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Sunday, February 22, 2009

At Cinc sentist restaurant the 5th sense is family values.

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In the modern world of build, spin and flip the values of tradition is something I really appriciate. The fastest way to create tradition is to set up a family business, you instantly have family heritage. When I stepped into Cincsentist in Barcelona I knew I had come to place where people care. The material attention to detail was high, but here it was the human element that aired. Amèlie Artal greeted us in perfect english, slightly puzzled, we found out she was native of Canada and had worked at Netscape and was well versed in technology, she had joined her brother, the chef, Jordi Artal and their mother in a real family venture Cincsentits.

The place is a narrow, yet airy place, the mother (I who I did not catch the name of) said they had actually removed tables and one could feel the space. A brave move in a downturn, but I got the feeling they had decided to outlive bad times and create a culinary icon.

R0013176 We decided follow Amèlie’s advice and have the 7 course tasting menu with their wines selection. It made things easy, we had after all had a super though week and wanted to unwind with good food, fun stories and lots of laughter. We laughed so much we almost fell off our chairs. The tasting menu was a great choice. Several of the dishes were really amazing. I was particularly fond of the foie gras on a crispy cracker with onion comfit and with a sweet glacing. It was simply perfect. I like the deep flavour of the oxtail, which had been cooked for 36hours. The Scallop was great. The mint sorbet on top of cubes of granny smith apples was super fresh and wonderful in colour. The beuty of this sampling menu is that each portion is small and one is not stuffed after the meal, only a bit tipsy after all that good wine, so if you only want a culinary experience you need to leave wine in the glass after each course ;-)

R0013209 We had a great chat with Jordi, Amèlie and their lovely mother. Jordi is a self-taught chef, a massive talent, who clearly can progress further. It was great hearing their story of moving back to Spain and setting up a restaurant in Barcelona and aim for the highest standard. Guide Michelin recognised their effort and awarded the team a star in 2008.

10:33 PM in Restaurants | Permalink

Sunday, November 30, 2008

L'Autre Pied restaurant does not come with foot in the mouth

R0010465 R0010479 R0010469_2 It has been a while since I was blown away by food in London. It happened decisivly at L'Autre Pied. The cuisine was very fresh, architectural and light. There was fun combinations, rich colour and the attention to detail was great. We were met by very friendly service. I ordered some wine for the table and the red I was recommended was not tasking good. We passed the glass around and concluded that the wine was not to our liking, yet we agreed it was not spoiled. They took it out and brought another. I was impressed, no fuss truly professional service. I have never sent out a bottle that I did not like before, but I am convinced it would have ruined what became a wonderful dining experience.

We had most of the dishes on the menu as we were a company of 7 and I tasted most and it was one delight after another. I loved my Risotto, served in a small casserole on the side, a clever move as risotto generally is not so decorative.

The food was filled with aroma and the air was clean enough to let it savor into the nostrils for a rich moving experience. I have lately become a bit sceptically with over designed dishes, but here the high design was followed with a warm rich taste and finally a light feeling in the stomach. This kind of sensations I think one only has in very classic two star type restaurants, kind of culinary palaces like the Palme D'Or I wrote about some time ago.

The big difference between L'Autre Pied and Palme D'Or is that the wallet will feel the diet. L'Autre Pied is a restaurant in upwardly motion and I bet it will have a star in Guide Michelin in the next year of two, if they keep up the good work.

The only disappointment was the Crumble which I think was over designed and too crunchy for my taste. It however brought my thoughts to the Danish desert Able kaege my mother makes, which does beat that desert flat out. On the other hand if a desert makes you think of your mothers and grand mothers cuisine that is an achievement in itself.

08:28 PM in Restaurants | Permalink

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Comerç 24 restaurant in Barcelona is a full sensory reconstruction.

Oysters were amazing with a suprising foam, which I leave you to taste.
Oysters were amazing with a suprising foam, which I leave you to taste.
The base for the amazing onion soup. One of my absolute favorites.
The base for the amazing onion soup. One of my absolute favorites.

Fantastic avocado roll.
Fantastic avocado roll.
Busy preparing amazing creations.
Busy preparing amazing creations.

The bar offers a great view into the kitchen.
The bar offers a great view into the kitchen.
A coeur de fillet with small wasabi blobs
A coeur de fillet with small wasabi blobs


Comerç 24 is a truly moving experience, I knew this from my first visit last year, having a serious cold, its intense smells and tastes still penetrated my numb senses. I had to go back in full vigour, again with with good company. We had the grand Festive menu and it was a Spannish fiesta. What I find particularly cool with Carles Abellan’s cuisine is the deconstruction of traditional dishes. They are like the distilled version of the traditional dishes, like Cognac is to wine, incredibly intense, presented in an elaborate compact form with heritage of Spannish Tapas. It is like stuff you have not seen or tasted. I particularly fond of the Onion soup with a raw quails egg. I also like the asian influence, the Soba noodles, where the noodles had been replaced with fine strims of fish and carrots was pure fun. Many dishes are big surprises in the mouth, it is at that moment I pays tribute to tradition. Some dishes almost feel like they could have been served for hundreds of years. The place is open and inviting and the service is really caring. Compared to Omm, which I also like, it offers less theatre.


