Chapter

Helsinki, Finland

https://www.chapter.fi/

First time going to any proper restaurant since start of COVID-19 and suitably Chapter had reopened in beginning of October as Chapter 2.0. After hearing many good things about this place, I was really looking forward to visit.

On Wednesday night there was plenty of room and in fact we were the only ones in the that dining room consisting of 6 tables. Under the circumstances it was nice but felt anyway bit weird.

Restaurant is situated in the heart of Helsinki, in a beautiful old building with a nice view to senate square. I liked the interior as well. Although my dining companion described the chairs being a bit of Liberace style and there certainly is some truth in that.

For the dining options, your choices are very limited making it easy for you. It is either full menu (84€) or short menu (62€). But short menu is not that short, it only lack mushroom and onion ravioli and Rose buds and lingonberry from the full menu.

We went with short menu and also with recommended wine pairing (48€). It seems that the natural wine boom is still going strong and cannot describe any of the wines being excellent. Probably from now on should just not go with the pairings if they consist only out of natural wines.

Anyway, the food for every dish was on either good or excellent. Menu starts with two small snacks, out of which the beetroot tartlet was amazing. After house bread came another highlight, razor clam (at least that what it writes on the website, I can’t remember was it razor clam or something similar) with celeriac. After that was arctic char with a bit too heavy sauce followed by my absolute favorite of the whole menu: potato and sour cream. Creamy and soft potato yumminess under red onions and crispy potato chip-like pieces. So tasty!

And that said comes the nitpicking: on the menu you have an option to “upgrade” that potato dish with vendace roe (extra 8€). Couple of things: what is chef’s view, is this dish supposed to be served with roe or not? Or he/she couldn’t decide and offloaded the choice to the poor customer not knowing anything about dish before tasting it. Also I think the roe would have just disappeared there with bringing any extra. I hope this kind of the trend isn’t coming more popular. It is very different from asking if you want extra cheese or bacon with your burger. There was also option for the ravioli to pimp it with some cheese.

Main dish from from hanger steak good overall as were the desserts (Apple, celery and almond, Korvapuusti and dark chocolate).

Inari (@home)

Helsinki, Finland

Obviously during the COVID-19, the restaurants have had to adapt to the situation as well. Besides normal take-away food, several places have started to sell sets where most of prepping is done at restaurant and heating and final touch is given at home.

In my opinion, this concept works quite nicely, you get a feeling doing something yourself and don’t have to eat the food right away after pickup. Of course it gives some challenges to restaurant also, it can’t be too difficult to finalize the dish at home.

My first try was home-kit from recently Michelin Star awarded Inari (https://www.restaurantinari.com/). We chose the five course dinner for two (110€), the other option being three courses (80€).

Dinner started with green curry, where the mixed greens gave nice texture and the curry sauce itself was tasty. Nothing special though, but decent curry anyway. Maybe the challenges coming up with dishes that do not require too much at home realized at the next dish, citrus salad (~ 5 pieces of different fruits) with kombu (seaweed) did not really seem like most innovative nor tasty dish. Of course it served the purpose of neutralizing your taste buds after bit spicy first start.

But anyway, it was all upwards from here, first really tasty melanzane and then the superb duck pancakes. Latter one you make like tacos, you have of course the duck and then hoisin sauce, home-made sriracha (inaracha it was called, I guess), kimchi (could have been a bit spicier…), some orange with chili and a salad with dressing. The duck was a bit too done and could have been juicier (or I messed up with too much heating…). But overall, really really good.

And so was the dessert, Hoddeok (korean pancakes) with condensed milk and ice-cream. Nice touch of cinnamon, perfect!

Overall, I would definitely recommend everyone to try this and hope to see different restaurants have such offering even after normal operations are back.

