Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Peninsula 1899

Chinese restaurants have a bad reputation in Finland. They're cheap, dimly-lit dingy places that all serve the same mile-long menu written in practically illegible Finnish consisting of all things deep-fried to a rubber ball-like consistency and drenched in ketchup-y sweet and sour sauce. And one can be found at just about any street corner. 

Mostly people behind them are not even restaurant professionals and are in it just to make a living. And sure enough the hung over Finns with Saturday morning's insatiable appetite for life-restoring take away seem to keep them in business. 

That shouldn't be the case. And needn't be the case. And these days, it isn't. There's a Chinese restaurant in Helsinki that serves really good, authentic Chinese food. Yes, that's right. 

Located just a couple of minute-walk from Market Square (and very conveniently close to trams stops for trams 2 and 4), there's  Peninsula 1899

Unfortunately people in Helsinki tend to be rather lazy when it comes to dining out and any restaurant located even just a little bit outside the immediate city centre really struggle to find their customer. Chinese tourists on the other hand have discovered the place and flock back by the busload.

Many things are against this place. The location for one. And the sheer size of the establishment - it's huge! Which is fine for an atmosphere straight out of Chinese films with scenes of bustling restaurants with millions of diners... but people don't exactly queue for Chinese food in Finland.

The food was delicious though. Best Chinese in Helsinki. Perhaps... even the whole country?

The emphasis is on Sichuan cooking and they want to do it well - no watered down versions here. We gave the staff total freedom and glad we did. We kicked off our dinner with salads (seaweed with glass noodles and chicken) which were served with their own, made-frem-scratch spicy oil. Out of the 13 different spices used in the blend we recognized one: cinnamon. 

And then off to dim sums. And hey - anyone looking for an alternative brunch for weekends... they do a dim sum brunch here! Count me in!

Sweet and sour anything would never find its way onto my plate - that's how badly the Chinese restaurants in Finland have ruined it for me. But would you just look at this beauty? Couldn't even tell it was the same dish. Love, love the crunchy, deep-fried mung bean vermicelli (for a how-to, please see here!)

This beef in hot and sour sauce was both of our favourite. Such a balanced broth!

Though I had no idea something as simple as aubergines and peppers could be this divine..!

PS. The wine menu is worth checking out, too!




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