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Where:
Amò Restaurant
33 Hongkong Street
Singapore 059672

Phone:
+65 6723 7733, but fuck me, Singapore is in the #digitaldisruption future and you can book this shit instantly on Quandoo or Chope.  SEND ME A FAX HK AND WRITE ME A CHEQUE, I DON’T MISS YA PREHISTORIC WAYS.

Price:
Out at SGD90 each, including one drink.  Without booze, would estimate SGD60-70ish a person.

Fuck Naw to the Straw?
Unfortunately, Amo are still handing out FUCK NAW PLASTIC STRAWS.  So make sure you specify #fucknawtothestraw when you order

The deal:
Amò is your casual though trendy Italian joint on Hongkong Street, which opened mid-2017.  I’m into its interior with its blue-grey tiled walls, white tiled floor, dark wood, just enough well thought out lighting and fuck yeahhhh, tables that aren’t sitting on top of each other.  First thing I noticed though is that their waiters are completely and totally on their fucking shit.  FUCK YEAHHHHH it’s a relief because I find in Singapore, waiters are often very friendly and well intentioned but actually getting their attention practically requires you to trip them over because they have fuck all peripheral vision.  Our waiter homie is sorting us all out on drinks and spruiks some special negroni (SGD20++) that they’re doing with grapefruit juice instead and of course I’m here for it and fuckkk it’s A1 delicious.  Unfortunately, it’s also in Singapore which means I only have one to avoid bankrupting myself before I get to the food.

We tear through our ordering with his help and he asks whether we want it all at once or as it comes. To be honest, I’m not even sure why he bothered asking because Amo’s kitchen is Usain Bolt fast, our starters and mains flying to our table within minutes of our order.  The crispy calamari with sumac and sundried tomato aioli (SGD22+) is the first dish to hit our table and it’s so fucking good.  I fucking love it when my deep fried shit comes out fryer fresh, without a chance to cool down and get a bit sad under a heat lamp.  With its crispy AF batter and the tender squid, it’s a bang on way to start shit off.  I really wanted to get the zucchini flowers with mortadella, pistachio and lemon honey but fuck, at SGD25++ for a scant two flowers, no way I could justify dropping SGD50++ to feed our table of four, a zucchini flower each.

Unfortunately, our other starter of the burrata with eggplant salad, walnuts and bottarga (SGD28++) was firmly in the fuck no camp.  You know how sometimes you see something on a menu and you think “Wow, I’ve never had that before”.  That was me with this dish, wondering why burrata would forsake his normal eternal life partner, the tomato.  So I’m riding the new combo frontier and it’s a bite of only ok burrata with a mushy mess of eggplant that has some lumps in it which you assume is bottarga (cured fish roe) and you’re all, “Yeah, I get why you guys aren’t really a thing”.  

taylor-never-ever

Lucky we get to quickly move past this low point with the bone marrow, wild garlic pesto and anchovy salsa verde pizza (SGD32++).  Amo pride itself on its naturally leavened pizza bases, made with semolina and extra virgin olive oil and rightly so, because their pizza base was a major fuck yeah.   Fantastic bite through, not too thick or too pathetically thin, it’s got a bit of char on it and they haven’t scrimped on the toppings.  There’s nothing sadder than a pizza where the restaurant decides it’s perfectly ok to allocate one piece of salami per quarter or something equally fucking miserly.  The bone marrow has been cooked well so it’s not just a fatty, gross lump and fuck me, the wild garlic pesto is just fucking great in its sharp garlic and bright basil flavours. TL:DR:  PIZZA GOOD, GET IN HOMIES.

You all know what life I’m all about and yasssss, carb life, pasta life is truly my best life.  I hesitated on ordering the caserecce with black pepper, guanciale and saffron (SGD27++) because these simple pasta dishes can be so super fucking dud if any one component of the dish is fucked up.  Regardless, Mr Vegetables was all “I don’t know two of those words in that dish but let’s get it”, which is the exact sort of attitude I require from my dining homies.  My hestitations were unfounded though because this was O M F G best carb times for sure.  Caserecce is a free form, slightly twisted pasta which means all the more surface area for the fuck yeah olive oil, cheese, rendered down fat from the guanciale (cured pork cheek) to adhere to.  Topped with a little bit of freshly ground black pepper and crispy bits of guanciale, this was my fuck yeah winner winner best in show dinner dish of the night.

fightclubstopbeingperfect

The fettuccine with beef shank, mushrooms and orange salmoriglio (SGD28++) also made my heart go boom boom for fuck yeah carbs with the tangy orange salmoriglio sauce playing nicely against the smokiness of the beef shank and mushrooms.  Some of my dining homies declared this to be their favourite pasta of the night.  Either way you swing, both pastas at Amo were definitely not a waste of your fuck yeah carb quota.

