keskiviikko 20. kesäkuuta 2018

Mon Repos - Uhkapeliä, fine-diningia ja historian havinaa.

1870 Itämeren rannat ulottuivat aina nykyiselle Narva maanteelle saakka. Vanhaan aikaan rannalla seisoi huvila. Kuten vastaavat laitokset lähellä satamia ei tämäkään poikennut sisällöltään: alkoholia, uhkapelaamista, huoria ja laulua. Nykyään samalla paikalla toimii ravintola Mon Repos. Ajat ovat muuttuneet. Ennen vetonaulana toimi oma laituri, johon veneellä saattoi saapua kauempaakin, nykyään jalokivenä kimmeltää huvilan smaragdinvihreä puutarha.

Kuva Mon Repos

Julkisella paikalle

Mon Repos sijaitsee kauniissa Kadriorgin puistossa. Sporapysäkiltä sinne kävelee muutaman minuutin ja J. Poskan dösikseltä ravintolaan on kivenheitto. Piritasta tullessa pari eri bussilinjaa tuovat melkein oven eteen. Puutarhan ja pohjakerroksen kahvila/bistron lisäksi Repos tarjoaa mahdollisuuden nauttia yhdestä huippu fine-dining elämyksestä ravintolan ”chef's floor” salissa. Illallistaa voi ravintolasalissa tai al fresco parveketerassilla puutarhan yläpuolella.

Saavuimme kollegani Alexander Trivendin kanssa Reposiin ruokahalua herätelleen Kadriorun puistokierroksen jälkeen ja painoimme puuta puutarhan puolella. Ravintolapäällikkö Jaanika Tigasson kiiruhti kostuttamaan rutikuivia kurkkujamme sampanjalla. Tämä kaunis ele toivotettiin mitä tervetulleimmaksi pöytäkunnassamme.



Chef Vladislav

Tuokion kuluttua chef de cuisine Vladislav Djatsuk pyörähti pöytäämme. Mitä syödä? siinäpä vasta kysymys! Reposin menu on kombinaatio modernia sekä traditiota. Jännittävä sivujuonne on klassikkoannoksien lisäteksti menun alalaidassa, mikä kertoo lukijalle annoksen alkuperästä.
Bird liver Pâte Heston Blumenthal Cookbook c.15.” Mielenkiintoista.
Ottaen huomion Vladin taustan kyökin puolella (Noma, Geranium, Edsbacka Krog, Luomo, OLO, noin muutamia manitakseni), sekä saavutukset Bocuse d'Orissa, uskon meidän olevan hyvässä huomassa. Pääsemme yhteisymmärrykseen: keittiö valmistaa, mitä parhaaksi katsovat, ja me syömme.

Rokkistaran elkein Vlad vetää tukan taakse ja poistuu keittiöön. Muutamia minuutteja myöhemmin ensimmäiset riffit kantautuvat pöytäämme: tiikerirapuja ja popcornia, maksapateeta sekä blini. Lukijan on hyvä tietää, että Reposin listalta ei löydy burgeria, joskin blini on aika hyvä vastike. Vanhan liiton tornirakennelma näyttää mahtipontiselle lautasella. Juurikin tällaista lohturuokaa on ankarana aamuna hyvä kurlutella alas kuplien kera. Ravut ja popcorni on taas täysin toista maata. Se tarjoillaan modernilla tavalla paperipussista. Herkullinen hassutteluannos nostaa hymyn poskille. Myös maksapatee tarjoillaan leikkisällä twistillä, mutta se jätettäkööt jokaisen itsensä koettavaksi.


Lähtökohtaisesti vastaus on "kyllä"

Jaanika kertoo meille ravintolan filosofiasta: ennen kuin antaa asiakkaalle kieltävän vastauksen on aina hyvä kysyä itseltään ”onko se mahdollista?” Ei pidä kangistua rutiineihin. Tästä johtuen monenlaiset kattaukset onnistuvat Reposissa. Piha ja huvila soveltuvat häiden, valmistujaisjuhlien tai romanttisen illallisen viettoon erityisen hyvin. Romanttisuudesta puheenollen, Reposin ”vartiotornissa” on viehättävä kahden hengen privaattipöytä, joka on mahdollista ottaa haltuun pienellä lisämaksulla. Torni tarjoaa yksityisyyttä, mutta myös mahdollisuuden soittaa omaa soittolistaa integroidusta bluetooth -kaiuttimesta.

Lautaskaravaani saapuu kaikkein pyhimmästä. Alkupalat asettivat riman korkealle. Pääruoat mukailevat hieman bistrompaa lähestymistä. Black anguksen kuvetta papujen kera, valkoparsaa vegeoptiona, sekä tuore tonnikala pihvinä. Asettelu on perinteisempää ysäriä. Tämä lienee hyvä asia, sillä oli keli mikä tahansa jäähtyy ruoka ulkona aina nopeammin kuin sisällä. Hyvä koherenssi lautasella auttaa pitämään ruoan lämpimänä. Mikään ei ole ikävämpää kuin saada kaunis annos eteensä, joka on jäähtynyt syömäkelvottomaksi.

