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Gaijin Restaurant, Helsinki, Finland

I absolutely love the power of social media. Whilst in Helsinki, I saw a post that Chef Dan Hong posted – char siu at one of his restaurant Mr Wong, and claimed how I was craving it. The next thing I knew, one of his friends recommended that I go to Gaijin, which is located on the corner of Bulevardi and Yrjonkatu. Opened by Tomi Bjorck and Matti Wikberg, Gaijin offers diners ‘unique flavours by combining traditional Japanese and Korea dishes with dishes from the North of China in a modern way’. I was excited and knew I HAD to go!

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We have been traveling in Europe for almost 2 weeks and I had not had Chinese food and was craving it badly! Every time we travel out of Asia we always crave for Chinese food, me in particular. Gaijin offers two sitting, one at 6pm and the other at 8.30pm. I was extremely grateful that I got a table at 6pm on a Friday night, the night before we flew out to go home.

I wanted one of everything on the menu, however, it was only Dragon and I eating that evening. ‘The Mother’ had some complications with his flight and couldn’t join us which was a shame as he missed out on a wonderful meal!

I started with the pork bun – pork belly, kimchi mayonnaise, pickled cucumber and soft bread. The bread was indeed very soft and the pork belly was melt-in-your mouth tender. The pickled cucumber and kimchi mayonnaise a wonderful addition. I could potentially eat 2 or 3 of these babies on my own!

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The Beijing style chicken was similar to that of Peking duck. The crispy fried chicken which was braised in master stock was tender, even Dragon enjoyed it.

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I couldn’t go past the char siew pork and bok choy which came with pickled cucumber. It wasn’t your typical char siew – not the one I was used to in Hong Kong but this definitely satisfied the cravings and it was delicious. Yes – I am ashamed to say that I ATE IT ALL!

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Unfortunately I didn’t have time for dessert – had to go back to the hotel to pack my last minute things but I would have definitely ordered either the green tea and white xoco or beetroot geisha. Damn, really wished ‘The Mother’ was there so we could have ordered more food as it was good! Service was friendly and they were very helpful at the fact that I was dining with my 20 month old!

Definitely worth visiting if you are ever in Helsinki. Definitely a great find – thanks Chef Dan Hong and social media.

GA’s ratings: 8 / 10

Gaijin Restaurant

Bulevardi 6

00120 Helsinki

Ph: +358 10 322 9381

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Juttutupa, Helsinki, Finland

Juttutupa is a laid back restaurant which can be found behind Scandic Paasi Hotel which we stayed on the 2nd leg of our trip in Helsinki. It was quite a funky hotel but a bit out of the city centre. We ate here on our second last night in Helsinki, and Juttutupa serves good hearty food, a wide range of beers and other drinks.

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There is no table service, you pay at the bar, and then food will be delivered to your table. ‘The Mother’ couldn’t go past the Juttutupa’s classic hamburger served with domestic quality beef (18,90€) – 200g beef patty of domestic quality beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, salt-pickled cucumber, chili mayonnaise, marinated red onion between house bun. Not to mention also served with French fries. It was quite a big burger, and it looked absolutely sensational and yes it did taste as good as it looked!

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I couldn’t go past the grandma’s meatballs (16,90€) – creamy brandy sauce, beetroot, salt-pickled cucumber, mashed potatoes. I was craving beef, and the meatballs were surprisingly tender. The sauce I wasn’t a fan off but the mashed potatoes were creamy and I loved the salt-pickled cucumber.

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They even had a kids menu and Dragon had the chicken breast with salad. Unfortunately, it was uber dry and Dragon did not eat much of it. She ate more of my meatballs and ‘The Mother’s’ chips than her own dish!

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We were stuffed so did not have any dessert. Service was minimal but food came relatively quickly and we all did enjoy the meal. Definitely great having this restaurant behind the hotel, there aren’t a lot of restaurants near the hotel which is a shame.

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Juttutupa

Säästöpankinranta 6, 00530 Helsinki

Ph: +358 20 7424 240

Cafe Ekberg, Helsinki, Finland

Café Ekberg has been around since 1852. They serve buffet breakfasts and daily lunch specials, however, we were here for a quick stop during our shopping expedition as Dragon was asleep and I needed to sit down (she was sleeping on the hip seat and I have been walking with her ‘attached’ to me like a koala for at least 4 hours!)

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Café Ekberg is a very popular café and not only does it serve breakfast and lunch, it also serves great pastries and cakes. It is famous for the napoleon which we ordered and I have to say, I can understand why. Pastry flaky and the cream filling were not super rich. Perfect with a cup of tea!

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I also couldn’t go past the ginger bread – it wasn’t too sweet and didn’t have a strong ginger taste which Dragon also loved!

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Service was friendly and polite. The place was busy no matter what time it was but the pastries are definitely worth going for.

Next door to the café is a patisserie in which you can buy more cakes and bread to take home. We bought a couple of bread for Dragon to eat and no doubt she demolished them!

