"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, April 25, 2010


As I write this, Twitter is alight with posts from those attending a meal for "The 50 Best Restaurants in the World" awards. Very nice it sounds too, particularly a dish of scallops with morels.

Someone was actually kind/foolish enough to invite me as their guest at this year's occasion and, even though I find the concept of the competition slightly specious, I would have happily gone along if it had not been for the simple matter of 6000 miles and a looming wedding to contend with.

I am sure I would have enjoyed the meal a great deal. However, I am also equally sure that, despite the fact I have had more than my fair share of fine dining experiences over the years, that is not where my heart truly lies when it comes to eating.

No, my heart truly lies at places like Oki's Dog in the Pico/La Brea area of Los Angeles. It is not much too look at from the outside. In fact, it is not much to look at from the inside either. There is a take out hatch facing the street and, around the back, a small dining area with cracked Formica covered tables and walls covered by ageing black & white pictures of people of whom I had never heard.

The place is Japanese owned (the name apparently comes from the owner's origins in Okinawa) and has a large menu including hamburgers, teriyaki chicken and the rather infamous "Oki-Dog" wrapped in a tortilla. That's what I ordered, along with some chili fries and a couple of drinks.

At least, that's what I thought I ordered until our food arrived. Somewhere between my mouth and the ears of the young assistant behind the counter, my clear and precise order of "Two Oki-Dogs please" delivered with my best Rex Harrison impression, had been transformed to "Two hot dogs covered in the slurry like contents of a cesspool. Oh, and bung some of the same shit on the chips and all, while you are at it"

What we had received instead were two chili cheese dogs. By now, a queue had formed and we decided just to carry on eating regardless of the mistake. When we opened the wrapping to reveal the contents of our lunch, it looked like someone else had already revealed their lunch over our dogs and fries. It looked fairly grim, but then as I have discovered to be the case, so much delicious food often does.

It probably tells you all you need to know about me that not only did I polish off my hot dog and more than my fair share of the fries, in about ten minutes, I actually rather enjoyed them. The dog gave a nice "snap" when I bit into it and although any flavour it might have had was covered up by the coating of chili, the overall result was not bad at all.

The bun had been lightly toasted and it too played its part adding a slight sweetness to the whole affair. The fries were covered in another thick slick of chili, which had enough heat about it to make us slurp loudly from our drinks containers before we finished up, threw out our rubbish and headed back out to the car $10 lighter of pocket.

We were not quite finished for the day as Sybil also had some shopping to do on Melrose. We stopped in for dessert of cookies and ice cream at The Village Idiot. As we sat on our bar stools, both our stomachs began gurgling noisily enough to be heard above the sounds of Brit pop blaring from the P.A and continued to do so for the rest of the day. Oki's Dog, the meal that keeps on giving.

As I finish writing, people are still tweeting the final courses of their delicious sounding meal back in London. I wish I was with them, but there is no reason why people can't enjoy all ends of the spectrum is there?

So, if I am not in the UK or not invited again next year, no harm done. You will be able to find me at the sort of place which makes me really happy. A sort of place very much like Oki-Dog.

Just follow the sound of the gurgling stomachs.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010


It had to happen, I guess.

Over the last year or so, I have taunted the UK’s mostly feeble burgermeisters with tales of how good their equivalents are in Los Angeles. I add, by way of extra humiliation, a picture of that double chilli cheeseburger at Marty’s to prove that our American cousins just instinctively know how to get these things right. Now, after my recent experience at Umami Burger, I have to come clean and admit that Yanks are just as capable of screwing up beef in a bun as their former colonial overlords.

The Japanese word Umami is often called “the fifth taste” referring to the extra hit of savouriness often found in Asian cooking. Looking at the Umami Burger menu, it obviously also means putting as many weird concoctions on top of a slab of beef as possible in the hope that some of them might actually work. On the evidence of the two burgers we tried, they don’t. Lord they really don’t. The rest wasn’t much cop either, but I’ll get to that.

The branch of Umami Burger on La Brea has valet parking, which probably tells you all you need to know about where they position themselves in the wide church that is the L.A burger market. The room is small but pleasant enough and, despite warnings to the contrary, the service was very friendly as we were shown to two bar stools in a small space off the main dining room.

Umami Burger’s upmarket aspirations are confirmed by both the ingredients and the prices on the short two-sided menu. Prices for burgers range between $9 and $11, which may not seem over the top when you make the conversion to wounded Sterling, but very much sets the place at the gourmet end of things Stateside. So too do the ingredients, with truffle oil, oven dried tomatoes, ricotta and edemame making a thankfully rare appearance on a burger menu.

