Gyoza Bar

Meal courtesy of Gyoza Bar

Written by me!

dsc07479When a restaurant is talking bao, ramen, gyoza and dumplings this obviously calls for a party. JT and P joined me at Gyoza Bar to try a variety of what they had to offer.

Gyoza Bar is a relatively new addition to the West End scene, and with many Japanese restaurants competing in the area, Gyoza Bar sets itself apart by specialising in gyozas, (i.e. Japanese dumplings). The menu is small and simple but it covers everything you need. It is Murakami’s sister branch – of which is conveniently situated next door should you want a second dinner and some sushi!

dsc07474Minimalist. A rectangular room lined up with Japanese sake bottles and a semi open kitchen. The wooden flooring and furniture provides it with more of an izakaya – Japanese feel.

Food:

A decent establishment and one yet to make a dent in London but it has a promising menu which hits all the right spots.

dsc07471Gyozas: we tried the moriwase gyoza which is an assortment of different types of flavours, vegetarian, shrimp and pork. Aligned delicately around an iron pan, the gyoza skins were thin and crispy and made a great starter dish.

Alongside the gyozas we were served with some great red wine, one of the better bottles I’ve drank in restaurants and must say their craft beers are of fine quality too.

As a side dish we opted for Japanese fries (sweet potato fries) though there wasn’t anything particularly Japanese about it, but made great sharing plates also.

Baos: With 3 different types of bao’s on offer we opted for one each, each with a different flavour. The baos itself was fluffy and pillow-like, soft to the touch with great fillings, pork belly, pulled pork and chicken katsu.

dsc07457Ramen: A big bowl with a generous portion of noodles which are made fresh from the chefs (visible from the open kitchen), each ramen bowl consists of the same ingredients broccoli stem, spring onion, beansprout and shoyu tamago. You then have a choice of Chicken, Char Siu and Pork Belly. I opted for the chicken ramen, the chicken was fried in batter and was tender on the inside. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the soup broth as it could have been thicker and more flavourful, nevertheless the bowl was a very hearty affair and my belly was satisfied!

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NOTE: 

I believe they’re available on tastecard with 50% off your bill. Check it out.

No booking system so pop by whenever you have cravings – they’ll be ready for you!

Amanzi Tea

Amanzi Tea (28 of 28)
Widest selection of teas on Brewer Street, Soho

History and background:

Drinks courtesy of Amanzi Tea. 

With over 150 different types of loose-leaf tea, Amanzi Tea hosts one of the widest range of premium quality unique blends in London. Amanzi offers a range of white, black, green and exotic teas. Matcha latte and Matcha frappes also highlight the menu, a range from super-detoxing matcha ginger to matcha chai.

Classic teas are also available such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey, with food available sourced from Cocomaya. Situated just off Brewer Street is its second branch, with the original Amanzi located in Marylebone offering a similarly extravagant range of teas.

Calling themselves ‘tea-ristas’ you’ll come to find them to have extensive knowledge on the variety of teas. Tasting stations and tea tasters are widely on hand to help you pick your choice.

The drinks:

Amanzi Tea (19 of 28)
A selection of little goodies can be consumed alongside your drink
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A range of drinks in cute bottles on display, tea sets and stirrers are available for purchase too
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Packets of premium quality loose leaf teas also available for purchase
Amanzi Tea (12 of 28)
Bubble teas!

Priced competitively at £3.95, Amanzi offers flavours which differ from your usual Chatime, Vanilla, Cherry, Lychee and Passion Fruit caught my eye, along with fresh tapioca. Albeit a small range, it’s pretty impressive for one a tea specialist to offer signature drinks from Taiwan!

Amanzi Tea (11 of 28)
A unique matcha bar at Amanzi

Per my previous comments, Amanzi has a matcha bar available which can also be ordered as a frappe. Brewer Street is well known for its Japanese restaurants and Chinatown is just a stones throw away, the addition of the matcha bar at Amanzi proves popular for its Asian locals.

Amanzi Tea (10 of 28)
Beneficial blends such as Immuni-Tea, Detox and Hangover are some of the most popular on the menu.

What is great about Amanzi is the description of each tea it gives you,the benefits and ingredients are also listed out. Great transparency here.

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Popping bubbles are available too
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This one caught me eye! Black tea – Golden Monkey King
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An array of colours – all organic though!

We had a selection of fine teas such as Gyokuro (Japanese), Jasmine Pearl (Chinese) and Cinnamon Spice (Indian).

Gyokuro is a Japanese rarity of the top class. The tea gardens are covered with bamboo mats two weeks before plucking. The liquor has a deep green flavor with a hint of sweetness. This was one of my favourite teas of the day, sweet yet bitter at the same time. Enjoyed it hot.

