Thursday, 28 July 2016

Event: Birmingham Caribbean Festival

This weekend sees Birmingham Caribbean Festival return to Centenary Square. From Friday 29th- Sunday 31st July, you will be able to sample the best in Caribbean food, drink and culture. The festival was set up in 2011 to showcase Caribbean cuisine to other communities in the region. This year, the festival have launched an App (available on the Apple and Android stores) which they are hoping will continue the aims of the festival across the year.

I went along to the launch of said app, where I was also treated to plenty of delicious samples of Caribbean food and drinks. It was held at Le Monde, a splendid seafood restaurant in Brindley Place. We tried some fantastic Caribbean-inspired seafood, including Jerk Prawns, fishcakes and monkfish.

It actually took place on the EU referendum day so I'd had the day off work, which was nice.

After a poetry reading, Chef Lorenzo of Wildmoor Oak, gave us a demonstration of Caribbean cookery. His restaurant near Bromsgrove aims to serve the best in British and Caribbean food in a modern and stylish way.

He showed us how to make traditional dish Salt Fish and Ackee and then asked for a volunteer.

Naturally I found myself going up to help cook the dish!

Plenty of spice and flavour went in and it smelled absolutely delicious.

The salt fish and ackee was served on a buttery bammy cake. I would have liked a little more salt fish on ackee on there to be honest, as it was so delicious.

Next up, jerk chicken skewers, with a lovely garlic crouton on the end.

We also loved the Halloumi and Callaloo bites, served on a water cracker.

And finally, a mango Eton Mess! Exactly my sort of dessert- tangy from the fruit, plus sweet meringue and cream.

Sabrina of Kitchen Thyme also cooked us some Creole/ Trinidad food. I wasn't familiar with Trinidad food or culture really so it was very exciting to try. I especially loved the little prawn curry.

So, check out the website, download the app and head down to Centenary Square this weekend to sample some Caribbean delights!

Caribbean Food Festival, Centenary Square, 29th-31st July

Photos by myself and Edd
This event was complimentary. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Review: Rofuto

Rofuto grabbed the attention of the foodies of Birmingham, probably because it it so different. Yes, we have another roof top bar/restaurant but perhaps everyone was a little tired of it by now. And we have Sushi restaurants (including the wonderful Sushi Passion) but not really a Japanese 'izakaya' style.

The word izakaya was unfamiliar to me so I looked it up. It's supposed to be a informal, post-work drinks and food type of place in Japanese culture. I don't know if I'd describe Rofuto as informal (in price, presentation and style) but they're certainly relaxed when it comes to how and what you order. As I will explain.

Although there's plenty of Japanese influence in the rooftop bar and restaurant, it's not a pastiche. It feels modern, light and airy, which I like.

And then there's the views. 

Always fun to sit and watch a traffic jam, especially one I'm usually in! I love watching a city from above. I've spent a fair amount of time on google maps, I'll be honest. Turn your head a little and you've got the greenery of leafy Edgbaston. How is that place so green? Anyway, I digress.

You enter Rofuto via a separate but pretty obvious entrance. The host called up to the restaurant to let them know we were on the way up and then took us up in the lift, which all makes you feel a bit special.

There's a lovely bar but we headed straight for our tables for a cocktail while we perused the menu. (I really like the word perused).

Edd chose a Sake Martini, made with-you guessed it- sake and gin. We both loved this clever twist on a gin martini.

I'd usually go for a short drink, but I was feeling a bit hot and bothered after dashing home from work so I took our waiter's recommendation of a Yuzito. Another twist on a classic, this is a Mojito with East Asian influences. It was deliciously refreshing on a muggy evening, but with a good kick of white rum.

Now, as I mentioned, the ordering style is quite relaxed and you aren't expected to stick rigidly to three courses. You can also easily order more dishes when you feel like it. Staff make this clear from the start so there's no awkwardness.

The menu is split into sushi, tempura, grills and traditional 'mains' but really you should treat it a bit like tapas (or sushi!) and just order some bits and pieces for everyone to try.

We started with sushi. I love tuna sashimi and so we ordered the more expensive otoro tuna. This is the most expensive cut of tuna, taken from the belly of the fish and therefore fattier. It's like the steak of sushi.

First things first, it was beautifully presented. Everything had been thought through, including the wasabi and soy sauce served with it.

I did notice the fat in the tuna and found it heavier than usual tuna sashimi. It was beautifully prepared and presented but the cut was wasted on me. Edd loved it though. If you're into your prime cuts of meat, I'd highly recommend trying this.

As I said, I love sashimi and usually go for that or nigiri but Mango Soft Shell Crab Maki caught my eye. Again, beautiful presentation and delicious pickles and wasabi. I loved the delicate slices of mango and gentle taste of the crab. Really pleased I went for something I wouldn't usually choose.

Next, dishes from the Tempura and Robata grilled sections. This was the page my eye kept being drawn to.