The décor is a fusion, bare old walls, mixed with vivid colours and organically shaped colourful chairs. There are tables places at different heights. Topped up with beautifully simplified flower arrangements of submersed roses. In short the décor complements the food and amplifies the experience.

Carles Abellan, worked under Ferran Adriá, at El Bulli. As I have not been there it is hard to say what the influence has been, but I imagine one cannot leave that kitchen untouched.

06:12 PM in Restaurants | Permalink

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Restaurant Loft is a urban oasis in the centre of Helsinki

The entry to Loft on Yrjönkatu off Bulevardi.
The entry to Loft on Yrjönkatu off Bulevardi.
The clean dining room is modern.
The clean dining room is modern.

The Toast Skagen looked great and is a classic Scandinavian dish perfect for summer lunch.
The Toast Skagen looked great and is a classic Scandinavian dish perfect for summer lunch.
smoked Salmon on a sauce of Morel mushrooms is one of my favorites. Tour of contrasting tastes.
Smoked Salmon on a sauce of Morel mushrooms is one of my favorites. Tour of contrasting tastes.

Restaurant Loft opened in February and is carving out a place in the trendy food segment in Helsinki. They serve Scandinavian classics. The place is new and clean and long curtains create a feel of softness. Their winebar seemed well equiped ready for thirsty wine buffs. Well worth a visit. I am eager to hear from readers who have dinners and wine evenings. The chef is Sebastian Nordberg, a guy I could find nothing about on Internet, seems too busy in the kitchen, but if you read this Sebastian write a little blurb about Loft.

11:01 AM in Restaurants | Permalink

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kyoto restaurant is a small hidden pearl in Soho.

The large pictograms on the wall makes a clean impression.
The large pictograms on the wall makes a clean impression.
The sushi bar. A great place to sample Kim's daily catch.
The sushi bar. A great place to sample Kim's daily catch.

I love these lamps. Simple and warm.
I love these lamps. Simple and warm.
Ebi fried inside out. Beautiful!
Ebi fried inside out. Beautiful!

A nice set of Sashimi, toro was great.
A nice set of Sashimi, toro was great.
My typical lunch for £12. Really great value.
My typical lunch for £12. Really great value.

Last year I stumbled into Kyoto, I do not know what attracted me, it was not the outside, nor its reputation, I cannot say anything than it was serendipity. When I got in, the place oozed authenticity. This place was original and home made. Big pictogram painted on the wall and wall cabinets of super heroes statues, guarding the place. I ordered their sushi set for 12 and I was surprised how well presented it was and when I tasted it I was blown away. I have never had this good sushi for 12 in London. I went back and the more I ate of Kyoto sushi the surer was that I had discovered a pearl. I started bringing my colleagues and friends and they all seemed pleased. I also started have some of the Korean specialties. I decided to introduce myself and get to know the chef. His name is Kim and it is his restaurant, and he does the sushi. He has two other chefs in the kitchen. He is great, very dedicated guy. His motto do it yourself, it not only applies to the interior, but it is omnipresent in the dishes he serves. His Gyosa is great, warm, crisp on the outside and aldente inside. The Tamago sushi is one of his specialties, he cooks it rich in water which makes the omelet much more difficult to handle, but it is moist and mealts in your mouth. The price quality ratio in this place is something of the best in London (look at this review). The place is really small, only 7 tables, no more than 25 places including the bar. It is open for both lunch and dinner.
You can find Kyoto on Romilly Street between Old Compton Street and Shaftesbury Ave. it is easy to get there, but it is not on any natural path in Soho.

So if you are a sushi fan like me, and you do not want to spend a fortune every time, Kyoto is a pearl! Smooth, clean and exotic. Very authentic little place. Thanks Kim, and good luck in the future.

10:21 PM in Restaurants | Permalink

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Restaurant Christophe generation shift of a star

The very elegant front.
The very elegant front.
Jean-Joel Bonsens the new owner of Restaurant Christophe.
Jean-Joel Bonsens the new owner of Restaurant Christophe.

The re-designed interior. It was very tasteful and classic.
The re-designed interior. It was very tasteful and classic.
The amazing flat dutch oysters I had.
The amazing flat dutch oysters I had.

The lobster tail seemed very good.
The lobster tail seemed very good.
My roasted pheasant.
My roasted pheasant.

A quick tour in the kitchen.
A quick tour in the kitchen.

