Confused cat

A thought came to mind some time ago: ‘If you try to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything’. It came as I was sitting in the Seasons cafe/restaurant/bar/delivery joint in the Castle Arcade facing across to Cardiff Castle.

Strolling the arcades is always nothing less than a delight, and you will not be short of places to partake in a cats favourite pastime… okay, maybe eating comes a distant second to sleeping. I had often passed Seasons without really knowing what it was meant to be. But the sight of a full Welsh breakfast as I looked through the window on a particular lunchtime was a major draw.

So, what is so Welsh about it? The local references on the specials board try to give the game away…

Welsh specials board

The addition of the braised leeks helped…

Full Welsh Breakfast

But, perhaps it was the strange accoutrement that really gave the game away…

Strange teapot

The application of sheep to just about everything is probably meant to be a draw to any full-blooded Welsh cat. So, I guess, is the juxtaposition of breakfast with beers, wines and cocktails!?

Inside

So that is where the confusion really set in… is this place supposed to be a cafe, a bar, or what? We all know we can experience all four seasons in one day here in the UK, so why not experience all parts of the culinary/alcoholic day in one go?

Until we speak again, I recently realised that maybe I was not the only confused one… as, unlike this present winter, the Seasons has in fact gone!

Seasons gone!

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…

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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.

Hangin’ in the Treme…

Hangin’ in the Treme

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…Watchin’ people sashay
Past my steps
By my porch
In front of my door…

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Church bells are ringin’
Choirs are singing
While the preachers groan
And the sisters moan
In a blessed tone

 

Down in the treme
Is me and my baby
We’re all going crazy
While jamming and having fun

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Trumpet bells ringing
Bass drum is swinging
As the trombone groans
And the big horn moans
And there’s a saxophone

Festival Stage

Treme is a colourful location for the masterpiece post-Katrina drama series, as well as being a place of historic cultural significance…

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It was thanks to a tip off from the vunderbar Sue at the Vacherie Bar on Toulouse Street that resulted in me heading on down for an experience of stunning food and cool jazz in the heat of the afternoon…

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Until we speak again, keep jamming and having fun!

Full acknowledgements go to John Boutte for the lyrics of the Treme theme tune.

Seafood diet

Nowhere is the old adage “a see food and eat it diet” more apt than in a culinary navigation of New Orleans. What is it with that fundamental cats to fish attraction? This cat has always been rather circumspect about eating them, and much happier to enjoy them as a visual display. But, as I stroll around New Awlings anything that enjoys a water-based existence had better look out.

If you are looking for a tasteful starting point, listen when your knowledgeable company interrupts the fine Californian Pinot Noir with a recommendation. “Have you tried Turtle Soup?” she asked. A quick scan of the cans in my mind suggested that neither Heinz or Campbells have yet delivered up such a delicacy in my local soup kitchen. “Garçon, crack open some turtles!” I thought, fortunately without actually saying it. And Tableau on Jackson Square introduced me to a whole new gastronomic pleasure…

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Then, if you fancy a salad to satisfy the palate in the build up to the main event, why not drop in on Vacherie on Toulouse Street for a fried oyster and spinach salad. Sophisticates amongst you may say that a cool sauvignon blanc will complement it just fine; unsophisticates such as I, will find a glass of porter does the trick…

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When thinking about main dishes I rarely find myself wondering what will go with the brussels sprouts. But, at EAT on Dauphine Street the blackened salmon provides the perfect mix of crispy and tasty accompaniment. They just don’t know how to do great chips in America though! Fries! what’s that all about?

Meanwhile, back at Tableau on Jackson Square, the gulf yellowfin tuna with a poached egg came with a waiter recommendation of “cooked rare”. My lifetime scepticism about the edification of fish led me to go medium rare; which convinced me that the rare variety would probably have been eyeing me up for a fight or making its own way back to the kitchen…

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And my dining companion decided on the ‘heads on’ shrimp and grits. Nothing like having your dinner eyeing you up! Though hiding behind some plant-like camouflage wasn’t really going to fool a ravenous Mississippi belle…

Until we speak again, if it is the Oceana Grill in the French Quarter it must be time to share half ‘n’ half blackened and fried alligator bites… and make it snappy! The old ones are the best (jokes, that is, not alligators). Okay, so it’s not exactly a seafood dish, but that’s not a conversation I’m having with any alligators, so they’re in…

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