Sunday, 28 January 2018

Mount Fuji, Cardiff Japanese restaurant review

If you want to visit an independent restaurant in Cardiff's St David’s 2 then the pickings are pretty slim.

Mount Fuji is one option. Open since 2013, they have a sister restaurant in Birmingham and a parent company that imports and sells Japanese green tea.

The menu features bento boxes, noodles, sushi and curries, with more unusual dishes including takoyaki octopus dumplings and hoji-cha roasted green tea ice cream.

I kicked off with a Kirin (£3.75) whilst Mrs G had a Sapporo Premium (£4.85).

Tuna sashimi (£6.25) was impeccably fresh, tender and meaty. Salmon and avocado rolls (£4.65) were good but a bit messy to eat as they fell apart easily. 

Tempura vegetables (£6.95) were lovely - an interesting selection of butternut squash, courgette, aubergine, mushroom and sweet potato were coated in a light, crisp and un-greasy batter.

Mrs G won on mains. Curry udon noodles (£11.85) distilled the essence of Japanese curry into a soup format. The sweet, warm-spiced broth contained udon noodles with good bite, soft onions and tomatoes. Pieces of chicken karaage, which bobbed on the surface, were pleasingly tender. Whilst its golden batter gradually become soggy it added a good flavour dimension. 

I ordered the Kyushu tonkotsu ramen (£12.65). I believe Mount Fuji is the only place in Cardiff that serves this style of ramen which took London by storm a few years back. The rich broth is made by boiling pork bones for ages until the collagen, fat and marrow is released and a milky liquid is created.

Mount Fuji’s iteration was enjoyably smooth and creamy but it didn’t have the same meaty intensity as the version I ate at Bone Daddies. A good scattering of Japanese mixed spices (chilli, orange peel, ginger and sesame) perked the dish up nicely. Belly pork pieces, slippery noodles, crisp beansprouts, briny seaweed, diced spring onion and a bonus pair of fragrant chicken and leek gyoza were all hard to fault. 

We had good dinner at Mount Fuji. It’s not my favourite Japanese food in Cardiff but it’s a commendable independent island in a sea of chains.

The Details:

Address - Mount Fuji Cardiff Restaurant, St David's 2 Shopping Centre, Cardiff CF10 2EF
Telephone - 0292 0340333

Mount Fuji Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Keralan Karavan, Cardiff pop-up Indian restaurant review

*Update* - Keralan Karavan now have a permanent residency at Small Bar (great news). They are open for lunch and dinner Friday, Saturday and Sunday and dinner the rest of the week.

Keralan Karavan is the brainchild of Krish Pankaj.

A former owner and chef at the sadly departed Spiceberry, he’s served his South Indian homestyle cooking at a number of pop-ups in Cardiff over the last couple of years.

They currently have a kitchen takeover at the brilliant Small Bar in Cardiff city centre, running every day until Sunday 28 January.

To accompany our food, Mrs G inhaled a can of Northern Monk x Deya Hops Rye IPA, a staggeringly good beer with heaps of stone fruits and a peppery twang. The designated driver (myself) had a half of slightly sweet and farmyardy Hallets perry. 

Keralan Fried Chicken (£3.50) saw tender, moreish pieces of meat coated in a fine golden crumb spiced with fennel powder and red chilli. It was served with a drizzle of tangy mango chutney and a light slaw topped with fragrant nigella seeds. 

Kottayam-style beef pepper roast (£4.50) comprised of yielding pieces of beef coated in a light yet deeply spiced paste heady with the warmth of black pepper and the fragrance of ginger and curry leaf. 

Our Maharaja’s curry bowls for mains were a cornucopia of delights. Each included fluffy rice, bubbly poppadom tubes drizzled with mango chutney, a crisp and soft chapatti and a generous quantity of flavour-packed curry. 

Mrs G had Aunty Maria’s beef curry (£7.95). A big flavoured meaty dish, the soft slow-cooked pieces of beef were bathed in a sauce twanged with coconut and spice. 

'Dagadfool' Malabar chicken curry (£7.95) combined loads of chicken in a creamy coconut gravy fragranced with 18 spices including the woody aroma of dagadfool (a species of lichen). I don’t really have a clue what the other 17 spices were but the flavour combination kicked ass. 

A side of banana blossom thoran (£4) was arguably the standout of the night. The soft slightly-bitter banana blossom (it reminded me of spinach) combined beautifully with the sweetness of grated coconut and a big thwack of chilli. 

A mango cheesecake (£4) paired a super-light creamy and tangy lassi-like topping with an enjoyably unsweet chocolate biscuit base. A drizzle of sweet mango coulis, pieces of coconut and pretty basil seeds finished off the dish. 

There was a minor issue with one of the small plates and thoran arriving after we’d pretty much finished the rest of the food. But, it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of our delicious meal. 

Keralan Karavan's food is a winter-warming flavour-packed treat and it’s great value to boot. If you're a curry fiend then it's definitely worth checking out. 

The Details:

Address - Currently at Small Bar Cardiff, 17 Church Street, Cardiff CF101BG
Telephone - 07774820289

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Yang's, Cardiff Chinese restaurant review

Alongside Riverside Cantonese and Happy Gathering, Yang's forms Cardiff’s trinity of prominent old skool Chinese restaurants.

