Review: Seven Swans

18 April 2017

I had a long 2-day journey that culminated in dinner in Frankfurt. Left home on Easter Monday morning for LGA, and spent the day zipping through Queens and Long Island in a rental car that I thought was gonna fall into pieces Blues-Brothers-Mobile-style every time it hit one of NYC outer boroughs’ ubiquitous potholes…

I got it eventually to JFK somehow in one piece. Then a rather peaceful but painful red-eye where I didn’t eat nor drink anything but my small bottle of water and zoned out by listening to music and keeping my eyes shut. No sleep, but I didn’t feel as bad as I usually do after shorter-than-scheduled red-eyes to Europe.

Got to Frankfurt, and thank goodness my room at one of the airport hotels was already ready by 1030am…so thankful for those moments. Decided to keep myself awake and I headed out for a long day hiking around Frankfurt’s historic Hauptfriedhof. Spent a few hours wandering around many historic and beautiful graves, anything from Dr Alzheimer’s to a Confederate general’s aristocratic family tomb.

I was knackered and headed back to the airport to take a much-needed shower. Ended up soaking in the tub to soothe my painful legs, joints, back, etc… Then got myself ready and headed into town next to the historic cathedral for tonight’s dinner at Seven Swans.

A cool little place, I started at the ground floor bar — which you know took cocktails seriously. I enjoyed one (a good boulevardier) before I went up the lift — to have it open INSIDE the kitchen. One of the fun bits of this place, as you then have to walk down half a floor to the dining room. Cute little place.

The tasting menu presented itself and I was pretty happy with it. Happily went with the pairing. I was hungry, as the only food I’ve had since Easter (it’s Tuesday night) was a bad burger at JFK. Soon a quick item followed, a nice clam broth.


This was followed by a snack featuring calf’s head with a tasty “green sauce” made of 7 herbs. They do like their green herbs here. Tasty start. With a nice pour we began with the vegetable and cream cheese dish.


Love the baby vegetables here, wonderful earthy flavours. They seem especially proud of their vegetables here, and they should be. Excellent peas too, and the goat cream cheese was very delicious. A good start!

After a little while the place was full. I had a nice little alcove table, so that was a nice way to both be in the room and to hide from the other 2-tops. Next up was char.


Excellent stuff, fabulous radish and beans. The char was split in several preps, including a tartar and a very low temp smoked method, all under the good piece you can barely see. Excellent variety! I’m impressed with this place!

Another good pour and we move onto a surprise course — parsnip soup.


A bit meh, as it is basically parsnip soup. But one thing that’s getting to me is the pace. It’s very, very slow, as at this point it’s been over 2 hours already since I started on my cocktail. But it’s felt less dragged on, because they time the wine pourings very smartly — unlike other long tasting dinners where they leave you high and dry for 20 minutes on between courses. Here they pour big and early.

The next dish features the “wooly” pork (mangalica) and malt — and lol they said don’t Google it before you eat it because it’s rather cute. Lol.


But this was a wonder of a dish. The bun and pulled pork was excellent, with just a bit of acid to make it more interesting with the bun. But that rib…oh my was it good. The best rib I’ve had in years, and that includes some amazing BBQ places in the US. This is awesome… I love mangalica in any shape or form, but this was done so nicely…

I was really enjoying this dinner despite the pace, as the kitchen is fabulous and service friendly and excellent. Then we moved to the last savoury dish, the wild duck.


Wow, this was also fabulous. I was told this is the first part, which is a mince in its own marrow — plus marrow on top of it (as you can see). Absolutely intense and beautiful stuff. Wow… Then part two, the breast.


Fabulous again, lovely cooking of a beautiful piece of wild fowl. They told me the hunter they got this from is one of their reliable guys just about an hour outside of town. Apparently one of the diners got lucky and found a shot. But the dumpling was filled with marrow as well, and the sauce was also intense and just mind-blowing. Wow… If this 2-parter isn’t one of the dish of the year, it may be that this entire meal could be one of the best of 2017!

After a little rest a pre-dessert of basil flowers and berry sorbet. Then the full dessert, based on hazelnut and honey.


Not bad, oddly acidic at first but it somehow quickly balances itself out in your mouth. Good stuff.