Sybil chose the eponymous burger, while I went for the pleasant sounding if slightly oddly named “Manly” Burger (not too manly I hoped. That was one extra salty taste I really didn’t want to try) along with sides of “Malt Liquor Tempura Onion Rings” and fries, which came with a selection of condiments.

The dips arrived first served in small, white spoons and the food followed moments afterwards. At first glance, they looked the part and came in a glistening brown bun that had been lightly toasted. However, lifting the lid, we found that the light of what I am sure is excellent, carefully sourced beef has been hidden under a bushel of caramelised onions, roasted tomatoes and slivers of slightly stewed mushrooms. Oh, and there was a slice of over salty fried cheese in there as well, just to make sure you couldn’t taste much else. The Manly Burger didn’t look a whole heap better. What elegance the layer of onion strings may have added was spoiled by the fact the beer cheddar cheese had been placed on only half the burger, leaving the rest to dribble towards the plate where it had congealed like a Dali clock.

We stared at them for a while and then took a bite. Now here’s the thing. If you are a burger a joint and you tell folk that you will cook their pattys medium rare unless asked otherwise, you should be able to serve them medium rare on a pretty consistent basis. Obviously that is not the case here as both of ours were well (over) done and we saw other tables returning their own meals. We also pondered on sending them back, but by now the place was heaving and we suspected the wait might be a long one. We also suspected that, given all the odd little toppings, it probably wouldn’t make much difference in any case.

I was pleased to see that Heston Blumenthal’s greatest contribution to cuisine, the triple cooked chip continues its move towards global dominance by appearing on US menus. I am not so sure he would have been so glad to see the wretched specimens we were served, which made up for lack of crunch with an extra helping of grease. The onion rings were better and, although the coating looked like no tempura batter I have ever encountered, the insides were sweet and retained a nice bite.

Twenty or so minutes after we arrived, we paid the pretty hefty bill. It knocked on the door of $40 when they included our drinks and tax and we included a decent tip. A lot to pay to prove that not all is happy go lightly in Burgerland USA and enough to make me declare to Sybil, as we left, “I am glad we found street parking”

In truth, however, they could offer to send a cab around to collect us and I would refuse the kind offer. I am afraid Umami offers lots of tastes, but that of a great burger just isn’t one of them

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Somebody asked me the other day why I’d stopped posting as they hadn’t seen much by me on the blog of late. I said that I’d been busy and well, there just isn’t anything worth going to these days. They politely demurred. Surely there was a feast of new and soon-come openings, they said, especially in the Casa DH nabe: Brasserie Blanc, The Anthologist, Platform etc. Why, we’d never had it so good. I wasn’t convinced.

After eating out for so many years DH have a acquired a bit of a sixth sense when it comes to restaurants. We can sniff out a wrong un a mile off, usually without even having to visit. This, let’s call it spooky, ability rarely lets us down.

The job is made even easier for us these days, thanks to the deluge of emails we now receive from restaurant PR’s. They always describe their exciting new concept, usually wrapped up in an important mission statement. They’re only doing their job I suppose, but sometimes it’s easy to forget it’s a restaurant they’re promoting and not some UN Green initiative.

Platform’s press release contained an interesting looking menu and talk of unusual cuts of meat supplied from a farm in Devon (not sure why this last bit is necessarily a good thing) intrigued me. They could certainly talk the talk. But could they walk the walk? Despite a little voice that said no, I decided to give them a try. After yet another disappointing pint in the Market Porter (why is this pub is so popular?) I toddled the short distance to Platform, located on Tooley Street.

It’s a big place is Platform, cavernous in fact. But somehow the owners have managed to make it feel very non-descript apart from an incongruous giant mirror ball dominating the space. I was told the venue was formerly a strip joint and I idly wondered if the mirror ball was a relic of its grubby past. The menu seemed a bit prosaic. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that if the dishes transcend their description, but a tad disappointing.

A starter of Brawn and Piccalilli seemed promising. The pickle was nicely made with just the right amount of acidic bite. The Brawn (pork head meat in jelly) looked the part and had a pleasingly chunky texture (just like me. Form a queue ladies). Crucially though, it lacked both seasoning and taste. Unfortunately, adjusting the first didn’t compensate for the second. It desperately needed something: a bit of nutmeg probably, better meat, definitely. Charging £7 for such a small amount of brawn didn’t give me a lovely warm feeling either..

As mentioned previously, much had been made of the fact the restaurant would be butchering whole animals to come up with a variety of cuts. The reality was considerably less exciting (wait for it): topside; mince; chicken leg; pie-filling and - be still my beating heart - pork belly. I went for the latter because, well, I like Pork and I love belly. Combine the two and I’m in piggy heaven. This little piggy had obviously gone to piggy hell.

