Thursday, December 06, 2012

Prune, New York

Last day in New York City, on a sunny Sunday morning, with a flight back home scheduled in the afternoon. How to spend you last morning hours, before the amazing food waiting for you in your 8hrs flight? Maybe brunch is the answer.

As a recommendation of our host, we went to Prune in East Village. The place is small and well known, but according to our host "it's overpriced on the evenings, but definitely a great brunch option on the weekends". We went there, and following his advices, we went to queue for the opening already at 9.40 (the place opens at 10 am). Already few people were waiting there, because the place does not take any reservation.

The team was having their breakfast together while we were waiting outside, kind of team building ritual for them before jumping into the jungle. At 10 am, the doors open and the main waitress is placing people. Strict policy of you need to be physically present to take a table, no "my 2 other friends are coming in 5 min, please give me a table".

Unfortunately we were three people, a nightmare number for many restaurants. If you take a four seats table they kind of loose a seat and a table for two is maybe a bit too small. We ended up in a small corner table (one single table with three chairs). It would have been fine, if we were three tiny teenage girls, but two guys at the table make the space division a bit more problematic.

Again like in many places in the US, the amount of waiters/waitresses working for such a small place is amazing; about seven people devoted to their 30/40 customers at the same time. First thing to say is that brunch is the US isn't the same than a brunch in Europe. While on the old continent it means staying long time in the restaurant and brunch buffet, here it simply means that the menu is different.

So here was our orders:
Soft scrambled eggs (any detail needed?)
Huevos Rancheros (baked egg in tomato, garlic, and chili. With black beans, avocado and lime)
Monte Cristo (triple decker ham, turkey and swiss cheese sandwich)

+ a side order of full grain toasts + coffee + orange juice.

The food was good in general, but nothing so amazing to be honest. And a minus point here as both the Soft scrambled eggs and the Huevos Rancheros were served a bit cold.

Prune itself looks very nice, like a tiny little café, which could be in Europe. It is very bright and there's nothing too much. Many people who came there seemed to be regular customer. Somehow the feeling of this place, as for many other american restaurant we went to, is that part of the food experience there is the 'show' or team spirit provided by the staff.

Without beating brunch places in Berlin, Prune stays a good New York City option.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


This is a place which has some 'balls'!

Excuse the easy joke but indeed, you need nerve to open a meatball restaurant in the heart of Helsinki city centre, and with such a concept.

The idea is simple: a meatball restaurant in the New York -style. That doesn't mean any ugly fluffy and terrible factory meatballs you can find worldwide in the blue and yellow Swedish furniture chain. No, here we are talking about true meatball mades with your soul. A typical Finnish dish declined in many relevant variants, and made with love and with local a good product.

But before going further we need to admit that this review is a bit different than all other reviews ever written here. We have been contacted by the restaurant Suola itself to take part of a press tasting dinner, along with professional journalists from well established newspapers and a couple of other amateur bloggers like us. Of course we need to thank Suola for giving us this opportunity, but please believe we won't be kind with them only for that favor. We will continue to tell exactly how we felt about the place and the food.

Let's first talk about the place: Suola in located in Helsinki City Centre at the Crossroad of Annankatu and Iso Roba, so right there where was the legendary last chance club Lost and Found. The team has done a great work in renovating the place, it's hard to remember how it was before. The tables, chairs and coaches were selected in just enough retro way, the main colours of the place being white, black and red. Try to get a table in the back of the restaurant,  where there is a nice street art alike painting on the wall waiting for you under the coupole and its chandelier.

Unfortunately we were not there on a regular busy day, so we cannot tell much about the real atmosphere of the place. From how the restaurant looks and how the friendly and polite staff was doing their work, we felt warmly welcomed in.

Let's finally talk about the food. We had a special opportunity to taste almost the whole menu. We will try to summarize and not be too boring in our listing.

First, the Sliders: When meatballs meet Burgers:

The Classic, the basic beefball with red wine sauce, ruccola, dried tomatoes...and served on a home made ciabatta. Honestly, this one was one of my favorite! I am not myself a meatball person, but no offense to all the home made meatballs I ate in the past, the texture and the taste in Suola's classic meatball is just perfect. It is not too hard, not too soft, not too dry, not too moist and really tasty. You can really feel that all is made in the kitchen from scratch and with good products.

The Tokyo slider might be dedicated to the sashimi lovers, with its salmon just slightly cooked, but still raw inside, served with leek, vinaigrette and again this nice ciabatta. This was one of Mademoiselle's favourite.

