Shikumen (O2 – Finchley)

Meal courtesy of Shikumen

Attended and written by Luxmmi V

Shikumen is one of the many restaurants in the o2 centre on Finchley Road. Whilst the centre itself is pretty standard, Shikumen’s sophisticated and smart interior stands out. We were there on Valentine’s Day meaning it was also pretty busy, although not overwhelmingly so.

img_3843After the Shepherd’s Bush branch gained popularity, Shikumen became known for its great value dim sum. Knowing this, we ordered the Cong mushroom dumplings, chive and prawn dumplings, the char siu buns and sticky rice in lotus leaf.  Although the sticky rice was slightly disappointing, the dumplings and buns lived up to expectations with great flavours and textures. The chive and prawn dumplings were especially soft and delicate. Most importantly, you really do get a lot of food for your buck. The majority of dim sum dishes are £4 for 3 pieces.

The mains didn’t disappoint either. The crispy duck and pancakes were better than most we’ve had, with the duck being carved in front of us (always a good sign). The stand out dish, however, was the grilled cauliflower. The charred cauliflower was perfectly crispy and came with black sesame and truffle sauce. The sauce initially was a bit odd. It had a weird tar-like look and consistency, with an equally unusual taste. It took some getting used to but eventually it became the best thing on the table.

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The mango sorbet dessert was pretty standard and a refreshing end to the meal. Unfortunately, the great meal was marred by the fact it took almost half an hour for the bill to arrive.  The staff weren’t as attentive as they could have been, but this could have been down to the Valentine’s Day rush.

Overall, the meal was tasty and well priced; if you ever find yourself in the o2 centre, definitely give Shikumen a try.

Shikumen (Finchley Road)

Meal courtesy of Shikumen

Written by Reuben @reubenwee91, published by Steph

Historical Background

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Shikumen, when directly translated, means “stone-framed door”. In a broader context, the Shikumen actually refers to a type of architectural characteristic that originated from Shanghai, defined by the stone walls and gates of a Shikumen house. Although shikumen houses are a  part of Shanghai, most of the Shanghai’s shikumen housing has been demolished.

overall-view-of-foodThe restaurant has applied some of this history onto its interior design: the black brick walls, intricate carvings of the walls and the wooden tables. Restaurant was decorated with random Chinese paintings and had a very simple layout. It was clean and service was quick and friendly.

The meal:

Xiao Long Bao, £4.50 for 3 pieces

xiao-long-baoI grew to love xiao long baos as I got older. The size of Shikumen’s xiao long baos were small, but that allowed you to put the entire bao into your mouth. I carefully lifted up the bao and dipped it into some vinegar and had it whole; the bao popped in my mouth and its rich broth burst out to the back of my throat. I was excited; my tastebuds were tantalised. I could not fault it, not even its size.

Yakitori Platter – Skewers of Beef with Crunch Chilli, Garlic and Sesame seed, Miso Marinated Salmon, Chicken Spring Onion, Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, Mixed Vegetables and Chicken Meatballs (£13.90)

yakitori-platterShikumen also serves skewers. I found the beef skewer the best out of the six. It was juicy and delicious, the chilli gave it a punch too. In fact, the chicken and salmon skewers were juicy and succulent too and were tasty indeed. 

Crabmeat and Prawn Dumpling (£4.20)

crabmeat-and-prawn-dumpling-2crabmeat-and-prawn-dumplingNice presentation and loved the salty pop of black ‘tobiko’ (flying fish roe). The steamed dumpling skin was thin and crabmeat and prawn were sweet and fresh. The tobiko gave contrasting texture at each bite; it was brilliant.

Prawn and Bean Curd Skin Cheung Fun (£5.90)

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Really like the cheung fun. They did not flood the cheung fun with soy sauce as the intention was to keep the fried bean curd skin as crispy as possible. The prawns were fresh and I liked how they added strands of black fungus to give it some crunch to the soft cheung fun. I thought it was one of the most delicious cheung funs I had tasted.

Grilled cauliflower with black sesame truffle oil (v) (£4.90)

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This had the strongest flavour out of the dishes served. The fragrant smell from the black sesame truffle oil and its incredibly thick and luscious sauce made it one of my favourites.

Scallop Siu Mai topped with Tobiko (£5.20)

This is actually one of my favourites too. The scallops were fresh; together with the prawns, they were perfectly steamed and came well as a combination.

Black Sesame Ball in Ginger Tea (£4.90)

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The skill is there, the filling within the ball was kept intact and the ginger soup (tea) was actually good. I liked the fiery gingery taste.

Summary:

Food is good, and should definitely order more of their dim sum when I visit the next time.

Slightly disappointed that they did not bring over the Musang King Durian Puff to the Finchley Road branch. That was one of the most anticipated dessert but it was not part of the branch dessert menu – you can try them out at the Shikumen Shepherd’s Bush (A must try, along with the Crispy Eel and Nori Cheung Fun)

overall-view-of-food-2Latest recommendation for classic dim sum with modern twists in London.

Zizzi

Meal courtesy of Zizzi’s 

Written by Verna, published by Steph

If you live in the UK and you haven’t heard of Zizzi, then you should get outta here!

I must admit, I did not have a great last encounter. However, that was almost 4 years ago, and when I looked at their menu online I decided to put everything aside and trot along to the O2 Centre, in Finchley Road, London, for another attempt at trying to rekindle my relationship with Zizzi.

The menu had a fresh look, clear layout, with the summer menu catching my eye

What I wanted to try out at Zizzi were some of their “healthier” options. For I am a health fanatic and eating out sometimes bothers me with the unknown calorie content and undisclosed nutritional information. Though things are different at Zizzi, there were several options that were tailor to people like me, and they were under 600 calories. *GASP*

Hence, after managing to convince my friends of my idea to try the low calorie dishes, we decided to first treat ourselves to a platter of starters, with some cocktails of course.

 

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From the above, you can see how photogenic the Cicchetti Sharing Board is. There were various pieces of squid, mussels, chicken skewers, arancini balls, olives and bread with three dips. Our cocktails were also lovely, we ordered a coconut water (not featured), a Peach Melba Fizz and a Pink Gin & Tonic. I particularly liked the Pink G&T – it tasted refreshing and also ridiculously photogenic!

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We shortly moved to the mains with healthy dishes however, I was already pretty full from just the sharing board. There was a King Prawn Linguini, a Seabass Cartoccio and a summer special Pollo Fresca Salad.

Zizzi is doing an increasingly good job of making their food look presentable and appetizing. I loved how the seabass was served, in the parchment paper on a wooden chopping board. The rustic look was right up my streett!3

Taste wise, it was actually better than my expectations, since they were pretty low for the number of calories they served. I was secretly expecting bland tasting food, but actually everything was seasoned well, the fish was tender, prawns not overcooked, and the salad was also a hit with my friends, and we soon polished off the three dishes in no time.

On top of that, the service we received was adequate albeit a little slow. There were occasions where we had to make extra effort to attract a waiters’ attention. 

With fifteen different food offerings available at the O2 Centre, Finchley Road, you’re spoilt for choice! If you don’t fancy dining at the delicious Zizzi’s you can choose from restaurants such as, Wagamama, Byron Burger, Tortellini Cup or Yo Sushi!