Monday, 18 August 2008

Restaurant review: Khublai Khans Mongolian Barbecue

When was the last time you went to a restaurant that placed you in complete creative control of your meal, leaving you just plain giddy for more? I think most dining experiences have an element of fun to them, but as I discovered tonight, Khublai Khans has every ingredient (ingredients like you wouldn't believe) to stir up a good time.
As my friend and I are led to our table, I'm already in awe of the buffet to my right that is the epitome of any cook's dream. It's covered with noodles and rice, raw vegetables of all sorts, bowls upon bowls of herbs and spices, at least a dozen different sauces and best of all, containers full of various raw, exotic meats and fish.
We both have the full feast (entire meal is £19.95, £21.95 Friday and Saturdays), which is the only way to do things here but we certainly are not complaining. To start, we share the ostrich enchiladas (oddly Mexican rather than Mongolian!) and fish balls in hot yellow bean sauce. My first ostrich taste ever is a mouth-watering one; the tortilla is full of the flavourful meat (consistency likened to beef), creme fraîche and cheese. The fish balls don't quite stand up to the treat de ostrich but the accompanying creamy chilli sauce is stellar.
Next we're given a small bowl that is empty, but full of possibilities. Hopeful, we proceed to the buffet I drooled over earlier to construct a meal using any combination of the ingredients before us. We can follow one of the 12 recipes suggested (for the "culinary-challenged") or rely solely on our own creativity. We both trust the recipes (Nomad's Dish with springbok for my friend, Ogedai's Diet with rabbit for myself) on round one before proudly presenting our dishes to the hot plate chef for completion of the masterpieces. It's supremely good and it's all you can eat, so we return for seconds to discover the chefs within, loading up this time with wild boar and crocodile. There are also rarities like kangaroo and zebra that shall not be missed on my next (inevitable) visit.
Khublai Khans is a favourite for parties as they even provide costume, and also do a great pre-theatre menu.
Everyday 6pm-late
Fri and Sun noon-2.30pm, 6pm-late
Khublai Khans / 43 Assembly Street, Leith, Edinburgh 0131 555 0005 Also in the September 2008 issue of Bite Magazine

Festival Review: Stephane Grappelli Centenary Concert

n the final hours of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, an endearing homage is paid to a late great virtuoso in the Stephane Grappelli Centenary Concert. A mature crowd of jazz afficionados are entranced with a healthy two and a half hour celebration of the career of French jazz violin legend, Stephane Grapelli. A trio composed of accomplished musicians in their own right, (reuniting two of whom worked extensively with the man himself) perform not only orginals, but other songs they knew Grappelli to have adored during his life.

The most noted accompaniment to Grappelli is Martin Taylor, an English solo jazz guitarist who toured with the Frenchman for a decade and who has a classical style that is brilliantly unlike anything many have heard before. Taylor alone draws a crowd and is full of Grappelli stories and anecdotes as well as the ability to amaze an audience with his obvious ingenuity. He is joined tonight by Jean Philippe Viret, a French double bassman who charms everyone with a bow-incorporated solo steeped in splendor, and Romanian gypsy violinist, Florin Nicolescu, whose stunning sound they claim embodies Grappelli's the most.

Together they bring heaps of talent to one stage and do not fail to also, very sweetly, bring to life their unforgotten friend and hero.

  • Stephane Grappelli Centenary Concert
  • Queen's Hall
  • 3rd August
  • 20:00

Festival Review: Tea Dance

Tea Dance is a unique opportunity for the ticket holder to BE the show rather than just an attendee. Smack bang in the middle of the open-air patio inside the Pleasance Dome, my dance partner and I are taught the basics of the foxtrot and the waltz by a lovely and terribly patient couple from the Fly Right Dance Company. Embarrassing myself in front of an unexpected audience of festival goers is more exhausting than you think, which makes the arrival of cocktails and canapés all the more welcome. A couple of vodka and ginger beers later, I care not about my two-left feet, the snickering or the pointing of fingers. The next half hour seems a tad less daunting, the footwork a smidgen more graceful and the fear of attention non-existent. You may not turn out to be a regular Fred and Ginger, but it's fun nevertheless and you'll leave feeling fonder of the festival than when you arrived. But with stage fright like mine, I'd recommend a drink or two beforehand-same advice if you're a hopeless dancer! No matter what the apprehension or who you are (spectator or victim), this different way to do the festival could be just about anyone's cup of tea.

  • Tea Dance
  • Pleasance Dome
  • 3rd -25th August (not 11th, 18th)
  • 18:30

Festival Review: La Clique

It's mid-August and the festival is already a bit exhaustive for us reviewers. Some of what I've seen, I've yawned through, watched the clock through or spent the entire time trying to make sense of the incohesive ways in which an act attempts to fill an entire hour slot.

Not at La Clique. During the break, I was already texting friends to say they were crazy not to have come to the most unstoppable show of 2008.

The wow-factor is perpetual at La Clique. Not for a second did my eyes cease sparkling with wonder at the unspeakable trickery and amazement happening before me. I found myself perma-grinning, applauding every chance I got and sitting on the edge of my seat, my body language alone begging for more.

Just like at the circus, you'll love these freaks. In this ferociously fabulous bowl, you'll find the acrobatic gents who defy gravity and balance, a super-duper hoola-hooping beauty and a juggling extraordinaire called Mario who remarkably stays in rhythm with Another One Bites the Dust. There's also a strip-tease magic act where Ursula Martinez really does go there, a hilarious double-jointed trip through a pair of tennis rackets and a Diet Coke advert waiting to happen that involves gymnastics, a bathtub, a lot of splish-splashin' and a half-naked hottie.

Even audibly it is a sensation, from the soul numbers by a sensuous cabareting puppet to Beethoven to Queen to Balkan brilliance-it is all magnificently at high volume and heightens the spirit to an already tremendous show.

Get a ticket now, get there early and be prepared to get soaked, either by bath water or pee-in-your-pants laughter.

  • La Clique
  • Spiegeltent
  • until August 30th (not Mondays)
  • 23:15