Restaurant review: Oh Lala! – Playa del Carmen, Mexico

13 08 2017

Usually write about restaurants in Helsinki, Finland, but if find nice restaraurant worth to try outside of territory, you shall find the story here.

Travelled to Playa del Carmen during summer holidays and found a unique restaurant which differs from all others. Oh Lala! was opened in January, 2011, by co-owners George and Mikaela With a total of 9 tables divided between the indoor and outdoors seating, and an open kitchen, Chef George, Mikaela and professional staff, make sure that every visit to Oh Lala! is to be remembered.


Mikaela spends her time with customers in dining room. She told that originally restaurant was opened around the corner, which was not the perfect place due to by-passing carbage trucks. But existing location, although it is not by busy 5th Avenue, which is actually good, seems perfect.

Menu is actually quite versatile and international, but also local dishes like grouper fish is available.

Dinner starts with appetizers, restaurant served Foccacia with parma ham and mozzarella and as vegan version 3 different kinds of cherry tomatoes, olives served with the house vinagrette.

For starters ordered Shrimp and Scallop skewer and Mushroom salad.

Skewer was very well spiced, shrimps were kind of wrapped around scallops. Cherry tomatoes are not so easy to eat, which I noticed in Kappeli on Mid-Summer, therefore took extra attention when trying to pick them up.

The dressing made the salad.  Mushrooms, lettuce and cherry tomatoes made for a simple, but very tasty dish.

For main course had Octopus with potatoes and green salad and Red Curry.

Octopus “tower” was impressive piece of art. Again well spiced and salted and what was most important, it was not soft and chewy as it unfortunately many time is. Crisp and firm structure and delicious side dish, although “only” potatoes, guaranteed enjoyment.

When ordering curry, waiter asked how hot curry can be. Ordered strongest one and indeed it was spicy and hot. For country of salsas, like habanero, curry was prepared to meet the requirements of spice enthustiac.

Mexico is growing wine producer country, which means that many of the wines are still quite young.

Casa Madero’s Casa Grande Gran Reserva Seleccion de Barricas 2012 is produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes and it meets even the most demanding needs. Bouquet was nice and taste enough full-bodied. One could even see from the glass that is has been stored some time. And this also meant that price was at least at the same level as European wines in Europe.



Dessert drinks are also international. Difficult to imagine how many restaurants serve grappa in country of tequila.


Oh Lala! is restaurant worth to visit in Playa del Carmen. It is one of the most expensive but if you compare it to restaurant prices in Finland, more affordable.

Food was excellent, service professional and dining room cozy. Some food scent from the open kitchen, but it made one more hungry. And part of uniqueness was, that co-owner Mikaela spent time in dining room discussing with customers and creating relaxed athmosphere in fine dining restaurant.

 

REVIEW: FOOD 4,5/5 – SERVICE 5-/5 – OVERALL GRADE 4,5/5

http://www.ohlalabygeorge.com/





Restaurant review: Kappeli

9 07 2017

Restaurant Kappeli was opened to the public 1867 as summer restaurant but since 1970′s it has been open all year round. Latest renowation was in autumn 2011 still keeping same traditions in building structure.

In the summer you can also dine at the outside terrace, which is at the end of the building behind main terrace. If you want to sit in the middle of the main terrace but inside, ask for oriel window table for two. It is small but charming and one can even watch bands and singers at the stage opposite to the restaurant. We dined in that small glass walled space on Mid-Summer Eve.

Kappeli - reijosfood.com

Menu today looks tempting and first time it included vegan dish. But as it was Mid-Summer, it was nice to start the dinner with Vodka Martini. Unfortunately, as drink order was taken at the same time as food orders, starter came earlier than aperitif.

For starters ordered Kappeli’s Green salad and Prawn salad and smoky chilli dressing Citrus and tarragon marinated prawns, fried potatoes, samphire, cherry tomatoes seasoned with sorrel and egg.

Prawns were fresh and tasty. Potatoes were extremely delicious, they were cooked somehow differently than ever seen before. I do no recommend to try to spoon the tomatoes with fork, they might surprise you…

As green salad was so basic, no picture or story.

As main courses had Chargrilled whitefish, fried scallops and a fish roe and crème fraîche sauce Almond potato purée seasoned with dill, grilled spring cucumber and carrots and Broad bean and tomato ragù Deep-fried kale, fried mushrooms, macerated mini plum tomatoes and vegan cheese.