Now I really enjoyed that meal! I took a coffee and usually I’d do an after-dinner drink, but I decided to shift to the cocktail bar again so I settled up and thanked the excellent team who took care of me. Amazing kitchen.

I then had a not-so-smart night in the bar until it closed, doing way, way too many drinks. For someone lacking sleep this was not smart at all, considering I had a morning flight to Prague…

I’m gonna pay for it badly tomorrow…but damn, this restaurant is FANTASTIC!

Seven Swans
Mainkai 4
Frankfurt-am-Main, Deutschland

A Tale of Two Steakhouses in Illinois — A Modern Day Horror Story

1-2 April 2017

I headed out of Chattanooga and back to Birmingham, where I took the last flight out to Chicago. Yep, this three-headed trip started in New England, then the Deep South, then to the Midwest. A great look at Trump’s America… I had a long day in the Chicago area and scooted out west and closed the day in the Rockford area.

I was hungry and planned to be at a place called Josef Steakhouse & Oyster Bar. Not many choices in town, and this didn’t start too well as it was basically empty when I arrived. I happily sat in their “wine bar” section on a hi-top.

An okay martini in hand before the starter arrived…


Beets…yeah… This actually looked less disgusting in the darkness. Very boring taste. After the beets I had in Providence at Persimmon, this is just awful. Sigh… Oh well, I’m here for the steak anyway.


Huh? This is a 16oz ribeye? It was cooked pretty well and tasted good, but this lollypop look always tells me they trimmed excessively — probably post-weighing. Really disappointing stuff. And considering this is one of the most expensive steaks I’ve had in the past few years? This thing was $68. Yes, you read that right… This is Rockford. Rockford.

I voiced my displeasure and my poor server had to be the go-betweener with the kitchen and higher-ups. Management was rather rude at the end too, which bodes poorly for this place. Ridiculous. AVOID!!!

The next day I had a long trek through eastern Iowa beating the ugly storm into the Quad City area. Tonight’s stop is Moline, on the south side of the Mississippi River. Next to my rather charming hotel is another steakhouse that I hope proves to be better, Bass Street Chop House.

I got there early and was given a booth near the bar. Already happier, more old school here, not trying to pretend to be hip like last night. I enjoyed a so-so martini and ordered. A bottle of wine tonight as hotel was across the street, so no worries…

I enjoyed some of the wine and a bowl of the boring free soup before the steak arrived…now this is more like it!

smoked ribeye

Sorry, I had to cut into it for the temperature before the photo; it does not look like this out of the kitchen! But a good steak, the size was far more accurate! This ribeye was smoked slightly, so that gave it a nice little touch.


Some corn and spinach and it rounded off the evening. Compared to last night’s steak it’s a huge difference. This was 18oz compared to last night’s 16oz. No way the difference was only 2oz. What a joke that place in Rockford is…

Anyway, dessert was just finishing up the wine. It got a bit busy in the bar area so I thanked my server and meandered back to the hotel. Long day tomorrow, trekking down the Mississippi into Missouri before heading back to Chicago to fly home the next night…

Not a bad steak, but these small city steakhouses are always going to disappoint in some way. Tonight was far better, so that’s fine. But with Josef the night before? Avoid, avoid, AVOID!!!

Josef Steakhouse & Oyster Bar
6860 Spring Creek Road

Bass Street Chop House
1601 River Drive
Moline, Illinois

PS: AVOID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Review: St John’s

30 March 2017

After my 2 nights in the Providence area I headed off to Cape Cod, to be greeted by foul weather and mediocre food (tho a pretty good stuffed Quahog). Oh well… Then after a very unpleasant stop in Baltimore I headed to Birmingham, Alabama. Yep, New England to the Deep South. I had a really long day but was rewarded with some fine BBQ from Big Bob Gibson Barb-B-Q in Decatur in the north of the state.

I took off from Decatur early in the morning as I had a few stops to make, and there appears to be extreme weather heading into the area, so wanted to clear out of north-west Alabama and southern Tennessee before it rolls in. A long day rolling through the area closed with a beautiful but annoying drive through the Cumberland Plateau along the scenic Tennessee River to Chattanooga. Beautiful, but always marred by trucks causing massive back-ups thanks to the steep winding hills.

