About mel91872

A living conflict, writing about food, foreign politics and anything that comes to mind.

My Paris Curse Continues…

23-24 September 2018

Despite leaving my Uppsala hotel pre-dawn, I didn’t arrive at my Paris hotel until nearly midday. Flight delay due to a faulty aircraft thanks to SAS, train issues due to RER-B not running to CDG over the weekend, and the replacement bus from hell that bussed us to a station FARTHER AWAY than CDG…oh, this is turning into a great Paris trip already…

By the time I got to my hotel, it was pissing down, and that ruined a lot of my plans. So didn’t manage to do much at all until dinner. I headed to the venerable L’Assiette and hoped my Paris luck has changed. I’ve had so few good meals in Paris over the years…

Not much accomplished this day, no thanks to some lazy workers and stupid infrastructure issues, so all I had to look forward to was this dinner. I sat down and relaxed and ordered a bottle of wine and my dinner.

a-00-jambon

They brought out some sad looking jambon as a snack, though it was tasty. I enjoyed some of my wine before the first item appeared, the cuttlefish carbonara.

a-01-cuttlefish carbonara

Really boring to be honest, this is nowhere as good as other places that do a similar dish. Bland, the flavours were all very subdued. The wine was the best part of all this. Then after a bit, my second main appeared, the wild duck…

a-02a-duck

Pretty good, roasted very rare. Good quality duck, but definitely nowhere as good as the wild duck at Ultima in Helsinki. Hell, when the Finns beat you at your own game France, it’s time to wake up. A nice side of the drumsticks…

a-02b-duck

But all of it rather ordinary. At this point, it’s a very ordinary meal, nothing more. By now the service was turning into a cluster and my wine glass was constantly empty, so I asked for them to either leave it on my table or pour it all, and my server got quite upset by that suggestion… The fucking attitude here…jayzus…IF YOU CAN’T DO YOUR JOB and you pout about me wanting to do it myself…

Oh, this attitude is so draining on me…no wonder this city is crumbling. I ordered my dessert and had a nice convo with the people in the next table; turns out one of them had Estonian heritage, small world. Then my dessert, the crème caramel

a-03-crème caramel

Oh my, all is forgiven. This is so ridiculously good, so rich… I really enjoyed this, good enough to prompt a digestif after this. I then finished and headed out, not knowing if this was a good or bad night…

Mediocre, I guess is the word. Some service issues, some mediocre food, but a fab dessert. There are a hundred cities I rather be, but this is good enough for Paris I guess. I enjoyed the view of the Harvest Moon as I walked back, just looking to get some rest for a long day tomorrow…

I had a crazy day running around Paris, going to the north-west edge to the south, doing a crapload of walking everywhere. I was spent, and missed lunch, so grabbed a quick small takeaway. I had to pack as I was headed home (finally) tomorrow, but first to meet with a friend before dinner.

A good chat and a bit of wine, I was happy. I walked to my nearby dinner destination, Le Bon Georges, and was seated at a hi-top. Service seems already chaotic at this stage, but I finally got to order. But I kept asking to order wine, which took ages. I eventually settled on a nice Chambolle-Musigny.

I relaxed and then suddely, my starter arrived… Huh, they brought my dish before my wine?

b-1-poêlée de girolles

Poêlée de girolles with pork belly. I didn’t touch it as I asked about my wine. They fucked up. They eventually decanted it and I just sat and waited until the wine breathed a little. This is piss poor, especially for a good bottle of wine ordered. I slowly ate my dish. Not bad, but I really have lost my heart in all this… This is inexcusable for Paris, to forget the wine?

At this point I told them to please slow things down so I can enjoy my wine, not wanting my main to come out before I finished my 2nd glass… And then I asked them why I was never offered any charcuterie like all the other patrons. This is ridiculous… Then ended up bringing me a small plate…

b-charcuterie

I just nursed it and by now, I was losing interest in this meal. Then after a bit of time, perhaps too long (they overreacted in a bad way), they bring out my main, the tartar.

b-2-tartar

One of this restaurant’s specialty is beef from Polmard, and this is the tartar. Quite nice, but again by this stage I was really unhappy with this entire catastrophe. I finished it and really had enough. I just finished my wine and had a word with the manager on the whole wine cock-up. Really unprofessional and ruined a potentially good meal, the kind of thing that gives Paris the dodgy reputation it sadly deserves.

