Sunday, 10 July 2016

Food: Curio x Ta Ta - Haggerston

It's a little too much when the new food craze is to suggest that rice must be eaten with the dishes served. What a revelation.  The curiously named Curio x Ta Ta is the collective brainchild of Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves (ex-Viajante and Chiltern Firehouse).  For three nights a week, they transform the small space at the Curio Cabal cafe in Haggerston into a capsule kitchen where the chefs entertain and delight with an interesting blend of Portuguese and Chinese dishes.  

What I loved about the meal was the non-ironic charging of £2.50 for a bowl of rice with 'house dressing' (aka soy sauce) but at least it served as a good vehicle to soak up the delicious smokey juices of the braised aubergine dish (not pictured as devoured too quickly).  

The "day catch" of white fish in a light dressing was perfectly delicious, consumed in between large mouthfuls of slightly sticky Japanese white rice.

Judicious use of micro herbs and flowers give an instant visual appeal to pork and black bean sauce.

Congee, is treated as comfort food in Chinese cuisine: it is the porridge, the chicken soup, mum's home cooking dish.  Boil rice, add water, cook to sloopy gruel like consistency.  Add ingredients, and in this case, an authentic blend of chicken stock, ginger, crunchy Chinese 'doughnut' (or croutons, I suppose), and with an inventive Ta-Ta style twist, crispy chicken skin and herby goodness. I could have eaten several bowls (because the bowls were really quite small).

What was less successful was the tofu dish. A big hunk of firm tofu needs a firm understanding of the beast itself.  Keeping it simple is fine, but it needs lashings of something, whether it be sauce, grill, smoke, braise, to give it either flavour or texture to lift it out of its cold, bland, original state.  

On the plus side, the coffee ice-cream with mascarpone and brown butter was served in a classic 1980s style dessert glass.  Better still it had the surprising element of tapioca balls ordinary found swimming at the base of bubble tea drinks.  As a topping on the espresso flavoured ice-cream, this is a stroke of minor genius.

Curio + Tata
258 Kingsland Road
E8 4DG
Open for dinner Thursday to Saturday

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