Thursday, January 14, 2010

a parent's love - jindalle and princi

I know my parents love me because they keep sending me food and other food related items. Every time they visit, they bear suitcases full of my favourite chilli sauce, chicken rice paste, laksa kits and lots of other stuff from home. I've learnt to stop trying to dissuade them with assurances that actually I can get all that stuff in London – it's their way of showing me they love me and you can't argue with that. I have a mate who routinely gets pineapple rice paste simply because she once mentioned she liked it, and now she doesn't have the heart to tell her mom she can no longer bear that stuff. She secretly gives it away. I don't think it’s a uniquely Singapore trait though – comparing notes with my mates, I discover American moms send cookies, Japanese moms send ramen and sushi seasoning.

My ever-resourceful mother had somehow found a willing mule in the lovely SH and he was loaded up with a large parcel for me and DC as he travelled back to London after his Christmas break in Singapore. It proved a little bit of a problem actually meeting up with SH since I had no idea what he looked like. Mom said I might recognise him from when we were kids at church in Singapore. She also said we'd both have things to talk about because we both play the violin. Of course – because I remember everyone I've ever met as a child and I talk about the violin lots. Not. I do love my mom's logic. Anyway, I decided I'd take SH to dinner to thank him for his mule efforts – I figured, we both had mobiles and at worst, I'd just approach every Chinese person with a large parcel at picadilly circus tube station.

We were craving Korean, and DC had read a review of Jindalle. CC was persuaded to come along for dinner and so we trooped there, large package in tow which was being opened and its contents examined as we walked down haymarket. As DC regaled random facts of high stomach cancer rates in Korean people because they eat so much chilli, we ordered a seafood pancake, dolsot bimbimbap, tofu and kimchee soup and marinated pork and beef for the grill. All spicy and chilli laden of course. Nothing beats the cold like lots of spicy chilli and warming grills.

Despite the rather abrupt and random service (there was a slight kerfuffle involving our request for extra bowls), the food was nice. Not amazing. But nice and it hit the kimchee-craving spot. A selection of kimchee, potato salad and beansprout salad to start us off. I always find it amusing we get potato salad in Korean and Japanese restaurants. Perhaps in my mind I link potato salad so closely to the german version that any other version, especially in the context of a Korean/Japanese restaurant amuses me. The kimchee wasn’t as spicy as I'd hoped, but we reckoned it had been tailored for slightly less robust occidental palates. The seafood pancake had a healthy seafood to batter ratio, crisp on its edges, and ever so slightly gooey in its middle.

The tofu and kimchee soup had a poached egg and a selection of seafood. The rest weren't too keen on the soup to begin with, but I liked it. I'll eat anything that contains a poached egg – such is the comforting power of the poached egg and its oozy goodness over plain sticky rice. Poached egg, spicy and contains tofu – what's there not to like? The dolsot bimbimbap – sticky rice topped with raw beef slices and a raw egg yolk served in a hot stone bowl – was adequate. The bimbimbap sauce was sweet and spicy and the beef was fresh, but our main complaint was that the stone bowl wasn't hot enough. One of the joys from eating dolsot bimbimbap is the crispy layer of rice that results from the bottom of the rice being seared into caramelly crunchiness as you scrape the last bits from the pot. You need a searingly hot stone bowl to achieve this, and alas, ours had its Fahrenheit failings. i like saying "dolsot bimbimbap" - everytime i say it, i remember the time working late in Tokyo when i ordered in, this poor chap from the korean place i rang came bearing my dolsot bimbimbap, stone bowl and all right to my desk in my office. i almost fell off my chair laughing. it took all my broken japanese i then knew to say thanks, and to ask for what one should do with the stone bowl when i was done - i hardly thought it was disposable.

We had been warned at the point of order that the marinated meats might not be as spicy as we'd hope for as they had been down-spiced for the western palate. They did have a little bit of heat and as they grilled, we waited and poked the meat intermittently to prod it to doneness. While we waited, we talked of Seoul Garden – the chain of Korean inspired meat barbeque all you can eat buffets in Singapore. I say 'korean inspired' because to call it a proper Korean barbeque would be pushing it. the conversation brought back memories, of after school binges on weekends with my high school mates, starving teenage boys (and girls, but mostly the boys would eat like there was no tomorrow) who would pile their plates high with strips of beef, pork belly and frankfurters ( I did say Korean inspired) back to the table where we burn them to carcinogenic doneness on the tabletop grill. This would inevitably be followed by the bottomless frozen yoghurt binge also at this Korean inspired barbeque joint, where we'd make an assortment of sugar laden concoctions involving frozen yoghurt, sprinkles, the odd bit of jello and toffee sauce. It seemed a simpler time then – all it really took to make us happy was lots of food, but then again maybe I'm glossing over all that teenage angst. To be fair though, all it takes to make me happy now is still lots of food.

They brought us a dissected orange each to top our meal off.

As all greedy Singaporeans would, we decided that puddings were in order. That dissected orange just wouldn't do. SH suggested the creperie on wardour street. We trooped there, large package still in tow (we hadn't lost it yet). I was secretly glad the creperie was closed because that meant we could go to Princi. I love Princi – I find every excuse to drop in there whenever I'm in Soho. They do proper bellinis, mean coffees, and I go into gaga meltdown just walking past the bread and pastry counter. I have to physically restrain myself from leaping over the glass counters and stuffing my face full of their puffy slices of wood fired pizza with mozzarella, brie, speck, asparagus all glistening and beckoning come-eat-me in their sultry pizza voices, the trays of assorted cakes and creamy tiramisu, the bowls of devilishly handsome salad. It's enough to make anyone expire from sheer want and unadulterated lust. We took turns at the cake counter making our selection, and we had a strawberry and custard tart, a zabliogone and chocolate mousse cake, a pear and apricot tart and some other chocolate/custard cake that was just as delightful.


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