Shabu Shabu, Cambridge

Shabu Shabu is one of the many recent incarnations of the mirror image of Teri Aki, situated by the river just off Magdalene bridge in Cambridge. Teri Aki is one of my favourite restaurants in Cambridge – it helps that I lived about 200 metres from it for 3 years so I’m rather emotionally attached to it. Their stir-fried udon have cured many a hangover, and their dumpling soup is perfect for a cold wintery day. There’s not much they do wrong, and that’s why the restaurant is always packed. Shabu Shabu though (or Aki Teri as it used to be called) is a complete mystery to me. Having been an almost identical copy of Teri Aki initially, with a slight Korean twist, it moved on to being a cocktail bar, then started serving hot pots and dim sum and is now mostly Thai. We thought we’d be adventurous and give it a try.

We were hangover and starving so we ordered a few starters to share and a main each. The starters were slightly hit-and-miss. The pork skewers with some satay-style sauce were juicy and with a good bit of char on the outside. The sauce was great too. Deep fried chicken wings were also nice; good crispy skin, reasonably tasty sauce.

The squid rings though were mediocre at best, looking like what you’d expect to find in the freezer section of a supermarket. And then there were these deep fried strips of beef which were dry and strangely tasteless – though the latter could have been the effect of the rather spicy sauce that accompanied them.

My pad thai was OK – the noodles had a nice bit of bite on them and the prawns were large and mostly juicy. But the sauce was too sweet and it soon became a bit sickly. No lime to cut through the richness either.

A beef massaman was probably the best of the mains, rich and warming. I only had a small taste but I suspect that if I had to eat the whole thing I might have struggled with the richness. The third main was a completely uninspiring chicken and vegetable stir fry. I reckon they could do with some stir frying lessons from their older and more experienced sibling next door.

All in all, meh. I’ll wait for the inevitable next version of the restaurant before I return.

Dim Sum @ Aki Teri, Cambridge

One of my favourite Cambridge restaurants has just got better! I am a huge fan of Teri Aki and Aki Teri, and I do miss the days when I used to live about 2 minutes away. They’re not cheap but they are reasonable, and the noodles and sushi are consistently good.

Aki Teri is the most recent of the two, a mirror image of Teri Aki and, like most younger siblings, has struggled to find its identity for a while. They tried to do a slightly different menu and had a karaoke room for a while, but I think they ended up short-staffed and closed it down for a few months. It then did a stint as a cocktail bar but really, who want cocktails when you can have noodles and sushi next door?

Recently, it changed its menu considerably, and now does Chinese food instead. I’ve only had a brief look at the menu but I’m keen to return to try the hotpots. On weekends, between 12-4, you can get a dim sum buffet for £12. And it’s good.

We were advised against wasting when we sat down – apparently, they will charge you for any leftovers but presumably that’s only if you take the piss. In any case, it makes you think about what you grab from the buffet a bit more.

I loved the cold noodles with Szechuan sauce, salty and spicy although I couldn’t tell you what was in there. Had a few portions of them. I also had a silly number of gyozas, both in spicy soup (which was a bit bland on the flavour front, just spicy) and pot-sticker style ones. I particularly like the latter, with the contrast in textures between the crispy bottom and the soft, chewy top being quite addictive.

I braved it and tried chicken feet but wasn’t too keen. I found them a bit slimy but the taste wasn’t bad.

Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves was good, although I was slightly disappointed that the filling was chicken and mushrooms rather than chinese sausage.

There were a lot of steamed pork and prawn dumplings, pork buns, and some rather lovely glazed sticky buns with some kind of chicken filling. Rice rolls were good but I would have preferred them pan-fried. And custard buns were a good way to end the meal. We were also offered a little pot of either black sesame or green tea ice cream. Good times. Basically, go.

Teri-Aki & Aki-Teri
6-8 Quayside 
Cambridge
CB5 8AB

Peking Restaurant, Cambridge

About a year ago, when I started reading loads of London food blogs, I made a list of restaurants I wanted to visit. Due to greediness, it’s been growing steadily. Due to laziness, lack of free time and lack of money, I haven’t crossed many of them off. Every now and then, I discover interesting Cambridge restaurants to add to that list. The Peking had been there for a while, and I finally forced myself to visit a few days ago, as I had a voucher for it that was expiring.

