Our time in Helsinki was marked by our birthdays. Lachie’s birthday was on Monday, our first day, and Gemma’s on the Wednesday, our last day. We took a walking tour, surprise surprise, with a couple who only started doing the tours at the start of May, they haven’t quite worked out their style yet so it was a bit awkward. Prior to this there was only one company doing free tours but only on the weekends. We decided to mix it up with the museum and went to the Bank of Finland Museum. This was surprisingly good, it had a really good amount of detail across the history of money in Finland and the Euro but also a bit of knowledge about banking and finance in general for the uneducated like us. Another worthwhile highlight is the rock in the church, we were lucky that there was a guy playing piano while we visited so it was very peaceful.
We’re due for a food review so for our birthdays we decided to celebrated by going to a restaurant called Finnjävel. It is Michelin starred and is #1 on trip advisor, it is supposed to be Finnish cuisine, which we both assumed would be lots of fish, a lot of it raw. Walking in you could tell it was a quality restaurant, it was clean, sharp and crisp but had a warmth about it.
First up we were treated to a couple of gifts from the Chef, we couldn’t quite work out what they were from the waitress but it was a bread/crouton type thing with butter and then three little appetisers, one which had caviar, another which was some onion with something and then a puffed rice crisp all served on a bed of rocks. They were all very delicious, an excellent way to start the meal.
Our first dish was a porridge of barley and spinach with first milk and sorrel. It had good texture with the crunchy puffed barley and butteriness of the porridge. We did find it a little bland, it could have done with a little salt and the first milk didn’t add much. Cured Roach was up next (don’t worry it’s a type of fish, not the cock variety) with poached egg and whey sauce. The poached egg was so perfectly cooked, the yolk completely firm but not cooked through at all, it was still almost translucent. The fish had a very smokey flavour with the classic combination of dill. The accompanying pickled cucumber and onion helped break down the strong flavour. Overall quite a well balanced dish but it had very strong flavours, couldn’t eat it all day.
It was time for a little sweetness to mix it up, which came in the form of a blood crepe with lingonberry marmalade. The colour was a very deep red but the taste was not very bloody at all. It was a lovely and sweet combination with the marmalade, could easily have this for breakfast on a Sunday morning.
The next dish was described as from the pit, so we weren’t sure what we were getting before it arrived. It was served and was just an onion with some sour cream. The onion is baked in a fire pit, hence from the pit, they must’ve added some sugar syrup or something similar as it had this delicious sweet caramelised taste to it. The sour cream had a little too much pepper but the cold onion rings gave the required crunch. Needless to say it was the best, and most expensive, onion we’ve eaten.
The next dish was one of the more intriguing dishes we’ve had. Particularly psychologically as we were served up horse which is a first for both of us. The meat had a real salty flavour to it, very similar in texture to pastrami/silverside. The meat was too salty to notice much of a difference in flavour to beef or game. The side of turnips and lavage didn’t really do anything for us, not a dish we would bother with again.
Bread and butter was next. And good bread with good butter is a match-winning combination in any language. The loaf was sweet and sour milk loaf with hints of cinnamon and cardamom coated in sweet sticky sugar syrup and the butter was made with their own dairy which was light and fluffy.
We weren’t expecting Rudolph to make an appearance, wrong time of the year, but low and behold the next dish was reindeer. It came to the table perfectly presented in its leg bone that had been hollowed out and filled with bone marrow, crispy liver and dried heart meat sitting atop. This was easily the best dish of the night and goes into our hall of fame for best dishes, ever. The saltiness and fattiness of the bone marrow combined with the heavy meat taste of the dried heart was amazingly delicious. The crispy liver added another excellent layer of texture. The quantity of each element gave the dish a perfect balance. The only disappointment with this dish was there wasn’t more of it.
We went from the best dish to the most polarising dish for the last of our main course. Lachie loved it. Gemma didn’t. It was a smoked lavaret (type of white fish) with egg sauce and leek.
- His Review: I thought the fish was deliciously smoked, it wasn’t overpowering, the flesh was very subtle and tender. The egg, roe, leek and sprout combo worked for me with the exception of there was a fraction too much dill.
- Her Review: While the fish on its own was moist and tender, the fish as a whole was too smoky and too much dill. These flavours overpowered the subtle flavours of the fish, the roe and the leek. Too much to stomach.
Safe to say the most polarising dish we’ve ever eaten together.
First dessert was a punch flavoured chocolate mousse with almond ice cream. It was a good combo of sweet and sour between chocolate and mousse and raspberries. Worked as a nice palate cleanser after the fish but it was rich and we couldn’t have had much more of it.
There was a second dessert which was something with Rhubarb but by this stage we were beyond pissed so we didn’t take any notes and our memory isn’t that flash, but I’m sure it was good. The service and ambiance was impeccable, we were there for nearly 4 hours but it wasn’t a tiring experience. We drank wines paired with each dish and this was a major disappointment for us. None of the wines really complemented the dishes, it was like they were chosen by someone who has seen the tasting notes of the wine and matched it with an ingredient in the dish, rather than drink the wine with the food to see whether they work together. The meal itself and the wine pairings was expensive but not unreasonably, what was unreasonable was the extra glass of wine at $23 Euros each which even for Finland is a bit over the top in our minds. Overall we gave it an 8.5/10.
Now we finally get to go to Russia, off on a boat to St Petersburg!