Demo

Helsinki, Finland

Demo has been sitting there almost two decades, once rebuilt after a fire and has kept its star since 2007. Still I have not managed visit Demo, until today. Only option is to go with the selected menu, but you can choose 4,5,6 or 7 dishes (65€/78€/95€/105€) with wine pairing that almost doubles the price (for 7 dish menu, 97€).

The service is welcoming and feeling very cozy from the beginning. Started the evening with class of champagne (22€) and two amuse-bouch, especially the latter one with crunchy potato and black aioli was a real treat.

First dish from the menu was mussel in creamy, almost a soup like, sauce with some fennel. That was served with some small pieces of nice sourdough bread. Followed by two fish dishes, first arctic char with Jerusalem artichoke, furnished with pike roe and then braised burbot with cauliflower. Both very good, but the fish on the one had cooled a bit too much before brought to the table.

Unfortunately, the weakest link in the menu was the main. The pigeon with beetroot just did not make it. Imagine how sweet and smooth beetroot purée can be, then imagine complete opposite; that’s how it was here. Also there were some hazelnut (might have some other nut?) pieces that just did not feel like belonging there. Pigeon was ok, but nothing special.

After this it was time for dessert, first a bit weird (but nevertheless interesting and tasty) Klostertaler cheese with almond, followed by superb apple mille-feuille and even better lime soufflé with coconut ice cream on a side.

Finished the meal with cup of nice coffee (10€) served with some (hand-made?) sweets. As said, nice and flawless service, not too chatty though. 3.5 hours went by in a nice rhythm, not waiting too long at any point and the dishes not coming too fast after each other.

Overall nice and would go again, hoping to get a better main dish. Pricing is maybe a bit too steep, about 250 euros for one person (they charge also 9€ per person for water).

ORA

Helsinki, Finland

Tiny (less than 20 pax) restaurant in southern Helsinki. One out of Helsinki’s six Michelin star places. In same premises operated before restaurant “Chef & Sommelier”. Only the chef remained and end-result was ORA.

Layout of the tables leaves no question what is going on in this place. The kitchen is the stage and customers are the audience. Not that they would put out a show or anything like that, but all the tables are set so that you see the kitchen from your place.

They only serve one set menu with 6 dishes (priced reasonably 89€), so don’t have to spend time wondering what you will eat. They also do wine pairing for the menu and you can choose either 4 or 6 wines. Or anything else from the wine menu naturally.

Amuse-bouche was a bit heavy start with sea-buckthorn dominating quite much the overall flavor on this little bit wrapped in horseradish leaf. But the first dish was no nonsense anymore, absolutely amazing lightly cured rainbow trout with rolls of yellow beets filled with self-made sour cream.

I’ll quickly list the rest of the dishes: “First autumn leaves with horseradish”, “Red chard with grapes and striped beets”, Pike-perch with crayfish and corn”, “Pumpkin, apple and coffee”.’

Careful reader might notice that makes only five dishes, correct. Because I had to mention this one separately. Without a doubt, one of the best (if not the best?) dishes ever: lamb with thin kohlrabi slices and a croquette with shiitake. On top of this poured the most aromatic brown sauce. If the other end of piece of lamb had not been weirdly a bit not-so-warm, I would have left out the question mark away from the above.

Service was top notch, but with a minor glitch. There was 80 euro miscalculation in the bill and not in my favor. And after mentioning about that, maybe a little bit more than a quick “sorry” would have been in order.

The wines were ok, some better than the other. Just saying that maybe should have gone with champagne instead of the Austrian sparkling rose (those were not part of the paired wines). And maybe nowadays it is more important for some, how and who produces the wine, than actually how it tastes…well, go figure.

Aanaar

Inari, Finland

Located in small village of Inari (Aanaar in Sami language, hence the name) sits on beautiful place by rapids of river Juutua. On the same building is also a hotel, if you decide to stay here longer. The restaurant was placed 46. on the latest best 50 restaurants in Finland list.

