Your Last Mouthful

Cardiff based food blog

Tag Archives: City Road

.CN- An Authentic Chinese Experience

Last week I finally visited the wonderful .CN! As a food blogger I am ashamed that it has taken me this long. From the moment it opened I have been excited about this one and eagerly reading other reviews but every time I was meant to visit something got in the way and it just never happened. When owner Nathan recently asked Mr.V and I along, this time we made sure we were available.

Having travelled extensively around Asia, I am a huge lover of Asian cuisine but when I eat it in the UK I am often left disappointed. I crave some authentic Asian cuisine and .CN promised to deliver just that. I have never been to China but Mr V has spent a few months out there and years later still raves about the food he experienced making me very jealous.

We pushed open the doors of .CN and were immediately welcomed by a friendly waitress. It was raining outside and the windows were steamed up so we had no idea what we were entering into from the outside but it was warm and relaxed, simple yet stylish. With a colour scheme of red and white, it said ‘China’ without being tacky. Logos adorned partitions and patterned art work hung neatly on the walls.

It was very busy and when we arrived, we were the only non Chinese diners. I always take this to be very encouraging but it may have been daunting for some. It really shouldn’t be though as the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming. The waitress saw us looking at some hot pots that were being enjoyed by some Chinese students behind us and came over to explain what they were.

The menu was extensive. It was fantastic to be in a Chinese restaurant and to see so many dishes that I had never tried and most that I had never even heard of! Chinese restaurants in the UK can be very samey and are not always very authentic. Some even have a separate menu for Chinese visitors so .CN was very exciting. The menu did not shy away from its roots by trying to conform to Western tastes and included offal, tripe, pigs trotters and ducks tongues along with cuts of meat that we are used to eating.

We were told that the dishes were from all over China but were predominantly from Northern China and Sichuan which is where Mr V spent much of his time. It was great to be dining with someone who had been to the regions and could confirm their authenticity.

It was very hard to choose what we wanted and as we waded through the menu, we had already decided what we were going to eat on our next visit as well as this one. On this occasion, we settled on a combination of dishes that allowed as to try the biggest range possible.

We started with a dish of Pigs Cheek and cucumber which we ordered as a starter. This was a very simple dish consisting of the most tender succulent pork and refreshing cucumber served with a chilli, lemongrass and coriander dressing. It was a cold dish and worked well as a warm up to the dishes to follow. This was my favourite of the night. Simple yet delicious.

Next it was the main event. A huge bowl of Sichuan Pork arrived with a plate of Salt and Pepper Duck tongues, two varieties of steamed buns and steamed rice. We were interested to try the Sichuan pork to test its authenticity. Mr V had eaten Sichuan peppers in China and Sichuan pork is something that is often on the menu in Chinese restaurants in the UK so I wanted to see how it differed.

It was nothing I like the dishes I have tried here. This dish had an oily base and was filled with tender pork, various vegetables, dried chillies and Sichuan peppers. We were asked how hot we wanted it and we asked for it as it would come. It was just the right amount of spice for me although I still had the feeling it had been dumbed down for our feeble Western pallets. The Sichuan peppers gave off a bizarre tingling sensation which numbs your mouth if you have enough. I loved it and will never look at the Sichuan Pork dish in my local Chinese take away the same again.

Having tried something I have supposedly tried on many occasions, we moved onto something that I had never tried before and that Mr V enjoyed in China; the duck tongues. There were several duck tongue options on the menu but it was suggested to us that we try the salt and pepper option as the salt meant that they came with a slightly crunchy coating which sounded very nice. Some people might be put off by such a dish but they were beautiful. They encompassed everything I love about duck in a tiny mouthful. The crispy skin gave way to a soft fatty meat the fell easily off the tiny bone inside. These were best eaten hot so I’d advise you to tuck in quickly.

Last were the steamed buns. I do love a steamed bun and I have a favourite place to go for them in China Town in London so I was pleased that these rivalled them. It is much easier to travel to City Road for my fix!

