Saturday, 14 March 2009

lahore kebab house

my husband to be took me to see his old university and neighbourhood. part of the tour was to eat at a pakistani eatery named after the culinary heart of the plain in pakistan, lahore.  lahore kebab house is quite proximate to tayyab’s, another pakistani restaurant that has captured a remarkable audience. we were seated promptly (although that had more to do with the timing of our arrival as my fiancé tells me that he returned to lkh one day to find himself in a rather scatty queue with a forty minute wait). the menu presented an array of options, all incredibly authentic, some of which both o and i associate with sunday brunch in pakistan.

 in our excitement we ended up ordering two starters – chicken seekh kebabs and tikka; for mains we selected saag paneer and murgh channa. i am a conventionalist and always go for the tandoori roti. o had garlic naan, a flat bread made of white flour, as generously buttered as it is garlicky. along with this he had mango lassi. i tried some and found little to critic. it wasn’t overly sweet and maintained the tang of yoghurt unlike other renditions (tayyabs and raavi kebab included) that add uber sweet tinned mango pulp to milk. that to me is a milkshake masquerading as lassi.

 the seekh kebabs weren’t excellent. they were a tad bit over salted and slightly dry. the tikka was incredibly tasty though and grilled to a juicy perfection. the bowl of raita – yoghurt with mint and some shallots was the perfect accompaniment. the main courses came served in rounded black metal dishes (known as karahi’s). the murgh channa harked back to the ones i had grown up eating. the meat of the chicken gave way from the bone revealing its tenderness. the saag paneer was as well flavoured, the paneer retaining its shape and texture. to top it all of the food wasn’t as oily as it tends to be at other pakistani places i have eaten at.

 despite being very full o and i decided to all the way out and order dessert. o picked the pistachio kulfi and i asked for the kheer. kheer is like rice pudding, with pakistani renditions of this comforting and soothing dish involve the addition of some cardamom seeds and blanched slivered almonds. or it is eaten plain but cooked to the point where the milk reduces to a dense creamy colour and the rice is a near to mashed. lkhs version of kheer matched the lahori version known as rabri which was a great favourite of my mother. i ate it skin and all.

 i wasn’t very impressed by the bizarrely neon artificially flavoured condensed milk on a stick kulfi that o was having. perhaps the perfection of all the things i had had so far precluded me from assessing it on its own merits. kulfi in pakistan has a slight hint of salt on its edges. it is served in plates in twos with a heap of faluda (something i used to call transparent spaghetti) on top. it definitely has more flavour than a can of condensed milk having been boiled and reduced substantially to a creamy consistency. 

Thursday, 5 March 2009

abeno too

last night o and i were roaming covent garden with a friend who was visiting from pakistan trying to find a place to eat. after walking through the myriad chains that have come to populate this tourist hub we settled on abeno too. abeno too specializes in a particular style of japanese cooking, okonomi-yaki – this is essentially a marriage of two words where okonomi means ‘whatever you like’ and yaki means ‘grilled,cooked or fried’. abeno’s claim to cuisine fame is that it is the only restaurant that offers okonomi-yaki, a native of osaka and often described as a japanese pancake.  

we were seated at a table with nifty benches that opened up to provide storage units for all the layers of clothing that london cold requires, including protection of personal belongings from pickpockets. the eating space is dominated by the teppan (hot plate) which is used for cooking. this is perhaps the best part of an abeno too experience – watching the food being cooked.

o and i had the plum wine on the rocks – a sweet and refreshing wine. to start with we had a firm block of tofu dressed with soy, spring onions and a generous top of bonito fish flakes. there was also a seaweed salad and cucumber salad dressed in rice vinegar with a sweet edge. we followed this with a tofu, corn and spring onion okonomi-yaki. the server brought along a steel bowl, tipping it towards us she showed us the layers of cabbage, egg and dough with ginger and spring onions. she then whisked this with a quick flourish whilst attending to the teppan, smearing it with a slight bit of oil. once smoking hot she put down the batter and pressed it flat to form a thick pancake. a block of tofu was cut into long strips and placed onto the batter along with corn and then covered with another layer of batter to make a thick stuffed pancake. she then covered it with a silver lid. we continued to work our way through the starters. the server returned to check on our food and once cooked presented us with added options: soy sauce, bonito flakes and dried seaweed to sprinkle on top. we opted for all three and then helped ourselves. the tofu had melted with the heat and tasted delicious with the combination of flavours. we had rice on the side presented rolled with a centre of plum and sprinkled on top with dried plum that lent it a sweet-sour taste. after the okonomi-yaki came the teppan-yaki of chicken. it was a pleasure to watch – a breast of chicken laid flat on a combination of butter and oil on the teppan the heat changing the colour of the flesh. the server deftly turned it over to cook both sides and then cut it into bite sized pieces. after he had cooked the chicken he added more butter and oil and put down a mixture of vegetables. while these were cooking he disappeared and brought along a split dish one half of which was soy sauce and the other a peanut based sauce. the teppanyaki was to dipped into this and eaten. the sauces added dimension to the chicken and vegetables and quickly disappeared between the three of us.

despite being full i decided that o and s had to try the green tea ice-cream as abeno renders a really good one. we settled on a kyoto sundae which brought together green tea and vanilla ice cream with traditional sweet rice dumplings and on a base of mashed sweetened azuki beans. we could have done without the band of cream that lined the dessert but the flavours were too perfect for us to be disrupted by it and as with the other food we polished dessert off rather quickly.