Vlad istuuntuu juttusille pöytään. Keskustelu alkaa rönsyillä siinä määrin, että Jaanikan on muistutettava meidän olevan edelleen ulkona: ”gentlemen, the food does not wait for no man”, rouva tokaisee täyttäessään laseja.

Kuvetta söisi vaikka lusikalla, niin pehmeää se on. Tonnikala on paistettu hyvän pihvin tapaan medium miikaksi. Parsa on sopivan al dente. Nykyään parsakausi alkaa varmaan jo helmikuussa ensin Mexikosta, sitten Chilestä, sitten Espanjasta tuodulla parsalla. Näitä näivettyneitä tankoja meistä trendikkäimmät ahmivat sitten suihinsa pitkin kevättä kunnes päästään jotenkin järkevän etäisyyden päähän omalla tuotannolla. Tässä vaiheessa kupu ruskaakin jo niin, ettei parsa enää kiinnosta. Tässä vaiheessa kai siirrytään puputtamaan tuontimansikoita. Onneksi olen ollut parsaselibaatissani peräänantamaton.

Elämyskonsepti

Jälkkärien aikana tuumailen Reposin koseptia. Huvila itsessään on huikea. Salia pyörittävät ammattilaset ja köökissä on kova tiimi kasassa. Kadriorun kauniissa puistossa nököttävä huvila valkoisine liinoineen ja kauniisti katettuine pöytineen voi olla monelle liikaa. Reposissa vauhtia on hyvä hakea alakerran bistrosta, missä on sallittua piipahtaa vaikka vain tuopillisella. Toisella kertaa rohkeuden riittäessä voi liittyä yläkerran sikariportaaseen.
Tämä on tietysti hölynpölyä. Useimpien ravintoloiden liikeideaan sisältyy asiakkaan palvelu ja siitä maksun saaminen. Taakse jääneitä ovat ne ajat kun piiat nakkelivat olkiaan asiakkaille, jotka eivät tienneet vinaigretten ja mignonetten eroa. Ravintolassa syömisestä on tullut tapa hankkia elämyksiä siinä missä oopperassa tai teatterissa käynnistä.

Elämyksistä on kyse myös Reposissa. Matkaa jännän äärelle on taitettava viisitoista minuuttia julkisilla keskustasta ja menu ehkä maksaa viitisen euroa enemmän kuin ranskanperunat ja possunkyljys vanhassa kaupungissa. Tässä on kuitenkin homman suola. Uskokaa tai älkää, mutta iso osuus syöjistä silti valitsee ruuhkaisan ruokalan muiden saman lauman jäsenten kanssa ja säästää viisi euroa siihen loppuillan ”vielä yhteen viskiin”, mikä sitten tuo möröt uniin. Hämmentävää kyllä varttuvasta polvesta on alkanut pilkahdella valopilkkuja, jotka sijoittavat rahansa mieluummin laatuun kuin määrään. Kuka tietää, kenties muutaman vuoden kuluttua Alkon myynnin osuus yli 15e maksavista viineistä on noussut vuoden 2016 huikeasta 2%:sta.

Oli miten oli, mutta kauniina kesän kuukausina Tallinna tarjoaa näitä erinomaisia puutarharavintoloita, joista hakea elämyksiä lomalle. Mitäpä tässä pitempään jaarittelemaan. Menkää katsomaan ja kokemaan itse. Kiitoksia, anteeksi ja näkemiin!

Kuva Alexander Trivendi




lauantai 9. kesäkuuta 2018

"Ö" the last Finnish alphabet but the A of Estonian fine-dining.

”Ö” used to be the last letter in the Estonian alphabet until the early 19th century when Otto Wilhelm Masing changed it to ”Õ” because of an alleged confusion with the pronunciation. Be that as it may, or may not be, but today ”Ö” stands for best fine-dining in Estonia.

Ranno Pauksoni, height at the withers about the same as me, making us about 175cm short, wears a ”Kopli” blouse, a couple of piercings, peaked cap and a bush under his chin. The walking image of a serious cuisnier nowadays. Chef Paukson shares the ownership of Ö with Martin Meikas.

It goes without saying, I like him immediately. I barely have to present my first questions when Ranno starts machine-gunning about the subject, making the interviewer's job easy. No need to deploy the thumbscrew in order to get the answers this time!


Ranno has been lifting irons for fifteen years in different kitchens, which, despite his not-so-old age, makes him already part of the Old Guard manning the posts in Estonia's culinary watch. So what's going on in the food scene?