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On the first few nights we were in Helsinki, Dragon and I were still very jet lag. ‘The Mother’ has been in Europe a week earlier so he was ok and has adjusted. Unfortunately for him, Dragon and I ended up sleeping rather early, mid-afternoon early, 4.30pm on the first day and then 5.30pm on the second day. He was so looking forward to going out for dinner with us, however, we were so tired that an earth quake couldn’t wake us up!

On one of the nights, he went to get Hesburger – Finland’s version of McDonalds – he bought me a chicken burger and chicken nuggets for Dragon. I have to say, it was pretty decent and I preferred this over Mc Donalds.

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Jet lag is never fun, she got up at 2am the first day we were there. It took her about 4 – 5 days to go back to normal. Rule of thumb I hear, one day for each hour, which is about right.

So unfortunately we didn’t go out for dinner very often in Helsinki as we ate a lot of Pizza, and left over pasta! HA!

GA’s rating Café Ekberg: 7.5 / 10

Address: Bulevardi 9, 00120 Helsinki

Tel: +358 9 6811 860

Ravintola Juuri, Helsinki, Finland

Ravintola Juuri was on my must go to eat place in Helsinki. It specializes in ‘Sapas’ which are tapas. I was very excited to try their tapas, unfortunately we were there for lunch and there weren’t a lot of tapas on offer. It was Christmas and they had the special Christmas menu which consists of 3 tapas, a main and dessert.

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There were a LOT of seafood on the menu, and since I am on a seafood band, the chef kindly made me a vegetarian one! We started with some bread – Dragon loves rye! I didn’t think she would be she couldn’t stop eating it.

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‘The Mother’ started with Cured artic char root vegetable rosti and horseradish, escabeshe of herring with lingoberry mayonnaise and smoked fish pancake with sour cream and roe. I didn’t have any of this, when asked ‘which is your favourite’ his respond was ‘they were all nice’. I probably would have loved the cured artic char root vegetable with horseradish – I am such a sucker of horseradish.

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I had the (left to right) 10 hour turnip with Swiss cheese and linen seed, broad bean patty a la lindstrom and pea crème and smoked egg cheese from raw milk, sea buckthorn and carrot. I really enjoyed the broad bean patty but I absolutely LOVED the smoked egg cheese from raw milk – it loved the cheese and the carrot a wonderful complement. Could have definitely eaten more of it!

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For mains, ‘The Mother’ opt for Braised perch roll with smoked perch oven porridge and carrot butter sauce. It looked too pretty to eat. ‘The Mother’ thought the combination was interesting but he definitely enjoyed it. The carrot butter sauce was sweet but not over powering.

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The Chef made me the mushroom fondant and opera sandwich on brioche a la Juuri, dark cep and onion course – OH MY! This was sensational, a highlight for me. Onion-bechamel-ish sauce oozed out gently and the brioche – my my… delicious!

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For dessert, ‘The Mother’ had spiced waffle with cinnamon apple whipped porridge and ice cream. I really wanted this but unfortunately this had traces of nuts.

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I had the blueberry sorbet, blueberry puree and sour cream whey and this was delicious and light. Even Dragon loved the blueberry sorbet and blueberry – pretty sure she had more than I!

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I am SO glad that I got the vegetarian option. Most of the dishes I tried are on the menu so I was very happy about that. The mushroom fondant was definitely my favourite followed by the smoked egg cheese. Definitely glad I came.

Service was excellent, they were very accommodating with my allergies and did not bat an eye with Dragon running around! I have to say, going to a fine dining restaurant with Dragon is definitely a challenge. I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere as much as I was constantly running after Dragon or telling her to sit down, but the food was definitely fantastic! Definitely worth going if you are in Helsinki!

GA’s ratings: 8.5 / 10

Korkeavuorenkatu 27, 00130 Helsinki

Ph: +358 9 635732

Brasserie Kämp, Helsinki

Traveling is all about sightseeing, shopping, food and experiences. For me, most importantly would be the food! If the food was terrible, I think it would make the whole experience less enjoyable. Ok there has been some trips where I have done absolutely no research on food but I have managed to find little restaurant gems or markets that serve awesome snacks! Regardless, ‘The Mother’ knows that it has to some how revolve around food! Brasserie Kamp can be found on the main shopping drag of Helsinki. It is part of the Hotel Kamp and it has been open and serving breakfast, lunch, dinner for 100 years. The restaurant was a little more fancier than I thought but then again I wasn’t sure what to expect.

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Uncle pointed out on instagram that someone had gone here to have a burger. Judging from the picture, the burger looked sensational so I had to go and try it. We started with some bread, oddly Dragon loved rye and would not stop eating it.

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The lunch menu was vast but I couldn’t go past the Kamp burger – 140g grilled fillet of beef, chipotle and bacon dressing, tomato, caramelised onions, cheddar, lettuce served with a side of french fries! At 33 Euros it wasn’t a cheap burger so I had HIGH expectations! It did not disappoint, the beef patty was tender, the bun soft and it had the right amount of salad and sauces!  And the chips were a wonderful addition.

