Friday, 21 October 2011

Chino Latino Xmas Launch Night

This week out of the blue, Joe had a phone call from the Park Plaza hotel in Leeds inviting him to the launch of the Chino Latino Christmas menus. He was able to bring along some people so I was lucky to make the list, along with Hunter Pig, Mike Work, Soraya, James Work and some more!

Chino Latino has been open for a while, and we have been planning to visit as we've been told it does great sushi. Being honest, I've always been a bit put off by the outside which could do with some TLC, but appearances can be deceiving; if you get past the unassuming front door and up the stairs, the restaurant and bar is a pleasant surprise.

It's quite glitzy, with black furnishings, low lighting and clean lines. There is a good sized bar area with views over City Square and the area nearby. We were offered drinks on our arrival and made the most of the cocktail menu which boasts some unusual options. Joe made the brave move of letting me pick his, and so he ended up with a Mushi a Gari (gin with black pepper, chillis, mango and apple juice), I had a Raspberry Mint Margherita and Hunter Pig a Passionate Turkey (insert your own joke here: ). Consensus was that they were really very impressive, but my Raspberry Mint Margherita topped the list. We also sampled a Buena Vista and a Latino Mule - all top choices!

The cocktails
After the drinks, we moved to the restaurant area which continues the theme from the bar. We were sat next to the open kitchen which gave us a brilliant view of the chefs preparing all the food.
Us at dinner
Chino Latino specialise in flavours of China, South East Asia and Japan. The menu is quite varied, as is the Christmas menu which we sampled. They focus on sharing dishes which makes for some very impressive presentation.

The first course was based on sushi and we had lobster rolls, venison tartar, roast pear and crispy fried tofu. They were all brilliant but the surprise winner was the pear - it was smooth, smoky, and perfectly balanced with the sake cream. Yum. I have also never had tofu before, and quite liked this one too - it came with a fabulous sauce and was really different.

Pear with sake cream
The venison tartar and lobster rolls.

The open kitchen
The red wine - which they gave us a lot of - and white too!

Deep fried tofu with the yummy sauce - I would recommend giving this a go!
Following the first course we had a sneaky spicy tomato and basil shot - which tasted very much like a Bloody Mary (sans the vodka) - a worthwhile interval.

The tomato and sweet basil sauce
Next up were the main courses. We were treated to slow roasted pork belly with amazing crackling (probably the best I have ever had) and vegetables, roasted duck breast with plum sauce, miso marinaded cod and tofu in cabbage. The pork belly was lovely, as was the cod. Unfortunately our duck was over slightly cooked (although others were cooked perfectly), but still tasted nice. No one on our table was not a fan of the tofu in cabbage - it may be more of an acquired taste, but when everything else was so good, I'm not going to dwell on it!
Sticky, slow roasted pork belly with honey hoi san sauce and the fab crackling
The pork belly close up - you can tell this was Joe's favourite dish!
The roasted duck with duck leg plum sauce
Miso marinaded cod, which was probably my favourite
AND AFTER ALL THAT...we had desserts! And since it's Christmas, they put even more effort into the presentation of this course. Check out the video below for the fun!

Desserts were a large plate for more sharing, including three sorbets, a cake, a cheesecake and some sort of milk shake thing. Apparently it is meant to have chocolate fondants instead of the cake (it didn't happen due to a kitchen problem), but that didn't let anything down for me. The sorbets were really flavoursome and sharp, and Joe was quite a fan of the cheesecake.

Overall we had a lovely night, and Chino Latino were outstanding (and generous) hosts! Had it not been a Thursday night with work the next day, I am sure we could have stayed much longer and enjoyed the party. I would definitely recommend people giving it a try, and not being put off by the outside. The normal menu is quite pricy, but it is worth it for a treat!
The assiette of desserts
The winter spectacular
The Christmas menu - for smaller groups and offices

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Wednesday - Slow Cooker Chicken, Mini Baked Potatoes & Red Cabbage

My plan tonight was to run home (around 7 miles) but when I got to work I realised I had left my wind and waterproof jacket at home, and it was way too cold for just a t-shirt! The plan is to get wrapped up at 6am and run before work! As I write this now it seems a possibility but tomorrow when I am wrapped up in bed it will be a different story! I'll report on the next post how I got on....