Estonia, especially Tallinn, is suffering from the same shortage as Helsinki (and most of Finland for that matter), a shortage of qualified cooks. Some years ago restaurant Umami's Kristjan Peäske, whom I was privileged to meet at a wine symposium in Tampere, Finland, a few years ago (So hi Kristjan if you're reading this!), suggested that the culinary school would be partially changed to include an apprentice program. The idea was to make employment more efficient and guarantee good training. Unfortunately this went somewhat unheeded on the policy-making level.
“The young cooks don't learn any leadership skills at school. I've been cooking for fifteen years and I want to be a better boss to my chefs than what I've had in the past,” explains chef Paukson.
It is somewhat true that schooling divides the trade. While trade school level is meant to produce professionals of the field, the schooling lacks any leadership education. This adds up with the Ramsayian image of a chef throwing plates and going apeshit in the kitchen – simply because it's the only way they know how to lead. The upper-trade school, on the other hand, teaches leadership but the graduates lack practical know-how what the everyday knife-work, required from a chef de cuisine, still demands.


Looking at the culinary scene's movement in Estonia, chef Paukson offers an interesting aspect. He worked abroad in Austria, Sweden and Norway, and in the latter in no less than Maaemo at the time it received it's second Michelin Star. Ranno employs this experience when he looks at the Estonia's culinary scene: “What I see is this new generation arising which has grown along the past 25-years in denial of the Soviet era. These young chefs are now looking to re-establish the Estonian cuisine.” Perhaps unconsciously having the “trauma” set aside, many young chefs have found the own backyard in Estonia full of usable ingredients after their quests abroad. “I noticed in Kiev that the movement concerns all the Baltic countries. Estonia does not have almost anything in common with Ukraine. But what is evident is that we all have shared the same ingredients but with different names for a long time.” He refers to this style as the “post-soviet cuisine”. Ranno concludes: “Food connects people.” Under the same umbrella dumpling became a dumpling even if it had a different name.

I follow Ranno's track of thought loud and clear. Perhaps the Finnish food culture suffered from the same trauma. The Finnish, along with Estonia's, food culture has been a difficult thing to determine. We had to look our identity first from the Scandinavian cuisine and build self-confidence before things like Karelian pie or Karelian stew (still jokingly referred to as the “refugee stew” [evakkopaisti]) were accepted as part of self-respecting restaurants menu. It must have been 2014 when I had a miniature Karelian pie as an amuse bouche at G. W. Sundmanns, when Finnjävel is leading the charge nowadays.


“Cooperation, among the restaurants, is an essential key to success”, says Paukson. The tourists cannot be the only source of income for the high-end establishments. “Tallinn is still a small place when it comes to tourism,” Ranno points out and adds: “A hundred new restaurants were opened last year.” Hypothetically thinking, even if the planes and ferries brought enough tourists to fill those tables, the infrastructure would not keep up. The restaurants simply need to remain attractive also to Estonians.


A fine example of cooperation is found from Kuressaare, at the Saaremaa island. A local community of restaurants was formed. They nowadays organize a very un-estonian style event where tables are set together outside and the people sit at common tables, while the restaurants provide the meals. Very Mediterranean!

What about Ö's position in Estonia's culinary culture? Ranno refers to his experience dining at Noma – one of the world's best restaurants in Denmark: “Everything in the tasting menu was not definitely good.” Noma holds sort of an institutional status among the restaurants in the world. It is responsible of innovating new trends, and then inevitably bound to be copied. I ask how chef Paukson sees Ö's role in Estonia as an institution. “In my opinion there is a certain line how far you can go. I wouldn't for example feed my guests with dirt and try to claim it is high cuisine”, he says promptly. “But I hope we can be an example to others by creating something new. After all this is what I do, and have always been doing.” While Noma lead the culinary assault for some years with the New Nordic trend, it has now become, more or less, a passed fancy. This is perhaps why Noma went through its remake and opening doors again with a slightly different concept. Paukson feels there is a vacuum able to fit a new trend. “I do not see a single reason why the new 'post-soviet' style, with its wide influence in the Baltic, could not become the next big thing.”


perjantai 18. toukokuuta 2018

Gianni: Decent Italian for A Change


I stood in the lobby of Gianni Kohvik on a Wednesday morning, looking like a tourist. It is my fist visit to Gianni. The breakfast has just ended and the lunch did not yet begin. So we are pretty much standing by ourselves at the lobby. Gianni is divided in two: there is a restaurant with white table-cloths and a wine aquarium, and on the other side a cafe. The interiors can easily give you an image of a poshy uptight Italian Restaurant. We wandered to the cafe, resting our eyes on the pastry showcase at the end of the counter. ”Bet they come from a bakery”, I pointed the macarons, quiches and cakes to my colleague accompanying me. 

Quite often the cafes simply don't have the room, not to speak of craftsmanship, to prepare a very wide variety of products. ”Do you think so?”, she asked. ”You'll see.”

