First night in a new city is always tough, especially when you’re battling jet lag. We had a reasonably uneventful flight overnight from Singapore to Helsinki and managed to navigate our way to the delightful Hotel Fabian. On the way, we spied one of the coffee shops Greedy Girl had researched – La Torrefazione. After a short nap and a shower, we made our way there for the obligatory morning caffeine fix (although we weren’t entirely sure it was morning) and promptly asked our waiter where we should eat that night. He suggested Gaijin.

Although we didn’t particularly want Asian fusion food, in the absence of any better ideas (and the need to stay up as late as possible to meet Swiss friends arriving that night), we booked a table. Gaijin is on ‘Bulevardi’ – one of the few Finnish words we had any confidence in being able to say (the other is ‘kippis’ the local version of ‘cheers’).

We presented ourselves promptly at 6 and were told we needed to be out by 7.30pm. Okey dokey. The waitress went through the menu spiel and we disappointed her by saying we’d only share some snacks. Bursting bellies and jet lag do not mix. We opted for some of chef Tomi Bjorck and Matti Wikberg’s dim sum offerings.

The menu is heavily influenced by north Asian cuisines – China, Korea and Japan. Some of the snacks and dim sum dishes are designed to be shared, while others require one each. Our waitress made the appropriate advisories and we settled back. We didn’t have to wait long.

First up were two individual dishes presented together – a squid cracker with salmon and beef tartare with truffle on a shizo leaf. The squid cracker was quite nice, if not a flavour explosion. The texture was very good, although Greedy Girl was expecting a slightly saltier hit. The salmon was dressed with a yuzu mayonnaise and topped with rainbow trout roe. The beef on the shizo leaf was dressed with truffle mayonnaise and topped with some Japanese pickles. It was perfectly pleasant to eat.

Where to eat Helsinki: Gaijin

Squid cracker, beef tartare on shizo leaf

Next up was the dish at the top of this blog. You order the pork belly (white buns) and the soft-shell crab (black buns) separately but they’re presented together and look very effective. The pork belly could have used a bit more of the fat left on it. It was possibly the slimmest piece of pork she’d ever had in a dish like this. It was presented with kimchi mayonnaise and picked cucumber. The soft-shell crab was the standout of the evening. Greedy Girl wanted to take half a dozen to go. The bun had been infused with squid ink to make it black and it looked very effective next to the ‘red dragon mayonnaise’ and the crispy, deep-fried crab. The mayo was slightly spicy and the dish was utterly delicious.

Next up were lamb meatballs, described as being infused with Szechuan pepper, black vinegar and garlic. Again, perfectly edible but not a wow. For such interesting ingredients, the result didn’t pack in a lot of flavour.

Where to eat Helsinki: Gaijin

Lamb meatballs infused with Szechuan pepper

We decided to finish with some dumplings. First up were xiaolong bao filled with ‘yuzu truffle spiced pork’ and followed by roasted beef and foie dumplings. Both were consumed readily but again didn’t pack a great punch. Greedy Girl concedes perhaps not much would have got her going by that point. Jet lag is a horrible thing.

Where to eat Helsinki: Gaijin

Pan fried dumplings

Where to eat Helsinki: Gaijin

Steamed dumplings

And we were done. Out we went into the still very light evening to walk and try to stay awake.

Greedy Girl kept an eye out for the bigger dishes going to other tables but nothing really caught her attention. Again, that may have been due to other factors. Certainly there were some interesting dishes here and the soft-shell crab is worth the price of admission alone.


Bulevardi 6, Helsinki

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