Seoul food

As a black cat Juno always knew the camouflage benefits of going around town at night. But being an indoor cat, she was well versed in the art of not bothering!

Batman

However, those of us more adventurous cats realise there is a large world waiting out there. Taking a stroll down the Cowbridge Road, you will find yourself in a part of Cardiff known as Canton; confusing eh? You are nowhere near China; but, if you are paying close attention, some of these bright lights of Canton turn out to be Korean

We enter as strangers in a strange land, as hitherto unseen contraptions hover above dedicated diners. What can they be for? Do they deliver the food, or perhaps suck up your dosh? Or, maybe we have stumbled across some strangely ethnic ‘northern’ traditions. No, it turns out they are the smoke extractors for the adventurous diners who choose from the barbecue section of the menu… as these are the items you cook yourself at your own table!

Us less adventurous cats (or maybe just avoiding the self-inflicted food poisoning vibe) decide you can keep your barbecue, we came for authentic national food, best cooked by authentic nationals.

Kimchi might be the restaurant name, but it also happens to be the Korean speciality dish of salted and fermented cabbage and radishes. It turns out that was something nicely complemented by a side of seaweed… and a Korean ‘Hite’ beer or two will not go amiss!

Then comes the main event, with Korean specialities again taking top billing. This time it is the Stone Pot variety, with beef for the carnivore, and seafood for the vegetarian cat (whatever that is!).

Oh, and why not add a side of Korean pancakes? Beware, too many of those may be accompanied by a visit from the Grim Reaper on heart inspection duty! Just as well those Stone Pots come with a mass of fabulously fresh vegetation…

Until we speak again, this may be a Korean story, but Juno & Bella would assure you that no cats or dogs were harmed in the making of this production!

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Oh Man! The new OMG

The ‘first in the UK‘ is an enticing tag line, particularly when a couple of cats are contemplating a culinary adventure. And City Road in Cardiff has a purrfect range of representation from many parts of the globe when it comes to tickling the salivatory glands. But only Oman outwardly claims to be the first in the UK

Exterior

On first glance, the Al Wali restaurant provides a bright and welcoming interior…

Interior [1]

Interior [2]

And no sooner had the menus been consulted and choices made, when along comes a complementary mildly spiced oat soup before our starter.

Free oat soup

Whilst Junior Cool went for the Chicken Wings, yours truly came for the full on Oh Man experience, so the Kashke Bademjan (crushed aubergine with yoghurt and walnut) provided a tasty introduction to Omani cuisine; and begins the quest for how it differs from the extensive range of Arabic/Middle Eastern options in the local vicinity…

Kashke Bademjan and Chicken Wings

Kashke Bademjan

For the mains Junior Cool again went for the Chicken option, of a Biryani variety. Meanwhile, back in Oman, the menu provides an insight into a new range of culinary linguistics…

Menu page

Lamb Qalia (slow cooked in broth with black pepper, onion, garlic and ginger) definitely got the whiskers twitching…

Lamb Qalia and Chicken Biryani

It was lamb like I have never tasted before; soft flavourful meat with a spicy after-taste that warmed the taste buds rather than challenging through its heat; fully justifying my own personal claim for Oh Man to usurp the overused OMGJuno and Bella might well have been intrigued by the offerings, but the slight spicy bight to the lamb might have caused some disgruntled consternation, and demands for more of the chicken wings!

Lamb Qalia

The idea of a Karak Tea appealed, with an expectation of something exotic. Sadly the exotic was more likely to come in the form of the ordinary Black Tea. The overly sweet and milky (to my taste) Karak Tea, coming with cardamom and cinnamon was served up in the cardboard cup; presumably because the Omani diaspora love their tea to go!

Karak and Black Tea

Until we speak again, the usual eating irons should do for anything you are likely to encounter on the menu. But, if you do come across something requiring more industrial dissection, the necessary tools come wall-mounted! On first experience Omani cuisine can only be highly recommended.

Sword

Uxbridge English Dictionary

For devotees of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ here is a new addition to their ‘Uxbridge English Dictionary‘…

Kebabish [1]

“Like a Kebab!”

It’s early Sunday lunchtime, and I spy an unassuming restaurant frontage…

Outside view

And the inside initially seems to be one slide show short of a conference…

Inside view

But the menu entices a challenge far too early in the day for me…

Menu page

For me, it always has to be a taste of spice rather than a challenge of heat; so the sizzling Lamb Seekh Kebabs look like the deal that will seal the dictionary definition…

Lamb Seehk

But, what do we have with it? Naan bread, maybe, rice possibly… but then I spy something on the menu that creates intrigue. Fries have always been a ‘rest of the world’ poor version of good old proper chips; but Keema Chilli Fries (described on their menu as ‘Simply Amazing’), now that sounds worth sampling…

Keema Fries

Cheap, tasty, with something of a wow factor thrown in; a fabulously fresh tasting salad and the non-alcoholic Mojito Mocktail, finished off a memorable lunch. The early timing also ensured a rare experience of having my own personal restaurant!

Until we speak again, sublime might be an under-performing citrus fruit (in the Uxbridge English Dictionary), but it is an experience to be savoured down City Road in Cardiff.

A taste of radicalisation

Searching for the cradle of civilisation? Look no further than City Road in Cardiff. With Mesopotamia at one end (previously reviewed in another post) creating a unique Iraqi/Mexican vibe, somewhere along the southern portion of the street is where Syria stakes a claim for our culinary patronage, in the form of the Shaam Nights restaurant…

Syria might be home to the oldest inhabited part of the world, or what’s left of it, but there is a modern but homely welcome to be had here at the City Road caliphate…

20171105_1848032068131667.jpg

This particular home of delicate Syrian cuisine frequently occupies a place in the top 10 restaurants in Cardiff (even though Jay Rayner is a food critic who doesn’t seem to think the city has more than two!).

