Thursday, 27 August 2015


-2 by four little space, maybe 20 seats if that
-operated by 1 main server, plus one other who brought my water at the beginning of the meal (must spend rest of her time at the back)
-2 chefs (or was it one?)
-so small that I ended up getting invited to join the table next to me at the end of the evening and we closed the place down!

-outdoor sign that simply says "Ravintola" (glad I had read this in advance, be prepared!)

-need to thank this blogger- XXX- for pointing me in the direction of Kuurna, would have NEVER known about it otherwise

Short menu- changes every other week
Chilled cauliflower buttermilk soup
Perch tartar, crayfish oil
Confit gizzards,pickled chantarel

Forest mushrooms, green bean pesto
Fish of the day, brown butter and fresh tomato sauce
Crispy pork belly, black currant salsa

Chocolate mousse,sauted apricots
Almond cake, gooseberry parfait
Sorrel slush,caramel and berries
Plus one each of daily starter and main (on my visit, a steak tartare and a steak main

Fairly extensive wine list for such a small space (where do they keep it all???) and a few wines by the glass on the "chalkboard" pillar.  Having said that, my server paired both of my courses for me, one of which was a rose advertised by the glass, and another white to go with my fish happy that was not. Just ask what he suggests, he CLEARLY knows his stuff!  The Rose pairing with my mushrooms (which I was a little iffy about) was phenomenal.

Perch Tartare- simply divine.  Freshest of fish, pretty much unaltered- would have been a shame had it been tampered with.  Served on a mix of tender mild sorrel.  Very generous portion of fish for a tartare

To this day, I maintain that this was one of the best vegetarian entree of my life.  Cannot begin to describe how delicious the forest mushrooms were (Helsinki is known for its nearby forests with abundant berries and mushrooms).  Have never tasted a mushroom quite that delicious, especially after it was sautéed in a bit of butter.   Then topped with lavish dollops of green pea pesto- perfectly seasoned, bursting with flavours that I could never do justice to if I tried to describe.  Loved the addition of crisp green beans sitting at the bottom of the plate, as well as perfectly cooked potatoes that were a perfect vehicle to soak up any remaining pesto.  This dish really knocked my socks off.  If every vegetarian dish tasted like this, the whole world would be vegetarian in a heartbeat!

To all foodies- your life may not be complete without coming here.  I want to spread the word far and wide about this place, as it deserves far more accolades than it will likely ever receive.  Considered cancelling my Michelin star meal to go back and have the exact same dishes (the litmus test!).  Just please, take my word for it and go!

All for 53 euros which is an absolute steal in Helsinki standards.  

***look at links on its website

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A Lukewarm Experience at Mission Kits

2042 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1M9
(604) 739-2042

Tastiness Factor: 8/10

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Service: 2.5/5

Locavore Approved? YES- Their website does not lie.  They really do offer "well-sourced ingredients...that give guests a full experience of the bounty of the region".  Our tasting menu was produce-heavy and showcased some of the highlights from our farmer's market at this time of year.  A nice selection of BC wines is also available, either as pairings or as a bottle to enjoy at the table.  

It is so refreshing to see so many good new restaurants popping up in Kits.  First there was Au Comptoir and Anna Lena, both of which are pretty darn good and seem to be thriving.

After positive experiences at these new joints, I was ecstatic to hear about Mission, opening up in the old August Jack location on West 4th.  I was even more excited when I heard that the kitchen would be led by Curtis Luk, a Top Chef Canada contestant and the chef at the Parker where he did an amazing job serving upscale vegetarian fare that even carnivore Hubby loved!  And there is more- the owner, sommlier and manager at Mission is none other than Chase Macleod, who has done a fabulous job at making his previous venture, Fable, one of Vancouver's most beloved restaurants.  Rounding out the group is bartender and cocktail master Justin Darnes, who has worked at some impressive European hotspots like London's Savoy hotel, and more recently at Gaston's Pidgin.  What a dream team!

