Review #3: Senses

1 October 2016

One of the things I looked most forward to on this trip was my very quick stop in Warsaw en route to Lithuania the next day. I timed a connection perfectly so I got to have dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in the world, Senses. I still remember my first visit here, totally blown away…

Since I previous visit last year, my friend Andrea Camastra’s restaurant had been given a Michelin star, and people are finally taking notice of what I saw since the first few months this place opened. I’m so glad it’s going so well!

I ran into Andrea outside as I got to the restaurant, and we caught up a bit before he headed into the kitchen and the excellent staff showed me to my table. I have to say, the service here has always been top-notch and the FoH here is one of this restaurant’s best assets.

I relaxed as they caught me up with some developments and how they want to do the pairing, and I told them to go for it and surprise me. This should be fun! Then, as expected, quickly the amuse segment begins…


The first item was kind of cute, an “olive” filled with local cheese with some lamb ham. This came with a nice Aperol Spritz too. Then we got into a large set of goodies…


First was a saffron rice puff with mortadella…


Then a cute green olive taco with bresaola and smoked mackerel…


And finally the potato pancake souffle with smoked salmon. Mmm, all three were tasty, although the rice puff was a little hard to eat due to its big size! But an excellent set, getting me ready for the tasting to commence. Oh, of course the excellent bread service too…that lovely apple essence…


Then we began the first course with a very nice New Zealand riesling…


Mmm, this was a joyful tasting of cured sea trout and lardo from the Tuscan Cinta Senese heritage pig. Lovely flavours that worked well alone or in combination, as well as with the horseradish-centric foam on the side. Oh, did I forget the wee brioche that came on the side? Mmm…a nice surprise in the centre complemented the nicely steamed treat. Good start!


Next up a cute “Russian pierogi” in a tasty broth. The lardo and prawn combination was dreamy, and you can’t see it but there’s also bottarga… A lot of stuff in a small package! I wish I did the photo better as it really didn’t show this right. A wonderful pairing came by way of Jerez too…

So far I’m really enjoying this. The first two dishes were excellent, though for some reason I was tasting a lot of salt where there wasn’t. I suspect too much flying has utterly dehydrated me. Goodness, the last few weeks I’ve been in Tokyo, California, Vienna, London, Frankfurt, etc… Anyway, a beer is brought courtesy of Arzak, and the next dish arrives…


You can’t quite see, but it’s a fabulous venison tartar under the healthy amount of truffles. A little hard to eat logistically, but fabulous stuff. Lovely quality venison. I usually am not a fan of truffle due to its texture, but they have sliced these so well that this worked excellent. A rare “yay truffle” for me here. Plus, not pictured, a nice cup of mushroom broth.

I was happy with this tasting so far as you can see, and then the lambrusco was poured with essence of beet. Then the next course arrived, and as you imagine it’s focused on beets.


I love beets, so I love this. A fabulous tasting of beets, including a tasty sorbet. And a healthy amount of goat cheese too, one of those awesome combinations that always works. Fabulous break here, but with an Austrian tipple being poured, I see the next item coming…I smell it too…


I’ve enjoyed Chef’s take on gulyas in the past, but this is a more tempered version that focuses on the twin goodies of pork cheeks and king crab. Oh my…what a rich and wonderful selection. The king crab was just juicy as anything, and the cheeks were soft and succulent. Oh, and on the side, was a very cute “hot dog” full of more crab…wow…I can eat these things forever! Awesome stuff!

With that strong dish we needed a palate cleanser, and indeed it arrived… A nice grapefruit-centric shot, and we were ready to continue. A nice biodynamic wine from Alsace was poured and the next item arrived.


Oooh, these scallops were just absolutely lovely. One of the best quality scallops I’ve had, even if we add Japan to that list. The sweetness was just oozing out of these babies, and the cucumber and dill really made this a wonderful, refreshing dish. Wow, one of the dishes of the year…

I was still smiling as we move back drink-wise to New Zealand and we were presented with the next dish, wild sea bass.


Solid fish, but I thought this was a bit on the thick side. For some reason, I feel far more full this meal than I usually do here. Perhaps again with the consequences of flying too much, but I felt pretty full. However, this dish I gotta say the star was that Astrolabe sauvignon blanc… A rare so-so dish here.