Kuva: Gianni

Chef Constantino Veglianti arrives. To me he looks more like a German than an Italian restaurateur. Dark hair combed back and a pizza-pot belly are absent. He is given away though since the mouth is set for the usual Mediterrenean rapid-fire mode. Before we get to exchange names properly Chef Veglianti is geeting guests arriving through the sliding doors at the entrance: 

”Buongiorno! Come va?” The guests answer in German so Constatino goes on: ”Achso, wie geht's mein Freund? Alles gut? Wie schön zu hören!” Spoken like a true cosmopolitan.

Long story short

The cafe started under the name ”Fashion cafe” back in the day. I'm curious how things have changed since those days. ”First it was hard to get ingredients. I thought, when I came from Italy, that Estonia has a great variety of fish. The sea is so close from here. I thought we just go fishing But it didn't work like that. Some weeks you got the product you ordered, some weeks you didn't. It was hard to plan a menu if you can't be 100-percent sure you get the ingredients,” Constantino thinks back.


Gianni has been running for twelve years now. Constantino has been working there right from the start, although he made a small sidetrack along the way. Now he's been working in Gianni for six consequent years. That's an eternity by any standards used in the industry. One must have an extremely good employer and a passion for the work. Elen confirms that they literally have to chase him out every now and then to have a day-off: ”He's among the first to come in the morning and last to leave in the night.” 

But chef Veglianti has days'off. Well, sort of. During his sidetrack years Constantino found a restaurant in Berlin. Having a restaurant in a different country sets some obligations. While at it, Constantino fulfills his rites with wine. He is a wine enthusiast and goes around tastings to haul back certain small-batch treasures from Germany. This makes Gianni a peculiarity among restaurants since it is somewhat an oddity to have the chef involved in planning the carta de vinos.

Since four or five years ago the restaurant revolution started in Estonia. New places opened all the time and the standards got higher. Chef Veglianti points out Tchaikovsky and restaurant Moon as among his favorites. While Tchaikovsky represents the classic restaurant with some of the Old Guard manning the posts, Moon draws from the innovations of the younger generation and has established itself well within the culinary scene.
Kuva: Kristel Pentus

Service is the key

The sliding doors keep opening. By and by it becomes clear that chef Veglianti knows most of their customers at least by appearance. ”I look at the ticket in the kitchen and see: 'ha, this lady likes her pasta full-grain' or 'he's always asking to have it gluten free'”, Constantino says. I inquire whether they have a lot of regulars. ”Yes, yes. Many people come here to have breakfast, or lunch, and then come back in the evening for dinner. Sometimes we even keep the wine bottle they started at lunch-time for them when they come back later that day. We just put their name on the label.”

One of the core values cherished in Gianni is service. “We are very flexible with our guests. We want to personify the service.” Maybe they have done some things right 'cause people keep coming back. Chef Veglianti describes how even the guests know each other. “Often there are loud cross-table conversations or one of the regulars sitting here greeting all the other guests coming in”, Constantino motions at the corner table. I can imagine the elder gent with a bottle of Campari and a siphon set on the table. The image of a poshy Italian cafe is starting to crumble. What about the pastries in the showcase?

“Oh, the pastry chef works from Monday to Friday. She's very busy. For weekends we have to cover for her!”, Constantino exclaims. I stand corrected!

Thank you, excuse me and good bye!

Half-assed Chef.

Kuva: Gianni/Kristel Pentus


lauantai 12. toukokuuta 2018

Haku - A piece of Japan in Narnia


When walking along Narva mnt. the sidewalk gets narrow after the Methodist church. You got to be careful. The passing cars shoot slush at you if you're not paying attention. At the same time you have to have your other eye looking for the right corner to turn. Behind the bigger gray building you find this cottage-like smaller structure. In front of it you wipe your shoes(!) and step in: you're in Haku.


If you arrived at dinner time you are approached by a blond-haired lady in a kimono. This is Marju Shiraishi and she is going to take care of you, answer your questions about the cuisine, the drinks and Japan. Trust me. She must be one of the few, if not the only one, in restaurant business who has a university degree to do all this.
Where fat sizzles and a knife goes ”chop-chop”, you find Shuichi Shiraishi. A ”licensed” Japanese chef. Licensed, because Shuichi worked in the Japan's embassy at Fidzi some years ago and there you need to be a licensed Japanese cuisine chef. He earned his laurels in different establishments around the globe, not least in a Michelin starred Bulgari hotel in Tokyo.


They are going to be the one's, (and the only ones, since Haku does not employ anybody else) making sure you enjoy yourself in a traditional Japanese milieu.

My visit took place on Monday when Haku is closed. It is the couples ”day-off” so Shuichi is only wearing his kitchen jacket without the apron. Marju sits in her ”office” at one of the dining-room tables. Small stand at the end of the table says ”reserved”.

Since the Silverspoon awards, Haku snaffled in 2017, Marju and Shuichi have had to change the door-check once a month. Especially the weekends are busy. This means the couple practically lives in the restaurant. Recently a Finnish magazine, writing about vacations in Estonia, published a long story of the Silverspoon winners. The word has it, many foodies, gastro-tourists and other hippies are lining-up in ferry terminals at summer to come participate in the Estonia's culinary hype. It just might be that Shuichi's and Marju's summer vacation is canceled.

