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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:
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.

Where:
Mume (lolz, Taiwan’s websites are as bullshit as HK.  Try their FB page out instead)
四維路28號 (No. 28, Siwei Road)
大安區 (Da’an District)
Taipei, Taiwan

Phone:
+886-22700-0901

Price:
NTD5200 (USD165 / HKD1300) for food and cocktails two people.

Where:
Sussing out where to eat when I visit Taipei is never straight forward because as someone who can’t read Chinese, you’re left to rely on Tripadvisor, Yelp, shitty adjective heavy food blogs and sycophantic press pieces which never give you a clear steer on whether shit’s actually good or not. Yeah, I’ve got trust issues because I’ve had so many substandard recommendations from people that I don’t believe most people can work through the distraction of a cool interior (see also: Mott 32) or what they think everyone should like, rather than being able to accurately judge whether the actual food was any fucking good.  For example, I tried asking my hotel concierge for a recommendation for local Taiwanese food and all they could fucking provide me with was a map which listed Carnegies and a red hot tip to go to the shopping mall next door to have some French or Italian.  UM EXCUSE ME CONCIERGE HOMIE, AREN’T YOU MEANT TO BE PROVIDING ME WITH HELPFUL LOCAL KNOWLEDGE?
ronswansonreaction

Separate to misguided concierge conversations, we made a booking for a relatively new restaurant called Mume.  Mume is run and owned by three young chefs – Richie Lin (from HK), Long Xiong (from the US) and Kai Ward (from Australia).  Emphasis on young cause I read somewhere that Kai Ward is only 24.  TWENTY FOUR.  I could barely find my ass with both hands when I was 24, let alone establish my own restaurant in another country.  The Mume boys boast some big name experience, with their resumes listing Noma, Per Se and Quay (not that I think Quay is as good as everyone says it is, fuck that snow egg bullshit) and now they’re pushing their own Modern European restaurant in Taipei.  I read a blog that described Mume as having “Scandi-inspired fare” which caused me to have a mini-melt down. Srs guise, Scandi?! Some people just want to watch the world burn.

Mume is named after a Taiwanese flower and is gunning for that casual modern restaurant vibe.  Yeah, you know what that means – thick ropes are draped from the ceiling with large filamented industrial light globes which barely light the room, cool Taiwanese waiters swish around sporting shaved head and man bun tonsorial combinations, there’s an emphasis on local seasonal ingredients and predictably, no tablecloths, because you know, nothing says modern and casual than eschewing tablecloths.  A cool as fuck playlist pulses in the background of this modern restaurant interior and because I’m a Grade A stalker, I tracked down Chef Kai’s Spotify Mume Playlist that was playing at Mume so you too can enjoy modern fuck yeah covers and remixes of Sexual Healing, Don’t You Want Me and Feel it in the Air Tonight which would be perfect to drink overpriced cocktails to. Not that this happened at Mume cause our fuck yeah cocktails clocked in at a very respectable NTD300 (HKD75 / USD10).  Love dat Taipei value, always.

Given Mume is gunning for that modern, innovative theme there’s no way these kitchen bad asses can use conventional menu terms like “Entrees”,  “Mains” and “Desserts” and they’ve used contemporary terms like “Smaller”, “Bigger” and “Sweeter” instead.  If there had been a tasting menu option, I definitely would have been down for that but instead, the two of us piled in for four “Smaller” and two “Bigger” dishes and a side of bread.

I always judge a restaurant by its bread because good fuck yeah bread is a reliable indicator of a restaurant that gives a fuck.  Bread isn’t a freebie at Mume and the Country Rye Sourdough costs NTD180 (HKD45 / USD6).  However, Mume’s bread was such a fuck yeah that I wasn’t even bent out of shape that I had to pay for it.  A decent sized round of rye sourdough comes out fresh from the oven, cut into four steaming hot wedges and the only appropriate way to pay respect to this fuck yeah bread is to instantly smear it with butter.  I was less impressed by Mume’s fancy butter options of beer butter and smoked beef fat butter because when bread’s that fucking good, I’d rather have my fucking glorious bread straight up with a high quality, plain salted butter.