The Beets, is a very good vegetarian option, or a kind of pre-dessert option. The mix of beetroot and blue cheese is as usual perfectly matching. The beetroot is cooked just as it needs to make you feel its sweetness. Silver medal.

The Veggie sliders has a strong pumpkin base. It's for sure tasty, but I have to admit, it shares the smae problem as in many falafel: it is too dry.

The Ugly Duckling, a nice surprise of duckliver-beefball slider in a truffel mayonnaise. On this one I have to say that the meatball itself and the mayonaise are just perfect, but (yes it is not perfect) it's bread felt a bit too dry or compact. Or perhaps this was the feeling after eating already 4 balls before this one.

And as an extra the chef added on our tasting plate, one of their so called 'heroes' the USA slider made out of pork, homemade coleslaw and aioli. A very good choice as well.

You may find this post already long and it's not even over yet. I told you we tasted almost the whole menu. The staff offered us the possibility to taste small portion of the main courses, so here we go again:

The Classic, in the main is the essence of Finnish home food, close your eyes put some Finnish iskelmä music and you are like at some Finnish grandma place. Definitely a dish I would recommend to foreigner asking a typical Finnish meal.

The Godfather, the name is enough. It's like the dish prepared in Martin Scorcese's 'Goodfellas'.

PataPata, your beefballs are served with a chorizo-bean ragout. It's honestly delicious, but I was expecting something a bit more spicy.

The Hulk, which could be called their incredible vegetarian option: Veggieballs, paksoi, spinach, leek, cashew nuts in a coriander sauce. Very tasty, and contrary to the the vegetarian slider, not too dry at all but just the good texture. Though, it is lacking some taste.

And you think this was enough?
No, one more ball to come, the sweet one: The Salty Chocolate Ball, a marvelous soft white chocolate ball in a dark salty chocolate shell. It's just a bit, not a huge dessert but after this feast the perfect end for a great dinner. I'm almost thinking of making this 3€ chocolate ball as my afternoon snack on a shopping day afternoon.

As you could read Suola has a lot to offer, but they are still clear of that. We didn't even try all of their options. The price list is definitely affordable, for example a plate of 5 sliders will cost you 16€, which is a bargain for this location.

Another interesting details was the wine list which only include good european wine for very reasonable price if you think about the South African piquette served for the same price in many bars around.

So, at last we will simply recommend Suola, even more since its staff is very young and very enthusiastic about making this place a classic in Helsinki. Again these guys have 'balls' as they keep the kitchen open from Monday to Saturday until 2pm. It's wonderful to have a place where you can eat after ten o'clock in Helsinki!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Veselka, New York

East Village, and its small Ukrainian corner. Usually Ukrainian restaurants offers a simple for tasty and reliable food experience, so what about Veselka?

The place is in the 9 East st and is famous for being open 24/7 365 days a year. The place looks good, the staff is very friendly and as it was just across the street from our home base, it became our first breakfast place in New York City.

Order of the day was:
1 Fried Egg sandwich with bacon
2 blueberry pancakes with maple sirup

Our bacon expert was pleased with his sandwich.
The pancakes were good but massive, one of us just couldn't finish it.

I am usually a pancake lover, I like French crêpes, 'european' pancakes, Finnish oven pancakes, Blinis, but I have to admit that american pancakes are maybe a bit too fluffy for my taste (like most of their wheat stuff which makes your eyes think you will eat enough for four days and your stomach realize that you just ate inflated food).

Anyway we definitely approved this place, if you are looking for good and affordable food in East Village at any time, this might be your place!

We also had another Veselka experience: The Thanksgiving dinner! It was exactly that and our team was satisfied and stuffed.

Veselka, since 1954.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Momofuku noodle bar, New York

New York again!

As very big fans of Asian food, we asked our host where were the best place around East Village to eat ramen noodles. His answer was straight "Momofuku, it's just 2 blocks away, you will see it's always busy".

We went there on Black Friday evening, hoping people would either still be out of town because of Thanksgiving or still killing each others in Macy's for the Black Friday. This was a vain, the place was packed. Momofuku do not take any reservation that for we gave our name, came back after an hour and waited 30 more minutes inside to get seated.

Momofuku was created by an American-Korean chef David Chang, but surprisingly for an Asian restaurant the staff was 100% western including the kitchen. The concept of the place is mostly that it remains a tiny space and the kitchen is open so that you can see what's happening in the kitchen and even ask the guys "hey, what's that?!".

