Category Archives: sushi

Chicago

Ok, so why visit Chicago?? It’s probably not the first place that springs to mind when picking a North American holiday, but as we found out it’s got lots going for it. Before the trip my knowledge of the city came from stuff like the Chicago marathon, their love of deep dish pizza, Edward Hopper’s painting ‘Nighthawks’, being called the Windy City and watching The Good Wife. Fairly standard stuff, apart from that I was a bit clueless. 

Here’s some great things about the city:

It’s so flat!!

Chicago’s dead easy to get around on foot, but if walking big distances aren’t your thing or you want to venture further afield, the L (elevated train system) is cheap and straightforward to use. On our walkabouts we found Chicagoans so likeable and friendly, the city was far less crowded than New York and I’d say a lot more relaxed too.

Make the most of FREE stuff!!

One of the best things was the amount of free stuff to enjoy, including:

Millenium Park 

A public park slap bang in the Loop where you’ll find Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavillion and the Crown Fountain. Definitely a tourist magnet, Cloud Gate’s seen from North Michigan Avenue and is a landmark that just lures people in.

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Free views anyone?!

As much as I wanted to experience the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower, I didn’t like price tag, especially when I found out a well known ‘secret’ spot with a fantastic view for free in the John Hancock Centre. Venturing up to the Signature Room on the 95th floor rewarded us with a great view for nowt, in our case we nipped into the ladies toilets where the photo was taken, as the restaurant wasn’t open yet. 

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We got another free view at Cindy’s in the Chicago Athletic Association, this cool bar has a terrace overlooking Millennium park and cracking cocktails to go with it!

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Chicago Cultural Centre

We loved its Tiffany-stained glass domes, marble lobbies and mother of pearl mosaics. 

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Lincoln Park Zoo 

Easy to get to, lots of different animals (200+ species) to see and free to boot; what’s not to like?! We spent a couple of hours there easy!

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Museum of Contemporary Photography

Centrally located, just off Millennium Park and the Chicago Institute of Art. It was one of our lasts stops before our plane back to the UK and I’m glad we managed to fit it in as this small but perfectly formed museum likes to show contemporary work from new national and international photographers.  

Public art 

The city has so much free art on display, some donated by world famous artists, such as Picasso, Miro, Chagall and Henry Moore. We saw many wandering around the city, whilst many were in the city’s municipal buildings. 

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Garfield Park Conservatory 

Easily reached with a trip on the L, this is one of the largest conservatories in the country and was well worth a trip out. There’s a beautiful palm house, fern room, dessert house and tonnes more. If you LOVE succulents, cacti, ferns and palms you will absolutely LOVE this place!

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National Museum of Mexican Art

Another highlight reached by a trip out of town on the L, this museum’s located in the Pilsen neighbourhood. The area itself has lots of character with street art and this gem of a museum, full of thought provoking and beautiful pieces. I wished we’d been able to spend more time to really explore Pilsen, in particular see the colourful murals and try out some of amazing Mexican food we kept smelling. 

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Explore the outer neighbourhoods

I kept reading about Chicago’s hipster suburbs and in hindsight we should’ve done more of it. The 606 is a useful stretch to consider – an elevated park trail linking four neighbourhoods together (Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Bucktown). A couple of hours spent in Wicker Park before our flight home were definitely well spent, soaking in a bit of suburban culture and a tasty Furious Spoon ramen feed en route.

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Chicago by night

Many of the buildings become illuminated and bring the city’s skyline to life at night. 

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Obviously not everything’s free (shame), here’s some of our favourites:

Chicago Institute of Art 

A place I could’ve stayed all day – their collection of American Art, Impressionist and Post Impressionist pieces were plenty to satisfy my artistic needs. One high point was seeing Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, I was like an excited child when I spotted it from afar! 

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Architecture boat tour

This was one of the best things we did – learning about the history of the city, the architects and their buildings that shaped the area after the Great Chicago Fire from interesting and knowledgeable guides. I can’t recommend doing this more, 75 minutes well spent!!

