Welcome back to the column which highlights the best dishes Eater London’s staff and contributors ate during the week. Look back on previous best dishes of the week here.
Wagyu ramen by Wagyumafia at Arcade Food Theatre
Some weeks feel like a wander in a food desert, barely a good bite to be had. This week was bountiful. A superb St. Honoré at Philippe Conticini’s new patisserie in Camden: crisp tart shell, glazed choux, plentiful vanilla and lightness of touch. Absolutely delicious arayes and merguez at Alaesh, the new opening from sabich specialists Balady in Temple Fortune; an eye-opening, soul satisfying Portuguese influenced eel migas at Tātā Eatery.
But my Tuesday night was consumed with getting me and a friend tickets to the ultimate Instagram hypebeast event. Wagyumafia was in town, projecting the kind of absurd stunting aesthetic that would usually guarantee tragically bad food. A counter seating of 10 guests at a time in three seatings, all consuming the Clerkenwell Boy and David Beckham approved 1kg £75 behemoth that is wagyu ramen. A surprisingly light wagyu broth inflected with real quality soy, organic cabbage, tsukemen-like firm noodles, finely minced garlic on the side of the bowl to customise each slurp, and a good 300g of wagyu in various forms. Finely diced pieces, to be found like pearls under the reef of noodles, and thick cut brisket chashu on top, instantly melting like every Youtube and Insta Story told you it would.
But this isn’t just about what is in the bowl being worthy of £75. Even though the ingredients are impeccable and the cooking is of a high standard, what you’re really paying for is the show. The tired trope of chefs being rockstars now contains a “touring the world” phase, with Hisato Hamada gurning with enough blue steel and absurd catchphrases for every camera pointed at him. This fleeting sense of occasion and the satisfaction of the food consumed is how in the moment you forget the price you’ve paid and just enjoy the slickly choreographed performance in front of you. —Feroz Gajia
103 — 105 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1DB
Iberico pork cheung fun at A. Wong
I’d estimate 90 percent of the bad experiences people have in fine dining restaurants are due not to bad food, but to bad pacing. I think it was David Kinch, of three-Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, who said that any meal shouldn’t take any longer than two hours. Any more — unless people will happily linger — and customers begin to resent each new dish’s arrival, instead of anticipating it, starting to feel not like guests but hostages. At A. Wong, the pacing is perfect: each piece of dim sum arrives just as the sense-memory of the last begins to fade, so the whole meal flies by like a flawlessly executed video game combo. This can make choosing favourites tricky, but only in the same way that parents claim to struggle to choose a favourite 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, wriggly textures with flakes of intensely caramelised Iberico pork and shards of millefeuille-thin pastry scented with just the merest suggestion of coconut. At lesser Michelin-starred restaurants it would be a showstopper, accorded the appropriate 20-minute window of reverence. Here, its casual, fleeting brilliance only makes it all the more devastating. —George Reynolds
70 Wilton Road, Pimlico SW1V 1DE
Egusi at Chuku’s
I have a bit of pet peeve when something’s called ‘XXX tapas’. Dim sum = Chinese tapas. Mezze platter = Greek tapas. Newly-opened Chuku’s near Seven Sisters has branded itself as Nigerian tapas. Personal nitpicking aside, Chuku’s brings something new by tying classic West African cuisine to London’s most modish of eating habits. Of all the small plates on the menu, the traffic-light coloured egusi was the standout dish. A comforting soup made up of bitter melon seeds, scotch bonnet, red pepper, onion and thyme, coated in a sheen of rich palm oil that adds a sexy glisten from every angle. Topped with three spherical fluffy yam fufu, that bring a sweetness to counteract the subtle bitterness of the stew. Not as springy as the QQ texture of tong yuan dessert soup dumplings, but a silky, soft chew that coats the tongue and hugs your oesophagus as it goes down. Dainty and cute, it’s a smart introduction to ease those who are new to Nigerian cuisine. —Angela Hui
274 High Road, Seven Sisters N15 4AJ
Arayes at Alaesh
The intersection of my Temple Fortune dentist advising a big lunch before my wisdom teeth came out with the opening of Balady Alaesh couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. Alaesh, roughly meaning “on/from the fire” to refer to grill cooking, is falafel specialist Balady’s response to a demand for more meat and fish, which will mean the original Balady will become entirely veggie and Alaesh a kind of budget Barbary. With half an hour to kill, order pretty much the whole menu: Moroccan cigars full of fluffy meat, thicc hummus topped with slow-cooked shortrib, or chicken thighs blackened from the grill. The best thing is the arais/arayes, the pan-Arabic snack that every country wants to claim as its own but most likely originated in Lebanon. A kind of burger where the patty and the toasted pita are melded into one inseparable mass, kind of like a McDonalds Double Cheeseburger after its been left on the heated tray for a while. Here the twist is that it’s not mince, but the slow cooked shortrib which has separated into wet strands, with the smoky pita, which has been crisped and charred, soaking up all the juices and fat as the meat permeates from inside to out. It is fast food nonpareil. The best expression of Alaesh right now is to order a big version of this, supplemented by its peerless chips. —Jonathan Nunn
756 Finchley Road, Temple Fortune NW11 7TH
Dan dan noodles at Mao Chow
You know when the wind is so harsh and cold you can’t move your face? It was like that on Saturday night when I turned up to Mao Chow, my expression stuck like I’d had some dodgy fillers. But after waiting next to the open kitchen for a spot at the vegan Chinese joint and a queue beer down, my cheeks started to unfreeze. Animated conversation flowed over sweet cabbage and ginger dumplings and sour, spicy, peanut-strewn cucumber. But when the bowl of dan dan noodles was put down, a comforting eating silence descended. Doubts about not being able to finish the whole dish were quickly banished and tunnel vision ensued. The noodles were satisfyingly chewy and al dente; the sauce nutty and savoury with just a gentle kick. I wished it was a Mary Poppins bag of a bowl that would never end. The background playlist of power drum solos and guitar shredding felt particularly apt. —Daisy Meager
159A Mare Street, Hackney E8 3RD