Bombay Elegance at Dishoom in London

Whenever I go to London, I make it a point to eat at a Dishoom.

Their famous bacon breakfast naan roll is incredible, but I couldn’t make it for this quick layover I had in London before I embarked on Remote Year. Reveling and reflecting now in this first meal from my epic journey last year and last this location. I’ve been to the one in Shoreditch multiple times, but I went to this one in Kensington, which had a more elegant interior.

Dishoom pays homage to Irani Bombay cafes. I love the inherent nostalgia of places like this or even upmarket tributes to it, steeped in tradition of food, beverages, and conversation like the cha chaan tengs of Hong Kong or American diners where people of all backgrounds rubbed shoulders for a quick and delicious meal.

The House Chai is second to none for me, with refills. While I couldn’t get the famous breakfast this time, I really enjoyed the lamb with naan and the bhel salad (very filling on its own really). Worth it to be THE restaurant you make time to go do when visiting London.

  • Website
  • 4 Derry St, Kensington, London W8 5SE, UK
  • ~$12-20 USD 
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The Perfect Combo of Udon Curry and Gently Fried Veggies at Kuon in Kyoto

I’d see people lined up as if Kuon was the hottest club in town when I’ve leave my hotel (Intergate Kyoto – highly recommended with great food, coffee, and tea) to go do work at my to the hipster workspace. I’d be bummed and curious because I had to get my day started. Turns out the place had just opened and been featured on Japanese TV so people wanted to check it out.

Kuon specializes in udon noodles with Japanese style curry, which is more sweet than spicy, and various, mostly veggie, tempura skewers.

I ended up getting a table for two with no issue right as they opened for dinner. Come here in the evening if you’re on vacation so you’re not competing with the office lunch crowd, bored housewives, and retirees during the day. I ended up going here multiple times during my stay in Kyoto despite it being one of the pricier choices for a casual meal.

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Udon has what we Taiwanese term that QQ flavor, 嚼勁, or that rich al dente texture but still with that softness inherent to udon. Really high quality noodles paired with sauces and curry. It’s one of those places where the ingredients are such a cut above the rest and why people come back after waiting in line. They boast that their curry consists of over twenty spices and udon carefully sourced. Even the side dish of rice with egg tasted exceptional.

I’m a meat eater, but I have to say the vegetable dishes and those versions of the set meals are a standout. Get the avocado tempura, seriously. As a tourist, I haven’t found Japanese cuisine vegetarian friendly so I recommend it for the veggie-inclined.

The interiors have those beautiful warm wood hues and feels like a bit of a rustic oasis in a bustling part of Kyoto characteristic of so many of the small shops running in traditional Kyoto townhouses around the Kurasama neighborhood, which I highly recommend staying in if Kyoto. One of those rare places that can be good for a solo diner at the bar or a nice date.

Service is friendly, and they have English and Chinese menus. Highly recommended and worth going out of your way to eat at in Kyoto.

  • Website
  • 京都四条 くをん / KUON 420 Komusubidanacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8223, Japan/ 〒604-8223 京都府京都市中京区小結棚町420
  • $8-15 USD 

Chilean Sandwiches: I’ve Never Loved Tomato, Mayo, and Avocado with Meat So Much

Seriously. The food I miss the most from Santiago are the sandwiches. I had the fancy stuff, the delicious wine, and the upscale experiences, but sometimes the food I appreciate the most are the greasy pleasures after work with a beer.

First of all, I have to thank my from Maria from Santiago for recommending these delights to me and giving me some background. Chile, like the rest of Latin America and the Americas in general received immigrants from all over, including many Germans and Italians. At some point techniques and food culture combined with local ingredients transformed and created new dishes like Chilean sandwiches.

My must recommend for Chilean sandwiches is Fuente Alemana, styled like old school German diner with vague feelings of when I visited Bavaria, only in Spanish and a world removed. It was literally one of the first places I went to and one of the last places (both locations above) I went to in my time in Santiago with multiple visits in between.

Upon Maria’s advice, I ordered a Lomito Italiano that tasted like a melange of Chilean, Italian, and German with sliced cuts of pork, sauerkraut, tomatoes, and a generous heaping of homemade mayo that I realized is a signature joy in Chile. No Best Foods trash here; It tastes way more creamy, flavorful, and possibly more fatty yet doesn’t leave you with the feeling of self-hatred and disappointment when you squeeze it out of a bottle of artificial mass-produced Kraft goop.

I loved Lomito with the draft beer on top. Then I quickly discovered that one of Chile’s best crops and what people brag about are the tomatoes, the best and juiciest I had in the South America by far at these sandwiches, and avocado, called palta and this part of Latin America. The food is about the ingredients, and the avocado here tastes extra buttery and rich.

