Fuck Yeah

So one thing I get asked all the time by my FYN homies is for recommendations.  Now ignoring the fact that 95% of these fuckers just ignore everything I say, end up going to bullshit tourist places and then send me super dross “OMG so sorry, just ran out of time!” messages which results in me cataclysmically lose my shit.  The reason I get so fucking bent out of shape is because I take recommendation requests super fucking seriously and spend a fucktonne of time writing them.  It’s cause I care about my FYN homies and I don’t want to be the reason for people having a shithouse time (especially when they’re on holidays) but even better, I wanna be the reason why people have FUCK YEAH NOMS when they’re living the good holiday life.

I’ve never written country guides before because I tend to only holiday for a short amount of time and I can’t give what I would consider to be a comprehensive, all encompassing guide to a place.  But then I realised, fuck it, who wants to read another bullshit sponsored travelogue piece with one hundred mediocre places to go to and a shit tonne of pictures of blissed out, dull to the max girls who want you to feel their blessings when you just wanna find somewhere good to snack down and not burn any of your limited meals at hype monsters.  So while this might not be the be all and end all guide to Helsinki, this is a list of some of the good shit I saw in FUCK YEAH HELSINKI.

TL:DR FUCK YEAH HELSINKI

So, I never hear that many people going to Helsinki – everyone preferring Iceland, Denmark and all that jazz.  I mean, I get it – Iceland has all that fuck yeah scenery going for it and Björk, and Copenhagen has bronze mermaids and food shiz like Noma and its compatriots.  But fuck, you guys should also get on the HEL YEAH Helsinki train for a cheeky fuck yeah stopover if you want a small, very walkable city which has to offer many fuck yeah noms, clean as fuck Scandi aesthetics and super friendly fuck yeah Finns.  I think three to four nights is probably a good bet and if you had more time you could probably do some nature based day trips outside of Helsinki or catch a ferry to Tallinn in Estonia).  Either way, I was way into Helsinki and give it a HEL YEAH FUCK YEAH.

FUCK YEAH PICS

For all of you fucks who can’t be bothered to read my shit, you can just check out the very handy FYN #fynhel hashie on Instagram.  Fuck yeahhhhhh, no reading required.

FUCK YEAH FLYING HIGH

Do you know what fucks me off about travel reviews?  When blogs blab on about the great experience they had on X airline.  Fuck me, put me in business or even premium economy for free and I’ll write you a review so glowing you’ll be able to put my ass in a lantern and use it to show you the way through the dark mines of bullshit blogging commercialism. However, I’m a tight ass and I always fly at the back of the plane so I can save more money for eats and I’m more often than not, in the middle seat, so this is gonna be some FYN Real Flyin’ Talk.

I flew Finnair for the first time and made a short stay in Helsinki as part of a European trip and guys, it was so fucking good (even from my very unblessed long haul economy position).  After years of enduring #lifewelltravelled Cathay We Have Systematically Destroyed All the Value in Our Brand and Customer Loyalty by Gutting the Fuck Out of the Marco Polo Program and Completely Eliminating Any Service Proposition But it’s the Fuel Prices Which Caused Our Bad Profits No Really Pacific, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.  From the above average plane meal, good natured hosties, offers of multiple snacks (Oh Cathay, don’t think I haven’t forgotten how you wouldn’t even give me a fuckin’ cup noodle on a 7+ hour flight because you claimed that you only serve meals), a decent amount of space and my fuck yeah, Marimekko themed blanket, this was as good as it could be for any 12+ hour flight in the cheap seats.  OH and there was fuck yeah wifi in the sky for EUR19 for the whole flight.  Fuck no to ever enduring long haul without wifi ever again:

nowifi

Even better news for my faithful HK Cathay Pacific Hos who can’t quit that abusive relationship, Finnair are oneworld so you can still get those minimal airmiles.  Nevertheless, Finnair, imma coming for you again.  FUCK YEAH.

FUCK YEAH LOGISTICS

Who the fuck wants to read pages of information in I’m so Lonely Planet or a bunch of poorly designed government pages?  Here’s the real skinny on the good shit to get you out of the airport and into Helsinki ASAP:

  • Language:  The official language of Finland is Finnish.  However, Finland has fuck yeah levels of English.  You’re going to be so fucking spoilt – signs and websites are all in English and everyone speaks flawless English.  Fuck yeahhhh, easy language times!!
    yourworldis
  • Tourist info:  When you leave the departures section and head towards the train station, you’ll see a tourist info desk.  There’s maps, guides regarding what’s on and they can also answer all your questions.
  • SIM card:  Who the fuck wants to travel without data?  Once you roll out of the Airport departure section (but still within the complex), you’ll see a R Kiosk convenience store where you can buy a SIM card.  I got one from DNA, which charged on a per day basis and it didn’t cost me that much for a shit tonne of data for about EUR10.
  • Lockers:  If you need to stash shit, it’s on the level below departures.  Look for the Burger King, take the escalators down and there’s lockers which are EUR5 for small and EUR6 for large per 24 hours.  It only takes credit cards and you’ll need a pin.  I had to try five different credit cards before I could get one to work, so be ready homies.
  • Transportation:  Sure, you could take a taxi (about EUR50 to get into the city) but trains are efficient and cheap in Helsinki.  Once you’ve cruised past the Tourist Info and the R Kiosk, you’ll eventually see the train ticket machines.  Most of them are credit card only.  You can either buy a single ticket (EUR5) or a day ticket (EUR14) which will let you catch buses / trains / trams.  You’ll wanna go to Helsinki Central and it takes about 30 minutes from the airport.  There are no bullshit stair sections (like Tokyo) so you’ll be good with your large luggage.  You should also download the HSL app so you can buy tickets while you’re in town without cash.  To catch the tram, it’s EUR3.20 for an 80 minute ticket.  Same applies for buses but fuck catching buses when you’re a tourist and you have fuck all idea on where you’re going.
  • Uber:  I opened the app and saw about two of them cruising around all of Helsinki.  I don’t think it’s a thing here.
  • Taxis:  I barely saw any roaming about, I think it’s a get your hotel to call them for you scenario.  Taxis will take credit card.
  • Cash:  Euros.  Almost everywhere accepts credit cards, even smaller market stalls

FUCK YEAH LODGINGS

My style when it comes to hotels is I want somewhere convenient, well priced, clean and modern.  I don’t need to pay for five star ultraluxe shit when I’d rather be plowing that cash straight into fuck yeah noms vs a doorman who calls me by my name.  I stayed at the Hotel Indigo Helsinki – Boulevard and it was an affordable and decent fuck yeah.  Would I gush over it and say it was the best ever? Probably not.  But from a price point (EUR120ish+ a night) to service, availability of fast and free wifi and its location, it’s a fuck yeah.  Added bonus, there’s a Nespresso machine in the room which is a big deal if you’re someone like me who needs to mainline coffee in the mornings to get moving and that instant shit isn’t going to cut it.  I’d potentially try somewhere else just for something different if I returned but if I couldn’t find anywhere else, I’d happily go back here.