I asked whether they have thought about hiring extra hands. Without thinking Shuichi said ”no”. After an elaborate explanation it was clear that the man takes much pride in his work.
”Becoming a sushi-chef in Japan takes minimum ten years”, explains Shuichi. It goes without saying that he doesn't rank the traditional western sushi-restaurants very high. The cooking school, in Japan, takes two years, but the restaurants are unwilling to hire people from school bench. Instead, an apprentice system is favored. You knock on the back door and ask if you can come to wash dishes. The story tells of the Emperor's chef in Japan who, before obtaining his position in the Emperor's court, had to beg behind a restaurant's back door for weeks before he was allowed to enter as a trainee.


The first year was difficult for Haku. The guests didn't find the restaurant. The couple insisted in not marketing their establishment, but instead, wanted to have the word go around. ”It is amazing how one week you have very few people. Then a reporter came to try our tataki. Next week everybody wanted to have the same,” laughed Marju.

Talking about trendy foods, what amazed Shuichi was the trendy drink kombucha, sold now in almost every respectable groceries store: ”It's a Japanese thing. First time I saw it, I thought it interesting to have it here. Should the Estonian people like it?” It turned out the ”kombucha” was not the drink made of seaweed kombu, what Shuichi had been used to. ”Why do they give these names for foods which they are not?”, asked chef Shiraishi.

Preciseness is a virtue held tight in Haku, Shuichi told me while attending the fireplace. “We want to offer an authentic experience of a traditional restaurant. Some weeks ago a Japanese tourist came to eat here. She came back a week later just before she was flying back to Japan. I asked why'd she come when tomorrow she could go eat in Japan. She told me they don't have places like this anymore in Japan!”

I take his word for it. Undoubtedly Chef Shiraishi is qualified for the task and it is quite possible that Marju, holding a degree in Japanese culture, can share you some insight about Japan that not every college student waiting your table in Tokyo could.

When I left I turned back to wave good-byes for the couple. It is mighty strange to see this cottage, with a piece of Japan hidden inside, covered in snow in the backyard of a block of flats. It is like visiting Narnia.

The story was published first time in Silverspoon.

sunnuntai 25. maaliskuuta 2018

This Year's Top-notches in Tallinn: Ribe


Over a cup of steaming coffee I watch chef Radoslav Mitro enter the upstairs bar in Ribe. He looks a little beaten-up. We shake hands and I introduce my plans for the interview. Rado answers calmly and leans on his open palm with a two-day hair on his chin. It is Saturday and already on Friday Ribe fed 130 guests. To break the ice we talk about our experiences in London. Rado worked there for a year.

I can't really say I know London. Most days I would wake up, eat my corn flakes, go to work, come back, eat my corn flakes again and go to bed.” London teaches discipline. You call your superior always ”chef”. London restaurants are kept supplied with eager young cooks chasing their dream. The industry grinds them down mercilessly. If you can't cope somebody else will take you place. Then again it offers a great vault for polishing trade skills:”London is a great place for learning for young blokes. I am already too old for it”, Rado, 33, laughed. In Estonia the growing restaurant industry still lets chefs to enjoy a day-off every now and then. Although, finding replacements is a tough job and often the chef needs to step in line when somebody gets sick.

We sip some coffee and I ask about the culinary scene in Estonia. Rado felt that the last two or four years have had a great impact. Young chefs, trained abroad, have returned to Estonia and are now commanding their own kitchens. ”A lot of stuff's going on. It's a big mix of everything. All the young chefs are testing what they have learned abroad.” The competition is hard too. Alone on Vene-street there are four very similar restaurants competing for the same guests. There is no room for mistakes as the word goes around. Rado says Ribe is focusing on overall experience: ”Food is one thing. But service is a big factor. The customer needs to be able to relax.” Ribe aims to be flexible with the guests' wishes: ”Sometimes one guest wants to have a 6-course tasting menu and the other just three. We explain it takes more time for the six courses, but the guest's wish is most important.”

Rado agrees that, despite the competition, the best thing is to work together with all the restaurants. Food festivals offer a great opportunity for restaurants to sell their 'business card' for possible new customers. Ribe is taking part in these events as well. Rado claims the idea is not to offer the same dishes as in Ribe, but to serve a piece of ribe-experience on street food terms.

We want to offer a chance to enjoy our experience for people who don't want to pay the Old Town prices.” A modest thing to say from a chef who offers 3-course set evening menu for 29e in the Old Town. The price issue is a constant struggle among high-end restaurants. The lunch in Ribe costs just slightly more than in Rotermanni where office people go to lunch on weekdays. People are often stuck with their customs when it comes to choosing the lunch place. ”The difference between our lunch and the usual bowl of rice and chicken is 3 euros. I checked”, winks Rado.

