Mount Fuji – Japanese Wonder Restaurant – Birmingham

Mount Fuji – Japanese Wonder Restaurant – Birmingham

Charlotte and I discovered a few weeks ago that there are very few reasonably priced restaurants in Birmingham city centre which are not either deafeningly loud, or bard which happen to sell food. We set out the other day, after church, to go to lunch. We were headed towards a known restaurant to us in Chinatown but we decided to stop en route and look at the menu of Mount Fuji. We were soon convinced. The rest as they say, is history.

We started our journey up the mountain by ordering some sushi. We ordered Nigri Sushi Set B. This included tuna, salmon, prawn and eel. There was one other fish but I do not remember it. The totality was beautifully presented, the rice was perfectly sticky and the portion was correct for two people. There was some pickled ginger to go with it which was searingly flavourful. My favourite, I think, was the eel, otherwise known as Unagi Nigiri. This was made with BBQ or grilled freshwater eel on top of hand-formed sushi rice. It had a sweet and salty flavour with a rich, meaty texture.

Chicken Katsu Curry
Tender Chicken breast coated in breadcrumbs, rice, curry sauce & Salad

My dearest Charlotte in her inestimable wisdom ordered the chicken Katsu curry. This is nothing like an Indian curry, they are more sweet and richer flavour thanks to the variety of spices used and the soft onion and garlic flavours. The sweet flavours are enhanced by using soy sauce. This was a divinely delicious dish. The chicken was tender and enriched by the sauce and sticky rice. A true delight.

Chicken Teriyaki Bento
Marinated Chicken thigh lightly fried with Mount Fuji Teriyaki sauce poured over.

The bento box was beautiful itself and contained some really rather delicious food. The Japanese omelette was squishy and firm. The chicken itself was so very tender and complemented nicely by the teriyaki sauce, a simple marinade made from a base of soy sauce and mirin, a low-alcohol, sweeter version of sake. Sake is Japanese rice wine. The rice was, again, perfect. A great, fulsome and balanced meal.

Finally we decided to have some delicious drinks. Charlotte had the matcha smoothie, which tasted like grass but that is okay. I had the ramune, an odd and very sweet drink which you consume by forcing down a plastic knob to push a glass bead through the opening.

A magnificent, central Birmingham find, which is affordable, high quality and delicious.

 

Le Byblos, Tours – Exciting Dining, Vieux Tours

Le Byblos, Tours – Exciting Dining, Vieux Tours

Co-authored by Charlotte and Cedric

Picture the scene: we are in the middle of Tours, we have just been amazed by the Museé du Compagnonnage and are famished. Our next stop on the helter skelter day trip we had planned was a delightful little Lebanese place called Le Byblos. The reader should note, it was around 5 degrees and raining at the time, so we three were quite keen to get inside a warm restaurant.

We chose a mezze menu comprising of 9 dishes which were a mixture of meat and vegetarian. The first course of mezze was cold, including baba ganoush, moussaka, houmous, stuffed vine leaves, a fattoush salad and flatbread. We were astonished throughout the meal by the variety and flavours offered. The baba ganoush was a particular triumph. This dish is comprised of roasted eggplant, eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, various seasonings, and tahini. I (Charlotte) had never had moussaka cold before, and its rich, tangy sauce seemed to have been intensified by a long chilling time. The vine leaves were suffused with lemon and melted in the mouth despite being cold.

By the time the second set of dishes arrived, we were itching for more. This rather blurry photograph shows the first part of the hot mezze. The chicken was rather humorously taken from us to have an extra layer of seasoning added. I told the waiter the chicken was excellent by itself, to which he responded “Yes, I know it very well, but it would be better with more seasoning”. Reader, it was indeed better. This was the first chicken we had sunk our teeth into since giving up meat for Lent, hence you can imagine our salivating, then having our dish swiped from under our noses! The falafel, with 7 vegetables. including ground chickpeas and broad beans. Now, there is a stall at Birmingham Bullring Markets called Mr Falafel, who does excellent falafel. Charlotte has just reminded me that the Damascena falafel, too, was exquisite. However, the Byblos falafel was transcendental. Suffused with layers upon layers of flavour, it rendered us speechless.