FUCK YEAH NOMS

I wasn’t ready for just how epic I found eating in Helsinki.  I thought it’d be pretty good but I think I was just really into how they approached produce, referenced traditional Finnish food and then made it into something new which had clarity in direction and purpose.  I gotta confess, I was passed an awesome list from Jaakko Sarso (who’s the Head Chef of FINDS in HK) that he’d put together for someone else and maybe this is why my Helsinki eats were so fucking tight.  Either way, Helsinki, you made my heart beat real and true and I hope others get the opportunity to press their palms against your confident, culinary ways and find beautiful love that shines dazzling and pure, like glass made from your clearest Helsinki skies.

davechapelle-thinking-about-you

Word of warning for Helsinki restaurants:  Girl, this isn’t Asia where people need to bust their ass 24/7 just to survive, so don’t waltz in expecting everything to be open whenever you fucking want.  A lot of shit is closed on Sunday / Mondays and also for certain Summer periods.  Check your dates and days carefully when planning your eats.  I got stuck on a Sunday morning for breakfast and even the (in)convenience stores weren’t open until midday.

Tipping at Helsinki restaurants:  Almost all restaurants seem to include a service charge.  I am not sure if this goes to the waitstaff or not.  From my online research, I understand that tipping is not expected and based on the meals where we did tip or leave change, there was a distinct sense that it wasn’t expected and sometimes even a little bit awkward.  If I’ve got any Finnish homies who wanna give me the definitive low down, hit me up in the comments below.

  • Restaurant Ask:  I’ve been subjected to so many overpriced, disappointing and mediocre meals when travelling because of the Michelin Guide that I’m wary as fuck and don’t go hunting this shit down as often as I used to.  However, Restaurant Ask (one Michelin star) was one of the best meals that I had in Helsinki.  A small restaurant which doesn’t feel stiff (while still keeping the table cloths) with laser sharp service and more importantly, a menu which is focussed on organic produce and showcasing nuanced and modern Finnish flavours.  Fuck yeahhh, the realisation that there’s still a place for fine dining but it doesn’t mean 3+ hour menus of over-tweezed food and hushed dining rooms.
    Price:  EUR49 for the four course lunch menu and EUR45 for the wine package.  I added a few more courses with more wine and coffee and rolled out at EUR150 in total.
    Booking:  Online available and most definitely required – lock this one in as soon as you book your tickets.
    Verdict:  FUCK YEAH.
  • Basbas and Staff Wine Bar:  Unfortunately their bistro is closed on Sundays so I took my first dinner and wine at this casual and cosy as fuck wine bar.  I watched cool Finnish peeps hang with their tattooed friends and dogs, chatting over much wine.  It was meant to be just snacks but they were so good, it ended up becoming a bang bang before our planned dinner.  The burrata served on pesto with white anchovy is one of those dishes you’ll remember forever because it was just so fucking good.  Super relaxed and knowledgeable wine bros who asked what you were into and made stellar fuck yeah recommendations which weren’t too predictable either.
    Price:  Small snacks from EUR6+.  I can’t remember on wine but it wasn’t outrageous.
    Booking:  Nah mate, it’s a wine bar.
    Verdict:  Most definitely a fuck yeah for casual wine bar times.
  • Restaurant Grön:  One of the hot as fuck restaurants in Helsinki, which specialises in all that usual hipster restaurant bullshit which I’m such a sucker for.  You know the plays – largely plant based, foraging, local produce, preservation and pickling.  There’s going to be all sorts of little touches like sunflower seeds in pine dust, salt which includes dried wildflowers from this year and last year (daisy, taggart, nasturtium and meadowsweet) and food where every element on the plate actually means something from a flavour perspective. UGH, I’m so fucking predictable but I ate this produce story up and fucking loved it all.  It’s quite a small space with an open kitchen where you can see three chefs hauling some serious Scandi ass in there.  They sometimes even leave the kitchen to serve and explain your food.  To all my pretentious, food lovin’ homies, you gotta get in here if you’re ever in Helsinki.
    Price:  EUR49 for the four course dinner menu (two starters, a main and a dessert) – and it’s definitely enough food.  I actually thought I’d ordered the additional Fish course but when it didn’t arrive, I was grateful.  No matching wine available, but wine list is reasonable in price (our bottle cost EUR65).
    Booking:  Online available and get onto this shit ASAP as soon as you book your tickets.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeah – especially if you’re into that foraged local produce and vegetable hipster shit.
  • Bronda:  A beautiful restaurant with a bar up the front, high ceilings and bright natural light and clean wooden furniture.  A menu which swings more continental Europe with a strong Mediterranean tilt (vs specifically Finland) and I’d recommend it as a lunch place or swing in for casual evening drinks. I had this OFF THE CHAIN, Salmon Stew in “Basque” Style, which had huge pieces of roasted salmon with crispy skin dotted with saffron aioli, slow cooked octopus, chunks of chorizo sausage, braised fennel all in a garlic flavoured tomato saffron broth and fresh dill. Every fucking thing in this dish exploded with colour and fuck yeah flavour and that salmon was just something else.
    Price:  Small snacks EUR5 – 8.  Mains around EUR25 – 30ish.
    Booking:  Online available but it’s a huge dining room, you can probably chance this with a walk in.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeah.  I will dream about that salmon stew for as long as breath can enter this body.
  • Sea Horse:  If you want to take a break from all that riffing on traditional Finnish food and go for the all out, classic Finnish experience, then Sea Horse is your restaurant.  Established in 1936, kitschy as fuck decor with plenty of pink neon, there is nothing trendy or modern about this place and is definitely a place for tourists.  I wouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination say that the Beef Steak a la Sea Horse is going to be the best meal you have in Helsinki like the folk at Monocle claim but I most definitely did enjoy the Lohiketto (Finnish salmon soup) and the fried steaks of Baltic herring with with blue cheese-red onion filling, mashed potatoes and pickled beetroot was straight forward, comforting as fuck and allegedly unchanged since the 1950s.  Sometimes living in the past ain’t all bad.
    Price:  Mains are around EUR20 – 40.
    Booking:  I’m sure you could call them but we walked in on a Saturday night with no issues.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeah for traditional Finnish food but I wouldn’t go back on a return visit to Helsinki.
  • Ekberg 1852:  Ekberg operates a cafe, bakery, patisserie and a delicatessen.  It’s also one of the few places that are open for a Sunday breakfast / brunch because the rest of Helsinki is at home, enjoying their life and not working.  The brunch here is traditional Finnish style – cold cuts, cheese, bread, rice pudding and cereal (lolz, like I went near that).  I wouldn’t say that eating here is essential but you should absolutely and without doubt hit up their bakeries for their baked goods.  I recommend the korvapuusti, which is a Finnish cinnamon roll which translates to “slapped ear”.  Spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and topped with pearl sugar, I took down two of these rolls in bed and I greatly regret that I don’t have access to these yeasty buns no more. Pulla pulla pulla, you don’t treat me no good no more??
    Price:  I can’t remember, but baked goods were not expensive.  Breakfast brunch was around EUR20.
    Booking:  No online bookings.  I walked in for Sunday brunch (right at open) but recommend calling in a booking as many of the places were reserved.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeahhh cause Finnish carb life with all the pulla (cinnamon spiced buns) = best life.
  • Juuri:  Billed as Modern Finnish, this casual place seemed like it had potential.  Relatively good prices and friendly service, it has small plates for sharing (Sapas = Suomi Tapas) for little bites which reference Finnish ingredients.  However, as the meal moved on, it was clear that Juuri had bigger ideas than they could pull off.  And I knew it was all over once I got served a plate which was meant to be cauliflower presented in different forms and one of it was an almost burnt tempura piece which I had to check with the waitress to see what it was (cauliflower) and ugh, a cauliflower foam.  Like really guys, are we still doing this foam thing??cocktaoofoam
    Price:  Sapas are around EUR8, with mains are around EUR25.  The five course tasting menu was EUR56.
    Booking:  Online is available, but no need to book months in advance.  Recommend making a booking if you are interested (but read the verdict first).
    Verdict:  Squarely one of those restaurants which has some good concepts but just couldn’t pull it off.  Fuck no.

