Furu

Helsinki, Finland

Support your local (restaurant). Or almost local in this case, being a bit over 10 minutes drive. Restaurant is at Hotel Rantapuisto which feels like a dive into 70s/80s, in a good way. Location is also beautiful, bit of forest and a sea view. On a Monday evening, there few larger groups and few separate couples and diners alone, not too busy.

Our waitress was working for the first day, so she kept apologizing all the little mistakes she was making. No harm done there, that was very understandable. Of course the drinks could have been brought a bit faster, first day or not.

Furu’s menu had five different starters, same amount of main (plus burgers and sandwiches) and couple of desserts to choose from. For lazy ones like me, the have put menu Furu, with a starter, main and dessert. Main can be chosen from meat (pepper steak) or fish (catch of the day).

Smoked roach mousse with Furu’s cracker as a starter was a promising beginning for the meal. Afterwards thinking, catch of the day might have been better choice for the main than mediocre steak. The quality of the meat was not that great. Pepper sauce saved a lot and fried kale went perfectly there. Side carrots were left almost raw, I wonder if that was really intended. Pannacotta at the end was pretty good.

The menu sets you back 54€. Interestingly, if you choose the fish and order all the dishes separately, you save few euros. On the other hand, with the meat options the menu saves you couple of euros.

Aleria

Athens, Greece

After a week of traditional Greek food (which is great, btw) we thought it would be nice to see what Athens has to offer on the fine dining scene. I found out that just around the corner from our airbnb there is promising sounding place called Aleria. I made a reservation for Monday evening and the place was already quite fully booked few days before

We could not get table outside (with a stunning inner yard) but inside was almost as nice as it would have been outside. From the first minute the staff was really attentive and polite. After seating, they took orders for water (sparkling/non-sparkling). Only minus for the service was after this: it took some time for the waiters to come to ask if we would like to have some apéritifs. But it was worth the wait, the Negroni was excellent.

After that, we were presented with the menu cards. The options are limited to two; you can have one of tasting menus. The first one is called “Earth and Sea” (with fish and meat) and the other one “Garden and Nature” (vegetarian). For both of the menus you can choose either five (65€) or six course (78€) option. The selection can be different for everybody in the table, so they are flexible in that sense. Also they were really paying the attention to any possible food restrictions and allergies.

With the menu you can choose wine pairing or premium wine pairing. Both include mostly Greek wines (premium might have some from other countries as well) but the premium one is almost double the price. We went with the “basic” one (48€) which turned out to be quite good.

Then the food: starting with really nice amuse-bouche followed by excellent starters, featuring crab, beef tartar and pumpkin as main ingredients. Unfortunately the mains: “catch of the day”, being cod this time and the lamb did not impress me as much. I found the fish dish being too acidy and the meat dish having several good components but not really combining them together. Anyway, there were good but did not keep the level of the previous dishes in my opinion. Also the dessert did not change this. Except for the dessert wine, which I think was the the most interesting one of all the wines.

We were group of seven and one of us took the “Garden and Nature” menu while other ones chose “Earth and Sea” (which I commented above). The vegetarian menu got highly appraised being a real menu instead of being the same menu with meat left out. This said, there was one exception. The pumpkin soup benefited from the salty pork pieces and the extra chestnuts just could not make up for that.

So the verdict would be that while moussaka and souvlaki are great, there is room also for modern Greek cuisine, taking some elements from the old traditions.

Noua

Bucharest, Romania

https://nouarestaurant.ro/

After a long time not visiting Romania, I was thrilled to see how the fine dining restaurants have developed. Previous trials have not been that great. After some studying, I found this place called Noua (“New”) with pretty good reviews and exactly what I wanted, local cuisine with local ingredients.

We were a large group (13 pax) and had reservation at 6pm on a Friday night (opens at 5pm). As expected, there were not too many customers yet. They have a terrace by entrance where they serve smaller terrace menu, but we were seated inside, where the only choice is the tasting menu (250 lei ~ 50€).