I left in utter frustration, and just headed back to my hotel after a long Metro ride. I don’t even want to have any more wine, I just want to get the hell out of here. Luckily flight home tomorrow morning, RER-B willing, that is… What a disastrous end to the trip…

I detest Paris…

L’Assiette
181 Rue du Château

Le Bon Georges
45 Rue Saint-Georges
Paris, France

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Who Goes to Uppsala to Eat?

22 September 2018

I left Stockholm in a massive downpour early this Saturday morning to head north to the historic town of Uppsala. Luckily by the time I got there, despite the short distance, the weather had improved dramatically. I got to my hotel near the train station and the view from my hotel room window was the central food section of the grocery store! Lol!

I headed to explore the town, first up the historic Cathedral, where many monarchs are entombed. Lovely interior and exterior, and that took rest of the morning. Then I headed to the nearby Domtrappkällaren, which is built into the original city walls.

They were only doing their shortened lunch menu at this time, unfortunately, so I ordered my favourite traditional Swedish dish, Wallenbergare. This is like a better, richer version of a Salisbury steak, borderline decadent if done right…

A-Wallenbergare - 02

And this was done pretty well, lovely and rich, the oils almost dripping from the mass… The currants nicely neutralised said oil, all going with the mash well. A perfect combination, a solid lunch. I thanked my friendly server after a coffee and headed out for a long afternoon.

Spent most of it exploring the historic cemetery, where some of the pioneers of science are buried — Uppsala being one of the centres of knowledge for centuries. 4 Nobel laureates (2 chemistry, 1 physics, 1 peace) are buried here, alongside a list of who’s-who from the world of chemistry. A wonderful long hike, then through the historic town to the castle.

I was pretty tired by this point, so I just took it easy before dinner. I had an early dinner planned for this Saturday as I have to catch a pre-dawn train back to Arlanda Airport in the morning… Tonight’s dinner is at a place called Dryck & Mat next to the train station.

This is supposed to be the top restaurant in town, tho I should have gone thru the website more carefully as they only do the tasting menu on weekends. I don’t mind, but I sometimes hate weekend tasting menus as kitchens are always overwhelmed with large crowds. I hope dining early will help alleviate this issue.

They sat me and I ordered an old fashioned, which came after awhile and was so-so. They also brought out the amuse, lamb heart.

B-00-lamb heart

Believe me there’s lamb heart under all this almond foam, but does it matter? The foam was jaw-cracking acidic, and I flinched at first taste… It’s one of those acids that won’t go away…dammit, the long tentacles of Copenhagen reaches Uppsala… Throw in picked chanterelles…ugh… This is gonna be a long night, when the foam is crazy acidic…

I had to down the rest of that old fashioned to kill the acid here…what a bad start. My jaw joints still hurt… Then my friendly server came and poured a nice garganega for the first dish, halibut.

B-01-halibut

Not a big fan of halibut in general, and this does nothing to change that. I call halibut the filet mignon of the sea…just boring. In a school town like Uppsala, I started humming the bass line of Another Brick in the Wall II quietly… Nothing special here, the mussels seem overcooked too. The nuts didn’t add anything either. A really mediocre item… This long night continues with a pour of a nice Hungarian white for the next course, scallops.

B-02-scallops

Not bad, finally something worth writing about. The scallops were pretty good, accentuated by the langostine broth. The fennel helped, though it was a busy plate. Good dish, finally. Things turning around finally? Things have been moving fast overall, and the wine pours have been good from my friendly server. Now a red from the Canary Islands and we have the duck.

