Archive | January, 2011

Wahaca

24 Jan

In my early teenage years a meal out with friends meant one thing; Pizza Hut. This was mostly because it had a cheap buffet. This allowed the girls to eat salad and the boys to prove how manly they were by eating dangerous level of pizza slices. This was always proceeded by an event that was always dangerously close to taking longer than the meal itself; the bill. Pennies, coins painstaking pooled together, or nobody having any change, with negotiations protracted enough to be reminiscent of Kyoto.

Now age 22 whilst I still have friends who enjoy a trip to the hut most have graduated to the dizzy heights of Pizza Express, that haven of the chattering classes. Yet there is only so much pizza a man can eat, or at least so many times one can go to Pizza Express before you start to get dough based malaise. So it’s good to know that I now have somewhere I can suggest the next time we all meet up.

Wahaca is a Mexican restaurant run by Thomasina Miers, cleverly setting out its operational style in the name, an anglicised pronunciation of the Mexican for Mexican city. She has used her media exposure from winning MasterChef to open a business. I am reliably informed she is heavily involved in, from setting up the kitchens to menu tweaking. When asked on Twitter she said that she had lost a stone in five days during the setup of their latest venue in Soho, which was the scene of this particular crime.

I went having rattled through a list of about 30 places I wanted to go to. The response of the missus was to repeat ‘Wahaca” in an interested tone, and so that was that.

We breezed in and sat down quickly, although a queue built up throughout the meal, mainly due to there not being enough two tops and it being the Monday before everybody goes back to work.
Having snacked on a pork chop whilst we ambled round the sales I felt less enthused than normal about the meat, so scoured the menu for fish and vegetarian options. The Missus is not a meat eater, so we ended up getting the same thing. This was partly because one of the two fish mains was off but it seemed somehow wrong, although I couldn’t quite work out why. I also plumped for a veggie Taqurio, because it said it was fried and I had never heard of it. Contrary I know, but I’m always worried that there is something mad delicious that somebody is hiding from me. You never get the really tasty shit, countries keep it to themselves. The average British tongue is also traditionally scared of flavour, so it seems reasonable to feel that the really vibrant and exciting stuff is that stuff that nobody else knows about.

The food turned up with surprising speed, although this was pleasant rather than suggestive of anything untoward.

The Taqurios, were, looking back, slightly disappointing. The filling of cabbage and mushroom did nothing to allay the view that vegetarians come a poor second in the flavour stakes. They just didn’t seem to add anything more than vitamins to the dish. The dish overall was elevated by the freshness of the salad and the feta, which was an interesting replacement for what I assume is another ingredient the Mexicans are keeping from us.

The Fish Tacos were on the other hand hugely enjoyable. They might not win any awards, and it may not be on the cutting edge in terms of innovation, but it was delicious. Especially when I slathered it in hot sauce. I think that at the end of the day that’s a pretty fucking good thing. It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that something simple and fresh such as this is what you want, and might even be better suited at this time than a smoked salmon bagel that’s actually made out of ice cream, however cool that sounds (this is a real thing, and I want to eat it so much it hurts.) The batter was crisp yet yielding, the accompanying slaw crunchy. The food as a whole was bright and vibrant. This feeling extended to the restaurant as a whole, which was full of people enjoying themselves, making what is a fairly large space seem full and lively despite being about half full. The sense of fun was evident throughout the entire place, from the chef I caught having a discrete boogie to the music when he thought nobody was looking, to the “thirsting or bursting” decision you made when you went down the stairs to the bar or toilets respectively.

For me, this is what eating out is all about. Wacaha claims to offer something, and fulfils that claim admirably. I don’t know how authentic it is, although the aforementioned feta gives some clue. To my mind, authentic is much less important than is commonly thought among self described ‘foodies’. It tasted good. That’s what important. Wahaca is a heartening example of a chain done well and a challenge to other restaurants.
This is cheap, ethical without making an Otarian style song and dance about it, (They use free range chicken and Msc certified fish) and tasty. I left satisfied and I enjoyed myself. And isn’t that what going out to eat is all about?

http://www.wahaca.co.uk/

New Years Blog Resolutions

13 Jan

A new year is always an oppurtunity for people to make a fresh start, to try things that they haven’t had before and do new things, whether this be trying to lose weight or inventing new ways to drinks gin and tonics at alarming speed (if anybody wants to know the secret to my infamous Gin Bomb, drop me an email).

Having left this blog dormant whilst I went through the minor inconvenience of trying to find both a job and a flat in London, with both these goals achieved, it seems high time I started filling the internet up with some hard hitting insights. Or posts on food, which ever comes first.

So here in no particular order are my resolutions.

1. Destroy my kitchen nemesis.

The trouble with blogging and surfing food sites is you are always looking for something new, something shiny and covered in pork fat. The next big thing. Yet as any chef tells you, the way you get better at dishes is by practicing them. Refining them. So I decided that I would pick one dish, and just refine it and get it on. I chose French Onion soup because onions are cheap and its a dish that is simple to do, but harder to get right. its very technique orientated. I also have loads of Grana Padano kicking about and the rind makes a wicked Unami bomb when you simmer in the soup.

2. Momofuku my cooking.

Whilst less well known over here, David Chang is a dude. I was massively inspired by his lecture on creative ceilings found (here. What I refreshing was his revelation that chefs fuck up all the time. People make mistakes. It’s often easy to forget this, and to a certain extent why would Chefs shout about it? But it inspired me to get more involved in my cooking, as well as being more rigorous which can only be a good thing. It made my mistakes “progress” rather than mistakes. Steps on a road to being a culinary ninja.

Within his book, which has just been released in the U.k, there is a bit of blurb about his journey and how he ended up where he was 2 years ago when the book was published in America. The bit that stuck out for me was his approach, which was “American”. A sort of fusion between the traditional, but running with this and twisting it and adapting it. It inspired me to be a little less anal about authenticity, which is I think something that can often happen when you get caught up in a sub culture. You want to know whats “really” cool, or how its done by people in the know. Chang’s whole approach is focused around one question. “Is it delicious?”. Which is heartening, as well as inspiring. So from now own, its my guiding principle.

3. Blog more.

Speaks for itself really. Also its an excuse to go out and try some wicked food in the name of “research”.