Talking about lunch places, Rado enjoys going to the central market, Keskturg, and gather products that are hard to come by from regular stores. The market offers some delicious snacks too, I'm told. ”The Balti Jaam Turg is so touristic nowadays.” I couldn't agree more. I asked Rado where he likes to eat. It always depends on the company. ”I like to have a glass of wine and some snacks at Wine not? They serve nice hummus”, the man hints.

We enter the Ribe's most holiest: the kitchen. Immediately chef Mitro seems to come alive. I watch Rado wrestle a sour bread. ”I love playing with it. It feels like a perfect woman”, he chuckles as the bubbling dough turns into loafs. Chef de parties are finishing their mise en place on the hot side and start preparing the station for lunch service. The pastry chef helps me with a compliment sample of a starter dish made out of beetroot-marengue and, what I assume to be, fowl-liver mousse. Perhaps it was the coffee, or maybe it's just that some of us choose to live buried underground in the heat and noise of a professional kitchen, but you can feel the electricity in the air. In the dining room the door starts swinging as the lunch crowd settles in from the cold. The thermometer in the cold kitchen stands for tasty 28-celsius. The boys on the hot side start warming up their irons.

Thank you, excuse-moi and good bye!
Best,
Half-assed Chef

For more information on Silverspoon.
Restoran Ribe, Vene 7, 10132, Tallinn (Old Town).
Reservation is suggested.







sunnuntai 19. marraskuuta 2017

Tallinnan Tuolla Puolen. IV.

Toisinaan puskaradion vastaanotin poimii eetteristä mielenkiintoisia vaihtoehtoja vatsalaukun päänmenoksi. Kokemus on opettanut, että ihan kaikenlaisiin hassutuksiin ei kannata hurahtaa, mikäli kukkaronnyörit on sidottu opiskelijabudjettiin. Tänä myöhempien aikojen foodien (”ruokahössöttäjä?”) aikakaudella usein suosituksia hyvistä kapakoista sataa nilkkoja myöten. Puolihalvaantuneen kokin nenä on, lukuisia soppia hämmennellessä, kultivoitunut poimimaan tästä informaatiotulvasta usein ne kaikkein poikkitaiteellisimmat ruokahössöttäjän suositukset. Rima suosituksien vastaanottoon on kokenut devalvaation.

Viime kesän kynnyksellä I/17 erasmus-saapumiserä pakkaili laukkujaan. Kevään mittaan olin ehtinyt käydä opiston kuntosalilla irvistelemässä useampaan otteeseen erään kreikkalaisen ruokahössöttäjän kanssa. Kotiinlähtöä edeltävänä iltana oli tarkoitus juhlistaa vinkeän kevään päätöstä kreikkalaisessa tavernassa Varkizanassa. Mukaan oli kutsuttu Giorgosin toimesta sankoin joukoin ulkomaalaisia opiskelijoita, puolihalvaantunut kokki mukaan lukien. Tuona iltapäivänä kenties toisiksi viimeinen tuoppi olisi kannattanut jättää hanaan, koska myöhästyin bussista ja näin ollen jäin, lautasen sijaan, nuolemaan näppejäni nurkkapöytään.

Kun myöhemmin illalla ilosanomaa Varkizanasta sitten laulettiin Vana Linnan oluttuvassa, jäin pohtimaan olisiko osallistuminen fiestaan ollut sittenkin paikallaan. Tilaisuus tarjoutui männä viikolla pikku rouvan saapuessa komennukselta takaisin kotiin. Tervetuliaiskukat olivat jääneet virulle ja tilaisuuden relatiivinen odotusarvo oli ehkä jäänyt meikäläisen osalta materialisoitumatta. Pika pikaa siis louhin takaraivosta ideaoita illanviettoon. Mieleen putkahti kortteliravintola Varkizana Lasnamäellä.

Viimeaikaisimpiin kotkotuksiini on kuulunut niin sanottu Pioppi -Dietti. Homman jujuna on olla trendikkäästi lasin punaviiniä illassa mahdollistavalla dietillä. Pioppi-hössötys pohjaa vahvasti välimerelliseen ruokavalioon, jättäen ne Valion tuotteet vähemmälle. Näin ollen suuntasimme välimerelliselle ruokamatkalle Varkizanaan. Bussit nro. 44 ja 51 Hobujaamalta kuljettavat kätevästi melkein oven eteen.

