled across an article about a hot pot restaurant actually being in the Michelin Guide. Of course I asked my cousins in HK about it and all i got was posh posh and very expensive. I checked out their website and indeed it was very very expensive – it can run almost 80 – 200 HK dollars just for the soup base. Very expensive indeed even for HK pricing. 6 years later working alone and no one to have lunch with i gave it a go. I went to the website to reserve a seat – and there was a special promotion – Lunch set for 148 dollars. Off i went….
It was interesting that hotpot is a communal activity – Even if you had individual pots you almost never see people eat hotpot alone. I’m not surprised when the waiter asked me “How many Miss?” “For one?” Nothing bothered me as I settled for the Beef Hotpot Set with the Winter Melon and Yunan Ham broth. With the lunch set i suppose as it’s the bare minimum you wont get much of the usual things you might get with the normal price – but i think it was good enough as it is. The condiment set came with Chillies, Spring Onion, Garlic, Shallots and their soy sauce. I asked for some vinegar – Chou which they gave me at no extra charge.
I peeked at the other tables though and some people paid another 25 HKD for the big sauce condiment – I thought i saw OX sauce, fried shallots etc. I honestly believe you don’t need anything else as the broth was so good already. Eating for one gets you the luxury of being able to do as you please – I ordered the Shrimp Paste (Which was almost 70 HK Dollars – GASP) this is something you don’t get in thailand. Fresh beaten and flavored shrimp is pounded until it’s a sticky paste, when you drop in boiling broth it becomes sort of a misshapen meatball with non of the fake floury taste. It transforms into a soft, sticky chewy deliciousness.
In the set there was 2 meatballs and 2 wontons. I”m not really a boiled wonton person, i feel sometimes the wrapping is too thick and the filling is sad. I also have a mistrust with meatballs – Either you get rubbery icky borax filled bits of minced mystery meat or you hit the jackpot with something very good. The meatballs here is a delight – you can feel how fresh the beef is with a carrot filling. Usually meatballs come precooked which you jsut sort of reheat, these ones were fresh beef which were a bit bouncy and very juicy and with the carrot in the middle it was a surprise. However the wonton actually won the show. It was pieces of chopped beef with cheese. The wrapping was a perfect ratio to the meat. IT wasnt smushy but chewey and nicely dense. It was amazing!
The set itself was quite plentiful – The beef is nice marbled and not too thickly or thinly cut. It was amazing. I think it’s very important and I judge alot of these hot pot places by the thickness of the beef – It’s crutial to have extremely good thickness – Too thin and the beef has freezer burn, too thick and it’s too tough and chewy. You really can’t find problems with Megans Kitchen except for the fact that it’s expensive.
The set came with 3 different kinds of lettuces, 2 giant shitake mushrooms, 3 tomatoes, some Eringi Mushrooms, Rice noodles, the 6 slices of beef (Quite big sized slices) and 2 meatballs and 2 wontons. The soup is great it’s bubbly and always topped up by the nice staff. It’s really delicious and great for spending that lunch hour alone. It’s a treat noone should miss…. (Theres a 12 HKD for the tea and a 10 percent service charge.
What is a Mala hotpot you may ask. It is a deathly delicious combination of bubbling stock, oil fried with Szechuan Peppercorns, dried chilies, garlic, Chinese bean paste, dried jujubes, and a mix of other herbs and spices. Each restaurant blends their own special recipe or they just use a ready mix. This is my favorite style of hotpot, usually you would get a half and half which you can numb and burn yourself on the spicy mala side and cool down with the normal stock. I believe that in the olden days this was used to help mask not so appetizing smells from using the cheaper cuts of meat.
This restaurant is a gem hidden in on of the off sois located in Silom called Boon restaurant. We ordered just enough for two and it was a great way to cure a hangover…. Amazingly the fishballs had a soft chewy texture, not too fishy and went well with this spicy oil.
Taro is usually flash fried to help keep it’s shape in the bubbling broth. Personally i like to mash the taro in my soup. It gives it a creamy texture to the soup. A creamy spicy, hot and numbing mouthful of soup.
It may look gross but it’s got a chewy, porky flavor that is either a favorite or you can’t stand the look of it at all.
Hard to understand why this battered squid works so well. Its lightly crispy, spicy when chewed with the Chilies, extremely garlicky and just so soft and perfectly chewy. No calamari can beat this dish.
This restaurant doesn’t rank high is nice atmosphere, clean bathrooms and smiling service. It’s a no frills, inexpensive family styled restaurant – the menu has pictures!!!!! Drop by for a good time.
Walking along Arbat Street we stumbled across a little sign that showed a cute crab – After 15 days in Russia we were quite sick of meat and the three of us trotted down the stairs to the second level to have a “crab” seafood dinner. This little restaurant had about 15 tables – seats maybe 50 – 70 people comfortably – clean bathrooms and very friendly service with English Menus. They specialize in Seafood – Prawns – Oysters – Crabs.
Pricing isn’t bad at all – The seafood is served in a cold platter but depends on which platter you pick – The prawns arrive hot – get the Russian ones they are big with plump Roe! – The whelk with potatoes is delicious and arrives hot, the scallops are a bit small but hot and tasty – well seasoned – the mussles are excellent and arrive piping hot and a generous amount. We went there 2 times – First time we got the platter to share for three people maybe it’s because we are asian or we just eat little and we couldn’t finish it.