I was getting really full, but I know there’s one more savoury dish as I see a big Italian red being poured. Then I started to smell what was coming and got excited again…


Oh my when they opened the box and I saw this beautiful imported Kobe beef rib. This was utterly fabulous, the rich beef just melting in one’s mouth. Beautiful stuff, another candidate for dish of the year. I actually grabbed the box just to keep sniffing it… I wish I could have taken the bone home!

Wow…I was very full. That was a heavy dinner. Good, but heavier than I am used to these days almost. The pairings have been utterly fabulous and rarely do a pairing stand out so strong for me. Kudos to the team for this selection! Then a wee cannolo to start the sweet portion of this meal…


Nice stuff, then the main dessert came, a tribute to the apple…


Wow. They called it “Apple Pie” and every portion has a resemblance to apple pie here. Excellent flavours working well both alone or together. And a fabulous Hungarian riesling added to the wonder of this. Awesome close!

But it’s not a close… a few more treats were coming, a tasting of cranberries…


…And even more…with a bit of a presentation…


Look at all this… It was almost too much!


Took awhile to fully enjoy all this, but at the end, we close with what has become the traditional last item, my cigar…


Lovely stuff, just sniffed it for a few minutes before eating it. Lovely close.

That was an excellent meal. I think the quick drop-in in midst of so many flights took its toll on me and my appetite was not as big as usual, which is why I thought this was heavier than usual. Strong as always, I noticed Chef is pushing the flavours even more than before. Many times it was at the utter limit, such as for the gulyas. It was intense without damaging the crab and cheeks. For me, a person who is more into pure tastes, sometimes it feels every dish is challenging my palate to its very limits, though not breaking it. It’s definitely an excellent thing, but I think my body was just too exhausted from travels. And to think I have about 2 more weeks of it to go…

I had a long good chat with Chef after the dinner going over a lot of things and I’m glad things are going so well for him and the restaurant! They certainly deserve a second Michelin star by the next guide, and I would not be surprised if they are one of the highest debut entry for the next 50 Best. I groan about both, but I know this place deserves to be rated alongside places like Maaemo (where I have eaten several times even before their 3rd Michelin star), Hedone (where I had lunch the day before), 11 Madison Park (where I have eaten way too many times in the past) and so forth. This guy is about to become a superstar.

Seriously, this place is worth a trip to Warsaw just for dinner. And it keeps evolving and growing. If you want a true challenge of your tastebuds, this is the place to go. It’s like Hedone on acid.

Bielańska 12
Warszawa, Polska

Review #2: Bocca di Lupo

29 September 2016

I had a wonderful night out with a dear old friend, with good drink and food (at St John Bread and Wine), but more importantly great conversation. I will miss these as circumstances will make these evenings in the future unlikely in London — although I suspect they will continue in other locations around the globe…

I had an important afternoon so wanted to fuel up with a late lunch at another of the “safe” places for me in London, Bocca di Lupo. I heard restaurants in SoHo were hurting from the massive drugs problem that is escalating quickly in the area, but the place was rammed. In fact, like some other times here, it was uncomfortable to eat at the counter due to overcrowding. Plus a drunken “celebrity” nearby taking up much room, it didn’t help.

I tolerate it because of the good food, but it’s one of the biggest downsides of this place. Very uncomfortable. And with it rammed the service was at a crawl at the beginning. Took about 15 minutes to get some wine, and another 10 minutes to order. Not starting out too good here…

I chilled out and remember that this happens every time here, so just take a deep breath and carry on. After a bit of time the cascade of dishes arrived. First were some nice “Jacob’s peppers”…


Good stuff, and then some so-so stuff like this spicy sausage…


And the rather weak scallop…


But the star was something you rarely get outside the region, rigatoni con la pajata


Mmm, in this pasta dish you have veal chitlins with its mother’s milk inside…a wonderful rare delicacy to get in the UK. Lovely stuff, something I’ve not had for over a decade. Fantastic.

