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Archive for March, 2010

translados procession in Malaga, semana santa 2010

Last Saturday, seeking sunshine and tapas, I flew to Malaga, Spain to join Jon for the tail end of his work trip there. Although Malaga gets 300 days of sunshine a year, I managed to arrive on a rainy afternoon. But despite the damp weather, I had plenty of tasty tapas and managed to catch a few translados processions (in which religious statues are moved from churches to the houses of brotherhoods who will end up carrying the statues on elaborate floats during Semana Santa), so on the whole, an excellent 24 hours in Malaga.

Where to Eat:

Although I wasn’t in town for very long, because tapas lends itself to progressive eating (i.e., hopping from one place to another), Jon and I managed to try five different places in town, and of these, the two we liked best were Marisqueria Casa Vicente and La Moraga.

boquerones at Casa Vicente, Malaga

A marisqueria is a seafood restaurant/bar, and we were drawn to Marisqueria Casa Vicente by the long queues of Spanish families that Jon had spotted there at lunchtime. There was no space at Casa Vicente’s small bar when we arrived at 10 pm, so we took a seat at one of the many plastic tables in the charmless dining room (across the alley from the bar and kitchen).

None of the waiters spoke English, (and in case pointing at dishes at neighboring tables is not your thing, the menu has photos, though the photos are pretty bad) but happily, Jon and I knew what we wanted before we even sat down: the boquerones frito (fried anchovies). Even more happily, Casa Vicente’s were great. Meaty, juicy anchovies encased in a light, crispy batter. Squeeze of lemon. Done. 9 euros got us an enormous pile of these. We liked Casa Vicente’s no-frills charm so much that we went back the next day for a late lunch.

gazpacho with queso fresco at La Moraga

La Moraga Gastrobar was in many ways the polar opposite of Casa Vicente. Where Casa Vicente served traditional, no-fuss seafood snacks, La Moraga aspired to be 100% creativity and trendiness. Croquetas with ham in the middle? So two centuries ago. At La Moraga, croquetas were filled with pork loin or Cartama blood sausage. The crowd was trendy and Spanish-speaking, and wines-by-the-glass included several quality Ribera del Duero offerings.

We had to throw a few elbows to get a spot at the bar, but that’s part of the fun, lol. Best of all, the majority of dishes cost less than 5 euros, so with three tapas and a glass of wine, we were in and out for 25 euros, total. A great place to be at 10:30 on a Saturday night.

interior of Bodegas El Pimpi

Worth a stop for drinks:

Bodegas El Pimpi. It’s in all the guidebooks, and the barrels of house wine are signed by celebrities (i.e., lots of bull fighters and the occasional local boy made good – like Antonio Banderas), so it can feel a bit cheesy. But it’s centrally located; prices are good, and the interior is, overall, atmospheric. Jon and I tried a few Malaga sweet wines here, and none cost more than a fiver, so that was also a plus.

Two places to avoid:

We stopped off at Pepa y Pepe (because I’d read this description on Lonely Planet suggesting it was a chill, typical tapas bar) and waited ages to be served even though the waiter passed by us a million times. He kept giving us the universal “I’ll be right with you” gesture, but after the sixth or seventh one of those, we just got up and left. Maybe the food is good, but oh well.

Bar Orellana is across the street from La Moraga, and although it looked a bit seedy, we dropped by because this March 2009 Guardian article talked it up. The place was packed so Jon was the only one strong enough to push his way to the bar and I hung back near the door, trying to avoid being trampled to death. He ordered a stuffed squid tapas that really looked and tasted awful. Slathered in a goopy brown sauce, the squid had been filled with minced pork, sliced, and served room temperature. I longed to be back across the street at La Moraga.

Picasso Museum in Picasso's hometown of Malaga

Things to do in Malaga:

Malaga had plenty to keep us entertained for a weekend. Picasso was born in Malaga, and the city’s Picasso Museum is peaceful and manageable, showing works he painted from as early as 1894 through to the 1970s. After an hour, I felt like I understood the ways his work changed over time.

The Al Cazaba didn’t hold a candle to Granada’s Alhambra, mostly because Al Cazaba’s interior is bare and undecorated, but it’s quiet and peaceful, so not a bad way to spend an hour.

Feeling a bit bored, we undertook the steeper climb to Gibralfaro Castle, which was nice for the exercise, but an otherwise unimpressive destination. The only reason to make the climb is for views of the city and port. Eh.

