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Helsinki - Chez Dominique

Well I'm on my way to Hong Kong, but first I had to do a layover in Helsinki.

Decided It would be a good idea to try what the city had to offer in terms of food.

Chez Dominique: 2 Michelin stars, the only one in the city. Table booked a 9pm for one person. It wasn't totally booked but lots of people for a 40-something seating place. Tables were quite close, had a table of two old Finnish ladies who were eying my plates (not me). If I were accompanied, our intimacy would't have great. Theirs was respected, as I don't understand a single word of Finnish.

There was a "long hot summer" menu with more than 20 things served. But this takes 5 hours to make, so couldn't chose it. Went with the "Hot summer" menu with nine courses.

Although they have a nice bar at the entrance and as it is shown in there website, I wanted to order a cocktail (old-fashion) but was refused. "We can do a martini if you want or serve you champagne, that's all". I wanted to ask the purpose of the bar then or ask if the bartender was on leave, but restrained myself and just asked the wine list. And some still water.

Funny thing about this still water is that it's tap water but filtered. I didn't know that until I asked what still water they were serving me, as they didn't bring the bottle on my table. I like to see what a restaurant offers in terms of water, especially when going abroad and going to a Michelin stars restaurant. Well Chez Dominique they serve tap-filtered water (you can have it sparkled too, but same principle). I wanted to ask what was the price but restrained myself as I didn't want to look like a cheap guy. Surprise came witht the bill. 10 euros. WHAT THE F... What? Really? You charge that? kind of a rip-off if you ask me...

Wine list came. Prices were outrageous high. I showed their wine list published in their website to my friend Sommelier who said their prices were just super high. But they have Wines not from France in their actual restaurant list. So didn't take a bottle but decided to go with Non French wines at the glass. Went with 3 glasses of white wine and a red one. 45,50 for the whites and 17,50 for the red.

First came some chips (beet and oignons, for sure, turnip and something spicy), two crackers with pig flavors and a lollipop of foie-gras, balsamic and chocolate. Din't take those in photo.

Other amuse bouche came in by three. Beef tartare rolled in some kind of cracker (lots of crackers during that meal, you'll see), croque monsieur in the shape of a crispy cracker (!) filled with cheese and a potato cracker (!) filled with Finnish fish, topped with Finnish fish-roe (don't remember the name)

First course came: Consomme of peas (even if tasted more like some herbs to me), creme fraiche and some mixture of potato and fish for the fried thing. Refreshing.

Second course: Salad made of pickled vegetable (carrot, radish, cucumber), black truffle paste, black truffle crumble, herbs and some almond butter. Black truffle crumble was kind of fun, taste of biscuit but with that truffle twist taste. Almond butter almost had peanut butter taste. Again, refreshing.

Third course: Frozen salad (azote), King crab, Turnip Ice cream, some crab cracker (!), beet and some sauce made of beets. Very refreshing.

Fourth course: Gelee of foie gras, grated frozen foie gras, Rhubarb ice cream, caramelized rhubarb, Rhubarb foam. Well, I guess Foie gras and Rhubarb go well together. Ice cream again in savory courses. Very refreshing.

Fifth course: Langoustine tail, Jus de cuisson of langoustine foam, langoustine tartare, I think it was vanilla, or maybe white chocolate and some watercress sauce. The first real hot dish. Warm.

Sixth course: Swedish turbot pan-seared with some black truffle oil or butter, some vegetable and some carrot-curry puree.

Had a little refresher made of Herb foam and some ice cream flavor that I don't remember. Refreshing.

Seventh course: Lamb. Five parts of lamb (there was neck and filet for sure, then I forgot.) Some dots of different kinds of puree and Jus de cuisson sauce. Not huge fan of lamb, but those 5 parts were quite enjoyable. My favorite dish.

Eight course: fillet Pigeon, pigeon heart, some black cracker that didn't have any particular taste, jus de cuisson with some black truffle shavings in it.

Got a pre-dessert with some Bluberries, Blueberry ice cream and if I remember well, some Green tea ice shaving.

Ninth course: Creme brûlée, some biscuit ice cream, meringue, fried caramelized apple, sugar coated rhubarb. Some other more rhubarb caviar, rhubarb compote, some cotton candy and creme anglaise.

Tenth course and final: Chocolate bar, biscuit, green tea creme, cherry, nougat.

Had some chocolates and macaroons to finish, even though no coffee (they only serve mignardises to people having coffee.

