There's something pleasingly circle-of-life about TĀ TĀ Eatery's two chefs - Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves - returning to Kingsland Road for their first permanent restaurant. After all, the two first met and worked just a few metres up the road at Nuno Mendes' acclaimed Loft Project. Then, the pair moved around a bit together after that, honing their craft at big-hitters like Viajante, Chiltern Firehouse and Taberna Do Mercado and then going off-piste with their own street-food and supperclub venture, TĀ TĀ Eatery. Now, they're back where they started on East London's main artery, and using their wealth of kitchen experience to expand on their delightful Chinese-by-way-of-Portugal menu at the equally charming Curio Cabal.
First up, props on the illustrated menu. You don't see enough of that about, and while some people say you should never eat at places that have pictures of the dishes, we disagree. It's the first marker of showing the advanced level of care and detail that goes into every stage of dinner here. So with that as our starting point - and a delicious cucumber, mint and gin cooler in hand - here's the five dishes that we reckon you need to order at CURIO + TĀ TĀ, like, now.
Spring rolls (£3.5) and nuts (£2.5)
What's not to love in these little snacks? Peanuts cooked with edamame beans and celery in a satay-sesame sauce are a great pairing with a beer, as are their version of spring rolls - but no greasy, fried roll-ups here; the egg wrap acts as a light and springy cover for the slightly sweet and curried veg filling.
A Chinese staple not often found on London menus, this meaty rice pudding was pepped up with crispy chicken skin, some croutons and a drizzle of herb oil on top. Apparently, it's meant to be killer on a hangover - with that rich and salty hit, we can see why.
Fish ramen (£7.5)
OK, so this ramen doesn't actually have any noodles in it, but the sliced white fish acts as the heart of this little dish o' joy. A silky fish broth is given that umami quality with a touch of beurre blanc, while a drizzle of squid ink gives it a nice punchy depth. Make like it's a cup of tea and drink every last drop from this bowl.
Definitely not your average sausage and egg snack. The Portuguese vibe is strong in this dish, which matches the chunky pork sausage with tangy, fermented turnip tops...and would you just look at the colour of that fried egg? ~perfection~
Coffee ice cream (£6)
Of the two desserts on the menu, this won hands-down, and not just because of the amazing receptacle it came in. A scoop of coffee ice cream is paired with a creamy spoonful of a brown butter and mascarpone mix, then make sure you dig deep to find those little tapioca jelly balls. A super sweet finish to the meal.
We were invited as guests of CURIO + TĀ TĀ