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Great food scene

Maybe it doesn’t possess the reputation of other cities, such as New York and San Francisco, but Chicago has plenty going on. With lots of fantastic independent restaurants and bars, the city has a great food and drink scene to brag about, it’s not all deep dish pizzas and hotdogs either! 

Some of our food highlights included:

Minghin Cuisine – this all day dim sum joint was our first port of call after landing in the city. With lots of dim sum classics and roasted meats to choose from, I was completely in my element and ordered far too much (no surprise there!), and ended up being so full I couldn’t manage any more food until the following day!

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Korean at Crisp was a great lunch stop – quick service, inexpensive menu choices (korean burritos, bibimbap, sandwiches, fried chicken etc) and really tasty food. My Seoul steak bowl of bulgogi beef and rice, paired with two awesome sauces was particularly good, inparticular their mayo based ‘atomic sauce’ and ‘smoky spicy BBQ,’ a spicy gochujang sauce.

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Japanese at Momotaro was booked weeks in advance after reading fab reviews. The restaurant, located in popular Fulton Market District had an interesting cocktail list and mixologists who definitely knew their stuff. Waiting staff were helpful, which was much needed as the menu covers a lot of bases, so even for those knowledgeable with Japanese cuisine it may take of bit of deciphering. For me the hot dishes stood out more compared to the sushi, but on the whole we enjoyed the experience.

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The Publican in Fulton Market District is one of the city’s current hotspots (along with Momotaro), it’s basically a large beer hall serving great food and lots of it! Expect a menu heavily laden with seafood and pork dishes, brought to diners sitting at long communal tables stretching across the hall from end to end.

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Tanta, this Peruvian restaurant really showed off the art of fusion food, with a concoction of European and Asian influences their menu makes a point of the cuisine’s diversity. I really liked the helpful serving staff, great cocktails; the Pisco Sour is recommended, great plates ideal for sharing and a lively atmosphere. We really loved the anticuchos skewers with New York strip, potatoes, corn and huacatay and the chafe aeropuerto, a side dish  of pork fried rice in a hot bowl, topped with a shrimp tortilla and a huge smack of spicy garlic in there for good measure. Enough to get scare off vampires! 

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Frontera Grill (N. Clark Street) was our Saturday brunch spot. A popular haunt with locals and tourists alike, it soon became full after we arrived and I’m not surprised – great brunch cocktails, lots of choice on the menu, really friendly staff and tasty food.

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Coffee 

Chicago has great specialty coffee shops committed to serving direct trade coffee, we visited a few whilst we were there including Bowtruss, Intelligentsia and Asado. These three are definitely worth popping into with skilful baristas and great coffee!

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Doughnuts

I had no idea Chicago had a thing for doughnuts, but the city has shops aplenty with a huge variety for anyone with a sweet tooth to try! We saw many people going in for breakfast, one with a coffee seemed the done thing, from a long list we tried Firecakes, Do-Rite and Glazed and Infused, our favourite was definitely Firecakes. Personally I  found many just too big and too sweet (emphasising my lack of a sweet tooth), however saying that I still wish we’d managed to try The Doughnut Vault and Bombobar also.

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Have you been to Chicago, what did you make of it?

Is there anything we should’ve done that we didn’t?! 

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Sushi Waka revisit

A few weeks ago I’d dined at the recently opened Sushi Waka, and after a mixed review my intention was to revisit, but this time to try out the sushi. I know the idea of sushi may not be to everyone’s taste, and for whatever reason there’s sometimes this preconceived notion that it’s just about raw fish, but it’s so much more than that with enough variety for different preferences. 

I’d arranged to meet a friend for lunch, she’d been under the weather and in dire need of something healthy and nutritious. So being a good girl that day I ordered some soothing green tea, instead of wine which would normally be my tipple, with some edamame to graze on while the sushi was being made.

Japanese food is a cuisine I’ve been a fan of for years, this love only developed more after visiting the country five years ago. Eating sushi at one of the restaurants in the world famous Tsukiji fish market was one of the trips many highlights. The skill these chefs have I remember marvelling at, transfixed by the combination of precision and delicacy whilst working. Being sat at a table we weren’t given the pleasure of watching the sushi chef do his stuff this time, but that doesn’t mean the level of anticipation was any less.

