They are amongst us, they look exactly like us, you might even work next to them but at night, when kitchen closes, they sneak in through the backdoor and fire up the most interesting food London has tasted over the last few years. Meet the "Flavour Expats" as the chef behind popular Backdoor Kitchen Italian supperclub, Rob Cenciarelli, gathers around Hackney based Palm2 open plan kitchen some of the most inventive underground chefs in the scene. Eastern cuisines of the world will face Western chefs over a 6 courses menu inspired by their respective national culinary identities.
The ultimate food challenge has been settled: a complete new recipe to create for both chefs taking on their food memories, a forgotten classic to bring back from their gastronomic heritage directly to the diners and the most secret dessert to take the adversary by surprise. All this for the total of 6 courses and a glass of Prosecco at arrival.
14 chefs, 8 nights, 2 teams and one only chance to try the food of two countries yet at the same table.
Come and join us at Palm2 beautiful space! The destiny of world cuisine is up your fork!
This is a BYOB event. All guests are kindly invited to try some of the beautiful bottles at Palm2 shop, just downstairs our event space. Price are very reasonable and you will help a local business!
If you any allergies or dietary restrictions, please contact Backdoor Kitchen. Due to the specific nature of the event we won't be able to meet all requirements but we will try to do our best!
19 Mar 14 by Buon Appetito!
Contrasts, good food and lots of laughs
Sometimes there's nothing more delightful than a surprise. I've tried various regional Chinese cuisines, but had never heard of the Hakka before. Up against this in the good-natured East-West cook-off were Backdoor Kitchen's exemplary Italian dishes.
So, would novelty trump the seemingly familiar on the night? Would any of the wines we had chosen match? Would our waistbands accommodate six courses of culinary adventuring?
Comfort food: Wen's Samsui Chicken (poached chicken thighs with a zingy ginger and garlic sauce, wrapped in lettuce leaves) was a revelation. For a start, I love dishes on shared plates, but the combination of a punchy sauce with the chicken really was a winning one - and surprisingly light. On the other hand, Rob offered us a nicely presented plate of Fettuccine ripassate Mari e Monti. "Pasta!" you cry. "How boring! How mundane! How unoriginal!" Well... how wrong you would be. The homemade fettuccine in a perfectly balanced sauce was topped with a juicy large prawn - delicious, flavoursome and addictive (one of our Italian dining companions went up for seconds and thirds!). This is not the first time my expectations of an apparently straightforward dish have been wildly exceeded and I dearly hope it is not the last.
Pork belly: the challenge for this course was for each chef to present the same ingredient. Both slow-cooked their pork belly to get the most out of it. The sweet-salty Hakka version was contrasted with pickled greens - a little too salty for my palate, but very tasty. Pickles are a well-known complement to fatty meat in many styles of cooking (sauerkraut and kimchi spring to mind) and this combination is certainly one I'll be adding to my repertoire. The Backdoor Kitchen version was the classic Sardinian dish Porceddu, flavoured with distinctive myrtle berries, bay and thyme. The roasted vegetables were a good match for this toothsome hearty fare and the 'secret gravy' was to die for. I later found out that a whole bottle of marsala was included in this divine reduction.
Dessert: I have to confess that by this point I feared I was about to burst, but soldiered on regardless. Having an aversion to very sweet things, I was relieved to be presented with a basil-flavoured gelato as Rob's final course - a great palate cleanser. But is was Wen's dessert I found most startling: rice cakes with mayonnaise and pork floss. Bonkers, perhaps, but actually rather moreish and certainly not cloying.
What a feast for the senses - challenging tastebuds and preconceptions, this Flavour Expats night was as convivial a meal as I've had and the service was great. Was it meant to be a competition? I don't really think so - more a voyage of exploration. Let's call it a close-fought draw. Roll on the next one!
The dishes were interesting and generous proportions, however the desert a little disappointing
Really enjoyed the cook-off between the Italy and Hakka, China.
The two chefs were great - discussing the foods and how the dish is homely for the region. The starters (wrapping chicken with lettuce and gorgeous fresh garlic and ginger sauce + spinach, squid ink and plain fettuccine with peas and lush sauce) and mains were delicious (Pork Belly Italian and Hakka (Kiu nyuk dish)
style). However the desserts left us all disappointed and left us a bit flat. The basil ice-cream with berry coulis was interesting but served on a cold slice of barely toasted white bread was odd - we couldn't' believe that it was just toast1 The Hakka version of a dessert was rice crackers topped with squeeze mayonnaise and liberal sprinkle of pork floss (it felt very studenty) thankfully the ginger pounded tea was refreshing.
On a side note unfortunately the evening continued close to midnight which meant some people had to leave to be able to catch the last tube home.
Over all it was an interesting and enjoyable evening, shame to finish on a bit of a down with the disappointment of the desserts.