First decision made… a familiar starter of succulent Vine Leaves provides us with a spiritual entree.

Then we were all left wondering how pork can taste so light and delicate, when sampling the Hummus with Shawarma starter, complete with flat bread. Melt-in-the-mouth is the best way to describe this experience (sorry vegetarians, once again you lose out, as the righteous bacon sandwich meets a mystical equal!)…

This is a temple to non-alcoholic consumption, but with the temptations of such enticing cuisine, and the choice of a fruit-filled Shaam Nights Cocktail, an Ayran salty natural yoghurt, followed by a Syrian Coffee, who needs the falling down lotion? As for the main attraction, Lamb Mosaka, Vegetarian Mosaka and  Lamb Kufta were more than enough to seduce the taste buds in the direction of the delights of the Middle East

As if to reinforce the newfound faith, a delicately flavoured rice side accompanied the Lamb Mosaka: a quintessential Syrian dish of stewed lamb, fried aubergine, onion, garlic and sweet peppers cooked in a tomato sauce. Something approaching a culinary version of a religious experience was slowly unfolding…

Until we speak again, I leave you with their own words from their website… “don’t blame us if you’re hooked!” Finishing off with a simple cash transaction (Note: they don’t accept credit cards but have cash machines in the wall outside the front door!), we left well and truly converted.

What would Ghengis have?

While Junior Cool Cat was recently visiting town, the burning question was where to find a feast suitable for a ravenous visitor? It’s threatening rain, so we need something that will shine a light through the emerging gloom…

Yangs [1]

Faced with a potential climactic/culinary Yin and Yang situation, Cardiff would unwittingly provide the ideal solution…Yin’s are definitely low down on the priority list, but what about Yang’s!

Yangs [2]

With an area of Cardiff known as Canton, it would seem there is an obvious location for a Chinese culinary answer. But this Yang’s is to be found in the opposite direction in Grangetown. So the marauding hordes would have to do their pillaging, or should that be foraging, in the fast food populated wastelands to the south of the city. As fried chicken, pizza, burger and kebab joints are wilfully eschewed, Yangs offers an altogether more satisfying welcome…

Inside Yangs

While perusing the extensive menu, the choice of appetiser leaps off the list; if it was good enough for Ghengis Khan then it’s good enough for me, so the Crispy Aromatic Mongolian Lamb is promptly ordered…

Junior Cool Cat goes for the Steamed Fresh Scallops, and it’s the ubiquitous Tsingtao Chinese beers all round…

Apetizers

How could that lamb possibly be followed (other than with another lamb appetiser)? I guess Ghengis would go for a banquet of mega proportions, but we make do with a more modest banquet of Beef with Green Peppers and Black Bean Sauce, a Stir Fried Chicken dish, and House Special Mixed Rice (including king prawn, sliced chicken, Char Siu pork and vegetables)…

Beef Chicken House Rice

Until we speak again, if you are looking for a tasty Chinese banquet, don’t follow the logic of signs to Canton; leave your Yin behind you, and head for Yang’s.

Meal of the day

They say it’s breakfast, right? Well, when in New York get some time on your side; and I dont mean the famous Times Square. From there take one block over and 12 down on the grid, which brings you to the New Yorker on the corner of 34 Street and 8th Avenue…

Tucked away in the very corner you find time is ticking for the start of the day…

Step aside Starbucks! You’re now experiencing a slice of Americana, in an authentic diner.

But beware, the menu involves reading a book; and for that, time is not really on your side.

So, I will offer you a brief taster, with a Denver Omlet of ham, onions and green peppers, hash browns and a side of toast…

One of my readers reminisces over the Eggs Benedict, but I take a rain check (during an unseasonal heatwave). Instead, maybe you have heard of the famous American breakfast of blueberry pancakes (with a side of atherosclerosis!)…

Until we speak again, I assure you I am not an American; these were consumed on separate days. And in any case, there is the clear consistency of self-deception, as I convince myself fresh strawberries and an orange juice make any breakfast healthy.

Resurrection NYC Style

New York City has constantly been in the process of reinvention, and sets a great example for taking old industrial relics and creating new spaces that people love. Chelsea Market is now 20 years old, but could easily have become a bland new-build paean to commercialism. Instead it is a cool use of an 800 metre long former biscuit factory in the meat-packing district.

A long and meandering thoroughfare now occupies a complete New York block with quirky shops and delis of all shapes and sizes that put the art into artisan…

You might even be serenaded by an impromptu jazz combo when you least expect it…

Then there is the thorny issue of what to do with a derelict rusting elevated railroad. The reborn High Line was first built to get goods out of the heavily industrialised Chelsea and MeatPacking districts without adding to the road traffic in midtown Manhattan.
Many places would dismantle the old eyesore, and New York nearly did. But the foresight of a couple of environmentally savvy guys kept the structure standing. And now it is a stunning elevated walkway that provides tranquillity at the heart of the madness!

But, perhaps the best reinvention is actually a rebirth of a 1940’s institution. How could the Empire Diner on 10th Avenue in Chelsea possibly have been closed down?

Fortunately for me it reopened 6 months ago, and I get to tuck into an American meal I can actually finish. Just add a berry-based fruit salad, and you might even lay claim to something healthy going on!

Until we speak again, if you’re feeling slightly dilapidated, why not reinvent yourself? You could do worse than take a lead from NYC-style reinterpretation.