Sagar Ratna (Connaught Place, Delhi)


I had to take an unexpected side-trip from London to Delhi recently on account of a family emergency. Fortunately, everything went well and things seem to be returning to normal. I myself am now back in London (where we’ll be for another six weeks or so). I didn’t really have a whole lot of time in Delhi for things that didn’t rotate around hospital visits but did manage to find time to lunch with two old friends. The first was this meal, a quick lunch in Connaught Place. I was for some reason longing for idlis and vadas and the CP outpost of Sagar Ratna is where we went,  Continue reading

Punjab (London)


Here’s my fourth review in a row of an Indian restaurant in London. After south Indian meals at Quilon and Malabar Junction and two rounds of the Cinnamon Club‘s take on contemporary pan-Indian cooking, here now is a meal featuring the north Indian food that most people outside India think of when they think of Indian restaurants. Yes, my friends, we’re at a classic curry house this week: Punjab. Located in the Seven Dials area, at the border of Bloomsbury and Covent Garden, Punjab is not, however, merely another curry house: established in 1946, and at the current location since 1951, it pre-dates iconic places like Tayyabs (opened in 1972) and Lahore Kebab House (a similar vintage); indeed, it claims to be the oldest north Indian restaurant in the UK. We walked by it after an outing at the British Museum a couple of weeks ago, and remembering a friend’s recommendation of it as a solid place, we decided to stop in. You’ll never believe what happened next!  Continue reading

London Whisky: Royal Mile Whiskies + The Vintage House


Allow me to continue with my series of deranged posts filled with images taken in London shops. A few weeks ago I posted a large number of pictures taken at the Whisky Exchange store in Covent Garden (this followed a post from last summer that featured a number of other prominent London whisky stores). And a week and a half ago I posted a large number of pictures of Paxton & Whitfield, a major London cheese shop. This week it’s back to whisky and this time I have a twofer: pictures of the London outpost of Royal Mile Whiskies in Bloomsbury and of the Vintage House in Soho. Continue reading

Cheese and Whisky


Last week, I wrote about my visits to Paxton & Whitfield, the renowned London cheese shop and posted a large number of photographs of the shop and their cheeses etc. However, I didn’t say anything about what I thought of the specific cheeses I’ve so far purchased from them. This is the post in which I do that. This is also the post in which I talk a bit about my experiments in pairing whisky with these cheeses.

If you’ve memorized last week’s post—as I expect you have—you don’t need to be reminded that I have been exclusively purchasing British cheese. And I am pairing them exclusively with Scotch whisky. No, this is not a statement of my position on English cultural nationalism or Scottish independence.  Continue reading

The Cinnamon Club (London)


In the past decade and a half or so, London has seen a big upsurge of more ambitious (and more expensive) Indian restaurants, taking the cuisine and the aesthetic—both of the food and of the rooms it is served in—far beyond that of the curry house. Many of these restaurants have gained (and some have gone on to lose) Michelin stars. One that has not yet been so favoured, and which receives far less praise than others of its ilk in the London food press, is the Cinnamon Club in Westminster. For this reason it wasn’t originally on my list of fancy Indian places to eat at in London. However, it is more or less around the corner from where we are putting up in Westminster and when, a week after arrival, we wanted to eat a nice meal without going too far or spending too much we decided to take a chance on their set lunch menu. And we liked it a lot. In fact, we thought the quality of the cooking (and ingredients) was up there with Quilon (which does have a Michelin star and a strong reputation) and that the dining room was much nicer. We liked it so much that we went back a second time the following week to try the next iteration of their set lunch menu (it changes every month)—and we liked that meal even more. Here follows a report on both.  Continue reading

British Cheese: Paxton & Whitfield


I like eating good cheese but I’m not the most knowledgable cheese person. If you are not a knowledgable cheese person either and you live in the US—where French and Italian cheese get all the press—you might be forgiven for not knowing just how much good cheese is made in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Well, since I have a number of cheese-positive English friends I did know this—and courtesy Monty Python I know the names of a number of British cheeses—but I hadn’t actually eaten very much British cheese, or had the opportunity to do so. Until now, that is. One of my gastronomic goals during my long’ish sojourn in London is to acquaint myself with a good range of British cheese. Luckily, London has a number of excellent cheese shops and contra Monty Python, they are not uncontaminated by cheese. And they’re not shy about pushing British cheese either. Here now is the first of what will likely be several reports on my exploration of British cheese. First up, a couple of forays into the venerable Paxton & Whitfield on Jermyn Street (almost exactly between the Piccadilly Circus and Green Park tube stations). Continue reading

Malabar Junction (London)


I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was a kid and teenager in India (1970s and 1980s) south Indian food—outside of south India—really meant the idli-dosa-vada complex. Served in small towns all over north India in restaurants with names like Madras Cafe or Kerala Cafe (just as almost every Chinese restaurant was named either Nanking, Golden Dragon or Kowloon) this subset of south Indian cuisines was one of the three national cuisines of India—Mughlai and Chinese being the others. It wasn’t until much later that I became aware that there was a lot more to south Indian food beyond the vegetarian cliches and that in fact south India is more non-vegetarian than vegetarian. For many of us in Delhi in the early 1990s a restaurant in Hauz Khas named Malabar was our introduction to much of this food—it specialized in the food of Kerala and the southwestern coast. Later, restaurants like Coconut Grove and Swagath expanded Delhi’ites horizons further. Continue reading

Quilon (London)