After our meal we chatted to Nathan, a young Englishman who owns .CN along with his Chinese business partner. It did seem strange that the most authentic Asian restaurant that I have ever been to was run by an Englishman but Nathan knows his stuff and is passionate about what he does and he certainly does it very well. For someone so young, I was seriously impressed by Nathan’s business sense and what he has achieved. It makes a restaurant visit all the more special when the owner takes the time to talk to diners and when their passion shows.

While .CN is clearly popular among the Chinese students in the area, it’s a real shame that I didn’t see more Western diners. For those of you that might be put off by offal and trotters, the menu is much wider than that and I urge you to give it a try. For more adventurous eaters, I hope you will be as excited as me to find somewhere that does not conform to Western tastes that will give you an authentic Chinese experience and offers ‘nose to tail’ eating.

In terms of price, .CN is very reasonable as are the portion sizes. They do a take away too which means that my local take away is going to get a few less visits from me in the future.

My Last Mouthful was: Pig Cheek and Cucumber

Service- 

Atmosphere and decor-

Quality of food-

Diversity of menu-

Value for money- 

Overall rating- 

For more reviews, competitions and events, please see my website- www.yourlastmouthful.com

Advertisements

Casa Bianca- A friendly encounter and good homemade fare.

Guest review by Mr. V

Having been very nicely asked to be a guest reviewer for Your Last Mouthful, last Thursday I met my associate Miss D and we went to Casa Bianca on City Road for a 3 course meal.

The exterior of the restaurant was clean, modern and stylish perhaps out classing the surrounding area along City Road. There were also outside tables which will be nice for the warmer weather next year.

We were greeted on entry and shown to our seats. The interior was not your typical Italian décor – but a mixture of old and modern paintings and photographs, some funky stripped walls, and a couple of dressed manikins.

Sounds a little odd but I thought it worked well and gave a quirky, more homely feel and made a pleasant change to the usual typical Mediterranean style. The lighting was just right, not too bright and not too dark and the music was at a good volume making the ambience exactly how I like it.

Sipping a cold Peroni, the friendly and accommodating waiter took our order. The meal titles were written in Italian and so I ordered the starters in my best Italian but then the main course meals seemed a little tricky so I went for listing the main ingredients in my best English. However, the keen waiter – having been impressed with my first attempts of Italian encouraged me to continue with the lingo. I think it’s always important to build up a good simple rapport with customers. It makes a big difference to the dining experience and the staff at Casa Biance were masters at this.

So, for the starters…

I opted for the Funghi Cacciatore which was mushrooms in a chilli and tomato sauce served with 2 discs of crispy polenta (not usually a fan of polenta but with the crispy outer it complemented the dish very nicely). My associate Miss D opted for the Funghi Bianchi which was mushrooms in a dolce latte sauce served with crusty bread. It was certainly a very tasty sauce and both were very nicely presented.

One thing I noted with the presentation – it was clear that there was a right way up and a wrong way up to the dish and the waiter was sure to turn the plate into the correct position for the customer. This shows in itself how much care the chef takes with the execution of his dishes.

Onto the mains. ..

I had Spaghetti Marinara and Miss D had sea bass in bread crumbs with a ginger and lemon sauce. The Spaghetti Marinara was presented very nicely, with mussels, clams, squid and prawns with tomato, garlic, chilli and parmesan. The whole dish was moist so no need for a substantial sauce. It was all very pleasant, although I would have liked to have been armed with a spoon and fork rather than a knife and fork.

Spaghetti Marinara

Miss D’s sea bass was again presented very nicely with a bit of balsamic glaze and cress artistry on the side. The fish was cooked well being meaty, soft and moist and a nice subtle sauce being able to taste both the ginger and lemon. It was accompanied with seasonal vegetables and roasted potatoes.

