Archive for March, 2009

Cha Cha Moon

March 16, 2009

cha_cha_moon_entrance

On my way to my favourite shopping street in London, Carnaby Street, I bumped into this colourful entrance. At first sight, I could not tell what it was just by the name Cha Cha moon in blue neon lights at the red door. But having looked closely at the blue transparent glass panels next to the door, where people seemed to be working in a kitchen, and having read the small print, I soon realised that Cha Cha moon was a Chinese restaurant.

It was, indeed, very strange that the owners had chosen to put the kitchen instead of the dining are at the restaurant façade. But worse was that apart from the neon lights, not even a sample menu was in sight at the entrance. I admit that I was captivated and decided to be adventurous and try it.

cha_cha_moon_facade

As I entered, a long dimly lit corridor led me to the dining area. On the left side, similar colourful, transparent panels as the entrance allows you to glance the inner workings of the kitchen. When I arrived at the end of the corridor, I was greeted by the friendly table attendant who showed me to my seat. The dinning areas was reminiscent of Wagamama, and I began pondering the differences: this one was much more colourful, less minimalistic and with shorter benches than the Japanese counterpart. Little had I known at that time that Cha Cha Moon is the latest enterprise of restaurateur Alan Yau, famous for the Michelin starred restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, but also for reinventing the Japanese noodle industry by establishing his highly successful chain of Wagamama restaurants. I guessed that Cha Cha Moon is an attempt to provide delicious, cheap and effortless Chinese food.

Come to think about it, there are not many places in London where you can have a decent bite of Chinese food. Of course there is Chinatown, but many times I have been left wondering whether the restaurant I am visiting is one of the good ones or just one for the tourists. Cha Cha Moon is a nice departure from the stereotypical Chinatown restaurants, where you can eat simple food in a relaxed atmosphere.

condiment_set

I was handed the red menu to choose my meal from a wide selection of soup noodles, liao mian and wok dishes. In a typical Wagamama fashion, you can complement your main dish with side dishes, which, albeit a bit pricy, are cooked fresh and delivered to you when they are ready. The Szechuan wonton I ordered was bathed in a ginger & chilly sauce and the small parcels had the right consistency and felt firm to the bite. But it was in the main dish that I decided to put Cha Cha Moon to the test. I don’t like crispy noodles with shredded chicken in most of the Chinese restaurants I have visited, as I usually have difficulty in eating the crispy, fried noodles. Cha Cha Moon’s edition of the dish was a welcoming departure of what I had tasted so far. The dish was covered with right amount of liquid to soften the crispy noodles and make them pleasurable to the bite. But the best highlight of my dining experience was a cup of lemon tea. When it arrived, it made me wonder whether the chef clumsily chucked a load of lemon slices, but just a sip rewarded me with a pleasant lemony-taste.
The waiters, dressed in simple purple t-shirts, were fast and friendly. My only negative experience was that I had to wait for 10 minutes to get back my change when I paid the bill. Cha Cha Moon, however, left me satisfied and made me want to come back for more.

Lambda.

P.S.: Cha Cha moon is located at 15-21 Ganton Street, London, W1F 9BN and a second branch has just opened at Whiteleys.

(all pictures © LambdaPhage).

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008

March 10, 2009

Natural History Museum Cromwell Road entrance (source Wikipedia)

Natural History Museum Cromwell Road entrance (source Wikipedia)

The idea of organising the same exhibition every year would probably be rejected as outright crazy by many museum directors in London. Yet, for the “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” exhibition, it is the annual photography competition that supplies it with fresh and original images of wildlife. The competition, running for the 45th year and jointly organised by the Natural History Museum in London and the BBC Wildlife Magazine draws thousands of entries by professional artists and amateur enthusiasts.

Sun Jelly, Nature in Black and White - Winner (© Carlos Virgili)

Sun Jelly, Nature in Black and White - Winner (© Carlos Virgili)

It consists of different thematic areas that include animal behaviour, life in the underworld, animal portraits and animals in their environment, plants, nature in black and white, and creative visions of nature. The exhibition, however, is mostly famed for its special awards: the Gerard Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife, the One Earth Award, that showcases the interaction of human and the natural world and the Young and Adult categories of the wildlife photographer of the year.

Deadlock, Animal Behaviour: All Other Animals - Winner (© David Maitland)

Deadlock, Animal Behaviour: All Other Animals - Winner (© David Maitland)

This year, the exhibition entries were again a mixture of images that were carefully planned and executed, represented technically challenging shots and conditions but also images of the unexpected, the funny and the remarkable variety of wildlife. Among the photos we noted was a picture of a jellyfish in exquisite detail in the “Nature in Black and White” category and a striking image of a snake and a frog entangled in a “Deadlock” that according to the photographer lasted for several hours. Other interesting shots included an underwater image of two arrow crabs and sea urchins in “Daddy long legs” and an amusing photo of a black macaque in “Bleak outlook” that has made it to the banners of this year’s competition advertisements. However, the most artistic and skillfully taken photographs were –without doubt – the ones featured in the awards. For example, a few silver lines in a black background were enough to betray a silhouette of a polar bear in sunlight in the “Creative Visions of Nature” category. Equally, a theatrical display of a lion chasing a giraffe in afternoon sunlight in Africa and the image of an endangered snow leopard were awarded the Young and Adult Wildlife Photographer awards respectively.

Daddy Long Legs, The Underwater World - Specially Commended (© Jordi Chias)

Daddy Long Legs, The Underwater World - Specially Commended (© Jordi Chias)

After visiting the exhibition, you feel the sudden urge to get your camera and start experimenting, hoping that you can make it into the next years’ exhibition. But even if you can’t wait that long, you can buy many of the featured images in posters. And if you do not have time to see the exhibition, go to the museum’s internet gallery instead, where you can browse all of the winning categories in the comfort of your home.

Lambda.

P.S.: Read about the exhibition in Greece at my other post.