Thursday, 11 August 2011

A Midsummer's Night Gorge

Summer is a dangerous thing - if there is one source of influence amongst the human race able to achieve the impossible, able to push boundaries, capable of profuse is boredom. Pure. Debilitating. Boredom. Boredom forces people to do, it enables them to explore. Perhaps, fire was discovered not by necessity, but by man getting bored of dying of hypothermia, with unlikely coincidences culminating in its discovery. Seemingly then, when I'm tired of the noisy crickets in concerto in the echoing void of my consciousness, I like to eat. Profusely. In a rigorously organised schedule ofcourse. 

Henceforth the explanation of yet another successive day of overindulgence - sacrificing a stay in my "home" of Saudi Arabia for the summer, where eating is a pass-time, for the UK, where eating is a pass-time. Albeit far more expensive. Vive les calories! 

Beyond the grandeur of the moving power of boredom, I intended this day as yet another exploratory undertaking, seizing the opportunity to visit places that not even boredom would be able to encourage my partners in indulgence to face. I would thus hope that it would be one of the cases where I would be sampling the kind of experiences to sample alone - you know the kind, the ones that draw out the awkward noises and faces. Some moderate planning was required to ensure that I'd be capable of visiting the plethora of eateries, outlets and venues in a systematic manner so as to fall upon my meal times, otherwise the world would collapse. I also plan my breathing. The theme would seem to be predominantly Asian-centric once again, no particular reason for it, other than my particular fascination of current times for Japan predominantly, as well as the intrinsically skewed outlook on Asian cuisine by dint of repetitive atrocities of dining-outs passed.

This would begin with Lunch at a Burmese Restaurant: Mandalay of Edgware Road. A country only brought to my attention recently, as in within the last 3 years. People have a guiding light, I'm shrouded in the ignorance of my broken bulb. Nevertheless, subtle irony in eating on the bad side of Edgware [despite the redundancy in distinction of the attributes of its zones], at a restaurant whose nationality is torn by war, having to drive through a recent war zone. War. What is it good for? Clearing the road and queues apparently - the journey was trouble-free, the restaurant was largely empty, and despite trawling long enough for parking to contemplate eating my face, it was found within reasonable distance. Lunch was a relative disappointment, melding lack of flavour, with blandness, with the solace of a coconut laced dessert. Though with a lack of caffeine-influenced digestive motivation, the sentiment was slightly demure. The remainder of the days tonnage would no doubt suffuse and smother the lunch anyway. 

This led to the tedious task of deciding that most important of factors of travel in London - or rather, travel for those too stubborn/defiant of relying on public transport. Parking. Having just made the monumental effort of registering for Phone Pay Parking, I decided to park by Casa Malevo on Connaught Street. A Police Officer stood by, MP5 in hand, car, secure. On I skipped along towards Piccadilly, for the first of my endeavours, one which I had been introduced to at the recent Hyper Japan Exhibition: Minamoto Kitchoan.

~ Minamoto Kitchoan - Japanese Confections ~

If boredom is the motivating factor to achieve, then pretty pictures are the impetus for parting with one's cash. Or at least such is the case with me in the regards of Minamoto Kitchoan. Having long been baffled by the absurdity of the lack of desserts in the Japanese tradition, I sought to find reasoning behind the injustice. Which took all of five minutes on Google in all honesty, leading to the discovery that rather the little treats or "Wagashi" are consumed typically in the afternoon with tea. Despite being tea-treats, the pictures on Minamoto Kitchoan's website, and the delightful Engrish translations achieved what they sought. Not that it takes much conviction to convince me to fulfil a sweet tooth binge.

Walking in, out of the glorious British rain-soaked summer, I was greeted with an assortment of kitschy desserts, with the usual melange of unusual ingredients sparking interest. And confusion. Yet again, as per Hyper and my blanked email, no discounts were offered for the avid gluttons. Blast. This would mean I would have to choose. Out of a hoard no-preferences. Not helped by a language barrier either. And the attractiveness of one of the manga lookalikes. I would settle on the following:

Suikanshuku - White Bean Paste-filled Dried Persimmon
Daikitchoimo - White Bean Paste-filled Sweet Potato Cake

On top of these I also purchased a Muscat and an Ume [Japanese Plum] jelly for later consumption. And avoidance of diabetic coma. Sampling the Dried Persimmon wagashi first, I came to the startling realisation, that perhaps. I am actively trying to shed my limbs in an abstract quest to lose weight, why else would I take a second bite out of a morsel of pure Diabetes. It was. Disgustingly sweet. And had to be put down immediately. For later consumption/evaluation/continuation of limb shedding. On the second sampling of the dessert however, I was pleasantly surprised, with its period cooling its notions of human destruction subdued by refrigeration, releasing a treat with a slight persimmon aroma and a not overly sweetened earthy bean paste. All the while ignoring the nutritional data included on the back of the packet. 