There is no doubt that they did an amazing job fixing up the old August Jack space, giving it a much more refined and classy look.  While there certainly is a bit of an upscale feel, the 60-seater is not too formal or pretentious, and therefore still caters to the Kits demographic.  The light wood finishes give it a soft, friendly feel, and the mural at the entrance with the cartoon-like drawings of fruits and veg adds a nice touch of playfulness.  The great bar on the far wall rounds out the pleasant space.

Although the space was welcoming and comfortable, the service put us on edge to say the least.  It started off OK, with a very friendly bartender who chose a great drink for me after I have him my likes/dislike list and whipped a refreshing non-alcoholic cocktail for my friend who was expecting. Unfortunately, it went downhill in a big way after that.  I am totally fine with the fact that we were over 20 minutes late getting seated since we made our reservation that day and kindly squeezed us in.  It was when we actually got seated that things went sideways, first with a very pushy server who would just not take "no" for an answer when we declined (multiple times) the wine pairings with the tasting menu.  After that, the overwhelming service blunder was the speed of service- SO SLOW!  At 11pm, we were only 2 courses into our 6 course tasting menu (we ordered around 9:30pm). It was at this point, likely due to our chorus of yawns, that our server casually asked "would you like us to speed it up a bit"?  like this was a normal pace for a 6 course tasting menu.  Really???  I am not sure why the service was so painstakingly slow, but I did notice that they seemed generally short-staffed in terms of servers (Chase MacLeod himself was hustling all night delivering dishes, while trying his best to act as a host and check in with his guests).  Perhaps with so many tables ordering the tasting menu, they were also a bit short in the kitchen?  Whatever the reason, it is quite a shame that the service had not been better as this would likely had given us a much more positive perspective on our evening.

The food here at Mission got mixed reviews at the table.  The dishes seemed to appeal more to myself and my friend who eats primarily pescatarian (we chose to try the vegetarian tasting menu), and less to the men who enjoy their meat.  Some of the dishes (like the Cauliflower Porridge) was quite enjoyable from my perspective was I can understand why it would certainly not be for everyone.   Other dishes, although quite vegetable heavy (Textured Potato, Foraged Mushrooms, Toasted Walnut) was stellar and even the gents were drooling over it.  Overall, it is clear that the folks in the kitchen know their stuff and are capable of putting together some awesome flavour combinations using vegetables as the canvas.  Although I would try the tasting menu again, the a la carte menu may be the better option for a picky/carnivorous diner.

Here are the dishes we enjoyed in our 6-course tasting vegetarian and classic tasting menus (both $65).  There was quite a lot of overlap between the menus with only 2 courses different between the two.  We really appreciated the "extras", including the amuse, a lovely pre-dessert and some decadent sandwich cookies as a parting gift.

Amuse Bouche

Wild Salmon, Sorrel, Shrimp Blini

Fava bean hummus, sourdough rye beignet, summer vegetables (vegetarian tasting)

Oyster and Pork, Bitter Greens

English peas and baby turnips with flaxseed crisp and romesco (vegetarian tasting)

Cauliflower Porridge, Brassicas, Farro

Textured Potato, Foraged Mushrooms, Toasted Walnut (AWESOME!)

Duck, Turnips, Anchovy, Roasting Jus

Stuffed walla walla onion, charred onion butter, summer squash (vegetarian tasting)


Goat Milk Ice Cream, Beet, Caramel (Farmhouse Cheese is an alternative for those with less of a sweet tooth)

Sandwich cookies for the road! (Much appreciated!) 

Overall verdict?
I am really a bit torn about what to say.  While I did really enjoy many of the dishes and liked the setting, the service really left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  I also worry that some may find their very veg-forward menu a bit too green, even for the Vancouver crowd.  It is still early days for Mission, and I really hope that they find their stride.  Based on our recent subpar experience, however, I think it may be a little while until we make our way back.

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Thursday, 6 August 2015

"Life-changing" ramen at Marutama Ramen

780 Bidwell St, Vancouver, BC V6G 2J6
(604) 688-8837

"This is life-changing".

These were the exact that Hubby spoke after his last bite of ramen at Marutama Ramen.  He had hardly uttered a word to me as he slurped away noodle after noodle, with a thoughtful look on his face.  But now it was clear- there would be many more visits to this place in our future.