Given the fatty nature of the cut it would take some doing to make it dry. The kitchen at Platform managed that and as a bonus it was stringy as well. The crackling, an integral part of any pork belly, was dry and unappetising. The meat seemed of poor quality too. It didn’t taste of pork, or indeed any identifiable meat.

I could only manage one small bite of a dark puck masquerading as bubble and squeak. Traditionally, this is made from the leftovers (specifically veg from the Sunday roast) but restaurants shouldn’t be taking this literally no matter how sustainable they want to be. Applesauce lacked tartness and limp chips tasted as if they had been cooked by dipping them in warm oil for thirty seconds. I left most of it.

To be fair the waiter did offer a replacement but if a kitchen can’t get some pretty simple things right what confidence could I have in the alternatives? Exit visas were imminent and I got the bill.

Yes, I know, I know, the place had just opened but I’ve been to enough restaurants to distinguish between teething troubles and fundamental flaws. Platform, on my one albeit brief visit exhibited signs of the latter. The sad thing about all this is that it wasn’t totally unexpected but sometimes, just sometimes, It’s nice to be surprised.

Like the man said, there just isn’t anything worth going to these days.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Of all the recipes I have ever posted on DH, this simple one for a family recipe of red lentils cooked with spices and lemons is by far the most requested.

I can understand why. LSD is one of the most comforting dishes you can ever imagine. Like a Bengali version of chicken soup, a dish that nourishes both body and soul. It is the dish I turn to when I am in ill health and it was the dish I turned to when I returned home from work one day and decided to set out on the journey that became Eat My Globe.

I caution people, however, that this is not a quick dish to bring to the table. It is a dish that demands to be prepared with patience and love. But, it is oh so worth the effort. The smell of the lentils toasting in the pan as you stir them with your hands. The aroma of onions, chilli, garlic and spices as you let them fry gently to release their flavours and the subtle note of citrus of the end result as you spoon the dahl over a couple of hard boiled eggs.

This is a perfect dish served on its own or with a simple yoghurt chicken curry, some plain boiled rice and a raita of mint, cucumber and toasted nigella seeds.

It is, I can say without hesitation, the food I love the most and I hope at least some of you will give it a try and let me know what you think.


1 cup of red lentils (toasted first in a dry pan. I use my fingers to stir and when it is too hot to touch, it is done)
1 unwaxed lemon chopped in quarters
1 onion sliced
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves garlic
3 fresh green chillies
2 inches of fresh ginger
1 tsp each of ground turmeric/ginger/cumin/coriander seed/hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 Pints of water, chicken or vegetable stock
1 Bag of spinach ( washed )


Make a paste by blending the ginger/garlic/fresh chilli with a little salt and water.

Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a hot pan and when it comes to heat, add the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick. Cook for 1 minute on a low heat until they release their flavour.

Add the onion and cook on a low heat until it begins to soften and turn golden. Don't rush this, you want the natural sweetness of the onions to be released.

Add the ginger/chilli/garlic paste and cook for two to four minutes until it loses its rawness.

Add the ground spices, sugar and salt and mix well with the onions and cook out
for 4 mins until the spices lose their rawness. If the mixture begins
to stick add a little water.

Add the lentils and mix well so all the pulses are covered with the mixture.

Add 1 1/2 pints of water/stock and the quartered lemons and simmer for 30 mins until the lentils have broken down. Add more water if it sticks. Some lentils may take a little longer

Add the spinach, cover and allow to wilt into the lentis

The end result is quite a watery Dahl which is great served over a hard boiled egg

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Monday, April 19, 2010


Please forgive the rather crappy images that accompany this particular post. I know they are never of David Bailey standard at the best of times, but during this meal, my attempts to capture my food in all its glory, were hampered by my beloved’s insistence on altering all the settings on my camera. She denies it, of course, but it has taken me two weeks to get the bloody thing back to some semblance of normality.

I should be more understanding, I guess. Without Sybil, I would not have experienced one of my more enjoyable dining experiences in Los Angeles so far. In fact, I had never even heard of JAR until we pulled up outside and she handed over the keys of her battered jalopy to the parking valet.

That in itself is quite an interesting experience. In London, after nearly twenty years of eating out and approaching five years of hardcore blog action, there are few restaurants I haven’t heard of even if I would never set foot through the doors of many if you offered me all the money Brian Clough took in bribes. However, here in Los Angeles, every day throws up a potential new venue for supper.