Until 3pm lunch is served and after that, you can order from à la carte menu. I went with a preset menu “Inari 5”. You can order the same dishes separately, but you save few euros by getting the menu. Menus was priced 59 euros and matching wine package 24,80€ (not bad price, 3 x 12 cl + 8 cl).

The menu started with amuse-bouche made from lichen (that is what reindeers eat) and grated reindeer heart with a creamy sauce. Fantastic and interesting start making you curious what is about to come. First thing from the menu was whitefish & roe from Lake Inari whitefish on a toast, prawns from the Arctic Ocean, and cucumber and dill granita. Very generous portion and flavors that complemented each other perfectly. You could have this one alone for a small lunch. Second appetizer was also fish, this time pike (Lake Inari dried pike Brandade, pike mousse, marinated Angelica, fennel and lemon emulsion and Bottarga). If the first “appetizer” was good, this one was amazing. Also more “fine-dining” like portion.

For main dish the menu had reindeer meat, the portion was name “Reindeer and its pasture”. It consisted of roasted reindeer smoked with pine needles, reindeer blood dumplings, lichen seasoned with bilberry and Lappish potato purée. The blood “dumpling” was a bit dull part and tasted like dry-ish “verilettu” (blood pancake), but otherwise it was excellent. The meat was brought to table in separate pot and once opened, amazing smokey pine flavors came out.

After this, two desserts. First very fresh tasting “bridging dessert” from bilberry, angelica and lingonberry and then birch leaf sorbet, chocolate mousse flavoured with tar licorice. The second one was called “smokedsauna” as the sorbet was on top a cup in a separate glass, so that the lower part was filled with smoke.

Altogether, worth of making a trip from longer distance and reasonable priced in my opinion. They use local products as much as possible and also all parts from a reindeer, for example, which I count admirable.

Gastro Bar Sesonki

Järvenpää, Suomi

https://ravintolasesonki.fi/

Now almost one year old Gastro Bar has interesting location, it is in the same building as K-citymarket. And not just any K-citymarket, this supermarket is one of Europe’s top selling sushi places. Yes, you read correct, they sell almost 20000 pieces of sushi every week. Would have wanted to taste some before going to dinner, but there was a bit of queue and had to rush.

Sesonki also gets their ingredients from the same shop, how convenient is that. The place it not that big and was packed on Friday night at 7pm, so better make a reservation.

While waiting for everybody to arrive, we had the bread basket featuring three different types of bread with some spread flavoured with truffle salt. Good breads, but charging everybody 4.5€ was maybe a bit too much.

For the dinner, we decided to go with the 5 course surprise menu (58€). To go with the menu, they have wine package 41€ and also non-alcoholic drink menu, which seemed a bit expensive (32€). Nobody had the non-alcoholic drink menu, so cannot say more about it.

The menu started with amuse bouche, which turned out to be weakest link in the menu: pomme noisette type of potato with smoke-flavored crème fraîche. I mentioned earlier the bar getting the ingredients from the supermarket next door, this potato tasted like it was taken from the freezer box and did not even melt properly. The sauce was nice though, and would have made perfect pair for some salmon, for example.

First appetizer was salsify soup with tasty mushrooms. Really good and some lime tasting element gave the soup nice twist. Second came lamb ragù based dish. It was bit surprisingly warm appetizer, but nevermind, it was really tasty. Third was a fish appetizer, semi cured salmon cut in cubes with sauce, cucumber and dill. Good basic dish, but not on the level of the previous ones. Although the others seemed to enjoy it more than I did.

As a main, there was perfectly prepared pork belly (I think it was belly, might be mistaken here). The flavor and the the texture was amazing: bit crispy on the outside and when pressed with side of a fork, it fell it to juicy little pieces.

As a dessert, there was sorbet with berries. I like desserts that are not that sweet, so this suited well for that, but did not not impress me otherwise. Before the real dessert there was a small surprise dessert, but now not being to tell exactly what it was, tells all about it.