Despite the ridiculousness of having to order “Smaller” dishes vs “Entrees”/”Starters”, I quickly got over that initial irritation given that as soon as our first entrees “Smaller” dishes arrived shit looked beautiful as fuck.  Mume is doing that modern food which looks fucking amazing through a combination of sauce smears, colour combinations, clever crockery selection and small vegetable shoots which were inevitably tweezered into place. The Wagyu Tartare (NTD 380 / HKD95 / USD12) is simply described as beef, clam mayo, confit egg yolk and grilled toast and it was fucking delicious, the slightly briny clam mayo cutting through the rich beef and egg yolk combination.  My only complaint was that I was only provided with two tiny pieces of grilled toast which was definitely more aesthetically pleasing but meant that I didn’t have enough bread for my tartare.  The simply titled Squid (NTD380 / HKD80 / USD10) sees raw pieces of squid, smoked pieces of engawa (a thin muscle of the dorsal fin of a Halibut) and taro served in a hot prawn broth, reminiscent of a Singaporean prawn mee soup.  Fuck yeah, the slightly chewy engawa and the squid pieces was really fucking interesting from a texture perspective and probably my favourite “Smaller” dish of the night.  The Concentrated Carrot (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9) was a solid vegetable dish, a whole baby carrot was dehydrated slightly (I’m guessing, no one told me what made it concentrated) and served with red rice koji (rice grains which have been covered by red mold), ginger cream and lovage oil.  The textures and the flavours were different and the slightly celery-like flavour of the lovage was a different touch to the ginger cream.  However, end of the day my capacity to get that fucking excited about a carrot is still relatively limited and Mume’s carrot can’t compare to the most majestic carrot dish of my life that I had at Sixpenny in Sydney.  The Crispy Amadai (NTD420 / HKD105 / USD14) was also another fuck yeah, visually stunning as the skin of the amadai/tilefish has been fried to make its scales individually stand up and crispy.  Accompanying it was a roasted red pepper puree, toasted almonds and tomato raisins which worked with the sweet, white flesh of the fish.

For mains “Bigger” dishes, we ordered the “Chicken” (NTD780 / HKD195 / USD25) and the “Beef Shortrib” (NTD920 / HKD230 / USD30).  The beef short rib was that typical modern beef plating that you can expect – two cubes of pink beef, a smear of burnt onion sauce, two thin slices of mushroom, a singular baby carrot and a couple of vegetable shoots perched on the side.  Mume’s beef game was a fuck yeah and the burnt onion sauce pulled everything together.  It might have been sous vided but I got zero background from the waitstaff so I don’t really fucking know.  However, the fuck yeah of the mains “Bigger” dishes was definitely the chicken – the menu simply provides the description of “cauliflower, lily bulb stem and Pedro Ximénez jus”. The dish presents a piece of chicken breast and a roulade made from the darker meat.  Predictably, the roulade is my fuck yeah favourite because fuck dat breast meat bullshit.  But fairplay, Mume’s chicken in both forms wasn’t dried out or lame at all.  I just fucking loved how it all worked together, the chicken with the sweet wine jus against the cruciferous, slightly bitter vegetable notes from the cauliflower puree and the grilled green lily bulbs. Complex flavour times, yo.

For desserts “Sweeters” (really Mume?!), we ordered the Orange (NTD 300 / HKD75 / USD10) and the “Strawberry Cheesecake” (NTD280 / HKD70 / USD9).   The “Orange” uses ponkan, a Chinese Honey Orange and is served with Murcott Yoghurt and Lemon Verbena Mousse.  The “Strawberry Cheesecake” is a burnt cream cheesecake, almond crumble and a strawberry sorbet.  For both dishes, everything has been snap frozen and then smashed into a thoughtful pile on some really fucking beautiful stone-like plate.  Your Instagram is going to love that shit.  The “Orange” was just ok, unfortunately, the ponkan didn’t have enough of that intense citrus flavour to make this dish really pop against the slightly acidic frozen yoghurt hunks.  However, the “Strawberry Cheesecake” was a major fuck yeah – far more successful than the “Orange” because all the individual components provided more of a contrast against each other.  The sorbet punched you in the face with its strawberry flavour and the frozen shattered cheesecake had more of the sour dairy flavour going for it than the yoghurt in the “Orange”.  Combine that with the pieces of nutty almond crumble and this was fucking incredible.  Perhaps the “Orange” would have been more impressive if I’d never known the “Strawberry Cheesecake” but fuck that, just take it as a hot tip to stick with the superior, more attractive “Strawberry Cheesecake” option.