FUCK YEAH MARKETS

  • Helsinki Market Square:  It’s a bit of a tourist trap but amongst the reindeer pelts and I Love Finland beanies this is a good opportunity to hit up some traditional Finnish snacks at reasonable prices in one location.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeahhhhhh
  • Things you should look to try:
    • Lohiketto – a creamy salmon soup made with dill and filled with potato and carrots.
    • Lihapiirakka – meat pie (it looks like a giant fried doughnut ball, which it esentially is, but stuffed with minced meat and rice).  Fuck yeahhhh, carbs on carbs.  Wash it down with a cup of shitty coffee because the Finns drink the most coffee in the world and there’s only terrible coffee available at the market.
    • Salmon plate – near the ocean side, there’s a few stores that will sell plates of grilled salmon with fried vendace (a small white fish) topped with creamy dill sauce and lemon.
    • Reindeer sausage – at the same place of the salmon plate, some will sell a reindeer sausage which is A1 fucking delicious.
    • Moose meatballs – it’s probably touristy as fuck but with a bit of lingonberry jam and some garlic sauce, I thoroughly enjoyed getting my fuck yeah tourist on.
    • Fresh produce – there’s so many stalls selling fresh berries which look off the hook.  If it’s in season, I’d recommend getting a litre of fresh green peas.  These little fuckers will be so sweet, you can just pop them open and eat them raw.
  • Hietalahden Kauppahalli – first of all, don’t be fooled by the website or the internet saying this shit opens at 8am.  I wouldn’t bother getting here until 12pm because Helsinki is not an early morning city.  Contains a number of newer style casual restaurants (including Japanese).  I had some kick ass soup at SOPPAKEITTIÖ (opens at 11am).  There’s a flea market out the front if you want to buy some Fin’s second hand rubbish for big prices.  Yes, flea markets seem the same the world over.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeah food market, fuck no flea market.
  • Hakaniemi Market Hall – a lot of tourist guides say to go here but I’m not into it at all.  The ground floor seems more suited to people who actually live in Helsinki and can cook that shit up and the second floor is just full of bullshit tourist tat.  Unless you really wanna buy half a raw cow and chill out with it in your hotel room or something. You’ll be better off at Hietalahden Kauppahalli.
    Verdict:  Fuck no.

FUCK YEAH DRANKS

  • A21 Decades Cocktail Bar:  A cocktail bar which claims to have been awarded The Best Bar in Finland and The Best Bar in the World (not sure by who), it’s stylish but also doesn’t take itself so seriously which I’m into.  There’s nothing worse than walking into a bar and feeling your entire spirit being crushed by a whole load of cocktail wank off.  With a long ass menu which references the 1990s, childhood feelings, different areas of Finland and a map showing you how to form your perfect gin and tonic based on your flavour preferences, this is a place which takes fuck yeah cocktails seriously whether it’s the old classics or new and exciting house twists.  After a week of slamming through Helsinki eats, I found the Finnish section the most interesting.  I had two cocktails 1) the Isokari Sour using sea buckthorn jam as its base with cinnamon, orange, lemon and Jalovina. 2) the Helsinki Cocktail which used Absolut Vodka, Cardamom, Smooth Prince espresso, Lemon and Raspberry vinagrette, topped with a crunchy piece of rye bread and fresh lingonberries.  Served on an over the top tray with a slab of rock and some dried vegetation it was a little bit sweet, tart around the edges, referencing the Finnish berries that’s been spliced into my food all week and then there were the spices which hint at colder times around the corner.
    Price:  Cocktails range from EUR10 to EUR15.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeah!
  • Roster:  After slogging through Market Square and gorging yourself on all the local food, you can make a pit stop at Roster.  Relatively new with a large space inside, there’s also an outdoor section for you to chill out and drink fuck yeah cocktails from or choose from their fuck yeah wine list.  There’s a restaurant too which is meant to be good but I was full as fuck post my market adventures so just drank cocktails instead.
    Price:  Cocktails were around EUR10 to EUR15.  Wine list has a good range of prices from reasonable to really fucking expensive.
    Booking:  Online booking available for their restaurant.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeah!

FUCK YEAH ATTRACTIONS

  • Loyly:  Loyly means the steam that rises from pouring water onto the rocks in a sauna.  Accordingly, Loyly is a modern public sauna and restaurant which was only completed in 2016.  It’s a fucking stunning building, designed by Avanto Architects.  An angular wooden building which looks over the sea.  There’s two saunas (dry heat and a smokey sauna where you can hit yourself with a birch branch), a fireplace where you can sit around and have drinks (I’d recommend the Long Drink – a Finnish drink consisting of grapefruit and gin and an after swimming shot, the Sauna Barrel vodka where they keep the vodka in barrels made from the wood of a sauna) and you can even throw yourself into the sea like a true Finn.  I’m an Aussie softcock, so water of 14C seemed cold as fuck to me and I was screaming like a little bitch as I lowered myself in but as the kind Finnish lady next to me told me politely, “It’s not that cold, it’s still liquid isn’t it?”.  GET IN THE SEA YA STRAYAN PUSSY.  It’s a mixed sauna so make sure to bring your swimmers because it’s a no nude policy.
    Price:  EUR19 for 2 hours of locker hire / sauna use.
    Booking:  Booking online is available – recommended.
    Verdict:  FUCK YEAH, this was one of the highlights of my whole Helsinki trip.  You gotta go homies.
  • Designmuseo Design Museum:  A comprehensive overview of Finland’s history of design from interiors, household goods, electronics and consumables.  Spread across three levels, you can probably clear this in less than an hour.
    Price:  EUR10 for entry.
    Verdict:  For design homies, you gotta go.  Fuck yeahhh, Finnish design!
  • Suomenlinna Sea Fortress:  A short 10 – 15 minute ferry ride from Market Square in Helsinki (EUR3.20) these this World Heritage site shows the historic maritime fortress structures built on a group of islands.  There’s small cafes dotted around so you can stop in for food and drink, as well as the usual tourist gift shops. Try and pick a nice day and feel your lungs reel from sucking in that clean Finnish air and enjoying the views of the impossibly scenic Finnish coast line.  There’s a few museums as well – I happen to have a soft spot for military museums and the Military Museum’s Manege (EUR7 for entry) was interesting.  This small museum will give you an overview of the Finnish Defence Forces and how they ended up in a serious fuck no position in World War II /Winter War where they got fucked on by the Soviets decided that they wanted Finland to be part of the USSR, forced to ally with the Germans and when that all went pear shaped, the Germans then also fucked on Finland by destroying a bunch of bridges and shit on the way out.  Fuck no to annexing countries that aren’t yours and fucking up essential infrastructure when you leave a country. I sure hope the Russian translations were a little bit pointed in this part of the museum.why-would-you-do-thatPrice:  Free.  Entry fees for museums.  EUR7 for entry to the Military Museum.
    Verdict:  Fuck yeah!