I headed to dinner a bit earlier than expected, even as I crossed back over a timezone. Tonight’s destination was St John’s in downtown. All I’ve read about Chattanooga this is clearly the best restaurant, so I was excited. I got there and chilled out. I ordered a cocktail and a snack and just relaxed…

The cocktail was quite interesting, called The Forager, it was similar to a Manhattan but with the addition of some type of mushroom syrup, which was quite interesting. Then the snack…

01-crawfish fritters

Mmm, some excellent crawfish fritters, really enjoyed these. Full of flavour, as good as anything I have far further south than this. Quite nice. A good start! I ordered my courses and chilled, finishing the cocktail and enjoying a glass of crispy sauvignon blanc. Then the starter came and I smiled.

02-crab salad

This was a special, a crab salad with strawberries and white asparagus. Extremely tasty, nice bunch of Dungeness crab from the Pacific North-West. Really nice, worth bypassing many of the excellent options available as a starter. I then switched back to a cocktail, a more mediocre one called Low Rider, before my main arrived…

03-pork shoulder

This pork combination was good, but not as good as the previous items — nor the amazing pork at The Salted Slate a few days earlier. The shoulder was good though at points a little dry. The belly was excellent, really rich. A good assortment of stuff on the plate, esspecially the beets and radish, though I wish there was more of the excellent risotto.

I was pretty happy and decided to have a liquid dessert, which was a gin cocktail with peas called The Sweet Pea. Oh btw here are the pix of all three interesting cocktails…


Nice, and I like the use of so many fresh ingredients with all of the cocktails. Not sweet, not fruity, just perfect. I really like this place! Aside from a table of middle-aged, well-dressed drunks nearby, this was a really good dinner. It more than exceeded my expectations for Chattanooga, and it may be worth a return trip!

St John’s
1278 Market Street
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Review: Salted Slate

26 March 2017

The weather was not as bad as advertised, so I had a productive day that took me through Massachusetts — and that means dealing with the plethora of Massholes on the roads…people in this state do NOT realise that the yellow line is NOT merely a suggestion…

In any case, a long day, I was looking forward to dinner at The Salted Slate. I’ve read a lot of good things about this place, and I got there on a quiet Sunday night and took a place at the bar. A cocktail later and I placed my order. Chilled out, I like this place, really chill — perfect for a Sunday evening. Soon the opener arrived, some local oysters.


Nice, I’ve not had fresh oysters in ages. Tasty and crispy, a nice start. Then switching to a nice grenache we have the first course, short rib.

2-short rib

Done pretty well, although the base was a little acidic. In general a good dish. Then next up was my main, the day’s special pork.

3-inside round pork_edited

Oh my is this good. They had an inside round cut and it was rich and beautiful. Perhaps a little undercooked from my desired medium, but that was actually even better. Lovely meat, lovely flavour. Fantastic!

Had a wonderful conversation with some locals too, as this seems to be a favourite for many. Wonderful place. I had a nitecap and coffee and had to take my leave as I was really out of energy. But this was a wonderful evening, and if there was one restaurant in Providence I’d recommend over all others it is this. Persimmon last night was good, as was the much-raved-about Birch and certainly New Rivers during my last visit here, but this place is the one I’d rec over the others. A fine night.

Salted Slate
186 Wayland Avenue
Providence, Rhode Island

Review: Persimmon

25 March 2017

I have a soft spot for Rhode Island, despite how crummy parts of it seems to be. Flying into Providence I always like to play Providence by King Crimson…more poignant now that my old friend John Wetton has passed… But I had a good afternoon in the misty afternoon before dinner.

I have tried to dine at Persimmon many times in the past few years, but it never worked schedule-wise in Bristol. But they’ve moved to Providence, so this time it worked out. I got there a little early and was seated. I asked the bar to make me a cocktail and they brought me a very nice Vieux Carrere…

I ordered, being hungry as I’ve not eaten all day. Chilled out for a bit then my first dish arrived — beets.


Not bad, an assortment of beets. Some smoked, but some had a really stringy consistency. Nevertheless a nice start. I decided not to do a tasting and go on my own, and this seems to have worked better. Next up, risotto.


Honestly wee undercooked. This took a bit longer but it was undercooked. Oh well. Good flavour, but that was a bit of a downer. Wines running well as is service. Next up, local black bass.

