Thursday, 10 April 2014

Kitchenette - Manchester

I'm just going to put it out there; I'm a bit over burgers. And hot dogs. And all the dirty food spin offs that have popped up around Manchester like a post MacDonald's binge rash on the sensitive skin of a greasy teenager.

I've always had an uneasy relationship with food spawned from deep fat fryers, covered in sugar and smothered in sauce. Unfortunately I was born a woman, in a time when the media has boomed and incessant images of the 'perfect' figure are beamed into my eyeballs 300 times a day, whether I'm taking notice or not. At my grand old age I should have learnt not to notice, but no matter how much my brain/education tells me to ignore it, I still guilt trip myself about every sinful extra calorie that passes my lips.

But I ramble and this food/female hand wringing guilt issue is often written about. Someone should just pay me to write a post-feminist op-ed column about being a lazy post feminist (hint, hint? - Ed) but I think Vice already have something like that.

So it's back to my high and mighty food opinions, because how dare I be more than a two dimensional food reviewer...

Kitchenette has just opened up at the top of Oxford Road, opposite the Palace Theatre. You will have walked past it a million times without batting an eyelid when it was Fellicini; for this reason Mud Crab (who owned Fellicini) have stuck some plant pots outside and had a rebrand. This is why we noticed it after the Cornerhouse told us there was a 30 minute wait and I needed feeding ASAP.

We almost walked past. After judging the down at heel diner look and the menu full of such un-original dishes as burgers, hot dogs and mac 'n' cheese, we thought we'd have eaten it all already. But in the corner of the menu was a little box, a box which contained the words 'Eat Buns Eat More Buns.' All of a sudden I realised that 'HOLY SHIT THIS PLACE DOES THOSE STEAMED BUNS YOU GET IN CHINA TOWN' (and yes my brain was actually shouting at me and I'm not a knob who just likes to use caps; I'd entered some sort of hunger brain meltdown and was just stood on a street corner drooling/shouting to myself).

So we went in. I'm glad we did.

Kitchenette has been made over in an industrial vibe (grey walls, metal bars, bit shabby), but with enough comfort factored in for harassed grandparents to feel at ease, when being pulled in for pre/post theatre snacks by their burgeoning-on-obese grandbrats. There are leather booths and large tables, a view of the canal (not sure if that's a plus or not, at least there's natural light in the back) and both times I've been in there's been a random mix of students, daters, suits and friends.

Pulled pork sliders, they so cute
First time we ate, we eschewed everything on the menu for the steamed hirata buns. Actually I lie, we had the pulled pork sliders to start (not my choice, it's another food stuff I'm pretending I'm over because I know how many calories it contains) and the pulled pork was pretty good - none of this salty, overly sweet, sauce laden gloop you get these days; properly seasoned, soft with a bit of bite and a salty/savoury warmth.

Back to the buns - these are basically like the steamed bun you get in Chinatown (as I already said), however these are:
 - much bigger
 - not filled
 - flat like a pancake, you fold them over like a taco.

The idea is that you order your buns and then order the filling - so we went for tempura sea bass and the sticky chicken. The sea bass was light, not greasy, divinely crisp on the outside, steamed silkiness on the inside and enough for two. The sticky chicken came in a salty, moreish bbq/teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds for extra crunch - it would have been better a bit warmer, but that was the only downside. You get lettuce for a fresh crunch and (my favourite thing in the world) kimchee to add a fermented cabbage punch in the mouth that you can't get from anything else (anything else not being fermented, spicy cabbage).

Superb fried chicken
Crunchy pork salad
Second time around we had spent the day carb-loading, so buns were out of the question. We started with the fried chicken - natch it comes in a takeaway carton, a serving aesthetic I honestly quite like (and I'm not being post-modern ironic or nuffink with that statement) - whoever's in the kitchen at Kitchenette knows how to fry chicken. Crispy, spicy batter, no taste of oil and the most tender, succulent, steamed chicken on the inside. The Colonel's got stiff competition.

Hanger steak was served medium-rare without us having to ask; silky thin slices cut through by a punchy Asian style salad was made perfect with a side of fries. The pork salad was a gamble (I usually hate the limp lettuce excuse for a mains salad you get everywhere in Manchester) but I wasn't disappointed. Finely shredded veg and crispy, sweet pork were covered in a gossamer of peanut/chilli/lime dressing - zingy, fresh and the perfect contrast to the buns I ordered on the side - well, I couldn't help it and the pork salad went so well in them and what about my kimchi fix...

Kitchenette's neat fusion of Asian and dirty foods (I would call it dirty Asian, but who knows what google searches I'll come up in if I do), spot on service and their better than other dirty restaurants cooking skills, means I think Kitchenette will ride out this dirty food storm and be a Manchester stalwart that you definitely won't walk past again.

Price for one starter, two mains, one side, two beers and two cokes - £31.50

Food - 8/10
Atmosphere - 7/10
Service - 9/10
Value for money - 8/10

Total - 32/40

Go again - yep, already notched up quite a few visits!

Kitchenette, 60 Oxford Street, Manchester M1 5EE - 0161 228 6633 - website - Twitter - Facebook

Kitchenette on Urbanspoon

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