FUCK YEAH MATERIAL SHIT

I’m not the biggest shopper because I’d rather spend my bucks on fuck yeah noms and fuck yeah dranks.  It’s also because I’m not defined by material things but by my fuck yeah Instagram and my fuck yeah FB page (so please, like the fuck out of it already).  Some shit to check out though:

  • World of Tre: Located near the Helsinki Central train station, TRE is a flagship store for Finnish design in with over 300 brands and 90% of it coming from Finland.  There’s a cool range of fuck yeah design, furniture, lifestyle products, organic cosmetics and fashion which is perfect if you’ve got more discerning homies who don’t want tourist fuck no tat from the markets.
  • Nide: Bookshop with a good range of English and Finnish books.  Buy that cookbook full of Finnish recipes which you’ll never use.  Buy cute as fuck postcards and greeting cards.
  • Marimekko:  I mean, it’s not my bag (literally), but I guess you are in its birthplace?  Go hang out with all the Japanese tourists who are literally doing their Mecca to Marimekko.
  • Helsinki Design District:  While this website has a helpful map to show you particular design related aspects of Helsinki (art, interiors, fashion, food), I found this one more useful which outlines walking routes you can take.  Just be careful which day you do this on because a lot of shit is closed on Sundays / Mondays

Sorry, no clothing store recommendations because I live in Singapore and almost everything I saw in Finland would cause me to spontaneously combust if I dared to wear it outside in the hot hot SG heat.

FUCK NO, SHIT OUT OF TIME

Here’s a list of shit that I heard was good but didn’t get time to go.  If one of you assholes get there, go and check shit out and report back to me:

  • OLO:  Three different restaurants – OLO (fine dining, one Michelin star), Creative Kitchen (which only runs on Wednesday to Saturday nights) and their more casual OLO Garden restaurant.  I did try and get into OLO / Creative Kitchen but couldn’t get a booking.  To be honest, OLO might have the potential of being a little fussy and I was more excited about Restaurant Gron and Ask, so wasn’t that devastated that it didn’t pan out.
  • Restaurant Jord:  The new little, more casual sister to Restaurant Ask.  I didn’t book it because I didn’t want to double up on disappointment if Restaurant Ask was bad.  However, I’d definitely check this one out next time I’m in Helsinki.
  • Farang:  Modern Asian restaurant which is talked about very favourably but fuck, I live in Asia.  I ain’t got time for that!  Sister restaurant to Bronda.
  • Liberty or Death:  Cocktail bar which looked stylistic as fuck but I just didn’t make it in time.
  • GROTESK Bar:  Bar

FUCK YEAH FEEDBACK

So that’s the Helsinki Fuck Yeah HEL Yeah drum – let me know in the comments if you ever use any of the above or if you’ve got your own Helsinki Fuck Yeah tips.

Where:
Bistro November
50 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089154

Phone:
+65 6347 1928

Price:
SGD78 (+17% tax) for the dinner tasting menu.

The deal:
Bistro November is a pop-up dining concept by Chef John-Paul (JP) Fiechtner which is, as the name suggests, only sticking around until November 2017 when the lease runs out.  I’m not sure what Chef JP’s plan is post this date and whether he’s going to keep living that fuck yeah Singapore good life with Bistro November resurfacing in another format / location.  Regardless of the short time frame this place is going to be open, it doesn’t feel too slapped together, with the Bistro November team keeping shit simple – using existing furniture and various pieces from thrift shops to give it that modern hipster feel.  It definitely has a Melbourne feel to it, except there isn’t some Melbourne asshole next to me telling me about how goddamn liveable Melbourne is, babbling about trams and small bars and for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever – Melbourne coffee.  Every other review will probably describe its interior as “quirky” but that word makes me want to punch myself in the face, so I’ll just go with carefully put together.  The website trots out the usual tat about using “local and seasonal ingredients sourced daily from the nearby Chinatown Wet Market” and it’s this ethos which supports a handwritten menu which changes daily.

Starting with the bread which is stated as being from “friends”, there’s a few different types and it’s served with a house-made miso butter.  The bread is largely A1 good times with some fuck yeah sourdoughs, except for the inclusion of my nemesis, fucking brioche which is predictably a bit dry and a bit crap. Maybe the 1,256th time I try brioche I’ll actually think “Wow, I much prefer this dried out piece of shit over bread” but I haven’t reached that point yet.  There’s some fuss by the waiter about their house-made miso butter which sounds like it should be exciting, with the fermented miso getting along with the creamy butter but in its execution it’s a hard lump which doesn’t spread, just disintegrating into weird, hard, fatty pieces (despite it being at room temperature).   Not sure what’s going on in the House of Home Made Miso Butter, but it appears you’re the rightful King of What’s the Fucking Point and Lord of the Crumbles. Bistro November move past their butter related failures and kick a goal though, with its Fromage de Tete (head cheese) cause there’s nothing like some jellied pig head meat terrine to eat with some fuck yeah bread to get a meal really started.

One of my fave fuck yeah dishes of the night is the barley porridge.  Fuck, I know right – who serves a porridge course unless you’re at breakfast at a health retreat, in prison or at the three bears’ house? Bistro November has fermented the barley and then mixed it with the prawn head butter (ie. the flavourful gunk inside the prawn head that all fuck yeah Asians in the know suck out of the prawn head).  It’s rich, deep in flavour and fucking delicious.  Yeah, I get into the spirit of being Goldilocks flaunting her white privilege while criminally supping on baby bear’s breakfast, because Bistro November’s porridge is, as the fairy tales go, SO FUCKING RIGHT.

poohbearlittlesomething

FYN side note:  Does this GIF now get FYN banned in China?

