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).

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.

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.

Ragu

Helsinki, Finland

Ragu on Ludviginkatu serves à la carte, fixed menu Ragu or Chef’s surprise menu (with 3, 4 or 5 courses). Our choice was Chef’s menu (57€) with wine menu (49€). We skipped the sparkling this time and got first served bread plate (4 different types with 4 different spreads), not bad at all.

First course, white fish with puikula-potato came with nice Italian Sauvignon Blanc. All the wines (at least on the wine package) are Italian. Good start in my opinion, even though some other thought the fish was too salty. Next one was a real gimmick, tartar with smoked mozzarella. The dish was served in closed jar, once opened, the smoke came out. Might have said that was a bit cheesy and cheap trick, but the smokiness on the mozzarella complemented nicely the excellent tartar so I thought it actually suited this particular dish very well. This was also my favorite from the whole menu. But the wine pairing did not quite make a great combination (can’t even remember the grape now, but it was white wine with some hint of apple).

After cold starters came Parma ham with warm Jerusalem artichoke soup/sauce. OK, but nothing special there. For the main was venison shank. The meat melted in your mouth, but mine would have needed some basic salt and pepper. I wonder if salt was forgotten, as I rarely need extra salt and others did not share my opinion.

Dessert was quite basic Crème brûlée with raspberry sorbet. Followed the same pattern as two previous dishes, good but nothing extraordinaire.

So overall good but my expectations were a little bit higher. Nevertheless, would go again without a question. Some dishes left me wondering were they trying to fit too many components on one dish. Sometimes simpler is better.

 

 

Mikko Utter

Lohja, Finland

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http://mikkoutter.fi/

Interesting concept and different experience from your normal dinner out.

One man show with 8 guests eating. Menu built around wines with seasonal local ingredients. Clear and simple tastes. Few excellent dishes, rest also good. Menu was:

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