Amanzi Tea (24 of 28)
Our frappe, green tea, and bubble tea

We had the Matcha ginger lemonade, Green Dragon Bubble Tea with lychee popping bubbles, and Taro bubble tea.

Matcha Ginger lemonade is a virgin cocktail shaken with pure matcha, fresh lemon, ginger and agave. Served over ice. A very refreshing drink and great to quench your thirst.

Green Dragon Bubble Tea is based on matcha green tea, blended and served with customised bubbles – we chose the lychee ones. The lychee popping bubbles came as a surprise, full of flavour and aromatic. All the fruit bubbles are filled with various kinds of fruit juice and burst in your mouth when consumed.

Taro is a starchy edible tropical Asian fruit eaten worldwide. Tapioca pearls are made from the starch from the cassava root and are cooked fresh daily.

Amanzi Tea (26 of 28)
I can never resist Taro!
Amanzi Tea (23 of 28)
Gunpowder?

Bits and bobs:

  • Friendly and knowledgeable staff. Feeling queasy? They’ll know the right tea for you
  • Walking distance from both Oxford Circus station and Piccadilly
  • Plenty of seats and spacious too

Price: £

Amanzi Tea Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

Biju Bubble Tea Room

Biju Bubble Tea (1 of 47)
Nick (Founder of Biju) makes a shy appearance on eatwithsteph! (pictured far right)

History and background:

Drinks courtesy of Biju Bubble Tea.

For those who know me, you would remember when I would fanatically queue up for Chatime weekly due to consistent cravings for some Milk tea… those days were long gone once I found out how unhealthy those drinks really were.

By word of mouth however, friends mentioned of a new bubble tea place in town and before you know it, I was hooked on Roasted Ooolong Milk Tea!

Opened by Nick Phan late 2014, he introduced a new, healthier bubble tea concept to Soho with organic products and freshly brewed as soon as you order.

Biju Bubble Tea (6 of 47)
Biju is the real deal. See the tea leaves brewed in front of you in action.

Many people misinterpret what bubble tea is, which they deem as a drink with bubbles in it (with the bubbles referring to the tapioca pearls).

Bubble tea neatly explained by justopenedlondon are actually:

the practice of blending natural flavours, colours and ingredients into one of many types of tea, shaken and not stirred

So the tapioca pearls are an add-on!

Biju Bubble Tea (9 of 47)
Note the coffee/ espresso machine on the counter, there’s no use of powder, nothing is ready-made!

The cosy and uniquely decorated bubble tea room houses up to  30, where you’ll be greeted by friendly and enthusiastic staff upon your arrival.

Biju Bubble Tea (5 of 47)
My ‘eatwithsteph’ temps, regular eatwithsteph companions Tom, Fia and Louise

The drinks:

The following drinks have been customised by Biju, with toppings and flavours they recommend which would complement each other. A description of these drinks are very well explained by them here.

The pricing for your typical bubble tea:

  1. Regular (includes 1 topping of your choice) £3.45
  2. Large £3.95
  3. Toppings 50p
  4. Hot teas 50p extra
  5. Coconut water 50p extra
Biju Bubble Tea (26 of 47)
Vivid and vibrant colours! Little did we know how many bubble teas we would be drinking…

Intense flavours are brought out by the fresh brew with specially imported tea leaves, alongside the use of ‘nectars’ instead of white sugar and organic milk, Biju creates a whole new level of high quality, aromatic bubble tea.

Toppings are made in-house too, from your expected tapioca pearls to the popping fruits in mango pineapple, guava, Asian lime and other flavours.

Biju Bubble Tea (11 of 47)
Lychee Coconut Water (Iced) with toppings: Basil Seeds and Pearls
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Black Mousse Tea (Iced) with topping of choice: Egg Pudding

Mousse teas are astonishingly dense and flavourful but at the same time, surprisingly light. One of eatwithsteph’s recommended!

The Hong Kong Milk Tea below is truly reminiscent of the teas people from Hong Kong brew, another favourite of mine – and a heavily recommended one.

Biju Bubble Tea (24 of 47)
The Classic: Hong Kong Milk Tea with topping of choice: Tapioca Pearls
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Honeydew Melon Milk Tea (Iced) with topping of choice: Popping Banana and milk of choice: Almond Milk
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Matcha Milk tea (iced) with Milk of choice: Almond Topping of choice: Basil Seeds Sugar of choice: Honey
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Pineapple Coconut Water (iced) with topping of choice: Basil Seeds
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Matcha Milk Tea (iced) with topping of choice: Pearls

I avoid matcha drinks in London as I feel they can be so terribly misrepresented, but no thick wallop of sugar is added here, you can really taste the matcha in your drink to its bitter extent.