The black cod with crab cioppino (fish stew) and fregola (SGD38++) was also fucking delicious.  Two pieces of perfectly cooked black cod are served on a bed of fregola (a spherical pasta, similar to Israeli couscous), cooked into a big bodied crab cioppino stew.  Every component on this dish was a fuck yeah, which meant that we scraped this dish clean.  We also had a side of baby gem lettuce with crispy pancetta and anchovy sauce (SGD12++) in that token attempt to try and get some, sigh, greens in our life.  Don’t bother making the same #newyearnewme choices my FYN homies cause this was such a dud side.  Like why do I want to eat quartered tiny lettuces that have been drenched in what feels like mayonnaise (it’s the anchovy sauce).  It just felt like a caesar salad trying to go posh and overall just became an exercise in FUCKING WHY.  I was just all, hey gem lettuce dish thing why are you even trying?  Why are you even a thing??  Why am I not eating more delicious and more well thought out pasta instead??

right-thing

For dessert, there’s one of my all time fuck yeah Italian pud puds, the Tiramisú (SGD18++).  It looks like it’s gonna be a winner, chilling out in its fancy ass glass bowl with chocolate curls grated looking all classy and shiz.  Unfortunately, it’s ratios are all over the fucking place like the reliability of the Singapore trains and there’s just too much cream interspersed with some soggy bits of liqueur soaked sponge.  I’m sure Amò weren’t going for this but it just reminded me of when your bread crusts fall into the sink and get all waterlogged and puffy in the drain.  Our table thought the almond cake with strawberries, lemon honey and vincotto (cooked wine) (SGD15++) sounded like it was going to kick some goals but instead it just kicked us in the face by being a massive dud.  It’s this dense cake, dusted with bits of toasted nuts which doesn’t really show case anything good at all.

Fuck, it’s honestly getting to the point with restaurants and sub-standard desserts that I feel like I need to specifically ask to talk to the chef, look him or her dead in the eye to determine their commitment to pud and say “Chef Homie, level with me – I know you’re not a pastry chef and this isn’t probably your jam but are you or are you not dialling in your dessert menu?  Cause I’m not here to dish out SGD15++ for some cake that you’ve thrown on there just because you had to have something in the sweets section”.  I JUST CAN’T FACE ANYMORE SUB-STANDARD END OF MEAL CAKE:

grumpy-cat-cake

So some dud points but overall, carb life is the best life and dude, Amo romps it all the way home in the pizza and pasta stakes.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah!!! But don’t waste your time on dessert, double TRIPLE down on carbs.

Where:
11 Westside
1/F, The Hudson, 11 Davis Street
Kennedy Town, Hong Kong

FYN Hot Tip:  The entrance is not immediately apparent nor marked – so you kinda have to duck around and go up a set of stairs.

Phone:
I dunno, I couldn’t see it on their FB page and they don’t have a website.  Like, if you can’t be bothered to put it on your own fucking FB page, why should I bother looking it up?  Largely no reservations anyway.

Price:
I got out at about HKD300 (including 10% service charge), no alcohol.  I had some snacks BEFORE dinner somewhere else and I definitely could have eaten more.  I’d estimate spending around HKD400-600 on food before drinks.