B-03-duck

Well, not like the duck at Ultima the other night of course, not even close. This was poorly cooked, very “livery” if you know what I mean. The only thing good was the sprouts. Back down to earth, and I’m losing patience in this dinner frankly. I hate when they impose tasting menus on you and cannot execute

The place was now quite busy and the kitchen has slowed down dramatically. I also see the FoH staff becoming overwhelmed, as there are far too few servers to handle a packed restaurant with several large, loud (and demanding) groups. My poor server looks like she’s a headless chicken, and when she poured my next wine she didn’t even let me taste it and just ran off…

And now I know why, it is awful! It’s not just skunked, it’s half way to vinegar! Ugh…I couldn’t get anyone’s attention until someone else brought the next dish out. I complained about the wine, and the gruff reply from another guy who had not served my table was “it is supposed to be acidic” and promptly walked away… WTF…

B-04-lamb

And talking about the dish, the lamb here is again poor quality. I didn’t even get through half of this dish, and the wine was totally abandoned (I still feel my teeth after that initial sip). My server is nowhere to be found, probably trying to serve several of the large groups that have come in and are loud and obnoxious…

I found another server walking past and said I’m done, and I want the bill. Yep, abandoned tasting menu. Then my server finds here way to me, apologising to me… Shit, it’s not her fault, and I felt bad. She charged me for a shorter tasting menu and I got myself the hell out of there after wishing her good luck in this shitshow.

What a mess this place is. Why this place is rated in the White Guide is beyond me. This kitchen is way, way over its head. Terrible execution, poor ingredients, and expensive to boot. Really a poor example of Swedish cooking, avoid this place. A sad end to my Swedish trip…

Domtrappkällaren
Sankt Eriks Gränd 15

Dryck & Mat
Olof Palmes Plats 2
Uppsala, Sverige

Review #2: Oaxen Slip

21 September 2018

I woke up the next morning, still feeling disappointed over that dinner at Ekstedt last night…could have been so much better… Nevertheless I had a long day, which brought me to the Riddarholmskyrkan, where many Swedish monarchs are entombed, and to suburs south and north-east. Another long day that didn’t afford me time to eat a proper lunch…

I had some trip logistics to deal with in the late afternoon before I headed to Djurgården for my dinner at Oaxen Slip, quickly visiting the historic Cirkus beforehand. I loved the lunch I had here last time, and I opted to eat here again instead of the connected (and 2-Michelin) Oaxen Krog. It was a busy Friday night, so I headed to dinner a little earlier than planned.

I enjoyed a cocktail at the bar before being led to my table. I ordered and relaxed, slowly finishing my cocktail. I quickly ordered some wine knowing my starter will arrive very soon, and it did…

1a-smoked prawns

Oh my, I’ve waited 2 years for these! I love these things, the best smoked prawns in the world. Just oozing with flavour, the aroma is mesmirising… Most of these lovely prawns have plenty of roe, and the shells are basically edible, so I dug into them hard. The heads were also extremely juicy. I thought about just eating the heads too, but that’s pushing it too far. Oh this was good…

Luckily I know how this works, so I had a wet-wipe wrapped around the stem of my wine glass. I cleaned up enough and finished the glass, and switched to a red for my main course, which appeared soon after…

2a-pork

Some nice pork hip with peppers and sprouts, delicious but a bit lean. I miss fatty pork here! But really nice. But the star really is the wonderful yellow beans…

2b-beans

These are so good as a side, I could have eaten another plate. Like yesterday, the vegetables here in Stockholm are quite excellent, the biggest surprise of this short trip. Really enjoyed this!

I pondered a dessert, and I could not think of anything better, so…

3-smoked prawns

Yeah, I had another serving. I don’t know when I’ll be back in Stockholm again (if ever), so had to have one last hit of this addictive item… So good… Now there is an excellent consistency here in quality, unlike last night’s disappointing dinner at Ekstedt. Frankly this place deserves a Michelin star itself, not just the 2 stars for its adjacent eatery — especially compared to last night’s poor example of a Michelin-level dinner.