If the weather had been nicer, the beach would have been appealing, too. It’s not white sand (this is Europe, after all), but it’s long and there’s a pretty, tiled boardwalk running alongside, which I could see being pleasant.

Overall, Malaga was worth visiting (perhaps as part of a tour of Andalucia, generally), but I liked Granada and Seville more.

Marisqueria Casa Vicente, Calle Comisario, Malaga; +34 952 225 397

La Moraga, Calle Fresca, 12, Malaga; +34 952 226 851

Flights from Malaga to London take just over 2 1/2 hours, and Malaga Airport has recently opened a snazzy, gleaming new terminal that includes an outpost of La Moraga (which wasn’t bad). To reach Malaga center city, I caught the no. 19 public bus for 1.10 euros right in front of the arrivals building. It couldn’t have been easier (or cheaper).

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beef tartare, pickled kohlrabi, black truffle sauce

Last Friday, I celebrated my friend L’s birthday in style with dinner at the Greenhouse, Michelin-starred in Mayfair. It wasn’t our first choice, but we’d struck out at the Ledbury and Marcus Wareing, and although I’d never before heard much about the Greenhouse, because of several strong recs in comments left on this blog, we gave it a go.

The restaurant is located off Hay’s Mews, which is a dark alley made none the cheerier by rain, and if it weren’t Mayfair, I’d have been reluctant to venture down it. Happily, once you turn onto the small garden path that leads you to the restaurant (which appears to be the basement floor of a block of flats), things become much more pleasant.

Having chosen the tasting menu (£80), L and I settled down to aperitifs and three amuses: (1) Sweet onion and watercress soup, which tasted only of watercress and so could’ve been sweeter and seasoned more; (2) crabmeat wrapped in jicama and topped with salmon roe, which was wonderfully refreshing and colorful; and (3) foie gas mousse wedged in between two lacy butter crisps dyed with squid ink (surf ‘n’ turf!), which was as fatty and rich as the crabmeat was light and refreshing.

Sometime during these preliminaries, we noticed that two portions of butter had been left on our table, but at no point were we offered bread.  We weren’t hungry so we didn’t say anything, but it seemed a big lapse not to have been offered bread, especially because the butters looked so tempting.

My first course of beef tartare (pictured at top) was a nice surprise – more a delicately-dressed beef carpaccio than the lump of mince I’d expected.  The black truffle sauce added a rich, earthy dimension to the light and zingy slices of beef.

mackerel, apple puree

A second course of mackerel was sliced and plated to look like sardines, which was visually entertaining.  The apple puree and crunchy nuts (?) under the mackerel added lightness and texture to the otherwise-meaty fish.

steamed brill, Thai curry, Kabocha pumpkin, crayfish and basil

From the description on the menu, I was sure this course, a steamed fish, would bore me to tears, but the intensity of the Thai curry balanced perfectly the delicate fillet of brill.  The curry sauce was fragrant but light – not thick or too sweet  despite the strong aroma of ginger and coconut.  This fish course is the best I’ve had in ages. 

pan-fried duck foie gras, rhubarb fondant, Chioggia beetroot

I loved the presentation of the foie gras course, mostly because at a quick glance, it looked like suckling pig.  But the filmy “skin” sitting atop the foie gras was an off-putting texture.  It brought to mind the scummy skin that forms on cheap instant chocolate pudding.  I did, however, like how the sweet beetroot complemented the foie – a nice change from all that quince and fig you usually get on the side.

roast pigeon, pomegranate, turnip puree, almond, giblet and pancetta jus

The pigeon didn’t look like much, but it was wonderfully tender and juicy, helped along by the almond, giblet and pancetta jus, no doubt.

snix: chocolate, salted caramel and peanuts

Dessert was a ‘snix,’ which seemed very American what with the combination of peanuts and chocolate.  The peanutty oatmeal biscuit layer of the dessert ‘sandwich’ was too dry and gritty even with the ice cream.  What it should’ve tasted like are the Do-Si-Do’s sold by the Girl Scouts of America.   Luckily the salted caramel ice cream was genius.

The Greenhouse’s wine list was supremely impressive, offering dozens of bottles even from unexpected places like Lebanon and India.  We loved browsing it, though ultimately we asked our sommelier to recommend a full-bodied white for our meal (and she came up with a good one that tasted almost meaty and fell well within our stated price range).