Our mega main is up next, with a golden pomfret served with beurre noisette.  There’s three of us and the waitress lets us know that it’s normally one fish between two people but with three people, it’s too awkward to split so they’ve given us two whole fish. GO FISH MY GENEROUS NOVEMBER MOTHERFUCKERS, I’m into it.  The pomfret is served whole and on the bone, so if you haven’t got homies who are a) not into fish b) can’t serve / debone a fish (ie. white homies), you are shit out of luck.  Lucky for us, we had enough fuck yeah talent at our table to get shit done and it is fucking sensational.  Fresh as fuck steamed pomfret, topped with onions, edamame and mussels, served with the browned butter in the sauce taking on an almost nutty flavour.  Our table tore through both fish in its entirety.

Less successful was the side dish of homemade soy curd and sour cucumber that was served with it.  It was one of those dishes which makes sense in theory but its execution let it down.  Like, I get that the acidity of the cucumber pickle should have played out against the fat of the beurre noisette, with the tofu bringing a textural and a slightly cooling contrast to the crisp pickle and complementing the the soft flesh of the pomfret.  However, in real life, I was more like “Why am I eating slightly grainy tofu with a piece of flaccid cucumber which isn’t sour or crunchy enough to cut through shit?”.  Cool idea Bistro homies and I know you fucking tried with that home made shiz but fuckkk, shit didn’t quite get to the end goal.  More importantly, why would you want to serve anything to detract from that magnificent fuck yeah pomfret??

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Dessert is chocolate heavy – a raw cacao based cake topped with ice-cream and dried chocolate.  I don’t necessarily get that hot and heavy for chocolate but this one was a fuck yeah because it wasn’t just a slog through a sweet, chocolatey one note mess. Well balanced with a good use of textures, the addition of shiso gave it a slightly spicy, herbal note and with a touch of salt, just brought a solid fuck yeah balance to it and a solid close to the menu.

Service at Bistro November was also tight as fuck, with our two waitresses bringing big smiles all night and attentive service.  In a Singapore blessing, they were actually walking the floor AND noticing when you needed help.

Overall, Bistro November is bringing something interesting to the table by riffing on locally sourced ingredients and mixing it with different techniques, flavours and ingredients that you might not have had before.  Which is interesting and for the most part, they land it.  Of course, with such an ambitious task to change their menu as frequently as they do, you also get the feeling that this is a space for the chefs to try some ideas they’ve had kicking around in their head and to see what lands before Bistro November reaches the end of its lease and the chefs re-emerge at their next venture.  I’d recommend Bistro November for adventurous homies who want to perhaps try something new which will hit some fuck yeahs, they’ll be a few mediocre points where the experiment hasn’t paid off but at least the service will be on point and you’ll have a fuck yeah time and the experience will show you something new about food as well.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah! But get into it ASAP homies cause in the words of Axl Rose, nothin’ lasts forever, even cold hot SG November rain bistros.

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Where:
Kaum Jakarta
Jl. Dr. Kusuma Atmaja
No. 77 – 79, Menteng,
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia

FYN Hot Tip:  My taxi driver got so super fucking lost trying to take me here and it doesn’t really appear to be in an obvious location.  Study up your maps before you embark, especially if you don’t have mobile data.

Phone:
+62 813-8171-5256 (fuck yeahhhhh, they take bookings!!!!)

Price:
About Rp600,000 (USD45/HKD350) after all the Indonesian ++++service but REAL TALK, this would have been much less if I hadn’t gone on my own, Nofriendo style, and eaten the equivalent of two to three people’s worth of food.  I’d estimate probably Rp300,000 – 400,000 a person.

The deal:
Kaum is run by the Potato Head Family, which I am all about because while it may have started off as a beachside club beloved by Aussies who were getting their eat, pray, Bogan on in Seminyak, Bali, they’ve turned themselves into a bit of a well thought out monster with bars and restaurants across Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta.  Kaum in Jakarta has only just opened, billed as the flagship location, following branches being established in HK (fuck yeah review here) and Bali.

When I arrived at Kaum, I asked for a table for one and I saw the front desk look at my quizically, not quite comprehending if they’d heard me correctly. “One?”, she asks me with one brow arched incredulously. Yes it’s true my Kaum homies, I don’t ever wanna feel like I did that day and I assure you that it’s just me for dinner tonight.

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The inside of Kaum is pretty fucking incredible. Set inside a restored colonial house, it’s decked out in signature Kaum style, referencing the traditional craft of Indonesia’s ethnic tribes.  Clean wooden furniture, long tables for people that have friends to dine with (i.e. Not me), teal accents and an off-white concrete wall, pressed with Dayak patterns.  With the high ceilings soaring far above my head, there’s a theatrical art installation by Jompet Kuswidananto which sees the random thud and rattle of drums punctuate the space.  Amongst the dull hum of the restaurant and the echoing drum beats, I can’t help but think of Kaum HK which may be stylish as fuck but it can be a claustrophobic, cacophonous space when it’s running at full tilt. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how considered your interior design team is, there’s no way to design your way out of the restrictive sky high rents of Sai Ying Pun in Hong Kong.

My waiter homie sidles up to my table and talks me through the menu. Kaum is all about showing you the traditional dishes of different tribes in Indonesia while sourcing ingredients locally.  I know every fucking restaurant is all about local, sustainable sourcing before they litter their menu with pork from Spain, salmon from Scotland and cows from Japan, but Kaum is really walking the serious local sourcing walk.  Kaum even locally source their salt from 32 salt farmers from Amed in Karangasem, Bali. After taking my order, my waiter pauses awkwardly and gestures towards the setting opposite me, pausing to ask if anyone else is coming.  I shake my head and sit in friendless shame as she silently clears the extra table setting. “OH GOD, I AM SO TERRIBLY ALONE”, I think to myself as I plan my solo assault on Kaum’s menu (which largely resembles the HK menu).  Lucky for my wounded soul, the Sate Buntel Acar Rujak (Rp120,000 +20% tax/service charge) is there to be the panacea to my homieless isolation.  Taken from Solo, Central Java this grilled minced goat satay is just so fucking good.  A complete flavour bomb which squares up firmly in your face with the bold, goat meat, the piquant pickled rujak-style vegetables and the accompanying sauce made from torch ginger flower, red chilli and sweet soy sauce.  I’m crying from the pain in my lonely heart but I’m also trying to find room in my heart for all these immense feelings I have for this satay which want to burst forth from my chest.

