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JAE at Untitled, London: ‘Punchy Korean cooking’ – restaurant review | Food

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Editor’s note: we have decided that, while restaurants remain open, we will continue to review them

JAE at Untitled, 538 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AH (07841 022 924). All dishes £4-£12.50, beer £6, cocktails £9.50, wine from £36 a bottle

There’s lots about Untitled, a bar in Dalston, calculated to drive people like me who don’t think they’d want to go there, completely nuts. Start with the name. It’s called Untitled, but it isn’t untitled, is it, because it has a name. That name is Untitled which… Oh never mind. It has bleak, rough-plastered walls and a front space dominated by a huge communal table where I imagine, in better times, complete strangers would have sat elbow to elbow, being annoyingly friendly. Music plays, quite loudly. Not so you have to shout. Right now, we don’t hold with shouting, but the music is there, battering away. Out back, there is a moon garden. That’s what they call it. I won’t argue.

Untitled belongs to the revered cocktail guru Tony Conigliaro, and has always seemed first and foremost to be a bar, although there has often been food. Since it opened in 2018 it has hosted a series of short chef residences, which is another reason for me to stay away. There’s little point you being told about all the things you could have eaten there from a short-lived menu, but can’t now because it’s gone. As you’ve worked out by now, I didn’t recognise Untitled as being designed for me.

‘The strident fermented chilli paste makes everything bounce and sing’: pork belly ssam.



‘The strident fermented chilli paste makes everything bounce and sing’: pork belly ssam. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Then they announced JAE, an extended Korean-influenced residency from an intriguing chef named Jay Morjaria. It’s running until at least Christmas and probably beyond, from Wednesday to Saturday each week. It was time. And now you’re expecting a classic bait and switch, with me announcing I’d got the place all wrong. I hadn’t. Untitled really isn’t the sort of place in which I’d choose to spend my time. I’ve never been a big one for rough plaster. I love a bit of brutalism, but too much of it makes me think NCP car park. It’s a short lurch from there to recalling the blistering scent of an NCP car park stairwell. That’s never an aid to digestion.

Their piped music is not my piped music. I have no need of a moon garden. And it really is primarily a bar, as signalled by the Korean word “Anju” at the top of the menu. It references food designed to be eaten alongside drinks. The list of cocktails at £9.50 a pop is much longer than the wine list where the cheapest bottle is £36. Asahi is £6 a pint. And yet, Morjaria’s heavily plant-based, tightly written menu is very good value with the majority of dishes priced between £4 and £8 and nothing above £12.50. Plus, behind the socially distanced communal table, is a dining room. I am at ease there.

Morjaria is a restless soul. He ran one of London’s first vegetarian cookery schools, Sutra Kitchen, before appearing on ITV’s Million Pound Menu with an earlier iteration of his Korean and Japanese dishes informed by his research and travels. He won a chunk of investment, though that plan doesn’t appear to have come to fruition. Instead, he has worked London’s guest-chef circuit.

‘Roasted until the skins are chewy’: aubergine, coconut and lime sauce.



‘Roasted until the skins are chewy’: aubergine, coconut and lime sauce. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Now he’s here with a menu so succinct that we manage most of it. There is a plate of his pickles and kimchi to start, in candy shades of pink and orange. Alongside is a scoop of whipped butter blitzed with spring onions, so it’s the colour of pool-table baize. There are slices of crisp-crusted sourdough from Dusty Knuckle bakery, round the corner, with which to do that butter justice. Make sure your companion eats some as well. It stays in the memory and on the breath. Chargrilled friggitelli peppers, looking like padron’s grown-up, streetwise cousins, come with a dollop of smooth, scoopable, silken tofu flavoured with lemon and a jolly sprinkle of Morjaria’s take on Shin Ramyun seasoning (the spicy seasoning mix for instant ramen noodles).

Chopped aubergines are roasted until the skins are chewy and then dressed with a thick coconut and lime sauce, with fried panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch. We have a cooling noodle salad in a sweet-sour gochugaru dressing, expertly designed for slurpage, topped with finely diced pickled cucumbers and a bowl of completely compelling new potatoes that have been burst from their skins and fried until crisp, with a sesame dressing for lubrication.

‘Instantly gratifying’: chicken sandwich.



