The Saddest Meal I Have Ever Eaten

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Helsinki, Finland

When I asked my Finnish chef crush Peter where I needed to eat in Helsinki he insisted that he call his friend Filip from Resaurant Ask (Ask Restaurant in English).

He said it would be Helsinki’s next Michelin star.

It’s a small place with less than 30 seats, and while it’s fine dining it is gracefully balanced with the feel of a neighborhood joint. 

Filip’s wife of seven years, Linda, pairs the wine.

She has worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years, she knows Filip’s style well and tries to find small producers in Germany and France.

The pair are adorable.

blini

I start with a simple beet dish beet  with beets from a biodynamic farm, smoked dried duck and goat milk and then Filip’s take on blinis and I realize this dinner is different.

I’m going to be lonely. 

One of the best parts of a meal is sharing something amazing with another person and from the beginning I know this is an amazing meal and I am so thankful Peter insisted that I come here.

I just wish I had someone to share this with.

But as the meal progresses I start to reconsider my loneliness.

Helsinki Restaurant Ask
Filip Langhoff

With each course Filip brings out the food, crouching to explain to his guests what the food is and where the ingredients come from.

It’s always some local farm only an hour or so away, most importantly he explains why he made the dish or what inspired it.

I’m not sure if the other guests realize it is Filip serving the courses.

restaurant as

He brings me  an incredible dish of carrots, hazelnut and reindeer – with seabuck thorn, hazelnut mayo, hollandaise sauce and wild mushrooms.

I had never thought carrots could be beautiful, delicate and ridiculously delicious until I tried this dish.

I see others sitting, laughing, talking in a group, unaware or appreciative.

They are oblivious to the best food in Helsinki.

burbot

By the time Filip returns to pour the brown butter sauce over the burbot and celeriac I am quite content to be alone because there is nothing to distract from the food.

No mindless conversation, just food and I can sit with my thoughts, marveling in how fortunate I am to experience this meal.

Linda comes by with wine and shares that Filip believe fish need to swim two times: the first time in water, the second time in butter.

They lived in Norway where cooking fish perfectly is a mandatory.

cheese plate

And with that a 2.5 hour meal passed with a blink.

At the beginning I told Linda that I did not eat dessert so she offered a cheese plate from a biodynamic farm in Denmark where the cows only eat grass and hay.

And while Filip knew I did not like anything sweet he insisted I try the green tea “snow” from frozen yogurt.

He explained when it’s cold outside we need to bring snow inside.

I could not argue with the man.

It is rare that I would describe a meal as beautiful. I have recounting many as fucking awesome or insanely delicious but Filip’s food is simple and delicate.

There is a sense of fragility that requires someone with such skill to transform a dish from basic to exquisite.

And if you’re wondering yes, Filip makes it to the chef crush list. The first restaurant I would recommend in Helsinki would be Ask Restaurant.

At 4 courses for 55 Euro and accompanying wine pairing for 50 Euro, it was an absolute bargain and a pleasure to pay.

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Finnish Tourist Board as part of a Navigate Media Group project. They did not pay for this meal, in fact it was the best 95 Euro I have ever spent.

Join the Conversation

  1. On my list for the next time I’m in Helsinki. I don’t mind eating alone. That way I’m assured of good company. 🙂

  2. You have the most amazing experiences. I loved the post.

  3. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    I think you need to create a page on your site for your chef crushes.

    While I am capable of enjoying a great meal out alone, it is nice to be with good company. I was invited to check out a new restaurant last night, and it is the first time I’ve ever done a review with a date. I enjoyed the company, but the other benefit is being able to try more dishes 🙂

    1. Christina Gmyr says:

      I agree! I love when you and your date agree on 2 different dishes to order so that you can split them. More variety and fun!

      But eating alone definitely has its benefits too. Much easier to focus on contemplating the food and life 🙂

  4. Considering it was healthy, tasty, great looking, exotic, and in northern Europe, it looks like you got your money’s worth.

  5. Speechless… and hungry *grin*

  6. Looks delicious! Are the plates slabs of stone?

  7. Cheryl Keit - Sing Travel Live says:

    That sounds like just the most incredible meal ever. I’m so jealous of you – definitely a place to go in Helsinki!

  8. As someone who often travels alone (and thus eats alone) often and occasionally splurges for some fine dining, I agree that some meals can be lonely. But, if you choose the right place, the food alone is the only company you need. I would definitely pay 95 euro for this dining experience if it’s as good as your words and photos describe it.