The second wagashi was also intriguing - on first bite, I noticed something quite peculiar for a country that largely avoided such strong and distracting that..Cinnamon?! It was, and it rather perked up this confection, despite largely following the same rule, substituting pervasiveness tartness of the persimmon instead with the starchy mushiness of the sweet potato. Quite pleasant, as obviously dictated by the ludicrous musings on the nutritional data card. It begs the question though, is substituting sugar in tea as is common practice in Japan, with Wagashi, really healthy? My extremities tingled in protest such a notion. Why are my arms and legs going blue and black..

~ Japan Centre - Japanese Convenience Store ~
Straight to a variation of a theme, released from the narrow field of vision of the diabetics' nightmare that was Minamoto Kitchoan, and into a surreal realm of everything Japanese. If the name of the store did not create ample vision of the scope and breadth of the store, the mere sight of the rows upon rows of Sake bottles, refrigerated and non- made it clear. As well as instil a bit of fear from my wallet. It trembled. Or perhaps my leg was attempting to shed itself. Considering the measured aimlessness I entered the store with, a quick perusal and a rapid exit were all that was called for, saving myself from further needless expenditure. I do realise the inherent hypocrisy of that phrase in its usage for me, being as it is, my modus operandi.  

~ London Trocadero - Decrepit Arcade/Shopping Centre ~
Progressing from Regent Street a tout de suite, I made a beeline for the London Trocadero, in an attempt to demystify the enigma of the Entremets Patisserie located within. Going on a fledgling passion for Macaroons, born only three weeks or so prior at the sampling of the divine On Cafe' morsels, this was apparently a family run business headed by a French man and his Malaysian wife in the basement of the Trocadero Centre, opened at the end of February. Sounds rather reminiscent of the aforementioned. Spidey-senses, tingling. Recently however the website had long disappeared. Meandering through the crowds of orientation-illiterate tourists, I entered a Tardis. A Tardis of festering misery. This was the saddest excuse of a shopping centre I had seen in a while, considering especially its prominence. It would not take long to figure out, that this was a complete bust - even the toilet required £1 for use. Exit, stage now. Seeking to lambast the websites indicating its existence, Gaycities noted that the stall shut down in March, 2 days after the indicated February 26th opening. Figures.  

~ Caffe Concerto - Cafe ~
In the midst of trawling around the chaotic masses of idiot-guided tourists, in a sudden outburst of sunshine, serving only further to ridicule my decision to wear a jumper, I had almost forgotten that I had and will be further adding strain to an already tortured digestive system, and so, an espresso was required as I was not going to succumb to a Nescafe at Mandalay. Despite being a professional deadbeat, I have my relevant standards. £5 minimum charge. I loathe you. Tropical fruit tart purchased to make the tally, almost to add insult to my complete lack of will. 

Miscellaneous Tropical Fruit Tart
I was intrigued however, by the inclusion of dragonfruit in said tart, and promptly proceeded to devouring the tart the next morning for breakfast. It added a generous dose of fruit to a breakfast that consisted primarily of death by sugar, and a healthy dose of rich pastry cream, and not much else. Other than another legion of floatation aids to my quickly bolstering waist.

~ Kowloon Bakery ~
With the caffeine-infusion preparing me for a further onslaught, I ventured forth towards Chinatown despite being an hour early for my next planned gorging. Oh noes! A former rut of monotony, attempting to break out of the concept of MSG and meh-diocrity I had previously attenuated to this area would require a receptiveness of mind, and a subduing of negativity. Bah. So therefore, taking inspiration from my collection of pictures of fried dough, I decided a Chinese bakery was in order. Failing to find a particle Blog article that depicted one such bakery, it was settled on Kowloon Bakery, as it was the only outlet I could locate on Google. Briefly distracted by walking into a Korean/Japanese convenience store, I uttered NEIN! Focus you untermensch! And continued on to Kowloon Bakery. Whereby I was met with a wall of artery hardening delicacies. I however, was adamant, nay, determined that the ubiquitous Youtiao was a requisite. And such it was purchased, as well as a lotus seed paste pastry. From the angriest little girl and mother team ever. Bodes well for the pastry's ying to their yang.

