When one thinks of Helsinki of Finland, one might immediately tend to the stereotypes – reindeer, cold winters, snow, saunas, northern lights, Santa Claus, etc. What one rarely thinks of, is high end gastronomy, and with Finland’s abundance of farmland, one can assume that with that great food comes as a direct result.
One of the restaurants I booked was Olo, which is the Finnish word for “feeling”, which was quite apt, as the culinary journey would bring up a number of feelings along the way – astonishment, wonder, curiosity, and the feeling of tasting deliciousness – whatever that word is.
Situated just across from the main harbour, I walked from my hotel to the restaurant, was was a nice 15 minute walk, and was immediately welcomed by a member of staff, and was taken straight to my table. Here, the waiter who would be taking care of me that evening introduced himself, in perfect English, and explained how the evening was about to proceed. There is only one menu, but there is also a shorter version in case you are pressed for time, as dinners at these sorts of establishments can drag on for up to 3 hours. As I was in no hurry, and wanted to enjoy my first evening in the Finnish capital, I chose the regular menu. You can choose to add a wine pairing, or a juice pairing.
Once I was at my table, a pot of raw dough was placed in front of me, and I was asked not to touch or poke it, as it was there to “breathe” before being fully baked in the oven. Although this step wasn’t essential, I guess it adds to the theatrical element that usually accompanies this sort of dining experience.
The evening began with broccoli dripped in an herb puree, a sort of starter salad that you eat with your fingers
This was then followed by another salad-esque bowl which had edible flowers – one had salmon cream squeezed into it, and the other had oyster cream. These too were to be eaten with your fingers.
Next up was a carrot accompanied by a seaweed emulsion. Once more, this dish was also to be consumed without utensils.
Following the carrot dish, chicken liver with blueberry shaped into the form of an egg, and placed in hay, accompanied by a chicken skin cracker.
During the course of the meal, I was also served a number of interesting juices. One of which, pictured, below, was spruce juice. Spruce is a kind of tree that grows in cold northern climates, and is also commonly known as a Christmas tree.
As the evening progressed, I was served an interesting mushroom pie, which was perched nicely on a bed of wild greens.
During this time, the dough was taken away to the oven, and brought back for the bread course, which came with homemade butter, lamb tartare with sour cream and dried egg yolk, broccoli puree, olive oil and a cucumber puree
After the bread interlude, came time for the next dish, which was a red tomato and a pickled green tomato with tomato water and frozen goat cheese.
After the flurry of vegetarian dishes, came time for the Icelandic sole fish, which came with bock choi, beurre blanc, and peas.
What came afterwards was another fish dish, this time in the form of a very artistic perch fish “mosaic”, with honey turnip and caviar
Now that we entered the “fleshy” section of the food journey, it was time to go a bit further, with the veal sweet bread, which came with grilled onions in a chicken broth.
With the meat dishes out of the way, came time for the trio of desserts, which featured key ingredients such as strawberries and chocolate in a variety of forms.
All in all, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this food trip, and liked that although everything was elevated to a really high level of cooking, and the techniques used were very precise, everything felt very rustic and down to earth. Everything from the fact that a number of dishes were meant to be eaten with your hands, to the relatively “common” ingredients, which were spun to create a real haute cuisine experience