Sunday, 27 January 2013

Deviate from the norm, you might surprise yourself!

Growing up in a village in Somerset, restaurants were a few and most of the nearby towns only had Italian chains, Indians, Chinese and a Weatherspoon. And still with this limited choice you always had the same Indian or Chinese that you went to, and very rarely deviated from the norm.

Since moving to London although I am presented with so much choice, I still have my favourite Indian:  Tayyabs in Whitechapel - check it out!!! However I have yet to find a Chinese restaurant to be loyal to. So when told of a restaurant in the nearby unsightly Elephant and Castle that even Jay Rayner sings its praise, who was I to say no?

It's true, Elephant and Castle is extremely run down and opposite this restaurant in question stands several ex-council buildings completely boarded up bar the odd tenants who still refuse to leave. Whilst a bit of an eye sore on one side of the road, on the other there stands a bright red door guarded by two dragons: very in your face and perhaps out of place, but hey something needs to stand out in that ghostly part of town!

Entering this Cantonese restaurant, Dragon Castle, you are greeted by a lavish water fountain and a waiter to take you to your table through a set of red draped curtains. I find Chinese restaurants all quite the same, in decor that is, but also I am guilty in ordering the same old dishes wherever I go: beef chow mein and some sort of prawns in a ginger sauce with a side of prawn crackers. This time I was determined to choose something completely different, and something completely different is what I went for.

To start: seasoned jellyfish with cucumber and scallops with garlic and vermicelli, and for main: wok fried eel with coriander and soy sauce and sizzling beef fillet in black pepper sauce (OK, kind of standard, but de-lishh). Where do I start? The scallops were beautifully presented in their shell, full of flavour and so very succulent and the garlic although seemed to be plentiful, did not overpower the flavour of the seafood. Now... the jellyfish. I have NEVER eaten jellyfish, and really did not know what to expect. A stark contrast to the scallops with a chewier texture, these strips of seafood were beautifully complimented with strips of cucumber and chilli. Having these two dishes as a starter were a great combination providing different textures, flavours and temperatures, with the jellyfish being served as a cold starter. Simply delicious.

How do you lead on from that? Well gorgeously tender strips of beef fillet, more tender than any steak I have ever had, served in a black pepper sauce, as well as wok fried eels... Oh the eels. They in my eyes are the rats of the sea. Sorry but there is something about them which makes me squirm. And I was shocked to discover that the dish was actually quite scrummy! Wok fried, they had a crispy skin and beautifully flakey flesh served in a tasty sauce of coriander and soy. I'm actually salivating now thinking of that wonderful experience...

A nice Cantonese is hard to come by, so as you can imagine that comes with a price, costing about £65 for two courses for two, plus a couple of beers each. However it is well worth a visit, and definitely deviate from the norm, you might surprise yourself!

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x