Thursday, 11 May 2006

Food Destinations: Oriental City, London

Maki's new food blogging event caught my eye the last time I visited the IMBB portal. She asked us to blog about restaurants, shops, markets, or anything foodie or cooking related in our locale that we can recommend to visitors. Thank goodness she extended the deadline because I was caught up with work, moving and all that jazz and didn't have time to do a write up.

I really don't want to blog about places in central London because as expected with popular tourist places, you just have to search in the internet to get reviews even to the most obscure hole-in-the-wall places. There are so many books and magazines with exhaustive listings of the best foodie places. So I thought of sharing with you a place a just a little bit outside in the north of central London that me and my family love to visit once in a while (because it's quite far from our place).

Although I occasionally like fancy shmaltzy restaurants, you know the type where there are so many cutleries and glasses on the table you wouldn't know where to begin, I can confidently say that I am a more of a 'rough and ready' type of eater. Probably more bistro than haute cuisine. Besides the obvious savings in money, I like the informality and unpretentiousness of these simple no-nonsense eateries where the most essential thing - the food - is the core of the experience. Therefore, it's no wonder that I'm quite fond of Oriental City.

I first found it when 2 months after arriving here in UK from Hong Kong, we were missing our usual dose of hot satisfying Asian food. That time there was a dearth of authentic oriental restaurants in our area. In fact, there was none. All of the Chinese restos then were catering to the Western palate. You know, the sweet-and-sour-springroll-chow-mein type of food. I trawled our yellow pages (internet then were at its infancy) and saw this Oriental mecca in north London.

Yaohan Plaza was the name in its first incarnation, touting the phrase "All of Japan in One Roof". Then the Japanese parent company got broke so now the new owners named it Oriental City which I think is quite apt since under its roof it is a meld of all kinds of shops and restaurants from the Orient.

Besides the waft of barbecue (in summer) and the distinctive smell of durian just outside the main door from the car park, you first sense the busy sights, sounds and atmosphere of the food court where there are an abundance (by London standards) of different kinds of oriental cuisines - Chinese, Japanese (love the bentos), Indian (nice thali), Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, Korean. Thankfully here our family don't have the usual problem when eating in just one resto since we all have different tastes and idea on what to eat. The only thing I am lamenting is the absence of a Filipino stall there. *sigh*

Just to give you a sampling of what we had last time ... [left] paper wrapped Thai chicken with rice and iced lemon tea; [right] Malaysian-style noodles which I am currently addicted to. It's basically the same as the curry flavoured Singapore-style fried noodles but with flat rice noodles.

[left] Noodle soup for my husband (I can't remember if it's Chinese or Japanese ramen); [right] They also got your favourite conveyor belt Japanese sushis.

All these at very reasonable prices and often very good quality. The place also have cake shops and a Japanese bakery which made me almost jump for joy when I saw it since I've always been a fan of Japanese breads and cakes when I discovered it in Hong Kong.

There are several shops that sells Japanese ceramics and other kitchen and bathroom knick-knacks, a jewelry shop, Japanese bookshop, video arcade, 2 other Chinese restaurants, 1 expensive Japanese restaurant, an aquarium and fish shop, and a central hall where events are regularly held.

Oriental City
399 Edgware Road
London   NW9 0JJ

*nearest tube station: Colindale (Northern Line)
Tel. No.: +44 (0)20 8200 0009
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10am-9pm (food court and supermarket)
                     Sun 10am-8pm (food court)
                     Sun 12nn-6pm (supermarket)

Update [01 Aug 2014]: This beloved centre closed its door for the last time on 1st June 2008. There are still no replacement food centre dedicated to Oriental cuisine in the London area as of this time.

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