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London Series: Chicken Tikka Masala from Sipson Tandoori

I was so intrigued. When I first heard that the national food of England is Chicken Tikka Masala, I thought that someone was pulling my legs. In a few days I was in London, some people (mainly Indian taxi drivers) told me the same thing too. Here is what I learned the past few days — let me know if I get this correct.

Masala is an Indian term that refers to a mixture of many ground spices. What does the word Masala mean? Spices? And Chicken Tikka Masala is really invented in Great Britain. So, I figure since I am in London I must simply try the national dish. :-)

I had blogged on the Sipson Tandoori the last time I was in London here. I vivid remembered making an unkind remark about the “pretty dumb” paper bags the delivery came with. I had the tendency sometimes to be brash, I admit. He he he … the paper bags I guess will always be there but at least this time, the curry did not leak all over the place.

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Got a question for you, Rukya. How many pieces does people normally order the papadam? When I ordered ONE piece, the person who took my order sounded so surprised. I mean, the papadam is such a large piece that one is more than enough for me. Guess what, when they delivered to me, they game me four pieces. Hey, I have no complain. I must say that Sipson’s papadam is simply one of the best I had tried … they are so crispy and flavourful … and they tastes just as good the next morning. 50p per piece but they charge me only for 1 piece — nice!

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You know, most curries looked and tastes the same to me. So I really can’t figure out what Chicken Tikka Masala is. It looked and tastes like Butter Chicken but am sure it is not. Rukya, can you tell us about Chicken Tikka Masala?

The curry gravy was awesome — very rich and if I recall correctly, it was not spicy hot. I enjoyed this a lot. This one costs about 8 GBP.

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I also ordered the Bhindi Bhajee … fresh okra (a.k.a. ladies fingers). I like ladies fingers and there are lots of this here. One thing about okras … the seeds do not breakdown in your body right? :-) 3 GBP.

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I can’t remember what this is … but if I make a guess, I think this is the Lemon Rice which is described as “Basmati rice cooked in ghee flavoured with fresh lemon“. 3 GBP.

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I enjoyed this meal in the hotel room. There were lots of food. I do come away having the impression that London has some of the best Indian cuisine restaurants in the world.

Sipson Tandoori on Urbanspoon

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London Series: A Night Out at the Theatres

Thursday … last day of training and what that means is the training is over and my real vacation starts! The class ended earlier than normal at 4pm and so, I decided that I’ll go to the city and catch a theater show.

I had planned to watch Les Miserable while I was in London. A few days prior, it was advertised on lastminute.com that it costs 29 GBP for the show PLUS a dinner at Planet Hollywood. I never got down to the place to book. By Thursday, the 29 GBP deal was no longer available.

So I went to Leicester Square to get the ticket. I thought that the best way to get a ticket would be to go to the the “tkts” booth. But when I got to Leicester Square, I saw a lot of places selling tickets too. Anyway, not knowing how all these work, I thought I better get it from the “official” source. The price for Les Miserable had increased to 40GBP … and without dinner too.

Not wanting to spend so much money for a show, I went for a show called Jump. That one costs only 19 GBP.

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I was quite awed by the whole place. When Mama Mia came to Vancouver to perform about two or three years ago, Suanne and I caught that show. We enjoyed that show a lot and told ourselves we should catch these shows more often. Here, in and around Leicester Square there are 60 such show! The place was teeming with people and it is not even the weekend.

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The show is at the Peacock Theater which was quite a walk from Leicester Square. I had a lot of time. Went looking for food and found a place called Caffe Amici.

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The place is really busy. I guess there are some who are there waiting for the show to start. They basically serves coffee, sandwiches and pasta.

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I had the Spaghetti Bolognese (minced meat, tomato and herbs). It’s “only” 5.50 GBP.

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The show was awesome and so hilarious — I laughed till it hurts. It’s a Korean show without dialogue — just martial-arts stunt fighting and mimed comedy. The show centers on a Korean family. Kind of hard to explain it but I highly recommend this show.

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After the show I went for a stroll along the south bank. It was a cool, crisp night and just perfect for some night photography.

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I took quite a few shots, mostly for HDR processing. London is such a beautiful city at night.

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London Series: Room Service at Sheraton Skyline

Despite the perceived excitement of managing projects with remote teams and having to travel often to different sites, all I can say that it’s not as glamorous as it seems. For sure, there are benefits & opportunities to this job but sometimes it really takes a lot out of me. I am not sure if I can do this for life. Here is how it was like one of the days I was in London.

I was already struggling trying to keep up with a highly technical 8-hour training course each day. Mind you, the course starts at about midnight Vancouver time — a time when I should be soundly asleep in bed.

