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.

Two Men Bagel House

Singapore

http://www.twomenbagels.com/

Wanted to have nice breakfast before exploring Gardens by the Bay (which are amazing, btw). I read some good reviews about a bagel place close by, so we headed there. The reviews proved to be correct and the staff was super funny and friendly with a smile on their face. They seemed to enjoy what they were doing.

I tasted Boca with rye bread (10 SGD), which had smashed avocado, eggs, tomatoes and feta. I don’t what kind of feta it was, but it tasted a little bit different from your normal feta but suited the bagel really well giving it a bit somehow salty and sour taste. Eggs were left soft, so the made the bagel really juicy.

Another one I tried was Avo-Baco with seeded bagel (11 SGD), with bacon, avocado, some greens, tomatoes, fried eggs and aioli. Also really good, but have to say I enjoyed the first one more and it suited as breakfast better (also being listed under breakfast bagels…).

Coffee was ok, nothing special (4 SGD). They also sold some Gorilla Press juices with 8 SGD.

Wine & Chef

Singapore

http://sgwinecellar.com/

We were on a need of some dinner without having a reservation and decided to stroll on Keong Saik Road until finding something we like. Kok Sen was packed (https://guide.michelin.com/sg/kok-sen/restaurant) so we walked on until Wine & Chef.

They advertise themselves as “Hokkien-inspired (a Chinese dialect tradition) dishes that contain essence of Italian style” and thinking of Italian restaurant with some Asian twist gives you pretty good idea of their menu,

The place was full, but extremely polite and friendly waiter told that we could dine at outside table and move in as soon as something is available. Being evening, it was not too hot anymore, so we chose this option.

Started off with some decent prosecco (9 SGD, not bad) while browsing through the menus. After still being quite full after late lunch, decided to go only with a main. I chose soy and coriander cured salmon “risotto” (20 SGD) So it is not actually with rice but barley with mascarpone. The salmon was topped with some roe and the portion looked really nice, I was almost tempted to take a photo of it. Salmon was top-notch and barley really good, although it was as hot as I would have wished. As only minority of the table were having wine, went with very reasonable priced house white (7 SGD).

Tasted a bite of beef cheek pasta and slow roast duck leg and they seemed to be very good choices as well. Actually we liked it so much that made a reservation for day after tomorrow again.

Lehtovaara

Helsinki, Finland

Oops, no #emptyplate picture this time.

But not because I would not have enjoyed it, just forgot to take a picture before it was too late.

Anyway, I mentioned in earlier post Lehtovaara being one of the classics for me in Helsinki. And for many others too, I bet. Restaurant has been there since 1940, but history of the restaurant is much older. It was originally located in Vyborg (which is currently russian territory).

And the classic place has one classic dish: Cœur de filet Provençale 1952. 

I guess the dish was launched for the Olympic Games held in Helsinki in 1952 and therefore it has this year as a postfix. I’ve had this probably ten times and always I have been satisfied. The dish in all simplicity consist of beef tenderloin (the center part, that is where the name comes from) topped with garlic butter, fried garlic potatoes and fried mushrooms.

This time we visited Lehtovaara on Sunday and then they have “Sunday lunch”, where starters and dessert are served as buffet and main dish is server to the table. For main dish you had three different choices, jerusalem artichoke soup, fried acrtic char or some meat dish, which I can’t remember as I had my eyes on the classic. Every sunday you can have also the filet with the lunch menu with extra 10 euros (menu is otherwise 39 euros, children under 12 half price).

Starters were pretty much as you can be expect them to be from a buffer: some herring, gravlax, smoked salmon, potatoes, pâté, roast beef etc. From the dessert table I was happy to find Crème brûlée and lime cake was also good.

And the cœur de filet did not disappoint me this time either. Only mistake was going for the second round, I was way too full after eating it. That is the way they serve it, they bring the meat and the potatoes on a big tray (of course depending how many are having it) and then put some on your plate, while leaving the rest on a hot plate for later addition, if you wish.

 

Baskeri & Basso Bistro (BasBas)

Helsinki, Finland

http://basbas.fi/bistro/

Second visit to this highly popular restaurant. The first one was before I started the blog, so no review from that. But some of the dishes back then were one of the best I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant (especially the tongue!), so expectations were set really high for this time.

Once you find the entrance from the backyard and leave your jackets hanging on the left side, to your right opens one big dining area, usually with most of the tables full. They also rent a private room for groups, which is naturally separate space from the the main room. In one corner of the dining area is open kitchen, so you can get a peek how your dishes are being prepared.