This is the kind of place you want to go with quite a few people as the menu is big and sharing is recommended. My friends managed to put up with me going on and on about how “We need to order the pot stickers. And loads of aubergine.” on the way. Not only that but, as we sat down, they asked me to choose all the dishes. I’ve got awesome friends.

The prawn fried dumplings were pretty good, crispy at the bottom and the filling was savoury and went well with the spring onion and ginger soy sauce that came with it. The dough was maybe a bit on the thick side, but it had been way too long since I had any decent dumplings; I was happy.

We then shared 5 main courses, including the much craved aubergines in hot bean sauce, double cooked pork (pictured below), tripe fried with chillies, squid with ginger and szechuan shredded beef. I thought the tripe was a bit flavourless and particularly loved the fatty pork and the very smoky szechuan beef.

All in all, great food and worth going if you live in Cambridge. But I couldn’t help but compare it to my experience with Chilli Cool, where we got more and possibly better food for almost half the price. Cambridge needs good, independent restaurants and I don’t mind paying a bit extra to avoid going to yet another chain, but if other places can do it for cheaper, why not the Peking?

High point: The beef, the pork and the aubergines were all excellent.

Low point: The bill, predictably.

The money: Without our £25 off voucher, £20 for a good (but not ridiculous) amount of food and a small beer each.

Go with: lots of people and share.

Alimentum, Cambridge

Most of Cambridge restaurants offer mediocre food and try to make up for it with the pretty surroundings. Most of them are chains, since they are the only ones that can afford the ridiculously high rent for a spot in the town centre.

Alimentum does it the other way round. Situated on the side of a main road, with a Travelodge opposite, it uses the quality of its food to attract customers. It’s probably not the most popular dining establishment for students; I always found it easier to pop across the street to a Pizza Express. But, with a set lunch/early dinner menu priced at £16.50, it is not just affordable, but a bargain.

Quite a few of us went there for lunch recently to try their Christmas menu. We started with a complimentary “Beer and Onion” amuse bouche. A white froth was poured over little cubes of beer jelly and bits of onions and the whole thing ended up tasting a lot more complex than we expected.

I had of course already decided what I was ordering, days before our lunch! The game ragu with polenta is exactly my kind of food: rich and meaty, with creamy polenta and a grating of salty parmesan to top it off. Absolutely delicious.

My main was a soy braised pork belly, salty and fatty. If I can fault this somewhere I would say that the sauce could be a bit too salty for some, but luckily I tend to overseason my food anyway. It was served with the creamiest sweet potato puree and some refreshing pak choi to cut through the richness.

We of course wanted to try the dessert too, and I chose the white chocolate delice with passion fruit jelly and ice cream. The white chocolate delice was a sweet and airy mousse and the jelly provided texture and sharpness. Even tangier was the the smooth passion fruit sorbet which was face-blowing by itself but balanced the white chocolate perfectly.

Coffee was served with petits fours and both the marshmallow and the mini sticky toffee pudding that I tried were excellent. Three hours after we had arrived, we left happy, full and just a little bit tipsy. That’s what lunch should always be like.

High point: The pudding? The starter? Can’t choose.

Low point: The location I suppose. But it’s a short walk from the train station. All you Londoners can hop down for a great lunch and a spot of sightseeing.

The money: Just over £30 for 3 courses, a couple of glasses of wine and coffee.

Go with: Friends. A date. Your parents. Everyone.

Hey, that’s me!

Very excitingly I am being profiled on one of my favourite blogs today, Londonelicious.

Although I live in Cambridge and cook more than I eat out, I do love reading about Krista’s London eating adventures. Her style is unique and entertaining and her blog a very useful guide when it comes to eating in London. I just have to stop myself from reading her posts sometimes as I get too jealous about all that great food and restaurants!

If you got to my blog through Krista’s, you might want to know what kind of posts you will find here. At the moment, most of it is cooking and baking, and I am trying to work my way through 100 new recipes from around the world, from 10 different countries. It’s slow, but it’s fun! If you want to know more about me, you can have a look at my profile page.