And things quieted down a little, though everyone was puzzled by the person next to me ordering a plate of PLAIN pasta and to not really eat it. What is with food wasting with millennials? Of course an American tourist too… Embarrassing…

Anyway, for a dessert I usually always do the sanguinaccio, but this time I did a 2-parter. I began with these…


Honestly not that great… Anyway, then the espresso gelato…


These were fantastic, especially with some grappa on the side. I finished up and headed out for my very important afternoon.

I have to say, as usual, the frustration of the counter spacing is soothed by good food — although to be honest today was weaker than usual, and more chaotic than usual… One of the most important aspects of this place for the many years I’ve come here is to get stuff you cannot get outside of Italy easily, and that makes up for all the inconvenience and discomfort.

I’m glad I got to drop in one last time on this trip tho.

Bocca di Lupo
12 Archer Street
London, England

Review: Noble Rot

28 September 2016

My return to London of course was not to go without hiccups. I got some takeaway from one of the places I always thought was reliable, and of course they failed me and even ripped me off. Sigh… So the next day I needed a nice jolt for lunch.

I’ve seen so much praise for Noble Rot in London it actually turned me off. I don’t like places that has such universal praise, as it usually fails to deliver. But nevertheless I headed there and after a slow and awkward start the lunch began. Nice seat in the back with the skylight, which was cooler thank goodness.

I ordered and enjoyed some wine. I had a busy afternoon and a busier evening so didn’t want to overdo it — even if the wine list was pretty awesome, as it should be. I ordered and chilled out.

I like this atmosphere. But soon that happy chill turned into a happy drooly chill…


This was an excellent gazpacho with smoked eel. Lovely flavours in the eel of course, but I really wish there was more gazpacho — it was fabulous! Excellent stuff. Then my main…and I was drooly again…


Wow, this was amazing if you love pork — and I LOVE pork. A beautiful middlewhite chop cooked perfectly, without being trimmed to boredom. Lovely stuff for any pork lover, I can still taste it a fortnight later… Fabulous, one of the best pork of the year.

I enjoyed this lunch and made my way out after a final drink. I guess this place is deserving of all that praise, though I fear over-hyping this place will not do it justice. Safe to say this was a darn good lunch.

Noble Rot
51 Lamb’s Conduit Street
London, England

Review #2: El Pirata

27 September 2016

I headed out at an early hour out of Vienna, and despite that amazing dinner last night at Konstantin Filippou, I was glad to move to the next phase of this trip. I left that overheated airport and got to London early afternoon. Had time, so headed in by Pic and District lines.

I of course was hungry and pondered where to go — close to my hotel, or not. I thought I had some time, so why not meander to Mayfair and hit one of my favourite tapas places, El Pirata. I always enjoy my food here, having found this place over 15 years ago. It’s one of those places I just love to relax and feast in, you know?

Chilled with some wine and ordered a nice selection. As usual the cascade of dishes arrived pretty quickly, just when I ordered my second glass of wine. First up was the padron peppers…


Nice bunch, tho with my luck I got the spicy one on the very first bite… Then some gulas.


Yeah, they’re “gulas” but I love these thingies anyway. Lovely garlic sauce they use, great to mop up with all that bread. Then my favourite item…


They always do a fantastic arroz negro here, been eating it here for 15+ years. Lovely, creamy stuff, letting the ink do the talking. Lovely as always!


Then finally, a set of grilled sardines. Excellent stuff as well. What I love about this place is the simplicity of it, and they do stuff they know extremely well.

And if you know me, you know what my dessert was…


Shall I say more? Was really good to get back to London to be at one of my usual places. Nice and chill, the only annoyance is having to go to either Green Park or Hyde Park Corner to head out.

Not a bad start to my last time in London.

El Pirata
5-6 Down Street
London, England

Review: Konstantin Filippou

26 September 2016

I needed some rest after that juicy brain at Zu den 3 Hacken this afternoon. After days of non-stop trekking, I took it easy this afternoon before my last dinner on this leg of this trip. Tonight dinner is at 1-Michelin eatery Konstantin Filippou.

I always find it interesting that food bloggers always target the most stars first, and so many 1-star places all over the world fall off the radar. I wonder how this place is. I got there a little early and loitered outside looking at the menu and almost drooling. This sounds like a good one.

