Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"I'll take your exotic meats, thanks!"

After a hearty celebration of the day of my birth with my new community of friends, the day of my actual birth was spent relaxing and taking it easy. Because it’s me, con queso (i.e. nacho cheese) was indeed consumed (purchased from my local grocery store, and with much gusto), but I saved room because I knew that a very special dinner reservation had been made: we were going to Kuurna, a modern Finnish restaurant.

Funny enough, Kuurna was not my top choice for my bday. It happened to be the only restaurant open from the list of potentials my sister and I were interested in while she was here, so the reservation was made. I guess having your birthday coincide with the day that Jesus went back into the sky really isn’t such a good thing, in some ways. :\

But it turned out to be an amazing thing. Because although Kuurna was at the end of our list of prospective restaurants, it shouldn’t have been. We would have missed an amazing opportunity. Behold the story of Kuurna:

First of all, adorable restaurant. Small, cute, unpretentious. One of those places you take straight out of one of my favorite design blogs – all of the chairs don’t match but have clearly been repaired and painted the same color to reach their full functional and design potential, the dishes and silverware are aged but strangely expensive. Everything seems a little bit old and used but of very high quality.

However the price of the food isn’t what you’d expect it to be – you choose one appetizer and one entrée, with the choice of choosing a dessert, all for a set price. Now of course there is the possibility of upgrading to one of the specials of the day, which adds small amounts to your bill, and of course you can add booze, which always costs a little bit more, but we’re talking Finnish standards here (what I’ve lovingly started to refer to as the “land of expense”), so we’re still in the realm of very reasonable, all things considered. Even the menu is simple and cute:

Yes and yes. So of course as my sister and I glance down the menu and at the specials, we take one look at each other and without any hesitation, agree that we want to order the weirdest things available. I mean, why else would you go to a cool restaurant – just to order something you would know the taste of already? Pshaw! No! It’s about the experimentation and exploration of different foods glorious foods. And that’s exactly what we did.

For starters, we ordered the pigs head terrine and the steak tartare. Sorry turnips with olive oil and sea salt, but you just take a back seat to something as alluring as pigs head. :P

The steak tartare was good, as high quality steak tartare always is and should be. Beautiful color and texture, mixed with some good capers and bits of onions and served with a raw egg yolk (drool):

The pigs head terrine was amazing. I had forgotten from my recent excursion to London that a terrine is a sort of amalgamous cake, for lack of a pretty way of saying it. It’s cooked something mashed together and then gelled – think jello with a ton of fruit in it, but the jello is savory and the fruit is any ingredient you like (grilled veggies, chicken, fish, or in this case, meat from a pig’s head). They did an incredible job with this terrine – the meat from the pig’s head was still extremely juicy and flavorful on its own, and the gel around the meat was barely there, allowing for the meat to really shine on its own.

It was garnished in some sort of flower bud sprigs, as you can see, which I did try (and tasted as you could imagine them smelling in a grassy green field), but they freaked me out a little. I’ll try almost anything in the world – pigs head terrines, snake, ostrich, alligator meat, cow testicles, thousand year old eggs, weird cheeses, anything…but you get those freaky planty things the hell away from me.

Anyway, next was mains. Now, as a warning: those who are faint of spirit and heart should stop reading now, because it does get a little graphic from here on out. Skip to the next blog post if you are fond of especially fuzzy cute animals or wonder about their welfare. I guarantee you the rest of this post will not make you feel any better about me, or their well-being.

Now that that is out of the way, our mains were (drum roll…): baby reindeer heart and braised ox tongue. That is actually no joke. We were so curious! Give us your exotic meats, my good lady, we’re not here for the flim flam!

So out came the braised ox tongue:

Amazingly flavorful, and not at all like tongue I’ve had before. It was soft, juicy, like the most intensely ox-flavored succulent meat I’d ever had. Nothing like stew meat or tongue meat. Not even like organ meats. There is literally nothing else I’ve had to describe it. Not spongey, not tough, not even textured with little nodules as I had expected. It was like ox-tail stew but without the toughness or the stickiness that comes with the tendons being boiled down. It was incredible.

And now for the baby reindeer heart. We joked later that I had to eat it for my birthday as a way of keeping onto my youthful looks (“it’s for my yoof!”). :) This, my good friends, was not what I expected either…but what can you really expect when it comes to something like baby reindeer heart?

The answer: nothing like other organ meats either. Not tough, but incredibly smooth, sort of like liver, but with slightly more resistance. Surprisingly there was no bloody aftertaste, in fact there was very little aftertaste of any kind. As you can see from the picture, there were no tubules or noticeable chambers of any kind in the meat, so this must have been just the very center of the muscle. I was impressed, since if you think about it, this is one of the few muscles of the body that, as soon as a thing is born, never stops working, ever.

I am slightly assured that my enjoyment of this entrée ensures me a place in the deepest chambers of the underworld…but if that’s all it takes to fall, I’m willing! What an experience! I mean, who else do you know can willing say they’ve eaten the heart of a baby reindeer? O_O And a note to my hunter friends: OMG, keep the hearts! You don’t know what you’re missing!

In any case, Kuurna was an experience to be remembered. They swap their menus weekly so I imagine I’ll be going back as much as is considered “reasonable.” So, until we “meat” again, Kuurna…


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