My best friend’s father once told me the that fusion food was just plain ‘lazy’. He explained that it was just an excuse to not actually master the craft and technical ability of that genre of cookery.
Sushi, for example, is so readily available to us now with Feng and Itsu on every street corner. But lets be honest here, they’re the McDonald’s of sushi. When did the Japanese ever finish off their sushi with mayonnaise zig zagged across the top. This is just a westernised (I hate that expression but I’m too hot writing this to think of another) lazy flavour enhancer because, as we all know, to actually learn the true craft of sushi making takes at least 10 years to perfect – and who’s got that kind of time!
So, for a long time I totally agreed with my friend’s father. Fusion places angered me. There was a local restaurant in Notting Hill, which has now seemingly shut down, called Dock Kitchen. They took the term ‘fusion’ and mixed it with more fusion blended together to make what I can only describe as a ‘Mish mash of matter’. I went there once with Jimmy, (many moons ago) when it first opened and I had Japanese Udon noodles in an Indian curry sauce. Sounds good for a hang over, but innovative flavour it was not.
However, yesterday in Kensal (of all places) Jimmy and I visited a pop up which has just opened called Tata Eatery. Our friend who lives in the area mentioned this to Jimmy and I so we thought…why not!
It is located on an extremely scruffy looking street corner off the Chamberlayne Road. As it’s a pop up the restaurant is at the back of a wine shop called Borough Wines. You walk in and it’s a collection of about 5 simple kindergarten tables and chairs surrounded by shelves and shelves of wine (sounds very fusion already!) It’s a clever concept actually. All the drinks (soft & alcoholic) are provided by the winery which you pay separately from the food. A win win for all.
(Great Ginger beer)
It was week 11 of this pop up being opened however the chefs & founders (Portuguese Ana Gonçalves and Chinese Zijun Meng) were still in full swing, cooking and running the restaurant. The restaurant (as I am sure you may have gathered) is a fusion of European and Chinese…. very interesting.
Ana instantly came up to us and said ‘Sorry guys, we’ve had such a full on few days the menu is looking a bit empty at the moment”. However, there was still plenty for us to try.
True to form Jimmy & I just ordered everything.
What came first was undoubtedly my favourite. Brill Tartare with Romesco. Beautifully light, interesting, flavours kept on coming and coming like a Thunder storm build up. This was some serious cookery. Romesco is fast becoming my new favourite thing (I will make it and post my version recipe ASAP!) The fish was so tender and fragrant. Unreal.
To follow was the oxcheek quesadilla. As I’ve said before I’m not a huge meat fan but it smelt so good that of course I had to try. Ana told us to eat it like a pizza. And what a pizza.
Slow cooked soft melt in the mouth meat with an explosion of gradual Asian flavours around the rice papered quesadilla casing (very clever). It tasted like an extremely diverse version of a bolognaise but with deep deep flavour.
We then had the Iberian katsu sandwich which was breaded pork in a brioche bun and deep fried with crispy fresh cabbage inside. Also, as a moisture enhancer there was sweet jam on the bread which added an interesting dimension. The dish looked very impressive (very Instagram friendly).
Next came Seafood Naughty Rice which I can only describe was like an Asian version of a seafood risotto/fish pie… Creamy oozy rice sharpened with spring onions and wonderful fresh soft white fish, king prawns and mussels (with a hint of fish pie parsley). It was comforting, it was interesting, it was a winner.
We also had Cantarbrian anchovy naan which was nice – but not my favourite.
We finished however with the Toasted Rice Gelato with sesame. This was awesome (the only word I can use to describe) Not too sweet but such a treat of a pudding which because of the savoury sesame aspect, made you feel you weren’t totally indulging!
(Spot the boarder terrier!)
Meng came up to us after we had finished to ask where we were from etc. He was telling us about some exciting plans they have hopefully for a permanent space in the Autumn. The couple only ended a long term residency in Dalston last August, called the Curio Cabal. Since then, they have done some projects in Europe before setting up the Tata Eatery Pop Up. I asked how the partnership began. Meng was quite vague on this just saying he and Ana were both chefs and decided to do something together (however I have since discovered from Instagram – they may be a couple as well??) Going forward Meng explained that Ana will take care of the events/management side and he the gastronomic side.
So there we have it. My first trip to eat in Kensal, my first Pop Up restaurant since Eat Native in Covent Garden last year, and my first venture back onto the fusion restaurant scene since Dock Kitchen and to be quite honest, I’m really liking it…
Dinner: Thursday – Saturday
Lunch: Saturday – Sunday
(FYI food is cash only so bring some notes – also it is a dog friendly restaurant)
Rating: (0-5) ***