So in the beginning of the year, I made a new year resolution to be better. Better in whatever I’m doing etc. And one of them is being a better daughter. So in addition to having weekly breakfast every weekend with my folks, I committed to going to my parents’ restaurant to dine at least once a month. Last Tuesday was the first such a dinner. 😛 It’s always a little tricky to have dinner in a restaurant that’s also open for customers, especially when eating something from a big pot. So we set up a little table for three in the kitchen right between the fridges and the sink. 😀 It was actually very cozy and fun. We didn’t have to keep our chatting down or look semi-decent while attempting to eat food that wasn’t to make you look pretty while eating it. 😛
On the menu is mutton stew with tofu skin, white radish and kale in the bottom. It was the leg part of the lamb, so there were tons of huge bones with delicious meat attached. But my favorite was tucked away all the way inside the bones. For anyone who had tasted bone marrow would know just how delicious it is. Mutton can have a relatively strong, a bit grassy and gamey, so the bone marrow of mutton is also a lot stronger than let’s say beef. It can be intense, but I happen to like that intense taste of mutton. The stew base is made with hoisin sauce and curb bean sauce along with soy sauce as seasoning. Dad was a bit heavy handed with the sugar, but all in all it’s a warming comfort food that many Chinese people like to eat during winter, because mutton would warm you right up.
Fast-forward to Friday, we went out to a restaurant to eat with people from work. It was my first time that I’ve been at this restaurant called ‘Sandro‘ that is specialized in North African and Middle Eastern flavors. I’ve been to Tangier, Morocco once, and although it wasn’t really the city for me, I remember the food was very good even in a shady little restaurant. So I was very excited about Sandro since they served tagines aka food that is cooked in an earthenware pot. I hardly ever order chicken in restaurants because it’s usually a bit dry. But they had preserved lemon chicken tagine and it sounded so good that I had to. I got a crispy good chunk from a whole chicken, with the skin and bones still intact. It was slightly on the dry side because it was so well-grilled, but the tasty sauce it came in that I didn’t even mind the slight imperfection. The sauce with the lemon and the olives and chilis was beautiful, I would like a slightly stronger but the amora was so very good.
And the best part of the tagine dish was the absolutely delicious sides that came with the meat. The big chunk on top is the home made crispy and tasty saffron bread. The orange mush is cinnamon pumpkin, the light yellow is couscous, the read mush is harissa pesto, the white sauce is tzatziki and the light yellow mush is cauliflower tabbouleh. These mushy things were the star of the dinner, they were crazy good in their simplicity and freshness. I was happy to break my usual no-bread rule because for me the magic word is saffron. The bread was fresh, warm and rusty and it tasted like something that was made with laid back attitude but with skill and love and just thrown on the top of the open fire. 😛 When I soaked the bread in the sauce of the tagine, it was a taste I’m going to miss and grave in some point. 🙂
And what is a perfect dinner without dessert. Just like the chicken, I usually don’t order dessert, especially cakes in restaurants because they are hardly worth the calories they pack. But then I see ‘sticky date cake’ on the menu. Here’s a weird thing to say, I absolutely love dates. 😛 I’ve eaten date cake once and because I’m not much of a baker, I’ve never learned to make it myself. Or it might be because I’m a little afraid to learn to make it because I might be baking me a date cake every weekend. 😀 It was a huge piece that I got in front of me, served with fresh berries and a huge chunk of halva, the sweet dense fudgelike delicacy of the Middle East. I usually think halva is too sweet for my liking so I was a little intimidated with the big chunk served with the piece of cake, but it was some very good halva. Full of nutty pistachio flavors, it wasn’t too sweet and it tasted almost refreshing. The date cake was just as promised, it was delightfully sticky and sweet. I was so freaking full after the main course and dessert, I could hardly move. It was carbtastic and I got a little pimple from all that sugar, but this time it was worth it. 😛