Finally, we enjoyed two kinds of arayes, one with beef and one with cheese. The meat one comprised minced onions , seasonings, and fresh herbs. Arayes are grilled or pan-fried before serving. I found the cheese filling a bit thin but by this point we had eaten so much that we were grateful for the brief respite.

Charlotte would like to add that the mint tea she consumed was top quality.


On the way out of the restaurant, one is treated to a fabulous woven tapestry / rug with the Virgin Mary on it, which was most amusing.

Overall this was a staggering experience, shockingly economical and unexpectedly comical. Please, if you have the time and are in the region, do visit Le Byblos.

Honey Blue – Loud but Delicious Lunch, Stratford Upon Avon

Honey Blue – Loud but Delicious Lunch, Stratford Upon Avon

I looked for Stratford Upon Avon’s best eateries and alighted on Honey Blue, supposedly the best place to eat in Stratford. It is tucked away in a side alley away from Sheep Street in the centre of town. Now, if one is to go by the Trip Advisor review, they might expect a lavish beautiful small scale indy paradise, but when we went, the menu was limited to a few toasties, which was fine as I did not want to have too heavy a lunch.

Charlotte ordered the three cheese panini, which was quite delicious. There was a slightly rough texture to the cheese which was most pleasant indeed and the bread was high quality, easy to chew through. I had the goats cheese and spinach toastie which was rather good also but tasted fairly similar to the one above. Now, these were at the end of the day, pieces of cheese between bread, so not much more can be said for them. I think the reason this establishment is so popular with the people of Stratford are the beverages:

The cafe’s Facebook page has some excellent photographs of their marshmallow toasted and hanging precariously atop a mountain of cream, as can be seen in the back of my less impressive photograph. I would recommend ordering these after your sandwich as the cream tends to melt rather quickly. The cinnamon cappuccino I ordered was excellent. The cream was light and the cinnamon sung through the whole drink. Charlotte’s hot chocolate with the aforementioned marshmallow was delicious also, rich and fulsome with similar comments about the cream.

Now, beware, the manager’s taste in music, at least on our visit, was limited extremely grating saxophone based techno pop, which was so loud that both Charlotte and I were on the edge of a nervous breakdown by the time we left. I suggest eating outside or asking the owner to turn down the racket. We had already asked for the door to be closed to keep the February cold out, so did not feel able to make a second demand but the music really was atrocious. Overall a good place for drinks, would not recommend the £7 cheese and bread.

 

Brasserie SenT – Heaven Sent Dinner, Amsterdam

Brasserie SenT – Heaven Sent Dinner, Amsterdam

Celia had talked about this restaurant for some time before my arriving in Amsterdam, this is a restaurant she had frequented on many occasions and indeed one which she brings friends and relations to when they visit her in Amsterdam. SenT is short for the names of the restaurant’s founders, Steef and Thijs. See below my review of our exquisite dish, the glorious Chateaubriand.

This glorious dish was served with béarnaise sauce, chimichurri and french fries. Chateaubriand is a dish that traditionally consists of a large centre cut fillet of tenderloin grilled between two lesser pieces of meat that are discarded after cooking. SenT’s secret involves adding some olive wood to the charcoal while cooking the beef, which creates a unique flavour, which they claim one can normally only find on the beaches of Andalusia. As you can see from the below photograph I was rather excited to sample this much vaunted dish.

