One of the wonderful things about living in a big city, I suppose, is that your friends can easily find excuses to come visit you. Such has been the case so far with Turkish C and now with Hong Kong P.
Both of their teams at work have business critical reasons to send them here and as such, they get to spend time with me. This is a lovely turn of events that I did not expect. I was thinking that I would likely be getting sent to them all the time, since our offices in Helsinki are much bigger (and it seems I will be getting sent there, but not at the frequency they seem to be getting sent here). Wonderful!
Hong Kong P's arrival to my city has stirred up a lust for planning and excitement and because of who we are and who she is, this involves much foodspotting. And London is a grand place for foodspotting, especially in comparison to Helsinki.
So the adventures begin.
And our first place of eating? Ping Pong for dim sum.
An adorably modern place about a mile from our offices, we arrived there fresh from work on a Thursday evening. I was pleasantly surprised by the digs:
Similar to some of the dim sum places back at home that don't have the wandering carts, you order your food straight off of little paper menus and a handsomely provided menu with descriptions of the items. Pick and choose your favorites and consume!
One of the things I've always been meaning to try but have never gotten around to are blossoming teas. These have been a fad for years now (usually sold for home in completely clear glass tea pots, so you can watch them bloom), but apparently they have now reached the restaurant circuit in individual sizes. Hong Kong P suggested we get them and watch them unfold. It was a bit shocking watching something bloom in my tea (and admittedly it made me a bit uneasy, with my weird fear of plants), but I got over my phobia in order to enjoy the experience:
The teas themselves, both green teas (mine on the left, called dragon eye, and hers on the right, a combination of jasmine and lily), were lovely. Very soothing and wonderful, which was perfectly after the ridiculously blizzardy snowy day we'd had (it's supposed to be spring!).
We then ordered a bunch of dishes from the menu and watched them unfold before us. They came out surprisingly fast from the kitchen. Either that or we were so engrossed in our conversation that time seemed to fly (also very likely).
Roast duck rolls in flaky pastry. Gorgeous and delicious. More on the traditional side than I would have thought, and tasty. Not one of the outstanding dishes, given what else we had, but still very good.
Honey bbq spareribs. Soft meat that came off the bone very easily. The meat itself was great; very soft and easy to eat, just the right ratio of fat. The sauce was a little bit weak to me, but dipped in hoisin sauce (which came with another dish), it was fantastic. Just goes to show, the right combinations are key. And being a sauce boss is a great thing. :)
Roast duck spring rolls with cilantro and hoisin sauce. These were fantastic, and likely one of my favorites. So flavorful, I could taste the duck fat (I mean that in the best possible way). These reminded me of the duck rolls I could get back home, but put into an eggroll form, just making them easier to eat. I would eat these endlessly (a terrible idea). Definitely ate the majority of that hoisin sauce. Guess I've missed hoisin sauce more than I realized.
Vietnamese spring rolls that have been deep fried as well. These had meat and vermicelli in them with an accompanying fish sauce. They were good, since I've missed Vietnamese food as well (missed most Asian foods, realistically), but they weren't outstanding. Maybe I'm just too much of a Vietnamese food snob from all of my experience in San Diego but these didn't satisfy. A bit weak on the flavors and not enough of what I was looking for - pickled veggies, mint, and bbq flavor.
A ridiculously horrible picture of our coriander dumplings. These had cilantro and shrimp inside. Subtle and good in the right way, soft and slightly gelatinous texture, as they should. Nice. I ate it with a lot of creamy XO chili sauce. It was very pleasant.
Traditional and as-expected ha gow (shrimp dumplings). Nothing surprising or outstanding about these, but also not disappointing. I don't ever find ha gow especially one way or another, though when I have an amazing one usually I take note. These were fine - fresh and well-made but nothing to shout about.
And for dessert (since we didn't have enough eggrolls already), banana and chocolate eggrolls with vanilla icecream. I thought the icecream was particularly good but I'd already had my chocolate quota for the day (I'd nommed on some chocolate easter eggs I'd been storing at my desk since the week previous) so I thought I should hold off on the rest. I will say the eggroll skins for all of the rolls we had were perfectly fried and the flavor was great, but maybe too much of a good thing really can be too much (well...maybe ^_^).
Overall I'd say this chain did a good job with their food and I can see why it was so popular. The one thing I'd totally scold them for - their door was so difficult to open that everyone who tried to enter the restaurant couldn't figure out how to get in - including us! We pulled up in our taxi and thought the restaurant was closed because the door wouldn't open. I would have fired the person who designed and installed the doors. There is a handle on the outside, making you think that you should push the door in, but actually you should pull it. Also, despite appearances, only the left door opens instead of both the left and right. *Facepalm. Fire that guy.
Anyway, great catch up dinner with my girl Hong Kong P. And many more food and other adventures to come this weekend, as she stays at my new digs and Turkish C comes in to stay with me as well! Weekend full of adventure, coming up!