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Feb 1, 2010 01:26 PM

Dolada, Mayfair, London

Modern molecular Italian.

Tortellini, so small and delicate and so perfectly textured and balanced in the smidgen of meat filling, they could have been made by fairies. Served in a light broth with mushroom, cut by crisp daikon.

Scampi carpaccio was alive with the fresh crustacean sweetness, glossed with olive oil, and perked up with orange oil. A tinkle of pepper, the crunch of sea salt and finally an dab of creaminess from the border of greek yogurt. Excellent.

New carbonara is an exercise in deconstruction. Perfectly textured fettucine with just the right bite, served with grated cheese, a poached egg and super crispy guanciale placed over the pasta, mixed by the diner at the table. A good balance of flavours, and very tasty, but not much gained by the novelty. Afterall, it's hard to improve upon the lusty original. A deconstruction dish would have been more interesting if it allowed one to taste the different ingredients separately, and then in different combinations to see how different flavours complement or synergise (not a new concept, try a thali sometime).

Glu-glu pizza, a mixture of flavours in liquid - very milky mozzarella, bright tomato, basil, olive oil, served in a glass contraption consisting of a series of connect bulbs each containing a flavour. One drinks from it in a single gulp, allowing the tricolor to mix in one's mouth to generate the flavour of a margherita. And then finished with a bite of crispy bready crust to complete the experience by adding the textural component of crunch. Good flavours, but I'd much rather have an integrated experience in a good slice of pizza. Only advantage I could see is that great pizza crusts can have short half lives due to the soaking in of the sauce; separating sauce from crust could preserve that texture. But the bite of crust here wasn't exceptional (in fact was ordinary).

Finally, hickory smoke to support somewhat overcooked (medium-well) angus beef -- not horrible, not great, I'm used to rare to medium rare for the juiciness.

A well made zabaglione with strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

Finally, fruits encased in caramel (cherry tomato, grapes, dried apricot, mango, blueberries, date) and a pleasant selection of cookies - chocolate, choc chip, hazelnut clusters, as well as chocolated dipped gooseberry.

A sort of good not great experience, with some very good dishes (scampi carpaccio and tortellini in brodo) and others that were fine but just not significantly improved by the novelty and innovation. Perhaps fun to try once, but I don't see myself craving the same sensations or dying to go back, especially for the price.

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  1. I'm not a great fan of the deconstructed dish or the separate flavourings idea. Michelin starred L'Enclume does it in a couple of dishes on its tasting menu and we reckoned these were the least successful.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Give the thali at Indian Zing a try, it's pretty successful implementation imho. But howler goes further here:

      1. re: limster

        Thalis are fine.

        L'Enclume served a dish it calls "hotpot". What you get is a clear lamb broth and then "balls" of potato, onion and red cabbage. By "balls", I mean the rather fashionable cheffy trick of taking a liquid, treating it with some chemical so it forms a skin, which then bursts in your mouth. I think it's probably an El Bulli invention as I first had it in Catalonia at a restaurant where a chef had worked with Adria. If I want Michelin starred hotpot, I'll take Northcote's every time.

        1. re: Harters

          Nearly all the molecular stuff is an El Bulli invention!

          Even having hardly ever eaten at molecular-type restaurants, I know I don't want all the flavours separated of a classic dish. What makes those dishes classic is the way the combination mingles. Places like El Bulli, from reading the book and all about it, try to take it further by just re-writing what eating is all together. Making weird and wonderful combinations of tastes and textures you could never imagine. In the vein of Willy Wonka.

          Also I'd say a thali is a little different. All those pots of flavours were never meant to be in one combination. The whole idea of eating a thali is dipping in and out of everything or anything you fancy. It never deconstructs anything, rather its a construction in its own right.

          By the by, the best thali I ever had was in a place called Saravana Bhavan in Delhi. I recently discovered they have a branch in East Ham. I'm chomping at the bit to see if its of the same calibre.

          1. re: chief1284

            go! it is part of the same madras chain. they have a couple of restaurants in delhi, one in manhattan (enthusiastically raved about by the local hounds as the best deal in little india) but mysteriously none in bombay.

            whats up with all this great stuff in east ham - do they have a sizable tamil population?

            1. re: chief1284

              I am with Chief1284 regarding the Thali and Deconstruction comment.

              A Thali is a collection of small dishes each complete in their own right, the idea being that you get a well balanced meal with a good range of flavours. A deconstructed dish presents the core elements/ingredients of a dish as individual components to "reconstruct" in different combinations in order to vary the flavour profile of the individual dish.

              However, one correction, in my experience El Bulli doesn't serve deconstructed dishes, each dish is in itself complete. They do have dishes which contrast different preparations of the same taste i.e. the soy dish with beans, milk skin etc. And to be honest the few times I have had deconstructed dishes (usually in the UK) I have wondered why it was done that way as it is usually the combination that makes the dish, as Limster says "'s hard to improve upon the lusty original"

              1. re: PhilD

                I probably didn't make it clear, I was trying to say El Bulli avoids that deconstruction route. I meant to say they try to take it down, to me, more interesting routes.

              2. re: chief1284

                re: the mixing of different items in a thali, Howler's mentioned it here:

                I'm continuing discussion of this aspect over there, since it's no longer about a specific restaurant but a general topic.

                1. re: limster

                  Yeah fair enough. That is a legitimate comment.

                  As it happens I have a habit of eating food in this kind of way regardless. Well, depending. But something like a fry-up or a roast, I'm always playing around trying different combinations. I love it.