Notice the plume of steam which Celia’s excellent camera has captured. The dish was a triumph. There are few dishes which move me to tears, this is one of them. Honestly, this was one of the best beef dishes I have ever eaten. The meat was so tender, beautifully cooked with a lovely dark rose centre. The flavour – almost indescribable. Deep, rich, smokey, with the added richness of the wood with the charcoal – an exercise in divinity. The béarnaise sauce (a sauce of egg yolks, shallots, tarragon, butter, vinegar, and sometimes white wine and chopped chervil) was my favourite, it added a lightness to the dish overall and helped the dark smokey flavour of the meat sing. The chimichurri (a piquant sauce or marinade traditionally used on grilled meat, typically containing parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and flakes of chilli pepper) was a close second, adding a depth and spice to the pristine beef.

Overall this was an unmitigated triumph. I must thank my sister for bringing me to this hallowed eatery and will request it first thing on my return to Amsterdam.

 

Hen and Chickens – Best Curry Birmingham?

Hen and Chickens – Best Curry Birmingham?

I have long admired the Hen and Chickens and indeed eaten here on a number of occasions. In fact when I lived at the Miniature Apartment in the centre, I ordered this as a take away. The only reason I have not yet blogged about this wonderful venue is that I was convinced I had done so already! See below the wonderful meal I enjoyed at the Hen and Chickens recently.

Can you believe some people have never tasted paneer? Charlotte was in that number. What an excellent dish to begin one’s paneer journey with. Paneer, also known as ponir or Indian cottage cheese, is a fresh acid-set cheese common in the Indian subcontinent made from cow or buffalo milk. This particular paneer was beautifully soft, moist and flavourful. It was served with some light yoghurt based sauce as well as sweet chilli, which I liked less.

Charlotte opted for the evergreen butter chicken. This is a chicken curry dish with spiced tomato, butter and cream sauce, originating from the North of India. This was my first taste of curry. The first curry I remember tasting was at the Royal Bengal in Keswick, or thereabouts. Near the wonderful Puzzling Place, which I hope to go back to one day. It was so hot I needed two quarts of water, which did not help as I realise this does not neutralise the capsaicin in the pepper, which makes it hot. Or rather, this chemical makes our brains register the pepper as being hot by activating the TRPV1 protein. Anyway, back to the essential, the butter chicken was excellent, deeply flavourful and rich, creamy and buttery, as it should be.

I enjoyed a fabulous lamb dish called Saag. This dish originates in Pakistan and its main flavours are spinach, green chilies and cilantro. This was, as expected, quite marvellous. The big chunks of lamb were suffused with a depth of flavour, the sauce added a sweetness and the cilantro ran through the dish quite wonderfully, allowing me to separate the flavours. The cheese Naan was outrageously delicious, light, moist and a little under cheesed, as expected. Excellent really.

The Hen and Chickens is an excellent curry house which is likely one of the best in Birmingham, along with the Royal Watan Kashmiri, another diamond venue I have yet to review. Enjoy the Hen and Chickens!

 

Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel sounds like a disease but in fact was quite a wonderful bakery in Utrecht. Celia and I were so cold that we did not spend much time outside. We rushed from lunch to Belgisch to this wonderful bakery. Unfortunately I was a bit pre-occupied because the UK return requirements had just changed and I needed to book the correct nose swab on my return. However, I really enjoyed the peace of this bakery and the unique settling, under street level, arched ceilings and almost eye level with the canal.

I ordered an almond tart which was delightful and soft. The almond flavour was present but not overwhelming, just how I like it. Celia went for a beautiful carrot cake. Regrettably I did not get a close up but you can see it in the below photograph of me relaxed after sorting out my impending travel nightmare.

Observe the moist even layers of sponge and beautifully thick and consistent cream. The filling was balanced, nutty and almost outrageously flavourful. For once, I did not order the best thing on the menu, however I was without doubt the best dressed and eye-browed.

Overall this was an excellent place to enjoy some mint tea, cappuccino and cake in fabulous Utrecht. I recommend it to you if you are in the area. There is also a delightful resident kitty which will be seated on a bench near you!