Restaurant Christophe has been a culinary institution in Amsterdam for nearly 20 years. 16 of those they have had a star in the guide Michelin. However on the 28th they lost it. I visited the day after. It was a sad day. The chef, Jean-Joel, now owner,  who has led the kitchen scratched his head, in the bar. We had a great chat about the star system and wondered why he lost it. He had been in the kitchen the past 15 years. The only reason he could think of was that the owner of the restaurant had changed and this was seem to be a reason for degradation. One can of course understand that management affects the product and service and might like to put his or her stamp. But in this case power gets concentrated to man already in the kitchen. It is widely known in foodie circles that the stars are a big thing. This was the first time I saw what it feels like  to loose it. The benefit I had of this was that it was a quiet night which gave me a chance to talk to the staff, roam around and with good company it became a great evening. One of the lessons I have learned is that it pays of to listen to the staff regarding menu choice. I followed their recommendation and this was easily a 1 star meal, with the oysters being the stars. I also took up their offer to share a pheasant which was a good choice. The service was attentive and very professional. The decoration and lighting re-done in September was very suitable to their food. I would be surprised if they maintain this level of standard that they would not earn back their star for next year.

03:38 PM in Restaurants | Permalink

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Neal Street Restaurant is a piece of Italy in Covent Gardens

A delicious Calf liver dish. Really fresh.
A delicious Calf liver dish. Really fresh.
Their amazing Risotto with white truffle shavings.
Their amazing Risotto with white truffle shavings.

The mushrooms from the forest are fresh. Ask for daily specials.
The mushrooms from the forest are fresh. Ask for daily specials.
13:28  09 February 2006
Carpaccio a la Neal Street restaurant.
13:28  09 February 2006 Carpaccio a la Neal Street restaurant.

The Neal Street Restaurant is one of my favourite places in Covent Garden. I often come here for a business lunch. It is haute cuisine with a bit of serving theatre. They finish the dish in front of your eyes, mixing the spagetti or carving truffle on the risotto. First I was a bit amused by it, but I have come to like it, it does feel sincere and authentic. It adds to their personal very professional service. The linen is clean, starched and the glasses are clean. When seated you look upon some abstract art on the walls, the light in the place is nice and subtle. It quickly consumes you and you forget the computer with all those unread e-mails and can focus on a nice conversation with your business partner. I like the big mirror at the end of the restaurant, it gives size to this rather small place. Afer 1PM its gets very busy with the Soho media influencers and food lovers. It gets vibrant. It is a bit of a paradox, but it works.

When seated they bring out a bit of bread, fresh olive oil to dip in and most importanly the most amazing olives I have ever eaten. I can only describe them as fresh olives. I have not asked what they are, but make sure you taste them.

They are big on fresh mushrooms and I a good dish is to ask what daily specials they do with the mushrooms. Their tagliatelle with forest mushrooms is very italian. They do a wonderful risotto well wort the 30minute wait. Their Carperese is innovative, with cherry tomatoes lightly grilled with fresh buffalo motzarella. The Carpaccio is great. I have had their calve liver, it is great for those into it.

Their desert list will certainly calm the sweet tooth and build the mass in unwanted areas.

The great service and good food comes at a price, so if you are looking for a casual quick lunch this is not the place. With that said I do think it is value for money. I have been their many times and I do go back.

The Restaurant is the creation of Antonio Carluccio a well know restaurant entrepreneur in London. He has open several Carluccio café, we have one in our neighbourhood. He is not cooking at the Neal Street Restaurant, but italian chef Maurilio Molteni is responsible for the food and he does a good job at it.

06:07 PM in Restaurants | Permalink

World Food Café is a lunch sanctuary

The dynamic but classic menu at World Food Café
The dynamic but classic menu at World Food Café
The cosy atmosphere of World Food Café
The cosy atmosphere of World Food Café

Everything fresh prepared in fron of your eyes.
Everything fresh prepared in fron of your eyes.
The Falafel dish. One of my favourites
The Falafel dish. One of my favourites

World Food Café is in the hearth of Covent Gardent, maybe it is the hearth of Covent Garden. This eden of food has become one of my absolute favourite places to eat lunch. It is utterly authentic, pure good food. It is not haute cuisine, but true cuisine, almost like eating at home.
World Food Café is a vegetarian restaurant serving a set of dishes from around the world where the common element is fresh vegetables. Inspired by the world travels of  Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, where Chris is a travel photographer. The menu drawn on the chalk board by the entrance is dynamic, but there are classics There is the Indina Thali, The Middle Eastern Meze, The Peruvian Special.. The food is sometimes served on steel plates, one drinks out of steel cups. One can sit at the bar and look into the central little kitchen or at one of the three tables seating 6 or 8. It is in other words a small place. I would say the room is no larger than 30m2. At the tables one gets a view over Neals Yard with restored buildings in vivid colours.