‘Instantly gratifying’: chicken sandwich. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

From the meatier side there is a killer chicken sandwich, made with deep-fried undulating thigh, in a soft, sweet bun with curry mayo and pickled cucumbers. There’s a lot of this about at the moment and there’s no point trying to pretend it’s either elegant or sophisticated. It’s far too instantly gratifying for that. Crunchy things inside soft buns are always a winner. This is a very good version.

The most recognisable dish from the Korean repertoire is the pork belly ssam (with mushrooms for non-meat eaters). Blocks of braised pork belly have been glazed with a sauce leaning heavily on gochujang, the strident fermented chilli paste that makes everything it meets bounce and sing. There’s rice, pickles, extra sauce and lettuce leaves to wrap it all in – the meaning of ssam. It’s an engrossing, jolly plateful for £12.50.

‘So intense’: chocolate ganache.



‘So intense’: chocolate ganache. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Less recognisable is a daily special of bone marrow roasted under more gochujang, with shards of toasted rice cracked up from the bottom of the rice cooker. Some may not appreciate the wobbly brain-like texture. I do. It’s a version of Fergus Henderson’s famous bone marrow dish, after a gap year backpacking across Asia. There are two desserts, each at £4. I rather wish there was just one, at £8. The thick block of chocolate ganache with miso caramel is so intense it leaves me feeling like I’ve been left unfairly with the box of chocolates, despite everyone knowing I have no self-restraint. Paired with the citron tea sorbet from the other plate, however, it all balances out nicely, and I stop hating myself. Result.

Service, mostly from waiters in identical patterned shirts and masks so you can’t tell them apart, is chipper and enthusiastic. Occasionally, dishes are brought to the table by Morjaria himself, a dashing, intense figure in a leather apron, with a close crop of perfectly poised silver-fox grey hair. It makes me feel a little less out of place. I may not be the target demographic, but I am not entirely alone here among the youth. You may decide to come here because of all the things I’ve described. You may come in spite of them. Either way you’ll get some seriously punchy and diverting cooking.

News bites

Beak, a micro-brewery in Lewes, East Sussex, is running a series of chef take-overs of its taproom space each Saturday. So far they’ve featured everything from wood-fired local game to the cooking of Malaysia and Uganda. Forthcoming events include Karen Chepkurui cooking Kenyan dishes, various takes on tacos from Brighton stalwart Casa Azul and next Saturday, an eclectic menu from Lewes-based catering and teaching kitchen Seven Sisters Spices. Individual dishes tend to cost between £6 and £9 (beakbrewery.com).

On 12 November The Fisheries, a co-working space in London’s Hackney, will host a dinner in aid of The Pilot Light, a project designed to open up the conversation around mental-health issues for employees in the catering industry. The five-course autumnal menu, cooked by chef Andrew Clarke, will be served family style to groups of up to six. Tickets cost £50 a head and are available from eventbrite.co.uk.

And it’s a big hello to Caribbean operator Rudie’s Jerk Shack, which will open a full-service restaurant in Brixton’s Market Row in November, to go alongside their two take-away only outlets in Shoreditch and Borough Market. The menu includes both jerk chicken and jerk pork as well as curry goat and peppered shrimp (rudieslondon.com).

Email Jay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1



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What cooking skills should children learn? | Food

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What’s the best way to get children interested in cooking, and what should I teach them?
Georgie, Suffolk

The golden rule, says Thomasina Miers, is patience – and lots of it. “It can be a slow process,” she sympathises. “I talk about how delicious food is and always put olive oil, lemons and herbs on the table for them to add to their meal.”

And it’s a good idea to start them young. “Kids are mimics,” says restaurateur and author of Australian Food Bill Granger, “so they’ll do what you do.”

Darina Allen, who runs the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, puts toddlers on stirring duty. A messy strategy, yes, so gird yourself. Granger agrees: “They’ll make your life hard,” he says “but just involve them.”

Perhaps controversially, Allen then turns to knife skills: “Lots of parents wouldn’t be happy with this, but from three and a half to four years old they can hold a knife. It’s vital they’re shown how to use one safely, keeping the tips of the fingers tucked under the knuckles and, if they’re using the tip of the knife, to put the index finger along the back of the blade.”

Don’t be afraid to deploy underhand tactics, AKA bribery. Miers suggests banana and chocolate bread or fairy cakes to tempt five-year-olds into the kitchen: “They’re fun and sugary – you’ve got to get them that way.” Allen finds success in drop scones: “Children can put spoonfuls on to a frying pan, wait until the bubbles rise and burst, flip over with a palette knife and cook on the other side.” If enthusiasm wavers, baker Lily Jones, founder of east London’s Lily Vanilli, relinquishes control over decorating cupcakes or cookies: “Their enthusiasm can drop off a cliff abruptly, so I’m quick to do the boring parts.”