03-black bass

Now this was excellent, cooked perfectly. Soft and lovely flesh, though the sauce was a little odd. Good dish. Enjoying this evening so far. And the last dish, lamb.


Oh my this was good. Confit was pretty good, but the saddle was just lovely. Fantastic lamb from Maine, soft and uncompromising. I hate boring lamb that’s been neutralised to the point you can’t taste the lamb; this was perfect. And the texture, just awesome. Fantastic closing number!

I was too full to have dessert so a nice rye and coffee later I headed out happily. Again, like my other meals in Providence in the past — like the excellent Birch and also at the underrated New Rivers — it’s been excellent. Very underrated food town! Much recommended!

99 Hope Street
Providence, Rhode Island

My Top 10 Dishes of 2016

Okay, as promised here’s the top 10 dishes of 2016. This list does not consider what was listed previously as part of the 10 best meals of 2016. I’m not gonna rank it, so this is just alphabetical by restaurant name. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this list!


Veal Tongue: Bibliotēka №1, Rīga, Latvia (16 June 2016) — The best dish of an excellent tasting menu, came close to getting into the 10 best meal list. I love tongue, and when done right it’s amazing…and this was perfect, cooked slowly in butter. Oh my, the flavour… Best restaurant in Latvia, hands down!

02-Black Market-Tongue

Grilled Tongue: Black Market, Indianapolis, Indiana (17 November 2016) — Hard to pin one dish down as everything I’ve eaten at this place in my 2 visits this year have been amazing. The tongue on the 2nd trip was just a tad better. I don’t want to have one place listed multiple times on this list, so this will have to do! Best restaurant in the Midwest! Awesome food, awesome drinks, awesome staff!

03-Cobble Hill-sturgeon

Smoked Sturgeon: Cobble Hill, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (23 July 2016) — Another of my favourite fish done in a wonderful way. Light smoke for this meaty and tasty fish, the best dish of an evening of excellent dishes in Iowa. Worth a trip, probably the 2nd best restaurant in the Midwest!

04-Do Kai Noi-Fish

Steamed Mekong Fish: Doi Ka Noi, Vientiane, Laos (19 December 2016) — A simple yet incredibly flavourful dish, this wonderful informal restaurant on the outskirts of this quiet capital city gave me the best dish of that entire trip. Cooked perfectly, the fish and sauce complements the organic purple sticky rice just perfectly. Bliss. Sometimes simplicity is the best, but don’t let this dish fool you — it’s full of flavour.

05-La Fia Cod

Smoked Black Cod: La Fia, Wilmington, Delaware (5 November 2016) — Lovely smoke flavour for this lovely fish. Too often this fish is cooked in some pan-Asian style, so it’s refreshing to get a new take on it. Awesome fish, awesome prep, excellent, underrated kitchen, worth stopping in Wilmington just for it! Skip Philly, this is far better!

06-Lucky Belly-Cheek

Beef Cheek: Lucky Belly, Honolulu, Hawai’i (29 August 2016) — One of the best cheek dishes I’ve ever had in my life… Lovely texture and flavour, with some excellent local root vegetables too. Fabulous! And throw in some excellent cocktails and you have a sure winner here! A dream destination for kama’aina for sure!

07-Lunk King Heen-apps

Chinese Roasted Meats: Lung King Heen***, Hong Kong (12 December 2016) — What happens when you have a 3-Michelin restaurant do traditional Chinese roasts? This. Wow…amazing stuff. The crispy roast pork was divine, with the skin just perfect. The roasted goose was juicy and delicious. And the barbeque pork was lovely. Best part of a wonderful meal! Best in Hong Kong!

08-Noble Rot-Middlewhite

Middlewhite Chop: Noble Rot, London, England (28 September 2016) — This much-hyped restaurant lived up to its billings, a rarity in London these days. Fabulous meal, but this Middlewhite pork chop is just stunning. Rich and uncompromising, this is about as drool-inducing as any other dish this year!


Mackerel: Oaxen Slip, Stockholm, Sweden (20 June 2016) — One of my favourite fish done in a simple yet wonderful way. A serve-yourself thing with beets and asparagus, adding butter to an already oily fish made this a rich treat for a lovely summer lunch! Again, sometimes simplicity is the best — let the ingredients speak for themselves. Some chefs just can’t resist, but here it is a mantra!