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Needless to say, it’s hard trying to stay awake sometimes. I must have taken something like 10 cups of coffee over the course of the day. I tell myself this is bad for me but I could not help it. After a couple of days, I was really sick of the coffee from the machine in the training rooms and bought “real ones” from the cafeteria.

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Right after that training, there were three conference calls that I need to get on. That three conference calls took a total of 4 hours with the first one starting at 6:00 PM (LON time) and the last one completed at midnight. I stayed in the office the whole time because I did not want to take conference calls with my cell or the hotel — it would have been enormously expensive to do so. Moreover I always need to take conference calls hands free.

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I did not even get the chance to grab dinner because the cafeteria had already closed. That one day was a really long one. At least the calls that day were “easy” ones — ones that I was not beaten up on. :-)

By the time I got back to my room, I was famished. All the restaurants are closed at that time and what I had available is the hotel’s room service. There were not much choice on the menu — just pizza and grills. The Grilled Beef Sirloin Steak sounded good … 10 oz some more … just what I needed.

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When I called for my order, they told me “it’ll be 30 minutes” … what?!? 30 minutes? That was a long wait for me. Good thing I had some cookies in my bag.

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They gave me a choice of sauce but I just can’t remember what it is now. I only remembered that what I selected was some uncommon sauce … perhaps something like peppermint something … I can’t remember.

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Here it is again … ketchup and … English Mustard for condiments. BTW, English mustards are different from North America mustards … the colour looked slightly different and with English mustard you can see “stuff” (ground pepper?) in them.

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The steak sure was not disappointing at all. It was like … wow! Perfect medium rare; just the way I always liked my steak. This whole thingy costs 24 GBP — quite reasonable I think, considering.

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There were some work I needed to deliver out from the conference calls but I just couldn’t stay awake anymore. Anyway, even if I did it over the night, those guys in Atlanta and Vancouver would have already gone for the day.

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London Series: Breakfast at McDonalds

After a couple of mornings of breakfasts at the Hotel’s Al Dente Cafe, I decided to take a 5 minutes walk down the street to the McDonalds for a change. I could not see any other food outlet or restaurants serving breakfasts than this Golden Arches outlet.

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I had the very familiar Bacon & Egg McMuffin meal. Like the McMuffin at home, this included the sandwich, a coffee and a hash brown. It’s 2.40 GBP … definitely much cheaper than the 19.00 GBP for the breakfasts at the hotel.

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I had the Latte. For a moment, I had to figure out how to break the opening — it’s different from the ones in Canada. The instructions said to “pinch and push” … huh? And how do I push it aside so that it does get in the way of my nose when I drink it. I didn’t figure this one out.

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The McDonalds hash brown, well, is similar anywhere in the world. I know Arkensen and Nanzaro likes this a lot.

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What is different with this Bacon and Egg McMuffin is the bacon. North American bacon is sliced thinner and in strips while the English version is thicker. I prefer the crispier North American version. The bun is the traditional English Muffin.

This is kind of confusing … The McMuffin originated from the US is made with English traditional muffin. The American Muffin is a cupcake and bears no resemblance to the English Muffin. Moreover, the English Muffin is more popularly eaten in North America than in England … go figure.

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Anyway, you guys believe that subliminal advertising is widespread? I know that Nestle in Malaysia does that with their Milo product, Anyway, here is a youtube video I found on McDonalds’ subliminal advertising attempt.

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London Series: Breakfast at the Sheraton Skyline

I told you I’ll blog about food today … here it is. :-)

I stayed in the Sheraton Skyline Hotel in Hayes, just next to the Heathrow Airport. This is very much a business class hotel with very little tourist. It seems to me that people who stays here are very much people who works for the airport or aviation industry.

I had some of my breakfasts in the hotel’s Al Dente Cafe.

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The cafe is very spacious, bright and cheery. I don’t know … to me this makes a difference in setting the day right. I always wanted to have an unrushed morning breakfast in a bright place and a newspaper to catch up on the news. And like to have breakfast alone … hate people talking to me during breakfasts! :-) So this is perfect.

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Service was excellent in the Al Dente Cafe — very prompt and polite. Somehow I wish every place is like this. I noticed that service is much better in such business hotels in that people dresses better and the customers are working professionals. Also, perhaps these type of customers tip better because they could expense the tips. I don’t know …

First came with a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. The coffee is really strong and smells good. A characteristic of a good cup espresso coffee is the layer of crema … and this has it. It’s a big cup too. Fantastic.

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The breakfast is buffet style. There was a very wide selection and simply too much for anyone to try everything. I had always liked cooked and warm breakfast. This is just what I wanted. Like many good breakfast spread, they even have a station where they prepare omelette the way you want it.

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In North America, the standard condiment is ketchup. I noticed that in England they almost always have both ketchup and mustard. I am no fan of mustard but took a bottle anyway to try and see if I like it … I did not. Can anyone tell me more about using mustard as a condiment? i.e. do you use it like you do with ketchup on meat and eggs?