If you want something very light after your meal, the wintermelon with herbal grass jelly is a good option, its light – but sweet.

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Wintermelon Tea (iced) with topping of choice: Black Herbal Grass Jelly
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Honeydew Melon Milk Tea (iced) with topping of choice: Egg Pudding
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Taro Milk Tea (Iced) with topping of choice: Pearls
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Apple Tea with topping of choice: Mango Jelly
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Its the hot teas! Pictured left to right: Genmaicha, Matcha, Hong Kong Milk Tea, and Roasted Oolong Milk Tea
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Genmaicha Milk Tea

Of course we had some hot drinks too, and I really can’t pinpoint a favourite here, the Hong Kong Milk tea, Gemaicha Milk and Matcha Milk tea were so aromatic I almost finished the drinks by myself…

Something that I would get even now despite the summer!

Biju Bubble Tea (45 of 47)
Matcha Milk Tea

Bits and bobs:

  • There’s wifi, ask for the password if you need
  • You can always customise your bubble tea at non-peak times
  • All sugar levels above were at normal levels – these too can be customised
  • Quiqup, Jinn and Deliveroo deliver bubble teas to your doorstep
  • Say hi to Norbert when you’re in, he’s the friendly supervisor there!

Price: £

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ASSA

Assa (5 of 10)
Arguably one of the best hotpots in London

History and Background:

A little history on the internet on ASSA while I’ve researched where I can, it has been around since at least since 2008 with 2 branches, one on Giles Street, and the other, Romilly Street (near Kyoto).

Giles Street branch has since closed down due to the renovation works ongoing at Tottenham Court Road. An insider tells me the owner of the building block on Giles Street intends to knock down and rebuild it upscale residential flats. We shall see…

I have only ever been to ASSA for its hotpot, catered for all spice levels, and a variety of different hotpots you can choose from. Other food such as it’s kimchee pancake, and rappokki are very much recommended.

ASSA lists an extensive set of Korean dishes alike, such as rice cake soup to alcoholic drinks such as cucumber soju.

The meal:

Assa (9 of 10)
Rappokki (Ramen with rice cakes, fish cakes) £6.90

I’m a sucker for Korean food, probably stems from doing a homestay for a month in Seoul when I was 18. Ramen with rice cakes and dokbokki is a favourite of mine, if you like it like it spicy and sweet at the same time, definitely try this out. Ramen is 70% cooked, how I like it.

Assa (2 of 10)
Beef and Kimchi Stew £22 (recommended to eat between at least 2 people)

When you’re waiting for the gas to heat the soup base, don’t play around the pan just yet! You can order extra condiments (it’s pretty normal to do so, otherwise you don’t have much in the pot). Extra condiments vary in price but you’re given an extensive choice. Ask the waiter if you don’t know what they are. Some extras can be vague, i.e. ‘noodles’, ‘ramen’ and ‘glass noodles’, so what kind of noodles are ‘noodles’?

Assa (1 of 10)
Extra add-ons (£1-4) Ramen, 2x eggs, Ham, rice cakes, glass noodles, pork
Assa (4 of 10)
Generous serving on beef makes me happy
Assa (7 of 10)
Joceline was supposedly on a no carb diet so she got samgyupsal i.e. pork belly slices and lettuce wraps…

This was okay, nothing special, and wasn’t that hot, very fatty pork. I like my meat more lean…

Assa (8 of 10)
A feast for 4!

Service: Like most hotpot meals, or BBQ meals, there is expected, minimal customer interaction, but fret not, they’re friendly and helpful when you raise a hand or 2.

Bits and bobs:

  • They have karaoke rooms downstairs
  • Spread over two floors
  • Can always ask to refill the soup base when hotpot is drying out, or gas
  • As far as I remember, Korean BBQ there is grilled before serving, no DIY here!

Price: ££

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Square Meal

Shackfuyu (Desserts only)

Shackfuyu (2 of 4)
A MUST TRY
History and Background:

(I’ve talked about Flesh and Buns which is also under Ross Shonhan here)

It was first introduced as a Bone Daddies pop-up meaning that its not here to stay for long (12 months in fact), with the name of the restaurant deriving from ‘Shack’, I guess, meaning a ‘Shack’ and fuyu which translates to ‘winter’ in Japanese. (It opened during Winter of 2014.)

Desserts:

Shackfuyu (1 of 4)
(There is actually only one dessert option)
Can I first, please mention that you can definitely come in just for desserts. I highly recommend you to.