Long names for portions and all ingredients well listed.

Whitefish is favorite Finnish fish, light and not greasy at all like salmon. Side dishes were delicious and paired well with the main dish.

Ragu was made of Finnish invention called “Härkis“. It is made from broad beans and also available in the supermarkets. Vegan dishes are not basically meant to look or taste like meat, but this one was made so well that could have thought it was minced meat like ragu usually consists of. With spaghetti would be perfect, made like that.

 

For wine had organic Savia Viva from Pares Balta. Paired well with all dishes enjoyed. Take a look at the label! You can see some historic pictures from Finland, including Kappeli.

Kappeli is a perfect place to try Finnish kitchen in the center of events. Most of the diners are tourists especially now when it was Mid-Summer Eve.

Food was the best one so far compared to previous visits. Especially ragu surprised.

Service was polite and professional, but as mentioned earlier, aperitif was brought too late.

 

REVIEW: FOOD 4+/5 – SERVICE 4/5 – OVERALL GRADE 4+/5

http://www.kappeli.fi/index.php?id=etusivu

 

 





Restaurant review: Taverna Vaelsa

18 06 2017


Ristorante e Taverna Vaelsa opened spring 2015 at the Market Square, at Pohjoisesplanadi 9 in the historic Govinius building. At the 2nd floor there is restaurant serving with wider menu and downstairs is taverna, which serves pizzas and some salads. Vaelsan’s kitchen combines local food and classic Italian cuisine with a modern touch.

Visited taverna at late lunch time on Saturday and tried pizzas. Ordered them from the menu under Pizze Speciali headline.

Chose Bresaola Mozzarella, Rucola, Bresaola, Parmigiano, Lemon Vinaigrette and Vegana Zucchini, Paprika, Eggplant, Parsley, Vegan Cheese.

Pizza Bresaola was delicious, but quite dry as there was not tomato sauce. Pizza base was quite thick and had to cut quite hard pieces. There was enough fresh rucola, which is not always the case when pizza includes rocket salad.


Pizza Vegana was also tasty and it was pleaseant surprise to see that taverna served also vegan version including cheese. That definately increases points.


Wines were a little bit problematic, only 3 red wines available and 2 out of them had run out and replaced with other brands. Of course pizzas do not necessarily require full-bodied wines but for instance the one we enoyed was quite light.

Location is excellent, just opposite to Market Square. And if you get window table like us, it is nice to watch the crowds outside.

Service was a little bit limping, maybe due to busy lunch hour, which was ending. If you want to visit ristorante, better make table reservation, to taverna you can just walk in and check if there are free tables.

REVIEW: FOOD 4-/5 – SERVICE 3,5/5 – OVERALL GRADE 4-/5

http://vaelsa.fi/taverna/





Restaurant review: Salutorget

1 04 2017

 

Set in a former bank building, Salutorget comprises a dining room known for its pared-down elegance, a stylish bar and a cosy outdoor terrace with views of Helsinki’s seafront market. Dining areas, main and old bar/lounge space look, look really impressive, if you like classic decoration. There are also private dining rooms located on the second floor.

Have not dined in Salutorget for couple of years, so it was time to try it again.

For starters ordered Smoked beetroot, crutons, buckwheat and tofu sauce and Escargots á la Peltola´s Blue, country style baguette

Beetroot was fresh, and the tofu sauce a very nice addition to the dish.

Escargots were really tasty. Blue cheese added nice flavor on soft snails; garlic is used too oftern. Structure of snails was also perfect, not chewy at all.

 

Main courses were Globe artichoke and “falafel” with nuts and lentil and Grilled trout, smoked potato and hollandaise with white fish roe

Fresh, and home made tasty falafels.  Nicely presented and garnished with fresh cherry tomatoes, and greens.  The mashed potatoe sauce was nice and creamy, and the artichoke was a nice addition to this dish.

Trout was perfectly grilled, but could have eaten two pieces. Side dishes were well planned as they were delicious and paired extremely well with the fish.


 

Wine ordered this time was a real bargain. At the price of 45€ (restaurant price in Finland) you seldom find that tasty Shiraz. Most of the wines are reasonably priced, which is not the case in most restaurants in Helsinki.