We were seated on the bar just facing the kitchen team. This is mostly the main interest of the place: a hard working team always in a rush, doing the job as well as they can. It's kind of a well organized ballet. These guys make the show and they make you feel that they are proud what they are doing and just there in the front of live audience they put up a every evening show of their cooking skills.

How about the food?
Well we went for:
momofuku ramen – pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg
and ginger scallion noodles – pickled shiitakes, cucumber, cabbage

Unfortunately for non meat eater there are not any real ramen option available so the ginger scallion noodles were served without broth. The food is definitely good, no doubt on that, but to be honest while eating it you realize that you are not eating asian food, but american food. The Momofuku ramen are really tasty, the meat is just melting in your mouth and the poached egg is a very good idea.

Somehow the place deserve it's fame (there is even a Momofuku cooking books). It's nice and cosy, even if it seems to be always very busy and you need to be patient to get a table. Keep in mind that the main interest of the place is actually the place itself and the shows it offers. If you were looking for a true Asian food experience, then you should head to Chinatown or Korea Town.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Smith, New York

New York, New York, here we are!

Which kind of food do you think about first, when you think about USA? Yes you are right, burger.

Of course there would be plenty of places to get a burger, from McDisgusting or BumgerKink or any small street eateries. An easy way would be also to follow the signs to a restaurant, which has a sign 'best NYC burger' or 'best burger in the world' on a window.

We tried something in the between by crashing at 'The Smith'. A NYC venue which started back in 2007 in East Village and which aim to use only local product to prepare its meals. We did not went to the 'historical' restaurant in East Village, but we opted for the newly opened restaurant next to the Lincoln center.

The place looks nice, a bit like a european bistro from the 30's mixed with a american diner style. A large bar is all along the right wall, tables are spacious enough and at the lunch time the atmosphere is nicely busy, but you don't have a feeling that you were sitting in the neighbour's table and listening his business talks.

The service is really good in the place, but wait a minute...a yes we are in the US, people have to work hard to get their tips.

So here we are, I went for a burger deluxe, which includes special sauce, cheddar and bacon.

Look at the picture and make your opinion. The burger itself looks amazing. And a small detail: for the first time in my burger experiences, someone asked me how I wanted the steak to be cooked!

The home made bread, the nicely cooked meat, the nice choice and proportion of vege, sauce and cheese made it honestly one of the best burger I had in my life. The plus was also the homemade French fries. So far only in two other places you can find better fries than there: Belgium and at my father's.

That was not it. Even if I felt pretty full-filled with this delicious burger, and even if it was only lunch time and wanted to do still a lot in the afternoon, I let myself tempted by the idea of a dessert. I choose  a sticky toffee pudding (skillet baked, medjool dates, vanilla ice cream) which was also amazing even if one could find it has far too much sugar in it.

Others at the table did not try the burger, but one went for the Mediterranean Salad and the other for the tagliatelle (black pasta, sautéed shrimp, scallion, crumbled garlic bread)...and both were also satisfied. The Mediterranean Salads was a huge portion of fresh ingredients. It was very basic and you know what you get. The tagliatelle was tasty and well done, but if you a big man and graving for large lunch, you might leave with the half full stomach.

So if you are in NYC, The Smith is definitely a place to try. One tip though, the 'historical' East Village menu tend to have a few dollars cheaper menu, but to be honest the final bill at the Lincoln centre restaurant was not overpriced at all.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Merci is a concept store in Marais, Paris. You can find there the most adorable pullover or bed sheets, which you always wanted. If you find the prices too high, but you like to go around and see beautiful things anyway, you can finish your wondering in the store in their Bookstore Café. Take a cappuccino and the piece of cake and just enjoy. The atmosphere is greatest of all. Wooden floors, high bookshelves and very chic music. We love it! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soppakeittiö, Hakaniemi Market Hall

If you fancy a easy, but tasty lunch, head to the Hakaniemi Market hall in Helsinki. There you can find a small place called Soppakeittiö. They are offering everyday (except on Sundays) three different soups and everyday there is their classic: French seafood soup bouillabaisse. 

Simple, tasty and good: highly recommended. 

Soppakeittiö (in Finnish only)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Salutorget, dinner

Friday evening, a perfect time for a nice romantic dinner in an up market restaurant.
Salutorget is located at the begining of Pohjois Esplanadi, kind of Helsinki's 'Champs Elysées.
The place itself looks very good, settle in an old bank the classic building offers the restaurant an impressive reception room.

The menu stays affordable, but we are here in a place where you need to book ahead and where the service tries its best to reach some high standarts.

