Thursday, 13 August 2009

Taiwan

Keelung
6 Lisle Street
020 7734 8128

Keelung, a coastal city in northern Taiwan, boasts one of Asia's biggest food markets. It's a lively, bustling place, with stalls overflowing with fresh vegetables, meat and fresh seafood.

Its London namesake seems more interested in post-war popular entertainment - Cliff Richard shares wallspace with the likes of the Rat Pack, the Beatles and Dame Anna Neagle - an unanticipated theme that threatened to divert our attention from the food. But the Chilean sea bass, steamed, filleted and bristling with chilli, put us back on track.

From the "night tapas" menu we ordered deep-fried oysters, which were winningly crispy and brackish, and melt-in-the-mouth steamed crab dumplings. We were less impressed by the pork congee (a watery rice porridge) and the pork belly with bitter melon.

Prices here are reasonable, around £4 for starters and £6-8 for main courses. I hope to go back soon and try some of the other dishes on the menu.

Disclaimers
I wrote a different version of this review for Hotline, the excellent magazine of Virgin Trains
The photo is taken from the Zagat.com website. I'll remove it if you ask me to.

Addendum
2.01.10
On New Year's Eve, I went to Leong's Legends, another Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown owned by the same company. I think it's a slightly better bet than Keelung, with a more diverse menu and lower prices. The highlight was this, the Taiwanese mini-kebab with pork belly. The xiao long bao were wonderful, too.

Keelung on Urbanspoon

Turkey

Mangal
27 Stoke Newington Road
Hackney
020 7254 6999

There are dozens of Turkish places in Dalston and Stoke Newington, and many of them are called Mangal. We naturally gravitated to the mangiest, mankiest Mangal of all - a low-rent, low-fidelity, low-priced joint with a dilapidated fa├žade and n shortage of empty tables at peak feeding time.

But I liked the fact that this was no Mehmet of all trades; Mangal's menu only offers one thing - save for a couple of ill-advised stews - and that's pide.

Pide is not Turkish pizza - that's lahmacun. It's a more substantial offering, a canoe-shaped flatbread with curved edges, cooked in a wood-fired oven. Only a third of Mangal's offerings involve cheese. Instead, lamb, chicken, spinach and sausage dominate proceedings, while green peppers and mushrooms pop up on many a pide. Everything costs £5, or £4 to take away. My ispanakli yumartali (pictured) was the pick of our pair, with spinach, onions and eggs creating a tangly topping, while the kusbasili mantarli combined lamb, mushrooms and green peppers to juicy effect.

In terms of atmosphere, there's an oven, two pictures on the wall, four tables and two blokes making the stuff from scratch. It's bare bones, and that's just fine by me.