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.
Spring onion pancake at Lucky Dog
The first meaI I had at Red Chilli in Manchester in about 2006 remains one of the defining moments in my comparatively junior history of eating in restaurants. The giant sharable bowl of white fish — teeming with Sichuan peppercorns, red chillies, and a broth fortified with fermented soy and brightened with aromatics — was a life-changing food experience. I’ve since had a number of versions that have never quite matched the one at that meal, probably because of the importance of novelty or the unexpected in any and every dining moment. But there was another thing at that lunch, something which has eluded my eating experiences in the decade and a half since: spring onion pancakes.
Late last year, I was beyond delighted to learn that the ever excellent Dumpling Shack in Spitalfields had introduced them to the specials menu. The version there is sensational, worth every second of the 10 minute wait, every penny of the £6 price tag. Chef John Li slow fries the pancakes to achieve an extraordinarily crisp exterior, while the flaked layers beneath remain discrete and light, contrasting texturally like an uber-paratha. As well as finely chopped spring onions, some of which crisp, caramelise, and sweeten during the frying, the dough is enriched with a touch of the house chilli oil, which lends the bread an extra satisfying layer of umami. They’re now on daily.
And so to the last week, when I was as delighted to see spring onion pancakes on the menu at Lucky Dog, a Dongbei restaurant on Brick Lane. Here a simpler — equally delicious — version was enjoyed not by itself but to mop up the saucy debris left from a plate of double-cooked pork with stir-fried vegetables, along with a side of rice with pickled cabbage. The pancake, in its very specific way, perhaps because of nostalgia more than anything else, completed the lunch. I will be back, possibly just for the pancake. —Adam Coghlan
70 Brick Lane, E1 6RL
Kale laing at Sarap
Chef Budgie Montaya’s glass-shatteringly crisp lechon pork belly might get all the glory, but the Filipino banchan-style accompaniments with the main dish deserve a gold star in my book. Served with a thin pork liver sauce, which adds an earthy element alongside crunchy, sour and tart pickled vegetables, the duo works as a tag team to cut through the fattiness of the pork and round out the dish as a whole. In my eyes, the side showstopper is the kale laing, slowly cooked in coconut cream, coconut milk, chillies and shallots. Moreishly bittersweet, creamy and good enough to order on its own. When I asked Budgie how this dish was prepared he simply replied with, “Cooked slowly for three hours. Basically, cooked down to oblivion, that’s the only way to make kale taste good.” If this is one way of making people eat their greens, then sign me up. —Angela Hui
14D Market Row, Brixton SW9 8LD
Baby artichokes at La Farola Cafe
I’ve never really done birthdays, they’ve always been something other people do. A yearly milestone that inadvertently becomes a time for me to reflect on everything about the year that has passed: every missed opportunity, every goal unachieved and meal unfulfilled passes through my head. Time ill-spent and people neglected are the things that weigh heaviest on my mind, so if I was a smart person I would have had a great meal with them.
I’m not, so instead I decided to pass by Surrey Quays’ La Chingada after work and stick my face into a plate of lamb birria tacos accompanied by a shimmering bowl of birria broth with a river of smoked chilli salsa running through it. It was my proxy for miyeok guk, Korean “birthday” seaweed soup, a way to commemorate the day without celebrating it explicitly. A friendly face arrives, we stuff our faces with multiple rounds of tacos, a couple of tostadas and a container of wings and head to La Farola cafe for some late night tapas. Nothing is out of the ordinary or particularly memorable until the baby artichokes come: 4 lightly battered chokes, sandwiched with a bollilo of paprika-heavy romesco, the top adorned with a candied hazelnut. The middle of the plate had a mound of hazelnut puree, nutty and verging on sweet. Alarm bells went off as I tasted the puree on its own — was this going to be a kinder bueno-battered artichoke-pepper dip mouthful, made to ruin my not-celebrating-it birthday? Fortunately it was balanced well, a pleasing mouthful with layers of richness, hits of sweetness and a bit of warmth from the red pepper. Any other day I would have accepted the offer of two steaks for dessert but I broke the habit of a lifetime and said I’d had enough for one night. Tomorrow was just another day: gluttony could resume its hold then. —Feroz Gajia
101 Upper Street, Islington N1 1QN
Cured sea trout, fennel, apple and kohlrabi with pickles at Llewelyn’s
“Menu Hack” normally refers to a grossly overrated secret item at a fast food chain or a convoluted method of saving 19 pence by splitting a double espresso with a friend. At Herne Hill’s treasured Llewelyn’s it comes in the form of a simple instruction; make sure you add the house pickles. Tart, crisp, sweet slices of sunshine yellow carrots and florets of cauliflower, crunched on unaccompanied they are delightful; on top of thick slices of sourdough slathered with butter they are terrific; but they hit their apex when accompanying the cured sea trout.
It is a lovely plate of food by itself, soft neon-pink fish placed delicately next to fine ribbons of fennel and kohlrabi with the occasional sweet kick of apple. With the sharp briney bite of pickle alongside, it goes from good to sublime. —Leila Latif
293 — 295 Railton Road, Brixton SE24 0JP
Mixed charcuterie and cheese board at Terroirs
Most good meals are made memorable by the food that they’re comprised of, but the best tend to stick with you because of the company. Covent Garden’s Terroirs wine bar takes that sharing-is-caring approach very seriously in assembling its mixed board; a speed dating session of meat-meet-cheese-meet-meat that was far and away the best thing I ate this week.
Served alongside crusty fresh bread, wafer-thin coins of sopressa — sourced from Eugenio Caprini in Veneto, Italy and salty as the tears I’ll weep if leaving the EU forbids me access to such glorious cured meats — made the ideal companion to a soft and tangy Dorstone goat’s cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy. Duck rillettes, on the other hand, needed no accompaniment. So rich and mineral it tasted as if Scrooge McDuck had been shredded into its buttery mass, it fared best when pawed unaccompanied onto rough hewn hunks of baguette. Alternate each bite with a cornichon chaser and a cleansing sip of jazz-funk furmint, and see how an hour here easily becomes three. —Lucas Oakeley
5 William IV Street, Charing Cross WC2N 4DN