The menus are written on chalk board and one of those is also brought to your table when you are ready to order. Dishes are divided in three categories, starters, pasta/risotto and mains. They sell 2+1+1 menus, (45€) but of course you can select whatever you want from the menu. So menu does not include dessert, but those can be of coursed ordered separately. Starters come to table at same time, so easy to share, if you want to sample more. I would recommend that, as the starters are that big that they can be shared to get a taste. Not enormous, but still you get at least few bites even from half of a dish. And in both occasions the starters have been the highlight of the whole menu.

They don’t have wine menu as such, but of course give recommendations for your selected dishes. BasBas also is following the trend of natural wines. Prices for the wines vary a bit, but go around 10€/glass (16cl, if I’m not mistaken). We would have been easy target to sell a bit more wine, but they did not insist filling your glass, so basically ordered one glass first for starters, then one for pasta, one for main and one for dessert.

For starters to share we got this time, White fish carpaccio (Siika from lake Inari), scallops (fresh from Norway) with Ponzu sauce, roasted butternut squash with leaf parsley-pesto and feta and beef tartar. I listed the starters in the ranked order, the White fish and scallops were amazing. Butternut squash also great and nothing wrong (well, somehow unevenly salted) with tartar either, but I’ve had better.

After starters there were sage risotto (quite heavy on sage, but not in a bad way) and tagliolini with funnel chanterelle. Pasta was tasty and perfectly cooked, I would say one of best pastas I’ve had.

Main dishes did not impress me that much this time either. I had flank steak, quite basic. And tasted a bit from my wife’s pulpo (=Octopus, which she did not really care for), pretty ok as well, but nothing extraordinary.

For dessert I had pavlova with rasberry sorbet. Quite good, but I’ve had recently better home made pavlova. Also the ratio between the pavlova and sorbet was a bit off: little bit more pavlova and little bit less sorbet would have been better in my opinion.

The place is really nice, staff very professional and friendly. This time we were served by one the owners (Nicolas Thieulon) who really shows his passion for food and wine, which is always positive thing. So that added to excellent food, BasBas is a place where I could visit again and again. Only problem with that is that it might not be that easy to get a table in short notice. They take bookings via Web, so be ready 30 days before you want to visit BasBas to book yours. Reservation opens for next day always at midnight. Maybe there are cancellations and you can get a table by calling, but I have not tried that one.

 

Elite

Helsinki, Finland

New restaurants come and some of the old ones go. But the classics stay. One of these classics is definitely Elite (another quite frequently visited for me is Lehtovaara). You pretty much know what you are going to get, so no disappointments, no surprises.

That was the case also this time. I chose “Korttelimenu”, which consisted of salmon pâté for start, for main elk meatballs with root vegetable purée and Jallu-sauce. Dessert was some pears marinated in glögi and blue cheese. Pâté was quite basic, for meat balls I would have wished a bit more gamey taste and dessert was maybe the most interesting part of the whole menu.

They also have wine recommendations for the menu, but I was driving this time, so cannot say anything about that.

Elite attracts a wide mix of people, families with children, businessmen-alike, couples, etc. All this combined with nice looking venue and good basic food makes Elite always enjoyable experience. Although this time the older male waiter was not that great, the guy serving the table next to us seemed much more friendly and chattier.

Nolla

Helsinki, Finland

https://www.restaurantnolla.com/

I had high expectations for this place, you can find great reviews from web and I also have heard good things about the place elsewhere.

The entrance was a bit difficult to spot as at least in dark October evening could not see any signs on the door. Anyway there is only one door to try, so no problem after all.

The place consists of two rooms, with maybe 30 customer places + the bar where you can fit few more. Looks nice and staff was welcoming. While waiting for the others, browsed through the menu written on a chalk board on the wall and sipped some nice cava. For menu you have options of 3 or 5 courses. On the website they say also that vegetarian and vegan menu available upon request and proved to be no problem with that.

They also told us at the restaurant that they can customize the menu based on your wishes, but as we were easy going without any preferences (except one vegetarian), we let them decide and only selected the amount of dishes (5). We also went with wine pairing and for the vegetarian menu non-alcoholic drink pairing (that is interesting concept!).

Afterwards thinking, wine pairing might have been a mistake. Like many other places currently, Nolla also follows the trend with natural wines. I just don’t find them so appealing. Some are good, but some just too weird for my taste.

The menu consisted of 3 starters, one main and dessert. You could take also some cheese for dessert on top of the 5 course menu.