Although I was a little dissapointed about not running, we bought some red wine on the way home and I knew that Jo had put a whole chicken in the slow cooker in the morning. If you haven't got a slow cooker I would highly recommend getting one; we have made loads of delicious things with ours!

We had it with mini baked potatoes and red cabbage - perfect for a cold October evening! We are off to another (lucky us) food event tommorow at Chico Latino in Leeds, which we are both looking forward to as we have recently spoke about why we hadn't visited already....can't wait!

Tonight's red
The slow cooked chicken
Baby baked spuds
Red cabbage
Chicken out of the pot!
Our mid week dinner table
My plate

Tuesday - La Tasca Event/ Review - a solid 7.5/10

We have a thank you to make - thanks to @comedinewitrach, we were invited to a night at La Tasca on Greek Street, Leeds, for the launch of their new menu/rebranding.

La Tasca has been around for donkeys - about 14 years - and has been serving pretty much the same food for the whole time.  At first, it was quite new - a restaurant serving small dishes to share, but my view has been for a while that while other restaurants have appeared and upped their game, La Tasca haven't changed.

Step in a new CEO, and La Tasca is commencing a roll out of new fit outs and menus, with Leeds being the second to experience the change.

The restaurant definitely looks better.  They have expanded the bar area to embrace the "drink with a tapa, at the bar" aspect, and lightened up the fittings.

We missed the sangria masterclass at the start of the night (rushing from work as usual!) but Joe was able to sample some, which came back with good reviews - a definite improvement on before.  We were then given a demonstration of carving Iberico ham, which was very impressive, and the ham tasted lovely.  They even let Joe loose on the carving which was very brave! The Iberico is now on the menu as a small or large plate.

The Iberico ham
Sergio the Spanish ham carver
After the demos, we headed down to the revamped lower floor (which also has its own bar) to try some of the food.  We were given a big variety, including olives, calamari, octopus, Marbella chicken (?!), chorizo, patatas bravas, meatballs, apple salad, mushrooms, gambas, slow roast pork....and on and on.....!

The food was all nice, and much better than La Tasca used to be - there is lots more on the menu that I want to try.  I would recommend the slow roast pork, gambas, chorizo, and more, which means it is a thumbs up from me.

They are also doing deals during the week, which are on the website, so check it out here.
Sangria jug
Chicken Marbella
Chicken wings
Slow roasted pork
Patatas bravas
White fish in batter
Some sort of salad - sorry I lost track at this stage!

Monday Pan Fried Salmon

After a nice weekend with comfort food like mash and pastry, it seemed like a good idea to go for something light on Monday.  Step up pan fried salmon with chorizo, leeks, tomatoes and spinach (with chips on the side - not pictured!)  Not such a bad effort and on my way to feeling healthy again..!

Pan fried salmon with chorizo, leeks, tomatoes and spinach

Monday, 17 October 2011

North Wales - The final Part - Where we stayed & dinner at home

I appreciate as much as anyone that scenery can be  a little dull, but I think these few photos really capture where we stayed. The house is below - directly behind is the coast edge with sheep, walks, cliffs, beaches and an awesome water feature called the Irish Sea. Beyond that is the Snowdonia mountain range. To the right is a gate directly onto the beach, with a 4 mile walk that will take you to Trearddur Bay and beyond with more breath-taking coast line and views.

We have stayed in a lot of brilliant places, but taking all into account it may well pip all the others! The owners are looking to rent it out more so if you would like further details then please get in touch with us via email or twitter @foodandbiscuits.

On our return home, Jo made this spicy vegetable curry and I didn't miss meat one bit!