The deal:
The press got all revved up in April that Chef Esdras Ochoa, a real MEXICAN who is behind being the Sonoran MEXICAN restaurant, Salazar, in Los Angeles had booked himself a one way ticket to Hong Kong to open 11 Westside, his first project in Asia which was aimed at bringing real MEXICALI food to Hong Kong in Kennedy Town. I understand that it’s the HK based, Mexican Luis Porras from the Epicurean Group who is behind this 11 Westside jaunt, who are also “famed” for their other HK Mexican restaurant, AGAVE Tequila Y Comida in Wan Chai on Lockhart Road.  I’ve also done some additional sleuthing to try and figure out whether Chef Ochoa has since bought another one way ticket out of HK, as is the standard modus operandi for these chefs who set up shit in HK before fucking right off again but I haven’t been able to find anything conclusive so it’s entirely possible the Taco King of LA is still kicking about Kennedy Town and doing his MEXICAN thing.  So I guess Chef Ochoa is still FILTH – Failed in Flown in from LA, Trying HK?

read-you-to-filth

Predictably, 11 Westside is a no reservations joint.  Currently, they only take reservations if you book out at least half of the restaurant and seeing as it seats around 120, this is going to be as 0% helpful for most people.  But seeing as these guys have got a hour plus wait to get a table anyway, I get why they’ve given the big fuck you to taking reservations and will instead direct you to a terrace area where you can chill out and get some drinks while you wait.  A lot’s been said about their decor with most people liking it.  Those fringed chandeliers and slick black surfaces sure are distracting and might trick you into thinking it’s a cool place but I just couldn’t get past this weird Mediterranean Grecian thing that they’ve got going on, with these arches and cherub mural situated behind the bar.  How does this happen?  Do you walk into discussions with your interior designer and he’s all “So what’s the story?” and you say “We’re thinking LA, Mexican, taqueria, you know, the usual shit about ~taking references from Asia and paying homage to local ingredients~, green spaces and sexy tequila nights” and your interior designer quizzically looks up from his sketch pad through a cloud of one hell of a hangover and wearily goes “Look, my geography isn’t real red hot but is Mexico in Europe?  Is it kinda like Spain but in the Mediterranean? Do you know how much I love murals with cherubs on them with some fake ass vines and shit to make it feel like you’re one step away from a vineyard? Don’t worry, I’m also gonna put some potato peelers and kitchen utensils on the wall in picture frames cause ~paying homage to local ingredients~ amirite?” before chugging back on alka-seltzer tinged with regret as he puts his shades back on to try and shield his eyes from the indignity of still being conscious when the sun’s still up.

iloveurcontinent

When we rocked up we were told to expect an hour wait, but we were lucky and got a table within 15 minutes.  I’ve heard mixed things about the staff and service at 11 Westside but I’ve got no complaints.  The front desk girls were quite lovely, even if they couldn’t seat us immediately, and our waiter was fucking excellent and completely on his shit, all night long.

It’s a concise menu, split into GSC (Gucamole Salsa Chips), Appetizers, Tacos, Entree and dessert.  There’s been much chat about the price tag on 11 Westside’s HKD150 guacamole that consists of two avocados, red onion, cilantro and chilli which is mashed up table side for you.  Let’s just rewind on that fact for a second – it’s actually HKD150 + 10% service charge for guacamole.  That’s right, USD21 for guacamole and chips.  OR if you think about what went down for us, we ordered the GSC (Guacamole Salsa Chips) with an extra serve of chips and that’s HKD180 + HKD10 (+10% service charge ) = HKD209 / USD 27 for fucking chips, guacamole and salsa!!!!!!  FUCK MEEEE, I know HK rents are expensive and all but still.  I gotta draw the line somewhere and the line is drawn here, ESPECIALLY when the guacamole needed more salt and lime to bring some brightness and acidity, and the salsa was bland as fuck.  Apparently Ochoa makes his salsa that way because HK people can’t handle spicy shit (not that anyone asked).  I know some people in HK are ok with this new price point (!!) which just proves HK makes you go fucking insane.  GUISE, CUT IT THE FUCK OUT, USD27 for chips, mediocre guacamole and super average salsa just because they smash the avocados at your table is NOT OK.

cutit

The Carne Asada Fries (HKD118 + 10% service charge) are fucking great but really, how hard can it be to fuck up mixing grilled USDA prime shortrib, melting some cheese all over it and adding jalapeno, queso fresco sauce, chiptole mayo, onion and cilantro?  This is hardly complicated culinary shit to execute cause deep fried potatoes, meat and cheese is always gonna be a fuck yeah winner.  Less successful is the Stingray Flautus (HKD78 + 10% service charge) which is a rolled up tortilla that allegedly contains stingray but honestly it could have been any sort of mystery meat.  It was fine to eat, in the way that you eat a deep fried spring roll and it doesn’t really matter what’s inside because it’s deep fried and salty.  But after all the banging on about the inspiration behind 11 Westside, who really gives a fuck about what influences you’ve taken on to make a dish if you can’t even tell what meat is inside of it?

The 11 Westside menu lists five tacos, the Al Pastor, Pollo Asado, Carne Asada, Caulifornia Veggie and the Chef Ochoa Special.  11 Westside makes their own flour tortillas which means there’s a chorus of people going “Bitch, where my fucking corn tortillas at?” and I’ve been told because Chef Oschoa is going for a LA feel where flour tortillas are the go to.  I’m neither Mexican nor from Los Angeles so I dunno what is the truth.  I checked in with one of my friends from California and she reckoned this was bullshit, given she found corn and flour tortillas all over LA as well. 

I went for the Al Pastor and the Chef Ochoa special, which was some sort of pork belly taco (HKD50 + 10% service charge per taco).  The Al Pastor uses pineapple roasted pork with auchiote (a red-yellow spice with a mild peppery flavour), topped with that infamou$ guacamole, salsa molcajete and fresh pineapple. It’s got a good fresh balance going on with the slight char of the roasted pork and the fresh, clean flavours of the pineapple.  I judiciously ensure I eat every last bit of guacamole because I’m not one to leave money on the table.  I’m also super into the flour tortillas, flaky and grilled so they’re a bit crisp on the outside but still soft when you bite through.

However, the pork belly taco is a major fucking flop.  The skin and fat is just chilling out in there as greasy, chewy lumps.  There might have been other things happening in it which I’ve completely forgotten about because all I can remember is hitting a bit of flaccid rind and chewing on that, as my back molars were getting all gummed up and for HKD50+ for a few bites, I am not here for that. 

11 Westside tacos are most definitely tacos for ants and at HKD50+, shit is gonna get expensive real quick if you intend to find satiety on these tiny-ass bites.  In a FYN exclusive, I have secured some honest to God real life footage of the 11 Westside kitchen making HKD50+ tacos:

tinytacos

There’s only two main dishes on the menu and we went with the USDA Hanger Prime Steak (HKD268 +10% service charge). It’s served with more salsa, grilled vegetables and a stack of grilled flour tortillas on the side.  It’s all, straight down the line fine.  Sure, the steak is delicious enough but after eating various variations of all of these components in other dishes, I just can’t get too fucking excited about rolling some meat in a flour tortilla and thinking it’s that different to the tacos I’ve already eaten in flour tortillas with the same salsa, or the salsa that was already with the chips and the beef that was already on the carne asada fries.  Ultimately, this dish just felt like a derivative of everything else I’d already eaten that evening.

So the food at 11 Westside isn’t a terrible car crash – as in, it’s all very edible except for a few low points like that gross AF pork belly taco.  But more importantly, there’s nothing about this restaurant that makes it memorable or food which will show you something new or interesting (unless seeing an avocado getting mashed up by your table is really that revolutionary for you).  For all the horn blowing about bringing REAL MEXICAN to Hong Kong with the REAL MEXICAN chef, I just don’t know how anyone would get it stiff for this place.  From the no reservations policy and the waiting period, the weird Grecian style interiors and then fuck, the sky high price points for guacamole and minuscule tacos.  But then you read other HK reviews which are like:

11westside

And all I gotta say is, oh HK food writers, Y U so easily impressed??

mj-laughing_zpsgflv6hws

Verdict:
HK, if something like this is enough to qualify as one of the hottest openings of 2017, you really gotta check yourself before you really wreck yourself. A snoozey, lack lustre fuck no.

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:
Cure
21 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089128

Phone:
+65 6221 2189 (or email reserve@curesingapore.com)

Price:
SGD110 (+7% GST and 10% service) for the seven course tasting menu.  Add another SGD90 (+7% GST and 10% service) if you want the matching wine.

The deal:
Cure isn’t a new restaurant in Singapore, opening in 2015.  Situated on Keong Saik Road, it’s small and straightforward in muted tones of grey, bronze and emerald accents with  soft lighting and warm oak tones and tabletops to keep it from feeling too austere.  The menu changes monthly depending on what produce is available and seasonal.  Cue the promo shot of the white chef chilling in the grimey wet markets holding a fish cause ya know, LOCAL ASIAN SHIZZZZZZ.  But really, how much does this “eating seasonal” count for in a world where almost every single restaurant in the world is claiming to be changing their menu depending on the phase of the moon and whatever stupid sprout they managed to forage out of a crack in a volcanic rock that was lodged within a mound of lichen underneath the Látrabjarg cliffs in Iceland, that’s only available from the 12th April to the 23rd May every fucking year?  Regardless of my cynicism about seasonality, Cure is run by the Irish chef/owner, Andrew Walsh, and promises “top-notch plates, solid drinks and personable service that is delivered in a casual yet refined environment”, taking inspiration from both his European background as well as his time in Asia.  Predictable, his CV lists a billion stints at Michelin starred restaurants, including Sous Chef at the Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social by Jason Atherton and at Tom Aikens’ namesake restaurant in the UK.  

When it’s a restaurant in this style, I like to do the tasting menu because not only do I get to divest myself of any decision making, I get to see what is the story the chef wants to tell.  To start shit off, it’s Cure’s seeded sourdough bread, served with bacon flecked butter and pickled diced cabbage.  Predictably, the house made butter with rendered bacon fat is as fucking delicious as anyone could hope from a fat-on-fat combo.  With this bread, I feel my heart letting its guard down – that I might actually have a modern dining meal which is well thought out and meaningful.  It might seem small, but the bread course is the measure by which I judge any restaurant.  If a chef gives a fuck about his or her free bread, then it’s an indicator of someone who’s gonna give a fuck about everything else that he’s doing.  The pickled cabbage is acidic and tangy, reminding me of the pickled mustard greens that’s used in Chinese cooking and mixed with the creamy fattiness of the butter and the slight sour edge of the naturally leavened bread, it’s complete and well rounded, as my feelings swell and I wrestle with my inner demons to not ask for more bread because there’s so much more food to come.

breadit

Sauce

There’s an assortment of “Cure Snacks” which are deftly and thoughtfully executed.  Our first course is the “Scallop / Vietnamese Dressing / Coriander / Yuzu”, a half shell perched against a pile of tiny pebbles, all elegant fuck yeah beauty with the scallop topped with coriander granita, minature violet petals and a single micro-sorrel leaf.  Most importantly, nothing has been dumped on this dish for aesthetics with every single element bringing something to this dish.  The flavour of the scallop is accentuated through pairing it with the green flavours of the coriander and the single micro-sorrel leaf and brightening it all up with the yuzu and the pop of the Vietnamese style dressing, the icy coriander tinged granita keeping everything fresh and crisp, like a spray of brisk ocean water.

Shit really gets real at the “Squid noodles / Onion Dashi / Chicken Wing”.  This is Cure’s riff on ramen, substituting the noodles with slices of raw squid which cooks slightly as the onion dashi is poured over it.  There’s an egg yolk in the soup which you stir through while adding toasted rice and crispy seaweed pieces.  This dish is fucking stunning, a complete and utter knock out, and unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before but still so familiar at the same time.  It’s the dish that has it all, the different texture from the slightly chewy squid noodles which contrast against the light crispy toasted rice and seaweed, and the heavier bite and chew of the chicken wing.  But it’s the broth that steadfastly anchors this dish all together, the onion dashi broth is sweet and clear on its own, when the egg yolk is mixed with it, it takes on this creamy, richness adding  to the onion’s depth of flavour and pulling every element of this forthright dish into its centre.

pulpfictionseriousgourmetshit

The “Foie gras brulee / Cinnamon / BBQ Sweet Corn” .  Served with a side of small jam stuffed donuts, these were potentially the only flawed component of the entire meal, as they were a little dry inside.  Not a fatal flaw though because any dryness was compensated for by spreading caramelised foie gras onto them.  Tinged with cinnamon and the sweet corn kernels, this dish was so  perfectly balanced that if this dish was an athlete, it’d be ready to take out Olympic gold on the beam.

For the closest thing to a main, it’s the “Beef Short Rib / Green Asparagus / Pomelo / Green Curry”.  I sigh with relief when they don’t fuck it up, because I’m sick of going to fine dining restaurants that get to the main course and seem to just stop giving a fuck.  Probably because the kitchen is dead exhausted from creating flavour filled, over tweezed tiny bite sized starters and just end up frying up bits of protein while seasoning it with  “that’ll fucking do” and “fuck me, cooking beef in larger portions sure gets boring”.

