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My interest in Ngam began when I was living in the East Village only one block away. My old housemate had ordered from there and had a huge box of ‘Chiang Mai Fries.’ He offered me one. Everything changed. This was a game changer.
After ordering take away from them many a time, but really not branching out with dishes (I have no idea why) a group of six of us decided to go on a busy summer night. As packed as it was, magically they had room for us. It’s owned by Chef Hong Thaimee who featured on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, she’s also worked in some of New York’s finest restaurants including Jean George’s Spice Market.
We of course started off with the splendourous Chiang Mai Fries – Kabocha pumpkin, sweet potato, homemade red curry mayo, sweet and sour peanut relish. Crispy to bite, a curried flavour, comfort food interior and without a doubt the most delicious dish you’ll have tasted all year. And for only $8!
I tried everyone’s dishes, don’t you just love that? When people are excited about what they’re eating, so much so that they want you to experience it too, food truly brings people together.
Here’s a few of the dishes we had:
“Pad See Ewe” Smokey Wok Charred Noodles with Black Soy Sauce with chicken. This is comfort food on true form. The noodles taste so smokey they’re almost barbecued. A really incredibly fresh taste, salty and with a mix of crunchy broccoli and cauliflower too. This is a dish that takes the staple Pad Thai and goes one up. It’s got all your favourite characteristics and flavours, only it does it better.
The Lobster Dumpling “Kao Soy” – Maine lobster, homemade lobster dumplings, homemade had rolled egg noodles, homemade kao soy curry, pickled mustard, shallots, cilantro. I can hear your mouth watering! This dish was very special, it has an elite quality to it that takes it above the comfort food level, even though it embodies all the characteristics of comfort. It is creamy, so creamy, flavoured to perfection and the lobster dumplings are infused with cilantro (coriander) with just the right hit of it, not so much so that it’s overwhelming. The reason it steps into the realm of the elite is for one, the presentation, it’s spectacular and two, it’s the quality of the lobster, the flavour that comes through, the mix of textures (from crunch, to creamy, to melt in your mouth) this dish has it all. Absolutely flawless.
Up next was “The Dark Knight” – Housemade black squid ink “bah mee” noodle, fried calamari, black pepper sauce, brussel sprouts, Thai long chili. This looked amazing, the black noodles are so intriguing and then the flashes of red and green from the chili and sprouts make this a stand out dish. What struck me with this dish was the spice, there’s a big kick to it, but it just makes you want more and more. The noodles are delicious and the calamari is battered to perfection.
We of course tried other dishes too, including the Cutie Duckling “Ghang Ped Bhed Yang” – Roasted Long Island duck, homemade “ghang ped” curry, lychee, heirloom tomatoes, Thai basil sauce. The duck was as crispy as can be on the outside with the most delectable, fall of the bone, meat. This is food to be reckoned with.
The atmosphere in the restaurant is buzzing without being too loud, it’s constantly busy – a testament to how good the food is. You’re provided with wonderful service and it embodies what you want from a dining out experience.
Noticing the sign that is painted on their wall it really sums it all up.
Try this place, don’t go there unless you’re having the Chiang Mai Fries and eat to your heart’s content. It’s guilt free too because not only do they source all their produce from local farms but they only serve hormone-free beef, chicken and pork as well as use organic and cage free eggs and dairy products in their dishes. They also only use seafood not on the endangered sea food list. You’re in for a real treat.
Ngam – 99 3rd Avenue (between 12th & 13th Street) New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 777-8424
Follow them on Twitter – @ngamnyc
The graze boxes will be placed within a selection of cars for lucky passengers to trial over the next week. Addison Lee account holders can request a Graze box when booking over the phone. Plans are to use them over their whole fleet later this year.
Following the success of the already heaving Soho branch, I ventured to the brand new Jackson + Rye on Chiswick High Road.
This was my first taste of dinner at J+R, so I was looking forward to seeing the new space and equally the vibe in the evening.
Chiswick High Road is wonderful and drenched in places to eat, it almost feels like you’re abroad when taking a wander on a summer night. The restaurant was packed when we arrived, the space being similar to the soho branch but slightly smaller. It has a great, buzzy feel to it and although busy, it’s really relaxing.
I went for the drink special – Strawberry Daiquiri. It had freshly crushed local strawberries and tasted incredible. Sweet and fresh, a perfect start to the evening. My guest went for the virgin Mojito. Not strictly on the menu, but definitely should be, the bartender has got some serious skills. The blend of mint and lime makes you feel like you’re on a health kick in Thailand. It’s definitely a thing of beauty.