The only time I know people in Vancouver normally use mustard is on hotdogs.

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I like this station where there are all kinds of English tea. There is even a pot of hot water of some sort that you use to make a pot for yourself. It was pretty neat … the pot was steaming all the time and looked very inviting.

Let’s see … there is a place where you can toast your own bread … I always like that. It also came with a full rack of variety of jams and marmalades. For drinks too, they have milk, Perrier, all kinds of juices, and soft drinks.

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I don’t normally eat a lot in breakfast. I took a bit of stuff from the cold selection. Had a couple of slices of cold smoked salmon — it was OK. Tried also a little bit of the crisp bacon but it was awfully salty. I wondered how people like it so salty — it was as salty as trying to eat a spoonful of salt, no kidding. I also tried, for the heck of it, some cheese, especially blue cheese … this one I did not like.

What I like best is their yogurt — this was awesome. It seems to me that they are made fresh because the foil that covers it is not those airtight ones and the strawberries tasted like they were just prepared a moment ago. It was so good I took another.

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There was another table of pastry … very nice pastries. I did not take any at all because I was full.

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The breakfast was great and the atmosphere is perfect. I normally spend about 45 minutes here, taking my sweet time reading the papers. The downside is that this costs 19 GBP … and that is $43 CAD, excluding tips!! Good thing there’s a thing called expense account.

London is an expensive city.

BTW, I am gonna blog about food again tomorrow … promise. No more museums, tanks, cameras … at least for the next few days. :-)

Al Dente Cafe at Sheraton Skyline on Urbanspoon

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London Series: Grapes Tandoori on Uxbridge Road

I think RR must be waiting for this blog entry. :-)

In a previous trip to London, I had an Indian dinner delivered from Sipson Tandoori. RR. whose late father founded the Sipson restaurant, found my posting on the internet. We got in touch and exchanged a few emails and she invited me to try the other restaurant also started by her father, the Grapes Tandoori. I did go to the Grapes Tandoori on the first night I was in London.

Getting from my hotel to the Grapes Tandoori, although not really far, still requires a a taxi ride. I really hate taking taxis in London. They have this minicab services which does not use meters and charges arbitrary. Well, for the short taxi ride of 5km, it costs me 14 Pounds. Sigh … the disadvantage for being a visible foreigner …

Locating Grapes Tandoori was easy. It was right on the rather busy Uxbridge Rd. The taxi driver did bring me to the wrong Grapes, the Grapes Pub which obviously did not resemble anything like an Indian restaurant.

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I got in early and there were only one other customer. Man, I must say that the service was attentive to say the least. I have never seen so many waiters in a restaurant, very unlike in Canada where a restaurant of this size would perhaps have 3-4 people max. Kind of unnerving, if you ask me. Because there were just two customers, the waiters were milling around my table and I do feel so … watched.

Started with a drink. Wanted a cocktail but I guess either it’s not big in England or they don’t have it in Indian restaurants. Anyone can tell me why?

Ordered the Sherry and Port which costs 2.50 GBP. I don’t really know what it is and when I asked the waiter about it, he told me he does not know either because he had never tried it before. I asked for recommendation but he could not either. Oh well, I just went ahead and ordered it.

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The waiters came by with a platter of condiments. I was really curious what it was but I guess I ran into some communication problem. :-) So, what I found out was that they were not spicy and one of them is onions. They do tastes good though.

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I also ordered a piece of Papadam. This is the best Papadam I had ever tasted. It is a big piece, thin and salty and crunchy. I had this dipped in the sauces they provided. A really nice starter. Costs 50p for this piece.

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For the main meal, I ordered the item that was asterixed and highlighted on the menu. Must be their special of special. It’s called the Murgh Massala which I pronounced it as mur-guh massala, is that right? Nice name. I get a choice of chicken or minced lamb. I chose the chicken version.

What impressed me was that it came served on top of a really hot metal plate. A good way to keep the dish constantly warm. Never seen food served this way before — I like it. Well, I had itchy hands and wanted to see how hot is hot … trust me, don’t touch it … it is really HOT!

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The Murgh Massala consists of chicken breast and some hard boiled eggs served in dry curry. The gravy was simply great, not spicy hot and wish it were but still, it was great. The serving too was large. Just by the looks of it, I know already that this is awesome with either rice or naan. This one costs 9 GBP I think.

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So, should I take it with Naan or with Rice? I ordered both. Heck, since I come all the way here already, I might as well order everything even though it was too much food for me. Oh … the garlic naan … it was fabulous and simply looked good. Why can’t I find Naan like these in Vancouver? It came warm, soft and fluffy. I had to quickly eat this before it got cold. This is so good that I could just eat this alone without anything else.

