Cooking with J [read: Going Out]

*post by J*

When we last left our heroes (yes, we are your heroes, also our own heroes, making us violently vapid individuals, but not really), we had finished up a weekend of fun and were headed into another week of being real humans, which apparently the British still do, albeit sparingly. Since, we have had another weekend, K has started work, and a whole host of much less interesting things have happened. But I’m not writing about that, I’m writing about food.

Tonight (Friday), K and I, as is typical on this day of the week, went out to eat. She decided on Italian, and I was left to Yelp away, slaving for hours finding the perfect restaurant. Okay, not hours, but still. K’s approach is much more “probably anything I wander into will be good to eat” whereas my approach is much more “this is London and bad restaurants prey on innocent nonlocals like a pack of raptors in a daycare.” Yelp is magical, and still works in London, proving once and for all that at least one thing from California can be a net positive contribution to the world (also, you know, the entire technological revolution, but whatever).

So. Food. Yes. I finally settled on Jamie’s Italian, the London banner restaurant of Jamie Oliver, who I’m not sure I like but recognize that my opinion of a person is not, despite the dramatic conveniences that would otherwise ensue, a reliable metric for determining the quality of their food. So we went. AND IT WAS FABULOUS. Now this is going to temporarily be a food blog.

This is literally the table at which we ate. We found this on the internet. Holy crap, Internet!

The Cocktail Hour: K had a Bellini, I had a Milano. Both are drinks based off Prosecco, hers with peach and mine with OJ. K enjoyed hers thoroughly, whereas I found mine to be a bit tart and difficult to drink when I wasn’t thinking about how much I already sunk into it and wanted to have a drink. This was rapidly overcome, however, by…

Bread and Balls: To start, we shared their bread selection with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, which is pretty much the bread and…olive…oil…of Italian meal-starting. Appetizing. These were good — there was one crunchy flat bread which was especially fun, as well as a pretty delightful sourdough, a good wheat, and three more breads which were, obviously, somewhat less memorable. Overall, fantastic experience for a bread basket, even if I do have to pay for it (evidently a London thing). These were followed by Smoky Scamorza Arancini, which I not only correctly pronounced, but also thoroughly enjoyed. Essentially these were fried balls of rice, mozzarella cheese, and porcini (mushrooms). They were magically soft inside and perfectly crunchy outside, and the cheese and smoky (surprise! it’s in the name, after all) flavor of the porcini conspired to not-so-subtly rock your face. These were really good, to be clear.

The Pasta: Because Italian people evidently eat like snakes and devour like ten times their body weight with every meal, pasta dishes at Jamie’s come in two sizes: “small”, “starter”, or “this is probably enough for a human to eat if you got anything else” and “normal”, “entrée”, or “hope you brought a bigger belt”. We opted to get three of the former and split them between us. I decided on the Cuttlefish Paccheri, which was well-balanced between fish and pasta, featured the most marvelously well-cooked pasta I have ever had, and generally conveyed the sense that the entire ocean had pooled (hah!) together just to make you happy for twenty minutes. Which it did, despite the constant fear that I would think of what a cuttlefish looks like while eating my meal, thus shattering my meal, my world, and imbuing me with some horrifying alien-fish mental disorder or something. But I did not. For reference, cuttlefish look like this:

HOLY. CRAP.

Pretty much they look like alien Cthulu hovercrafts of the sea. So that’s great.

K went for the Bucatini Carbonara, which was pretty much spaghetti carbonara with some fantastic smoky meat and bucatini noodles, which are essentially superthick round spaghetti. K was not as impressed with her dish, finding it somewhat bland. I thought it was good, but definitely wouldn’t recommend it out of everything we had, even though it, like everything else, was very fresh and well-prepared.

We split the Wild Truffle Risotto, which packed the dual threat of being a delicious risotto and tasting entirely of black truffle. K was able to eat way more of this than I was, as I found it pretty powerful on the truffle side. Both of us thought it was utterly delicious, and I would order it again provided I had somebody to split it with again.

Wine: The pasta was accompanied by a carafe of Fiano di Avellino Compania (2010 we believe), which was pretty great by itself. Very light, fruity (peachy) white, crisp and really ideal for a light meal. This would probably crush with a salad. We did not have a light meal, of course, but still both enjoyed this immensely. I think it paired quite well with my dish — the fruity crispness did nice things versus the salty experience of a bowl of fresh ocean and light pasta. Paired reasonably well with K’s as well, from what I am told. I was less happy about the truffle pairing, but that was sort of an odd man out anyway. K didn’t mind it, but the truffle utterly decimated the flavor of the wine, and I would have gone with something a bit more assertive were I planning around the truffle-heavy dish.

Dessert: Shared the “ultimate brownie”, a chocolate-raspberry-amaretto cake which was really nothing like a “brownie” and all for the better. This was a perfect finish to the meal, was a great size for a split, and came with chocolate drizzle and a simple bit of vanilla ice cream. There’s not a lot to say except that it would be worth coming back just for dessert if the opportunity presented.

Report Card:
Cocktails: (B-) K enjoyed, I’ve had many better. Could be personal preference on what I got, but can’t give it too much benefit of the doubt.
Appetizers: (A) Bread was good, Arancini were amazing.
Pasta: (A) Two out of three dishes were exceptional, and the third was good. Preparation was spot-on for all of them, and everything was fresh enough you could taste the pasta being rolled. This is an A+ from my end, but K was less ecstatic.
Wine: (A+) The whole list was attractive, and simple, which I value as a person who does not maintain an internal database of wines. Our selection was delicious, and the slight pairing fault on the third dish was obviously our own.
Dessert: (A+) If I went again, I’d order a different item for all the above to branch out. I’d order this again next time, and then the next ten.

All in all, fantastic success for a Friday night, and props to Mr. Oliver for establishing a fantastic Italian eatery. The atmosphere was fun, the food was fresh and well-prepared, and there’s not much else I can ask for if Italian is the goal.

Alright, Space Cadets! I’m signing out until next time (i.e. next time we go to a fantastic restaurant). Cheers!

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