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At Sushi Waka the sushi menu is divided into sashimi, nigiri, sushi rolls in different forms such as futomaki. Then for those wanting a selection, platters may provide a good option taking away the hard decision of choosing. The ever popular Bento box also takes its spot on the menu too; always a good choice if you like miso soup and salad in the mix. 

Edamame were brought over a short time after ordering, all steaming hot and covered in finely milled sea salt. The a short while later along came salmon sashimi, unagi nigiri, tuna hosomaki (thin sushi roll) and king prawn tempura futomaki (thick sushi roll), and the regular accompaniments of soy, daikon, wasabi and pickled ginger.

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The sashimi was characteristically meaty, yet had a melt in the mouth quality about it, the nigiri were great, with vinegared rice loosely moulded by hand and topped with generous slices of eel, they were delicious and I must admit are a favourite of mine. After those delights the highlight was probably the futomaki, filled with crisp tempura king prawn, avocado, cucumber and fish roe were a joy with different textures and tastes. If I was to compare this to other sushi I’ve eaten before, one thing I’d say would be that the precision of some of the rolls wasn’t as immaculate as others I’ve had, with some being made and served a little untidily.

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On the whole it was a highly enjoyable lunch, and I was also pleased to see improved service too, with a better level of communication and little things like having our green tea being regularly refilled a lovely touch. So, if you fancy sushi, this could be the spot we need in Leeds. Try it out! Sushi Waka still had their opening 20% discount for booked tables, so instead of coughing up £26.30 it cost us £21.10, without service. A great option for a healthy meal. 

Sushi Waka

26 New Briggate
Leeds
0113 246 9692

Sushi Waka on Urbanspoon

Sushi Waka

Leeds has a few Japanese restaurants, some I prefer more than others; Fuji Hiro which I adore, Little Tokyo which I know other people rave about, but I find inconsistent. Wasabi Teppanyaki (Granary Wharf) closed recently and Belgrave Teppanyaki (next to Sandinista) is still open (I think), but apart from that there isn’t much choice, maybe Chino Latino which again I’ve found inconsistent. After that were looking at chains Yo Sushi and Wasabi for a sushi fix.

Sushi Waka opened recently and with the prospect of meeting a Japanese food loving friend imminent, we jumped at the chance of visiting. Also tempted by their opening offer of 20% discount for booked tables, who doesn’t love a discount, a table was booked for 7pm on a Tuesday evening!! Walking up you can’t miss it, with bright signage making it a bit of a beacon. If you wander up to North Bar and the like you cannot miss it!

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Being a little eager, I’d had a nosey at the menu and it was like a Japanese food lovers delight: starters like gyoza and takoyaki, sashimi, sushi rolls in different forms, donburi bowls, noodle dishes, bento boxes the list went on!! With that being said quality over quantity is always better, so having such as extensive menu made me think how good it would be.

In its previous guise as an Oriental fusion restaurant (can’t remember its name) I’d never visited, it didn’t look that appetising a place to eat from the outside. Probably a bit harsh, because it’s never stopped me going into places which look worse for wear in the search of a tasty feed!!

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It was a Tuesday evening, so a few tables were occupied, but it wasn’t overly busy. A very welcome drinks list was presented to us and we both fancied wine, deciding on a bottle of Merlot, but on ordering were disappointed to be told they only had house wine?! We were a little bemused by the situation, as this could’ve been mentioned earlier. Not wanting anything else other than wine, the house it would have to be, a few minutes later the waitress nervously brought over a bottle of Hardy’s, we’d also asked for some tap water, but this was forgotten about. It did the job, but it did irk me a little that it cost £17.50 though.

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It took us a while to order, firstly because we were so engrossed in catching up to peruse the menu, secondly as the menu had lots of choice. Waiting staff did ask if we wanted help and were very patient with us though, until we finally selected a variety of starters and a main dish each.

