Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Off The Blog 5 - Asia in London

I haven't done one of these round-ups in ages, but that's not to say I haven't been eating well 'off the blog'! For example, in this post, I'm checking out posh sushi, authentic spicy Thai and a neighbourhood Vietnamese restaurant.

I don't mind lunching on my own, but I seldom go for anything too fancy. I usually have a fry-up, maybe a burger, the occasional Nando's, or a bowl of noodles. But every now and then, I want to lunch alone in style. Why? To quote the famous French philosopher, L'Oréal – it's because I'm worth it.

Which is why I pitched up at Yashin Sushi, and went for their Hajimeteno Omakase set lunch (£20). This included posh fish such as sea bass, yellowtail and tuna, as well as salad and some miso soup in a bone china teacup. In all honesty, I can't remember if any of the sushi had been blow-torched but regardless, it was excellent. I was particularly impressed by how expertly the chef had seasoned the sushi.

So it was a bit of a shame that the overall experience was marred by one of the waiters, who was extremely unsubtle in his attempts at upselling. In the unlikely event that he is reading this post, I'd like to offer him the following advice:

1) When taking a drinks order, don't open with 'would you like still or sparkling water?'

2) If someone has just ordered a £20 set lunch, don't ask 'will that be all?' - especially if you're not going to offer any suggestions.

3) At the end of a meal, just ask 'would you like anything else?' rather than 'would you like more sushi, or perhaps some dessert?'

Yashin Sushi on Urbanspoon

Yashin Sushi, 1A Argyll Road, London, W8 7DB (Tel: 020-7938-1536)
Nearest tube: High Street Kensington

Quality authentic Thai food can be hard to find in London, so minutes after clapping eyes on The Skinny Bib's review of @Siam, I made arrangements to meet a friend there for dinner. Following the lead of The Skinny Bib, who incidentally has the inside track on London's best Thai eateries, we ordered the Northern Set (£15.95). This consists of green chilli relish (really hot), herb sausage (the star of the evening), pork curry (really bloody spicy), sticky rice, and posh pork scratchings (dead good for dipping into the curry). A real winner if you like it hot.

We also ordered the E-Sarn Set (£15.95), which consists of spicy minced chicken ground rice (a very tasty Thai basil infused larb gai), Thai papaya salad (a very refreshing som tam), grilled sirloin (sadly overcooked), and sticky rice. The two sets complemented one another well, as the E-sarn set was a cooling counterpart to the fiery Northern set. We also ordered some mhee krob (£5.75) – these crispy rice noodles were a tad too sweet on their own, but fine in the context of the meal.

Overall, dinner at @Siam just fell short of true greatness, as the belly pork in the curry wasn't unctuous enough and the sirloin was a tad overcooked. Having said that, there's a lot to like about this Soho restaurant, from its superior service to its uncompromising stance on spicing. Highly recommended.

@Siam on Urbanspoon

@Siam, 48 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SF (Tel: 020-7494-4511)
Nearest tubes: Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road

I first came across Me Me when playing with the 'fruit machine' on the Urbanspoon app on my phone. You know, the one that randomly selects restaurants when you shake your phone. After a quick look at Me Me's website, I just knew I had to check out this intimate Vietnamese joint.

I ordered off the special lunch menu, which serves up two courses and a drink for £10.50. As I wasn't in the mood for summer rolls (gỏi cuốn), I started with spring rolls (chả giò) and followed with a bowl of beef pho (phở bò).

The spring rolls were OK, but next time I think I'll try the summer rolls. The pho, though, was damn tasty with a strong aromatic stock, bouncy rice noodles and an abundant helping of beef (mainly well done flank with some just-cooked fillet). My only complaint was the meagre size of the side plate of herbs and beansprouts.

On the evidence of their noodles, Me Me is of a decent enough standard for those of us with a W in our postcode not to have to schlep across town to 'The Pho Mile'. To put it another way, their pho isn't as good as what many believe to be London's best but it's a damn sight better than some I've sampled.

Another thing that endears me to this restaurant is their colour-coded menu, which highlights authentic Vietnamese dishes in green. This means you can filter out the generic stir-fries and concentrate on ordering the real McCoy – something that I'll be sure to do on future visits.

{Update 13 May - I returned here for dinner with some other blogger types, and to be honest, it was a tad disappointing. This is more a place for a bowl of pho rather than a big Vietnamese blow-out.}

Me Me on Urbanspoon

Me Me, 565 Fulham Road, London, SW6 1ES (Tel: 020-7381-1100)
Nearest tube: Fulham Broadway


  1. Ah, I've been itching to get to @siam for a while now, after reading The Skinny Bibs review.

    This might just spur me on to try and get there this week. I totally want that spicy sausage.

  2. "To quote the famous French philosopher, L'Oréal – it's because I'm worth it." Bahahahahahaha! That had me in stitches! And is that a flower on one of your nigiri?

  3. You are worth it Mr N, you ARE... ;)

    I totally sympathise with smart solo lunches, they can be a real treat. Yashin does sound good, although of your delectable selection, it's @siam I'll be heading for first. I'm still searching for a really good Thai place in London and I like the sound of their spicy Northern set.

  4. Sharmila - I'll be interested in what you think of @Siam.

    Su-Lin - there was a flower on the negiri but I can't remember if it was edible or not, though.

    Gworm - of the three, @Siam is the pick of the bunch. That said, I have dinner planned at Me Me soon, and it'll be interesting to see how it stacks up against the Vietnamese places out east.

  5. I've walked past @Siam a few times now and wanted to go in and check it out, but I'm always going somewhere else or coming from some other dining joint ..... Next time .....

  6. Mzungu - I think you'll like @Siam. For a Thai in Soho, it's a far better proposition than Busaba, which always has a queue.

  7. I used to Me Me when I lived near Stamford Bridge, all those lonely lunches... pho was alright, but if they get any smaller they need to go under the "sides" section!