Best of the Blogs

Is it something in the water?  Every blogger we’ve looked at this week has been diving into the less dear Eastern restaurants, the Indian, Chinese and Thai eateries, and we mean every one:  Cheese and Biscuits, A Rather Unusual Chinaman, Greedy Diva, The Catty Life.  And then An American in London posted a blog that was a roundup of ‘Assorted Cheap Asian Restaurants in London’.  Maybe it’s the economy?   Whatever the cause, we’re happy to pass their brilliant finds on to you.
Assa: Korean
Cheese and Biscuits is happy to admit he knows ‘next to nothing’ about Korean food, but that didn’t stop him singing the praises of Assa on St Giles Street in Covent Garden.  He really enjoyed his spicy beef main course, was delighted that when he requested water, a glass of tap was delivered with a smile and was keen on the quality of the house kimchi.  Three courses for £5.50 plus an extra £1.50 for the kimchee.  In Covent Garden.  Assa is a place to savour, because no offense to the sandwich chains, but £5.50 — or even £7 — barely gets you in the door there.  We quote: ‘I thought it worth the effort to emphasise that while it’s easy to get into the habit of automatically assuming you have to pay through the nose for decent grub in this town, Assa is living proof that there are in fact ways of getting your belly full without noticing that much more of a hit on your wallet than if you’d brought in sandwiches from home.’  Amen to that.
Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar Popup: Indian
Dishoom Bombay Cafe in Covent Garden ranks among the top ten in the capital for some Londoners, and while it isn’t cheapy-cheap it’s not terribly dear.  So when A Rather Unusual Chinaman reported that a Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar is opening — today as it happens — on the South Bank as part of the 60th Anniversary of the Festival of Britain celebrations, we let out a who0p.  It wasn’t quite open when he was invited to preview the place.  In fact, the workmen with their staple guns were still booming away, but we imagine the opening party is getting going even as we type.  It’s a popup, here until October 4th only, but don’t delay.  The designers have used a lot of found and recycled materials in a style they’ve named ‘Dishoom on acid’ — perfect for summer fun.  There will be a beach, yes really, and an old fishing boat loaded with green coconuts and gola wallahs mixing up their magic.  The menu will have some of Dishoom’s famous dishes with some lighter offerings that are more suited to an evenings’ stroll along Chowpatty Beach, London style.
Cay Tre: Vietnamese
We may have to issue a warning here if you’re reading this before the watershed.  Greedy Diva goes a wee bit orgasmic over the fact that Cay Tre, her favourite Vietnamese restaurant in London, formerly only in Shoreditch near Kingsland Road, has opened a second restaurant on Dean Street in Soho.  She says, ‘I live in Soho. Now Cay Tre is in Soho. I can officially start using my oven for storage.’
Evidently even on opening night, the Chef’s Vinh Beef was perfection.  The Cha La Lot was gorgeous.  Cognac Luc Luc Shaking Beef was another hit, lusciously rich but light at the same time.  Do you see a pattern developing here?    As for the ‘less dear’ factor, her gang of five had an enormous array of dishes and three bottles of wine and it came out to £40 per head, but we reckon if you’re not in the middle of a celebratory saturnalia, as GD was, you could dine very well there for quite a lot less.  Final word?  ‘Great value, fresh flavours, easy going service and all in Zone 1 – don’t even try to wipe the smile from my face.’  No, ma’am.
By the bye, if you’re interested in some history and backstory, Gastroenophile has a long blogpost about Vietnamese food generally and the long road to Cay Tre in Soho, written in his usual excellent style.
Four Seasons: Chinese (duck division)
The Catty Life is keeping it short and sweet this blogpost.  She went to Four Seasons in Queensway.   In spite of grumpy staff who are microscopically nicer than staff at the Chinatown branch, she says ‘They seriously make the best roast duck I’ve ever had, anywhere on this planet.’  Any questions?
Assorted Cheap Asian Restaurants in London: Various
The reason An American in London posted a roundup was that he hadn’t fallen in love with any of the places he mentions in his ‘Assorted’ list, but really recommended specific dishes in several places.  For instance, he agrees with Cheese and Biscuits about Assa (above) overall but highlights the kimchi hotpot as worth the eating.  At Charuwan in Tufnell Park, it’s the pad Thai that he recommends.  Zen China on the South Bank really isn’t his kind of place, but they serve an excellent Peking duck.  It’s the priciest item on the menu, but worth it, he feels.  At Golden Day in Shaftesbury Avenue in Chinatown, his party was generally underwhelmed, but perked right up when served with a garlic chilli fish dish that was one of the chef’s specials.  He would gladly have eaten the sauce with plain rice alone.
Of course, toptable’s special offers on Asian restaurants are just the ticket to get you into a great dining experience for cheap prices.  Just thought we’d remind you.