While Mume’s service was prompt and friendly, I’ve got two tiny criticisms around Mume’s service.  The first is that we were given barely any explanation about our dishes – for a restaurant which prides itself on its local produce and seasonal ingredients, every dish was explained as simply as the menu descriptions.  I couldn’t tell you a single thing about where a single ingredient was from or how shit was prepared.  The other thing I’d have liked more of was just to have the meal spaced out a bit more timewise.  The kitchen was pushing out dishes at the speed of light and I’m hoping it was due to enthusiasm rather than something more fucking sinister like trying to push us out in time for a second seating.  We sat down at 6pm and we had all four of our entrees “Smaller” dishes by 6:20pm and even with asking for a 10 minute break before dessert, we were paid up and out of the restaurant in just over an hour after we sat down.  Not gonna lie, I’m sure the rapid speed at which I shoved food into my face may have contributed to this aggressive turn around as well.

But that’s two small things because Mume is definitely executing on its promise of modern European food in new ways in a cool as fuck modern setting. I think shit might be expensive by Taipei standards but given the good distortion my perception has undergone by Hong Kong prices, it seemed like exceptional fuck yeah value times for the quality of food we received.  Now excuse me cause I’m off to listen to Chef Kai’s playlist again and to pretend I’m back in Taipei and eating dat fuck yeah strawberry cheesecake.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah – once you’re tapped out on fried chicken and dumplings at the night markets, you should definitely get yo ass down to Mume.

Where:
The Pawn
62 Johnston Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2866 3444

Price:
Mains and starters are around HKD170 – HKD250 each.  I’d estimate HKD400-500 a person for three courses, without booze.

The deal:
When The Pawn underwent renovations it made the biggest fucking deal ever in the history of all motherfucking restaurant renovations in HK (citation needed). There was the furniture sale, the final call for drinks and then began their intense marketing blitz, replete with obnoxious hashtag #IMWORTHTHEWAIT plastered across their facade which has now changed gears to #THEWAITISOVER.  I seemed unable to read anything on any of the HK lifestyle/food press that wasn’t talking about Tom Aikens.  No seriously, did you fucking hear that Tom Aikens is coming out to Hong Kong to reference Modern Britain while using goddamn local ingredients and Asian spices?  There’s going to be ‘botanicals’ (yes, definitely a superior choice to using ‘plants’) grown on The Pawn’s rooftop garden (local herbs! Salad greens! Flowers!). No I don’t think you fucking understand – TOM AIKENS who has restaurants which have MICHELIN STARS (lolz, whatevs, just come to HK, we give that shit out in the immigration line) is coming from BRITAIN to steer The Pawn into an exciting new direction by taking shit over. Tom got so fucking excited he had to tweet everything TWICE (Y U DO THIS TOM? Y U DO THIS TOM?):

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WAHHHHHHHHHHH TOM’S MARKETING MANAGER, LURN 2 TWEET.

But fair play to their marketing team, cause I definitely did not miss the fucking memo that The Pawn was reopening and I was even watching nostalgic promotional videos (tram – CHECK. Historical HK photos – CHECK. Outside shot of the old Pawn shop sign – CHECK.  Artistic blur and street scene slowed down – CHECK.  Hong Kong guy wearing a white shirt sitting in his stylish library, flipping slowly through books on HK history – CHECK) about how The Pawn is the “voice in the neighbourhood” which redefined what the new Wan Chai is today. Whoaaaaa turn it up The Pawn, you’ve got a hardcore case of ratemyself dot com happening.

In respect of the old Pawn, it used to get mixed reviews from my homies. However, I’ve been more than a handful of times and personally gave it a fuck yeahhhh for a casual spot or when I wanted to take visitors to HK somewhere that had a specific old HK feel to it but they were just tapped out on noodles and dumplings.  The food was generally fucking solid if you were after British style eats and always reliable for balcony drinks. I’ve even had a Christmas dinner there once which hit that traditional festive Christmas thing spot on (fuck yeah, mince pies and mulled wine). This is despite the horrific fact I was forced to have boring as fuck turkey breast meat because not a single superior fuck yeah leg or thigh was available – yes, you better believe I called ahead of time just to fucking check.

