Cocoa Runners – Craft Chocolate

Craft chocolate – the new thing? A new thing for me at least!

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My recent obsession with dark chocolate all started with a chocolate tasting session courtesy of Cocoa Runners held at Prufrock Coffee.

img_0658img_0659I was first handed vintage chocolate from the July subscription of Cocoa Runners and can instantly tell this was not your normal-everyday-chocolate, some were uniquely hand wrapped, the texture and colour of the chocolate also very different.

By all means I can recite and churn out all about what Cocoa Runners is all about off the internet but I can definitely tell you, if you haven’t tried the chocolates sold by Cocoa Runners before, try it now.

Cocoa Runners is co-founded by Simon and Spencer and promises to showcase the world’s finest chocolate bars through their subscription service and gift boxes. Their chocolate library is unbelievably extensive, with some of the rarest and harder sourced chocolate available for purchase through their website.

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Every month, a box of Craft Chocolate will be delivered to your door carefully selected by Cocoa Runners, each bar will come with a description and the story behind it.

Two of my favourite bars from the September subscription are:

dsc07011Blanxart Dominican Republic 

  • Cocoa Content: 72%
  • Bean Origin: Dominican Republic

I’m actually eating this right now. My third purchase of the same bar after receiving it in my first subscription! It’s addictive. A piece of this is almost like eating the inside of an oozing chocolate fondant, incredibly rich with hints of cashew and macadamia. The chocolate here is made entirely of cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla. You will find most bars that are selected from Cocoa Runners are made up of very simple ingredients keeping it fine and organic, of course that’s where the quality lies.

dsc07014dsc07015Menakao Madagascar Dark

  • Cocoa Conent: 80%
  • Bean Origin: Madagascar

This bar of chocolate wasn’t as rich – but definitely more fragrant with a hint of natural fruitiness. Menakao is one of the few producers who make its chocolate entirely at source, whereby beans are grown harvest and made into chocolate in Madagascar. Obvious benefits here for the local economy and employment in Madagascar.

I recommend you trying a few of the chocolates from Cocoa Runners, with some available from Prufrock Coffee. Chocolate after all, is one of your 5 a day!

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[TKY] Tonkatsu Shotaro

Tonkatsu Shotaro (2 of 13)
Midori’s recommendation, Tonkatsu Shotaro, ‘the best in Harajuku’
Background and Taste:

I do have an abundance of Japanese posts on my blog, and this won’t be the last one. Having taken up Japanese more seriously with an aim to become fluent, my 6 day trip to Japan last December will be the first of many!

So Midori recommended Tonkatsu Shotaro, an easy find on Takeshita Street, minutes away from Harajuku Station. Tonkatsu Shotaro has been serving thick and tender tonkatsu for at least 40 years, and quite a tranquil restaurant given the noise from such a busy street. It has an extensive menu even though the size of the restaurant is small.

Tonkatsu Shotaro (1 of 13)
Amy and I met up with our old secondary school friend Midori who happened to be in Japan at the same time for a catch up in Harajuku.
Tonkatsu is breaded and deep fried pork cutlets usually served with some form of sauce. Takeshita street is known for its shopping outlet and funky fashion scene, so its a great stop for a meal if you get tired of walking.

Tonkatsu Shotaro (4 of 13)
Pork was thick, and panko crumbing was crispy, the pork cutlets are usually accompanied with miso soup and a generous bowl of rice.
Prices are also exceedingly cheap compared to London, see below using Oanda exchange rate 07.06.15:

  • Katsudon (980 yen) £5.11
  • Tonkatsu (880 yen) £4.60

Tonkatsu Shotaro (12 of 13)
I chose my tonkatsu to have cheese with it… and it was so so good…topped with tangy Japanese BBQ sauce 
Tonkatsu Shotaro (6 of 13)
Midori’s oyakodon
Tonkatsu Shotaro (8 of 13)
Amy’s katsu curry, really generous servings

Service: A small cosy interior, friendly staff.

Price: £

A: 1-6-12, Jinguumae, Shibuya-ku, TokyoHarajuku Station, Takeshita-dori
T: +81 3 6804 3834

[HK] Via Tokyo

Via Tokyo (1 of 7)
First visit to Via Tokyo with Fia (licking her lips… again) (Shiratama Matcha Soft Cream $38 £3.30)
Background and Taste:

A small post on one of my favourite dessert places in Hong Kong. As mentioned before, Via Tokyo is just a walk away from Cafe R&C, and Waffills (next door). Having been awarded the Best New Restaurant in HK 2014, (even though its a dessert cafe) the Japanese Matcha Cafe has everyone dribbling at their doorstep – Iiterally. Focused on serving Kyoto style Japanese soft creams and desserts using Hokkaido milk, the menu delves into two types of green tea in particular. The ones we would see are:

Matcha: Powdered green tea, (usually manufactured in Uji region) and grown in the shade

Houjicha: Green tea leaves which are roasted, and therefore brown in colour, the roasting process gives this a more nutty flavour.

