ldner #206: zijun meng & ana gonçalves

This week’s LDNERs met working together under chef Nuno Mendes before going out on their own with their TATA street food stall. Now they’ve found a perm home at Haggerston’s Curio Cabal and are doing some very interesting things with rice. Meet chefs Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves…

Where do you guys live in London and what do you like about the area?

Bethnal Green, I like to have the tube near by, I love the East London vibe, lots of little hidden gems, creative people, and great coffee. Our top spots: Curio Cabal for coffee and a great outside drinking space. Portuguese Love Affair – a cute little boutique shop with Portuguese products. Bluebird at The Laughing Heart – our friend Seb has just taken over running the kitchen and always serves up some tasty stuff to complement the delicious wines they have there.

Tell us about TATA and what you guys are about? Where did the name come from?

TĀTĀ is he and she, men and women. We came up with the name after so many attempts. We thought “alright let’s keep it simple”. We are about all things Asian – as in we take European ingredients and give them the Asian treatment. We want people to eat the way we do, lots of little small dishes with a perfect bowl of rice.

You both met under the tutelage of chef Nuno Mendes, what was that like?

It was an unforgettable experience. It was what made us see this job as exciting and fun. We had a kind of freedom that we never had before and worked with some great people, like it was a real family. Some of the folks we worked with have all gone on to do some great things – Hayley Try Carreira, the ex-Viajante manager is currently managing the José Pizarro group. Clayton Wells has taken up as head chef Automata in Sydney. Edoardo Pelicano is working as head chef at Portland –
the list is so big, it’s great to see so many of our colleagues go on to do great things in the industry.

Tell us what has your favourite dish you’ve had this year, where from and why?

The most perfectly cooked eel in Japan. Perm (@theskinnybib) recommended this “salaryman” restaurant run by husband and wife near the Sky Tree called Unazen. Never had a texture like that. The chef kills the eel in front of you, poaches and grills it, glazing until it is cooked and it’s served on top of rice with some pickles on the side. Memorable. Other places in Tokyo worth checking out Ginza Kagari – 1 Michelin-star soba noodles served with creamy chicken broth, like liquid gold.
Menya Musashi Bukotsu in Ueno – THE best Tonkostu I’ve ever eaten. Finally Sukiayaki Yonekyu – Suki-yaki is pretty much wagyu beef and vegetables cooked in soy on the table and it is the most delicious and balanced thing we had in Tokyo.

What would be your perfect day in London?

Wake up late, ride to Victoria Park, have some breakfast at The Pavilion and take our time. Catch some sun and relax. Meet up with friends over at Crate Brewery and have a potato and truffle pizza. Walk along the Regents Canal and finish the day with a glass of wine and some snacks at the Laughing Heart.