The formidable “Miespihvi” in all its 500 gram glory is a king among steaks.
WEERUSKA is a cosy tavern located in Helsinki’s lively suburb of Alppiharju. A few steps from the entrance lies the Linnanmäki amusement park. Just around the corner are Alppipuisto and Lenininpuisto, two very popular outdoor areas for summer concerts and winter sledging. The restaurant is an established classic in the neighbourhood, with long traditions and a dedicated platoon of hardcore regulars. With scant regard to fads and bandwagons, Weeruska caters to folks who prefer unpretentious food and like to get more bang for their buck.
Emerging from the kitchen, Weeruska’s head chef Otto Hellin struggles to bring me the recommended dish of the house. Behind me a football game is being broadcast on mute, with rock music filling the sonic void. I am presented with a 500-gram grilled steak, served in red wine sauce topped with fresh jalapenos and accompanied by a tomato-onion salad in addition to a generous portion of fries. The name of the dish could not better suit the experience: this is a “Man steak” (Miespihvi).
It is a well-prepared beef cut, not dissimilar in taste and quantity from the common South American Churrasco. Hellin, a chef with over 10 years of experience, warned me beforehand when explaining the restaurant’s specialties: “It’s all about portions.” He says this in all seriousness. Miespihvi has to be ordered in advance, as such quantity is not likely to be freshly available in any meat house around town.
The place has been a bar and diner since the 1960s and has seen thousands of thirsty and hungry souls pass through. The long-held traditions are kept alive by Weeruska, which combines a pub, a restaurant and a living room. Facing Porvoonkatu is the dining area, a large salon with rustic décor, clothed tables and a salad bar. In the back is the pub zone, where I meet the Miespihvi face-to-face like a matador meets the bull. In here the music turns louder and the lights lower, and soft and alcoholic drinks appear on the tables.
The pub zone also plays host to a variety of other manly pursuits beyond eating and drinking. All manner of gentlemanly pastimes, from live sports broadcasts to drinking and eating contests, are organised. Events are arranged by themed weeks, and they also include competitions allowing female customers to excel in various modalities, such as Nintendo Wii and Cosmo quizzes. In the middle of the establishment lies the game zone, equipped with all the pub necessities. Patrons try their aim at darts, challenge fellow mates at pool or simply match their skills at a game of Stiga Ice Hockey.
Weeruska Restaurant and Pub
With over a quarter of a century of service behind it, Weeruska keeps its menu fresh by rotating it twice a year. From the weekday lunch menu to chef’s á la carte, the options available are hearty portions of uncomplicated food: pizzas, salads, burgers, chicken, pastas, fishes and even a children’s menu.
The most interesting dishes are original creations by the chef, such as the so-called Ibizzat, a hybrid between pizza and a normal dish of sorts; an interesting combination that flatters the restaurant’s concern for portions.
Another specialty, highly recommended for those who want to come back to life after a night of antics, is the Jäätävä. No English translation could do justice to the word, but the essence of it can be summarised as “Huge Dish.” It’s a salty weekend explosion of bread, pork, sausages, fried eggs, cheddar cheese and French fries that promises to bury the pain and erase the unpleasant thoughts of any dishevelled party animal. With the hectic bar district of Kallio also just a stone’s throw away it’s no wonder this dish is so popular.
Finishing my dish, I think of the great opportunities that Alppiharju offers for an active day out. As I eat the last grams of my steak I ponder whether to drink a beer and watch the game broadcast on the widescreen or challenge someone at the Stiga ice hockey table. Well, maybe the football game first. After the man steak I can barely move.