Wine package was OK, quite safe mainstream choices mostly. For example, two of the wines were Cono Sur’s 20 barrels wines.

All in all, I was really happy with the food. The service was good as well and the place is… well it is located next to a supermarket with a view to a parking lot. I definitely want to go again and I’m not disappointed if the still have the pork on the menu.

Hostaria Alla Tavernetta

Udine, Italy

http://www.allatavernetta.com/

First of all, bad idea not making reservations for Friday evening in Udine. After some extensive googling, asking for recommendations, phone calls and visits to various places, I was able to book a table from Tavernetta at 7.30pm.

When arriving, not too many customers in yet, but soon the place was packed. Restaurant was really cozy and staff welcoming and friendly. Mâitre d’ (who we assumed to be son of this family run restaurant), spoke perfect english and gave us quick intro to Friulian cuisine and the special dishes varying according to what is in season.

For starter, I chose burrata with vegetables. The dish was laid out beautifully and tasty. The truffle pasta I had next, was the highlight of the whole meal. Pasta was swimming in butter (in a good way!) and the amount of freshly grated truffle was unseen for me. Well, you could see it from the price tag of this dish: 20 euros, which was more than price of my main. Which was Friulian style prepared rabbit. Good and nothing wrong with it, but not extraordinary. Also I was quite full already after the starter and pasta.

As the place got busier, they forgot to ask for more drinks, so some minus points there. For dessert I got only espresso and glass of really good grappa.

All in all, I would definitely go again and would recommend this place for anybody wanting to have a nice meal in Udine. Just book in advance, you might not be as lucky as we were.

 

 

 

The Lokal

Singapore

http://thelokalsingapore.com/

New Year’s Day brunch: Lobster Roll (26 SGD) with coleslaw and lemon mayo, chicken schnitzel sandwich (22 SGD) with avocado, fried eggs, romaine lettuce and tomatoes and truffle fries with parmesan (10 SGD). Flushed down with cup of coffee (4.5 SGD) and australian prosecco (70 SGD / bottle).

I approve.

Putien

Singapore

For New Year’s Eve we tried this Fujian (province in China) place at VivoCity. Their sister outlet on Kitchener Road has been awarded Michelin Star (2016, 2017, 2018). Managed to make to a reservation on a same day so could skip the queue this time.

For starters we had Pig’s trotters jelly (7.90 SGD). I was planning on having also Drunken Cockles (cockles in garlic sauce and chili), but unfortunately they did not have any. For main dish we took some Lor Mee (noodles with mussels, shrimps, eggs and pork belly) for 9.80 SGD, cabbage rice (19.50 SGD for medium sized, enough for two) and my absolute favourite, Shredded pork with sesame bun. You get a crispy and bit sweet sesame bun, which you fill in yourself with juicy pork and onion mixture. Absolutely amazing!

The service was good and fast, but the waiter’s english could have been a little better. Anyway we got what we ordered and got answers if it is possible to buy home their chili-sauce. They have this fabulous sauce on tables and yes, it is possible to a jar home with 6.5 SGD.

Din Tai Fung

Singapore

https://www.dintaifung.com.sg/

Never really been to a “pure” dim sum place before, so was really looking forward to try one. We selected to try Din Tai Fung at Marina Bay Link Mall. This Taiwan originated chain has places all over the world and some of them has even been awarded Michelin star. In Singapore alone they have more than 15 branches.

We had to queue a bit to get in, but meanwhile you can tick your choices from the menu. We took oriental salad and sliced duck in spring roll pastry for starters. For “mains” we concentrated to steamed buns and dumplings. Buns were filled with chili crab&pork and vegetables. For dumplings we got shrimp&pork, crab meat&pork and chicken. All really tasty, steaming hot and freshly made. Chicken was definitely my favorite.

Dumplings cost about 1-1.5 SGD / piece, sold in baskets or 6 or 10 and buns are 2 dollars up, sold individually in basket of three.