Now my understanding with Japanese food, is food comes out when they are ready, but as they are listed as starters etc, am I right to assume the dishes would be brought out in this order, unless mentioned otherwise?? Maybe I’m wrong?
Well after waiting quite a long time, at least 40 minutes, dishes were brought out in a haphazard order, donburi first, then starters, edamame which is really an appetiser. Lastly the Tonkatsu which there was some confusion over, whether it would come with rice or not?!  This was spread out over a few minutes. 

On appearance the food looked good, we were brought Unagi Don, a Donburi dish. I always love the presentation of eel laying on a bed of rice with picked ginger on the side. The meaty texture of the eel was as good as I’d remembered from the past, and with the rice makes for a filling dish.

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Our gyoza were tasty, not overly plump with tonnes of filling, but were flavourful. Their wrappers were delicate and had a lightly fried crust. Mixed tempura had been nicely done, everything was coated in a perfectly light, golden batter; the prawns in particular being lovely and juicy. The Kabocha Korokke (pumpkin croquettes) which were very good, were covered in a lovely crust including black sesame seeds. Lastly the edamame were fine, I much prefer them when they just come out of the steamer, lovely and hot.

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My friends tonkatsu looked a little odd as it had a white eggy covering on top, I wasn’t really sure what it was. It was supposed to have a katsu sauce which I found altogether lacking. On the plus side the pork tasted good and was still juicy and moist.

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Overall it was a bit of a mixed experience, I enjoyed the food, but find disappointing service frustrating. Saying that they have only been open a few weeks, so I’m sure are still finding their feet and will improve in time. Next time, i’ll be trying out the sushi.

The total cost of our meal was £45.20 after a 20% discount, not including service. 

Food: extensive menu, generally done well, but some things could be improved .

Service: needs a little work, slow from the kitchen and better communication needed. 

Atmosphere: hard to say when there was only a few tables occupied, but it nice to be able to catch up in an environment where the music wasn’t too loud. 

Sushi Waka

26 New Briggate
Leeds

https://www.facebook.com/SushiWakaLeeds

Sushi Waka on Urbanspoon

Sanraku, San Francisco

Our last evening in San Francisco called for a memorable meal to cap off what had been an AMAZING seven days all round. We’d happily filled our belly’s with brunch and snacks earlier that day, so by the time evening arrived we were up for something lighter.  Wanting to stay within close proximity to our hotel, a quick nosey on the web pointed us towards Japanese, in particular Sanraku. It just so happened that we both LOVED Japanese food and the plan was always to try some during our visit, I suppose it felt like it was meant to be!

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Found at the top of the Tenderloin district, this area is littered with a number of Japanese restaurants. We luckily managed to grab seats at the sushi counter even though we were going on spec, for me THE best place to eat Japanese food because you get an eye-full of highly trained sushi chefs working their magic. 

The menu is reasonably priced with good choice across the board, whether you are a sashimi or sushi fiend, or prefer something hot or with noodles etc.

My friend was eager for nigiri which gave us a chance to see the chefs at work. To follow that she chose the tempura udon. Whilst Lucy had chosen fairly quickly, it took me a little longer as there was so much I wanted to eat! Eventually going for some of my favourites….soft shell crab and unagi donburi!!!

I still watch hypnotised as sushi chefs work with such amazing precision; whether slicing fish, moulding the rice or making rolls. Within a number of minutes of ordering the nigiri were handed across the counter, simplicity and beauty personified on one board. It’s surprising how vinegared rice and raw fish can be the stimulus for such joy when eating food, but that’s just how it was! 

Tuna and Salmon nigiri
Tuna and Salmon nigiri

My deep fried soft shell crab with tempura sauce was cooked exceptionally well. One of my most recent reviews was Leeds’ own Zucco, where I raved on about their soft shell crab; this was just as good if not better. The batter was typically Japanese as it was fluffy yet perfectly crisp! Surprisingly it also had lots of meat, and came with a light dipping sauce that adding seasoning, but still allowed the crab to come through.

Soft Shell Crab
Soft Shell Crab

The accompanying house salad looked simple yet vibrant, it’s never something I choose to eat very often, but  it would’ve been rude not to try.  It certainly had crunch, a light dressing provided sharpness making it a nice palate cleanser and gave me something to graze on before the next course.

