In search of Helsinki’s bistro style
Helsinki is a buzzy foodie city in the cutting-edge of Finnish new cuisine. The innovative use of Finnish ingredients as part of the New Nordic tasting menu and a laid-back atmosphere is what Helsinki’s bistros are all about. