Monday, 7 April 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Natural Flavour Tea House

In case cooking, eating and photographing and planning those very activities didn't already take all of my time, I could easily spend my life just loitering on the streets, scouting new restaurants before the weekend supplement of the biggest daily in Finland spots them as after their review they become virtually impossible to get into.

On Saturday I was feeling lazy so I decided to enjoy someone else's cooking. And so we popped into Natural Flavour Tea House that had been featured in the supplement the previous day. As this was (believe it or not) an impromptu sort of visit, I didn't even have my camera on me. So unfortunately I had to settle for the camera phone and you in turn will have to settle for the impaired quality.

On their website they claim to be "the first dim sum house in Finland" but that's not entirely true. I've been enjoying those little dumplings of deliciousness in Helsinki for years: Restaurant China on Annankatu has been a steady favourite and the selection at Empire Plaza in Kamppi warrants a recommendation too. Oh, and then there's Ho's Food at Teurastamo!

The review had clearly worked its magic: there was a queue before they even opened their doors! The popularity, which with the article had grown exponentially, was also reflected on the selection. For instance chicken and pork dumplings had both sold out. Luckily one of us has zen, whereas the other one's life is entirely driven by insatiable craving for anything pork...

As soon as they opened, people kept coming. At first the owner settled for apologizing the long waiting times but even this wouldn't deter the crowds. In the end he actually had to turn people away.

We started with won ton soup, which for The Boy Next Door, a bona fide Asia connoisseur is the yard stick. Ours was shrimp won ton. The smaller, medium size one (€9.80) was big enough for two. I found it surprisingly mild, but he felt it was authentic and comforting. Apparently each region has their own variety and this was a rustic one. 

With the precision of heat-seeking missile we hit the dim sums (€6.90/ portion). Or, what ever was left. Shrimp dumplings were good.

Pork-filled Siu Long Bao's taste was spot on and the shell was excellent.

Korean Kimchi-dumplings were a pleasant surprise. Personally I could happily live my life without ever going anywhere near the freak show of fermentation that is kimchi, but these were delicious and not at all as pungent and overpowering as I initially feared.

As you would expect, there is a formidable selection of different specialty teas and tea-making paraphernalia that can be purchased to take home, too.

I longingly watched the massive bowls of noodle soups being carried to some of the tables around us and can't wait to try them too. That tea-marinated duck sooooo has my name written all over it!




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