Overall, I had a wonderful time at the Greenhouse – much better than my dinner last month at two-starred Hibiscus.  Although I hated our table at the Greenhouse (right next to the doors to the kitchen and within view of the till), the pacing of our dinner at the Greenhouse was perfect (a little under four hours).  At Hibiscus, we shoveled down just as many courses in 2.5 hours, which wasn’t particularly relaxing.

I think the cooking at Hibiscus is more exciting than what I experienced at the Greenhouse (e.g., I’m still dreaming of that truffle-egg yolk-potato ravioli at Hibiscus), but the cooking at the Greenhouse was consistently well done (particular shout out to the sauces, which were all distinct and well matched to what was on the plate).  At these prices, though, it’s only partly about the food, and I loved taking my time at the Greenhouse.

With aperitifs, a £70 bottle of wine and bottled water, we paid £146  each.

The Greenhouse, 27a Hay’s Mews, W1J 5N; +44 (0)20 7499 3331; closest tube station: Green Park
Greenhouse on Urbanspoon

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Dean Street Townhouse interior (photo from the restaurant via Zagat.com)

Saturday night.  Where to go?   Soho.  Looking for someplace stylish and fun but that also serves good food.  A tall order.  Cue the Dean Street Townhouse, which the pros (like the anonymous folks at TimeOut) have universally praised, and which the bloggers have given mixed reviews.

One thing everyone can agree on:  the place deserves its high marks for decor and buzz.  The be-hatted man at the door at DTH  reminded me of the bowler-hatted guy greeting diners at Galvin La Chapelle, and I do tend to like what the Galvin brothers get up to.  When I stepped through the doorway into the restaurant, I immediately felt like having a good time.  A good Saturday night pick.

Our group of five ordered a round of aperitifs and then got down to the business of ordering off DTH’s menu of English classics, which meant that everything looked like what you’d find at a gastropub.  Except priced higher because DTH is a see-and-be-seen sort of place.

scallops starter (£5.50 per scallop)

Starters were good, but not great.  Two friends were winners of the evening’s prize for best starter by sticking with oysters on the half shell.  Fresh briney treats beautifully presented.  A generous portion of prawn-and-avocado for £9 included prawns that tasted a tad mushy, but the light dressing and lovely, creamy-ripe avocados saved the dish.  My scallops were slightly rubbery but were doused in so much butter and bacon that it was hard to tell.  Bacon covers a lot of sins.  Generally, the starters were so-so unless you stuck with the oysters.

duck breast with caramelized quince (£21.50)

For mains, our server highly recommended the duck breast over the chicken-and-leek pie.  His rationale started with “the ladies all love duck” and ended with “it’s really good.”  And yup, it was good, with most of the fat having been rendered and the meat juicy and pink.  Another huge portion, though.

Mains, generally, seemed better priced than starters, mostly because there was such a wide range of prices to choose from.  One friend ordered fish and chips for £13.75 (fish was moist and batter crispy); another two ordered fish courses for £16-17; and yet another tried the most expensive item, the rib steak with bearnaise and fries, topping out at £26.50.  The consensus was that the food was good.  Not the best you’ve ever had, but far far from the worst.

chocolate mousse with blood oranges (£5.50)

Our starters and mains had been so generously sized that it was tough to make room for dessert.  My shared mousse was more like a gelato than a light-and-fluffy mousse, but rich, bitter chocolate in gelato form is no bad thing, even if it’s not mousse.

Side dishes, each priced at £4, weren’t worth the extra money.  Creamed spinach was all butter, little cream; mashed potatoes came lukewarm and dense.  Cauliflower cheese was the best of the bunch but I’d rather have macraoni in there over cauliflower, really.  We’d ordered greens, which thankfully never came.  (My exchange with the server when ordering the greens went like this, by the way — Me:  “What kind of greens are they?”  Server:  “They’re greens.”  Helpful.)

Best deals of the night were our wines, which went well with our dinner and each cost £25.  For generous amounts of generally-good food,  aperitifs and wine, we paid £56 a person.

Overall, DTH was comparable in price, atmosphere and quality-of-cooking to Galvin Bistro de Luxe, except Soho is more fun on a Saturday night than Baker Street.  (Well, and the food at Galvin Bistro de Luxe, while comparable, is better, really).  Given the noise level, DTH isn’t a good choice for a quiet night out with the love of your life, but for catching up with a group of friends, I’d be glad to return.

Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, W1D 3SE; 0207 434 1775; closest tube station: Leicester Square
Dean Street Townhouse on Urbanspoon

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Corso Italia in Cortina with Dolomites in the background

Just a few final notes on picture-perfect Cortina in case you’re thinking of planning a trip there (you should).

We stayed at the Hotel Corona, which is a 10-minute walk from the pedestrianized center of Cortina.  Our group booked the hotel through a travel agent, who definitely exaggerated its virtues.  Jon and I paid £200 a night for half-board, meaning breakfast and dinner were included.  On the plus side, there’s a ski bus stop right in front of the hotel, and the owner/manager is super helpful and speaks perfect English, as did a waitress in the hotel restaurant who we came to enjoy speaking with.  On the down side, the rooms were pretty spare (we were put in an Annex to the hotel) and we didn’t value having a hotel-provided dinner, though out of laziness and a sense that it would be a waste of money otherwise, we ate in the hotel most nights.  The meals provided weren’t bad, but they weren’t memorable, either.

If I were choosing a hotel based solely on location (and knowing nothing else about these hotels), I thought the Hotel Cortina and the Hotel de la Poste were ideally situated, smack in the middle of Cortina’s pedestrianized Corso Italia.

piste taking us back into town

Jon and I are unambitious skiers, so we prioritized finding (1) long, scenic, easy trails (of which there are plenty in Cortina) and (2) delicious lunches (of which there are plenty in Cortina).  The views in all directions were gorgeous; the  snow was powdery; and the sun shone bright on most days of our trip.  We lucked out tremendously.  And the private instructor who helped refresh our skills encouraged us to ski the easy slopes around the Olimpia lift (just west of the main Socrepes lift), and he was, of course, dead right.  The slopes were beautiful and empty despite the high-season crowds on the surrounding slopes (though not even those slopes felt particularly crowded).

Ski passes for all the Cortina lifts/mountains are sold at an office near the bus station just north of the town center (near the Faloria gondola) and in high season cost about 45 euros a day, decreasing in daily cost as you increase the number of days on your ski pass.

spaghetti alla bottarga at Leone & Anna

The two nights we ate dinner in “downtown” Cortina were pretty eh experiences, and one was an expensive enough mistake that I figure I’ll put future diners on warning:

Leone & Anna came highly recommended by a friend of a friend.  And on TripAdvisor, it was rated the best restaurant out of 24 in Cortina.  Because the place is Sardinian, I thought the food would be a nice change from the heavier Northern Italian fare we’d been eating the previous nights, so I booked it.

Our group of seven took a taxi there (it’s about an 8-euro ride  from the center of Cortina), and when we sat down, there were plates of antipasti already laid out on the table.  Initially, I thought it was just a generous offering covered by coperto, but not only were the antipasti not free, but also servers kept appearing with more, and we didn’t know how to say “no.”  Most of the antipasti tasted fine, but the total bill for antipasti alone came to 70 euros, which annoyed me.  I would’ve preferred ordering what we liked from the menu, rather than having the burden of having to turn un-asked-for food away.  It all seemed a bit tricky by the resto.  Although I enjoyed my spaghetti alla bottarga, prices were well in the 20+ euros range for main courses.  Overall, not happy with the experience, especially for 69 euros a person for antipasti, a main course, and three cheap bottles of wine.

Apes-Ski in Cortina

In terms of apres-ski, when the lifts shut down at 4:30 pm, skiers would stick around at nearby rifugios for a beer, but even those rifugios shut down soon afterwards (and the ski bus back into Cortina center became very infrequent).

Back in Cortina center, we dropped by a few bars (some of which came highly recommended) , but most of the spaces were small and therefore quickly grew packed.

Places that we tried for apres-ski:

Cristallino Disco Bar:  While this place had a lot of attitude on Saturday night (in a bad way), in reality it was just a waiting area for those who wanted to head over to VIP Club once it opened at 11:30.  On other evenings, though, if you ignored the ever-turning, slightly-depressing disco ball, the place had a nice, relaxed apres-ski feel.  A surprise winner for a weeknight drink.

Enoteca Brio Duino:  A small enoteca, so get there early to snag a booth.  The charcuterie and cheeses made for great snacking, as did the range of local wines on offer.  About ten minutes after we sat down at a booth, the place became extremely crowded with a mix of people dressed in sporty ski togs and elegant outfits (the older Italian ladies dressed in their furs were so retro I couldn’t help smiling).

The bar at Hotel de la Poste:  We dropped by on Saturday evening and discovered it was (1) pretty dead and (2) populated exclusively by the 50-and-over crowd.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but just not our age demographic.