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I became obsessed with the simple combo found all over Chile of tomato, avocado, and mayo. It sounds so basic bitch, but every ingredient is so of top quality, especially paired with churrasco beef, which I personally liked more than the lomo, and the fica buns that vaguely remind me of a cross of NYC kaiser rolls and Italian ciabatta, again, the combination of the history of Chile here in my interpretation.

I think multiple orders of this the month I was in Chile singlehanded raised my cholesterol level for the year. Worth it.

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Of course, the classic that Chileans’ talk about and is available everywhere is the Completo, a hot dog with, you guessed it, tomato, mayo, and avocado. Fuente Alemana has a high-end version of it and was so loaded the waitress held it in place because it plopped over from the weight of all toppings as soon as I put it down after a first bite.

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While I loved just hopping over to the Fuente Alemana locations whenver possible, I have to give an honorable mention and strong recommendation when visiting La Vega, a must do in Santiago. La Vega is one of the biggest local markets for everything with a storied history and significance to the city, and I have to recommend Donde El Nano for their version of the Chacarero sandwich (who knew sliced green beans could taste so good and fresh with so much grease?), which they called the Veronica. I asked for lengua meat, which they made for me special along with the delicious broth with a generous heaping of cilantro. I can’t describe how satisfying this was.

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The owner is also such a jovial and friendly dude and really goes out of the way and clearly wants everyone visiting to have a good time versus the Fuente Alemana experience, while it might feel more authentic, feels authentically like a place people are popping in after work for comfort food and expected to tip and bounce ASAP.

Either way, the sandwiches are the must for me in Chile beyond any of the really nice fine dining with wine places I went to because I really felt like I was tasting local comfort food with history.

Learn more about Chile’s sandwiches. Don’t believe? Anthony Bourdain agrees.

Fuente Alemana

  • Website
  • Bourdain went to this one near Plaza Italia: Av Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 58, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • Close to Sky Costanera: Av. Pedro de Valdivia 210, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • $5-10 USD 

Donde El Nano

  • Website
  • Inside La Vega: local 235, Antonia López de Bello 743, Recoleta, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • $5-10 USD 

Peumayan’s Door to the Indigenous and Ancestral

I’ve had the pleasure of eating a lot of delicious food around the world this year, but this place struck me as so special because of uniqueness of the food, celebration of heritage, and the fact that if this restaurant were somewhere like LA or NY, the chef could charge 3x as much and be the toast of the town for innovation.

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A badass female chef took us through Peumayan Ancestral Food menu on lovely Sunday. The restaurant concept takes indigenous ingredients and cooking methods from groups like the Mapuche, Rapa Nui, and other indigenous groups in South America and builds a multi-course tasting meal with all those elements, with bonuses.

 

Normally, I loath the concept of elevating “ethnic food.” For an Asian person, that often comes with the baggage and implication that waters down food and plates it in a fancy way to make it more palatable to White people, when 1) the food is good as it is 2) high-end Asian cuisine already exists that isn’t geared toward White audiences.

On the flip side of those politics, why can’t “ethnic food” be just as finely enjoyed as French Food and Italian food, with the same pomp and ritual? Especially when food with seasoning just tastes better? (Haha.)

I don’t think that latter stance was fully clarified for me until going to Peumayan.

An explanatory comma first, traveling to Santiago was my first time truly traveling in Latin America. My stereotypes about Chile mostly came whatever content I absorbed on the internet through time talking about how the southern cone of Latin America is so “European.” Luckily my friend Maria from Santiago complicated those notions and told me the history of her country. Still, I knew so little about complexity of the indigenous history in Chile, and how the Mapuche were the one indigenous group to successfully resist the Spanish conquest.

Peumayan takes the richness of that history and creates a high-end dining experience celebrating the ingredients and cooking of pre-Colombian food, and does so exceptionally well. I’m mad that the dining and food culture locally and globally doesn’t seem to have that on the radar at all.

Most of my travels through Chile and Latin America weeks later all have the same sad undercurrent as the indigenous culture as among the least celebrated heritages in these countries. Although there are exceptions, especially in Peru and I’m assuming Boliva and Paraguay, the present-day living culture, and food culture in particular case of Chile, it isn’t something that seems to pique curiosity, let alone as a part of the rich heritage of the country to cherish and value.

I hope Peumayan and what the chefs are trying to do here gets a lot more famous. A tasting menu for food this quality would easily be triple the price in LA or NY. I put this at the top of the list for a restaurant recommendation in Santiago.

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Exceptional flavors from sweet to savory that I’ve never quite experienced. Everything tasted so earthy yet refined.

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The above is the bread platter and amuse bouche for the first round.

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Main courses.

 

Desert, with a lot of flavors of local Chilean wine.

 

More about the food.

More about Peumayan:

  • Website
  • Providencia Constitución 136 Santiago, Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile
  • ~$50-70 USD tasting menu plus drinks

 

Coffee with a Message at Hidden Gem Coffee in Hanoi

Practically designed for Instagram, Hidden Gem Coffee feels like a whimsical and anime-esque technicolor experience.