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Given how many dishes I’d ordered, I’d decided to skip the rice. I know, carb life = best life but sometimes when you wanna smash five dishes on your own you’ve got to prioritise your shit. However, my delightful waiter’s eyes lit up and gently yet firmly asked “Are you sure?“. I asked her why, she went on a passionate speech about how Kaum’s rice is a type called “Mentik Susu” from Magelang in Central Java, which means milky rice, and how it was gorgeous and fragrant and in her opinion, vital to my meal. When someone talks about carbs with that much light in her eyes, I know that I’ve got no other choice but to listen, harden the fuck up and go with MOAR CARBS.  Yessss my carb pushing homie, imma coming with you and I for one agree with you that Kaum’s specifically sourced and selected nasi putih which is cooked via traditional methods (instead of the easy way with a rice cooker) is straight out major and I hope the light of fuck yeah carbs also shone bright in my own eyes. I even ate the rice just with the Sambal Ikan Asin (Rp20,000 +20% tax/service charge) from Java, made with salted grilled whitebait and red chilli relish.  YASSSS, sometimes it’s all about finding unbridled fuck yeah happiness in a pure and simple format.

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The Kerang Jahe Dan Cabai (Rp68,000++) from Bangka Island was also so fucking good. Steamed fresh clams with lemongrass, garlic, scallions and ginger. Slightly briny but accentuated with the freshness of the lemongrass and ginger, I scooped wherever spare sauce I could into my rice while giving silent thanks to my waiter homie’s insistence upon not pussying out on the extra carbs.

The Burung Puyuh Makon Goreng (Rp65,000 +20% tax/service charge) from North Sulawesi was gonna be my quailsong, my fuck you to having friends, as my solo dining status meant I wouldn’t be forced to share a tiny bird with multiple homies.  Unfortunately, the tiny quail’s body has not emerged in its best state, post frying.  It’s a shame because despite the dried out quail, its sauce is fucking gorgeous made from lemongrass, ginger, red chilli and fresh lime relish.

I am well into SE Asian desserts and as soon as I read the menu, I knew that I had to have the Kue Lumpur Bubur Ketan Hitam (Rp45,000 +20% tax/service charge) from Java in my life.  Described as a “Mud cake served with sticky black rice porridge”, it’s important to note that while “Kue Lumpur” might translate directly to “mud cake”, it’s not the mud cake that we’re used to in a Western context, i.e. stodgy and packed full of chocolate.  Kue lumpur is more like a firm custard pudding, made with coconut milk, sugar and eggs. It’s giving me some Portugese egg tart vibes but not as sweet.  It’s topped with some sort of nut, that’s kinda like a cashew but doesn’t match from a textural perspective.  I hit my waiter homie up and after checking with the kitchen, they confirm it’s a kenari nut from Maluku which I think is a far superior substitution for the commonly favoured though often gross, kue lumpur topping, the raisin. Kaum’s kue lumpur has been torched over the charcoal grill, giving it a caramelised finish and when eaten with the sticky black rice which has been sweetened and had coconut milk added to it, it’s a fucking phenomenal way to end a fuck yeah meal.

As I wait in the garden area outside Kaum, a polite waiter keeps me company while we wait for my taxi to arrive.  My waiter homie makes earnest and friendly conversation about where I’m from, my experience at Kaum in Hong Kong and what I thought of Jakarta. I tell him that I thought the food was better here than at Kaum HK, but I’m also not surprised because obviously, Indonesian food should be fucking better when you’re actually in Indonesia. He beams proudly, a piercing white smile while he profusely thanks me and wishes me a great stay in Jakarta. We say goodbyes and then a parting missive, like a gunshot ricocheting across a deserted field he asks me one last time “Are you here alone?“.

imbymyself

The cock crows as I think about denying this for the third time, but instead I shake my head and get into my taxi.  As I crawl through traffic and away into the night, I press one hand against the smudgy glass of my Bluebird taxi and I gaze at the starless smog choked skies of Jakarta, pondering the crushing weight of the reality of my situation.  Yes, I am alone.  So alone.  But aren’t we all, in some way, my well meaning waiter homie?

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhhhh!! All the fuck yeahs for a restaurant which is so invested in where it’s ingredients are from, where it’s dishes originate from and showing me more than I previous knew about Indonesian food.  I thought about this meal the whole next day, reflecting on just how fucking flavourful everything was.  So perhaps I’m really not that alone, cause my eyes are open and I’ve found the warm and comforting embrace of fuck yeah Indonoms to hold me through the night.

Where:
Happy Paradise
UG/F 52-56 Staunton Street (Entrance on Aberdeen Street)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2816 2118 (but predictably, NO FUCKING RESERVATIONS)

Price:
We got out at HKD650ish per person, including two drinks each.  The receipt claims that all service charge/tips goes directly to the staff which I give a resounding FUCK YEAH.

The deal:
May Chow’s latest restaurant, with John Javier as Executive Chef, occupies the space where the old Butchers Club Steak Frites (RIP) joint used to be, above Stanzione Novella.  Whoever would have thought that charging too much cash for steak frites when every second restaurant opening in 2015 was a steak frites place would not have the staying power to limp through the battlefield of fad hungry HK consumers and nefarious HK landlords, driven wild by the desire of always getting more?

Snippy obvious observations aside, Happy Paradise is stylistic as fuck though and you can read any number of reviews of Happy Paradise and tick off the following phrases like a restaurant review bingo board – “neo-Cantonese”, “neon filled dive bar”, “80s inspired”, “modern cha chaan teng” and “cantopop soundtrack”.  For me, it reminds me of a glossier version of the old Forever Lounge in Tai Hang (before they renovated themselves only slightly to take some of the edges out), shiny purple and pink neon but without the buckets of Blue Girl, slightly sticky worn out furnishings and the heavy, weary acceptance written across the faces of tobacco soaked older men.

Our waiter is immediately onto us all Misty Copeland style (ie. ON POINT) and setting us straight on how to order our drinks and food. The drinks menu is split into two pages, one named “easy” and the other “adventurous”.  No, it’s not just how I like my eggs paramours but Happy Paradise’s code for drinks that are best before dinner (“easy”) and ones after food (“adventurous”).  I get the “Pink Flamingo” (HKD118 +10% service charge), Jamaican rum, passionfruit, Campari and lime, which shows a fuck yeah balance between sweet, bitter and acid.  Keeping with the pink theme, I sneak a sip of my homie’s “Swoon Lee” (HKD108 +10% service charge), white rum and watermelon with a salted black lime rim, reminding me of the salty lemon lemonades I used to suck down in the cha chaan tengs.

Our first dish, is the Scallops “rice roll” (HKD110 +10% service charge) is the one dish that almost every single person who goes to Happy Paradise will tell you to order.  It’s a take on “cheung fan” (ie. rolled rice flour noodles) except pureed scallops are made into flat sheets which are steamed and then rolled.  Served with soy sauce and chilli oil, there’s only four tiny pieces. A flicker of concern dances across my psyche given that one of the concerns I had with Happy Paradise was spending all my money on stylish but tiny ass food for ants.  I guess my old fears die hard, especially given that May Chow is also behind Little Bao (yes I know, the clue is in the first half of the name).  Regardless, it is fucking delicious and an innovative take on this traditional Cantonese dish and reminds me of the upside down interpretations like the fucking amazing Mapo Tofu Burrata that you also get at May Chow’s other restaurant, Second Draft.