I finished and cleaned up, and noticed how busy the place was now. It’s a Friday night, after all. So I happily shifted to the bar, freeing up the two-top for some of the waiting guests. I then had a few drinks at the bar chatting with staff and fellow customers. A fun night!

A long tram ride back to the centre, but really still feeling those amazing smoked prawns. Of course I could still smell them on my hands! It takes about 5 deep washes to get the wonderful aroma out, tho I almost didn’t want to — as a constant reminder of this awesome dish.

Back to my rabbit warren…but as I always tell people, Oaxen Slip is probably the best place in Stockholm to have a good meal. Highly recommended, as usual!

Oaxen Slip
Beckholmsvägen 26
Stockholm, Sverige

Review: Ekstedt

20 September 2018

I made it to Stockholm, no thanks to the chaos at Helsinki Airport and the incompetence of Norwegian…talk about a disfunctional arline… That trial aside, I got to my underground hotel near the central station and sighed… This newly-turned hobbit then headed out for a long day of exploration that took me to several northern suburbs.

Day was so hectic the only lunch I had was some of the awful buy-by-weight buffet at the Åhléns department store… Thank goodness most of the damage from the terror attack last year has been fixed…what a sad moment for Stockholm… Anyway, back to my hobbit hole for a bit of a rest before my dinner tonight at Ekstedt.

I was quite excited when I managed my booking at this much-hyped 1-Michelin firery eatery. The cool thing about this place is all cooking is done by fire — real fire. No gas, no electricity for the cooking process. Just old school style, using different woods to fire, smoke and burn. Should be fun.

I caught a bus to the busy district near the restaurant and arrived just about on-time. I was led to a counter seat in front of the kitchen, which is especially nice as I could watch and interact with the kitchen team. Watching this was far more interesting, with the fire maintenance as a part of the kitchen’s job. It wasn’t as hot as you’d think (considering this is overheated Stockholm), nor was it smoky at all — thanks to the excellent double venting systems over the entire kitchen area. I like this concept, now let’s see how good the execution is…

After some introduction, I went with the longer of the two menus (not that long tbh) and the wine pairing, but bypassed the apertif. I just want to get into this dinner! And in a short time the starter arrived…

x

Pretty cute dish, as they brought out a hot stone bowl and put diced reindeer hearts into it with herbed butter and other goodies. Stirred it as it cooked, and then you make a DIY taco here. Pretty tasty, tho messy as you can imagine! Good start. Then they poured a nice chardonnay from Jura and we start with the first dish, the birch-flamed lobster…

02a-lobster

Really interesting dish here, the lobster is cooked very well. Lovely mushrooms and celeriac here, the acid balance working well. I’m glad the Copenhagen acid disease hasn’t gotten too far east over the Öresund! And quite beautiful plating too. So far this is working well, the fire cooking is solid!

Then we were invited to watch the kitchen at work, in this case as they make the next snack — oysters by dripping beef fat…

03a-oyster cooking

Fun watching this, but more fun when it was served…

03d-oyster

Very tasty, giving the oyster just enough of a cooked kick. Delicious, and love the gimmick — which shows off their cooking ethos very well for the tasting menu diners. Then a rosé from Sardinia is poured for the next dish, which I watched them meticulously put together…

04a-deer roe leek

Interesting dish here. First off, a large plate of shaved dry deer meat, all over some rather acidic charcoal cream. This part didn’t work that well for me to be honest. But the side item was the star…a load of vendace roe over succulently sweet leek. This part was so good…

04c-roe leek

Pretty happy with this dinner so far. Service has been good, smooth and friendly, with good wine pours. Bread is now served, and then they poured a nice cabernet franc for the next dish: hay-flamed beef.

05-beef

Sigh, this didn’t work at all, and if I may say — poor execution. The beef was underseasoned and cooked extremely unevenly. I know it’s hay-flamed, but the imbalance on the 2 sides is extreme. One side cooked way through and stringy, the other side undercooked and mushy. Have you ever had a piece of beef where someone forgot to flip it? What a messy dish… Frankly the veg was far better on this dish.

