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Eat Snap Repeat

Vancouver's tastiest food blog. Defunct since 2010 :(

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Cafe TPT (London, UK) – Table for 1

Y’know… I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie in a theater alone.
On the introvert/extrovert spectrum, I’d probably be here:
[introvert]—-ed——————-[extrovert]

So it’s not that I dislike doing things on my own; there are just certain things that I feel are much more enjoyable in the company of others (preferably good friends & family).  Going out for movies is one.  Eating out is another.  Nearly all of my pasts blog posts, and Dan’s too, have been about meals we’ve enjoyed in the company of friends.  That’s just how we roll.

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

I’ve been working abroad for the last month (London’s Chinatown pictured above) and have eaten most of my dinners alone.  I’m fairly used to it now, but meals simply don’t tastes as good when you’re dining out alone.  That’s my opinion. I’m interested in yours – especially if you disagree! Do you mind eating out alone? I’m not talking about getting take-out (or “take-away” as they call it here), cooking a meal at home, or eating fast-food: those are easy.  I’m talking about a normal dining experience at a proper restaurant*

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

One of the best ways to combat homesickness is by eating something familiar.  I did just that the other day when I went to Chinatown for some simple wonton noodles.  Chinatown is in Soho and is in the heart of London’s West End; it’s a total tourist magnet.  As such, Chinatown is home to a bunch of horrible restaurants cashing in on unsuspecting tourists.  Thankfully, there are also some fairly good places.  Cafe TPT, a run-of-the-mill Hong Kong-style cafe, is one of them.

But this post is less about the food (the noodles were very nice and came with some tasty freshly-sliced BBQ pork – £8.60 with a drink), and more about reflecting on the whole dining-out-alone-experience.  The food can be awesome, but the meal will still feel unsatisfying to me.  I’m not entirely sure why.

Lack of dinnertime conversation? Doesn’t normally bother me.
Lack of sharing options? I like sharing food, but it’s not essential.
Am I too clingy?
Maybe, but I don’t think so.
The correct answer is usually the simplest one so it’s probably just “because I’m not accustomed to eating out alone“, but I’d like to think that it’s something more compelling.

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

Note the book in this picture.  I’ve discovered that dining out alone is a lot easier when you have a book to read.  Not only is it less boring, but you also look a lot less creepy when you’re the only person in the entire restaurant eating alone**

One of the reasons I like going to a movie with a bunch of people is because, after the movie, we can talk about what we thought of it.  For, example:

Friend: “Wow, District 9 was amazing. What’d you think of it Eddie?
Me: “Yea, that was intense. I loved it.

And then I feel great because not only did I see a kickass movie, I have assurance (via my peers) that it was indeed a kickass movie.

I bet, subconsciously, the same thing is happening when I go out to eat.  It’s only a great meal if I think it’s a great meal and my friends agree with me that it was a great meal.  My Cafe TPT wonton noodles were great, but since I didn’t have any friends to bounce my satisfaction off of***, I left less than 100% satisfied.

Agree? Disagree? Am I over-analyzing?

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

PS: Aww… my green onions looked like hearts <3!

*I realize that HK Cafes are slightly fast-food-ish. I cheated.
**Tho the creepiness returns once you pull out a camera and start taking pictures of your food.
***this sounds a little kinky.

London,UK: Jamie’s Italian

TheNakedChefIf you’re reading this blog, you probably watch (and love) the Food Network. It’s okay to admit. I love it too. I was there when Emeril Lagasse BAMMED his way into mainstream popularity. Remember those classic Iron Chefs? I loved how the dubbing made Chen Kenichi (Iron Chef Chinese, of course) sound like a complete doufus. Hilarious. One of my favorite shows was Jamie Oliver‘s The Naked Chef. It was fantastic.

The Naked Chef originally aired in 1998. Since then, Jamie has starred in numerous TV series, written numerous cookbooks (I own a couple), opened a few restaurants, and is now totally rich and famous. After all these years though, he’s still broadcasting the same message he had back when he was The Naked Chef: great food is a result of fresh, simple ingredients.

Jamie's ItalianI’m in London. Last Sunday, I spent a fun and tiring day with family on the southern coast of Britain. I was excited when they proposed we reward ourselves with dinner at Jamie’s Italian. It’s probably not what you think though. Jamie’s Italian is created by Jamie Oliver, but it’s not his flagship restaurant; it’s actually a chain. There are currently 5 locations in and around London – Oxford, Bath, Kingston, Brighton, & Canary Wharf – with many more in the works. There’s even plans to open one in Hong Kong next year (“wah!”). Suffice to say, I didn’t see Jamie in the kitchen, but it was still exciting to experience his vision of what affordable, quick, and friendly Italian food should be.