With the tasting menu they have wine pairing (160 lei) and quite extensive wine list. When asking for getting some bubbly for the start, they just presented the wine list without further recommendations even though I kind of hinted that we could have some advice. Well, anyway our choice was decent and we enjoyed it while admiring beautiful interior of the upstairs sitting area with the view to an open kitchen.

Soon after that started the first dish “Romania on a plate”. This is actually 7 different small bites, served one by one. The serving is part of the fun. First they bring you a wooden puzzle frame in the shape of Romania. Then come the dishes, each on a piece of the puzzle and of course the dish is something typical for that geographical area. After you have finished the puzzle, comes a surprise, one more piece. Yes, you guessed correct, Bessarabia. If you didn’t guess, google “Basarabia, pământ românesc”. This whole thing was in my opinion the tastiest and most interesting part of the whole menu.

There were several other dishes after this, some excellent (the two mains, golden gray mullet and the lamb!), some good, some ok tasting. All of the beautifully laid out, superb presentation but in some parts trying too much. Have to remember sometimes to keep it simple as well. All in all, I was really happy with the quality of the food. The wines did not really live up to the food. Some pairings were excellent and good wines, but some not that much.

Then comes the negative. Unfortunately the service was not what you would expect in a level of a place they obviously try to be. Don’t get me wrong, there were polite, explained the dishes well and so on but small details is what makes the whole experience. Few points, they did not ask what we’d like to drink with the food. They started serving the food with some people having nothing to drink. Also, the first forgot that we had ordered one vegetarian menu and served him meat as well. Also, after the mains, we had wait 45 minutes for the desserts. They did not apologize or explain anything before we asked after over 30 minutes of waiting. Maybe some round of drinks would have been nice while waiting, for those we had also ask if we could get some. I’d suggest that chef Alex Petricean would take his staff somewhere top notch place abroad to see what is service in a high quality restaurant. But again, I must stress that these were little things and we had great time. I’d highly recommend Noua to anyone visiting Bucharest.

Plats

Espoo, Finland

Seems it has been exactly 8 months since last update, way, way too long. Anyway, was happy to end the long break with Plats, located in the small island just outside of Helsinki city skirts. The place is easily accessible with car and less than 2 kilometers away from Koivusaari metro station.

The location is absolutely beautiful, naturally with the sea view and as weather permitted, we enjoyed it fully by having table on the terrace outside.

The restaurant Plats offers à la carte menu, changing by season, as well as five course tasting menu (64€). We chose the tasting menu, without asking details about it and it turned out to be selection of dishes from the list. Having each dish individually from the list would be 93€, not sure if there is difference in the size of the portions. For aperitif had really good house negroni (12€) and to go with the food, a wine package for 46€. For some reason not possible to have half pours of wines, but can split the wines for two persons.

I did not know much of the place beforehand, but first dish proved already that we can expect to have fantastic meal: Vichyssoise, foamy leak soup with pickled and fried onions on top just took your breath away. If possible, second dish with sugar-salted arctic char with asparagus and hollandaise, was even better, just beautiful. If you have not ever tried finnish asparagus, give it a go…absolutely amazing (might also be that I’ve never really had fresh asparagus, but it was a real treat).

Third dish featured also asparagus, now white one (imported) served grilled with tasty nettle purée. Went nicely with riesling from Korrell. From the list this one is sold as main dish as well as is the next dish from the tasting menu, lamb with carrots and carrot purée. Chorizo pieces with almonds gave nice texture, but lamb was a little too done for my taste. Anyway, I was happy to eat it and flush down with some ripasso.

The dessert with vanilla pannacotta, sorbet and rasberries was perfect and refreshing end to a very nice meal. Wine pairing was nicely done and service was professional and friendly. Current restrictions with alcohol serving times and restaurant opening times maybe affected a little bit and place might have been a little bit under staffed.

I don’t know if it has been a long break or what, but we had an excellent meal and very nice experience overall.