By the time they’re eight, Granger looks for dishes with a bit of a process: “Pizza dough is great: I use three cups of flour, a cup of water and a couple of teaspoons of yeast.” Kids can then go all-out on toppings. Try quick and easy dips, such as hummus, which children can cut celery and cucumber into sticks to dip in, or get the box grater out for vegetable fritters (Allen recommends carrot and spring onion). Miers says: “A cheese and herb omelette is also a good skill to have. Children can grate cheese and cut herbs (with scissors if their knife skills aren’t up to it).”

Come 12, Miers ups the ante with homemade pasta, while Granger makes life easier with a gnocchi bake, adding a simple tomato sauce (using passata) and mozzarella. Crumbles and traybakes (think flapjacks) are, of course, good for most ages, but Jones suggests adding basic icing techniques to their arsenal too: “Use a dessert spoon to scoop icing on to a cake or cupcake, then use the back of the spoon to create waves and spread on the icing.”

When they hit their teens, it’s time to experiment. “Find out what their favourite food is and get a cookbook,” Granger says, who then puts them to work cooking for friends. “After all, kids like showing off.”

Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email [email protected]


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My stepson saw an explicit video of his dad on my phone. What should I do? | Life and style

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My husband of 10 years used to travel a bit on business, and we would send each other explicit photos and videos of ourselves. I thought I had hidden all incriminating images in a protected folder on my phone, but, the other night, while I was randomly flicking through old family videos with my husband and 13-year-old stepson, up popped a video of my husband in all his glory, holding himself. There was stunned silence from the two of us, then panicked laughter, while my stepson looked at me with a bemused “busted!” expression. He still seems unconcerned about it, but both of us feel terrible. Should we have a conversation about it, wait to see if he acts any differently towards us, or trust our first instinct, which was to be a bit embarrassed and then pretend it never happened? We’re not a prudish household, but we figure that forcing him to talk could make this episode even weirder and more awkward than it already is. What should we do?

Our children pick up on our attitudes towards sex without any words being spoken. In fact, the most powerful learning they receive is the unspoken message. They easily absorb how each parent views sex, through our reactions when sexual content appears on TV, or the way we react when someone alludes to sex in conversation. Given that unspoken messages are the most powerful ways parents communicate ideas and feelings about sex, you have already let your stepson know everything he needs to understand about this. He is old enough to put it into context, and if he questions you in the future your job is to simply give a relaxed answer. You were right to normalise the accidental revelation, and there would be little point in returning to the subject.


  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to [email protected] (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

  • Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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#EtimesSuaveMen: Five ways men can experiment with scarves

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Whether it is to protect yourself from the cold weather or you need a statement accessory, every man requires a scarf or two in his wardrobe. And, now as the winter season is approaching, it’s time to get creative with your scarf draping styles. Be it a casual or business look, learn stylish ways to wear a scarf. Here’s a look at five ways you can wear a scarf and beat the chill in style:

Casual
For a simple and casual look, you can pull off a laid-back style with your scarf. Wrap the scarf around your neck and pull out the ends and adjust at the same level. You can tuck it into your jacket or layer it on top of a fuzzy sweater.

casual scarf men

Smart Casual
If you’re not a fan of the ‘too casual look’, you can drape a scarf over the shoulder. Simply drape the scarf over the neck and keep one end longer than the other. This can help to add a touch of finesse to your casual look.

casual scarf

Formal
For a formal setting, it is important to drape the scarf with clean lines for a smart look. With a suit, you can try the ascot knot by draping the scarf around the shoulder and form a cross. Then, put one end under the other and pull it up to make a knot and tuck it in for a neat look.

Ascot knot

(How to tie an ascot knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Business
For a business or official meeting, your scarf needs to look sophisticated and sharp. Ascot and loop knots can work well for a clean look. For the loop knot, fold the scarf in half and wrap it around your neck. Next, add the loose ends through the loop to make this knot.

loop knot

loop knot

(How to tie a loop knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Evening
Whether you’re wearing a tuxedo or a suit, a stylish scarf can make a sartorial statement. It’s best to stick to fine fabrics like silk and cashmere with subtle patterns. You can wrap the scarf around the neck and tuck it behind the lapels of the jacket as shown in the photo.

scarf with suit


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