The first visit (with Winnie and Allan), we just about ordered nearly everything on the menu, but dishes were over-seasoned, salty, and simply not up to par. You can actually smell the oil and salt in the air from the bibimbap ordered from next door…

Take-out green tea ice-cream can be ordered for £3.50, and it’s a very generous pot of serving. So if you are craving some soft serve you know where to go!

Shackfuyu (3 of 4)
Kinako, Japanese for roasted soybean, french toast, and green tea ice-cream….nothing can go wrong with this (£6.00)
Shackfuyu (4 of 4)
French toast is thick, and sweet, topped with Kinako powder, accompanied with a massive soft serve of green tea…I’m already salivating
Bits and bobs:

  • You’ll probably have no problem coming in during weekdays, come Friday and the weekend, expect a queue. Most recent visit was actually Friday evening (05/06/2015) and it was a half hour queue.
  • Queuing – you will receive a buzzer, be brought down to the far back of the restaurant to its downstairs bar where you wait… (we chose to stand outside)

Price: £

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Square Meal

Kopapa

Kopapa (5 of 7)
A quick brunch at Kopapa on a Sunday
History and Background:

Kopapa was one of those places that kept popping up on my Instagram feed, and having never had food from New Zealand, I took the opportunity to stop by. To keep it short, it’s an innovative, fusion style restaurant located just by Seven Dials, Covent Garden.

Menu changes continuously, but some things will stay and remain as a favourites, notably their Turkish eggs dish! Opened by owners New Zealanders/ people of Maori descent;

Kopapa: a Maori word for ‘a gathering, to be crowded, and a building to store food in’.

Highly recommend place to go for pre-theatre and post-theatre meals.

The meal:

Kopapa (2 of 7)
Soft shell crab burger £12.50
Crab burger is something new for me, but was slightly dry, it could be that it was so early in the morning… But nevertheless, more sauce is needed with this burger!

Kopapa (3 of 7)
– and yes, I have a habit of requesting burgers to be sliced in half… you need to see what’s inside!
Turkish eggs (below) – 2 poached eggs, whipped yoghurt, hot chilli butter and 2 slices of toast. To me this dish doesn’t look too appetizing, since the idea of chilli butter, yoghurt and eggs looked like such a strange combination. This however, was one of the best brunches I’ve had…the combo works really well but unfortunately I can’t put this in words… (I’m not a great food writer) but I highly recommend everyone to have turkish eggs even if its not at Kopapa!

Kopapa (6 of 7)
Turkish eggs £9.50
Service: 12.50% service charge

Bits and bobs:

  • Brunch times are specific, and a different menu to dinner, I would recommend going for brunch first! Check their website for more details.
  • Leicester Square is actually a closer stop than Covent Garden, so if its easier for you, stop off there

Price: £

Kopapa on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Tokyo Diner

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Sushi from 2 Newport Place, if you’ve ever been in Leicester Square, you’ve definitely gone past it. Unmissable!

History and Background:

Tokyo Diner’s motto: Please come again, and bring your friends

Set over three floors, the narrow but central establishment can be found opposite an ‘award winning gay bar’ (I don’t even know what the bar is called, but that’s what it says plastered all over its exterior.) Tokyo Diner has been open since 1992, and focuses on a green and environmental way of serving. Always actively looking for sustainable sources of supply, they do not source and serve tuna due to the issue of over-fishing, see their website for an explanation.

It’s website says it’s open 12pm-12am everyday for 365 days…impressive.

The meal:

Tokyo Diner
Udon £7.30

Offering Japanese food at one of the most competitive prices in London, it’s fair to say you can easily get your bargain’s worth of food for less than a tenner. Bigger portions are free at Tokyo Diner, ask for Oomori and they will top your plate up with more rice. They have word-heavy descriptions of each dish so there really isn’t a need for me to rephrase it all here. A menu for the tourists really.

Tokyo Diner
Gyu Don £9.30

Everyone usually gets the katsu curry here, since it’s dirt cheap for a massive portion, trying something different, I went for gyu-don. A bit of a disappointment, see below…

Half of my gyudon was soaked in soup/ juices from the beef. Unimpressive
Tokyo Diner
Nigiri Set is £12.20
Tokyo Diner
Decent sushi. Not bad but not great, a bit rice heavy but I loved the sweet shrimp.

Service: Sub-standard

Bits and bobs:

  • Can get busy, and may take time for you to order
  • No tips allowed, following the Japanese formalities
  • If you’re sat downstairs it can get claustrophobic with the low ceiling

Price: £

Tokyo Diner on Urbanspoon

Square Meal