Lotus Seed Paste Bun
No particular reason for the choices, other than the Youtiao, that I figured if I was going to sample a typical Chinese Bakery item, may as well get one that out-sizes me. It is also the staple Chinese breakfast item, which would mean I could make it last at least the two servings and keep the ever watchful Monsieur Death at bay, seemingly being teased by my indulgences. Not sure what to expect from the fried dough batons, I attacked one, to find a now rather hard and greasy savoury stick, I think I was expecting sweet. Hmph. Little joy to have when its this cold, though it was alleviated when combined with the soy milk of the Black Sesame Dumplings purchased from Candy Cafe'. The lotus seed paste bun was slightly face implodingly sweet, obviously not helped by being kept in the same bag as the then scalding Youtiao. However, the next morning. Things changed.

Gently heating the Youtiao and remaining soy milk, I engaged in a bit of a Chinese Breakfast, on top of the other hoards of food being consumed at the same time, and when warmed, the two were immediately a much nicer pairing - perhaps better so if the soy milk were lightly sweetened. The slight saltiness of the Youtiao was diffused by the soy milk, and the softened dough took on a mild savoury creaminess. It was rather enjoyable, as was the bun when dipped in the soy milk, helping to lighten the diabetic onslaught and creating a more mellow combination. Guess the Chinese wake up with enough energy for world domination. Figures.

~ Candy Cafe - Desserts Cafe ~

Straight from Kowloon I meandered round the corner before I could bury my face in the dough stick embodiment of a heart attack in order to burn some time, so at least I could tease the coronary event in line with my pre-dinner snack timing. If I'm going to tempt fate, I may as well do so in an organised manner ^_^. Having pre-emptively made my choice beforehand based on the other choices of this day, I decided as well to have another serving of coffee, just to help any chance of expelling this day out of my body. The fact that my predetermined choice of dessert here fell in line with what I would have for dessert at Mandalay, as well as my purchasing of the youtiao should speak volumes, I insist on my terminal levels of boredom, but some may argue specifics.

Anyway, a hot bowl of Tangyuan [I believe] Black Sesame-filled Dumplings in Soy Milk [lactose free, woot!] - which would double up for breakfast serving with the youtiao the next morning, thus, as per the plan of wins - and then the coffee. Though, seeing as this cafe had a choice seemingly for each individual of the Chinese populous, I was stuck. So I asked for a suggestion, which was of dairy laden Bubble Milk Tea Coffee, but with coffee instead. Annoyingly I agreed. Despite the lone active cell capable of dialogue in my brain screaming in protest, much in vain. I duly made my way towards the next destination, Selfridges, after capturing the moment in case gluttony should negate the existence of these items existing. And should I happen to eat the counter. 

Attempts at actually consuming the items when I was actually hungry were largely futile, as I could not be bothered in holding the cup of coffee. Abandoned by my backbone, sewer-pipe straw into the cup, and. Intriguing. Pleasingly not of weapons-grade sweetness as expected, and the minute jelly balls were a bit of an interesting counterpart. Why would someone need a variety of texture in a coffee?! Who knows, but it was awesome. They did not really taste of much, barring a very slight flowery sweetness, thus presuming them to be grass jelly, but they were entertaining to consume. Especially when the coffee was gone and I was left with a quarter of a cup of the "bubbles". Feeling disgustingly inept at subduing the self-sabotage, I soldiered on to Selfridges, briefly being dumbstruck into a coma by the bus schedule, lying to myself that my main emphasis was of the purchase of magazines..

I knew deep down that they were not edible..

Black Sesame Tangyuan Dumplings in Soy Milk & Zhenzhu Naicha - Bubble Coffee Milk
Black Sesame Dumplings in Soy Milk
My attempts at maintaining schedule were largely a fail, consumed before so much as even exiting Chinatown, though to the benefit of releasing the hassle of carrying the cup. Yarly. Once in an isolated spot, far away from ears sensitive to the raucous grunts and groans of a glutton in feeding, I also sampled the still hot dumplings. Which had the most absurdly composed dumpling texture ever, being soft yet chewy and rather sticky all at the same time. Once eventually biting through to the black sesame, my respite from sugary annihilation thus far was levelled back out. Whilst not quite as manically sweet as the dried persimmon wagashi, it was still far sweeter than I had hoped for. Not sure why simple syrup was provided for the soy milk. Did they want to eviscerate me that badly? Saying that though, I used this to my advantage the next morning. Away with the simple syrup, and instead, splitting the dumplings into the soy milk, to create a mess largely. And not really sweetening the milk at all. However, it gave it a lovely sesame aroma to the milk, which suffused into the youtiao. Win some, fail some.

