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.

Lehtovaara

Helsinki, Finland

Oops, no #emptyplate picture this time.

But not because I would not have enjoyed it, just forgot to take a picture before it was too late.

Anyway, I mentioned in earlier post Lehtovaara being one of the classics for me in Helsinki. And for many others too, I bet. Restaurant has been there since 1940, but history of the restaurant is much older. It was originally located in Vyborg (which is currently russian territory).

And the classic place has one classic dish: Cœur de filet Provençale 1952. 

I guess the dish was launched for the Olympic Games held in Helsinki in 1952 and therefore it has this year as a postfix. I’ve had this probably ten times and always I have been satisfied. The dish in all simplicity consist of beef tenderloin (the center part, that is where the name comes from) topped with garlic butter, fried garlic potatoes and fried mushrooms.

This time we visited Lehtovaara on Sunday and then they have “Sunday lunch”, where starters and dessert are served as buffet and main dish is server to the table. For main dish you had three different choices, jerusalem artichoke soup, fried acrtic char or some meat dish, which I can’t remember as I had my eyes on the classic. Every sunday you can have also the filet with the lunch menu with extra 10 euros (menu is otherwise 39 euros, children under 12 half price).

Starters were pretty much as you can be expect them to be from a buffer: some herring, gravlax, smoked salmon, potatoes, pâté, roast beef etc. From the dessert table I was happy to find Crème brûlée and lime cake was also good.

And the cœur de filet did not disappoint me this time either. Only mistake was going for the second round, I was way too full after eating it. That is the way they serve it, they bring the meat and the potatoes on a big tray (of course depending how many are having it) and then put some on your plate, while leaving the rest on a hot plate for later addition, if you wish.

 

Baskeri & Basso Bistro (BasBas)

Helsinki, Finland

http://basbas.fi/bistro/

Second visit to this highly popular restaurant. The first one was before I started the blog, so no review from that. But some of the dishes back then were one of the best I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant (especially the tongue!), so expectations were set really high for this time.

Once you find the entrance from the backyard and leave your jackets hanging on the left side, to your right opens one big dining area, usually with most of the tables full. They also rent a private room for groups, which is naturally separate space from the the main room. In one corner of the dining area is open kitchen, so you can get a peek how your dishes are being prepared.

The menus are written on chalk board and one of those is also brought to your table when you are ready to order. Dishes are divided in three categories, starters, pasta/risotto and mains. They sell 2+1+1 menus, (45€) but of course you can select whatever you want from the menu. So menu does not include dessert, but those can be of coursed ordered separately. Starters come to table at same time, so easy to share, if you want to sample more. I would recommend that, as the starters are that big that they can be shared to get a taste. Not enormous, but still you get at least few bites even from half of a dish. And in both occasions the starters have been the highlight of the whole menu.

They don’t have wine menu as such, but of course give recommendations for your selected dishes. BasBas also is following the trend of natural wines. Prices for the wines vary a bit, but go around 10€/glass (16cl, if I’m not mistaken). We would have been easy target to sell a bit more wine, but they did not insist filling your glass, so basically ordered one glass first for starters, then one for pasta, one for main and one for dessert.

For starters to share we got this time, White fish carpaccio (Siika from lake Inari), scallops (fresh from Norway) with Ponzu sauce, roasted butternut squash with leaf parsley-pesto and feta and beef tartar. I listed the starters in the ranked order, the White fish and scallops were amazing. Butternut squash also great and nothing wrong (well, somehow unevenly salted) with tartar either, but I’ve had better.

After starters there were sage risotto (quite heavy on sage, but not in a bad way) and tagliolini with funnel chanterelle. Pasta was tasty and perfectly cooked, I would say one of best pastas I’ve had.

Main dishes did not impress me that much this time either. I had flank steak, quite basic. And tasted a bit from my wife’s pulpo (=Octopus, which she did not really care for), pretty ok as well, but nothing extraordinary.