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House salad

My first encounter with barbecued eel was at Yo Sushi, I’d pick unagi nigiri from the belt EVERY time I went. It wasn’t an addiction, but I definitely developed a soft spot for it. Consequently, it made me always looked for it on menus, but the first time I saw it play a key role in a more substantial dish, was during a trip to London with the best mate in December 2008. We ate at Cafe Japan in Golders Green, I ordered unaju unaware of how it would be served. We’ve often reminisced about that evening, when the unaju arrived in a square Japanese lacquered box, lifting its lid it brought a huge grin to my face and girly giggles when I looked inside!!! It’s been a favourite ever since.

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Me opening my Unaju at Cafe Japan, Golders Green, December 2008

This time my barbecued eel (unagi) was in a round bowl so is called Unagi Don or Unadon (donburi means bowl). Underneath a bed of steamed rice, for garnish pickled ginger, thinly sliced sticks of cucumber and Japanese crepe, which I think is called usuyaki tamago. It’s a very filling and tasty dish, the eel is moist and is coated in a sticky soy sauce that has a sweetness to it, enough pickled ginger and other elements keep the dish interesting. The ratio of rice to eel was just about right and I managed to eat the whole thing, apart from a few grains of rice. 

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Unagi Donburi at Sanraku

My miso soup was decent enough, salty with cubes of soft tofu, wakame leaves and spring onion.

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Miso soup

From Lucy’s point of view there were no complaints about the food, the tempura were cooked perfectly and had the characteristic fluffy and crisp batter, whilst the udon noodles in light, but flavourful broth were delicious. The portion was a generous one, so she was gutted to be sadly defeated by it.

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Udon
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Tempura

The cost was $77.21 for two people, not including a tip.

Sanraku was a great place for our last dinner in San Francisco and I’d definitely recommend it.

Food: great choice of dishes to suit people’s preferences. Sushi delivered in terms of quality and craftsmanship. Hot food cooked well and tasted great.

Service: the service we received was exemplary from start to finish. Apart from the food it made our last meal special!

Atmosphere: at the sushi counter a quiet calmness resided, whilst the atmosphere elsewhere was a busy one, with a nice rumble of chatter from diners and busyness from waiting staff.

Sanraku
704 Sutter Street
San Francisco
CA 94109
http://www.sanraku.com/sanraku.html

Trinity Kitchen, pt 5 @ Trinity Leeds

The latest street food changeover has happened once again at Trinity Kitchen and with a very sad farewell to last months traders, in particular Dorshi, Trinity welcomes traders both old and new to Leeds.

Lets start my run down with the new traders:

Rola Wala – Founder Mark originally hails from Perth in Australia, but moved to London as a University graduate. A trip to India was the inspiration for the business, wanting to bring the incredible flavours and his twist on authentic dishes he experienced to the streets of the UK.  After meeting Adam they struck up a partnership haven’t looked back since, achieving Young British Foodie Runner Up Best Street Food UK, 2013 and are regulars on London’s street food scene, including Street Feast and Kerb.

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Rola Wala are bringing to Leeds their toasted 10-inch Naan filled with either Beetroot Daal, Coriander Chicken tikka, or for those who can’t decide, (or just greedy) a half and half combo with prices ranging between £6-7. I munched on the Coriander Chicken Tikka Naan – it was DELICIOUS, I think I’ve found a new favourite! It’s not the cheapest street food by any stretch of the imagination, but it does the job in terms of flavours, textures and heat. I also loved its vibrant colours that sang out too!! I didn’t go for the extra kick of spice, it was a wise choice too as mine had plenty of oomph and left me with distinctly rosy cheeks!!

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Coriander Chicken Tikka Naan
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Beetroot Dhal and Coriander Chicken Tikka Combo Naan!!!

I’d been lucky enough to get the heads up on the collaboration with Leeds’ own Mike Tattersall’s Indie Ices. A meeting of minds I was very excited about having championed Mike’s heavenly kulfi on many occasions. For Trinity Kitchen they’ve developed Mike’s Gold Medal winning Mango kulfi with added coconut (topping), lime juice and a pinch of Moruga Scorpion Chilli (the Worlds hottest chilli) to create ‘The hottest ice in the World!’