Sea Bass in Bread Crumbs with a Ginger and Lemon Sauce

Onto desserts…

After the appropriate amount of time to let the main course settle, the waiter came over and took us to the front of the restaurant to show us what was on offer. There were 3 desserts all personally handmade by the chef. There was an apple crumble tart, a lemon cheesecake and the all important tiramisu. I was very pleased to hear they were all homemade as so many restaurants buy in the desserts these days which I find very disappointing. The waiter sold them to us very well – especially the lemon cheesecake. I was torn. Miss D went straight in for the cheesecake, leaving me pained as that was what I was also going to order (and I don’t like to order the same). However even though they all looked good I caved and ordered the cheesecake too.

Lemon Cheesecake

Again presented very nicely with a bit of white chocolate sauce, a segment of lemon and a powdering of icing sugar, it went down a treat. I was concerned initially by the size of it thinking I’ll never finish it, but it was almost mousse like – very soft, light and smooth and finished the meal off very nicely.

Overall, it was a very pleasant experience with a good selection on the menu including meat and fish dishes – not just pasta and pizza, good varied prices from £9 to £19, excellent service and good tasting food.

My last mouthful was: The funghi Bianchi.

Service-

Atmosphere and decor-

Quality of food-

Diversity of menu-

Value for money-

Overal rating-

You get more than a meal at Mezza Luna!

On Friday night, we were invited to eat at Mezza Luna on City Road. Let me tell you, this isn’t your average dining experience, we had an amazing night and I will definitely be going back.

City Road looked pretty empty and miserable as we walked along but that’s probably because most people were inside Mezza Luna which was a total contrast to the dreary grey streets with its bright lights, dramatic interior and hoards of chatting diners. We were greeted and shown to our table which was pretty much the only one left at 8pm on a Friday.

We were looked after very well by the manager who after leaving us to browse the menu for a few minutes offered to bring us a selection of tapas so that we were able to try a few different things. He emerged with a huge platter of cold tapas and some dishes of warm tapas and added it to the olives and flat bread that diners are presented with on arrival.

We worked our way through the delicious tapas sampling a bit of everything. I loved the Tabbouleh which was really fresh and the Warak Inab (vine leaves stuffed with rice, tomato and parsley) were particularly nice. Our favourite though was the Batata Harra (spicy potatoes) which were just lovely. After we’d worked our way through the tapas we were presented with a main course of Meshawi (a mixed grill of lamb, chicken and lamb kafta) with rice and salad with a side of herby potatoes which were especially nice.

The decor in Mezza Luna is very unusual and fun. The walls are made to look like an authentic tavern with faux carvings and fire torch lamps. Lights on the walls subtly change colour creating a fun and warm ambiance. There were tables set for a range of sizes from tables for two too much larger groups. There was a birthday party going on while we were there and the restaurant had gone to a great effort providing balloons and even a birthday cake. We all had to sing happy birthday which I thought was a nice touch.

After our main, we had cocktails just in time for the arrival of the belly dancer who makes an appearance on Friday and Saturday nights. I had heard about the belly dancer and thought it was just a gimmicky thing that I probably wouldn’t enjoy but she was absolutely outstanding. She was genuinely talented and really made the evening for us. She appeared  intermittently so that food and drinks could still be served and so that diners could still chat until the music become louder to announce her arrival.

The atmosphere was fantastic. We sipped our cocktails and mint tea while the belly dancer performed and it wasn’t long before she had managed to get people out of their seats to join her, starting with the birthday party. By the end of the night at least half the restaurant had had a dance, including the chef!

After the dancing we were presented with a plate of deserts (of which the baklava was the best) before people started asking for bills and departing. We ended up staying a lot longer than we would have in most restaurants and we didn’t feel rushed. Mezza Luna is definitely somewhere to go for entertainment value with the load music and belly dancing. The entertainment is the main focus so it’s a good choice if you are looking for something that little bit different.  The staff were extremely welcoming and friendly and it’s the perfect place for a fun night out.

%d bloggers like this: