Day 6, Sunday 10th July
Moose count = 0, but lots of signs
Well the day didn’t start too well with gloomy skies and the threat of rain as we strolled down the Esplanade yet again, this time to take the historic tram tour, and then the rather longer sightseeing tour on the Number 2 and Number 3 trams. The tourist information people even produce a leaflet to help with the latter.
We opted to start with the lovely old historic tram, which apparently dates from 1920 and ran through into the 1950s before being retired.
We were pleasantly surprised to find there was commentary with it, in Finnish, Swedish and English. It set off and rolled gently round to the cathedral, the senate square, the railway station which probably equals the cathedral for being an iconic Helsinki building, and eventually made its way back via a series of interesting building and monuments, including the three smiths statue which we hadn’t already seen. It was still somewhat grey outside and some of the sights on the route were hidden behind scaffolding as the inevitable and all-pervading building repair work got underway.Ironically one such structure was the Glass Palace, apparently put up in the first place as a temporary structure back in 1936 and now being renovated and changed into a museum.
The weather was beginning to improve by the time we returned to the starting point and Havis Amanda even had her seagull back on her head so all was well with the world. We then jumped onto the Number 2 tram and followed that round, expecting we would need to change trams at the top of the loop where the 2 stops and the 3 begins. Not a bit of it, however. The tram simply changed number, the electronic display now saying 3 not 2 and continued on its merry way. It was slightly bizarre, but rather brilliant as well, especially as it was so unexpected. The tram itself runs all the way up to the Olympic Stadium, so the whole route takes about 50 minutes, much quicker than we could walk it anyway, as we already knew.
We strolled back to the hotel, got the car and headed off to Espoo to visit out new friend Pertti, whom we met at Silverstone earlier this year, and his lovely wife Riita. They made us most at home, fed us a lovely lunch, and lots of wine, and made suggestions for things we might want to see during our trip. Much fortified, and having been fussed over by their dog as well, we wound up in the garage looking at the Lotus Pertti was working on.
We eventually returned to town late in the afternoon to change and go for dinner at Gaijin. It had several plusses in its favour starting with it being in Michelin’s list of recommendations for Helsinki, actually serving dinner on a Sunday night, being one of the Helsinki Cocktail Competition’s 11 entrants, and – possibly the best bit – being on the corner of the same block as our hotel. What’s not to like?
It’s a very busy establishment, in quite an elegant space and although it felt a bit overcrowded when we got there, the staff were very accommodating and friendly and we were soon seated at a side table away from the noisy bar area.
On Sunday’s you have no choice but to take one of the two possible tasting menus, and so we found ourselves eating a selection of small but delicious Asian-inflected dishes starting with the dim sum of the day, a tasty and very light fish ball.
There followed marbled beef ‘tataki’ and goma (described in full as marbled beef ‘tataki’, goma-dressing, pickled daikon, cucumber) which was lovely though I would have liked more. I didn’t need more, but it was good and it induced greed in me!
One of my favourite foods then turned up, soft-shelled crab, which was fried until crispy, served with a fennel and apple salad, apple mustard dressing, and togarashi mayonnaise which was very morish. It was all I could do to avoid licking the plate!
The middle dish was pork Yakiniku. Now I’m normally one to avoid pork as it doesn’t tend to agree with my digestive system, but this was worth the risk. Lynne is even more averse to it than I am and she too agreed it was delicious. Luckily it was just two small skewers worth so we would hopefully neither of us react too badly.
The main event was the fish of the day, salmon this time, with roasted choi sum, crispy garlic, and seaweed caviar served with a bowl of Japanese rice.
The dessert was small but complex, with blueberry almond cake, blueberry sorbet, sake gelee, yogurt vanilla crème, yogurt blueberry meringue and licorice dust and made me rethink my licorice loathing entirely as it tasted so good.
We took the wine package, which many Finnish restaurants seem to offer, and were pleased with it as the knowledgable young waitress talked us through each offering. All in all it was a very satisfying dinner and if it didn’t hit the heights Olo managed, I would still happily go back there in future. And on that note, knowing we had a long-ish drive in the morning, we hit the sack.