Once they opened I was seated in a nice dining room with a view of the adjacent kitchen. The restaurant slowly filled up through the night but not once did service stumble. Now that is very impressive, considering how so many 3-star places falter once they get busy. I went with the full pairing, and enjoyed some excellent bread with some really addictive onion butter. Then the amuse series began, first up with some beet and duck liver.


Beautiful, tho honestly rather hard to eat, but good flavours. They work very well in synch. Next up some marinated sardines.


Pretty good, the peas added a nice touch. I love my sardines! Then the final amuse, smoked char.


Awesome flavours here, the fish was excellent, lightly smoked. The mustard and roe really brought out the flavours, one of the best amuse of the year here. I am looking very forward to the courses!


First course focuses on roe, bathing in a fish cream. Excellent balance of flavours with the salty roe. Plus, a nice local macerated white to pair, this is starting off pretty good! Then comes the second dish and my mouth was open already…


Wow, this could compete for one of the best dishes of the year. Fabulous langostine dish; one part the lovely tail that’s just loaded with flavour, the other part tartar with some excellent broccoli. All with an excellent messy Catalan white (Abeurador), this was just dreamy. Oh, the aroma here…amazing…

I was smiling like a madman when the third dish arrived with a nice earthy white (Erde)…man, the pairings have been top notch here!


As good as the previous dish, these scallops were amazing. You get that awesome sweetness that comes out with perfect prep. The broth was again dreamy, and the wee mushroom and marrow thing was a wonderful addition. Awesome!

I was smiling still when the next dish arrived, and more amazing seafood — now lobster!


Oh my, this was wonderful, in cream with some more roe. The sauce is a bit heavy but it’s one of those things you can’t stop touching because it’s so good. A rare excellent chardonnay to pair, and this is another winner of a dish!

Wow, this is easily a contender for one of the top meals of the year, easily! And the good stuff kept coming, now venison!


The loin was cooked perfectly, no stringiness here, full of flavour. With a very juicy Italian red, this was another excellent dish! The only thing that was marring this amazing evening, from fabulous food to top-notch service, was a toddler having multiple tantrums, and a couple that seems to argue on how to deal with it…great…

That drama was annoying, but food was so good I remained focused. A wee palate cleansing treat was presented.


Tamarillo and parsley jelly, nice. And oddly a pairing, a nice Slovenian rose. A great transition to the last part of the meal…oh, I almost wish this wouldn’t end it’s been so good! First up was a bit of an wow presentation-wise…


A rosey galore… Sadly it wasn’t that great, as the horseradish cream beneath had already melted. Too bad, would have tasted awesome if it had worked. Oh well, can’t have a perfect meal!


Then the closer, a dessert based on blackberry and sunchokes. Yikes, right? My stomach was saying that about them sunchokes. But the almond gelato was nice, tho the puffed quinoa I could do without. Oh well, as a non-dessert person that’s not an ending I’m worried about.


I skipped the cheese as I was pretty full, and they brought out a nice bunch of stuff as I looked at the schnapps cart drooling… Needless to say I enjoyed a few items, though now the crying toddler drama has exploded into a domestic, and then I got dragged into it… The woman then came up to my table and tried to engage me in conversation and to ask me to join them. Erm, no. I don’t want to be in the middle of this…

So conveniently I nursed several nice after-dinner drinks and coffee until they started to bother other diners before they finally gave up and left, and the room sighed in relief… I enjoyed the rest of my drinks and left happily. I thanked the team profusely for a wonderful evening of amazing food and excellent service.

Certainly one of the dinners of the year here at the under-rated Konstantin Filippou. I don’t know why this is beneath the radar for so many food people, but it blows its Vienna competitors out of the water totally. Totally recommended!!!

Konstantin Filippou
Dominikanerbastei 17
Wien, Österreich

Review: Zu den 3 Hacken

26 September 2016

Got up very early again and had a very long morning. Vienna is more functional now it being Monday, and I’m hoping a new week brings a change of luck. This trip has been shit so far, not helped by last night’s poor dining experience at Lubin.

