The Timeout Café hidden away on Wheeler Gate up above the shops has recently opened selling Asian Street Food. They describe themselves as a ‘Contemporary fusion café’ ‘where Asian Street Food meets Western cooking.’ I was intrigued and almost excited when I first saw that they were opening up as I love myself a bit of Street Food.
I have been in a couple of times over the past two weeks as I have tried to navigate my way through their evolving menu. So lets have a look at what I munched my way through.
Spoiler alert – I liked it all but some stuff better than others – the good stuff is at the start like this Pasta dish just a couple of cm down there
On my first visit, as I looked around the café, every single diner was eating a bowl of noodles, why didn’t I order that? It seems to have been the thing to get. Damn why did I miss out?. Now all of those diners were Asian so they clearly knew something that I did not know! When I returned home I googled a bit and found out that the missing dish was Mentaiko Pasta, so I decided to hold off writing about the café and vowed to return at my next opportunity to give that dish a try first. I had to, I mean how could a review be complete if I didn’t eat the most popular dish on the menu?
So I was back, and somewhat to the surprise of my server who had advised me on my first visit, I ordered myself a bowlful. “Do you know what that is?” he asked with one eyebrow raised. I did (this time) and assured him that I was going to give it a whirl which seemed to cheer him up a lot.
Now when I list out the ingredients you may well rock back a moment in your chair as it does not sound that appetising to the Western palate. I can assure you though that it will end up being one of the most delicious little treats that I have eaten recently.
So what is Mentaiko Pasta? This really is an Asian Fusion dish mixing Japanese flavours with pasta or in this case spaghetti. To make the dish, mentaiko (marinated cod roe) is mixed with butter (or mayonnaise) and hot pasta to create a pink-hued cream sauce. The sauce is lightly spicy and typically contains chili oil, soy and housemade ginger juice.
As I started to eat it, I was really surprised as I was expecting quite a briny flavour. It was so different to what my brain said it should be, it was a mild mix of sweet and salt combined with a mild spice heat. I found that the dish was so comforting and creamy. It was so easy to eat, I was shovelling it in, I can see now why everyone in the place was ordering it.
Honestly I will come back and eat this again, and if I see it somewhere else? I will order it there as well. It is a winner of a dish. Funnily enough as I was paying I asked why they didn’t recommend the dish on my first visit, the answer was that they didn’t think that a white person would like it even though it is their most popular dish amongst there Asian customers.
I just said that they should be proud to recommend it, but I can imagine that telling some of the local populace what was in the dish might put people off, people with limited adventurous spirit that is. Anyhow just Trust me you have to try it!
Anyhow I have banged on enough about that dish, so what else have I eaten here?
Another dish that I had my eye on for my second visit was the Takoyaki which is basically a little ball shaped treat of squid in a batter, kind of like a savoury donut. This is another Japanese street food snack, and one that I have had before or at least I was pretty sure that I had. I ate this at a street fair in Chicago when they described it as an Octopus Beignet.
I almost didn’t get to sample this dish as it was one from their tapas style menu and normally is a plate of about 6 pieces. Luckily though my choice of that Mentaiki Pasta had opened up the channels of conversation and when I indicated that I would have really liked to try it the chap taking my order said that the chef could make me a smaller plateful to try. Good man! So I was back in luck.
So back to the Takoyaki. I liked these quite a lot but I think that they need a bit of work as they seemed to have been toned down a bit. How can I describe them? well yes, they are basically a little ball of batter filled with a creamy sauce and some slightly chewy bits of squid. You get hint of ginger and a hint of soy, but I wanted much more of a packed punch of flavour, no hints give me the whole shebang! When I had googled this dish I read that the Takoyaki sauce was kind of like a blend of Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. I was hoping for that tangy hit, but maybe I just was expecting something that would never be there. OK so I liked them, I would like them more strolling along the street or from a stall at a food fair. Try them anyway, they are pretty tasty!
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Well now back to that first time I came in to the Timeout café. I asked what they recommended and I was pointed towards the Vietnamese spring rolls and told that they were popular. They were good and quite different from the appalling spring rolls that you get in most English Chinese restaurants. They are a bit tame, but still tasty, you really do need the dipping sauce though to make them interesting enough to choose them ahead of anything else on the menu. I wouldn’t order these again, leave them on a buffet and let me at the really good stuff. Don’t get me wrong though if I am getting a spring roll in the future, I want one of these ones!
The second dish I ate on my first visit was from the tapas section and that was the Chicken Karaage. They was nothing wrong with this dish, but it was a bit on the safe side. Think Japanese Chicken Nuggets and you would get the idea. I am not sure if this is exactly as the dish would be made in Japan, It seemed a bit light on the flavours and really would have benefitted from some sort of dipping sauce. Typically the chicken is marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, so I suppose this could be supposed to be a light flavour. I suspect that it also could be made with a real pack of flavour, perhaps that is not traditional but I would love it like that, lets go Fusion all in. I will say though that it was well cooked, the chicken (dark meat) was moist and the batter coating was light and airy. It just needed more seasoning and I would have been really happy. Having said that I still enjoyed eating them, but I did lose interest half way down the bowl.
I kind of like it here at the TimeOut Café, it could be my sort of place. I have heard that they are still working through the menu and working out the dishes. A Vietnamese Pho may be on the horizon and I am sure that as they get going they will work out all the kinks. I just hope they don’t sacrifice flavour or authenticity as they try to feed us good folk in Nottingham. Trust us if its good we will eat it!
You know forget what I think, just take it with a pinch of salt (and perhaps some pepper) the café is making a buzz and we ae all taking notice. It looks like I am not the only one of the Nottingham Food Bloggers who have been sampling their food. Alec from Frusher on Food has posted his thoughts he tried the ‘Korean carbonara’ which was something else I had my eye on so interest comments. The girls from The Bucket List (Leigh & Pollyanna) also posted a review and I was interested to see the take form the Student community, I am really enjoying reading about their travels in the city. We all seem to be heading to the same places, I wonder when our paths will cross?
The Timeout Café & Kitchen is located at 14-16 Wheeler Gate head for Poundland and look out for the Chalkboard then head upstairs.
TimeOut Café and Kitchen Menu (soon to be a laminated effort)