Helsinki’s growing restaurant scene is underappreciated by outsiders but a great reason to visit the city. The capital’s cafes, independent bistros and fine-dining establishments are full of food from all over the world with a Finnish slant and made with quality local ingredients. Here are our top 10 places to stop by for a great meal.
Recently rebranded from Chef & Sommelier with the same chef, Ravintola Ora has been just as popular with critics and customers alike as the previous restaurant. Ora reaches amazing peaks of creativity and taste. When the dish comes to the table looking like a stunning work of food-art, guests are left astonished. Devoted to organic, seasonal and fresh produce, Ora offers a set menu of six courses.
Gaijin ranks highly among Helsinki’s best Asian restaurants, and among the best restaurants in the city. The kitchen puts particular emphasis on the centuries-old gastronomic traditions of Asia’s northeastern countries: Japan, Korea and northern China. Here guests can try such delicacies as miso chicken and softshell crab paired with matching beverages such as Koshu private reserve and the Gaijin Red. While taking the utmost care in offering beautiful food, this restaurant also envisions dining as a way to bring people together with tasting menus offered to the entire table. Great efforts were made to create an outstanding atmosphere, which Gaijin’s venue, built entirely with Finnish wood, perfectly delivers.
What does a fusion of Japanese and Hawaiian cuisines taste like? Find out at Helsinki’s Ravintola Hoku. Born and raised in Hawaii, owner Ryan Shibuya was inspired by his own background to give Japanese cooking a Hawaiian spin. The result is a peculiar menu that distinguishes Hoku from the city’s other Japanese restaurants. Some of the dishes you can expect include argentine red shrimp and soba noodles, kalua pork and tiger prawns, salmon tataki and coconut panna cotta with mango.
Finland has its own special and tasty version of Spanish tapas: the sapas. The Finnish version is small, delicious portions of finger food prepared with typical Scandinavian ingredients. Restaurant Juuri has been an early promoter of sapas, so much so that its rich menu has become the restaurant’s highlight and main draw. Choose between the false morel with buckwheat, herring with onion and egg, goat milk with peas and spinach and a selection of Finnish cheeses. Mix, match and share with your companions for an unusual and fun dining experience.
Ravintola Kuu (which is Finnish for ‘moon’) is a restaurant where simplicity meets refinement. The charming locale is clearly inspired by the best of European bistro tradition. Fine, vintage-style floral wallpaper covers the walls beyond the wood paneling and a large mirror in a black frame helps to extend the smallish space of the restaurant. The kitchen prepares exquisite specialties of Finnish and Scandinavian cuisine with a modern but unobtrusive touch. Choose à la carte or go for one of the house’s three fixed menus, including the Helsinki menu consisting of delicacies from all over Finland.
Ravintola Olo has been receiving widespread acclaim in the Helsinki foodie scene for a number of years now. Holding a Michelin star, Olo’s chefs brilliantly update the basics of Finnish cuisine by employing both traditional and modern cooking techniques. Olo’s selection of wines is also worthy of note; its cellars hold a range of fine, local wines, including a few exclusively available in the restaurant. Join Olo to taste the best that contemporary cooking has to offer, and while you’re at it, aim for a table in the restaurant’s remarkable courtyard, the Olo Garden.
Cafe Regatta is housed in a small wooden cabin, which was originally a fishing hut brought in from the Finnish countryside, with a sloping roof and lovely finishings and located right on the Baltic Sea. Inside, it is filled with a cornucopia of statuettes, memorabilia, photographs, oars and other curiosities. After ordering a tasty sandwich, a delicious cinnamon bun or perhaps just a cup of tea, sit outside at one of the small cafe tables and enjoy the ocean view.
Sandro celebrates the rich flavours of North African and Middle Eastern countries. Early reservations here are strongly advised as the restaurant has quickly become a firm favourite among locals, so much so that it has now expanded to five locations. The reason for Sandro’s phenomenal success is due to its upbeat, convivial atmosphere, a neighborhood vibe and tantalizing, delicious food. From Lebanese street food to Moroccan delicacies, Sandro brings to Helsinki a range of tastes unusual to Finnish palates, and receives much love in return.
For a true taste of luxury at a reasonable price, Finlandia Caviar offers finely crafted caviar made from local fish brought in fresh from the adjacent harbour. With the tasting menus you can sample caviar from Paris, Moscow or Helsinki as well as roes, oysters and other specialties. These are washed down with equally refined drinks from a selection of wine and champagne plus Finlandia’s famously strong vodka with an amazing 38% alcohol content.
Another of Helsinki’s Michelin-starred restaurants, Ask’s menu is a feast not only for the stomach but for the eyes as well, presented creatively. But what is particularly unique about this restaurant is that there is no actual menu. Guests are served a range of courses consisting of whatever the chef is serving on the day, which is all sourced from local farmers. With only a few dozen seats, it is necessary to book a table well in advance and set aside three or four hours for a chance to take in Ask’s atmosphere and locally famous food.