My American friends are sick and tired of hearing me moan about the state of Indian food in the US. Thankfully, there’s far less cause for moaning on this score in London. On my visit last summer I ate at a few of London’s better reviewed Indian/South Asian restaurants and liked them all a lot: from the Michelin starred Trishna to the ever-popular Dishoom to the far more informal Hoppers. It is our plan during our current, much longer stay in London to explore the Indian/South Asian food scene far more thoroughly across different parts of the price spectrum. I know from past experience that even curry houses in London are a world apart from most of their counterparts in the US. Our first outing, however, was not to a curry house but to Quilon, the posh restaurant at the Taj hotel on Buckingham Gate in Westminster.  Continue reading

London Whisky: The Whisky Exchange


Last summer I visited a few prominent whisky stores in London (and wrote them up). Thanks to stupidity I did not make it to the Whisky Exchange. For some reason—probably the fault of Florin, Prince of Persia—I came to believe their store was closed on Sundays when it is not, and so I didn’t stop in even though I was right in Covent Garden for lunch on a Sunday. That omission is now being set right with a dedicated photo collage of their Covent Garden store. Located right off the Strand on Bedford St., this store is dangerously within walking distance of our flat and I’ve already contrived to walk by it twice and stop in. On both occasions I have purchased a bottle (Glenfarclas 15 on the first occasion and a bottle of their own Elements of Islay Lg6 on the second) and on both occasions I have confused the staffers by taking many pictures of the store: they either think I’m mad or casing the joint or both. Thus do I sacrifice my dignity for you, my ungrateful readers.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Joy King Lau (London)


The word on the foodie street is that Chinese food in London is nothing very special and that, unlike Indian food, there’s no good reason to seek it out when visiting. Accordingly, when I was here last August I didn’t look at any Chinese restaurants. However, when your visit is not for a week or two but for three months the prospect of going without any kind of Chinese food is untenable—for us anyway. As it turns out, one of London’s better reviewed Sichuan restaurants is a hop, skip and jump from our flat—we’ve already eaten there once and I’ll have a report once we’ve eaten there again. But how about non-Sichuan Chinese food?  Continue reading

Cauliflower-Corn Soup


As we are about to go out of town soon and about to turn our kitchen over to the people who will be living in our house while we are gone, I have been engaged for the last week in cooking to clear space in the fridge and cupboards for them. This, it turns out, is a pretty useful exercise. I’ve used up lots of vegetables that I would normally have probably forgotten about and allowed to rot; and I’ve also managed to use up some canned stuff I might have been embarrassed to have people see in my pantry. In the process I’ve actually come up with some recipes that we’ve really liked and which will enter my normal rotation when we’re back. This cauliflower-corn soup fits all those descriptions. It’s also easy, delicious and healthy: rich and creamy without the presence of cream. And if you’re the enterprising sort you can also replace the one potentially embarrassing ingredient with a more virtuous freshly made version. Continue reading

Squirrel, Three Ways

Braised squirrel with potatoes and olives.

No, nothing kinky: it’s just that about 10 days ago I cooked up squirrel in three different ways for a gathering at our house. I have a friend—well, let’s say acquaintance…or even better, let’s say there’s this guy I can’t avoid meeting from time to time who fancies himself a butch, outdoorsy type. He’s so much of a man that he even dares to take on the most dangerous game of all: squirrel. Late last year he bagged a few and I was supposed to cook them up back in December. We never quite got around to it but in all the talk other people got involved and interested and finally he had enough for us all (he’s not a very good shot, you see). Now, don’t worry there was nothing illegal about any of this. Squirrel hunting is legal (and our hunter is an environmental biologist)—there’s a daily limit of seven in our parts and the possession limit is thirteen; we had a total of eleven taken on several different occasions (see above for his issues with aim) and so we were square with the law. Oh yes, it’s also illegal to shoot firearms within city limits but before you call our mayor you should know that these were hunted outside the town.

[Be warned: there be pictures of squirrel carcasses ahead.] Continue reading

Piccolo XI (One Last Time with Feeling)


Piccolo serves their last dinner tomorrow. Here now is my writeup of our last dinner at Piccolo.

Ever since we found out about the impending closing back in December we’ve gone back with a number of friends who enjoy the restaurant as much as we do, and we did so again last Friday. We are going to miss this jewel of a restaurant dearly. Yes, there are some other excellent fine dining restaurants in the Twin Cities—and yes, we’ll go back more often to some of them now (Alma and Spoon and Stable especially)—but what Chef Flicker and his team have accomplished at Piccolo is something quite unique. Yes, his mark is on Esker Grove at the Walker and will doubtless be on Tenant, the new restaurant from two members of his Piccolo team which will take over the Piccolo space, but of all the major closings in recent years this is, in my view, the most irreplaceable. Chef Flicker himself will be moving on to something altogether more informal and while I’m sure it will be excellent it is not going to be Piccolo. God knows he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants but this is a big loss for our dining scene.  Continue reading

El Triunfo, Three Years On (Northfield, MN)


It was almost three years ago that I first wrote up El Triunfo, a small family-run Mexican eatery and market in Northfield, MN. We’ve been eating there at a regular clip since and the time seems right to post a quick update on the blog. It’s not that there have been major changes to the menu. In fact, not only are there are no new things on the menu since I last reviewed them but a few things have dropped off the menu. Tragically, they no longer have goat barbacoa on the weekends (I was told a while ago that not enough people were ordering it) and some of the things on the regular menu have also dropped off. Business on the whole, however, I am happy to say, seems to be going really well. Continue reading