Tempus Two was founded in 1997 by one of Australia’s most iconic and revered wine families, the McGuigans. Wine enjoyed was Tempus Two Shiraz 2014. Although it is still quite young, would agree on winemakers notes, “Big, Bold and Beautiful”!

 

Salutorget is the restarant to visit, if you want to try tasty Finnish food with international twist.

Food was excellent, also vegan. Restaurant has vegan main course on web -pages, but not on on printed menu. Also vegan dessert was available, but not listed on menu

Service was professional as you can expect in restaurant like Salutorget.

Overall grade is 4,5 because of reasonable wine prices and decoration, which is unique. Also the summer time terrace is worth to visit as it is opposite to Market Square and statue of Havis Amanda.

 

REVIEW: FOOD 4+/5 – SERVICE 4/5 – OVERALL GRADE 4,5/5

http://www.salutorget.fi/en/front-page/





Restaurant review: Hoku

12 03 2017



HOKU was opened on the 3rd of December 2016, when new restaurant concept was launched in Kamppi shopping center 5th floor. Area is called Kortteli (Block), which includes 11 restaurants with different cuisines, HOKU being one of them.

Restaurant HOKU is a Hawaiian restaurant started by Ryan Shibuya. It is located by the windows opening to Narinkkatori offering great view if you get window table. So ask for it, but enough early. Some of the tables are on the other side behind glass walls after Beijing8 restaurant.

For starters ordered EDAMAME Lightly boiled and seasoned soybeans with a sesame-soy chili dressing and SOFT SHELL CRAB Deep fried and served on mixed salad with a creamy sriracha vinaigrette

Edamame, which is common in Hawaii,  was a very simple dish, and a bit lacking imagination.  As tasty as the sauce is, at the end they are just soy beans. Suitable for snack to be shared but maybe not for starter.

Crab was delicious and actuallu quite big for starter. Crispy shells with tasty salad made this crab starter maybe the best of all dishes eaten.

 



From several main courses ordered STEAMED SEABASS WITH BLACKBEANS Seabass steamed in cabbage leaf, salty black beans, shimeji mushrooms, ginger pesto and TOFU TERIYAKI Pan seared with teriyaki sauce.  Served with rice, green or potato salad, pickles.

Seabass was wrapped in cabbage leaves, 3 pieces, which make portion generous. Sauce or soup was quite salty but rice lightened it. Fish itself was perfectly cooked, soft and tasty.

The tofu was silken, and pair well with teriyaki sauce. In menu dish is with salmon but can be replaced with tofu.  In the plate there are 3 different flavors, sweet with the red cabbage, sour with the pickles  and chilli with cabbage.  The green salad is simple, usually served with a mayo dressing, but as it was served as vegan, the dressing was a vinagrette.



Wines are affordable when it comes to restaurant prices. If you get bottle of decent wine under 40€ in Finland, then you are on right track. Had South-African The Innocent Syrah 2015 from wineyard Lammershoek. The palate was soft and round upfront mouth feel. Quite light for Syrah but paired well with Hawaiian style food.

Restaurant has it’s own beer as you can see from the picture below. One of the Hawaiian islands, Kona, can be seen on the sign behind bar desk.

Restaurant Hoku will be success for sure. Excellent location in Kamppi shopping center by the windows with great view help it also.

But of course food is most important part and it was tasty. Especially not too strong Hawaiian flavors should melt Finnish mouths.

Service was professional being not too formal.

Saw many customers trying to step in without table reservation. On Saturday evening restaurant was fully booked.

 

REVIEW: FOOD 4-/5 – SERVICE 4-/5 – OVERALL GRADE 4/5

http://hoku.fi/index.html

http://kampinkortteli.fi/en

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Restaurant review: Kaarna – bar and kitchen

12 02 2017

Restaurant Kaarna is a laid-back Finnish restaurant with a Scandinavian twist. The restaurant offers simple food and as speciality beers from microbreweries. Most of the dishes also have beer suggestions. To start with, restaurant recommends to try snapas, a sortiment of tapas made from Finnish ingredients. 

Kaarna is located in Forum shopping center in two floors. Street level, there is a small bar, and at the second level there are the dining area and lounge type of bar. There is even small inside terrace by the entrance in the shopping mall.