Hope this clears up what the difference between green tea and matcha is, (I use them interchangeably).

Via Tokyo (3 of 7)
With Heoloi and Grace, Fruit Matcha Soft Cream Shiratama Anmitsu $50 £4.30

Excuse the photography, these are some old photos. The menu is extensive but to include a few examples (Oanda exchange rate at 03/04/15):

  • Soy Bean Powder Shiratama Azuki Soft Cream ($45) £3.90
  • Original, matcha, or mixed cone ($28, $30, $32) £2.40, £2.60, £2.80
  • Matcha Affagato (recommended) ($45) £3.90
  • Houjicha Latte ($37) £3.20
Via Tokyo (4 of 7)
One of the most instagrammable places in Hong Kong, a selection of pretty matcha desserts flood the menu waiting to be ordered for your camera. (*Camera eats first*)

The matcha is rich in flavour, and not too sweet (which is how I like it). I’ve given myself a mini challenge to try the whole menu before the end of this year! With matcha in abundance, there are several recommended favourites such as the matcha affogato (matcha soft serve and a small pitcher of matcha latte) but these can wait until I make my next trip to Hong Kong!

Via Tokyo (6 of 7)
Okome Shiratama Matcha Soft Cream $45 HKD (£3.90)
Via Tokyo (5 of 7)
Iced Matcha Latte $37 (£3.20)

Bits and bobs:

  • Come when it has just opened, or mid-afternoon, when it’s not so busy
  • Expect a takeout, the seating area is small, maximum 15-20 people
  • They are constantly adding things to the menu such as Hong Kong Milk Tea soft serve, and brownies so be on the watch!

Service: Friendly casual staff, 10% service charge

Price: £

A: 1A-1B, G/F, Leishun Court, 106-126 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay
T: +852 2895 1116
F: https://www.facebook.com/viatokyocafe
O: http://www.openrice.com/en/hongkong/restaurant/causeway-bay-via-tokyo/143976

[CZ] Oblaca

Oblaca
At the tallest tower in Prague
Background and Taste:

Located 66 metres above ground, the Oblaca restaurant in Zizkov Tower overseas the whole of Prague with its wide framed windows. Modern Czech, international and seasonal dishes flood the menu and the 50 seat restaurant sustains a very modern and metropolitan feel.

Before entry to the tower, you will see strange architectural designs by Czech designer David Cerny. They are what I think are naked babies climbing up the tower sides. It located away from the major attractions of Prague, so this may be something you want to do at the beginning, or the end of the day.

The meal:
Zizkov Tower
Our holiday in Prague, March 2014 started off on a high!
Zizkov Tower
A selection of breads are given, with garlic butter, of course on the house

If you’re used to London prices, you will find that dining even at the most expensive restaurants to be pretty cheap in Prague, (using Oanda exchange rate @ 14.03.15).

Zizkov Tower
Tiger Prawns – (335 CZK) £8.75
Zizkov Tower
Salad of fried prawns in panko breadcrumbs with a sauce of fried crab, chilli peppers and lime leaves

Met by surprise with our starters, how beautifully and intricately placed they were, it meant minimal editing when it came to posting! Tiger prawns were crispy, but tender inside, sauce added flavour. Below, was my main, foie gras, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. Lukewarm when served and a bit bitty.

Zizkov Tower Oblaca
Foie Gras with grilled goose liver with gingerbread purée, marinated cumquats and chocolate sauce (245 CZK) £6.40
Zizkov Tower
Pretty Vanessa with her pretty main in a pretty city~

Next up was mains, I chose to have truffles from the Hall of Fame menu. So I have a fascination with mushroom of all types, and its not a surprise I ordered one here in Prague. The gnocchi was cooked  well with what might be truffle puree inside.

Zizkov
Truffle Gnocchi served with black truffle in a cream sauce (345 CZK) £9.00
Zizkov
Beef Steak a la chef (655 CZK) £17.10

Brazilian sirloin steak with grenaille potatoes and rossini sauce, it’s quite a lot of meat on one plate but the stunning visuals just made it so much more easy to finish.