For starters we chose the Chopped Raw Tuna and the Sea Scallops. For me, starters are always the most exciting dish of the evening. I think that’s because you don’t really have them at home on a daily basis and also it’s when you’re most hungry so you appreciate the flavours more.
The tuna was fresh and utterly sublime. It had a kick of heat to its dressing and the consistency and taste were nothing short of perfection. It was presented beautifully and the taste of the fish was so representative.
The scallops were a very good choice. They were pan-fried and doused in a creamy, buttery sauce with peas. The quality was clearly evident and they were cooked so lightly, just a dusting of bronze on the surface. It truly melted in your mouth and the sauce was the ultimate sidekick.
I’ve had the chicken burger before but really wanted to see how it held its own without the brioche shoulder to lean on. This is a huge portion. Two massive beaten breast fillets coated in some seriously tasty batter. I honestly don’t know how the chicken is so, so soft. It’s beyond delicious and clearly the signature dish. When something simple is done to perfection there really isn’t anymore you could ask for.
The sweet potato fries were intoxicatingly good, a blend of spices marinated over them and fried with the fluff inside intact. With their garlic mayo the ‘pick, dip, munch’ ritual was in full swing.
Obviously having become incredibly full at this point, we decided to have a bit of a breather. Savouring this wonderful meal and acknowledging that this is one of the few places that isn’t a full-blown chain, serves great food at incredibly reasonable prices in a really awesome setting.
After this reflection we decided to share the peanut butter cookies with milk ice cream and chocolate sauce. Ok so the milk ice cream is one of the most insanely delicious, palate cleansing, un-guilt-tripping desserts I’ve ever encountered and with the decadent chocolate sauce this really is a complete dish already. My one piece of criticism is the peanut butter cookies. They look fantastic and to taste have a little shortbread feel to them but the peanut taste wasn’t strong enough for me and they didn’t have that, for want of a better word, more-ish appeal to them.
One thing I really have to comment upon is the service. We had the most attentive, positive and naturally accomplished waitress that I’ve had in a long while. Her name was Frankie. She knew her stuff and was excellent at recommending dishes, had clearly gained knowledge of all the dishes on offer. She was eloquent, well spoken and not only was spot on with her timings, but also never came across as invasive. She was charming and positive and honestly made the evening what it was. It’s rare to have such talent on the floor and she really is just that. All the staff came across as well-trained and well-managed and it’s a testament to management that this is so apparent.
I had a truly magical evening and it’s a place that serves well for all kinds of occasions. Thank you for coming to West London, we need more like you!
Jackson + Rye
217-221 Chiswick High Road, W4 2DW
Follow them on Twitter @JacksonRye
I’ve debated over and over what to call this dish and the reason I’ve gone with ‘Comfort Food Pasta’ is because it really is just that. It won’t make you feel guilty after as it’s not too indulgent, but it’s one of those heart warming dishes that really makes you feel that much better.
Ingredients (serves 2 people):
And here is how you make it:
Working in Soho I am spoilt for choice when it comes to food and with new places popping up so often there’s an abundance of restaurants to take your pick from. I’ve been burned before in getting too attached to places however, so I try to spread the love around. My lost loves include Mooli’s and Mangosteen. I literally cried when I realised they weren’t coming back.
After mixing it up and trying everywhere and anywhere, there is one place in particular that not only do I keep coming back to, but it actually gets me a bit excited because it really is a treasure trove. I love this place and its food is exquisite. It’s in the heart of Soho on Old Compton Street and although the tables are a little hard to sit at, the hollowed out ground that you have to crouch your way into, definitely not a good idea to wear a skirt to this establishment, it’s worth the unladylike wrench to get yourself in there.
I love that this place is packed with Japanese people, proving that if the cuisine’s own approve, then it really is the real thing, the service is simple, quick and a no fuss kind of approach. And the menu; well that is to die for.
I’ve ordered many things from here, but will give you a run down of a select few.
Salmon and Avocado Cut Roll is always a staple when I go to a sushi place, it’s the base of a good place. So much can go right and equally it can all go wrong. This however is spot on. The rice is soft and a touch warm. The avocado is ripe and unbelievably soft, it’s perfection. And the salmon is fresh and cut into a perfect, tender chunk.
The Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll. Beautifully presented, this has been rolled in crispy tempura flakes to give a dusting over the outside. The drizzle over the top is an incredibly delicious, spicy mayo that really sparks a contrast with the shredded cucumber in the roll. The tuna is succulent, the whole dish is well put together and has not only strong flavours but is a truly artistic design. Chilli Chicken Ramen. Holy crap this is good. I had previously been across to Bone Daddies that has all the culinary finesse of a 16 year old Saturday jobber at Burger King, but with a queue of hyped up trendy idiots out the door and down the stinky street. Let me tell you, scrap the bum numbing stools at Bone Daddies and try this ramen out for size as it is incredible. It’s spicy, it’s salty, it’s got all the ingredients you want and more. It’s comforting and yet also feels healthy. Incredible ramen and a portion to match.