A little worried here, since this should have been a slam-dunk dish. This is just messy, or really poor planning. Not sure what the culprit is, but it was not a good dish. Then a white from Etna is poured for the next item, juniper-smoked pike-perch…

06-pike perch

They did this ubiquitous fish much better, with a fine smoke that carried the flavour. But oddly, for me the cabbage was the best part of this dish. That’s 3 dishes in a row where the vegetable was the best feature. Perhaps that beef dish was a total anomaly. In any case, things seem to be back on track, just in time for the last savoury item…

07a-pork

With a good pour of a barolo, we have the charcoal-grilled pork. My heart sank as we went into this dish. First, the naan was utterly inedible, as it’s sat around too long. I found hair in the side chanterelles dish, the irony that I see more chanterelles here than in most chanterelle-centric dishes I’ve had this whole trip. But the pork? Way overcooked. They can’t seem to manage the meats very well with this open flame thing. This pork is like a school lunch pork loin, overcooked and dry, the sawdust as I sliced hidden by the sauce — which, by the way, couldn’t save this dish. Aside from the stray hair, the chanterelles were the best part of this dish.

Sigh, what a sad end to this dinner. My excitement has now abated, I’ve come back down to reality, and my question of whether they can execute this concept has been answered…sadly, it’s a resounding NO.

I was pretty disappointed at this point, and was just happy to wind this meal down. They poured a nice tokaji for me, and I have to say the service has been excellent, as has the wine pours. We now have the almond cake for dessert.

08-almond cake

Not bad here, a nice bit of apple and blueberries to bring it along. Really tasty, a good end to a disappointing evening. I was knackered, so just ordered a coffee and an akvavit…

09-closer

They brought out the last nibble, a nice bit of cherry to close the night.

Sadly, it was not a good night overall. I had such expectations here, but they managed the flames really poorly — especially with the meats. The beef was awful, the pork way overcooked. They did the seafood far better, and the vegetables were masterful (except for the stray hair). Incredibly inconsistent tho, far more inconsistent than any Michelin place should have — concept or not.

If you got this kind of meats in a restaurant with the same concept in a non-Michelin town, it would be skewered (no pun intended) for poor meats coming at the expense of the concept. Yet, the big Michelin blind eye is turned here…

But really, I don’t get why people rave about this. Perhaps they are just wowed by the flames. Perhaps the back kitchen had a bad night. But if you can’t master the flame in this way, you better not use it. I’d go elsewhere, folks…

Ekstedt
Humlegårdsgatan 17
Stockholm, Sverige

Review: Ultima

19 September 2018

After that lacklustre example of mediocrity from Juuri at lunch, I was hoping for a better afternoon. No such luck, as the Ateneum (Finnish National Gallery) was another disappointment. Poor lighting, half of the exhibition space closed, and terrible positioning of some masterpieces by Repin and Gauguin and Cézanne caused visitors to just walk past them! This is a lesson in bad museum curating!

I had had enough with Helsinki for one thing, the only thing I’m looking forward to is dinner at Ultima. This is the successor restaurant to Finnjävel, which I visited 2 years ago, where I had a pretty good dinner. The concept has changed drastically, from one focused on taking a spin to Finnish tradition (a bandwagon which, sadly, Ö in Tallinn seems to have jumped on) to developing the future of Finnish gastronomy.

You can see they are doing a lot of hydroponic growing of stuff through the window. I was early but was led to my table in the somewhat familiar but altered dining room, first having been shown up close some of the results of their work — from the herbs to the mushrooms growing on used coffee grounds. It’s an innovative approach towards sustainability, which is much appreciated.

front door

I sat down and relaxed and they knew what I wanted to do with food and pairing, so the excellent service team ran with it. But at first, an intriguing cocktail listed as the “bitter” choice that would have been better as a dessert, with all the almond milk and dark chocolate…

And my snack has arrived, crickets! They get these critters locally, and it’s a nice touch on the delicious pumpkin tartlet.