I had a productive but knackering morning that involved more walking than most Viennese do in a year, and I was back around the centre around lunch time. I decided to drop into one of the more historic places in town that’s NOT known for Schnitzel; I remember my poor experiences with places like that during my previous trip here, but today’s lunch was at Zu den 3 Hacken.

For one, I spoke only German this time, and I noticed that once I started to speak it at a more than “5-tourist-words” level, the server was far more happy to serve me. And indeed I had excellent service for lunch, even having a few brief conversations about best ways to prepare my main course.

I chilled with some nice white sitting outside — which is a joy when there’s no one smoking around (which is a big if in Vienna). Then my starter arrived — Altwiener Suppenteller.


The old Viennese soup bowl was quite nice, with a good broth. Beef was nice, the noodles nice. All nice, wonderful for a parched diner to enjoy! Good start.

Then my server told me it would take a bit of time to do my main course, and he asked if I wanted something else instead. After a bit more chatter I told him I had plenty of time, so he happily kept all as is — and brought me out more wine.

I chilled in the warming sun and soon the main course arrived, and…yeah…

Any guess what it is?


Beautiful fried brain here. It was huge, and I’m sure my cholesterol will explode now… But look how creamy good it is…


Mmmm…brain… Mel did his best zombie impression and finished off this huge treat. This sure beats a boring Schnitzel! And of course a side of Vienna’s famous potato salad…


An excellent meal. I thanked my server and headed out. The meal was wee heavier than planned, so I went back to my hotel for a bit of a rest. Finally, something good on this trip! Let’s hope it’s a trend!

Zu den 3 Hacken
Singergerstraße 28
Wien, Österreich

Review: Lubin

25 September 2016

And I thought my trip couldn’t begin worse I was wrong… I flew to Vienna the next morning and after dropping my bag I headed across the border to Bratislava. I’ve not been to Slovakia in over a decade and I was looking forward to it…

…And it was a total disaster. I had to deal with some unpleasant racial abuse that involved people spitting at me… Then my hotel bumped my pre-paid booking, and forced me to overnight in a shitty place in a less-than-great location. And couldn’t find anything solid to eat all night…including pubs that ran out of food (early on a Saturday evening!). Amazing… If it wasn’t for an accidental discovery of an excellent Vietnamese restaurant — Papaya — near the shit hotel, I would have nothing good to say about this short stay.

I made my way back to Vienna very early in the morning and had a long, long day around town on train, subway, streetcar, bus, and foot. I was knackered. And unfortunately, Vienna sucks for food on Sunday, and the only option I found was a Croatian seafood place called Lubin.

I got there just as it opened and it had an odd odour… Doesn’t bode well for seafood, and that made me choose things accordingly. I tried to relax and at the beginning it was good. I enjoyed some Croatian white and they brought a fish mousse as an amouse.


Not bad. Then soon my food began arriving.


First up was some octopus, which was pretty good. Nothing special, but pretty solid. Next up was something I was looking forward to, gavuni.


These fried sand smelts were nice, though it could have been seasoned a bit better. I love eating these fish, so this was a very nice dish for me. Simple and good. But at this point the restaurant was getting busier with other people looking for Sunday dinners, and the service crashed accordingly…

Took 15 minutes to get someone’s attention that my wine has been drained for ages. Not thrilled. Then the main course arrived and my heart sunk…


This was supposed to be buzara… It’s an imitation, wannabe “buzara” poured over poorly-made polenta with 4 measely shrimp on top. What a mess! Definitely nothing like what I enjoyed at one of my all-time faves in NYC, Villa Berulia

I basically ate as much as I could before I quit. I was hungry, but I had lost my appetite here… What were they thinking? Was it to nail the tourist? I stupidly switched to English and I noticed the attitude changing. Is this part of the distain I see with the Viennese with tourists, especially ones that look like from Asia?

Whatever it is, this was not good and of course it took another 15 minutes to get anyone’s attention to pay. I left not very happy by this experience, and frankly I wish I just got some room service or grabbed a döner near the train station… And, of course, my stomach was in pain in a few hours, from something dodgy tonight…

This is turning into a clusterf**k of a trip…

Hainburgerstraße 48
Wien, Österreich