Chapter

Helsinki, Finland

https://www.chapter.fi/

First time going to any proper restaurant since start of COVID-19 and suitably Chapter had reopened in beginning of October as Chapter 2.0. After hearing many good things about this place, I was really looking forward to visit.

On Wednesday night there was plenty of room and in fact we were the only ones in the that dining room consisting of 6 tables. Under the circumstances it was nice but felt anyway bit weird.

Restaurant is situated in the heart of Helsinki, in a beautiful old building with a nice view to senate square. I liked the interior as well. Although my dining companion described the chairs being a bit of Liberace style and there certainly is some truth in that.

For the dining options, your choices are very limited making it easy for you. It is either full menu (84€) or short menu (62€). But short menu is not that short, it only lack mushroom and onion ravioli and Rose buds and lingonberry from the full menu.

We went with short menu and also with recommended wine pairing (48€). It seems that the natural wine boom is still going strong and cannot describe any of the wines being excellent. Probably from now on should just not go with the pairings if they consist only out of natural wines.

Anyway, the food for every dish was on either good or excellent. Menu starts with two small snacks, out of which the beetroot tartlet was amazing. After house bread came another highlight, razor clam (at least that what it writes on the website, I can’t remember was it razor clam or something similar) with celeriac. After that was arctic char with a bit too heavy sauce followed by my absolute favorite of the whole menu: potato and sour cream. Creamy and soft potato yumminess under red onions and crispy potato chip-like pieces. So tasty!

And that said comes the nitpicking: on the menu you have an option to “upgrade” that potato dish with vendace roe (extra 8€). Couple of things: what is chef’s view, is this dish supposed to be served with roe or not? Or he/she couldn’t decide and offloaded the choice to the poor customer not knowing anything about dish before tasting it. Also I think the roe would have just disappeared there with bringing any extra. I hope this kind of the trend isn’t coming more popular. It is very different from asking if you want extra cheese or bacon with your burger. There was also option for the ravioli to pimp it with some cheese.

Main dish from from hanger steak good overall as were the desserts (Apple, celery and almond, Korvapuusti and dark chocolate).

Inari (@home)

Helsinki, Finland

Obviously during the COVID-19, the restaurants have had to adapt to the situation as well. Besides normal take-away food, several places have started to sell sets where most of prepping is done at restaurant and heating and final touch is given at home.

In my opinion, this concept works quite nicely, you get a feeling doing something yourself and don’t have to eat the food right away after pickup. Of course it gives some challenges to restaurant also, it can’t be too difficult to finalize the dish at home.

My first try was home-kit from recently Michelin Star awarded Inari (https://www.restaurantinari.com/). We chose the five course dinner for two (110€), the other option being three courses (80€).

Dinner started with green curry, where the mixed greens gave nice texture and the curry sauce itself was tasty. Nothing special though, but decent curry anyway. Maybe the challenges coming up with dishes that do not require too much at home realized at the next dish, citrus salad (~ 5 pieces of different fruits) with kombu (seaweed) did not really seem like most innovative nor tasty dish. Of course it served the purpose of neutralizing your taste buds after bit spicy first start.

But anyway, it was all upwards from here, first really tasty melanzane and then the superb duck pancakes. Latter one you make like tacos, you have of course the duck and then hoisin sauce, home-made sriracha (inaracha it was called, I guess), kimchi (could have been a bit spicier…), some orange with chili and a salad with dressing. The duck was a bit too done and could have been juicier (or I messed up with too much heating…). But overall, really really good.

And so was the dessert, Hoddeok (korean pancakes) with condensed milk and ice-cream. Nice touch of cinnamon, perfect!

Overall, I would definitely recommend everyone to try this and hope to see different restaurants have such offering even after normal operations are back.

Demo

Helsinki, Finland

Demo has been sitting there almost two decades, once rebuilt after a fire and has kept its star since 2007. Still I have not managed visit Demo, until today. Only option is to go with the selected menu, but you can choose 4,5,6 or 7 dishes (65€/78€/95€/105€) with wine pairing that almost doubles the price (for 7 dish menu, 97€).