Having originally opened in Barry in 1998, the family-run restaurant relocated to Cardiff’s Penarth Road in 2005.

Whilst the menu includes familiar Cantonese, Peking, Szechuan and Hong Kong style dishes there’s a smattering of more unusual offerings including spicy soft shell crab and West Lake beef soup.

As a group of 15 nursing New Year’s Eve hangovers, we kept it simple and ordered the very good value and generously portioned special party menu (£20 per person, minimum 8 persons).

A laundry basket of prawn crackers were warm and grease free.

Mixed starters included all the classics - good vegetable spring rolls, prawn toast and crispy seaweed. The standouts were uber-crisp yet tender sticky King Do ribs and chicken satay drenched in a deep-flavoured peanut sauce. 

A generous quantity of aromatic crispy duck and cumin-spiced Mongolian lamb were both crisp of skin and tender of flesh. 

Mongolian lamb

They were served with a soft pancakes (that were replenished on demand), sweet and tangy hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onion. 

Crispy duck

Like all the best Chinese restaurants the sauces on the main dishes were light instead of gloopy and there was no onslaught of MSG.

The standout was tender beef and green peppers in black bean sauce with an unexpected thwack of chilli. 

Crispy beef in peking sauce delivered on its billing. Too often this dish is disappointingly limp. 

Yeung Chow fried rice was flecked with a cornucopia of delights including shrimp, roast pork, omelette and peas.

Chicken with cashew nuts was enjoyably bland, the crisp nuts and al dente vegetables all left to do their thing. It was served in a crisp noodle birds nest that was more style over substance. 

Cantonese sweet and sour chicken had a pleasing tang and crunchy vegetables but the batter could have been crisper. 

We finished the meal with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

We really enjoyed our meal at Yang's. The service was also great and the prices good to boot. In fact, I preferred it to my most recent meals at the erratic Riverside Cantonese and ever reliable Happy Gathering.

The Details:

Address - Yang's, 189-189A Penarth Rd, Cardiff CF11 6FR
Telephone - 029 2066 6188

Yang's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Root, Bristol restaurant review

My New Year’s resolutions tend to quickly crash and burn. 

In 2016 I failed to eat out in Bristol more often.

In 2017 I didn’t eat less meat. 

In an attempt to partly put things right, my final meal out in 2017 was at Root, a vegetable-focused restaurant in Bristol. 

Root is located in the funky Wapping Wharf cargo container development. Heading up the kitchen is 25-year old Rob Howell, previously head chef at the Michelin-starred Pony & Trap. 

The small plate menu puts vegetables front and centre. However, for dedicated carnivores there are a handful of meat and fish dishes tucked away at the bottom of the menu. 

Whilst 2-3 dishes per person is recommended, Mrs G and I flexed our waistbands and had a feast.

Super-light and creamy whipped cod’s roe (£4) had just the right balance of fish and salt. It was served with first rate sourdough. 

A gorgeously savoury mushroom duxelle (£7) was topped with creamy Jerusalem artichoke puree, a luxuriously runny fried egg, crunchy artichoke crisps and shavings of raw mushroom. 

Soft and earthy beetroot pieces (£6.50) were flecked with the crunch of hazelnut and sweetness of blackberry. Discs of pickled beetroot brought balance to the dish but the advertised seaweed was anonymous.

A lush smokey aubergine puree (£6.50) was topped with slices of charred aubergine, tangy pickled ewe’s curd, sweet date pieces and crisp sourdough croutons. 

A deep flavoured onglet tartare (£7) was well-seasoned with the classic accompaniments of red onion, caper and mustard. A bundle of crisp shoestring potatoes provided great texture contrast.

I don’t think I’ve ever had salsify (£6) other than in a puree. I’ve been missing out. The sweet, firm-textured root vegetable was served as a hyper-crisp tempura and a herb-marinated piece. It was joined by briny anchovies and uber-savoury parmesan. 

A pair of crisp-skinned Cornish sardines (£5) were as perfectly fresh as you could hope for. They were served with a simple squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of smoked rapeseed oil. 

Sweet parsnips and soft pears (£7) were matched with delicately acidic pickled artichokes, pokey stilton pieces and parsnip crisps. 

An uber-smooth, tangy and creamy lemon posset (£6) was up there with the best Mrs G has ever eaten. It was topped with blobs of lemon curd and pretty shards of meringue. 

My dessert was infused with the warmth of sweet booze. A crisp-based vanilla cheesecake (£6.50) was topped with sherry jelly and served with punchy sherry puree and soaked raisins. 

The final (and totally unnecessary) dessert for the table was a a textbook squidgy, current-spiked spotted dick (£6) that was accompanied by hyper-smooth vanilla-fragranced custard.

We had a fantastic meal at Root. In fact, it’s the kind of bold-flavoured and interestingly-textured food that would make it easy for me to eat less meat. Hopefully more places of its ilk will spring up. 

The Details:

Address - Root, Cargo, Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf, Bristol BS1 6WP
Telephone - 0117 930 0260