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Pilau Rice. It was nicely done and very flavourful. A bit of fried onions served on top. I like these kind of rice where the grains were separated and not clumpy like the way Chinese normally do it. Perfect with the Murgh Massala.

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I couldn’t do desserts after all these although I wish I could. To close off, they served me hot towels — whew! very HOT towels.

Total bill … 17.05 GBP and they threw in a free Grapes Tandoori chocolate! I left a tip of 2 GBP. BTW, do people normally leave tips in London Restaurants?

By the time I left, the restaurant was packed. Gosh, I have never seen so many whites in one place enjoying Indian dinners. Many people told me that the national dish of Great Britain is … Chicken Tikka Massala. I know what they mean now. :-) I noticed almost all my neighboring tables ordered Chicken Tikka Massala. Had Britain turned into a nation of curry eaters?

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RR, I want you to know that it was an awesome meal. I will definitely come again to try your other dishes the next time I am in London.

You know what my big problem was … the transport back to the hotel. The waiters could not help me call for a taxi which I find it kind of weird. They told me that if they call it will take 45 minutes, minimum to get one and that it was a busy night. So, I took a 5 minutes walk to the taxi call centre and got one in 3 minutes. Sigh … this time the taxi charged me 10 GBP back to the hotel and and an extra 2 GBP if he drops me in front of the hotel. So, 24 GBP for taxi, 17 GBP for the dinner and 2 GBP for tips.

Grapes Tandoori on Urbanspoon

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Tomokazu Japanese Restaurant, West Broadway

Polly, me and the kids celebrated the arrival of spring at Tomokazu Japanese Restaurant on West Broadway, just next to Toy-r-us. Coincidentally, that day was Polly’s family landing anniversary. We also took this opportunity to celebrate the birthdays of our kids which fall in March. There are four March birthday kids in the group.

Tomokazu serves all you can eat; $9.95 for lunch, $21.95 for dinner and $11.95 for late-night. They also have regular menu which goes by the item you order. Check out their website for more details.

Tomokasu Japanese Restaurant

We were there very early, just before 11:30 am; their opening time. We were sitted at a Japanese style table where we have to remove our shoes and sat on benches around a square table.

As usual we were served green tea and the condiments like wasabi.

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We ordered the Miso Soup, Goma-Ae (Sesame Spinach) and Ebi Sunomono Salad (Prawn Salad) as a starter.

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Come along are the Beef and Chicken Teriyaki.

There is a limit of two orders per person for Sashimi. The boys love Sashimi and we ordered all that we can. Apparently, the kids do not quite like the Tuna Sashimi. They preferred the Salmon Sashimi.

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Here are the rest of our orders…

Various types of cones like Chopped Scallop Cone, Spicy Seafood Cone, Spicy Tuna Cone and Wakame Cone. Spicy Tuna Cone is Nanzaro’s favourite. Arkensen also ordered one of his favourite which is California Roll.

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Polly ordered her favourite Deep Fried Chicken Wings, which is very crispy on the outside and moist inside.

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We also the two types of Motoyaki available which is Portuguese Seafood Motoyaki and Regular Seafood Motoyaki. The Portuguese Seafood Motoyaki has a hint of curry taste in it but we still prefer the regular ones.

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The Salmon and Tuna Sushi is another of the boys favourite and we ordered two rounds of these.

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We also ordered the Tonkatsu (Deep Fried Pork Chop) and Chicken Katsu (Deep Fried Chicken Chop). However, the kids do like these as they are dry and tough.

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We also ordered Salmon Maki and other rolls like BC Roll and Alaskan Roll.

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This is the Deep Fried Spring Roll served with sweet chili sauce.

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Lastly, we ordered the Jell-O for dessert and we were also served some sliced oranges.

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It was a good meal as everyone was really full and satisfied. The only draw back was that the service is slightly slow during the peak lunch hour. We had a little trouble getting the attention of the waiters at times. Perhaps because our table is at the very far end.

After the meal, we decided to go to Queen Elizabeth Park for a walk as it was a very nice spring day. Click on the link below for photos from Queen Elizabeth Park.

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Fresh Slice Pizza Pasta in Lansdowne foodcourt

Polly recommended the Fresh Slice Pizza Pasta during our last cake meet at PICA. The Fresh Slice Pizza Pasta is a new stall in the Lansdowne Mall food court. Last week, we were shopping in the mall and I decided to check it out.

Fresh Slice Pizza Pasta in Lansdowne foodcourt

The Fresh Slice Pizza Pasta offers a manager special, a whole large pizza for $7.99. You can add two soft drinks to the manager’s special for only $1.00, On top of that, you can mix and match the slices according to your family’s preference. You know how hard it is to accommodate everyone’s taste.

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This is a very good deal and if you happen to shop in the Lansdowne mall, I’ll recommend you check this out.

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