I was seriously jonesing for the cuttlefish toast, because it reminds me of my nostalgic Strayan childhood with bastardised versions of Chinese food like prawn toast.  But I also balk at paying HKD58 (+10% service charge) per person for tiny bits of deep fried bread.  I obviously don’t balk hard enough because I ordered it anyway and it’s fucking great.  Of course, how hard is it to fuck up deep frying things on white bread? Regardless, it’s a good combo with the sweetness of the cuttlefish brought out by the accompanying sweet corn puree and rounded out by the black garlic puree.  HKD58+ enjoyable for a few bites?  I’m not entirely convinced and make another entry into my ever increasing autobiographical tome, “The Carbs Made Me Do It“.

One of the specials when we were there was a cold steamed egg (HKD88 +10% service charge), which sounds fairly unremarkable.  But fuck, this was one of the most incredible dishes we had that night.  This steamed egg was the smoothest, silkiest thing that I’ve eaten in recent memory.  I don’t know how the fuck they got this egg into this wondrous state of being but one bite in and my heart is filled with the snaking guitar licks of Santana and before I know it, Rob Thomas is imploring me to “Give me your heart, make it real or else forget about it”.  YES, IT’S THAT FUCKING SMOOTH:

robthomassmooth

Topped with ginger, scallions and yuzu, there’s this green shoot on top which I can’t quite place.  I ask our waiter homie what is up with this slightly crunchy, not quite gelatinous vegetable and he tells me it’s ice plant that they’ve, quote, done some “special stuff” to.  Upon some research, I’ve since discovered it’s also known as kudzu and has the tendency to become an invasive species, choking ou the habitat of native vegetation.  Well, invade my heart Mr Ice Plant Man because I am most def into the way your unique, slightly stiff though yielding cellular structure is doing its thing against the smoothest, egg custard ever and is topped with the slightly sweet and vinegary dressing.

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We were pre-warned that the Tea Smoked Pigeon (HKD178 +10% service charge) comes out medium-rare.  Happy Paradise are not kidding and it comes out closer to rare.  I am ok with this though and I thoroughly enjoy every meaty, just cooked bite of this sky rat, with the follow through of the smokey tea.  I also like that Happy Paradise serve the whole bird up, its head attached traditional Chinese style and its scrawny limbs all askew.  Perhaps don’t order this if you have squeamish homies.  Or maybe a better alternative, find yourself better homies.

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The Yellow Wine Chicken (HKD328 +10% service charge) is the most expensive dish of the night.   It’s a fuck yeah, the slow cooked chicken served with a broth made from glutinous rice wine, Shaoxing, and mushrooms, topped with chrysanthemum petals and crispy puffed black and Japanese rice.  A chicken claw is perched just on the edge of the bowl, like it’s trying to make some bold but ultimately futile escape from its Shaoxing infused fuck yeah fate.

To close it out, we finish with the Char Siu Rice (HKD158 + 10% service charge).  It’s inevitable that everyone will compare this to their local char siu joint and how their local haunt is soooo much cheaper.  Happy Paradise’s char siu is leaner than what you’d traditionally find at your local BBQ shop and served on top of a deconstructed egg, the yolk forming the sauce and a egg white patty.  There’s a side plate of the locally produced, sweet Kowloon Soy Company soy sauce and an earthen pot shaped like a pig, which holds liquid lard for you to mix into your rice.  In combination with the rice, soy, egg and lard, it’s obvious that this magical equation is gonna come out at as a celestial FUCK YEAH. Live lard, play hard because for the sake of my heart’s health, I’m glad that lard isn’t served this way with everything I eat but for the sake of my heart’s happiness, I sure wish it was.

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I reflect upon this meal as the pulsating synth of Madonna’s 80s pop-new wave classic “Into the Groove” shimmies across the Happy Paradise landscape, it’s here I realise that for me, I’m into a place like Happy Paradise.  Why?  Because it’s a place which acknowledges where it comes from in both a time and place while dragging it unabashedly into a decade that’s sitting closer to 2020.  I think of how fucking bold it is to put yourself in whatever form that may be out there and not give a fuck what other people might think and in the candy tinged lighting and formica tabletops, Madonna closes out our night by singing about only feeling this free when she’s dancing.  In some sort of dramatic as fuck corollary, I can’t help but think that perhaps when you’re running your own kitchen and doing something that runs right down the vein of what you are as a chef, this must be your own version of throwing your head back and unapologetically dancing free.  And I’m so fucking into that.

Verdict:
I’m not convinced this is gonna be a hit for everyone but for someone who wants to see what a stylistic, new interpretation of HK food could be without resorting to smothering shu mai in truffles and gold flakes, it’s a resounding fuck yeah.

Where:
BlackSalt (FB Page)
14 Fuk Sau Lane,
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Price:
I’d estimate around HKD300ish per person, before booze/drinks.

Phone:
+852 3702 1237

FYN Hot Tip:  It’s not large and they have two seatings for Friday to Sunday service – so make sure you book if you wanna go and avoid fuck no disappointment.

The deal:
One of my FYN homies messaged me yonks ago about BlackSalt and they spoke with such passion that I was almost convinced they were a PRBot or even the owner, because they were running at the BlackSalt compliments as hard as a bunch of lads who’ve flown specifically to HK for Jonno’s Bucks at the HK Rugby Sevens.   However, after sustained grilling and being told they couldn’t comp my shit for a favourable, shit-hot review (jokes, I didn’t really ask), their story checked out and finally, months later, I got myself there.  In fact, SPOILER ALERT, I enjoyed it so much that this review is actually based on two separate visits.  Fuck, it’s like I’m becoming a pro-reviewer, taking my food writing shit seriously and not just sitting around making flippant quips on Facebook and neglecting my actual blog.  YES, THE AIR IS THIN UP HERE, WHEN I SIT ON MY LOFTY THRONE OF LIES:

rihannalovetheway

The Chef/Owner behind BlackSalt is Taran Chadha, who has done his tour of duty around various HK restaurants and has stepped out from the shadows of cooking for big soulless HK restaurant groups to live his own life – presenting his take on the Asian subcontinent, referencing the food of India, Sri Lanka and Nepal while throwing in some western influences.  The menu is split into three parts – Short Plates, Sides and Puddin’, with the recommendation that you show your homies some love and share food.  While making some critical decisions about what to order because everything looks A1 Delicious, I take down a Rum & Thums Up! (HKD108 +10% service charge), consisting of Kraken Black Spiced Rum and Thums Up cola with an orange twist.   FYN Fun Fact:  Thums Up is an Indian cola brand which was initially launched to fill the void when Coca-Cola evacuated the Indian market in 1977 rather than sell a 60% equity stake to an Indian company and was eventually repurchased by Coca-Cola in 1993, to give it a take-down position of its nemesis Pepsi during the Great Cola wars.  Regardless of the long and arduous Indian cola wars that form the base of my drink, I make light work of this delicious AF drink which gives me shades of nostalgia, tasting vaguely of all the poor decisions and youthful angst of my cheap Coke and Bundy Rum uni days but in a much posher and socially acceptable fuck yeah format.

jacksparrowrum

To start shit off, Black Salt give you some free tiny papadums, accompanied with stewed lightly spiced yellow lentils and a bit of yoghurt.  I appreciate the delicious crispy fuckers and I just wanna make sure that the HK restaurants out there know that I do notice the little touches like this at the beginning of a meal.  More and more in HK I feel that restaurants don’t wanna give you a little something to start your meal off and I can’t even be mad, because I know bread and all that jazz costs money and every tiny bit helps a HK restaurant survive in this crazy ass, sky high, ferocious rental market.  So yo, my BlackSalt homies please note that I gave thanks to the Gods of Complimentary, Thoughtful and Delicious Shit as I smashed away those thoughtful mini pappas.