But, I digress. Back to JAR.

Sybil had chosen JAR as the venue for my birthday celebration in an attempt to prove to me that not all mid-range American style dining in the city sucked a considerable amount of ass. I still remain to be convinced overall, but have to admit that, as I glimpsed at the menu and drank a hefty gulp of some smashing St Peter’s Cream Stout, I was rather pleased to see lots of dishes on there that I might actually want to order and which did not involve the word "slider"

JAR stands, apparently for “Just Another Restaurant” and styles itself as a modern chophouse. The chef, Suzanne Tracht, is partnered in the kitchen by Thai chef, Preech Narkthong and while some of their South East Asian influences are worn very much on the sleeve, there is enough about the place and the menu to remind me why I used to get terribly excited about eating in US restaurants.

Although the restaurant is well known for its steaks, my eye was drawn immediately to a section entitled “Braises and Sautés” which contained their signature pot roast and, more importantly that all too rare dish on restaurant menus, Coq Au Vin. Despite my love of dead cow, this rustic French classic just screamed out to be ordered.

Sybil, had decided on her main course before we even arrived. She would gladly hand me over to be raped and murdered if someone offered her a meaty pork chop in return. It was almost inevitable that the offer of a “Char Sui Pork Chop” would be too much for her to resist. That just left us musing on starters, which to be honest were pleasantly distracting rather than memorable.

Devilled eggs seem ever so popular in the US right now. I have seen them on quite a few menus. I imagine the ease and cheapness appeals to chefs and the nostalgia appeals to customers. They leave me slightly cold, although the crabby version offered at JAR is not a bad example of the genre. It is just not a genre I would like to see given too much house room. My own starter was not bad at all (not that you can tell from the washed out picture). An acceptable amount of lobster served with shaved fennel, avocado (welcome to California) and a drizzle of vinaigrette laced with a hit of jalapeno chilli.

Main courses arrived in rather too rapid a fashion, but definitely looked the part. Sybil’s pork chop had taken on splendid glaze from the marinade and cooking and came glistening in a pool of herby butter. It also contained a good band of fat, all too welcome in a town where chefs trim every bit of meat to within an inch of its life. It tasted good too, the little I was allowed to try, even though it was, as I may have mentioned already, my birthday.

My Coq Au Vin was not quite as impressive, but not bad at all. I suspect that Joan Rivers aside, it is hard to come across too many old boilers in Los Angeles, so the bird lacked the flavour of the best roosterfied versions. That being said, it had taken on great flavour in the slow cooking process and was well served by stunning chunks of bacon, pearl onions and Crimini mushrooms. Both dishes were also well served by excellent side dishes of duck fried rice, wild spinach and mashed potatoes made with enough butter to make Robuchon blush.

I made a big mistake when it came to pudding. I was slightly in my cups by this point and assumed that the word pudding meant, well, pudding. So, I ordered the “Butterscotch Pudding” which was not a great British pudding involving sponge, butterscotch sauce and custard. Instead, it was an American pudding, in effect nothing more than a dish of Butterscotch Angel Delight. Not bad in and of itself, but not, as I had dared to hope, something which helped build the empire. To make matters worse, they had also stuck a candle in it to remind me of my advancement to the grave. Damn them to Hell.

Sybil ordered another quintessentially American dessert of “Banana Cream Pie”. It was an ugly affair of pastry, cream, gloopy cooked bananas and caramel sauce. I rather liked it and helped Sybil polish off. She didn’t want me to, but as I may have mentioned more than once, it was my birthday.

I never saw the bill (birthday, remember?) but, Sybil tips well, so I am sure our English server was well taken care of as was the bill for three rather decent courses,that lovely beer and a few drops of passable wine by the glass. Sybil did not seem terribly upset by the damage done to her credit card, so I am guessing she considered it reasonable value for money.

Reasonable value for money for very decent food, by Los Angeles mid-range dining standards, that makes JAR far more than “Just Another Restaurant”

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Sunday, April 18, 2010


It’s been a while since I last posted a recipe and, while I am but an infant in such matters compared to others in the UK blogging community, I do get a decent response when I bother to write about the things I cook at home.

Today, I was at a bit of a loose end. Sybil was out for the day and I had just about finished all the work I had planned. So, I pottered up to the local market where I noticed they had a special offer on these rather meaty beef short ribs. It is not a cut you see terribly regularly in the U.K. However, it is a great favourite of mine and perfect when braised with red wine or a dark beer.

Pushing aside the ultra hoppy IPA’s that seem to be all the rage here right now, I grabbed some bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale and stuck them in my basket alongside a handful of vegetables and headed home eager to start preparing my supper.