I was immidiately attracted to the place, the down to earth atmosphere and the strong focus on serving good stuff makes a successful formula. I have been back a dozen times as it is just around the corner from the office. I have taken business guest there, OK only ones I think has a tolerance for something special.

I am big fan of their mint tea brewed with fresh mint ofcourse . I like their soups. The Peruvian is very good with a nice stew and a salad with a coriander balsamic dressign giving a bit of a sour sting to the rather sweet stew, topped with a avocado salad.

The Specials are about 8.95 per dish, the soup and salad combo is 5.95. They also serve a nice carrot cake for the sweet tooth.

For some of the most authentic London cuisine stop by the ladies at World Food Café I do not think you will walk away dissapointed.

05:50 PM in Restaurants | Permalink

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Klaus K is the coolest hotel in Helsinki

A hotel in the making. I made a real back stage tour with Marc Skvorc, the GM of Klaus K, the Bobcat was busy opening the atrium.
A hotel in the making. I made a real back stage tour with Marc Skvorc, the GM of Klaus K, the Bobcat was busy opening the atrium.
The result is here. Stark contrast now a really interesting piece of architecture.
The result is here. Stark contrast now a really interesting piece of architecture.

The reception area has an exebition of Finnish design glass.
The reception area has an exebition of Finnish design glass.
Interesting stools of solid birch. A new design piece?
Interesting stools of solid birch. A new design piece?

Finland got its first design hotel on Tuesday when the Klaus K hotel opened their doors to the public. Out of sure coincidence I was on a business trip and heard about the opening of the hotel. I have followed the re-make of Klaus Kurki to Klaus K as the manager is the former general manager of the very famous design hotel W at Union Square in New York. Marc has a great attention to detail and as a foreigner in Finland he can appriciate the beauty in Finnish design Finns often take for granted. My experience at the hotel was very good. The bed which Marc had raved about was very comfortable. I would have liked a down duvet like in Westin hotels Heavenly Beds. I was intrigued with the bathtub structure as they had moved the bathtub out of the wall with half a tile. This caused the water to flow down on the floor. There was drainedge but I am sceptical that this solution will work in the longrun. The service was great and friendly, unfortunately I arrived late and directly had a conference call so I had no chance to test the bar. Maybe next time. So if you want a cool experience in Helsinki check in at Klaus K. Congratulations to the team. You have worked hard to make this reality, I wish you all success, see you again.

At a later stage I hope to sample the food at the restuarants at Klaus K, but that will be another story...

09:28 AM in Restaurants | Permalink

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Restaurant Lehtovaara in the press

It is really great that Finland has its first blog based general interest case. It will contribute to the freedom of speech fight going on regarding blogs.

Ravintola Lehtovaara, is an old restaurant institution in Helsinki which has sued Herkko Hietanen for his post on an experience he had there some time ago. This story is getting lots of attention on the net at the moment.

I blog about many restaurants and several of them rank high in Google because of me, for example Maxill and Raku-Ya both first. My hobby is to write about food and restaurants I experience, so this case is thus very close to my hearth.

I have often though about writing a negative piece on something where things have gone wrong or where the experience has not been up to standard. For some reason I have not trashed any restaurant in any serious way. I guess I have felt that I command too much power in certain sense. On the other hand restaurants really ruin people's feelings. I am a bit torn.

It is out of pure coincidence that Lehotvaara became the restaurant to have this hand granade explode. What makes it amuzing is that I have visited the same restaurant several times, and I have two very memories of things going wrong in this place. The first time was probably 15-20 years ago. I was there with my parents and had a pepper steak, which came with potatoe croquettes, at that time I just learnt what they were as some local company started to produce ready made frozen ones. What I realised when I got the my pepper steak was that they were served with these ready made ones. I felt cheated. One gets that at a burger joint, but not at a nice fancy restaurant, and 15-20 years ago it was even more fancy than now. The other sour experience was maybe 10 years ago, when I wanted a light desert and I asked that if they had some sherbet, it was not on the menu. But they promised to see what they could do. When it came out they served a ball of cruched ice  flavoured with orange juice and called it sherbet. The experience was terrible. I felt cheated, but I had ordered something out of the menu, they delivered. It felt like, 'you demanding bastard, I'll teach you a lesson about not ordering outside the menu'. For some amazing reason these two experience have stayed in my memory for such a long time, 10 versus 20 years.

With that told, my sympaties are with Herkko in this case, but this is after all not really about who was right or wrong, but about freedom of speech. Here I am of the opinion that one should have freedom of speech, it is up to the reader to judge if one wants to trust the source or not.
In my restaurant reviews I speak for myself, and if you do not agree with my reviews, make comments, challenge or just ignore me.

Good luck Herkko, you are my man!

11:23 AM in Restaurants | Permalink