00 - crickets - 01

I’ve always been an advocate of eating bugs, so this is a nice treat for sure.

A good little added snack. I was told we’re going straight into the long course, and they poured a nice Riesling from Pfalz for the busy potato flatbread…

01-potato flatbread

Mmm, this is delicious, the fried herring works so well here with the cream and herbs, all best eaten like a taco. I so wish they do more with herring in this region, not just the standard, preserved way. This is a great way to use this fish! Good start! Then the next small dish, juniper salted whitefish.

02-whitefish

A tad salty, as you may expect, but quite nice, as it brings out the whitefish quite nicely. They topped off my glass of wine, which was already a good pour (especially for Helsinki), so that was nice. I like the fish skin too, and the creamy sauce with herbs and a touch of akvavit really adds to the overall appeal of this dish. Another good one!

So far so good. We move on and this next dish makes me worry a little. But I was soon relieved to see a pinot grigio from Hofstätter — one of my very favourite wineries (I love their Lagrein) as we approach the (gasp) sunchoke soup.

03-sunchoke

Well, luckily it’s not a soup, more like emulsion, so I’m not worried about the gassy side-effects (hopefully). Very tasty, the use of the mushrooms is absolutely wonderful. These house-cultivated (on used coffee grounds, as mentioned earlier) are extremely flavourful, all working well with the wee acid the pickled seaweed brought. Surprisingly good dish again!

So far it’s been even better than Finnjävel, as they are now “liberated” from the concept…sadly, the one that Ö in Tallinn seems to have become trapped in… Then a really nice 2007 burgundy is poured as we have the reindeer.

04-reindeer

Oh, fabulous. The meat is cooked so well, none of the “livery” stuff you get from improper cooking of this delicacy. Great quality, tasty meat, working well with the herb emulsion, the pickled onions, and the mushrooms. A really excellent dish once again, one of the best reindeer I’ve ever had. It’s just getting better!

I really did not expect this place to be this good. It’s easily the best meal on this trip since Senses in Warsaw, and the service has been impeccable also. With a top-up of the bordeaux, they bring out the next dish — bean porridge.

05-porridge

Definitely not as boring as you would think, as the broad beans are of excellent quality, all working fabulously with the ramsons. Under the greenery there’s also a bit of cep, which adds to the overall appeal of this dish, giving it a wonderful set of flavours, all accented by a touch of game jus. Quite nice. This sets up the next dish, as they poured a gamay for it…

06a-duck

Roasted wild duck, and you can really taste it. It’s uncompromising, which goes so well with that gamay. Fabulous meat and again, cooked perfectly. I love when they get wild duck right, as not many kitchen does it well since it’s quite different from farmed ones, especially during different times of the year.

06b-forest mushrooms

Throw in a beautiful side of beets and foraged forest mushrooms, and this main dish was a complete winner! Wow, what a wonderful set of dishes! Now *this* is what I remember Ö used to do in Tallinn…so did these 2 places just switch ideas? Hmmm…

A little relaxation time, a chat with an adjacent table, and then a locally-made ice local cider is poured for the apple-centric dessert…

07-apple

Mmmm, very tasty, love the flavourful apple in the vanilla milk, all with some granola soaking up the goodness. But that ice cider…wow, that’s good. It’s made like icewine, and it has that outrageously sweet but smooth quality. Fabulous combination!

I was a little sad this was rolling to an end, as it’s not just been delicious, but fun. The staff is absolutely wonderful, top notch service and generous wine pours. And they’re chatty and knowledgeable too, a dangerous combination! A local blueberry wine is poured for the final dessert, the sour milk gelato.