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Rola Ice with mango kulfi, lime and Moruga Scorpion chilli

I loved it!! It was typically creamy with the primary ingredient mango clearly evident and a lovely texture of coconut running through it. The lime kept it fresh and with a hit of chilli giving it another dimension, it certainly kept me on my toes. Every now and again I’d get a mix of well balanced flavours, textures and heat. Simply inspired!

Happy Maki‘s owner Anna is serving the Leeds masses with Sushi wraps from her Renault Estafette fondly named Gloria. She’s devised a thoughtful, healthy and socially conscious menu, catering for carnivores, vegans and vegetarians alike with her Thai Sweet Potato, Hoisin Duck and Teriyaki Chicken Wraps.

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I didn’t manage to sample any on this occasion, but I have a sneaky suspicion that my love of all things Japanese will make me gravitate towards some Teriyaki chicken!!

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Cake Doctor has been brought to Leeds by owner James, who’s only been in the business six months or so! On his converted 1979 Ford Transit Mk 2 Ambulance he’s baking (on site) a fantastic range of baked goods, such as Whoopee pies, Meringues and Victoria Sponge. With tea from Bluebird Tea Co and coffee from local lads North Star there’s some quality beverages to wash them down with.

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Being inspired by baking with his mother and grandmother, as a child James wants to transport cake lovers to a place where they can reminisce about fond childhood memories.

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Victoria Sponge!!!!
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Meringue kisses

On this occasion, there was a Victoria sponge that caught my eye!!! Readers may know of my love of the classic bake, you may also know that I don’t need asking twice if I want a slice to take home!!! It came with a pretty Meringue Kiss, which was a sweet little touch. I liked the Victoria sponge; the cake itself was a tad dense, but rich and buttery. The cream and fresh strawberries were VERY yummy, as you’d expect. I left the meringue kiss to the end and it was heavenly – light, chewy and sweet. If only I’d known they were that good, I’d have bought a lot more!!!!

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Having read James’ plans for an urban afternoon tea at Cake Doctor, I’ll have to partake in this myself before his residency is up, so I can add this to my Afternoon Tea blog series.

Fresh Rootz are back for a second helping of the Trinity Kitchen experience. This widely travelled band are offering food inspired by their travels around the world. At Trinity they’ll be dishing up their menu using local ingredients containing at least seven fresh vegetables in each main dish!! Healthy or what!

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I went for a portion of pakoras at £6, they were cooked to order and so good because of it – lightly crisp, fluffy in texture and well flavoured. Working well with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and the citrus salad which gave a little acidity. It was missing the yoghurt which would have provided a nice cooling effect, but they were still very good!! For £6 it was a generous portion too and something I wasn’t expecting, the glutton that I am wasn’t complaining though!

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Woodland mushroom, spinach and pepper pakora with sweet chilli, served with lightly spiced cous cous and slaw citrus salad

Yeah, I really enjoyed my plate of pakoras, and I’m not their only fan as Fresh Rootz won BBC Good Food Show for Best Midland Street food in 2013!

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Bangwok have returned with their tuk tuk in tow! I really enjoyed their Thai food on their 1st visit and I was expecting more of the same!! At Trinity they’ve set up their ‘raan khao kaeng’ – a rice and curry shop where you can choose from green chicken curry, beef massaman and honey roast pork – or like me have the combo plate of all three with rice.

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The sights and smells coming from their stall drew me in hook, line and sinker and I quickly chose their £7 deal of a bit of everything.

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Beef curry, coconut chicken, zingy salad, honey, garlic, coriander pork with roasted rice and chilli dip

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£7 is a bit more than I’d like to pay, but for the portion size and flavours on show I was pretty pleased. 

I think this months street food ambassadors could be one of their best line-ups so far. So don’t just take my word for it, head down to Trinity Kitchen and see for yourself!

Disclaimer: I was invited by Trinity Kitchen last week to get a taste from the new cohort, but I have been back since of my own accord. 
Trinity Kitchen
Albion Street
Leeds
LS1 5AT
0113 3942415