Ask for window table by Mannerheim street, if you want to follow by-passers and shoppers.

 

For starters had Green salad and Blini with pike roe.

It looked beautiful, but unfortunately the taste was not.  No dressing was added to the salad, or oil offered.  This salad is not listed on the menu, but there were not vegan options for starters.  Nice of them to improvised, but not a success this time.

As it is blini season, had to try it for starter. Only roe available was pike, usually salmon or white fish roes are served. Blinis were ok, but the amount of roe was ridiculous. Never have I seen that tiny pile of roe. And seldom, if ever, syrup is served with blini. Missing black pepper was the third thing, which went wrong.

For vegan food Pulled oats flatbread Pulled oats flavoured with tar and fennel, onion purée and flatbread from Lapland and Roasted country chicken Chanterelle sauce, fried vegetables and roasted potatoes.

Pulled Oat is oat and bean based protein food developed by Gold & Green, new Finnish vegan food producer.

Finnish flat bread is tasteless and dry as it is, so the toppings should be the opposite.  In this case, once again, it looked delicious, but there is just one word to describe this dish:  Bland.

Taste of chicken was nice, but is was quite dry. Portion included sauce, which tasted mushrooms. Maybe, if there had been some bites of chanterelles, it might have tasted, what it should have been.



Wine, which was so called Loyalty Customer wine, was best part of the dinner. Banrock Station Shiraz 2016 from Australia paired well with slightly spiced food. Quite sweet taste still because wine is really young.

Restaurant Kaarna has perfect location in one of the busiest shoppping centers and by the Mannerheim street. If you want window table, it is recommend to make table reservation in advance because restaurant is busy on weekend evenings.

Because of fully booked tables, had to wait 40 minutes for starters.

Unfortunaly food experience was not at the level we expected but location and window table increased overall grade.

REVIEW: Food 2/5 – Service 3+/5Overall grade 3+/5

https://www.raflaamo.fi/en/helsinki/kaarna-baari-keittio





Restaurant review: Loiste at 10th floor

21 01 2017

Restaurant Loiste is located in the heart of Helsinki at the 10th Floor of Hotel Vaakuna and Sokos department store. There is a nice view from terraces and part of the restaurant windows. If you are seated on the right side of the restaurant, when you come in, you can not enjoy of the view, unfortunately. Therefore ask for window table and you can take a look at Kamppi and Forum shopping centres. Loiste is casual type of restaurant, but tries to put effort on the menu and food.


If you just want to enjoy aperitif or you are not hungry enough, you can visit the bar, which is located at the same premises, at 10th floor.

 

This time no starters as had decided to eat dessert too. However, as portions were not that big, could have eaten Blini, the season dish, for starter.

For main courses ordered Fish of the day and Chickpea steak, baked shiitake and kale, bell pepper tzatziki, which was the vegan dish.

Fish of the day was Arctic char, which is cold-water fish in the family of salmonidaes. Quite common in Finland. Side dishes were beetroot, potatoes and mushroom sauce. Simple, tasty but fish pieces could have been bigger.

For vegan porton, not your typical Chickpea steak.  A combination of chickpeas, shredded carrots, and zucchini put together in tasty steak shape. Served with a delicious red pepper tzatziki sauce and a side dish of seasoned wild mushrooms. Overall a delicious dish worth a second try.

For desserts ordered English cranberry-chocolate pudding  and Basil-Coconat sorbet.

Pudding was more like a cake, but delicious. Again few bites bigger and experience would have been perfect.

The vegan dessert was a creamy, structure like ice-cream.  Basil and coconat are not a common combination, but it totally works!



 

This time had for red wine Trapiche Astica Merlot-Malbec from Argentina. This basic wine had intense red color with ruby hues. Fruits and vanilla aromas, great complexity of the red and black fruits in the palate with sweet tannins. Malbec softened Merlot taste nicely.

 

Bigger portions for the price paid is a wish, when it comes to non vegan dishes.

Service was polite but we were wondering why we did not get window table although requested. Few tables were empty all the time by the window. Otherwise restaurant was quite busy.

 

REVIEW: FOOD 3,5/5 – VEGAN FOOD 4/5 – SERVICE 4-/5 – OVERALL GRADE 4-/5

https://www.raflaamo.fi/en/helsinki/restaurant-loiste

 








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