My FYN homie that made the initial recommendation, insisted that we had to order the BS House Okra Fries (HKD68 +10% service charge).  Long slices of okra are coated in a tempura batter made from chickpeas, seasoned with black salt (GEDDIT?), mint and a shallot slaw, served with a side of chilli kewpie mayonnaise. Of course deep frying any vegetable in a batter exponentially increases its fuck yeah rating and these okra fries are no exception. I can almost hear the thunder of a thousand cliched HK bloggers punching “fried to perfection” into their Macbooks with perfectly manicured fingertips as they drink soy milk lattes at The Cupping Room after a “great sesh” at H-Kore.  But for real, these fried fuckers are crispy as fuck and the fresh mint is swiping right with the chilli kewpie mayo.  However, it’s also deceptively filling so order one between three to four homies as a little something something to start, cause you don’t wanna burn out too early in the BlackSalt game.

The Lamb Rhapsody (HKD168 +10% service charge) is also stellar.  I’m always starved for lamb in HK because it’s either just not available or I gotta plan to rob a bank or perpetrate a phone scam which preys on the elderly and stupid to finance such Eating Lamb Out in HK Japes.  BlackSalt’s take uses a combination of  roasted Aussie lamb rump korma and pulled lamb shank served with slices of paratha, crispy puffed rice, pomegranate and mint chimichurri. The serving size is not microscopic and once I’ve collected myself from not being bankrupt from eating lamb in HK, I thoroughly get into this dish from its textural combos and the rich, punch-you-in-the-face korma paired with the fresh as fuck mint chimichurri.

But it’s the Kathmandu Meatball Mo’s (HKD98 +10% service charge) which are mega.  Everyone knows that I get hot and heavy for the Nepalese dumpling, known as the momo, because MO MOMOS, NO PROBLEMS.   BlackSalt’s version consists of five large handmade dumplings,  stuffed with Australian grass fed pork,  smoked buffalo bits, garlic chives and spring onion.  The momos themselves are a FUCK YEAH, stuffed full of just fatty enough pork and seasoned with chives and onion.  But it’s the jhol achar which is fucking rad times in pure liquid form made from a puree of tomatoes, onion, chilli, garlic, coriander, turmeric and lemon juice to make it tangy and as bright as my undying love for the #carblife. BlackSalt’s menu states that their Meatball Mo’s are “swimming in a spicy wild sesame “jhol gravy”” and if this is what is in the pool, sign me up for swim school cause I’m ready to get my Michael Phelps on and power myself to multiple Olympic gold.

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In the final stretch it’s the Poulet Tikki Masala, a BlackSalt signature dish and I tried to order a full chook but got cut down by the waitress who insisted that we only needed a half portion, given that we’d already ordered so much (HKD278/Full Chicken, HKD178/Half Chicken +10% service charge). A Danish Antibiotic and Hormone free chicken which is “flash roasted, palm leaf smoked and slow cooked in a rich onion jus”, accompanied by a stack of sides including the truffle garlic flatbread, pilaf, chopped salad, and a raita remoulade.  The chicken is very good, living up to its claim that it “melts off the bone” and I can’t say I’m thrilled about the breast meat but that might just be cause it’s breast meat which in my mind is always dry and boring, but I know that a lot of people (ie. white folk) are into that boneless, dull breast meat shenanigan.  However, the sides are plentiful and it’s nice to get my rice on but there’s some misses.  I can’t get that excited about chopped lettuce and tomato and in more disappointing news, considering my deep and relentless love for all Indian bread, I’m just not into Black Salt’s flatbread/paratha.  The paratha reminds me of a wanker banker trying to get laid after a long night on the piss – JUST WHYYYY with the shameless peacocking of wealth with the completely unnecessary truffle and then after all’s said and done, it doesn’t matter anyway cause it’s too floppy and not up to expectation.

I’d been eyeing off dessert because it sounded fucking amazing with all of the Indian spices and flavours, opting for the Carrot Halwa Cheesecake (HKD68 +10% service charge) and the Coconut & Rum Creme Brûlée (HKD68 +10% service charge).  The flavours of the cheesecake were bang on, cardamom spiced carrots cooked in milk, which is then whipped with cream cheese before being topped with coconut sugar coated cashews, accompanied by a side scoop of Tahiti vanilla bean sherbet.  What let this dish down though was the texture of the cheesecake, being far too gummy.  Maybe they were going for something in between a cheesecake and a kulfi (a traditional, dense Indian ice cream), but whatever it was, I abandoned eating this half way because it doesn’t matter how delicious your flavours are if it feels like you’re fighting against the texture of eating PVC glue, even if it’s punctuated by crunchy, sweet cashews.  The Coconut & Rum Creme Brûlée also suffered from the same fate of delicious as fuck Indian flavours with crappy execution.  This dish incorporates  fresh young coconut, turmeric, medjool dates and pistachio, but the caramelised sugar crust wasn’t caramelised enough resulting in it being a bit grainy, the pieces of the young coconut were still quite large and didn’t make sense in the custard and texturally, I just couldn’t get behind this.  I was bummed out by this in quite a major way cause it was like BlackSalt almost managed to pull off a fuck yeah dessert triumph by showcasing those Indian flavours but then couldn’t hold it together at the final hurdle.

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Despite the execution issues on dessert, BlackSalt is doing something which is different in this increasingly bland and homogenous HK dining landscape.  Chef Taran Chadha is creating dishes which come from an honest place, based on flavours and places which clearly mean something to him and for the most part, is pulling that shit off.  BlackSalt is low on pretentiousness so  I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a fuck yeah low key place for casual, intimate dinners where you can expect food which should feel different to the standard dinner tat, decent fuck yeah attentive service and a chef who clearly gives a fuck about what he does.

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhh, get into this fresh modern sub-continental influenced shizzzz!  But don’t get your paratha dreams up and maybe get dessert elsewhere, unless you’re more forgiving on clumsy pudding textures than I am.

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