Sunday, 20 April 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Emo

In honour of my pay day I finally got to cross Emo off my ever-growing list of restaurants to try. I'd been hearing so much good about it it was about time too. Remember our waiter at the Chef of the Year- competition? His performance was so outstanding it warranted a congratulatory visit to the place, too.

Calling itself a gastrobar Emo follows for instance Pure Bistro's Scandinavian minimalistic style. Luckily customer service is something else: the staff knows what they're doing and they do it well. Their genuine enthusiasm about their job and the customer satisfaction is tangible.

Upon the recommendation of our wonderful waiter we kicked off our date night with glass of house Champagne (Moët & Chandon, no less, at €14.50 a pop). And a great start to a great evening it was too, as was the dreamily light fennel and rice cracker it came with.

The menu consists of 10 dishes out of which the customers can compile the dinner of their choice. Two dishes costs €32, three €45, four €55, five €60, six €66 and the whole list will set you back €99. The menu lives according to the seasons taking customer's dietary restrictions into consideration. Roast lamb with brioche got both of our attention straight away. The dish, consisting if duck liver mousse, pickled mushrooms, jellied red onions and crisp cabbage was as delicious as it sounds. I felt tempted to have another one. This time reason won, though.

Herring with fennel, consisting of cold scramble-like sauce among other things, was light and subtle dish. For my own liking the overall experience was a bit thin but my date loved it. "Translucent" was his poetic take on it.

We also got thinking how, as our own skills in the kitchen grow, so do the expectations for food and dining out. "Ok" or "took away the hunger" no longer cut it - in order to be a success a meal needs to rise to a level I or my own kitchen can't even dream of. This can easily result in pressure of totally unrealistic proportions that no kicks or gimmicks can meet. Especially in Helsinki, where good restaurants are pricey (mostly due to alcohol, though) and at worst you have to wait for a reservation for months. And now, as a food blogger my approach is a totally different one. Sometimes I have to remind myself to focus more on enjoying the experience and the company. I have a feeling that with all the analysis, expectations and incessant photo-taking I'm a dinner date from Hell. It's a good thing The Boy Next Door has all that love and zen...!

Asparagus with organic egg and Iberico pork had white asparagus cooked in milk and green one too. The poached egg was perfection and secreto (that incredibly tender part hiding beneath the belly fat) was so succulent I think even my date finally understood why that Spanish piggy gets me all giddy. He declared the asparagus the best he'd ever eaten. 

I don't often for go for chicken in a restaurant, but Spring Chicken's skin was crisp and the meat juicy. The dish made the most of the fresh seasonal vegetables and the deeply flavoursome cabbage-based sauce. There was something Béarnaise-like on the plate too which was so good only my desire to impress my date with my sophistication stopped me from licking the plate. Which was pointless seeing how he himself was entertaining that very idea too.

The winner of the evening was still to come though. Entrecoté of veal was brought over by the chef, drizzling the dish with gorgeous mushroom broth. Veal was grilled to absolute perfection. The beautiful charred lines proved how the right cooking matters: the charred crunch added to the taste and texture. By the time we got to the mushroom ravioli we were both feeling ... ahem... EMOtional. Sublime. The date waxed lyrical about comparing it to the "notes emitted by a varnished antique cello".

As the dishes we'd chosen had so much variety, we struggled with wine list. Initially we toyed with Spanish rosé, but good old Fred Loimer's Grüner Veltliner (€46 a bottle) proved to be too tempting. As it got warmer it evolved to a lot more generous and carried us surprisingly well throughout the entire meal. There was enough of it too as Christ, that's 1 litre-bottle!

Before the desserts our waiter popped over to recommend Limoncello that the family of their Italian cook makes themselves. And of course we went along. The date liked it a lot, I found this particular Limoncello a bit too bitter and herby.

The first dessert was Apple x 3 limeposset. There were 3 different breeds of apples prepared in 3 different ways. The tartness of one of the apples combined with the coldness of the dish was too much for me: not only did it totally crush lime posset's own taste, but it felt more like a palate cleanser.  

Rhubarb Pie was delightfully soothing and the goat's milk ice cream's rich tanginess made it one of our absolute favourites of the evening.

Out of the dessert wines our waiter so expertly introduced us to we went for this Chilean late harvest Sauvignon Blanc which worked well with posset. Initially we were thinking of pairing it with the Rhubarb pie, but this French port wine-like gem turned out to be even better match. Full bodied with depth and wonderful berriness but lacking almost entirely the toasty notes of port wine.


As we moved over to the wine bar to finish off our wine we were feeling rather smug about the wonderful choices we'd made and how we'd enjoyed such a lovely and diverse meal without feeling heavy. Until I saw the menu for bar snacks...

Just look at those! How was I supposed to say no? Grüner worked well with Foie gras, too (though at this point we probably wouldn't have even noticed anything different).

Bodegas Cepa 21 Hito Rosado had wonderful acidity which complimented the Iberico beautifully.

Octopus and Mussels was one of Boy Next Door's favourites of the evening. And a wonderfully meaty and smokey dish it was, too.

The price tag for the evening was €244. That's what you get when you go along with waiter's every suggestion. But boy, what you get when you go along with waiter's every suggestion! We liked. The food, the restaurant and our waiters. Emolicious!




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