I love prawns so we chose Tempura Tiger Prawns. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you these are the best tempura prawns I've ever had. Tempura can often be a bit soggy and sad, too thick, too cold. These though. Perfect crispy, thin batter with hot, crunchy prawns.

Next, Cherry Smoked Salmon, which had been recommended to me by Emily of Good Girl Gone Brum. While it didn't exactly taste of cherry, it had a sweet, fruity note.

The manager also brought over Crispy Chicken with Kimchi sauce from the mains section, as I'd missed out on it at the launch party. This was completely delicious. The chicken had a crispy coating but the kimchi stopped things from getting too heavy. Add a squeeze of lime and this was the ultimate comfort dish.

I'd been umming and ahhing between the chicken and the Garlic Yuzu Lamb Chops and ended up with both! Personally I like my lamb chops a little more well done but I appreciate most people like them a little more tender. These were deliciously garlicky and I loved the refreshing watermelon and mint salad.

Edd's choice of 'main' was Saffron Miso Black Cod, Razor Clams and Pancetta. The most expensive fish dish on the menu at £24, this had a lot to live up to. The fish was perfectly cooked, with firm flakes sliding off on my knife. The saffron and miso added a richness.

I really enjoyed sharing and trying the different plates and I'm looking forward to heading back in a larger group. I think if you stick to just having your meal and not sharing you may be missing out. Looking back over the food we had, I realise we didn't have any sides, but soy broccoli and egg fried rice sound good.

But it wasn't over yet!I was feeling quite full so I chose pineapple grilled on the Robata, with lemongrass ice cream. This was so delicious, light and refreshing. Top tip: the pineapple is cooked in a caramel which contains butter.

Edd chose the rich and decadent Chocolate and Banana Fondant, which he said was surprisingly good. He loved the gooey fondant and the crispy tuile.

Throughout the meal we had a few thoughtfully paired glasses of wine, including a fantastic Riesling- they have a whole page of modern Rieslings, which I always love to see.

We finished off with coffee served in a highly hipster fashion. I had a lovely cappuccino, while Edd's Americano was oddly presented as espresso in a glass and hot water in a mini milk jug. Very cute but the hot water hug was too hot to pick up.

We're already booked back in at Rofuto with Edd's family, so that tells you how much we enjoyed it. It's not cheap, and you won't be impressed if you just go along and order one main. But go for a special occasion, try something you wouldn't usually go for and you will love it. The views are fantastic and the service is brilliant. They knew I was there to review but I watched our server with the other customers and he was just as friendly. Get yourself along for a cocktail and some fantastic, unusual Japanese cuisine!

Rofuto, Park Regis Hotel, Five Ways, Birmingham

Photos by Edd and myself.
Our meal and drinks were complimentary. 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Event: Sunday lunch at Chung Ying Central

It was the Colmore Food Festival a couple of weeks ago (post coming soon). This year, there were a variety of 'fringe' events in the lead-up, including Sunday lunch with a difference at Chung Ying Central.

Chung Ying Central is a Cantonese restaurant, part of the Chung Ying group and found on Colmore Row. Our tickets were £17.50 and included a drink, piles of food, dessert and jasmine tea.

For my drink, I chose a Shanghai Rose, made with lychee, rose and egg white. This was followed by plates and plates of dim sum, including deep fried king prawn parcels, Vietnamese spring rolls, my favourite prawn and pork shiu mai and prawn dumplings. Lots of prawns basically and I do love a prawn.

What's that on the side? Oh yeah, it's stuffed, fried intestines. Sounds disgusting, actually rich, salty and delicious.

Char Shiu steamed buns were filled with sweet, hot pork.

At this point I was already filling up. We were thankful for the gap between the dim sum and the main course! After our free drink, we took the opportunity to try a few more cocktails from the menu.

The Sapphire Rose was a prosecco based drink, with gin, lemon juice and rose syrup.

There are classic cocktails at Chung Ying Central, but the ones with a Chinese twist are the most fun. Think lychee, rose, lime and so on.

Drinks break over, we were presented with a plate of Chinese roast meats- piglet, duck and pork belly. Look at that crispy skin. The meat was tender, juicy and flavoursome. 

Alongside the meat were plates of pak choi, oyster mushrooms, sticky rice and noodles.

I filled up my bowl with noodles and plenty of pak choi. It was so delicious but I was really full and couldn't finish. I made sure I got my fair share of the meat though!

Jasmine tea was a welcome sight.

We then received a beautiful little white dome, a sweet steamed bun, filled with liquid gold.

This vibrant filling is in fact made with egg. It is sweet and reminded me of the taste of sponge cake, while having a grainy liquid texture. It was just perfect to finish the meal.

We tried a great range of food that afternoon and it has made me want to go back! Lots of the food we tried is now on the summer menu, including the sticky rice. Even if you don't go for an event, it's worth going along to Chung Ying Central for dim sum, cocktails and to try some bits off the summer menu! I've heard good things about the pork belly bao...

Chung Ying Central, Colmore Row

Food and drinks paid for ourselves.

Photos by myself and Edd.