The owner wants to raise awareness on reusing, recycling, and reducing waste in a country very much still in the beginning stages of environmental policy and awareness. He gave a talk when I visited that he especially cares since people in his hometown developed higher rates than average of cancer due to industrial waste pollution from nearby factories. In general, he’s concerned about environmental degradation in Vietnam and really there are stories like this all over Asia as a cost of economic development, so it really resonated with me.

The walls are lined with murals of a previous era of Vietnamese life toned with the nostalgic quality that characterize so many of Hanoi’s cafes. He mentioned the paintings of traditional life were inspired by his mother. The cafe was one of the newest and most unique I visited in Hanoi since he decorated the entire place with unwanted items he’d gathered, hence the name Hidden Gem. It also features three levels of seating with good internet so it’s an ideal study and workplace as well.

I enjoyed my egg coffee, though not the best I’ve had, which is an honor I reserve for Cafe Giang. The egg coffee I had was certainly made with love and skill – eggs whipped with their unique use of Bailey’s instead of other liquors, usually a rice wine, typically used in egg coffee. This place is worth a stop to decompress from hectic Hanoi and worth your support. It’s also close to this awesome sticky rice place.

Shoutout to OK Ryan in Flushing

This is a Love Letterdisclaimer a place I haven’t visited in awhile (possibly months or a year) but still exists in a place I love dearly but no longer live full-time at the moment – check latest reviews on other sites accordingly as some items might be out of date.

Crosspost from ViewingNYC

Thought of OK Ryan recently as some of best Taiwanese food I’ve in NYC, including special order dishes for Lunar New Year – actually remembering what a comfort the place was since I was in Taiwan for Lunar New Year a week or so ago. Also, this is one of the few places in NYC to get legit Taiwanese breakfast. It’s in pretty far out Flushing and quite a hike even from the last subway stop into the part of Queens where there are actually strip malls with parking lots, but for me was always worth it to ride out all the way on the 7-Train from where I live in Murray Hill.

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I unabashedly love Taiwanese food, a food category that is surprisingly difficult to find in New York City, let alone at a high quality. After trekking across boroughs to the end of the 7 Line, I’ve finally found a favorite destination for this elusive cuisine. Ok Ryan shines in signature Taiwanese dishes, such as oyster omelettes and stinky tofu along with traditional breakfasts…. read more

 

The Best Foie Gras Experience at Au Pied de Cochon

This is a Love Letter: disclaimer a place I haven’t visited in awhile (possibly months or a year) but still exists in a place I love dearly but no longer live full-time at the moment – check latest reviews on other sites accordingly as some items might be out of date.

I had one of the best dining experiences traveling alone at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal in the super cool Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood. It’s not a fancy pants white table cloth place, feels more like an upscale bistro/French brassiere that is unpretentious yet refined. Definitely fine dining although hipster beards and tattoos would not be out-of-place here.

I didn’t get a chance to try the famed foie gras poutine since I dined alone, but I definitely will if I have the opportunity to return to Montreal. Instead I had apps of a fresh baguette with butter, definitely above average. I do think it’s the sign of a good restaurant when items that are sometimes throwaway are given a lot of care.

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Then I felt adventurous and had the foie gras nigiri. I had something similar awhile back at A Plus Sushi in Taipei. Not the most pretty, but holy crap, it tasted amazing and genuinely like nothing I had ever before. Fusion food tends to be crap, but this combo of big ole hunks of high quality foie gras, good nigiri rice, topped with the slightest bit of soy sauce made this trip worth it alone.

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Of course, I had have what Anthony Bourdain had, the Canard en Conserve or Duck in a Can – literally a pound of duck and foie gras cooked in a can with vegetables and thyme so all the fatty juices melange. I rarely can’t finish a dish, but the richness and how tasty it was almost nasty. I kept trying to shovel more bites of the fatty duck, foie gras, and lard-glazed veggies but couldn’t especially after the plate of nigiri and bread. I ended up taking half it back with me. I joke around about eating heart attacks in a can, but very little hyperbole here. Perhaps kind of an abomination to French Canadian chefs, but it was bomb the next day reheated with sriracha sauce.

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Eating at Au Pied de Cochon and Jean Talon Market were definitely the highlights of my trip to Montreal. For solo travelers, it’s a fantastic place to dine alone with a long bar in front of friendly chatty kitchen staff. I was far from the only one enjoying a foie gras feast on a solo trip.

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Ironically, I’m writing this love letter I mentioned I had been there to an older Canadian couple on the same bus I was traveling on from Croatia to Bosnia, who I thought were surely French tourists at first but then turned out to be awesome friendly Canadians whom I talked food and politics all day after we bonded after I mentioned I had been there. Nothing brings together people like food.

  • Website
  • 536 Duluth Est, Montreal, QC, H2L 1A9
  • $30+ Canadian Dollars or so for entrees and $12 for apps