Friday, October 19, 2012

Taking a hosting risk

While my non-familial visitors are few and far between (no worries, this is not a bad or good thing, just keeps me on my hosting toes), when one does come along I need to be prepared. Similar to when JBL visited and I had to think of restaurants on the fly, when my ex-teammate was visiting for a week I knew my reputation as a foodie was on the line.

You see, I have history with this particular coworker, and it was almost all related to food or otherwise fun cultural events. She's a world-traveling sexy Spanish woman who loves trying new things and being exposed to fun, wonderful experiences. The bar was set quite high. And unlike JBL, who is probably a little more on the forgiving side, expectations were high, as she'd been to Helsinki many times before.

So where to take this amazing visitor who loves all kinds of food and experiences?

I went through all the places in my head that I had been so far. As much as I loved them, I quickly eliminated them all. The ones that were a but more daring (such as Kuurna, with its seared baby reindeer heart) were also a bit too expensive. We needed to go mid-range to stay within her expense-report budget, and generally speaking the atmosphere would definitely count. We needed to go some place with ambiance, with pizzazz. Some place with spark.

It was at this moment, when I was mulling over restaurants I'd heard various people recommend to me, that I remembered someone mentioning a particular restaurant with a very high reputation. I just couldn't remember its name offhand (I think this is another symptom of getting old...information seems to slip from my mind like sand through an hourglass). But no matter - the internet is my friend in this particular matter! And after some searching on (the equivalent of Yelp until we recently, finally, exhaustingly, got Yelp here in Finland), I found the name again: Farang.

A Michelin-rated (though note, not starred), restaurant. Asian fusion. Within the right price range. And just two blocks from my favorite bookstore. Therefore a few blocks from my apartment. YES.

I made the reservation for that night and got us a slot at 8pm. Perfect.

Needless to say, it was definitely an experience. Think every chic Asian fusion lounge restaurant you can think of from every TV show you've ever seen and that's pretty much what you've got. It was gorgeous on the inside (which is hilarious because it's extremely nondescript on the outside).

And the food? Fabulous.

You can order the pre-fixe menu or order dishes to share. We were clearly in the sharing party. Plus it's more cost-efficient that way.

We ordered soft shell crab with green mango and mint:

Deep fried to perfection and tangy as hell. A bit salty, to be perfectly honest but still delicious. Almost made you pucker, but in the way where you giggle like a schoolgirl and squint because you're enjoying yourself.

And also the to-die-for crispy pork with palm sugar caramel:

Apparently this is one of their most sought-after dishes. People come into the restaurant just for this dish. It's so in-demand that it's been on the menu for years, completely unchanged. And I can see why. Imagine pork belly (if you've ever had that before), done completely to perfection - the fat is just cooked enough to melt in your mouth, everything is soft and chewy and crispy in all the right ways, and everything is absolutely covered in this slightly sticky but not too clingy caramelized sauce.

Which, btw, they give you more of, along with some amazing vinegar with chilies in it:

Yes, I was definitely a sauce-fatty and I did spread more of both of these all over my rice. And over everything else that was edible. To. Die. For.

And just because we were in the mood for it, we ordered dessert. My coworker doesn't drink so we figured we would spend the money on something else equally devilish.

Since all of the desserts sounded equally awesome and unusual, we just bit the bullet and got the sampler. Hell, why not right? It was adorable too:

Those things that look like eggs on top? Yeah, scoops of homemade icecream.

From left to right:

Leftmost: puffed rice chocolate, peanut milk chocolate creme, topped off with cinnamon ice cream.

Middle: caramelized pineapple with cashew creme and tapioca pearls, topped off with young coconut ice cream (this ice cream was definitely the best).

Rightmost: crispy caramelized banana, peanuts, and banana ice cream over a banana cake. Definitely a huge banana theme going on for that one. But it was awesome. And somehow not overwhelming.

The verdict? Uhh, tasty!

Admittedly I was very full by the end, despite there being only smaller portions of each of these foods. Something about the richness and my normally plain diet...

Anyway, Farang did not disappoint. We talked away three hours of dinner over these fabulous dishes and enjoyed the atmosphere and each other's company.

The funniest thing about the entire experience? Where we were seated! We noticed that we were next to a gorgeous wall that was filled with cookbooks (Farang cookbooks, unfortunately all in Finnish):

Our waitress then let us know that after I had called to make the reservation for a table of two, they had sat us here purposefully. It seems normally when couples come to eat together they don't speak to one another (a Finnish thing, she joked, despite being Finnish), so they provide additional reading material for people to look at because they don't speak with each other! Might as well have something for them to look at and buy if they're not going to converse. O_O

Kind of hilarious. Well, my coworker and I showed them better. The only reason we noticed the books was because we took a break from talking and were actually looking around and commenting about the decor of the restaurant (delightful). Never again, my friends!

And soon after we finished our night of magnificent eats. Good recommendation, person who mentioned this restaurant to me several months ago! Glad I finally got to try it.

Next on my tasting menu: finally getting to a Michelin-star restaurant. Oddly, I've never made it to one.



  1. Loved your post! hehehe i confess that i like to be the 'world traveller sexy Spaniard' that is way too nice, thanks:). This was a memorable dinner, glad that you chose that place, really i would have never noticed from the outside (even though it seems that the building is historical and all, but what is not historical in Helsinki?). I am still laughing at the 'my gf is in the bathroom' and me commenting later that i should say: 'hey,we are gfs but not lesbians on a date' ;-0 Great conversation about relationships as well, i took good mental notes! See you soon:)

    1. You are absolutely welcome! It was wonderful to see you. ^_^ Come visit anytime, I love having visitors to take out!