Welcome back to the column that highlights the best Eater dishes LondonStaff and contributors ate during the week. Go back to the previous one best dishes of the week here.
Wagyu ramen from Wagyumafia at Arcade Food Theater
Some weeks feel like wandering a food desert, barely a bite to eat. This week has been generous. A superb St. Honoré in Philippe Conticini’s new pastry shop in Camden: crispy tart base, choux pastry, abundant vanilla and light touch. Absolutely delicious Arayes and Merguez at Alaesh, the new opening of sabich Balady specialists at Temple Fortune; revealing and soul-satisfying Portuguese-influenced eel migas at Tātā restaurant.
But my Tuesday night was spent getting tickets for me and a friend to the ultimate Instagram hypebeast event. Wagyumafia was in town, projecting the kind of absurd stunted aesthetics that would usually guarantee tragically bad food. A counter that can accommodate 10 guests at a time in three seats, all consuming the Clerkenwell Boy and David Beckham endorsed 1 kg of giant £ 75 which is a wagyu ramen. A surprisingly light inflected wagyu broth made from real quality soy, organic cabbage, firm tsukemen-style noodles, finely chopped garlic on the side of the bowl to customize each slurp, and a good 300g of wagyu in various forms. Finely diced pieces, to be found like pearls under the noodle reef, and a chunky chest chashu on top, melting instantly like every Youtube and Insta Story has told you.
But it’s not just about what’s in the £ 75 bowl. Even though the ingredients are impeccable and the food is of a high standard, what you really pay for is the spectacle. The tired trope of chefs being rockstars now contains a ‘world tour’ phase, with Hisato Hamada growling with enough blue steel and absurd catchphrases for every camera pointed at him. That fleeting feeling of occasion and the satisfaction of the food eaten is how the moment you forget the price you paid and simply enjoy the skillfully choreographed performance in front of you. –Feroz Gajia
103 – 105 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DB
Iberian pork cheung fun at A. Wong’s
I estimate that 90% of the bad experiences people have in fine dining restaurants are not due to bad food, but to bad pace. I think it was David Kinch, from Manresa, three Michelin stars in Los Gatos, who said that a meal should not take more than two hours. More – unless people happily linger – and customers start to sense the arrival of each new dish, instead of anticipating it, starting to feel not like guests but like hostages. At A. Wong, the beat is perfect: each piece of dim sum arrives just as the sensory memory of the last one begins to fade, so the whole meal flies away like a perfectly executed video game combo. This can make choosing favorites tricky, but only in the same way that parents claim to have a hard time choosing a favorite child – there’s always an answer. At A. Wong, it’s the deconstructed take on cheung fun, an improbable architectural thing stacking the usual slippery, rippling textures with intensely caramelized Iberian pork flakes and fragrant bursts of puff pastry at the slightest hint of coconut. In less Michelin-starred restaurants, that would be a spectacle, given the appropriate 20-minute reverence window. Here, its casual and fleeting glow only makes it more devastating. –Georges reynolds
70 Wilton Road, Pimlico SW1V 1DE
Egusi at Chuku
I have a little pet peeve when something is called ‘XXX tapas’. Dim sum = Chinese tapas. Mezze plate = Greek tapas. Chuku’s, near Seven Sisters, which has just opened, has established itself as Nigerian tapas. Personal nitpicking aside, Chuku’s brings something new by pairing classic West African cuisine with London’s hottest eating habits. Of all the small plates on the menu, the egusi in the colors of the traffic lights was the star dish. A heartwarming soup of bitter melon seeds, scotch bonnet, red pepper, onion and thyme, coated in a rich palm oil burst that adds a sexy glow from all angles. Topped with three spherical mellow yam fufu, which provide a sweetness to counter the subtle bitterness of the stew. Not as springy as the QQ texture of tong yuan dessert soup dumplings, but a silky smooth chew that coats the tongue and hugs your esophagus as it descends. Dainty and cute, it’s a smart introduction to facilitate those new to Nigerian cuisine. –Angela Hui
274 High Road, Seven Sisters N15 4AJ
Arayes to Alaesh
The intersection of my Temple Fortune dentist advising me to have a big lunch before my wisdom teeth pop out with Balady Alaesh’s opening couldn’t have been more perfectly synchronized. Alaesh, which roughly means ‘over / over’ for grilling, is falafel specialist Balady’s response to a demand for more meat and fish, meaning the original Balady will go fully vegetarian and Alaesh a kind of low budget Barbary. With half an hour to kill, order just about the entire menu: Moroccan cigars full of chewy meat, thick hummus topped with short simmered ribs or grilled chicken thighs. The best thing is the arais / arayes, the pan-Arab snack that every country wants to claim as their own but most likely originated in Lebanon. A sort of burger where the patty and the grilled pita are fused into an inseparable mass, much like a McDonalds Double Cheeseburger after being left on the heating platter for a while. The twist here is that it’s not about the mince, but the slow cooked short rib that broke into wet strands, along with the smoked pita, which was crispy and charred, soaking up all the juices and the fat as the meat permeates from the inside out. It is an unparalleled fast food. Alaesh’s best expression right now is ordering a large version, complemented by its peerless chips. –Jonathan nunn
756 Finchley Road, Temple Fortune NW11 7TH
Dan dan noodles in Mao Chow
Do you know when the wind is so strong and cold that you can’t move your face? It was like that on Saturday night when I introduced myself to Mao Chow, my expression remained as if I had had shady fillings. But after waiting by the open kitchen for a seat at the vegan Chinese restaurant and a beer in line, my cheeks started to thaw. A lively conversation flowed over dumplings of sweet cabbage and ginger and sour cucumber, spicy and sprinkled with peanuts. But when the bowl of dan dan noodles was put down, a heartwarming silence fell. Doubts about not being able to finish the entire dish were quickly banished and tunnel vision ensued. The noodles were deliciously chewy and al dente; nutty and flavorful sauce with just a slight kick. I wish it was a Mary poppins bag of a bowl that would never end. The background playlist of powerful drum solos and guitar shredding was particularly apt. –Skinny daisy
159A Mare Street, Hackney E8 3RD