LP 26:  Bigger than most places in Cortina and recognizable by the hams hanging in the windows.  Not especially chic or lively despite the tables being full, but at least they serve beer and there are customers in theirs 20s and 30s there.

VIP Club at Hotel Europa:  this was supposed to be *the* place to be on Saturday night, opening at 11:30 pm.  So we showed up at around midnight and discovered the act of the evening was country music-sounding.  Not what we were expecting.

Cortina was a great destination for skiing, and based on our lunches, it was a superior place for eating.  Dinners in town weren’t half as impressive as the food offered on the slopes, and apres-ski was pretty quiet, but even so, I’d go back in a hearbeat.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also enjoy reading about Baita Pie’ Tofana, a rifugio serving top-notch food in Cortina.

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Baita Pie Tofana, a rifugio (hut) near the Rumerlo chair lift

Jon and I spent last week skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo and despite some residual soreness (seriously, I must have thighs of steel now), I loved every minute of our trip.

I grew up skiing almost once a week in the ultra-icy Poconos, which means that while I know how to ski, I have long associated the sport with anything except glamor and fun.  But when our friend, Jane, proposed a group ski trip and responded enthusiastically to the idea of going to Cortina, I jumped at the chance to experience a little dolce vita on the slopes.  Cortina, several friends had told me, was a great place to ski if you value eating as much as (or more than) skiing.

And just 24 hours after we’d booked our flights to Venice, this article (“Fresh Powder Meets Fine Dining in Cortina d’Ampezzo”) appeared in the New York Times travel section.  Thus validating the feeling that we were on to a good thing.

As the article describes, in Cortina, there are lots of rifugios (huts) where you can eat on the slopes.   A few Cortina rifugios serve what you’d expect at a ski resort – sausages, schnitzel, french fries – all self-service on trays.  But others, like the ones written up in that New York Times article, serve high-quality, delicious northern Italian food, sometimes on white tablecloths.

The rifugio that caught our fancy so much that we ate lunch there three times was, surprisingly, not mentioned in the New York Times article:  Baita Pie’ Tofana.

A friend of a friend owns a house in Cortina, and he recommended Baita Pie’ Tofana as not just the best rifugio in the mountains, but also the best restaurant in Cortina.  So despite having to ski down a few steeper-than-we’d-like bits to reach Baita Pie’ Tofana, Jon and I showed up for lunch on Day 1 of our ski trip, and three lunches later, Baita Pie’ Tofana holds a special place in our hearts.

radicchio and speck salad dressed in balsamic vinegar (16.50 euros)

Our favorite starter was a warm salad comprised of radicchio and speck, both popular local ingredients.  Setting aside the axiom that all things cooked with bacon are winners, this salad was a masterpiece of textures and flavors.  The mildly-bitter, crunchy radicchio complemented and balanced out the crispy speck and tangy-sweet vinegar.  Of course, eating it outside on a sunny deck with views of the mountains and to a soundtrack of happy Italian diners helps.  Perfetto.

speck and aubergine gnocchi (12.50 euros)

Given the kitchen’s masterful way with speck, it’s no surprise that I also loved Pie’ Tofana’s homemade, pillowy-soft gnocchi with speck and aubergine.

casunziei all'ampezzana (beetroot-filled ravioli) (12.50 euros)

I’m not a lover of beetroot and left to my own devices wouldn’t order it when there is speck on offer, but casunziei all’ampezzana is the local specialty, so Jon and I gave it a try.  The beetroot filling was, as expected, sugary, but the dish was saved from cloying sweetness by salty Parmesan and nutty poppy seeds.

bigoli (bucatini) (12.50 euros)

Everyone loves a mountain of snowy Parmesan curls on their rustic bigoli served in a spicy tomato sauce, no?

tagliatelle with veal sweetbreads and black truffle (18 euros)

And on our last day in Cortina, we pushed the boat out and ordered the tagliatelle with veal sweetbreads and black truffle.  The kitchen was generous with the black truffle, and the woody-mushroom shavings mixed well with the creamy sweetbreads.  Definitely not your everyday ski fare.

ossobuco with saffron risotto (22 euros)

Ossobuco needs no introduction, but Baita Pie’ Tofana’s version included the biggest portion of marrow-in-the-bone that it has ever been my pleasure to scoop out and savor.  And because I was skiing in between meals, there was no guilt.  Score.

il coniglio (21 euros)

Despite its somewhat bizarre presentation (i.e., the rabbit bacon cone shoved into the polenta mound), Il Coniglio (rabbit served three ways) was another standout.  There were roasted rabbit ribs and a juicy, meaty portion of rabbit loin stuffed with rabbit liver.

mignardises

And there can’t be many places on the slopes that end your meal with mignardises.