To close it’s a dessert consisting of chocolate textures, a smear of pandan mousse and coconut ice-cream.  Which is simple, cooling and an elegant as fuck close.  I’m into it and there’s always a complimentary miniature ice-cream sandwich is received when you are presented with the not inconsequential bill.

So, I get pretty fucking jaded when it comes to fancy restaurants and tasting menus because often they’re so ham fisted and you don’t get an idea of who the chef really is versus what the chef thinks people want to eat.  Whether it’s the chase for meaningless Michelin stars or restaurant rankings, it’s so easy for these restaurants to buy into the concept of what they want to be, rather than what makes them be.  Then you have a meal at somewhere like Cure where it’s just a chef cooking his heart out and laying his soul out on every purposefully selected ceramic plate, drawing on where he’s loved, lived and eaten.  Where every component and ingredient on this dish is there with steady purpose, unwavering and poised.  Where the sum of the ingredients is greater than each piece, without relying on over the top techniques or bombastic gimmicks.  And it’s in these quiet moments that are stripped down and bare, you can have this realisation that food is a medium that connects you to an experience.  And how fucking special is that?  It all just comes down to one chef treating his ingredients with respect, pulling them together in a way that’s honest and thought out and that’s more exciting than numbered lists, fancy photos or chefs who’ve worked with all the big names.  It just comes down to the plate and all the heart behind it and how this resonates in the depths of your being even when the food’s all gone.

coachtaylorcleareyes

Which is everything I fucking love about food. Which is why I know I’ve felt true love, honest, shining and pure in Singapore.

Verdict:
So here is where it gets a bit fucking complicated – because when I wrote the bulk of the above review, I was all “FUCK YEAH – I will absolutely put my face on this one – that is, if you go here and have a shit time you have got my full permission to punch me in my goddamn face.  HOLY FUCKING SHIT, some of the best food I’ve had this year“.  I’ve been to Cure twice this year and it was absolutely some of the best meals that I’d eaten this year.

However, just before I finished the above review, I went back to Cure again for the third time and the wheels just came off so hard.  It was devastating, as I’d been looking forward to it all week and then it fell victim to one of the worst sins ever of a tasting menu – drawn out, sluggish timing and food that came out a bit cold.  Like WTF, can I even find it in my body to care if your dessert is delicious if it’s taken me 3.5 hours for it to get to the seventh course and all I want to do is go the fuck home because I’m fucking exhausted and so annoyed that this is taking so goddamn long?

cryinggirl-attable

I raised the glacial speed timing of our food with the wait staff several times and they were nice enough about it (without actually addressing it head on or giving me any comfort that shit was gonna improve), even discounting our tasting menu price from the seven course to the five course menu.  So now I’m all conflicted because how can I give Cure the super OTT FUCK YEAH I was going to give it when the third time let me down and it would have solidly been a fuck no?  How can I tell my faithful FYN homies that if they go to Singapore they need to go to Cure to get their fuck yeah noms on when my last time was such a fuck no?  But I also get it.  Restaurants are run by humans (who are generally busting their balls to get the food out) and on some nights, shit just doesn’t go right, no matter what everyone’s best intentions are.  But when you’re laying down big money, the expectations for it to go right are high.  Is this the culinary equivalent of having two amazing dates and you start to tell your friends that this could be THE ONE and then when he finally rolls around to meet your friends, he’s 45 minutes late and his jokes don’t hit as hard as you thought they would.  So instead of your friends telling you “YASSS, now don’t fuck this one up”, they’re all “Well, I guess he’s nice and he has a good job.  I mean…if he makes YOU happy”.  I’m conflicted as fuck guys and I think the only way I can properly resolve this is to go back for a fourth time.  But considering the heart ache I felt the next morning after a meal that went down into fuck no timing territory, I don’t know if my heart can take the potential of Cure striking out at number four.  Perhaps it’s better to take those two perfect moments and press them between the pages of my fuck yeah memories and move the fuck on.

heartbreaking

Until further judgment, the jury’s out. But I still dream of love and those two perfect dates, when my heart swelled inside my tiny little chest and I pushed it back with fuck yeah bread and stories made of gorgeous, honest and tiny plates of fuck yeah food.

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.

redhotdonthaveapartner

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.

cryingbaby

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.

lotr-sam-comingwithyou

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.

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