The service is welcoming and feeling very cozy from the beginning. Started the evening with class of champagne (22€) and two amuse-bouch, especially the latter one with crunchy potato and black aioli was a real treat.

First dish from the menu was mussel in creamy, almost a soup like, sauce with some fennel. That was served with some small pieces of nice sourdough bread. Followed by two fish dishes, first arctic char with Jerusalem artichoke, furnished with pike roe and then braised burbot with cauliflower. Both very good, but the fish on the one had cooled a bit too much before brought to the table.

Unfortunately, the weakest link in the menu was the main. The pigeon with beetroot just did not make it. Imagine how sweet and smooth beetroot purée can be, then imagine complete opposite; that’s how it was here. Also there were some hazelnut (might have some other nut?) pieces that just did not feel like belonging there. Pigeon was ok, but nothing special.

After this it was time for dessert, first a bit weird (but nevertheless interesting and tasty) Klostertaler cheese with almond, followed by superb apple mille-feuille and even better lime soufflé with coconut ice cream on a side.

Finished the meal with cup of nice coffee (10€) served with some (hand-made?) sweets. As said, nice and flawless service, not too chatty though. 3.5 hours went by in a nice rhythm, not waiting too long at any point and the dishes not coming too fast after each other.

Overall nice and would go again, hoping to get a better main dish. Pricing is maybe a bit too steep, about 250 euros for one person (they charge also 9€ per person for water).

ORA

Helsinki, Finland

Tiny (less than 20 pax) restaurant in southern Helsinki. One out of Helsinki’s six Michelin star places. In same premises operated before restaurant “Chef & Sommelier”. Only the chef remained and end-result was ORA.

Layout of the tables leaves no question what is going on in this place. The kitchen is the stage and customers are the audience. Not that they would put out a show or anything like that, but all the tables are set so that you see the kitchen from your place.

They only serve one set menu with 6 dishes (priced reasonably 89€), so don’t have to spend time wondering what you will eat. They also do wine pairing for the menu and you can choose either 4 or 6 wines. Or anything else from the wine menu naturally.

Amuse-bouche was a bit heavy start with sea-buckthorn dominating quite much the overall flavor on this little bit wrapped in horseradish leaf. But the first dish was no nonsense anymore, absolutely amazing lightly cured rainbow trout with rolls of yellow beets filled with self-made sour cream.

I’ll quickly list the rest of the dishes: “First autumn leaves with horseradish”, “Red chard with grapes and striped beets”, Pike-perch with crayfish and corn”, “Pumpkin, apple and coffee”.’

Careful reader might notice that makes only five dishes, correct. Because I had to mention this one separately. Without a doubt, one of the best (if not the best?) dishes ever: lamb with thin kohlrabi slices and a croquette with shiitake. On top of this poured the most aromatic brown sauce. If the other end of piece of lamb had not been weirdly a bit not-so-warm, I would have left out the question mark away from the above.

Service was top notch, but with a minor glitch. There was 80 euro miscalculation in the bill and not in my favor. And after mentioning about that, maybe a little bit more than a quick “sorry” would have been in order.

The wines were ok, some better than the other. Just saying that maybe should have gone with champagne instead of the Austrian sparkling rose (those were not part of the paired wines). And maybe nowadays it is more important for some, how and who produces the wine, than actually how it tastes…well, go figure.

Aanaar

Inari, Finland

Located in small village of Inari (Aanaar in Sami language, hence the name) sits on beautiful place by rapids of river Juutua. On the same building is also a hotel, if you decide to stay here longer. The restaurant was placed 46. on the latest best 50 restaurants in Finland list.

Until 3pm lunch is served and after that, you can order from à la carte menu. I went with a preset menu “Inari 5”. You can order the same dishes separately, but you save few euros by getting the menu. Menus was priced 59 euros and matching wine package 24,80€ (not bad price, 3 x 12 cl + 8 cl).