Jamie's Italian

Inside, the decor is casual and colorful. There’s fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and bread scattered throughout the restaurant. You can tell that they’re trying to appeal to younger crowds with a fresh message.

Jamie's Italian

We started off with 2 antipasti platters. They were each £6.50 per person (~$11.50cdn). The meat platter had thin-sliced cured meats (delicious!) while the veggie platter had chargrilled veggies. Both platters contained fresh Italian cheeses, pickles, olives, and Italian salad.

Jamie's Italian

The starters were nice and my entrée was even better. I ordered a Sausage Pappardelle“Slow cooked Italian sausage, tomatoes, red wine, and parmesan with crunch herby breadcrumbs” £9.95 (~$17.60). I really enjoyed this. It sounds strange, but with its al dente texture and odd shape, the pasta was a lot of fun to eat. The delicious meat sauce certainly helped. I realize that this isn’t the pinacle of Italian cuisine, but when you compare a dish like this to the super-cheesy, super-saucy, uninteresting dishes you find at a lot of North American chain restaurants (e.g. places that rhyme with “Coston Rizza” and “Molive Harden”)… well, there is no comparison.

Jamie's Italian

For dessert, we shared a Tiramisu£4.75 (~$8.40). Despite being a non-coffee drinker, Tiramisu is probably my favorite dessert. And this one did NOT dissapoint. Generous dallops of fresh marscapone cheese sandwiched between espresso-soaked (the stronger the better imo) lady fingers. With Tiramisu, I find that the messier it looks, the better it tastes (that sounds dirty..).

Jamie's Italian

All in all, a really great meal.

Perhaps one day we’ll see a Jamie’s Italian in Canada. As the chain continues expanding, I do hope that they maintain the fresh philosophy that Jamie Oliver is known for. The world has enough crappy restaurant chains serving cookie-cutter meals as it is.

Jamie, keep it pukka.

ESR Around the World – London – Ramen Seto

Eat Snap Repeat Around the WorldThis dining experience is from September 2008 while I was in London, England. I spent over a month in London; this was actually my first meal there.

I didn’t feel like blogging it at the time; we don’t blog all of our meals – you probably don’t want to know about the PB&J sandwich I had for breakfast today ;). However, since we’ve been covering a lot of ramen joints around town lately, I thought it might be fun to share a ramen experience I had outside of Vancouver.

Ramen Seto - Carnabie Street

Lucky me. My hotel was a short 5-minute walk away from Carnaby Street. Carnaby Street and nearby Oxford Circus center one of the busiest and densely packed shopping areas in all of Europe (the stores are heavily catered towards tourists though). Amongst the many stores, there are many pubs and restaurants as well.

The stores in London close early (7PM to 8PM). At the same time, the pubs fill up and spill out into the streets early. As I was weaving through the pub patrons on Carnaby Street, each with a pint of beer in hand, I came across a busy and charming ramen joint. I was severly jet-lagged, alone, and overloaded with all the new sights; I needed a comforting and familiar meal… so I gave Ramen Seto a try.

Ramen Seto - exterior

Like many of the pubs in London, Ramen Seto occupies 2 floors. The staircase to the 2nd floor was cramp and the stairs were worn and uneven. The buildings in London are much older than the ones here. They have a lot more charm and history. But how’s the food compare?

Ramen Seto - meal

The miso ramen I ordered (£6.20) was rubbish. The broth was uninteresting, the noodles were overcooked and not very chewy, the meat was clearly warmed up from a frozen state, and the vegetables (some bean sprouts and a couple peas) were bland. I’ve made better instant ramen at home. The salmon sashimi (£5.50) sidedish was actually fresh and delicious. And the bottle of Asahi (£3.20) took away my guilt for not going to a pub on my first night. Despite that, I left Ramen Seto pretty dissapointed.

I thought Ramen Seto was another case of a bad restaurant taking advantage of an area frequented by many tourists (you can find these types of restaurants in any city), but reviews I’ve found online (e.g. here and here) suggests that the locals actually like Ramen Seto. Oh dear.

Unlike our other ESR Around the World posts, I do not suggest you check this place out if you’re in London. Instead, I’m going to suggest all Londoners to book a flight and come to Vancouver to see what ramen outside of Japan should really taste like.

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