Myself and Hubby, the lover of all that is Asian, had tried a couple different ramen places when we arrived in Vancouver a few years back but after some experiences with super fatty pork (really not Hubby's thing) and lack of good veggie options for me, we never pursued ramen again until a few weeks ago.  The incentive to give it another go came from watching an episode of Mind of a Chef, where David Chang happily sat slurping away bowl after bowl of ramen on a visit to Japan.  Hubby decided it was high time to give it another kick at the can so we asked around to a few of our ramen-loving friends and consulted the internet to see which places were best.

It actually took us a few tries to end up at Marutama.  The overwhelming recommendation had been to check out Hida Takayama (a Robson Market food stall) but they were only open until 8pm on the night that we were planning to go.  We had also heard good things about Hokkaido Ramen at the Denman end of Robson and actually had a seat there when I realized that they only had pork broth and no veggie options for me.

By this point, we were getting REALLY hungry and needed to get some ramen in our bellies pronto.  We therefore ventured across the street from Hokkaido to Marutama on Bidwell St.   We had not heard a lot of buzz about it but had always seen long line-ups when we were near there doing evening runs to Whole Foods. 

Fortunately for us, by the time we arrived around 9:30pm, there was no line and therefore no need to write our name on the board outside to hold our place in line.  We were immediately seated in a little nook right in front of the window that was somewhat cut off from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the room (great for a good chat).  Even at that time of night, the place was pretty much full of excited ramen eaters. 

The servers were very friendly, and did a great job explaining the different types of ramen to us ramen rookies.  Hubby was especially grateful at their suggestion when he asked them to bring out the staff favorite, the Aka Ramen with 7 kinds of mixed nuts.  They nailed it!  Hubby is still talking about how much he adored that bowl of noodles, with its spicy chicken broth (all of the broths here are chicken-based, not pork-based) that made you nostalgic about your childhood chicken soup experiences except with A LOT more kick!  The broth is made using chicken feet and abdominal area to produce wish flavours and is "cloudy" due to its high collagen content.  The thinly sliced pieces of pork on top were nice and lean, yet still moist and their signature wavy noodles (Chijure) are the perfect vehicle to absorb the broth.  I have rarely seen Hubby get so excited about a plate of food! 

My veggie version (Tan Men) was equally delicious (a note to vegetarians out there- the broth is still chicken based).   There was a generous amount of veg on top (cabbage, greens, snow peas), including a generous amount of the "sea lettuce" (Aosa seaweed) which is unique to the ramen at Marutama.  The seaweed dissolves in the broth, giving a nice mild salty flavour that intensifies as you make your way to the bottom of the bowl.  I loved it so much I ordered an extra side of it!  I also ordered a "flavoured egg" on top which added a slightly sweet element and had a delicious runny yolk.  What a killer combo of flavours!

 It saddens me to think that we have waited so long to jump on the ramen bandwagon, but better late than never!  Thank you Marutama Ramen for helping us see the light.  I know see A LOT of ramen eating in our futures!

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Monday, 3 August 2015

German-Inspired Upscale Dining at Bauhaus

1 W Cordova Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 2J2
(604) 974-1147

Tastiness Factor: 8/10

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 3.5/5

Locavore Approved? For the most part- Chef Stefan Hartmann did a very nice job incorporating some of the season's best ingredients into his German-inspired dishes.  Our tasting menu highlighted some of late June's finest (peas, tomatoes, watercress).  I did question the use of some more "wintery" produce in the menu, and the use of pineapple and banana in a summer dessert when so much local fruit is in such abundance.  

I was looking for the perfect place to celebrate a career milestone and, although Hawksworth and West both make for a great special occasion, I was yearning for a new upscale experience.

"Fancy" restaurants are few and far between in Vancouver and usually that is fine by me, but sometimes it is nice to indulge yourself a little.  I was therefore excited to hear about the arrival of the German-themed Bauhaus, complete with Vancouver' only Michelin star chef newly arrived from Berlin.  And just in time for my celebratory dinner!