The new Pawn has gone all modern dark grey walls, pale wood furniture, lamp shades with plants botanicals on it and stainless steel pots of fresh herbs botanicals on the table. It ain’t got that quirky old shit anymore but it felt a bit soulless to me, almost feeling like I was eating in a display for a furniture store. The menu is not large but the price points certainly are. There are a number of starters which are HKD200+ (and as evidenced by other sites, it looks like food for ants time – check the HKD230 venison starter back which looks fucking tiny) and some mains are even cheaper than starters.

It becomes pretty fucking apparent that The Pawn’s service is not on the fast track to success, resembling the speed of your average shopper in Causeway Bay on a Sunday, having a slow as fuck amble while ensuring that under any circumstances no eye contact is made with any outside surroundings or other people, keeping the gaze solely focussed on their mobile phone.  For a start, I waited for fucking aaaaaaaaages to order a glass of wine while I waited for Ms Chowdown as I made plenty of thirsty face at the passing waiters, who instead elected to diligently set up glassware for empty tables.  Given the economic considerations of the starters/mains, Ms Chowdown and I went for two mains to share – opting for the beef short rib to share and the duck bolognese.  After waiting another eternity  to place our orders, it took 15 minutes for the waitstaff to come back and inform us that the beef short rib was sold out so would we like to order something else.  Y U take 15 minutes??  We ordered the brined pork belly instead.

After more waiting for the bread to arrive, it offered sourdough and my continued nemesis, brioche toast.  Look, I have nothing against brioche when it’s done well but it seems fucking rare anywhere outside of France.  Why try and be fucking fancier than normal bread if you end up fucking shit up with dry-ass lame-o brioche bread?  The Pawn’s brioche toast was dry, flavourless and entirely unexciting and was a total FUCK NO for me.  I don’t even know if Nutella would have saved it.

The brined pork belly looked fucking awesome when it arrived – pretty as fuck without being unnecessarily fussy.  Two pieces of belly on top of a bed of fermented grains with fried onion rings.  The pork belly was coated with a ‘botanical’ miso glaze.  I have no fucking idea why The Pawn is so obsessed with the word “botanical” – maybe you can charge more for botanical sauce vs herb sauce?  Despite the choices in nomenclature, this was a solid FUCK YEAHHHH, with the crackling being super fucking crispy (I know, pork belly wank).  The duck bolognese was less exciting and Ms Chowdown and I aren’t sure whether the menu description really had us geared up what appeared.  It was essentially a duck shepherd’s pie, duck mince with potato mash on top (made with duck confit) and some cheese.  It wasn’t fucking terrible but it was a bit one note (both in taste and texture) and by the end of the dish, it just wasn’t that interesting anymore.  If I’d ordered this as a main just for myself, I’d have been disappointed as fuck.  No vegetables botanicals come with the mains, so you’re gonna have to order sides.

The restaurant manager or a more senior restaurant homie stopped in to ask how everything was going and I’m all about telling a restaurant when shit isn’t right at the time, versus saying “Oh my god, it’s all fabulous!” and then writing anonymous blogs online.  So after telling them that their service wasn’t snappy enough and asking why did it take 15 minutes to let us know something was sold out, he was really genuinely apologetic and asked whether we wanted a complimentary glass of wine (fuck yeah, I declined but I gotta note the fucking effort) and we ordered a sticky toffee pudding instead.  Pudding was a traditional style toffee pudding and was a fuck yeahhhh.  But that said, any British influenced establishment that can’t execute a toffee pudding should just close down immediately.  The Pawn actually comped it for us later, which was a nice fucking touch.

However, despite the feedback, it was’t like service took a turn for the better.  We waited for-fucking-ever for them to see us and bring us the bill.  When the bill arrived it was littered with errors (double charged us for the wine, added a bottle of water we didn’t have and had the wrong main).  Waited forever again for someone to notice us, discuss the bill, correct it and bring it back.  Finally, shit got sorted – but fuck me, I expected more from The Pawn given that it’s an established restaurant and a renovation shouldn’t affect service levels to the point where you’re laughing at the table because shit is really that laughably bad.  Even if you comp me dessert.

Verdict:

Per their hashtag, #thewaitisover for The Pawns’s renovation but you’re still going to be fucking waiting for fuck no service and largely average food (with botanicals).  FUCK NO.

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