The menu started with amuse-bouche made from lichen (that is what reindeers eat) and grated reindeer heart with a creamy sauce. Fantastic and interesting start making you curious what is about to come. First thing from the menu was whitefish & roe from Lake Inari whitefish on a toast, prawns from the Arctic Ocean, and cucumber and dill granita. Very generous portion and flavors that complemented each other perfectly. You could have this one alone for a small lunch. Second appetizer was also fish, this time pike (Lake Inari dried pike Brandade, pike mousse, marinated Angelica, fennel and lemon emulsion and Bottarga). If the first “appetizer” was good, this one was amazing. Also more “fine-dining” like portion.

For main dish the menu had reindeer meat, the portion was name “Reindeer and its pasture”. It consisted of roasted reindeer smoked with pine needles, reindeer blood dumplings, lichen seasoned with bilberry and Lappish potato purée. The blood “dumpling” was a bit dull part and tasted like dry-ish “verilettu” (blood pancake), but otherwise it was excellent. The meat was brought to table in separate pot and once opened, amazing smokey pine flavors came out.

After this, two desserts. First very fresh tasting “bridging dessert” from bilberry, angelica and lingonberry and then birch leaf sorbet, chocolate mousse flavoured with tar licorice. The second one was called “smokedsauna” as the sorbet was on top a cup in a separate glass, so that the lower part was filled with smoke.

Altogether, worth of making a trip from longer distance and reasonable priced in my opinion. They use local products as much as possible and also all parts from a reindeer, for example, which I count admirable.

Gastro Bar Sesonki

Järvenpää, Suomi

https://ravintolasesonki.fi/

Now almost one year old Gastro Bar has interesting location, it is in the same building as K-citymarket. And not just any K-citymarket, this supermarket is one of Europe’s top selling sushi places. Yes, you read correct, they sell almost 20000 pieces of sushi every week. Would have wanted to taste some before going to dinner, but there was a bit of queue and had to rush.

Sesonki also gets their ingredients from the same shop, how convenient is that. The place it not that big and was packed on Friday night at 7pm, so better make a reservation.

While waiting for everybody to arrive, we had the bread basket featuring three different types of bread with some spread flavoured with truffle salt. Good breads, but charging everybody 4.5€ was maybe a bit too much.

For the dinner, we decided to go with the 5 course surprise menu (58€). To go with the menu, they have wine package 41€ and also non-alcoholic drink menu, which seemed a bit expensive (32€). Nobody had the non-alcoholic drink menu, so cannot say more about it.

The menu started with amuse bouche, which turned out to be weakest link in the menu: pomme noisette type of potato with smoke-flavored crème fraîche. I mentioned earlier the bar getting the ingredients from the supermarket next door, this potato tasted like it was taken from the freezer box and did not even melt properly. The sauce was nice though, and would have made perfect pair for some salmon, for example.

First appetizer was salsify soup with tasty mushrooms. Really good and some lime tasting element gave the soup nice twist. Second came lamb ragù based dish. It was bit surprisingly warm appetizer, but nevermind, it was really tasty. Third was a fish appetizer, semi cured salmon cut in cubes with sauce, cucumber and dill. Good basic dish, but not on the level of the previous ones. Although the others seemed to enjoy it more than I did.

As a main, there was perfectly prepared pork belly (I think it was belly, might be mistaken here). The flavor and the the texture was amazing: bit crispy on the outside and when pressed with side of a fork, it fell it to juicy little pieces.

As a dessert, there was sorbet with berries. I like desserts that are not that sweet, so this suited well for that, but did not not impress me otherwise. Before the real dessert there was a small surprise dessert, but now not being to tell exactly what it was, tells all about it.

Wine package was OK, quite safe mainstream choices mostly. For example, two of the wines were Cono Sur’s 20 barrels wines.

All in all, I was really happy with the food. The service was good as well and the place is… well it is located next to a supermarket with a view to a parking lot. I definitely want to go again and I’m not disappointed if the still have the pork on the menu.