08a-gelato

Far better than it sounds, graced by urban-produced honey and topping off a bed of bilberries. And it comes with a delicious piece of sweet French toast…

08b-brioche

A very nice ending! I decided to enjoy a bit more of the local goods as it’s my only day in Helsinki, so I asked to try some of the local tipple. So with some firewater and coffee, they bring out some closing treats…

09-closer

What a wonderful evening! I really enjoyed Ultima. It’s far better than the already good Finnjävel, they have certainly moved in the right direction. The original concept was spent, as they explained to me, so this is a really good change for them. They have a vision for sustainability, which you can see especially from all the house-cultivated items such as the herbs and mushrooms. Almost everything is local (some hyper-local), and it works so amazingly.

The service is also top-notch. Not many places in Helsinki have service this smooth and friendly (they are often gruff), and this place is certainly in line to get a Michelin star in the next guide. The food and service both easily qualify.

As I walk through the Esplanadi to get back to my joke of a crash pad, I thought the only thing that’ll bring me back to this place that drives me absolutely crazy is this restaurant. For a few hours, Helsinki was total bliss…

Ultima is indeed ultimate! Highly recommended!

Ultima
Eteläranta 16
Helsinki, Suomi

Review: Juuri

19 September 2018

I had a slight hangover when I left Tallinn by boat, thanks to a wonderful birthday evening that started with the excellent dinner at Juur. But that turned into full-blown headache for the painful 2hr “fast” ferry to Helsinki… Goodness, there’s something about drunk Finnish pensioners before midday… I miss the faster hydrofoil…

I hid and survived the trip, despite the best effort of these inebriated seniors all reeking of booze. I clustered with the Estonians as we fought our way off the ship. Why do slow-walking pensioners always insist on being first off, just to clutter the gangway walking like snails dragging cartloads of booze? I was already sick of being back in Finland, another place that I have a like-hate relationship with, dealing with the antics of these drunk põdrad (I use the Estonian word for moose to describe them).

Thank goodness most of them were too slow to rush to the first tram out of there… But I got to my pitiful excuse of a hotel, a glorified crash-pad, and dropped my stuff off before heading to lunch at Juuri.

Yes, from Juur last night to Juuri today…

I got to the popular eatery for the late part of their lunch service. Sadly they don’t do their full menu for lunch they do have what they call “sapas” (Finnish tapas…you need to get the Suomi part of it to get this). I ordered a few items and chilled out with a refreshing cocktail…

cocktail

I drained it as I was thirsty (I didn’t drink on the boat) and then they brought out all three dishes at one time…

1-pike

They told me to eat the pike dish first as it’s warm, and it’s not bad, almost a fish mince. But where is the advertised tomato? Not much crayfish either, just globs of cream… Rather weak.

2-herring

Then we have herring, which is ubiquitous here, served in a very ubiquitous way that makes me wonder why the mark-up. Sigh… Then the third, the beef dish…

3-beef

Not bad, the salted beef, but when you basically got a plate full of pickles and capers, well… What did I just pay 8 euros for?

At least for me this “sapas” experiment is a total fail. They’re like glorified salads, so devoid of the ethos of tapas. And all this is so ordinary it’s frustrating to see this lunch cost as much as that wonderful dinner at Juur. No wonder Finnish foodies are all just going to Tallinn to eat… This is about the perfect definition of mediocrity, Helsinki-style.

Well, Juur beats Juuri for one thing. Nothing special to see here folks, move along…as I certainly did.

Juuri
Korkeavuorenkatu 27
Helsinki, Suomi

Review: Juur

18 September 2018

Over the years I’ve set out for some wonderful birthday dinners, often travelling to interesting places for them. But I have a quirk — I like to eat alone for my birthday. It’s a time to reflect, and to ponder the future, all over some excellent food and wine.

I really began this trend a few years back for my 40th, which I spent at the then-unstarred Maaemo in Oslo after arriving from a few days in Spitzbergen. My 39th I had spent it with my already ex-gf, and that wonderful but emotionally draining evening made me do these solo birthday jaunts, tho my 41st was a rare one spending it with 2 friends at London’s Maxelâ for a beef overrdose.