Poulet Rouge: Rx, Wilmington, North Carolina (17 February 2017) — So easy to mess up chicken, heritage stuff or not. But this was a perfect execution of a wonderful bird. Juicy, fabulous texture, with no dryness whatsoever. A wonderful dish for a wonderful night of dining in a town few visit for the food — hopefully this excellent eatery changes that! A surprise find for sure!

And, like last year, here’s the lucky 13 extra dishes that are “honourable mentions” for 2016! Too many good dishes all over the world!


Yellowtail and Sweetbread — a(MUSE) (6 November 2016)

x02-Bachelor Farmer-Duck

Roast Duck — Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis, Minnesota (29 July 2016)


Coca-Smoked Bread — Central, Lima, Peru (4 July 2016)

x04-Finnjavel-Smoked fish

Smoked Whitefish — Finnjävel, Helsinki, Finland (14 June 2016)


Roast Poussin — Forequarter, Madison, Wisconsin (25 July 2016)

x06-Frantzen-satio tempesta

“Satio Tempestas” — Frantzén**, Stockholm, Sweden (18 June 2016)

x07-Lot 12-Duck

Roast Duck — Lot 12 Public House, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia (18 August 2016)

x08-Malis-Crab Rice

Crab Fried Rice — Malis, Phnom Penh, Cambodia (22 December 2016)


Red Snapper Crudo — Marino, Hollywood, California (28 May 2016)


Heart Salad — Republic, Detroit, Michigan (19 July 2016)

x11-Sweet Root-Snail

Snail Caviar — Sweet Root, Vilnius, Lithuania (4 October 2016)

x12-Youngs Lobster Pound

Steamed Lobster — Young’s Lobster Pound, Belfast, Maine (30 April 2016)

x13-Zu Hacker-Brain

Brain Schnitzel — Zu den 3 Hacker, Vienna, Austria (26 September 2016)

Well, here you go, this is 2016. During the year I managed to travel to 23 US states and 19 countries on 4 different continents, eating all all of them. I hope you enjoyed this little trip through the past year with me, and hope you enjoy my travels so far in 2017 and those forthcoming!

Thank you all!


My 10 Best Meals of 2016

Well, it’s a few months into 2017, so there’s enough time to totally digest (sorry) all the meals of 2016. And like last year, what I will do is break the “best of” into two parts. This first part will be the 10 best meals of 2016; the next entry will be the best dishes of 2016 — excluding the 10 restaurants listed on this list. So I hope you join me in this 2-part journey through a wonderful food year that is 2016!


10) Pujol (19 January 2016)
From that amazing smoked baby corn with powdered chicatana ants to the suckling lamb taco, this was a wonderful night of innovative Mexican cooking. On this evening the “mother” part of their signature “mole madre, mole nuevo” was 865 days old, providing an unique experience for someone not all that enamoured with Mexican cuisine in general. If anything, this dinner actually made me seek out more Mexican food since. Excellent.


9) Ichi* (2 September 2016)
Much like my 2015 dinner here, what is wonderful about dining at Ichi is the total experience. You really feel at home here, especially with the wonderful attentive and friendly service. The cooking is top-notch, doing just enough with the fabulous ingredients as needed — and not more. Restraint is sometimes the hardest thing for chefs to practice. Amazing stuff all night, but one has to mention that superb snapper that nearly killed me… Still my favourite restaurant in Tokyo.


8) Kokkeriet* (11 June 2016)
I’ve not had many good dining experiences in Copenhagen, and I frankly think the city is the most overrated in the Nordic area. But I was seriously impressed with one of the lesser-cheered Michelin places in town, Kokkeriet. Finally some sensible cooking and service that didn’t make me feel unwelcomed, rushed, or bewildered. The veal tongue was fabulous, the humble beet excellent. Star of the night was the poussin, which was one of the best fowl dishes I’ve ever had.


7) La Picantería (4 July 2016)
This is the only lunch listed on this list, and it was a surprise to me. I was not planning anything, but when my server told me they’ll do a special tasting for me, I went with it. And it was awesome. From the amazing seafood to the tripe, it was a total treat of Peruvian cuisine. The crab was gorgeous, the ceviche stunning. Even the duck! This place and its humble, close-to-the-heart cooking blew the biggies in Lima out of the water. Definitely worth that bus ride!