~ Pierre Herme - Patisserie ~
Straight to Selfridges for "magazines", nothing found, and so to stop procrastinating from the true scope of my aim here and seek solace in the food court. A pleasant surprise awaited me on entering - I had gone primarily for the magazines Oddono's ice-cream stall in order to start my pre-dinner snack, but I was delighted by the sight of a Pierre Herme patisserie stand, replete with rows upon rows of macaroons. This was surely destiny, as my denial of the Entremets' macaroons at the wretched Trocadero coincided with the fact that I had wanted to try the Pierre Herme' variants at some point to compare to the Cafe On ones that had deflagrated my preconceptions about macaroons. It would also mean I would not need to pass by Cafe On either. More macaroon explorations AND petrol saved. You try convincing me that this was not guided by a higher motive.

Much like Cafe On as well, the displayed macaroons were all comprised of exceptionally odd flavours, which made choosing the respective "gift" macaroons [there would be no sharing. Ever.] difficult. I settled for a vanilla & olive oil macaroon, still romanticised by the coma inducing olive oil cake from Galoupet, for George the closest to a chocolate macaroon, so Chocolate & Passion Fruit, and for the heathen that is Huzaifah, a box of seven, with the closest to a Pistachio one, which had, well, lots. I think some pistachio too as a token. Contented, I skipped along to Oddono's facing opposite, in the relentless pursuit of gastrointestinal explosion.

Mogodor Macaron - Milk Chocolate & Passion Fruit
Barely had the creamy Oddono decadence cleared my mouth, and I was stuffing my gullet with yet more piggy delights, almost trouncing families in my wake on the crowded pavement. Swallowing the macaroon whole, I was met with. Not much really, it was a bit bland. A bit vanilla [natch]. Though having literally just finished consuming the essence of cream and sugar moments before, it is of no surprise. Next time then. In a decade or so, when I have burnt off today's calories.

~ Oddono's - Ice-Cream Parlour ~
Remnants of Caramel & Fig Ice- cream
Straight from the macaroons, to the ice-cream to the diabetic coma. A quick glance on the internet revealed Oddono's to be a favourite, run by Italians, and award winning. So, largely good enough to tempt me into sampling a cliche' "Gelato" stand hoping it would not follow the tedious pretensions of the usual offenders [why can't gelato just be written as ice-cream, and panini as sandwiches..]. Not presented with a grand choice [thankfully], and denied of honeycomb flavour [unthankfully], I pined for the Caramel & Fig ice-cream. As, obviously the fig would aid in digestion. *Cough*

Consuming immediately, I was largely left disappointed. It was creamy, sweet, and indulgent enough. It was however, not a true Italian ice-cream, or rather, it was missing quite a lot from the authentic item. It just was not creamy, soft and "fresh" enough, and other hard to quantify subjective nothings. Rather delicious, but it was more of a "Whats-a mattah you" ice-cream to an authentic "Babidi Boobidi" example. At least it would charge me with sugar-charged motivation to the looming devouring of the thus far acquired treats.


In the midst of my Summer Afternoon's Glutton Feast, my intricately timed planning had conspired to leave me an hour overdue for the parking amount paid, but it was fine, as I had enough sugar coursing through my veins to be able to bleed candy should I need to bribe the Council. I need not have worried. No parking fines. The MP5 wielding concierge did his job well. Clambering into the sweltering heat of my car, I quickly sought to find a place to devour the amassing weapons of mass degustation [weak, I know] and find respite from the heat. Obviously listed in order of importance. Spot found, not after having to pay £0.67 for ten minutes worth of parking to keep the parking attendant at bay. He was just jealous of my in-car feast. 

Finishing the face/food interacting, I was suddenly found with a further three hours to burn until the culminating meal of this most prolonged of stomach-torturing days could partake. Driving down to George's house to drop-off his devious little tempting macaroon, only to find he was absent burnt away too little time. And kept the little deviant in my possession. Tempting me. NO. I turned round and journeyed towards the destination of where a much awaited/anticipated Salt Beef dinner would partake, dropping off the "gift" macaroons at a friends' house and burning the appropriate time to at least allow for some semblance of digestion to occur before yet again consuming myself into a stuffed toy. 

Dinner, as always, was of the epic inclination at B&K Salt Beef Bar, greeted and treated as the almost celebrity/stalkers that me and Huzaifah quite rightly are in our obsession of this place, and a perfect salt beef sandwich consumed. A welcome surprise arose in the second coming of the Lokshen pudding. This time around, it was fabulous. Though, add a scope of vanilla ice-cream to Kim Jong Il, and he'd be rather fabulous too. With that, so ended a disgustingly indulgent day of exploration, with a perfect hearty, homely, and honest fare. Obviously in an attempt of blanking out memory of the trail of destruction wreaked by my exuberantly nefarious appetite. 

Boredom tastes good. 

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