White chocolate mousse (140 CZK £3.70
Zizkov
with pecan nuts in honey, pistachio gelée and almond croccante

We decided to order 3 desserts… but it was too much and we left the second and third basically unfinished. The only one that impressed us with the Pina Colada ice lolly and boy was it good.

Zizkov
Variation of Chocolate Foams (145 CZK) £3.80
Zizkov
with biscuit de savoie with a sour cherry glaze
Home-made Pina Colada Ice Lolly (155 CZK) £4.05

My absolute favourite! The pineapples soft and sweet, but obviously fresh, even on a cold day you have to try this!

Zizkov
with “sous vide” pineapple with a mixture of winter spices and chocolate-coconut bed

Bits and bobs:

  • Advised to book, but to be honest I think you can pretty much walk in since it didn’t seem to busy. (We came at lunch though.)
  • They have a bar area as well as another cafe on the same floor, (not linked to the restaurant but you can have a look at these if you’re going to Zizkov Tower).
Zizkov
360 view at Zizkov, amazing even on a cloudy day

Service: Sub-standard. Nothing special.

Price: ££

A: Mahlerovy Sady, 2699/1A, Prague 13000
T:
F: http://www.towerpark.cz/en/restaurant/

[HK] Cafe R&C

Cafe R+C
Fun latte art in Cafe R&C
Background and Taste:

Cafe R&C is a dainty cafe around the corner from Via Tokyo and Waffills situated on Haven Road. Known for doing the cutest and eye-catching coffee art in Hong Kong, they have been around since at least July 2010. Waiting is a normal thing in Hong Kong, and it’s hard to find somewhere good without having to queue first. Two visits to this place (with Fia, then Heoloi and Grace) incurred a 30-40 minute wait on average.

3 eyed cartoon – yes it’s another green tea latte! (sandwiches are in the background)

I would recommend to come here for the caffeine kick, but not the food, having been twice, the sandwich selection and toasties are canteen style, and mediocre. I like my toasted triangles pretty crunchy but found the ones here to be too soft. Cheese used is packaged processed cheese. Scallop spaghetti was a bit too salty (presuming the black sauce they have on the menu is squid ink) and the spaghetti dry. The lattes and coffees are above standard, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve had. Cafe R&C is more to do with presentation of latte art more than anything else.

Sausage Ham and Cheese Toastie $28
Cafe R&C
Crabmeat Toastie $28

They have a wide range of mains and foods from the brunch menu, including pasta, spaghetti, fry-ups and salads, some from the menu below (using Oanda exchange rate @ 14.03.15):

  • Toasties ($28) £2.45
  • Cappucino ($40) £3.50
  • Green Tea Latte ($42) £3.65
  • Honey Latte ($40) £3.50
  • Scallop with Black Sauce ($110) £9.55
Cappuccino $40
Cafe R&C
Scallop in Black Sauce $110
Cafe R&C
Chicken in spinach sauce $68

Bits and bobs:

  • Wifi available
  • Expect to table share

Service: Friendly casual staff, 10% service charge

Price: £

A: G/F, 22-24 Haven Street, Causeway Bay
T: +852 2890 9838
F: https://www.facebook.com/cafernc

[HK] Waffills

Waffills
Fia eye-ing up the pulled pork waffill like a true glutton
Background and Taste:

Bringing you my first non-London based post today and it’s on Waffills! Selling sweet & savoury Belgian waffles located in the back streets of Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. (Next to Via Tokyo: review out soon)

Opened on 14 March 2014, and owned by the very talented Belgian chef Joeri Schreurs, Waffills (abbreviated from Waffles with fillings) introduced a new style of Belgian waffles with fillings – obviously stuffed inside them.

Credit: www.talkandspoon.com

The waffle itself is light, and tasteless but it gets its’ flavour from its fillings, or sauces. We ordered pulled pork waffle between Fia and I (as we actually had Via Tokyo ice-cream for breakfast just before that…).

They have a variety of unusual and unique flavours, (using Oanda exchange rate @ 14.03.15):

  • Cheese Burger Waffill ($58) £5.00
  • Thai Prawn Waffill ($52) £4.50
  • Pulled Pork Waffill ($48) £4.15
  • The Vegetarian Waffill ($40) £3.50
  • Brussels All Day “Brekkie” ($35) £3.00

Sweet Waffill options and more from its menu are found here on openrice.

Pulled Pork Waffle $58

Service: A small cosy interior with expected minimal customer service interaction.

Price: £

A: G/F, 124 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay
T: +852 2613 9600
F: https://www.facebook.com/waffills/timeline