I might have been an “outsider” ( translation of Gaijin ) to Gaijin when I have visited it last year, but this time around I knew what I could expect from a long standing Asian fusion kitchen and still one of the top choices in Helsinki to go for a private dining or special occasion one. I was very eager to come back to Gaijin and try the highlights from the new menu.
For those who haven’t been to Gaijin yet or haven’t read my previous post on Gaijin, it was 2nd restaurant to open from Tomi Björck and Matti Wikberg’s BW restaurants. Centrally located, on one of the most important streets in Helsinki – Boulevard, it’s hard to pass by this restaurant and not want to come inside and see what’s it all about. Very stylish, minimalistic and bit mystic interior sets the right “vibe” for your dining and a special occasion. Endless choices of sakes, cocktails and wines are a huge plus to the overwhelmingly interesting and innovative Asian fusion kitchen and Gaijin’s menu.
Just like in the rest of BW restaurants, in order to completely experience what Gaijin’s food story is about, social eating ( meaning sharing your dishes ) is strongly recommended at Gaijin.
Menu changes about 3-4 times a year and not all of it is always modified, there’re some classics ( such as pork bun, eel nigiri, tuna tataki… ) which are so popular among the costumers that they just need to stay “untouched”. 🙂
To “open up” our tastebuds we went for a non alcoholic and very refreshing Herushinki cucumber cocktail. It was a hot day outside so this drink was a perfect refreshment before starting our dinner.
First starter was prawn taco – crispy wonton, fresh prawns, tomato, avocado creme and fish roe. The freshness and deliciousness of this start was a straight A+! I found it very LA kind of starter in sense of it’s creativity of combining new invention as this wonton made in a crispy taco way and the freshest of the prawns with a nice splash of lime juice. Delicious!
Our 2nd starter was salmon tartar and purple shizo leaf with wasabi mayo. I’d suggest you to wrap up this tartar in shizo leaf and eat it in one bite, it’s small but it explodes once it’s in your mouth and def. leaves you wanting more. This tartar went (and stayed) to my top one dish we’ve tasted from the new menu.
Since it’s hard to find good dim sums and shu mais in Helsinki, I was excited to get a taste of London’s Yauatcha by tasting Gaijin’s salmon and prawn shumai as well as vegetarian option of roasted carrots, hazelnut and chestnut. I was enjoying these perfectly dense and flavour balanced bags of gold to the max.
Time to try the new main courses, but before that we were brought new and first Gaijin’s own white wine! I couldn’t find any fault to it and I thought that it was worth trying it and pairing with the main course too. I must be honest and say that I have stilled liked Gaijin’s sakes better for pairing with this type of Asian fusion food.
From the fresh side of mains, we were testing white fish yaki with kelp seaweed mayo, kohlrabi and mustard cress. This was such a light, perfectly balanced dish. All of the ingredients made for a nice, refreshing “party in my mouth” situation. Very strong act from the new menu!
Next up, also from the fresh side of the main courses, we have tested creamy snow crab with truffle mustard dressing, shizo leaf and seaweed caviar. I’m a huge fan of anything “fish” and I also find shizo leaf to be super tasty, so when you put together a creamy snow crab with all of the best and richest ingredients into one bowl together, it made me want to jump into it and “stuff” my head in it. It was so wonderful that I forgot to speak or say anything to my friend that was accompanying me that day to Gaijin. I was speechless… Great food = loss of words and inability to have any kind of conversation except mumbling. 😀
Final main course from the warm side was ramen style drunken chicken, braised in spicy pork stock with green spring onions and shizo leaf. It came with the side of Gaijin’s Gohan, Japanese rice. I can’t even explain you the enchanting smell that hit us just upon delivering this dish to our table! It was hard to concentrate on taking the photos of it because of how good it looked like and it’s aroma. My friend was the one who ate this dish and she went to a “chickeny-sticky” heaven while devouring this meat eater’s favourite. Def. the best newcomer to the mains side of the new menu.
While waiting for our dessert platter, we got some tea and coffee and remembering the platter we got last time, we were eager to see what’s new this time around. Once the platter arrived, just the looks of it was a pure art, but once we did dig in… Oh my… Gaijin has the best dessert platter in the whole city! If you don’t have time for anything else to try at Gaijin and have your sweet tooth “going nuts”, just try any of their desserts and you’ll simply swim in a sugar paradise!
Their Mint geisha dessert or green tea and raspberry are my favourites and I have never tasted anything such or better anywhere else. DON’T ever finish your dinner at Gaijin without desserts, it would be a sin. 🙂
Throughout the whole dinner, we were trying couple of different sakes and they were: Kioke Shikome Junmai (more “cleaner” taste), Masumi Junmai Ginjo ( sweeter in taste, almond and tropical fruits ) and Umeshu sweet wine which was our favourite.
Gaijin made me feel very relaxed, happy and truly once again appreciate the food and Gaijin’s philosophy. Every single dish was clearly made with devotion and with an attention to the detail. No wonder that this restaurant is still standing strong on the list of Helsinki’s top restaurants, it def. deserves it’s spot and younger/ newly opened restaurants can only take pointers and inspiration from Gaijin.
*This post has been made in collaboration with Gaijin/ BW restaurants. Opinions are mine solely!
*Thank you to Miss Elina for making this collaboration happen.
*Photography by: Natali K. photography