The smells in the flat as I began cooking were a good indication that I was doing something right and the end result was everything I had been hoping for. The meat fell off the bones as I pulled at it with a fork and the sauce was deeply savoury, dark and rich, glistening as it coated the ribs.

I am sure most people reading this know how to braise a bit of meat, but just in case anyone is interested, here’s my recipe

Let me know if you try it

BRAISED SHORT RIBS (Serves Four People)

8 Beef Short Ribs
1 Large White Onion (diced)
3 Large Carrots (diced)
2 Sticks Celery (diced)
2 Cloves Garlic (peeled & sliced)
3 Stalks Fresh Rosemary
1 12oz Bottle Newcastle Brown Ale
1 Pint Water/Beef Stock
Salt & Pepper to taste.

Sear the short ribs in a hot pan until all sides are completely browned.
Remove and drain of excess fat.
Add the diced onion, carrot, celery and garlic to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook for around five minutes until they begin to soften.
Add the Newcastle Brown Ale and use to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
Add the rosemary stalks and return the short ribs to the pan.
Add the beef stock or water.
Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat until the liquid is at a gentle simmer.
Cover the pan and cook gently for 1 ½ hours until the meat is beginning to fall from the bones.
Remove the short ribs and keep warm.
Strain the remaining contents of the pan discarding the vegetables and retaining the cooking liquid.
Remove as much of the excess fat from the liquid as possible (with a spoon, a strainer or by dragging a piece of kitchen towel over the surface of the liquid)
Return the cooking liquid to the pan, bring to the boil and cook until reduced to a thick, rich sauce.
Season to taste.
Plate the short ribs (two per person) and spoon a little sauce over each to give a glaze, retaining the rest to serve at the table.
Serve with mashed potatoes and green vegetables like broccoli.

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Friday, April 16, 2010


It’s an odd and slightly unnerving experience when someone scores a home run at a LA Dodgers game.

It’s not that it is an unusual occurrence. On the contrary, my hosts for the day informed me that they are actually a decent side, so someone dressed in pyjamas bludgeoning a small white ball into the stands can be usually be counted upon to happen at least a few times every game. No, it is more that, when the home run is confirmed, the speakers suddenly start blaring out a raucous version of a tune well known to every Glam Rock fan of a certain age.

Rock & Roll Pt2 is one of the most used sporting themes in the USA, but I wonder how many of the people listening would realise that, as they clap and whoop along, they are stomping to the tunes of Gary Glitter, one of the U.K’s most notorious sex offenders? Not many and I suspect if they did, whatever royalties he might be receiving would dry up pretty sharpish.

Still, the music aside, my first experience of a baseball game was very good fun indeed. It was a last minute invitation from my new chum, Robert, who had been offered a couple of tickets to join his friends Elizabeth and Grafton at the opening season game at Dodger Stadium. The sight of me slurping uni from the shell a week before, had obviously not put him off and he suggested I might like to take his extra ticket. I couldn’t say no to that kind invitation and promptly agreed to meet up with him in Santa Monica for the ride.

I have been making lists of events I want to experience as I ease myself into my new American lifestyle over the next few years and a dog & a beer at a baseball game was ranked high amongst them. Few things strike me as being more quintessentially American.

There could not have been a better time to go than the opening game of the season at the fifty-year old stadium (ranked third oldest in the country, I was reliably informed). They take opening day very seriously in these parts and, by the time we arrived, the stadium was full and a military guard of honour was rolling up a huge American flag after the warbling of the national anthem. Someone from a band called The Black Eyes Peas was dragged out to throw the opening pitch and elderly talk show host Larry King tottered out to give the call to “Play Ball”

All good fun, and as the game progressed my new friend, Grafton attempted to explain the rules to me. I may be none the wiser as to what was going on even after his valiant efforts to teach me, but I can at least now claim to be a good luck charm.

Not only did the Dodgers win comfortably against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but during the first innings a batsman swung at a ball clipping it directly into our section of the stands. While I put my hands over my head and ducked like the world’s premier sissy, the ball sailed straight into the waiting mitt attached to Grafton’s right hand.

It is fair to say that he was made up and took several curtain calls as the folks in the neighbouring seats applauded, hollered and shouted “good job”. I like to think I played my small part in his good fortune too.

Ah, this is a food blog, you remind me. Well, during the game, I ticked this great American experience off my list by wolfing down a couple of hot dogs (a “Dodgerdog” and a Polish dog, for the record) along with a large glass of pissy, gassy beer than went through me quicker than Charlie Sheen goes through low rent hookers.

It was a good day.

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