Second time we ordered ala carte which turned out to be more expensive with less food so get the platter! Giant Crabs are very expensive in Thailand which can go for over 1000 roubles for 1 piece in the supermarket and here it was about 1800 roubles for a whole plate.
In many high end restaurants they serve these giant crab legs but are salty – over here its very meaty and not salty at all. I’m most impressed however with the prawns – the roe is bright and very plump and very delicious – you can taste the sea with every bite.
The have a few choices for soup, on the first visit we have the bisque which was ok but not something to order again. However on our second trip we ordered the milk crab soup and it was absolutely delicious. Milky, creamy crabby with a hint of spice. It was very very good.
We also ordered the little prawns that arrived in a small metal bucket. It was the same as those you get in the platter so i definitely recommend getting the platter as it is alot cheaper.
They recommended us a drink / lemonade – cucumber, mint concoction was just refreshing and actually really nice. We had 3 jugs as it wasn’t overly sweet and somehow the got the balance right with the cucumber lemonade and basil. Great way to balance the meal.
Upload pictures on instragram and you get a 5 percent discount. Which you can go with their free wifi. Their servers are very friendly and very nice even with limited english. It’s rare to fins such nice servers in Russia in my opinion and they really went the extra mile to help out. Definitely one of the best places to come. It’s located around the middle of Arbat street, next to a Kid’s restaurant. There’s only 1 seafood restaurant that i saw in Arbat street so not hard to find.
The secret to congee is low heat and constant stirring. Low heat and constant stirring. For hours and hours, in this case around 4. There is another trick however that i learned, if you set your rice cooker on warm and bring it to boil every hour it also works with less effort!
Egg Yolk in miso works if you leave it over night. The egg yolk turns jelly like and with a creamy rich consistency. Drop it in the piping hot congee which helps cooks it and eat right away.
4 Cups of Rice – Warm on Low in Rice cooker and bring back to boil every hour and stir (Min 4 Hours)
4 Fillets of Salmon – I used Organic Raised
6 Tablespoons of Miso
6 Egg Yolks
Salmon – Rub Miso on Fillet and Keep in Fridge over 24 hrs / Draining Water off every few hours
Egg Yolk – Line a small tupperware box with miso – separate the egg yolks and gently add the miso to cover. I left mine over night. Gently remove the egg yolks and drop in hot congee.
Everyone craves a good homemade sausage roll once in a while, yet no one who has a job, family and a bunch of dogs should even have to time to act Martha Steward and roll her own puff pastry. Guilt as charged. Buy a roll of ready made puff pastry from the freezer section, in Bangkok we have a great brand that made fresh with no preservatives – hence the short life span. Usually i made a mixture of pork, carrots, potatoes as the mince but after a hectic week i just grabbed a package of Cumberland sausage, a few carrots and potatoes. I thawed my pastry overnight in the fridge. Makes it easier to roll without breaking.
Dice the carrots a bit smaller than the potatoes so you have an equal cooking time, saute them in some olive oil and garlic. Season well with salt, pepper, paprika and a tiny hint of sugar. Just a small touch to offset the saltiness of the pork.
I unwrap the baking paper on the baking sheet and unroll the puff pastry directly on the baking sheet. I mix the sausage mixture into the cooled veggie mixture and mix well gently. I dont season anymore now as sausages tend to be quite salty. Shape into logs on the puff pastry and roll it over. Leave a bit of space before cutting it. No need to be neat. Roll it over again so the edges are on the bottle. Flatten slightly and cut into pieces with a wet knife wiping in between. As you see i cut into different sizes and they bake at the same time.
Rub a bit of beaten egg and throw in oven with fan at 125 degrees. Rotate tray after 15 mins and brush some more egg wash and they are ready to be eaten hot in 10 – 15 mins.
Another rough day at work and wishing for a sumptuous dinner. Sister says want beef the night before. Nice beef tenderloin defrosting whilst at work. Everyone arrives home and demand to be fed.
45 Mins Dinner Challenge:
1 Beef Tenderloin – Rubbed with Olive Oil and Smashed garlic with salt into a puree
Package of Pasta from Italy
Home Made Tomato Puree (Roasted Tomatoes and crushed)
Home Grown Basil from Garden
Salt & Pepper
Heat Pan to HIGH. Use non burning oil, I used Rice bran. Sear Beef on all sides – 3 Mins on each side, lower and cover pan for 5 mins. Reheat to high and sear again on all sides (pouring off juices to make gravy) Cover and set aside.
At the same time I have boiled a medium salted water and threw in the dried pasta. This type takes around 9 mins to cook on the pack. I turned of the heat at 6. And took pot of stove. In another pan, heated the tomato sauce, threw in the beef drippings and flavored with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar to help balance the acid.
Drain pasta and mix with sauce. I find that if you time pasta correctly you can turn it off the heat before cooking time is over but this takes experience and lots of mistakes on my part. I find that you dont need to add any more pasta water as the pasta has water in them.
Slice beef and place on pasta, sprinkle basil to each person’s liking and serve. Usually i serve with thin slices but Sister said she was hungry.
Guaranteed it was soft and tender. Was hoping for leftovers but everyone devoured it. Completely. Happy Tummy, Happy Family.