The next few posts will include a few more curry recipes, a second attempt at a dessert that, before I burned it, looked like it could become my new favourite dessert, and a (very exciting!) London food adventure!

If you have any suggestions for me, or just want to say hi, please do leave a comment!

The Big Buddha, Cambridge

– You see, this man-lion strategy problem hasn’t got a fixed point.
– Huh?
– For example, let’s say we all want to go to the Big Buddha tonight. But you and Alex will only go if Raph and I come along. While Raph and I will only go if you and Alex don’t come.
– Well, that’s a bit harsh.
– Same with the lion and the man.
– Right.
– Do you want to go to the Big Buddha tonight?
– Yes please. 

The Big Buddha is a Thai restaurant on the first floor of a building which also accommodates the Ugly Duckling, serving Chinese food, on the ground floor. From the outside there was no other obvious entrance apart from the one leading into the Chinese restaurant. We walked into the (empty) ground floor and found out that the two actually operate together, and we could have either of the menus or mix and match. Uh-oh.

I suppose there is nothing really wrong with a restaurant serving both Chinese and Thai food, but it seemed like a marriage of convenience.

Although the initial plan was for Thai, I got a craving for dumplings and then decided to stick with Chinese for my main too. I shared a starter of them with Alex, who insisted in having them fried rather than steamed.

Fried is okay, but I just love the sticky, silky dough you get from a steamed dumpling. Turns out, they were steamed and then pan-fried. The perfect compromise. The porky filling and the accompanying sauce were lovely too.

The Szechuan pork I had for my main was crispy and meaty and spicy. It looked great and tasted lovely. I’m not a big fan of cashews but Phil polished them off for me and we all had a little (or big!) taste of the chillies. They were quite flavoursome and not as painful as our waiter had suggested when he begged me not to eat them!

I actually preferred the Double Cooked Pork that Alex had. The meat was soft, with a nice amount of fat on it and the sauce was sticky and spicy.

 

Finally, I sampled a Thai curry that Phil and Raf were sharing which had a great kick to it! I think I would have found it a bit too much actually if I was eating the whole thing but the little taster I had was perfect: strong flavours and creamy texture.

 
This meal actually left me looking forward to my Chinese and Thai months of cooking and really managed to save the first impressions that weren’t too positive. At £20 pounds for half a (large) starter, a main and a beer, it’s not exactly cheap but not too bad either.
7/10

The St. John’s Chop House

If you are a foreigner in England and quite snobbish about the food (it’s always better back home), you should visit a Chop House. Great British food and local ales, served in a very nice environment by helpful, friendly and polite staff. Kind of the opposite of your average curry place.

This is the second Cambridge branch but for some reason I haven’t visited the first one yet. We went there last night with my boyfriend to celebrate our anniversary. It was actually on Sunday, but he was too hangover to talk, let alone go out for dinner.

I hope you appreciate the increasing quality of the pictures, going all the way up to boring mediocrity.

Starting from no picture at all, our starter was Potted Venison. I haven’t had anything like it before and, although I always think that meat isn’t anywhere near as flavoursome as it should be when it is served cold, this one was very good. It wouldn’t have worked hot anyway because there was a layer of solid fat on the top, to preserve it I guess. It was served with some toast and some kind of sweet chutney that I can’t remember the details about, but it went really well with the venison.

My main was an Oxtail and Wild Mushroom Faggot with Parsnip puree, which was brilliant, with really nice tasty meat wrapped in some kind of salty membrane (stomach lining?). The parsnip puree was a great alternative to normal potato puree and I’m definitely going to try making it myself.

Alex had a Steak and Kidney Suet Pudding. I hate kidneys and this didn’t really change my feelings towards it, but the rest was very nice and the sauce went so well with it, being some kind of sweet syrupy gravy.

We somehow found space for pudding, and I found the correct white balance setting on my camera, so the pictures are slightly more presentable. We shared a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla ice cream which was sweet and sticky and spongy (quite predictably really) but the right amount of each one making a great dessert.

The other one was a Baked Apple Cheesecake which tasted great but was a bit too stodgy for my liking.

All in all, a great meal for under £50 for two. I will certainly be going back.

8/10