I called to make a reservation as soon as I heard of its opening, several weeks before our reservation, thinking that it would be the toughest table to snag in the city.  It was getting quite a bit of press, much of it because of its owner, Uwe Boll who, from what I gather, is quite a controversial figure in the Vancouver's film industry.

Bauhaus has taken over the old Boneta space, a dearly missed Gastown favourite that closed its doors in 2013.  There is no denying that Boll and his team have done a wonderful job transforming the room into an expansive open space, a rare find in Vancouver where real estate is so crazy expensive.  I loved the dark wood, the sleek black booth seating against the wall and the smartly dressed bar.  I was even on board with the large eclectic painting on the back wall that said "ART".  What I could not wrap my head around though was the bathroom decor, which looked like it had been trashed by a bad graffiti artist.  Quite a sight to see, but not in a good way.  The other atmosphere letdown?  We were one of 5 couples in the huge space for our entire 3 hour visit.  While it was nice having all of the space around us, it also felt a bit awkward and lacked the excitement that is usually provided by the quiet buzz around you during a meal out.

I hate to be too hard on the service since we visited on their 6th week of existence but, for the price point, the service was sloppy.  Although every server I met that night was as friendly as can be, the finesse required to justify a tasting menu priced in the 3 digits was lacking.  I had called 4 days prior to let them know that, because we were coming for a special occasion, we would both like to do the tasting menu, and that I wanted to request a pescatarian version if possible.  They were very accommodating on the phone, guaranteeing that they could accommodate my dietary request and that they would make a note on our reservation, both of our special occasion and the pescatarian request.  When we arrived however, there was no mention of either and they seemed unaware that I had even called.  Waits between courses were sometimes painfully long.despite there being less than 10 of us diners in the whole restaurant.  Water was rarely refilled without me asking, and I sometimes ended up with sparkling when I had asked for flat.  These may seem like petty complaints and if I were paying 50 bucks a head they would be, but at this price point, I expect better.

Now onto the most important part of the night- the food.  I was expecting big things from Chef Hartmann, who has been at the helm of a number of European Michelin Star restaurants and who won numerous awards for his own restaurant in Berlin, including a coveted Michelin Star in 2010.   Overall, I was very happy with the the quality of the dishes in our 6 course tasting menu.  I enjoyed the splash of German influence in the dishes, without too much in the way of really heavy dishes that we often associate with German cooking.  There was some amazing flavours in the best dishes (the chanterelle dumpling was outstanding), proving that Chef Hartmann is the real deal.  Having said that, I was quite let down by the fact that despite calling 2 days ahead to inform them of my pescatarian requirements, I received the same dishes as on the regular tasting menu with halibut swamped for the meat on both dishes.  At this price point ($110 for the Chef tasting menu), I do not think that it is at all unreasonable to expect some consideration put into creating a unique pescatarian dish for me, or at least giving me a fish dish from the a la carte menu.  I was really let down by this misstep, and have certainly never experienced this at any Michelin Star restaurant I have visited.

Here is a look at our Chef's tasting menu.  Of note is that an a la carte menu and a full lunch menu are offered, and, new since our visit, they have added a vegetarian tasting menu as well.

Pre-dinner cocktail- Beet's Knees (gin, beets, fresh lemon, honey liqueur, celery bitter)

Bread with butter and herbed cottage cheese

 Amuse Bouche

Smoked sturgeon with pea puree and radishes

Lobster with tomato and tarragon

Brioche dumplings with chanterelle mushrooms and salad hearts

Veal/halibut striploin with creamy spinach, polenta and red wine shallots

Veal cheeks/halibut with jerusalem artichokes and watercress

Passion fruit and yogurt with caramelized pineapple and banana ice cream

Overall verdict?
I REALLY wanted to love this place.  I was really hoping for a special occasion spot, complete with a Michelin Star chef, that I would be yearning to go back to for upcomings birthdays and anniversaries.  Unfortunately, what I got was an anti-climatic experience, costing way more than it was worth.  From now on, for the same money, I will opt for 2 or 3 meals at Fable, Ask for Luigi, Bao Bai or some of the other Vancouver greats that offer great all around experiences.  I had hoped that Bauhaus would also make this list but, based on my first experience, it just doesn't make the cut.

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