Seseri Skewers at Bincho

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It’s been a bit of a mission getting these seseri skewers.

“You’ll have to be lucky – or have a special arrangement – if you want to catch them”

We first tried to acquire them on Chowdown Showdown Getsaround, but were informed that they’re only sometimes on the menu and that they didn’t have them. Well done, again, Time Out, you’ve put a special on your list of the 100 best dishes in London. That was only the initial indication of the difficulty. In fact, it quickly became apparent, when trying on a few occasions to phone and see if Bincho had them, that they really were only rarely around. Even calling ahead and asking for them to put in an order failed: they said they had done so, but the day before called to let us know they hadn’t been able to get any from their supplier.

By this point, I must have begun to make an impression, because the manageress offered to take my number and call when they had some in. I didn’t hold out much hope, but sure enough, a couple of months after – and two weeks ago – I got a call to say they’d be coming the next day. Hilariously, this was sandwiched between two other evening Chowdowns, but we couldn’t do anything other than take them up and go for three in a row.

So, here we find ourselves, with eight seseri skewers on order between the three of us. That’s chicken neck for those of you not up on your yakitori ingredients.

As I always try to make clear to those who turn their noses up at eating chicken feet: it’s the fatty, gorgeous deposits, just beneath the skin but close enough to the bone to be steeped through with flavour, that make the meat from thin, scrawny bits of animals (such as their necks) so goddamned delicious. And, as it ever was, these sticks of difficult-to-come-by morsels are genuinely as delicious as their rare charm suggests. Fatty, crispy, melty and oozing with flavour. They are also drenched in a superb sweet-tart-fruity sauce, the remnants of which we devour with other dishes.

I’d tell you to rush out and get these skewers, but I was paying attention, and spotted that you’ll have to be lucky – or have a special arrangement – if you want to catch them.

Khow Suey at Mandalay

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You have to walk quite a way up Edgware Road to find this grotty café serving Burmese food. Time Out has included it in its list of 100 best dishes in London, so you should expect something a bit spectacular.

“I was ready to order a completely different soup!”

Luckily, Rachael insisted on asking what the dish was, since it was (slightly absurdly) listed in Time Out by its Burmese name, when the menu is in English. This was lucky, since I was ready to order a completely different soup!

We were asked whether we wanted it spicy or not, queried whether spicy meant really spicy, and chose to each order the mild option. Luckily, we had some additional conspirators with us, so they ordered the spicy version safe in the knowledge that they didn’t have to eat the lot! It turned out that the mild wasn’t hot at all, and the spicy one only pleasantly tingly. The spicy version was certainly better, so we added some chilli sauce / oil (provided on the table) – which I’m pretty sure was the only difference anyway.

The broth was a coconut milk-based, gentle laksa-like affair with a nutty, aromatic depth. Brimming with chicken and crispy rice vermicelli it would certainly make a large, comforting meal in itself.

“It was certainly no Koya Walnut Miso Udon”

Ultimately, though, we were hoping for something with a bit more pizzazz than your standard noodle soup, and if I’m honest that wasn’t there, at least not enough to drag me this far away from my usual stomping grounds. It was certainly no Koya Walnut Miso Udon, that’s for sure.

Chicken Satay at Satay House

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Satay is, of course, the Malaysian national dish, at least as far as the country’s tourist board is concerned. Every Malaysian restaurant offers a couple of varieties of the mini-kebabs whose only requirements appear to be a) skewered, b) grilled and c) served with peanut-based sauce. So, given its wide availability, and that Satay House is charging above the odds for this standard starter, you might expect something a little bit special. But there’s no deconstruction here, and we’re presented with exactly the plate you might expect.

“If Time Out identified a sprinkling of magic when they tried the dish, I wasn’t feeling it this time round”

And that’s about where it starts and ends. Yes, the chicken was fresh, juicy, and cooked till coloured pleasantly without being charred. The peanut sauce had a little chilli kick, with peanuts crushed small and fairly smooth. But that’s pretty much the case whenever and wherever you eat chicken satay (which has made it to many a pub or pan-Asian menu as well).

If Time Out identified a sprinkling of magic when they tried the dish, I wasn’t feeling it this time round. Sure, it was pretty good. Nice enough. Fine. But definitely nothing to write home about.

Add to this the laksa which lacked laksa leaves, and relatively bland breads, and my impression was that this wasn’t a challenging or revolutionary take on the cuisine, but a tried-and-tested formula that has been around long enough to know how people like their standard Asian food. But for fireworks, I’d head elsewhere.

 

Chicken livers at Yalla Yalla

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I don’t like livers. Or should I say, I still don’t like livers. I can’t point to a particular aspect of them, though the taste is obviously the main thing – I just don’t like them and doubt I ever will. So I’d been worried about this dish and am, frankly, glad to have it over and done with.

“I’d hoped it might go some way to converting me”

To be fair, the pomegranate molasses marinade this was served in was delicious, and right after the bite the dish was pleasant enough. But then the aftertaste hits, with all its irony, bitter, bloody notes and I’m afraid I want to wretch. I didn’t make it through my whole bowl, and nor did Rachael.

I also thought this needed to be served with bread or salad, though to be fair we could have ordered sides.

All in all, this was never going to be the dish for me. I’d hoped it might go some way to converting me. It didn’t.

100/100 dishes in London.