The Volcano Maki – Eel, leeks, bonito flakes, eel sauce, avocado & mayonnaise. This is a little pricier at £15.80 but if I’m honest I would pay three times that just to lick the bowl. THIS IS IT. This is the dish you dream of, you think it doesn’t exist with most of the tasteless, nondescript dishes that are out there and then this comes along, swoops you off your feet, butters you up and makes you realise that actually nothing else matters more than the mouthful you are about to witness. Witness it you will, and savour it as you don’t get a taste like this often. Stacked up and presented like a sculpture comes this roll, smothered in a sauce that can only be made of magic as it tastes so good. The sauce is creamy, mayonnaise like, with a sweet soy drizzle and a smoky flair to it that becomes all-encompassing.
Dozo has a second branch along Old Brompton Road which I’ve yet to visit, but will and if it’s anything like its Soho sister, I know I’ll be in for a treat. There’s very few sushi places that are worth going to in London…I say this because I’ve lived in New York and Sydney and my taste buds know the best there is. A food snob yes, but at least it makes me give the best recommendations.
Try Dozo and don’t leave without trying the Volcano Maki. That’s an order.
Dozo – 32 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 4TP
Tel: 020 7434 3219
Follow them on Twitter @DozoLondon
Having limited my food intake recently because summer is coming and no one needs to see my bikini body as it stands, my dining out has taken a bit of a hit. However, I was lured out recently to the wonderful launch of the newly refurbished Portuguese restaurant, Canela.
Right on Seven Dials this superbly located restaurant is another Earlham Street classic. I had been, prior to the refurbishment, wonderful then, it’s even better now. The samples of food looked interesting and I adore trying new foods, you never know what you might discover and it’s always so lovely when you are pleasantly surprised.
The mix of delectable samples included my favourite, Bacalhau à Bras – traditional mix of salt cod, potatoes and eggs. This is the food equivalent of being scooped up by the one you love and given the biggest bear hug imaginable. It is comfort food of the highest form. Beautifully seasoned, soft potatoes with the saltiness of the ludicrously delicious cod shining through and the binding of the egg and flavour of onions making an undeniably perfect recipe. A far more distinguished dish, but similar in ways to home fries served in your favourite local diner in the US. This was an absolutely magical dish, so simple but so mouth-watering.
The Creamy Black Rice With Prawns dressed in olive oil and fresh herbs was a breath of fresh air. The rice wasn’t as sickly as risotto and not as boring as normal rice, it was definitely flavoured with a stock of sorts and the texture was creamy without being gloopy. The prawns were as fresh as can be and the pink of the prawn popped on top of the jet black of the rice making it a very beautiful dish. We sampled hams and cheeses, the Iberico ham being as heavenly as one can imagine after we had patiently waited, salivating as we watched it being carved in front of us.
We also sampled a traditional sausage that was very interesting. It is made with game and not pork and is not only a stronger taste from the meat as one would normally expect, but it is an acquired taste because of the herbs used. It is really flavoursome, but definitely one to eat in small morsels as it is very rich.
We tried all three of the wines on offer, a red, white and a rosé. They were a welcome accompaniment to the food samples. They were very sweet wines, beautifully packaged and we had a lengthy conversation with the wonderful buyer of the wines and he explained his thoughts behind each of his choices. It was fascinating to learn the attention to detail when it came to not only the design on the bottle but the knowledge he had on each of the wines and why it was suited to Canela’s menu. The three on offer were (although they have many more on their menu):
Animus, Douro 2012 (red)
Arca Nova, Vinho Verde, 2013 (white)
Lagoalva Rosé, Alentejo, 2013 (rosé)
Being full to the brim having sampled so many delights, out came the one that blew me away. Simple Pastel de Nata (custard tarts) encased in a beautifully fine butter pastry that were warm and clearly fresh from the oven. Hundreds of bite size beauties just waiting to be eaten and as this was a cheat day, I ate a lot of them. And I mean a lot. I would have happily eaten the whole tray. I sometimes forget how it is the simple things that can be the most pleasurable. We often try to find something different or obscure, bordering on trendiness and forget that it is the basic, traditional recipes that have survived generations of families and thousands of restaurants that surpass everything. And this simple treasure really is just that.
The restaurant looks beautiful and is a wonderful place for a catch up with friends or a perfect date spot, try new foods that you most certainly won’t be disappointed by and feel the age-old recipes that have been handed down, all so that YOU could be lucky enough to try it.