For the menu we went for a safe choice, the Chef's menu. As we assumed, with his own menu the chef has to show his best, this offer being as his offer to attract new comer.
So here was the menu straight from the card:

Lobster soup with saffron cream
Arctic Charr served with its crayfish risotto
Caramel Crème Brülée with rhum marinated cranberries

(Note the small spelling mistake on 'crème brûlée')

The menu was suggesting a C'est la Vie! Muscat, Viognier with this menu, advice that we followed.

The wine was served on front of you, with the waiter judgement for the quantity, not with a annoying deciliter used in so many places in Finland. This was a plus, but I felt a bit embarrassed to be served such a glass of wine for 8,70€...but this may explain why the waiters don't even propose you to taste the wine. Anyway the wine was decent, not a 'piquette'.

The lobster was served! And a small detail regarding the esthetic. We were expecting to see something a bit thicker and still on its surface. Instead we found a soup a small bit too liquid and foamy on its top, as if it was just mixed in our plate in a hurry. But it tasted really good, the lobster, the safran and the other spices were there, in a nice mix where not any flavor is too strong to cover the other. Chef, work on the presentation of your soup now.

The main dish then took time to be served. That is usually the opposite which happen in many places in Finland, where the dishes are served to quickly but this time it was maybe a bit too much waiting time.
Anyway the fish was served was a true disappointment. The fish itself was a tiny bit too raw, and the crayfish risotto tasted exactly the same than the lobster soup!
It was good, but for the chef's menu not a positive surprise.

And finally the dessert. Honestly it was really good, but somehow the texture of the crème brûlée was a small bit too creamy and the top of the 'brûléé' was obviously missing either suger or time on the grill as the characteristic sound of the spoon breaking the crust of sugar did not happen.

Don't misunderstand us, Salutorget is a nice place, but we were definitely expecting something more impressive. Few other details also put this dinner on the down side, like seeing the waiters in the back poring the end of some bottle of wine in some other half empty bottle of the same, and the fact that waiter did not mind going for a smoke in the middle of your service and coming back serving you with a strong tobacco kind of kill apetite.

But dear reader, if you even exist, if you go to Salutorget pay a visit to the toilets, build in the former safe of the bank. Maybe some of the coolest toilets in Helsinki.

And totally another story is their Afternoon Tea, that rocks! The service at the bar, where The Afternoon Tea is served, is probably the best in the whole Helsinki. But that deserves it's own story. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Green Man, Grantchester

Fish & Chips, can I say more about the traditional British dining? Well, I guess all of us have had terrible dishes, which have been called by that name. I was lucky to have a great meal in the small local pub The Green Man near by Cambridge in Grantchester. 

Our entourage had walked about one and an half hours on the fields and forest in the British rain. We were looking for a warm place to have a lunch. When we arrived to The Green Man, we were informed that the gas was out so the only dish they could offer as was the traditional fish and chips. That worked fine for us and all of us ordered the same meal. 

I have to say that this meal was probably one of the best in UK. Haddock was good and fresh, not too oily and chunky chips were home made and well cooked. The cherry on the top of this meal was mashed peas, which was also fresh and tasty. 

The portion was so big that some of us couldn't finish it. If you ever happen to go to Cambridge, I do recommend to take a walk (or a taxi) to Grantchester to visit the pub and Orchard Tea Garden near by. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Burger time!

Kitch is an easy kitchen place right in the centre of Helsinki, on Yrjönkatu, few yards away from Hotel Torni.

The owner seems quite friendly and the place is popular, especially for it's burgers (but the menu also offers a decent range of tapas, salads, pastas and soups among others). But is it worth it?

Set in a retro style the place is quite cosy, and has the privilege of its location. Almost in the centre but away enough from the main road to offer a small, quiet and sunny terrass!

What about the food? We have been there couple of times for the popular burgers, the Kitch one and the vegetarian one. And the verdict is: It's pretty good!

The Kitch burger is the basic meat burger with a slice of goat cheese instead of the usual cheddar, and it taste just great. The bun is also good, kind of homemade makes a bit crusty even if you have a juicy thick piece of meet just in there. The fries served with it are good but may not be home made (one more effort and you could get a Burger oscar here!).

The vegetarian burger is also tasty, the meat steak being replaced by a vegetarian one. The only issue here is maybe for vegetarian cheese lovers. You may be very jealous of your meat eater friends and their goat cheese slice. Perhaps the goat cheese could be proposed as an option here (and then maybe a second oscar to be given?).

Finally let's also talk about the wine list. The house has a short but interesting wine list which includes few organic European wines. I personally recommend their italian red organic, suits perfectly the Kitch burger.

