Flavours of Asia (London Edition)
Updated: Nov 2, 2019
There's no room for worries if all you can think about is food.
I've grown up having heavy breakfasts - rice, noodles, meat, soups etc (and basically for every meal). So you can imagine, the first time coming here, I wasn’t accustomed to having just cereal for breakfast. I’d often crave the taste of food closer to home, comfort food you may call it, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be Malaysian dishes; if it’s along the lines of Southeast Asian cuisine, I always feel fully satisfied. It does seem difficult to find authentic Malaysian food here, so let’s leave that for another post.
The way to someone's heart is through their stomach with good food
This post is based on what I’ve tried and liked, so any restaurants I haven’t mentioned might be good too. I’m just the kind to stick to food I know I’ll love when I’m having a craving, unless I’m feeling rather adventurous to try something new. So there you go, I’ve compiled a list of my go-tos at different price points and dishes I particularly love:
Assa 23 Romilly St, Soho, London W1D 5AQ Tel:020 7734 9050
Hozi 25 - 27 Theobalds road, London WC1X 8SP Tel:020 7242 0978
A hotpot/army stew (budae jjigae) is best for cold nights, especially when you're looking for a quick meal with a couple of friends. You can easily make this at home, no doubt, this is the simplest dish you can cook up in your kitchen cause all you need to do is throw everything in a pot. But if you don't want to go through all that hassle, try these places out. Their prices are fairly reasonable, so you might think of getting some makgeolli (light sparkling rice wine) to have with your meal. I did prefer the seafood pancake at Hozi, but both Hozi's and Assa's menus are pretty similar so it depends on which area you're more willing to travel to!
Han restaurant Apex Tower, 1 High St, New Malden KT3 4DQ Tel:020 8949 7730
Han restaurant is easy to find. It's right outside the train station. Once you're there, it is an absolute must to try the short beef rib soup (galbitang); And for extras, it's pretty much like any other Korean restaurant, so if you want some Korean BBQ, go for it. You'd guess by now that getting to Han Restaurant is not going to be easy. But if you're ready for some good food, and possibly to stock up on Korean groceries, this is the place for you.
Seoul Plaza (Korean Food Shop) is about a 2-minute walk from the restaurant, so since you're already in the area, I'd say to stock up and make the trip worth while. I usually do a quick shop whilst waiting for my food cause the store closes at 9pm, so once I'm done with dinner, it's home time.
Arang 9 Golden Square, Soho, London W1F 9HZ Tel:020 7434 2073
If you're looking for a step up to host a dinner party, Arang has a decent ambience for that. Do expect it to be busy, so it wouldn't be the fine dining experience you desire. If you book in advance, they could possibly fit you into the dining area at the back of the restaurant, away from the crowd. Also, they do karaoke, if anyone is interested. I haven't personally tried it, but just thought someone might find this useful.
If you're looking for late night drinks after, Tea Room at Bun House offers delightful cocktails made with Chinese ingredients. This is a stunning scene for casual meet-ups and the neon decor just gives the whole place a Hong Kong noir vibe; the ambience (and drinks) just makes you stay for more. Ladies, if you're looking for something light to start the night with, I highly recommend the Rose and Lapsang cocktail!
On the Bab 36 Wellington St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7BD Tel:020 7240 5568
305 Old St, London EC1V 9LA Tel: 020 7683 0361
There are a few branches of OTB around London, so it really depends on where you're at; I only highlighted the top two cause it seems like that's where most people go. Every single time I'm at OTB, their Korean Fried Chicken is always on my order list (22 pieces of garlic mayo KFC please!). I share it with whoever I'm with and get one of their 'On the Roll', also described as Korean style rice burrito. But to make things easier for you, it's basically a Gimbap. The Covent Garden branch does it for me, cause it's pretty close to everywhere I wanna be after.
If you're looking for dessert after, drop over to Venchi and try their dark chocolate gelato. I'm usually not a fan of chocolate gelato, but this is worth a try.
Eat Tokyo 16 Old Compton St, Soho, London W1D 4TL Tel:020 7439 9887
50 Red Lion St, London WC1R 4PF Tel:020 7242 3490
Lunchtime is always good to go for some Japanese. Point being that they're going to have set lunch deals, and you're gonna get value for money. Eat Tokyo is popular for its variety in choices. It's a place you go to satisfy your cravings and not empty your pockets completely. One of my friends recommended the pumpkin croquettes and after trying it, I just loved it. So I'd recommend you to order that as a side dish on top of all the sushi you'll be having. I'm not even going to try and name the sushi rolls to try, cause I think there's plenty to choose from, so you'd definitely find something you like.
If you’re in the Soho branch, why not walk off some calories to gain some again at WA cafe (Covent Garden) for dessert. If you want a warm drink, try their black sesame latte. I don’t like everything sweet so this was just right for me. That also means I can just purely enjoy the flavour of black sesame.
