Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The beginning of the gluttony: Kasakka

As you may have noticed by now my family loves good food. This is especially true with my sister. So when she arrived for a prolonged stay, one of the first things she and I did was plan out the restaurants we were going to hit while she was in town. Needless to say, there was much exploration to be had.

One of the first places on our list was a Russian restaurant that came highly recommended: Kasakka. Described as having environs lushly furnished so you would feel what it would have been like to live and dine in tsarist times, we decided to make a reservation and see what it was all about. My sister had never had Russian food before, so this was a double win. My only exposure to Russian food previous was through an amazing Russian-Georgian restaurant in San Diego called Pomegranate, sometimes also confusingly called Cafe Petrushka. In any case, Russian food is nommers and I was more than willing to try something more traditional.

We were not disappointed. Luxurious surroundings? Yes.

First order of business: borsch. Gotta have the borsch if you’re eating Russian food…it just seemed slightly sacrilege not to have it. It was different than I remembered and far from what my sister imagined. It was more like a Russian minestrone, rather than what one normally describes plainly as “beet soup.” And all the better for it – it was delicious! Thin, tomato-based, with strips of perfectly-done beets, carrots, onions, and other veggie bits.

Item that required me to search the internets for a definition: vorschmack. Not kidding, that’s what it’s actually called. It’s a sort of meat paste, made of pork and herring (in this case) and boy is it amazingly flavorful. Think of a really rich ragu with a hint of teriyaki sweetness and you’ll get the right idea.

We weren’t exactly sure how to eat it, since our waiter spoke almost no English, so we decided to spread it on bread with all of its accoutrements (pickles, cooked diced beets, red onions, and sour cream plus tiny perfectly cooked potato). Not a mistake. :)

I’ll make a small side note about the sour cream in this meal: ZZZOMG. It was almost like butter it was so heavenly and thick. Never before have I had sour cream of this magnitude before. It’s almost like Admiral Ackbar says…it’s a trap! (Or if you’re familiar…it’s a frappe!)

Next item ordered: forest mushroom and vegetable blini. Now, I had some idea of what a blini was before ordering, since I read food blogs like most people flip through their FB news feeds, but this was not what I expected. Apparently Russians made their own version of blinis, so what came out was different, though still quite tasty:

It’s a mushroom and veggie salad (mixed together with some sort of cream, probably sour cream), with all of the, now noticeably standard, side offerings. This comes with the blini bottom, which in this case, instead of an unleavened thin pancake, was the equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich:

Well, I’ll take it!

Now, you have to realize now that we haven’t even gotten to the main courses yet. My sister and I hadn’t realized that 1) the portions would be so large and 2) a lot of the side offerings would be so similar and incredibly rich or heavy. So by the time the mains came out, we were slightly huffing and puffing, but we were determined to make a good show of it and at the very least, try out the flavors while they were fresh before doggy bagging them home.

I ordered the grilled white fish with “false morel sauce.” What exactly was false about those morels I’m still not sure about. As far as I could tell they were real mushrooms, and they were also, in fact, morels. So, was it the fact that it wasn’t actually a sauce? Seemed pretty saucy…perhaps this was a translation error, an Engrish mistake on the menu (though it was thoroughly repeated throughout). The mystery remains to this day, though the leftovers are long gone.

My sister, lucky girl, ordered the lamb filet with red wine sauce. Clearly the superior dish of the two. Hearty, meaty, but rare in all the right places. Delicious, as lamb should be.

As you could probably guess we never made it to dessert. No more stomach room plus our entrees were definitely taken home. But alas the leftovers served as an excellent lunch several days later, so all was not lost.

Another great dining experience in Helsinki. I’m starting to think that maybe there is hope for dining here after all. :)


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