6) Stages at One Washington (28 April 2016)
Chef Evan Hennessey is one of the most talented chefs in the US and this place is one that I would make a huge detour to visit again. A little different from my first (and amazing) visit when Chef ran everything on his own, this meal saw a very functional kitchen team work on some amazing dishes that highlighted New England’s best. Some of the best aspects of this dinner was the wonderful produce, from the beets to mushrooms, from carrots to rutabaga. Amazing talent at work here, and I’ll happily make the detour to come back to this amazing little restaurant.

The next four are all tied at #2…way too hard to rank these amazing dinners. They are listed in alphabetical order…


2*) Konstantin Filippou* (26 September 2016)
Like Copenhagen, I’ve had some challenges with Michelin places in Vienna. But this place really killed it this evening, with some amazing cooking. The service team also smoothly dealt with some unpleasant challenges, but it really shows how good they are. The langostine was amazing, the lobster stunning, and the scallops were dreamy. One of the most pleasant discoveries I’ve made in the past few years food-wise, the irony of having some mind-blowingly good seafood in a landlocked country. Awesome.


2*) Ö (17 June 2016)
I went “home” to Tallinn unexpectedly for one day and of course I drop into my 2nd favourite restaurant in Europe. I’ve had so many amazing tasting menus here that I still await the day they get into both the Michelin and 50 Best categories. The service is amazingly good, excellent pairings, and the dishes are all spectacular in taste and visuals. The raw courses here, from elk tartar to whitefish carpaccio, were awesome, but the cooked dishes were beyond special. The beef from Saaremaa is gonna be a regional star soon, but it’s the stupendous quail from Järveotsa that has me in heaven each time I have it here. Very affordable for this amazing quality too. Never disappoints!


2*) Senses* (1 October 2016)
I was extremely happy to hear that my favourite restaurant in Europe had received its first Michelin star, and I went to celebrate with Chef Andrea Camastra. He again pushed the flavours to the very limit for the dishes presented this evening. Once again, like before, the service is beyond spotless — far more refined than many 2-star places. Amazing wine pairings as usual also, complementing Chef’s amazing creations. His take on gulyas is always one of my favourites, with some extremely intense flavours. The scallops were some of the best I’ve ever had, and that Kobe rib was just divine. I stopped in Warsaw just for this dinner, and I’m glad I did. And will do it again.


2*) Sushisho Masa (4 September 2016)
Often sushi-centric dinners are dependent on rather subjective judgement, but one thing that made this evening at Sushisho Masa amazing — one of the best sushi experiences of my life — is the celebration of the bounty of the sea. Instead of just giving us a wonderful slice of the fish, what is awesome about this place is that they often give you several perspectives of the same creature — such as a contrasting raw versus seared, or different parts of the fish, or even the fish and the liver. You don’t just get a simple slice of flesh, you get to appreciate everything from awabi (abalone) to sanma (saury), from katsuo (bonito) to anago (eel). Just give such a better perspective than a series of different fish. Amazing stuff…

And the very best of 2016?


1) Leo (1 July 2016)
One of the joys of travelling the world is to enjoy not just local cuisine, but the best and most unique local products. And the meal that really defined this effort is Leo in Bogotá. This was the best meal of the year, as Chef Leonor Espinosa brings out the very, very best of Colombia. Some of the dishes that evening was mind-blowing, from the amazing mutton to the awesome tuna coated with hormigas culonas ants. You get so many things that are unique to the region that can’t be found elsewhere, which adds to the joy of this evening. Amazing beverages too for the unique pairing. And that pepper sauce with the caiman? Oh my. Yep, the meal of the year, #1.

Anyway, here they are! I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane with me and my stomach. Next up, the best dishes of 2016!

PS: If you are wondering, here are my 5 “Hall-of-Shame” entries for biggest dining fails of 2016…
Craigie on Main (Boston, 27 April 2016)
Kondo (Tokyo, 5 September 2016)
Maido (Lima, 5 July 2016)
Quintonil (Mexico City, 18 January 2016)
Vetri (Philadelphia, 28 November 2016)