Café Savoy

Helsinki, Finland

Restaurant Savoy is an institution in the finnish restaurant world. Savoy was opened in 1937 and since 2019 it has been ran by Chef Patron Helena Puolakka. Late last year, a newcomer Café Savoy was opened in the same building at street level and is Puolakka’s creation.

The restaurant (or café, don’t get confused by the name) might not look that inviting looking from the outside, but once you enter, it is a completely different story. The warm light with stylish but cozy interior makes the place very pleasant and large open kitchen adds some charm to it.

They have classic à la carte menu and prix fixe menu (65€, wines 57€). We chose the prix fixe, which consists of four dishes. For starter, there is a vegetarian, fish and meat option. For starter I chose the meat, which was in this case sweetbread. It was prepared as crispy pané, served with apple & envide salad and finished with pepper mayo. Really nice dish with clear and simple tastes. I might have been more bold with seasoning the sauce, but overall very enjoyable start.

Next dish was highlight of the evening, gnocchi with truffle velouté. The sauce is one of french cuisine’s mother sauces (like bechamél, hollandaise, etc.). In this case it was prepared to perfection. To finish dish some parmesan was in top to make it one of those dishes that you remember after years and years.

For the main, you will have again three choices. I went with duck confit. The leg had nice crispy skin and was served with braised cabbage and port wine sauce. Simple, yet elegant and tasty, bravo.

As not being too much of dessert person, I usually select cheese plate as dessert if there is such option. There was, so easy choice for me. I got a taste of rum savarin also and I could say that it would not have been a bad choice.

Service is easy-going and friendly, being very professional at the same time. I can’t wait to visit Café Savoy again.

Advertisement

Boon Nam

Helsinki, Finland

This Thailand inspired Tomi Björck’s restaurant is located in same building as St. George hotel. If you have been to any other Björck’s restaurants (Farang, Gaijin, etc.) you know what to expect.

Food is usually really good with quite strong and fresh tastes. Boon Nam has two different tasting menus, to be shared with the whole table. When there are individual bites, this works well but when you have to divide one larger portion, I’m not such a big fan of that style. Menus are priced 86€/76€, both having some supplements adding about ten euros to the bill. Pairing wines cost 56€.

Crispy softshell crab was one the best dishes in my opinion. If I remember correctly, Farang has also similar (same?) dish, also very good there. Nothing wrong with other dishes either, all good or very good.

That said, I cannot help getting feeling of being on an assembly line. You come in, you are served food with memorized descriptions, you pay, you leave. Next ones come in and do the same. Well, of course this is basically how restaurants work, but in this case it is lacking any personality and that final touch that makes the difference. If this doesn’t bother you, give Boon Nam and a chance and you won’t be disappointed by the taste of food.

Palace

Helsinki, Finland

Palace is one of the legends in the Helsinki restaurant scene. It dates back to 1952 (year of summer olympics held ín Helsinki) and is first Finnish restaurant to receive a Michelin star. Palace received second star this summer so I was really looking forward to my first visit in two-star restaurant.

You could sense from the very beginning that evening is going to be an experience. I started evening with a house negroni (16 euros with Tanqueray 10 and two different vermouths). Unlike many other fine dining restaurants, Palace has their menu available online so we knew what to expect from it. Palace has version numbering for the menus, which I enjoy having background in software engineering. Now they are serving menu 21.2. You have also a cheat sheet at the table, which makes it easier to follow and remember what you are actually having.

The menu started with four small starters, served in pairs of two. They were paired with Keller’s riesling. Very first appetizer was one the highlights for me, salted trout with roe and karashi was really good. After these came larger starters, featuring hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish), lobster and the probably the best dish of the evening, caviar with cauliflower and miso. Along these was also the only miss of the evening. I think the grapefruit and pomelo took over the lobster so much that the dish was not on the level of the other ones. With caviar, wine pairing was naturally champagne (Lambardier-Bernier).

More fish & seafood came in mains, first dover sole and then langoustine. Last main was white tail deer served with amazing brioche so you could take each drop of the sauce Périgueux from your plate.

There were also two supplements that you could order for the menu. First scallops with truffle (50 euros) and then a cheese trolley with condiments (25 euros). We skipped the first one but went with the cheese which did not disappoint me. Seven different cheese with interesting condiments was a real treat.

The dessert part of the menu was quite extensive, first two larger ones and then some small bites with also something you would necessary expect to find in two-star place, tiger cake. But don’t get me wrong, fresh from the oven cake was delicious. For dessert wine, there was interesting choice from Romania, ice wine by Liliac & Kracher.

Was it the best food I’ve ever had, definitely not. Was it most interesting restaurant experience ever, I might have to say yes. We stayed there nearly five hours, which really did not feel like overkill in a sense that we would have needed to wait for food much or anything like that. Several little details made it a night to remember. Writing them down here would not do justice, I strongly recommend for you experiencing it yourself. Of course, all this does not come with a small price tag. Menu costs you 210 euros and wine pairing 190. Add there the negroni, cheese, tawny port and a 1986 calvados and you are looking at spending 500 euros for a meal.

Kultá Kitchen & Bar

Helsinki, Finland

When you think of Lapland themed restaurant at the hotel in Helsinki, first thought might be if it a cheesy tourist trap serving mediocre food or something else. First impression of Kultá was opposite, what comes to décor. Some lappish elements but not too many. A bit of feeling of a hotel restaurant, but hey, that’s what it is.

Right after walking in I got feeling that waiters might be understaffed as it took almost ten minutes for them to show us our table. Then another ten minutes to bring the menus and get order for some drinks. We did not waste anymore time there as we had decided beforehand that we would go with a five course tasting. This time it was a little bit different as they are having “Artic Ocean” menu for couple of weeks. Price for the menu is 74€ and wine pairing adds 65 euros.

After a bit of more waiting (almost an hour from walking in) menu started with two types of bread and browned butter, along with amuse-bouche of mushrooms and rainbow trout roe. That was promising start. Next dish with hand peeled shrimps and cucumber was quite good as well. After this was in my opinion the best dish of the menu, smoked willow grouse with beetroot cooked three different ways. Beetroot complemented perfectly very smoky bird breast.

After this came monkfish with mussels and roe. All in all tasty, but I think less components in this one would have resulted tastier and more elegant dish. Also the fish was not evenly salted. Second main was, as you might guess from the Lapland theme, reindeer fillet. On a side was really good, creamy parsnip puree. Dessert had cloudberry and ice cream and something else, but this brought to the table by different waitress, who did not tell what she served and left quickly before we could even ask.

Overall quite good experience, but I think menu was a bit pricey and they would need more staff to have smoother experience. Wine pairing was really good and service friendly and professional, except for the points mentioned earlier.

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).

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.