For dessert I had pavlova with rasberry sorbet. Quite good, but I’ve had recently better home made pavlova. Also the ratio between the pavlova and sorbet was a bit off: little bit more pavlova and little bit less sorbet would have been better in my opinion.

The place is really nice, staff very professional and friendly. This time we were served by one the owners (Nicolas Thieulon) who really shows his passion for food and wine, which is always positive thing. So that added to excellent food, BasBas is a place where I could visit again and again. Only problem with that is that it might not be that easy to get a table in short notice. They take bookings via Web, so be ready 30 days before you want to visit BasBas to book yours. Reservation opens for next day always at midnight. Maybe there are cancellations and you can get a table by calling, but I have not tried that one.

 

Elite

Helsinki, Finland

New restaurants come and some of the old ones go. But the classics stay. One of these classics is definitely Elite (another quite frequently visited for me is Lehtovaara). You pretty much know what you are going to get, so no disappointments, no surprises.

That was the case also this time. I chose “Korttelimenu”, which consisted of salmon pâté for start, for main elk meatballs with root vegetable purée and Jallu-sauce. Dessert was some pears marinated in glögi and blue cheese. Pâté was quite basic, for meat balls I would have wished a bit more gamey taste and dessert was maybe the most interesting part of the whole menu.

They also have wine recommendations for the menu, but I was driving this time, so cannot say anything about that.

Elite attracts a wide mix of people, families with children, businessmen-alike, couples, etc. All this combined with nice looking venue and good basic food makes Elite always enjoyable experience. Although this time the older male waiter was not that great, the guy serving the table next to us seemed much more friendly and chattier.

Nolla

Helsinki, Finland

https://www.restaurantnolla.com/

I had high expectations for this place, you can find great reviews from web and I also have heard good things about the place elsewhere.

The entrance was a bit difficult to spot as at least in dark October evening could not see any signs on the door. Anyway there is only one door to try, so no problem after all.

The place consists of two rooms, with maybe 30 customer places + the bar where you can fit few more. Looks nice and staff was welcoming. While waiting for the others, browsed through the menu written on a chalk board on the wall and sipped some nice cava. For menu you have options of 3 or 5 courses. On the website they say also that vegetarian and vegan menu available upon request and proved to be no problem with that.

They also told us at the restaurant that they can customize the menu based on your wishes, but as we were easy going without any preferences (except one vegetarian), we let them decide and only selected the amount of dishes (5). We also went with wine pairing and for the vegetarian menu non-alcoholic drink pairing (that is interesting concept!).

Afterwards thinking, wine pairing might have been a mistake. Like many other places currently, Nolla also follows the trend with natural wines. I just don’t find them so appealing. Some are good, but some just too weird for my taste.

The menu consisted of 3 starters, one main and dessert. You could take also some cheese for dessert on top of the 5 course menu.

First starter was beans with almost-soup-like spanish sauce which. Good start, although some people thought, I quote, it was “salty as fuck”. Second came a sourdough waffle with mushrooms on top. Nice finger food, something I could fix for a evening snack for myself. Really taste and all, but maybe would expect something more in this kind of place. Third starter was pike, with again sauce poured on top separately. Also this one good, but not exceptional or mind-blowing in any sense.

Starters were quite small and having only lunch 9 hours before, started to get quite hungry before the main. It was this time pork neck with mushrooms. The meat was very tender, but would have needed some salt. The salt was also this time in the sauce. Maybe some potatoes or other vegetables on the side would have made this dish more complete.

The dessert with ice-cream (I missed what it was made of) with some smoky meringue type of a thing and beet root was maybe the most interesting dish. Also very good and that is a lot said from a person who could usually skip the dessert. Matching wine was not bad either.

3 hours and 119€ spent (59€ for food and rest for drinks, no coffee this time). Was it worth it? Maybe food-wise yes, but I really would change the wines for something more familiar.

Maybe worth of mentioning is also their zero waste ideology. Read more at their website.