Instagram
Dashi is a restaurant that has quickly become popular in the Durham food scene for serving bowls of ramen. I hadn't had an enormous array of experiences with ramen -just visitations to two London spots including Bone Daddies and Kanada-Ya- so at least I had a good point of comparison.


Once again, the loyal Durham dining crew (comprising of Ms Millz and Brasiliana) was tagging along for another culinary adventure. Once I stepped into Dashi, I felt like I was back in Soho (London). I think it was the impression of the low ceilings, the small intimate dining space and the pronounced use of wooden furniture that gave off the London vibe. The restaurateurs got points for interior design but I was curious see if the food had been held to the same standard.


I had the Lamb Belly Buns ($9) to start, which were really good. The lamb was crispy and fatty (in a good way). The bun was sweet and as soft as a baby's bottom (no.... I've never eaten a baby). Also, the vegetables provided some needed freshness to relieve the palette from the richness of the lamb's fat.


My ramen of choice was the Miso Ramen ($13). Compared to other ramen dishes I've tasted, this was quite mediocre. I thought that the flavours of the broth were too dull and the pork mince was bland. And it wasn't just mine; the dining crew agreed with me and they even ordered different ramen bowls. One would usually expect bold flavours from a ramen but this dish lacked the required flavour intensity. That being said, it was still edible as I finished the serving.


I finished off the meal with some dessert - The Parlour Ice Creams of the day ($5). For those of you who don't know, The Parlour has become Durham's premier dessert destination for serving fine ice cream. I had all three ice cream flavours; caramel miso, milk tea with butter biscuit and Japanese lime. All three scoops were phenomenal - better than the ice cream I've tried in their shop.


Ironically, everything was decent except for the ramen - the one thing the restaurant is supposed to pride itself on. On the positive side, I loved the intimate ambience, the music selection, the starter and most of all, the dessert (except it wasn't made in Dashi's kitchen). It's a pretty tough verdict but, as things stand, I can't wholeheartedly recommend Dashi. One wouldn't be missing much if one chooses not to eat here...

Details:

415 East Chapel Hill Street
Durham NC, 27701

$13-27pp

Would I recommend? Not really (but yes, if you're not planning to have any ramen)

Dashi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 


It would seem like I always have my best meal of the year towards the end of that year. Last year, it was at Barrafina. This year, The Medlar won me over. My decision to dine here was quite a spontaneous one. However, when I say "spontaneous", I really mean "reservation made 4 days in advance" - I'm not one to take any chances.

This 'spontaneous' decision was heavily influenced by the food blogosphere. It's a rather interesting case because The Medlar isn't exactly the subject of much hype but it simultaneously wins all the food bloggers over in a subtle manner. If you're careful enough to spot this trend, you'll quickly be on your way to visit the best restaurants London has to offer without making reservations weeks in advance!

The original dining crew (comprising of MRG and Valentino) were joining me for this culinary experience so I couldn't have been more excited. Once we arrived in the out-of-the-way neighbourhood of Chelsea, we quickly made our way to the restaurant's front steps. The restaurant hardly stood out from the outside; it took on a very simple exterior with a questionable colour scheme. The weather wasn't exactly pleasant so we headed inside as soon as we could. The restaurant's interior was a completely different story. The ambience breathed comfort, elegance and simplicity - qualities that I desire from most experiences. Whilst I ate there, I felt as if I was in the private home of a great chef who was about to cook up a phenomenal meal. I could only wait and see what the dishes would taste like.

The menu was beautifully concise and to the point. The only issue was that all the dishes were equally appealing. Initially, we all agreed to order different things as an attempt to cover a broad part of the menu and then we would taste each other's dishes afterwards. However, once the food landed on our tongues, we were instantly in no such mood to share. We all just stuck to what we ordered because we were enchanted by the flavours present in each dish.

MRG's starter: Roast Orkney scallop with boneless chicken wings, Jerusalem artichoke purée and crisp pancetta
Valentino's starter: Tuna tartare with prawn beignet, avocado purée, cucumber and chilli
MRG's main: Venison loin with rissole, choucroute, beetroot and braised shallot
Valentino's main: Rump of Belted Galloway with shin and pickled walnut croquettes, triple cooked chips and béarnaise
I started off with the Crab Raviolo. Descriptions of this dish comes into versions. Firstly, it was "wow". Secondly, it was quite sexy. "Sexy?", the reader asks. Oh yes, sexy it was. The dish was rich, savoury, smoky, warm, filling and just wonderful. Need I say more?

Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce
The main was a Duck Magret. Firstly, just look at the dish (below). I want you to imagine eating it and then I dare you to look at me in my virtual eyes and virtually tell me it wouldn't taste amazing. Amazing would be an understated description; superb fits the bill. The dark sauce on the plate was very rich and had a great depth to it - just the right thing to pair with the duck. Speaking of the duck, it was cooked to perfection. The poached quince added a nice layer of darkened sweetness and the bed of sprout tops  provided some crisp to vary the texture. In summary, the dish was brilliantly balanced was also quite the portion.

Duck magret with confit leg, poached quince, crosnes and sprout tops
I finished off my food-high with a Tarte Tartin. The glaze on the apples glistened like a knight's shining armour and the aromas got my salivary glands working again. The only thing missing at this point was a track of Handel's Hallelujah playing in the background. The tarte itself had a warm buttery crust and baked apples, with just the right amount of sweetness, to complement it. The pastry chef really nailed the ideal fruit to crust ratio - it was the most balanced Tarte Tartin I've ever had. The lemon ice cream was a bit of a surprise but it worked very well by cutting through the richness of the tarte.

Tarte tartin with crème fraîche ice cream (for two)
Valentino's dessert: Pear beignet with warm dipping chocolate and chantilly cream (delicious)
All this time, we were served by an attentive waiter and a knowledgeable sommelier who recommended a killer bottle of 2008 Chateau Potensac, Medoc.


Overall, the consistency and high-level execution of the dishes really stunned me. Every dish looked divine .... Every dish was well balanced .... Every dish was quite simple... Every dish had a generous serving. I don't think I could have asked for more. Also, the prices are a bargain! Read below for details.

The Medlar suits every occasion whether its a memorable dinner with friends and family, a romantic date for two or a solo dining experience. Either way, I can guarantee you'll be taken care of. All I can say is that the Michelin Star is very well deserved.

Details:

438 King's Road
London
SW10 0LJ

3 Course Lunch Monday to Friday £28pp
3 Course Dinner Monday to Saturday £46pp
3 Course Lunch Saturday £30pp
3 Course Sunday Lunch and Dinner £35pp


Medlar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Square Meal


Toast is another gem on West Main Street that I've probably walked by hundreds of times on my way to other restaurants in the area. For some reason, the cafe's exterior has never managed to catch my eye; at least not until I got a raving recommendation from a friend. With free late Sunday mornings come opportunities for culinary adventures so I made my way down here for a light brunch with Ms.X.

We settled outdoors then headed inside to study the chalkboard menu on display. The menu was very simple and very Italian, with four types of treats on offer: Panini, Tramezzini, Crostini, and Soups & Salads. The cafe also had an airy and easy-going ambience due its blue walls and its high ceilings.




Fortunately, I had quite the appetite but Ms.X lacked one so I took on the brave and noble responsibility of eating for the both of us. I ordered two selections from the Crostini section: (1) Chicken Liver with Pancetta and Pickled Fennel and (2) Herb Pesto, Mozzarella and Tomato ($2.50 each).

The Chicken Liver crostini had the richness I was expecting followed by a crunch and saltiness from the pancetta, which was relieved by a dab of acidity from the pickled fennel. Very balanced and very good. The Herb Pesto crostini was more understated yet simply delicious with its classic flavour combinations and its crispy and buttery bread.


The main star of the afternoon was the panini with rapini, Italian sausage, roasted garlic and asagio fresca ($7.50). Verdict ..... Glorious. There were bold flavours from the sausage which was complimented by the rich subtlety of the asagio fresca cheese and balanced by the freshness from the rapini.


Overall, Toast is casual, tasty and unavoidably Italian! The items on the menu have been cleverly thought through and I applaud the use of high quality ingredients. It's a wonder how they keep their prices so low.

Details:

345 W. Main St.
Durham NC, 27701

$5-15pp

Would I recommend? Definitely 

Toast Paninoteca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato