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September 20, 2005

Black Bean Salsa and Jasmine Custard

Text by Nisha Paul

High living and fine dining experiences in London now, more and more, display an oriental twist. Verve visits her favourite pan-Asian restaurants in the city and recommends the best gastronomic delights.

ROKA

Décor: Arjun Vani, along with former chef and proprietor of Zuma, Rainer Becker, has opened a hip feasting space with floor to ceiling windows, leaving diners in full view of passers-by. On the back wall, there is a glass unit displaying jars of assorted green teas from various parts of Japan.

À la carte: The friendly staff is eager to help along with a chic menu, consisting of small and large plates of zensai (appetisers). A Robata Grill (Japanese style barbecue) serves delicious dishes such as asparagus with sweet soya and sesame, scallop skewers with wasabi and shiso, eggplant with a mirin and a ginger marinade and seabream fillet with ryotei miso and red onion. On the sushi front, don’t miss out on the soft shell crab and cucumber kim chi chu-maki, crispy rock shrimp with prickly ash and lime, lobster gyozas(dumplings) and the tuna tataki salad with apple mustard dressing. Lamb cutlets with Korean spices and the rice hot pot with king crab and wasabi tobiko, are packed with strong, arresting flavours, that leave you wishing for more.

Desserts: The must-have dishes include the strawberry and mint jelly with jasmine flower ice cream and banana and green tea baked cream with tonka bean ice cream.

Celeb presence: Gwenyth Paltrow, Ralph Fiennes and Ewan McGregor are often seen here

Where: 37 Charlotte Street, London W1.

Telephone: +442075806464.

COCOON

Décor: Hot American designer, Stephane Dupoux, (who had previously styled the much hyped nightclub, Nikki Beach, in Miami) has drafted a chic, circular, contemporary setting using huge glass panel windows. Sheer muslin curtains divide the room, leading guests up to a lively, evocative bar that’s good for star spotting.

À la carte: Refreshing drinks include a passionflower cocktail (a mix of fresh guava and lychee juices, laced with passion fruit, vodka, honey and rose syrup) and watermelon martinis. It is a dominantly pan-Asian cuisine that infuses new tastes and flavours from South East Asia, using the shiso leaf (from a perilla plant, the nettle-like leaf is from the mint family) and often served with sashimi, oriental soups and salads. A must-try is the wild salmon salad with salmon ekura, Chilean sea bass with baby white asparagus drizzled with black bean salsa and caramelised chilli and the popular soft and crunchy wasabi prawns.

Desserts: Those with a sweet tooth can indulge in desserts with a twist that manage to bring out subtle flavours, like the Assam chocolate fondant with tea ice cream, (best with a glass of umu-shu plum wine) and the dramatic peanut butter and roasted banana lantern (complemented with a glass of chateau monteil sauterns 2001). Another favourite is the Asian fruit tiramisu (delicious with a glass of takara nigori sake).

Celeb presence: Hollywood stars Jim Carrey, Craig David, Nicole Kidman and David Schwimmer (star of hit TV series, Friends) are all regulars.

Where: 65 Regent Street, London W1B4EA.

Telephone: +442074947600.

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