To summarize, you may not eat the best burger ever in kitch, but you will have good food, in a nice place in the heart of Helsinki city centre for a very decent price.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Aux Petits Oignons

Vatsa Edellä likes to travel, even in boring countries like France ;)

Here is one of our secret place in Paris. As the most people visiting Paris probably know how disappointing can be looking for a GOOD restaurant in this town fulfilled of disgusting tourist traps. So let's take the risk to make the place more crowded (if you plan to go there in evening time you may need to book ahead), but so far this blog isn't that successful.

The place is located in the 19th district, in the North East of Paris, nearby the Gambetta metro station. If you are planning visiting some art spaces or tourist hub like Père Lachaise, it might be your perfect lunch place.

The place is very cosy, looks at the same time a bit cliché (which means perfect for tourists) but has a very good atmosphere and is mostly frequented by locals.

The lunch goes in a usual Formula: Starter+main course or main course+dessert or starter+main course+dessert. Unless you are on a diet we of course recommend the last option. The menu is changing regularly, if not daily and is presented on black boards written with chalk, which add to the charm of the place.

This time our choice was:

Tartare de hareng (Herring tartar)

Bavette servie avec pommes de terre et salade (Flank steak with potatoes and salad)
Assiette vegetarienne (vegetarian plate)

Faisselle au miel (Quark with honey)
Tarte aux myrtilles (Blueberry pie)

The starter was indeed a good way to give you apetite. The only thing I would say is that if you come from Nordic Europe you may prefer go for another option as herring is already so popular in your own kitchen.

The Bavette, mythic French dish to quote Roland Barthes, is always good in this place. The meat in tender, very tasty and they cook it exactly as you ask it (of course the French man speaking, medium or well done may have a different sense to you). The side dish, potatoes and salad is basic but again so well cooked that if you want your bite of this piece of French culture, it's a great place to have it.
The Vegetarian plate is...amazingly surprisingly delicious, and enormous in matter of quantity. A mix braised endives with potatoes purée, carrots purée and other broccolis and fresh green stuff. All the flavors of summer exploding in your mouth! (Note that the menu is seasonal and this visit is dated from July 2012).

After all that it might feel hard to still have room for a bite of sweat. Nevertheless, don't be shy and enjoy your dessert, even the simplest one may taste just perfect there. Their quark with honey can sound like what you can have home everyday, and it is true but only if you have the same crèmerie than them. The quality of the products is of the key of Aux Petits Oignons success!

To end this note just a word about the wine. Waiters will be very helpful to choose your wine, and even the cheapest house-wine in this friendly place will please you.

Enjoy your meal!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hải Phòng Street Kitchen @ Restaurant Day

Restaurant Day is a Finnish concept, which makes our city life a bit more lively. It's a wonderful way for people to meet randomly each others and a great opportunity for those who have been dreaming of having their own restaurant, to try to be a restaurant owner for a day. 

This time we visited few places around our own neighbourhood and we want to say few words about a Vietnamese street food place, we found in Hermanni. 

Held in a court yard of Hermanni this Vietnamese/Finnish Family had organized a small grill & spring rolls menu for their visitors. They had even built a small tent which was very welcome, because of the occasional rain.

The place was proposing homemade meet or vegetarians spring rolls and a barbeque pork meat cut in tiny slices. Important point is that, on top of being prepared by a real Vietanamese chef, the vegetable were also homegrown from their garden! 

For 6 to 7,5€ your plate was filled of spring rolls and/or pork barbecue meet, with glass noodles and fresh salad and mint. The spring rolls were tasty, very well done, but actually the vegetarian version was even better. That might explain why the effort of 5 days of cooking was already almost sold out after 2 hours being open! The pork was also delicious, and with the spicy fish and cabbage sauce the plate was just perfect.

If only these people could open a lunch place next to my work place, I'd become their customer number one!


A lovely small restaurant, Hoshito, has been open in Vallila, Helsinki already some time. It's a stylish japanese restaurant with quality food, friendly service and great food experience. There you can forget about ordering sushi with Asahi. At the Hoshito you can choose three, four or five courses menus (32 euros/ 36 euros/ 39 euros). They use seasonal ingredients and that's why menus are changing time to time. Hoshito is open only for evenings and sometimes for a special occasions like First of May. 

The chef is a multi-talent. He has been working also for Marimekko and you can see his own idiom in the fabrics and the decorations on the wall. 

It's been very popular restaurant and that's why we recommend to make a table reservation also for the weekday evening. Go and see Hosihitos web page, it's as wonderful as the restaurant and its food.