Then for my 42nd, I spent it at the then-unknown Koks in the Faroe Islands — which I’m glad to say I’ll finally revisit in a few weeks. My 44th was spent with my Montreal “family” at Joe Beef, having a food and drinks extravaganza with the most lovely team in the world. Last year, for my 45th, I had that disappointing night at the Crow’s Nest in Anchorage, a rare miss for my birthday, and I’m hoping it’s not a trend for this one. I’m “home” in Tallinn, and tonight I was checking out a new place called Juur.

It’s near the airport, and when I was living here there wasn’t much in this area. It’s amazing how much this city has grown, and it nearly brings tears to my eyes. I had a long 2 days since my nice dinner at Ribe. On Monday, I spent most of it in Tartu, the university town that I’ve not visited since 1996. That took all day, and I was wiped, so I just cooked dinner that night (having skipped lunch for a 3rd straight day). Lucky my short-stay apartment has a full kitchen.

Today I went to the town of Kose, and I wanted to do this on my birthday to pay respects to Otto von Kotzebue, who I believe was the first Tallinn-born person to have travelled to Hawai’i — and is probably the only one to have met both King Kamehameha and King Kamehameha III. Last year’s birthday in Alaska I had wanted to visit Kotzebue — the town that he named for himself (lol) — but that didn’t work out, so this did.

I feel like I’m his bizarro counterpart sometimes…

But a busy day afterwards, including meeting an old colleague and finally visiting Kumu, the national museum. A really excellent must-visit for everyone, and I was lucky that they had just opened a special exhibit of one of my favourite artists, Konrad Mägi (whose grave I had just visited in Tartu the day before). I was now totally wiped out and hopefully Juur will be the wonderful birthday dinner I needed for my last night “home” before moving on…

I had a nice table on this quiet Tuesday night, and it says something when my server didn’t try to switch to English at all when I started speaking Estonian. Made me smile. I looked over the menu. Oh crap, they don’t do their tasting menu on Tuesday nights! Too bad! So over a nice gin-based cocktail, I ordered and relaxed…

cocktail

Cocktail in hand, I toasted myself for reaching 46 despite this deteriorating body and mind, knowing my travelling days are starting to wind up. I can’t see this going on much longer, and things will quiet down drastically in 2019.

bread

Nice dark bread with some home-churned butter to go along with this moment of self-reflection… Then the first dish, smoked duck.

1-duck

Really nice, salt-cured duck down there under the other stuff, believe me! I tried to avoid the fried sunchokes (don’t need a gassy birthday night!), but the cabbage and berries added a nice touch. I wish I got a picture of the slices of duck, because they were excellent. A good start. I switched to a red that the server recommended for the main course.

2-lamb

Mmmm, fabulous lamb from Hiiumaa. Lovely quality and cooked extremely well, from the slices of loin to the pulled lamb underneath. A touch of berries and herbs, but the lamb shone through as it should. Good carrots, and we have an excellent dish. Very nice!

I’m glad I came here, and it’s not a long menu. Gives me more time to relax and think as I look out into a quiet street in this new Tallinn suburb. I asked them for some new local tipple, and they tell me there’s a few distillers working on things in Estonia for craft booze, so I tried a few of them alongside my dessert…

3a-leib

“Leib” — or “bread” for dessert. Really excellent, and unusual! You got bread crumbles with berries, and a gelato made from razor strop mushrooms! Oh this is quite nice, definitely a new one for me! Excellent!

I had a few more drinks (hey, it’s my birthday still), and finished off with an espresso. I thanked my excellent server and headed out into the cool evening for the tram back to the centre. It’s a nice birthday dinner, so that makes me happy.

Another year gone, but I really am glad I made it “home” for this birthday. Goodness knows if it’ll ever happen again. But Juur? Highly recommended, even if you need to take the tram to its airport terminus.

Juur
Valukoja 10
Tallinn, Eesti

* Well, it’s not over. I decided to drop into a bar called Sazerac at the edge of Old Town, for a few b’day tipples. And it sure didn’t disappoint, from the eponymous cocktail to a few others. But knowing I have a travel day tomorrow, I decided to be prudent (at my age) and call it after a few, just before the midnight hour…