Jon and I loved eating at Pie’ Tofana.  It wasn’t just the food that won us over, but also the unique experience of sitting down for a fine meal dressed in grubby, sweaty ski clothes while taking in the mountain scenery and sunshine.  Servers were always polite and professional, and by Lunch Number 2, they gave us a lot less attitude for not having made a reservation in advance.

The only downside to Pie’ Tofana was the price tag.  For the quality, the food was reasonably-priced, but I’ll admit I was annoyed by the 5-euro-per-person coperto (a bit high, I thought) and 4.50 per bottle of water (because God forbid you can successfully order tap water in Italy).  Jon and I generally each had a pasta and shared a main and starter.  With a shared glass of wine, our lunch tabs averaged 65-70 euros for two.

So if you’re an easy-going skier but a champion eater, get thee to Cortina, and be sure to stop by Baita Pie’ Tofana.

Baita Pie’ Tofana, Cortina d’Ampezzo, at the base of the Rumerlo chair lift and easily reachable from the easy slopes of Socrepes; +39 0436 4258.  [And Cortina is a relatively-straightforward 2-hour drive north from Venice Marco Polo Airport.]

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cooks at Needoo Grill, hard at work

It’s taken me months to get to Needoo Grill, mostly because it’s located just around the corner from its famous sibling, New Tayyabs. In other words, if I’m in Whitechapel craving tandoor, I usually end up at tried-and-true Tayyabs despite its brutally-long queues.

Two Fridays ago, Jon and I finally willed ourselves to forgo Tayyabs and try out Needoo Grill, which is owned by the former manager of Tayyabs (Needoo is apparently his nickname).

Having apparently forgotten that we were merely a party of two, Jon and I ordered veg samosas, seek kebabs, grilled lamb chops, karahi lamb, a special of the day (haleem), aubergine dal, peshwari naan, regular naan and rice pilau. Frighteningly, we ate it all.

lamb chops (£5) and seek kebabs (80p each) at Needoo Grill

Needoo Grill’s seek kebabs were as juicy and spicy as they are at Tayyabs, but Needoo’s lamb chops varied from tough to top-notch.  A few of the chops were covered in too much marinade, though I realize some people don’t believe you can ever have too much marinade.

chili paneer tikka (£2.50)

Paneer was wonderfully smoky and spicy.

dal baingun (aubergine dal) (£4.50)

I’d hoped to eat a dal makhni, which is the dark, buttery lentil dish that takes ages to make at home. But Needoo had run out (really?), so Jon and I ordered the aubergine dal (dal baingun) on the strength of Food Stories calling it “one of the best I’ve ever eaten”.  The smoky, silky aubergine added great texture and flavor to the yellow lentils, and it is indeed a delicious dish.  But it’s no dal makhni.  Sniff.

Karahi lamb (£5.50)

Friday's special of the day: haleem (£5.50)

The special-of-the-day was haleem, a thick, meaty paste.  Apparently you make haleem by braising meat (here, lamb) for hours with lentils, and then you puree the whole thing.  For me, eating pureed meat brings to mind unpleasant visions of living in an old person’s home, so Jon and I mixed our haleem with the karahi lamb dish we’d ordered, and that worked out better for us.  Haleem seems like it’d be an acquired taste.

peshwari naan (£2)

I’m a sucker for the sweet nuttiness of peshwari naan, but ordering an entire portion for myself was too much.  I liked that Needoo’s version was studded with fennel seeds to add a light fragrance to the sugary filling, but fennel seeds or no, the peshwari naan was too heavy for me to eat it solo.

Overall, eating at Needoo Grill was a pleasant experience.  Our servers were a lot less harried than they are at Tayyabs, and they took the time to make recommendations and answer questions.  The lamb chops might not be as consistently good as they are at Tayyabs, but everything else we tried was comparable.  And you definitely can’t beat Needoo’s prices.  Our tab for enough food to feed three was £35.

Needoo Grill, 87 New Road, E1 1HH; 020 7247 0648; closest tube station: Whitechapel

Needoo Grill on Urbanspoon

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