  9. Eating is one of those things I still don’t feel entirely comfortable doing by myself in public. I agree with your point about appreciating it more though.

  10. Interesting observations. I actually really like eating alone, and I think you’ve articulated a big part of why. Also, this place looks incredible – so sad I won’t be able to go while in Helsinki – I”m there on a Monday and they’re not open then! I’ll keep this as a recommendation for others, though.

  11. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I love eating alone, because then I don’t have to share haha! 😉

  12. Dustin Main says:

    Usually I’m just fine eating alone… but once in awhile it’s just awful.

    I don’t eat at enough fancy, higher-end restaurants to know if that makes a difference or not 🙂

  13. Micamyx|Senyorita says:

    I am already used to doing things on my own (including eating alone in a public place, which is still a big no-no for some people). It can be awkward in some restaurant, but sometimes you’re just that hungry to even care or you appreciate the art of fine dining on your own hehe.

    Can I order some food and the chef for dessert? 😛

  14. And I almost cried reading this because I was not there to share it with you.

    Love this on so many levels!

    xoL

  15. Funny, i read this while eating alone in an empty restaurant… Sad, but my phone kept me company and focused away from the bad food! 🙂

  16. Aaaannnnd now my stomach is rumbling.

    I think I would put up with the loneliness for a meal like this, too!

  17. I really have to get to Finland! Seems like such an interesting place. Sometimes when my husband and I go out for a really spectacular meal I find that we end up eating in silence for a little while. Sometimes you just need time to absorb the flavors and really experience your meal. At least if you’re alone no one will get offended if you space out at the dinner table!

  18. Sounds like a great meal! I love the personal touch of the chef coming out to explain things to his customers, even if they didn’t even realize it was him.

  19. I can definitely feel both sides of the argument. I’ve eaten alone and absolutely loved the peace of it, but I have also eaten alone and wished for company to share it with. However, it sounds like this experience wasn’t such a lonely one with the chef and wine pairing expert floating around.

  20. It sounds really tasteful!

  21. Sounds simply magical! All of the dishes look so stunning and it is amazing to see the chef deliver the food and explain it. Jealous!

  22. I can’t remember the first time I ate on my own because I think I did it every time I went into town as a teenager and it’s never bothered me. It does make you appreciate your food more and considering how awesome that food looks you need all the time you can get to appreciate it!

  23. Peter Lee says:

    I prefer eating in public place when I have a company of my friends but when I don’t have, I choose my own room and dining table.

  24. And on the March 12, 2014 Restaurant Ask did get a Michelin Star!

  25. I just interviewed Filip for my thesis and I have to tell you that I have never wanted to eat MORE at a restaurant solely based on a conversation alone. He has to be one of the most reflective chefs I’ve talked to, and used the absolute best metaphors to explain his restaurant concept. Even the way he poured our coffee seemed to have a feeling of care and dedication. I cannot wait to write our interview up, and am kicking myself that I didn’t make time to have a meal at Ask while I’m here – I’m seriously debating coming back just to eat (and because Helsinki is awesome…) – he is most definitely the newest addition to my chef crush list too, shh don’t tell. I just had to rant a little about it and thought this would be a good place to do it.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Helsinki is awesome, and agreed that Filip is far ahead of his peers. The care he puts into everything he does is amazing.

  26. Campbell Nielsen says:

    Restaurant Ask should be called Restuarant Joke! The food was shockingly average and the portions laughable. I went there last weekend and for €90 for an 8 bite size courses and totally uninteresting meal. Amuse, a snap pea with some non-homemade mayo, a few spinach leaves, more mayo. Then a spring onion. More mayo.. OMG, it just got worse and worse. Some potatoes with browned butter and a sliver of chicken. A couple of thin fatty slices of pork with a Carmelited turnip, the most interesting veg of the night, that was the meal oh and then a surprise main – how exciting, a few shreds of pork with the fat jus that the other pork cooked in – no herbs or anything to special. The deserts were good – but this meal was the worst, and expensive. They should be embarrassed!!

  27. It’s great that you can provide such a strong recommendation when it comes to the aesthetics of your Restaurant Ask experience. Filip and his wife seem like the ideal hosts.

  28. Probably the time I was really craving for a Big Mac, bought a meal and took it on a 18 mile ride home only to find out that they forgot the meat patties. I tearfully sat down at my computer and ate the thing anyway, trying to imagine the taste of meat. You had one job, burger flipper. Great read here 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      That’s a crazy story!

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