Those silly relationship self help books will say it’s unhealthy to be jealous of your partner but I can’t help it, certain things make me very jealous of a certain someone. We all have our crosses to bear so this might as well be mine. I’m jealous of his commute to work, from the bedroom to the home-office in under a minute, and that includes the getting dressed time. It irks me that since taking up the role as Connie Consumes’ Official Dining Companion he’s suffered none of the perils that come with the territory, in fact, he claims to have lost weight while I have definitely suffered the opposite fate. Jealous. Don’t get me started on those eyelashes.
And last but certainly not least, I’m completely, utterly, painstakingly jealous of the fact he’s already been to my dream food-travel destination: Japan. Everything about the cuisine and traditions of Japan entice me and… a certain someone has already been there… without me. The green eyed monster rages. Except he hasn’t really experienced Japan, not in the way I hope we will soon. You see, a certain someone went years ago for the football World Cup, so I don’t think the sights were high on his priority list and the food definitely wasn’t. Japan didn’t make him fall in love with Japanese food, I did.
I introduced him to yakiudon in Manila and he’s been hooked on the noodles ever since, we’ve gone through jars and jars of miso paste, and one of the meals he reminisces about most is our sushi dinner at a small family run Japanese restaurant in San Francisco. So it’s official, a certain someone loves Japanese food as much as I do and until we make that trip to Japan, we’ll settle for the many commendable offerings in London. One in particular caught my eye recently, a residency by Shaun Presland, Executive Chef of Sake Restaurants in Australia, at Carousel London. Having seen him on Aussie Masterchef a number of times, I expected creative, meticulously executed food, and Shaun did not disappoint.
Once we were all seated at Carousel’s communal tables, Shaun gave us a little bit of an introduction to himself, the menu, and the range of suppliers who provided the top quality, often sustainable ingredients going into the dishes. With those formalities out of the way, we kicked off with a gloriously fresh and generous sashimi bowl with house soy and wasabi. For a raw fish enthusiast such as myself, this was heavenly but I’d gamble that even if you weren’t such a fan beforehand, these precise slabs of rich fish could change your mind. If Shaun served this to me at every course, I’d still leave happy.
We shared the first of the extra courses, delicate little Chinese inspired steamed prawn shumai with spicy ponzu; they looked like pillows on a plate and tasted wonderful. This was followed by a salmon, scallop, avocado tartare with coriander, orange infused ponzu and salmon roe, a dish which a certain someone loved. Though only a couple of mouthfuls, it was full of flavour and gave a great contrast of creamy over sharpness over saltiness; perfectly balanced as a tartare should be.
The second of the extra courses was a seared beef tenderloin tataki bathing in a ginger soy dressing with snow pea shoots and garlic crisps, I found it quite moreish though I could accept the argument that it didn’t have the same impact in style and flavour as the other dishes we’d had so far. But did I mention it’s seared red meat, still blushingly pink in the middle? So yes, I found it to be delicious, end of story.
With my meaty cravings satisfied, it was back to the seafood with the yakimono (grilled) kingfish dish; the fish is sustainably farmed so you can enjoy every bite without it weighing on your conscience. Which is ideal as all I want to remember about this dish is the crunch when cutting into the skin, the chunky fillet gently flaking away, that crisp leek wafer, and how well the sweetness of the carrot purée went with the ginger teriyaki glaze on the fish!
The final of the savoury dishes was the chirashi sushi, a bowl of warm rice adorned with little gems such as slices of salmon, thin shreds of egg omelette, nori, and lightly pickled vegetables. All washed down with a soothing bowl of miso soup. While it might not have been as glamorous as the other dishes, it had that comforting, satisfying quality which I associate with traditional Japanese dishes.
Our dessert of buttermilk panna cotta with summer fruit coulis was far less traditional, which is the only criticism I can make of it. The texture was luxuriously creamy yet it was a refreshing palate cleanser, so delicious that my dining neighbour was compelled to ask for seconds! In his defence, they were rather small and I might have considered the cheeky request had he not beaten me to it. We decided to pair this with a glass of the suggested sake match, a Kozaemon Junmai umeshu which is not overly sweet with subtle hints of the plum blossom, as the name suggests; a fitting end to the meal.
For those who have never dined at Carousel, be warned, the seating is cosy so you best show up feeling affable and ready to get to know your other dining companions. We were seated next to a lovely couple who we chatted away most of the evening with between courses, sharing many stories with our wine and laughs with our sake!
The sociable dining atmosphere coupled with seven dishes masterfully executed by Shaun and the Carousel team made this one of the best dining experiences we’ve had recently. At the end of service, Shaun hinted at a return to London which I’m hoping was serious because I don’t really have the funds to nip over to Australia every time I’m craving one of his Japanese creations!
Carousel have a constantly changing line up of creative chefs, ready to take the helm of the kitchen, so go check out their website and see who’s coming up next!