Pienen haparoinnin jälkeen kapakka löytyi. Kokki-omistaja Lucas tuulahti kaikkein pyhimmästä toivottamaan meidät tervetulleiksi. Panin merkille, että vain kahdessa pöydässä oli katteet jäljellä. Ravintola sulkee kello yhdeksän ja tiuku repi nyt puoli yhdeksää. Ilmeisesti Varkizanan ovipumppu on aktiivisimmillaan siinä viiden ja seitsemän välillä. Lucas vahvisti edellä otaksutun ja totesi, että 90% asiakkaista on paikallisia Lasnamäestä. Samaan yhden miehen kakofoniaan selvisi, että Varkizana oli toiminut aiemmin Vana Linnassa Artemis -nimellä. Kuten hyvin tiedetään kokki ja liikemies harvemmin personoituvat samassa henkilössä. Lucas oli päättänyt vaihtaa ravintolan nimeä muuton yhteydessä. Näin ollen vanhat asiakkaat eivät olleet enää löytäneet perille. Taannoinen kuppila Vanhassa oli ollut, eritoten suomalaisten, suosiossa, minulle kerrottiin. Tämä väite ei sinällään yllättänyt ottaen huomioon pöydän antimet. Kuten kreikkalaisessa ravintolassa kuuluukin, oli lista askarreltu vahvasti grillin ympärille. Lohkoperunat, ikävä kyllä, murjaistiin melkein joka lautasen reunalle.

Jos meikäläiseltä kysytään, ja harvoin kysytään, mutta vahva mielipiteeni on se, että melkein missä tahansa kuppilassa voi sen lounaan käydä lusimassa. Jos toisaalta samasta ovesta tulee astuttua toistamiseen vaaditaan kapakalta ”sielua”. Sielu voi konkretisoitua persoonalisessa palvelussa tai atmosfäärissä. Varkizanassa se kökötti keittiön takaseinällä puugrillin muodossa. Vaikka ”tsöge” käsitti askeettisuudessaan yhden apupöydän, rasvakeittimet ja grillin, nosteli Lucas hiilien päältä perin kelvollista lammasta, pitaleipää, paprikaa ja fetaa pöytää somistamaan. Tämän lautasen varjopuolella kyyhöttävät lohkoperunat herättivät nekin lopulta hämmentynyttä keskustelua. Ihmettelimme vaimon kanssa miksi jostain syystä tämä etäisesti valkosipulinkynttä muistuttava lohkoperunamalli, siihen parkkiintuneella aromillaan, tuo mieleen 90-luvun lopun matkat Kreetalle ja Rodokselle.

Lucas palasi täyttämään laseja kreetalaisen Ayrarakisin talon tuotteella. Tiedustelin miksi toiminta Vanhassa oli lopetettu, vaikka ravintola oli ollut kuuleman suosittu. Syynä oli liiketilojen omistajan päätös. Lisäksi Lucas oli haaveillut ravintolan avaamisesta Helsinkiin, mikä oli kuitenkin kariutunut viime hetkellä avotulen muodostamaan pulmaan keittiössä. Suomessa ei tosiaan puugrillejä saa lyödä tulille ravintolakeittiössä.

Pääruoan korjaamisen jälkeen Lucas sai ylipuhuttua kokeilemaan baklavaa. Kehuin maistaneeni edellisenä päivänä kyseistä tuotetta Baltijaaman torilla. Sain keppiä ylpeältä kreikkalaiselta omistajalta: oliko se turkkilaista? Niinpä tietenkin! Siellä ei osata baklavaa valmistaa. Minun annettiin ymmärtää, että Varkizanan voi tuli erityisesti baklvaa varten Italiasta, mistä se oli tullut viimeiset 14 vuotta. Syy - koska se oli vain yksinkertaisesti paras voi kyseiseen leivonnaiseen. Myöntää täytyy, että antelias voin ja hunajan käyttö leivonnassa tuottaa rapeamman tekstuurin kuin kidesokerin käyttö, jolla on tapana tahmaantua jäähtyessä.


Ruokailun jälkeen ripustin Lucasin rintaan sheriffin tunnuksen perinteisen tippijaloviinan muodossa. Vanha viininenä raksautti putelin auki siltä seisomalta ja annosteli eliksiiriä kolmeen lasiin. ”Yamas!” Lucasin irvistyksestä päätellen loput saattaisivat päätyä pippurikastikkeeseen. Noh, siinähäpä oiva syy käydä Varkizanassa pippuripihvillä.

Kiitos, anteeksi ja näkemiin!



perjantai 1. syyskuuta 2017

A Farewell to Good Service

Not so long ago I was sorting some issues with my bank. There were some things I didn't feel too happy about and I had to contact customer service. Turns out my Estonian number doesn't cope too well with the customer service numbers, and about half an hour later, I found out I was unable to serve myself online. There's the chat, dummy. Use the chat. Five minutes of waiting brought me screen to screen with ”Niina”.

”How may I help you?”
”I have multiple issues but let's start with my contact details.”
”You have problems with your card?”
”Yes, but let's get to that later.”
”How may I help you?”

Twenty minutes later my problems weren't any more solved than they were at the start. I was robotically told to ”call” a number of places, even though I insisted from the start that I was unable to do this. I, of course, understand ”the security reasons”, why ”niina” couldn't answer my questions (even though I was logged into my web account). Possibly something I just didn't understand. Judging by ”niina's” answers I couldn't have been talking to an artificial person. I gave up. I asked if my message could be forwarded to my credit card company (within the same bank), but it's a different organization, so impossible. Possibly it is, I wouldn't know. The name is the same. I told her I felt sorry for her, since even I, theoretically, should have been able to contact them (if it wasn't for the phone!). She was doing customer service. I gave up. I left her at it.