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‘The Mother’ encouraged me to try the sautéed reindeer meat with potato puree, lingonberries and fried onions with juniper berries. Now I had no idea what to expect. ‘The Mother’ had eaten reindeer prior to meeting me and said that it was tasty! I kind of felt sorry for poor little rudolf! The reindeer meat were a little gamey for my liking – it was tender but I didn’t like the after taste, even eaten with the ligonberries. The potato puree however, LOVED! Creamy and sinful!

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There’s also a kids menu which is awesome. Dragon had some pasta and chicken which she loved. Service was friendly and food came out relatively quickly. ‘The Mother’ wanted to come back again for the burger but I managed to persuade him to try other restaurants!

GA’s ratings: 7.5 / 10

Brasserie Kämp

Pohjoisesplanadi 29, 00100 Helsinki

Ph: +358 (0) 9 5840 9530   between 08:00–18:00

Helsinki – Ristorante il Siciliano

It seems so long ago that we were in Finland, Helsinki. ‘The Mother’ was going dog sledding with his friends in Sweden and thought we would use the opportunity to visit Europe. There are so many places I have yet to go in Europe, and we picked Finland as it was a direct flight from Hong Kong (easy for Dragon) and it was close to where ‘The Mother’ was dog sledding. We were there for almost a week in total, we were there for 4 days, then Prague for 4 days and then another 3 days in Helsinki before heading back to Hong Kong.

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The weather was COLD! I had my ski jacket on and Dragon was geared up from head to toe! She has never ever worn SO MANY clothing in her entire life but it was necessary. Especially since she couldn’t say if she was cold or not – but eventually she was able to ‘tell us’ that she was cold. She loves the cold weather though but we were still prepared and brought her lots of clothes.

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We didn’t do  much in Helsinki especially since it was winter and it was dark by 3.30 – 4pm! Perfect for Dragon and I for the first couple of days as we were jet lagged and we were in bed by 4pm on the first day. Poor ‘The Mother’ – he really wanted to go out to eat but we were just too tired. Sadly, we were up at 2am! It wasn’t fun jet lag believe me.

On our first day, we caught a tour bus that took us around Helsinki – saw the Cathedral

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I loved the Temppeliaukio Church – made out of rocks!

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We walked around the Design Museum and much more. It is quite a beautiful city and we stayed in a service apartment which was awesome – not that we did any cooking but the extra space really made a difference, especially when you have a child!

Now food wise, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I read there were a lot of seafood in Helsinki and ‘The Mother’ was afraid that I couldn’t eat anything as I am still on a seafood band. However, surprisingly the options were pretty good. We even managed to eat Italian on our first day!

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Our first meal in Helsinki was at Ristorante Il Siciliano which was conveniently located near tram stops and not too far from the esplanade. I was starving, and cold and wanted some comfort food. Italian was the perfect choice! Food was relatively cheap I thought, especially the lunch special which ‘The Mother’ had – crab linguini – i didn’t have any of this but he demolished this!

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Dragon loves chicken, I ordered the chicken parmigianna. It was a little sad looking, not enough cheese or sauce for my liking. Surprisingly the chicken was tender and Dragon who doesn’t usually like chicken breast ate at least half of this. Not to mention the wedges!

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The pizza’s and pasta’s looked though – seems like that’s their speciality. Service was polite and friendly I thought. The lunch specials came out a lot quicker than the a la carte – so if you are in a hurry, go for the lunch specials.

The next day before we started sightseeing, we stumbled across this cute little cafe. Stupid me forgot the name, thought I had a picture of it but with juggling Dragon and a camera, I totally forgot! You just have to trust me that it was pretty decent. It was near the tram line opposite H&M on the main shopping drag of Helsinki!

‘The Mother’ ordered the muesli with yogurt drizzled with strawberry compote. With it came boiled egg, cold meat, tomatoes and sour dough bread.  He loved the muesli and yogurt – said it was fresh and excellent. For someone that doesn’t usually eat breakfast, he demolished this!

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Dragon and I shared the yogurt with fruits, croissant, cheese, tomato and toast. She loved the mango yogurt with fresh mangoes. The croissant she didn’t enjoy as much which was a surprise – more for me I guess. I think ‘The Mother’s’ breakfast was infinitely better. Both breakfast set came with juice and tea or coffee. From memory it was about 11 pounds?

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Service was a tad slow, no table service but the food was good. We sat here for a while as Dragon decided to have a nap – shame she napped after she ate as it would have been nice to eat in peace! ha!

Below are a few snap shots of Helsinki.

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I Have to say, Helsini is a beautiful city! ‘The Mother’ even asked if I would live there! HA! I’m just settling in nicely in Hong Kong – not sure if I am ready to move yet, but maybe… down the track. Not sure how I would cope with sun set at 4pm though – it was rather depressing! Besides that, it was lovely, I love the open space and the parks and the cafes! More on Helsinki food coming up 🙂

GA’s rating: 7 / 10

Ristorante il Siciliano

Aleksanterinkatu 9,

Helsinki, Finland (Vironniemi)