Final thoughts: Didn't blow my mind. Some very good executed dishes but lots of recurring flavors and texture (lots of crackers and ice creams), no wow dishes, nothing that I will remember forever. I guess it reflects pretty good the intitule of the menu "Hot Summer" as it a was refreshing menu. But would have loved to be more surprised. Dishes were quite small also, even though, eventually I was full. The extra dishes (ten dishes for a nine-course menu + the refreshers) were quite appreciated. But two Michelin stars? Food wise, don't worth it. Service wise, neither. It had some flaws. I've asked many questions during the meal (even though I don't remember all of them) and 75% of the time, the staff needed to confirm with kitchen. Staff doesn't know where they are sourcing their products, what is what in the plate (except the one who is announcing it, seems like). Otherwise, smiling and polite, but that is supposed to be standard, isn't it? Funny thing, waitresses were serving only female tables . Waiters were serving only male tables (mixed tables were served by both) but never a waitress served only male tables.

Menu at 129euros, 4 glasses of wine at 63e, 10 friggin euros for tap-filtered water. Total bill: 202euros.

Jul 12, 2012
HenryQ in Europe

One Week in and Around San Sebastian: Narrowing Down the Choices

+1 for Etxebarri!

Back in May, I went to Etxebarri, Mugaritz, Akelarre, Martin Berasategui and Rekondo.

If ranking should be made
1) Etxebarri
4)Martin Berasategui

The underdog on my list, Rekondo, is worth going if you want something in the city itself, solid-down-to-earth Basque and Spanish fare, their absolutely unbeatable largest best of the world reasonable pricing wine list.

On a side note, if you are renting a car and driving, do have a GPS that will guide you! I had a michelin map, google maps instructions, two pairs of eyes, two pairs of eyeglasses, a quite fair knowledge of Spanish language... we got lost on several occasions. Road signs are terrible there.

Or we are just terrible in orientation.

Jul 10, 2012
HenryQ in Spain/Portugal

Birthday Dinner near the Eiffel Tower

Not sure what "excellent mid-range" means but the Shangri-la hotel came to my mind. From walking distance to the Eiffel Tower, beautiful place and decorum, perfectly suits any incredibly special events. It is a 5 stars hotel but they have 3 different restaurants with different pricings...

Jul 10, 2012
HenryQ in France

San Sebastián, Pays Basque (Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle, St Jean de Luz, Biarritz, Espelette, Hondarrabia) Suggestions

Did a trip in San Sebastian and Rioja back in May. A journey that I will remember...

For San Sebastian, I didn't go to any pintxos bar... (what a shame!) so I am going to recommend something else: Rekondo. Great, no wait, AMAZING wine list.
If you have some interest about wine, Spanish wines especially, this is the place. This is a friend who is sommelier who recommended it! and he knows what he is talking about!

For the anecdote, I went to Martin Berasategui 3 stars restaurant during the trip (wonderful meal), I was with my Sommelier friend. He starts to talk with the restaurant sommelier and eventually tell him we are going to Rekondo the next day. A few minutes after, he comes back with a kind of encyclopedia... It was Rekondo wine list! MASSIVE!
I don't know if Berasategui is involved in Rekondo, but it is not often you can see the wine list from another restaurant in that kind of places... If you do go there, try to visit their cave.
Im not a wine expert, but when the sommelier showed us their vertical of Mouton Rothschild from 1945 to present, I knew I was seeing something quite rare...

Food is solid Basque/Spanish fare. Great emphasis on meat, lovely suckling pig there. Do try the Kokotxas there as it is a truly Basque experience (as I've been told!)

Jul 08, 2012
HenryQ in Spain/Portugal

My food diary of two weeks in Paris...

I always confuse Jacques Genin and Jean Paul Hevin... I must be kind of dyslexic...
Lovely chocolates too!

Jul 08, 2012
HenryQ in France

My food diary of two weeks in Paris...

For another Mexican option, there is Candelaria.

Ate there once and being not expert on Mexican food, can't really say. Lots of veggie option.

But the real reason to go there is the "secret" speakeasy bar. At the back of the restaurant, there's a door with no sign. Just push it and you'll find a real classy bar. Same idea as the "Please Don't Tell" bar in New York! Small and cosy, good atmosphere. Homemade cocktail aged in oak barrels!
So hip!

Jul 08, 2012
HenryQ in France