Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Meche






After the birthday sangrias and tapas what would have been a better way to continue the celebrations than... dinner! Tonight's venue was Meche in my neighbourhood that I'd been dying to try.




When people behind the restaurant are as noteworthy as Pekka Terävä, the head chef at Michelin-starred Olo, the expectations were high with this "neighbourhood joint serving fuss-free food made of quality ingredients".



And the expectations were met.


 
When one is accompanied by food aficionado friends, it provides an opportunity to take one's time to explore, enjoy and even debate on the offerings on the menu.



So, to start with we went... through the entire list of starters.



Lamb tartar had unfortunately already sold out, but our palates were pampered with variety of other treats. Such as the Iberico you can see in the picture. The quality was evident form the first bite.


The first things that seduced me on the menu was sweetbread, which is something one doesn't often see on me the menus. At its worst it is dry, fish-fingery crap. At its best it is what it was here: simply succulent. The red onions gave the dish a bit character without overpowering the delicate flavour of this wonderful ingredient. Definitely one of  the stars of the dinner.


 


Throughout the list the dishes were beautifully presented and made sure that stomachs, eyes and souls were nurtured. Just look at this asparagus with XO cheese.




In addition to the sweetbread one of the most memorable dishes of the evening was this langoustine, a perfectly balanced dish which celebrated the sweet succulence of the star ingredient and evoked oohs and aahs throughout the table.




The house chips - crunchy on the inside, fluffy on the inside - were so good we went for seconds.




And feast your eyes on this gem! The flavours of this breathtakingly beautiful and summery light tongue dish were in perfect harmony, but since the tongue was the pressed variety, it lacked the exceptional tenderness that a little while back made me fall in love with this part all over again.


 


In a quirky way so reminiscent of  that tapas bar run by that Michelin-starred chef in Malaga the mussels were served in a tin. Some of the people at the table felt the taste, too, was tinned  and though it wasn't one of the best catches of the day, the mussels were big and juicy. I liked.




Perhaps my self-imposed regime aimed at teaching me to tolerate cheese is finally paying off - one of my favourite dishes was beets with goat cheese. I felt the flavours were in sync and the textures complimented each other. Some felt that the beets were a bit too pickly tasting.




I'm still not entirely comfortable with taking pictures at restaurants. The sheer size of my camera doesn't help... But seeing how based on his statments on how "blurry amateur photos ruin beautifully presented dishes" the shots hardly would have pleased Mr. Terävä, so salmon ceviche and frittata with pepper do not appear in this blog entry in spite of making an appearance on our plates.

Salmon was good and and creamily rich. I just fear I might have saturated myself with salmon to a point that it just fails to impress me the way it did with fellow diners. Frittata on the other hand was in everyone's opinion far to capery. Bread on the othe rhand is superb here and can be bought to take home, too.




Hungry at this point of the evening we were not, but of course we had to give the mains a try too. Instead of veal neck that was being advertized on the website, the menu boasted veal entrecôte. The vegetarian option was spinach and ricotta raviolis which sounded so delicious I actually wanted to have them. Luckily one of the diners reminded what a treat Finnish white fish (the fish option of the day) can be, so that's what we had. Fish was beautifully cooked and the side dish of bacon-asparagus-potato casserole was a winner all around. This I want to make at home too! Another valuable lesson learnt: I should give fish a try more often.




For afters we had crème brûlée, rhubarb with almong sponge and the cheese platter. Crème brûlée came with lemon sorbet that received mixed reviews. Some felt it was too overpowering, I on the other hand felt it was a beautfully balanced dish and the lemon really balanced the creamy richness of the pudding.








Overall the restaurant was every biit as great as we expected. Food was good, wine recommendations were bang on and the atmosphere of the restaurant was classy and cosy without being stuffy or pretentious. But for me probably the best thing about the evening was the staff: professional, knowledgeable and friendly. We recommend!

It is always a treat to get together with friends who share appreciation of good food. That allows for lovely meals, but also for an interesting exchange of opinions. Matters of taste, you see. They're always... well, matters of individual taste. In addition to The Gentleman, food and Andalusia this blog just might be a love letter to all my wonderful friends - around the country and the world!

Owing to the last minute plans and vegetarians in the party we had to pass on the house speciality: an entire pig's head that has been sampled in some of the other Finnish food blogs for pictures, see here). This delicacy needs to be ordered three days in advance, but based on what I've been hearing, it's every bit as delicious as it sounds like...

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