First starter was beans with almost-soup-like spanish sauce which. Good start, although some people thought, I quote, it was “salty as fuck”. Second came a sourdough waffle with mushrooms on top. Nice finger food, something I could fix for a evening snack for myself. Really taste and all, but maybe would expect something more in this kind of place. Third starter was pike, with again sauce poured on top separately. Also this one good, but not exceptional or mind-blowing in any sense.

Starters were quite small and having only lunch 9 hours before, started to get quite hungry before the main. It was this time pork neck with mushrooms. The meat was very tender, but would have needed some salt. The salt was also this time in the sauce. Maybe some potatoes or other vegetables on the side would have made this dish more complete.

The dessert with ice-cream (I missed what it was made of) with some smoky meringue type of a thing and beet root was maybe the most interesting dish. Also very good and that is a lot said from a person who could usually skip the dessert. Matching wine was not bad either.

3 hours and 119€ spent (59€ for food and rest for drinks, no coffee this time). Was it worth it? Maybe food-wise yes, but I really would change the wines for something more familiar.

Maybe worth of mentioning is also their zero waste ideology. Read more at their website.

Ragu

Helsinki, Finland

Ragu on Ludviginkatu serves à la carte, fixed menu Ragu or Chef’s surprise menu (with 3, 4 or 5 courses). Our choice was Chef’s menu (57€) with wine menu (49€). We skipped the sparkling this time and got first served bread plate (4 different types with 4 different spreads), not bad at all.

First course, white fish with puikula-potato came with nice Italian Sauvignon Blanc. All the wines (at least on the wine package) are Italian. Good start in my opinion, even though some other thought the fish was too salty. Next one was a real gimmick, tartar with smoked mozzarella. The dish was served in closed jar, once opened, the smoke came out. Might have said that was a bit cheesy and cheap trick, but the smokiness on the mozzarella complemented nicely the excellent tartar so I thought it actually suited this particular dish very well. This was also my favorite from the whole menu. But the wine pairing did not quite make a great combination (can’t even remember the grape now, but it was white wine with some hint of apple).

After cold starters came Parma ham with warm Jerusalem artichoke soup/sauce. OK, but nothing special there. For the main was venison shank. The meat melted in your mouth, but mine would have needed some basic salt and pepper. I wonder if salt was forgotten, as I rarely need extra salt and others did not share my opinion.

Dessert was quite basic Crème brûlée with raspberry sorbet. Followed the same pattern as two previous dishes, good but nothing extraordinaire.

So overall good but my expectations were a little bit higher. Nevertheless, would go again without a question. Some dishes left me wondering were they trying to fit too many components on one dish. Sometimes simpler is better.

 

 

Capperi

Helsinki, Finland

Somehow over a year has passed since I first started to hear talks about this amazing Neapolitan pizza place. Well, now we found a suitable moment to take a bus ride to Oulunkylä to see what the fuzz is all about.

We were surprised to find the place packed at 6.30 pm on Wednesday evening, luckily we had a reservation. However, soon we found ourselves sitting at the table browsing through the menu.

For starters we selected Straccetti Napoletani (Fried pizza squares, Piennolo tomatoes, Calabrian salami, mozzarella and fresh basil). Superb ingredients, can’t go wrong with that. A bit pricey though (18€ for 4 persons), as mostly the plate was full of pizza bits.

As usual, my choice for pizza was Diavola (14€). They had two options, Calabrese and Bianca, I chose the first one. Compared to the other ones I’ve tasted in Helsinki, this one was a bit different. A bit thicker dough, but same time a lot juicier with the toppings (some might not enjoy that in a pizza, but this time it did not bother me). So different, but hard to to choose if the pizza was better or worse than for example Luca’s (https://emptyplatehome.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/pizzeria-luca/).

But as an overall experience Capperi was better. That said, this time I had some Lambrusco for start and some red wine to go with the pizza. Not to forget limoncello and espresso (while at Luca’s main idea was to get stomach full before a football match).

And the booze put a side, what I really enjoyed was a chat with the owner(?) Miquel. You could really capture his passion to serve good food made from the best ingredients.

Pizzeria Luca

Helsinki, Finland

http://www.pizzerialuca.fi/

This quite recently opened pizza place got award for best pizza place in Northern Europe (https://www.50toppizza.it/en/premi-internazionali-2018/), so had to try it out.

Place was quite full and being in a bit of hurry, I asked first how long it will take for a pizza. They promised 20-30 minutes, which was fine for me. Estimate was quite accurate and after 25 minutes I got in front of me nice looking Diavola. The taste was also top Continue reading