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.