Flesh & Buns – no, not a new clip joint in Soho as a colleague recently remarked, but the latest offering from the successful Bone daddies team – First a fiercely successful ramen joint, now a meat and buns sharing concept – sounding familiar? (Ssäm Bar for those not in the know)
Let’s not be in any doubt David Changs, Momofuku influence runs deep. Chang has openly deflected talk of opening a restaurant in London – the critics are too harsh apparently. Well maybe – but he’s a busy man so quite where he’d find the time to undertake such a project is anyone’s guess. So whilst he spends the summer curating the third MAD symposium, others are taking his model and running with it.
Kicking off with crispest soft shell crab and squid, I’ve had in some time; they nailed both, light and not so much as a hint of greasy.
Yes, the Momofuku DNA is ever present and whilst the slavish copies proliferate in London town there is enough to call Flesh & Bun‘s own here. The famous pork buns take a swerve from the original and are no less delicious. There’s the same Chinese style soft steamed buns, cucumber et al but the pork is a hefty, melting, tranche to be pulled apart and shared – you wait til Jay Rayner gets a hold of this – he’s going to weep I promise you and if he doesn’t well then he’s lying about his overt porcine leanings.
This is some of the best slow cooked belly in town. Sweetly lacquered and accompanied by a white miso sauce, it’s going to have them coming back for more. Seriously I’m still thinking about the stuff. The thinly sliced apple pickle had just the smoky rumour of dashi in the background and was an inventive touch.
The skirt steak came with a meaty soy based sauce and again some pickled mushrooms to cut through it all not quite the heights of the pork but a solid delicious offering nonetheless.
A word on those steamed buns, light, fluffy and the best I’ve had outside Chang’s mother ship in NYC. That is high praise indeed.
There is also some fun to be had at the end. For those who have been anywhere near an American summer Camp, the ubiquitous “S’more” is a familiar mash up of toasted marshmallow, biscuit and chocolate eaten as a very messy sandwich. Here it is given an Asian twist with green tea chocolate. You get to toast your own marshmallows in a Japanese hibachi table top brazier and it’s just as messy. A bit of a gimmick perhaps, but who doesn’t like a bonfire in the middle of the table to close things off?
The Long table is an interesting proposition and I’m still a little unsure about it as were the wait staff who have to walk all the way round the beast to serve each side – but they seem happy enough about it all for now. A minor grumble perhaps but go, you’ll have a lot of fun. A strong emphasis on sake and cocktails take care of the alcholhic side of things and will keep things lively – it’ll be a hit I’m sure.
Flesh & Buns, 41 Earlham St. Covent Garden
£25 a head