Local Friends, Golders Green, London
A big chowdown tonight at this Hunanese restaurant. I'm too sleepy to remember all the dishes (everybody please chime in!), but I'll mention my favourite, which was the mooli in chicken broth.
Understated but exquisite knifework producing thin translucent slices of mooli, virtually all of the same thickness, essential in even and consistent cooking and texture across all the slices. There was brilliant texture control, with each slice of mooli giving off a perfect soft snap as one bit in. A delicate chicken broth beneath that, flavoursome and light. A very "simple" and finessed dish.
The aubergines and green beans was another surprisingly good dish -- also understated, but perfect technique -- the aubergines cooked very precisely to a snappy softness that ripped just a little on the teeth. Cut equally precisely to strips just a little thicker than the green beans, to maximise the textural contrast with the slightly crunchy green beans. A tiny aura of smoky flavour from the wok.
These two were my favourites, let's hear more from the rest of the folks that were there.
update: had dinner at local friends last night. the downstairs is completely re-done and looks very trendy. the hunanese menu is no longer separate, but is at the back of the 'regular' menu.
the cooking is still fabulous - i liked their farmhouse style pork (pork with chillies here) much better than ba shan and the sheets of bean curd with minced pork were a textural and savoury delight. i wish i was there with more people, but from the few dishes shared with my wife we could see the kitchen is still at the top of its game.
bizarrely empty for a saturday night; i hope its because easter has started.
Thank you limster for organizing, that was a lot of fun. I also didn't find the mooli with chicken broth all that exciting, probably because I had it right after the very spicy fish bowl. I mostly enjoyed that fish dish (which was only at our table), but I found it really spicy. Much spicier than the one we had at Empress of Sichuan. By the third helping, I had to admit defeat, too spicy for me to have a single extra bite. Well, I really felt that way after the second helping, but after about a 10 minute break, decided to have another go. I also enjoyed the beef tripe that nobody seems to have mentioned so far, I'd order that one again.
The spicy fish dish is a little different from the Sichuan renditions, as Hunanese cooking doesn't involve sichuan peppercorns. So it's just chilli all the way. I did tell them to tune the spice levels between medium and Hunan-level hot.
For me, the flavour of the mooli was almost secondary, it was the textural control (al dente for the lack of a better word) brought about by the fine knifework and just the right amount of cooking that impressed me.
Yes, I found most things to be very nicely cooked. Pigs ears were for me too a standout dish. I'm a sucker for preserved egg, so that was also a bit of a highlight, along with the battered prawns. Less interesting was the cucumber served with hoisin sauce, which was exactly that and no more. The broths were simple yet still quite flavourful. All in all a nice meal and very good company.
Oh, and a note for anyone booking the private room: bring your oxygen masks and altitude gear, it's a long, long way up!
My third meal at Local Friends, and probably my favorite so far. Limster did most of the ordering, and I'd be curious to know what percentage of the dishes came from the Chinese only section at the back of the menu, versus the English translated portions of the Hunan menu (which, remember, is different from the normal menu)
I wasn't a huge fan of the mooli (aka daikon), although I agree that it was nicely prepared. I sorta thought the flavors got lost, especially since I had been eating so many spicy things.
My favorites were the poached chicken in chilli vinaigrette and the braised pork belly (the latter was different than the pork belly I had last itme, and this time was served over mushrooms). I also liked most of the cold appetizers, especially the pigs ears. Aubergine and green beans was excellent as usual.
The soups were both very simple, but I enjoyed them, and could see ordering them next time I go back if I want something more mild. I didn't get to try much of the pork w/ winter melon soup, but I had quite a bit of the pork with loofa soup.
It's hard to remember what else we even had! Perhaps someone with a good memory can compile a list?
The company was excellent, lots of new and old hounds, perhaps this was the largest ever London chowdown in history? It was quite fun and loud and boisterous and I am looking forward to more chowdowns soon!
Many of us went for gelato afterwards - I was amazed that a gelato place was actually open in Golders Green at 10:15 PM on a Sunday, but sure enough, it was! Some flavors weren't too good, but I had a very nice mango sorbet, and I had some tastes of others and really liked the coffee gelato.
I hope that everyone posts their thoughts on the meal - especially those who don't tend to post as frequently!
Thanks again to Limster for organizing!
i thought many of the dishes superb. the worst were merely good, the best were excellent.
indeed, the highlights were the mooli in chicken broth and the aubergine with green beans. but the poached chicken in the chillii vinaigrette, the stir fried pork with peppers, the sauce on the crabs (limster pointed that out), the delicate but firm tofu with exactly the right amount of sliced chillies, the braised pork belly - all wonderful.
apart from the dishes, lots of excellent company. well done limster!