A couple of weeks ago I booked tickets to fly to London to see my friend. I booked the tickets on the road and just quickly checked my email that I actually received a confirmation from the company. When the time came closer I wanted to check-in online. I noticed the email sent to me didn't have any booking reference. I checked my credit card and found the tickets weren't charged. I sent an email and made a call.
”You don't seem to have a booking.” I was told.
”Then why did I receive an email thanking me for making the booking?” Inquired I.
”Oh, it's the automatic response when you finish a booking!”
But no tickets. But I also didn't lose the money. Unfortunately, it was too late to make another booking. The price had gone up. I gave up.

Last spring I ordered a book from online. It took a rather long time to arrive. Eventually it was a wrong book. What should I do? I didn't actually need the book anymore, not to speak that it was the wrong book. I guess I could have asked for refund and have the trouble of sending it back. But it was only £2.50. So I gave up.

When I started studying I needed to deliver a wheelbarrow-full of papers to a couple of offices in Finland. Every Finn knows something about making business with these two specific governmental offices. For some unknown reason they are always interested about you at the same time but they don't communicate together. Possibly this is a good thing for an individual in a juridically protective sense. Trouble was, I started studying abroad, which didn't exactly make matters any easier. Sometimes I met deadlines overlapping. What can I do? I can't complain because it's welfare coming my way. I just need to ask to be excused, even though it was my request in the first place. Why did they need to set a deadline for it?

It's a ”welfare society”, I'm told. But how come I feel bad? I still get a little money to spend from the government (even though they just cut my ”salary” by 20%. Imagine it to yourself). I get a little extra from my job. I have a place I can call home and a fridge full of food. Yet, I feel my jaw aching from grinding my teeth.

We are made clear that the ”services” stand for themselves. We are there to ”serve” by turning our paychecks in. We put a monetary input and, reasonably often, get something in return. Only the strongest of us (or the unemployed?) can keep on passing their reclamation from time to time in order to get their refund for non-delivery. The rest of us just have to suck it in.

The welfare society has definitely done it's homework. In jurisprudence it comes clear to everybody quite quickly that justice is hard to come by. Technically it's there but are you willing to go all the way? You might be facing a long cycle of trials, paperwork and stress. It's not made too easy. Otherwise everybody would do it. Unfortunately, the axle turning the wheels of our welfare society noticed this same numbing effect.

Your phone bill doesn't check out. Are you gonna spent the whole afternoon listening to music when you wait in the line for ”service”? Just because of fifty cents!

You are not given time, nor choice, to decide on your things. You shop online, because you don't have the time to visit the actual shop to see what you want. Obviously this leaves you under the risk that the colour or the size of your t-shirt is slightly wrong. But are you gonna change it just because of that? Sure, go to the shop on your day-off. What are you going to buy? I can tell you from experience not to try to look for a turtle-neck sweater or a gray tank top. They don't exist at the moment, I've found out, because they are not ”trendy”. The Nike passes it's order of 900.000 pairs of sneakers to Vietnam. They are bound to Rotterdam... say in a year? I wouldn't know. What I do know is that it's the same time what is given for the markets department of Nike to convince every rational European consumer that it is simply impossible to live without that pair of sneakers.

But there's vegetarianism. Sure that's my own free choice? Maybe so, but stop for a moment and consider the possibility that producing the diabolic red meat is a pain in the ass for the producer as well. It would be convenient, and much more cheaper, to actually use something made not out of meat and ask the same price. Bring forth the ”Härkis”! Again, it takes time to convince people to go ”green”, and there's been tofu rotting on the walk-in fridge's shelf for that occasional hippie as long as I remember. But when they do you have a line of products ready.

On a couple of occasions I had to actually call somebody to come clear the hair from the wet-lock of our apartments bathroom's sink, since some smart guy had attached the drawers to the wall around the sink drainage. 
”Next weekend OK?”
Sure, I'll just not use it.

Nothing gets done properly. I realize I have to have a schedule to call a number of people (you have to call since they never actually call you back). I can't keep track otherwise. Things that eventually take less than five minutes to sort out take days or they don't get done at all. I feel bad because I can't finish anything.

I get frustrated, angry and start grinding my teeth. Luckily they offer anger management at work. You just spill your bad mood on customers. They deserve mocking for being so stupid and asking stupid questions. I guess even the mighty restaurant workers have fallen for the same as the robot-lady at the bank, the clerk at a phone store last week and the study counselor at the university. After all it's a well-known saying in a restaurant: ”The evening service ruins a perfectly good mise en place.”

Thank you, excuse me and good bye!

- Half-assed chef