Sushinoen 2 White Church Ln, London E1 7QR Tel:020 3645 6734
The ££ doesn't vary too much from Eat Tokyo. It only means you are paying slightly more for the freshness of the sashimi and quality of the food, but that doesn't necessarily mean Eat Tokyo is bad. Eat Tokyo is more accessible than Sushinoen, so that should also be one of the factors when deciding between the two. I went for lunch, and thought the bento box was absolutely amazing. I didn't expect too much from a bento box, but when it arrived, I was surprised at the portions and the variety of side dishes I was getting (See from the bottom right above; both were bento boxes). All bento boxes are accompanied with a bowl of miso soup. I'd go for the rice bento box next time round though, but the sashimi bento box was great for me too - really loved how fresh the sashimi was!
Ippudo 1 Crossrail Pl, London E14 5AR Tel:020 3326 9485
3, Central Saint Giles Piazza, St Giles High St, London WC2H 8AG Tel:020 7240 4469
31A Villiers St, London WC2N 6ND Tel:020 3667 1877
If you haven't tried ramen all your life, now's the time to do it. I always go for the Shiromaru Classic with extra hard noodles, cause by the time it arrives, it’s gonna be just right. There are also places like Shoryu and Kanada-Ya for ramen, but I get a bit sick halfway through the meal; not because it's bad, in contrary, I’d say Kanada-Ya’s broth is the tastiest out of the bunch. But because it's so rich, it gets too much for me. For some who prefer thicker broths, do give it a try, it's totally worth it.
I highly recommend the Kanada-Ya Panton Street branch, then if you feel like ending the lunch/dinner with something sweet, head over to Machi-Ya (right next door) for some Japanese dessert. Don’t worry, it’s not sickly sweet. That’s the one thing you gotta love about Japanese desserts (and also their matcha soft serve and roll cakes).
Chinese (Dim sum)
For the restaurants without telephone numbers, they don't take reservations for dim sum. Just turn up when all your guests have arrived, otherwise they wouldn't seat you!
Gerard’s Corner 30 Wardour St, London W1D 6QW
This restaurant always made Liu Sha Bao (salted egg yolk custard buns) the way I liked it. Nothing’s worse than expecting the filling of the buns to be runny, breaking it open to find it completely solid. For those who don't know what this is, let me enlighten you. These are glorious custard steamed buns with sweet yet savoury molten fillings which just blows your mind. Top tip: break it in half before eating it cause the fillings can be piping hot, so careful not to burn your tongue! Most Dim Sum is only served around lunch time, so don't expect to have it for dinner.
And I think being in Chinatown does have its perks. You can get Chinese groceries easily and have some bubble tea. There’s plenty to choose from - CoCo, YiFang, Good Friend Chicken (it's one of those corner shops you think twice before going in, but they do serve up some pretty good Taiwanese bubble milk tea and fried chicken! Don't be quick to judge a book by its cover).
Royal China 24-26 Baker St, Marylebone, London W1U 3BZ
30 Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, London E14 8RR
DO NOT confuse Royal China Club and Royal China at Baker Street, cause I did, and it was embarrassing. I don't even know why they're located next to each other, but just a heads up. What I love about Royal China? Pretty much everything. If it's your first time having dim sum, steer away from the sesame prawn toasts. Go for the proper stuff. You can't ever go wrong with Siu Mai (ground pork dumplings), Har Gow/Har Kau (crystal prawn dumplings), Cheung Fan (steamed rice noodle) with a variety of fillings and of course, the salted egg yolk custard buns.
A Wong 70 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DE Tel:0207 828 8931
Some say they’d go back, others said no; I think I’d go back if I feel like having some “special” dim sum. And if you love instagramming your food, this is the place to be. They do, however, charge per piece you order, hence the £££. There were some favourites I liked - wild mushroom and truffle steamed bun, Shanghai steamed dumpling, shrimp dumpling in rice vinegar cloud. The entire experience was great for me; I enjoyed the idea of ordering dim sum by pieces, so I could opt out on the things I didn't want to eat, and not overstuff myself. The steamed duck yolk custard bun was a let down for me. You know I'm a huge fan of runny custard buns but too much of a good thing just becomes bad. It was way too runny the last time I went. It got messy trying to eat it, so maybe not great if you're on your first date? This might have changed, but it was a put off for me. Let me know if you’ve tried it and thought the same!
If you're there on a Saturday, and want to explore the area, try taking a bus to Sloane Square. The Sloane Square food market is the place to find some fresh oysters that'll only cost you £1-1.50 each, depending on their sizes. I'm a huge fan of oysters, and I highly recommend these ones. If not, you can always do some shopping without having to feel claustrophobic from being crushed by crowds eg. in Oxford Circus.
The real foodies out there might not agree with my post, but this is generally my weekend comfort food. And I don’t think I’d steer away from this list too much, cause they haven’t let me down yet. I’ve also added in some extras in to help you fill your day better instead of just travelling for a meal; cause that’s just real dedication right there. Thanks for staying till the end, and I hope it's helped those who're looking to satisfy their cravings for Korean, Japanese or Chinese food in #London!
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What to read next: If you're like me, an international, try reading my 'Home away from home' post. Or if you want some confidence boosters + fresh fashion ideas, try 'OOTD'.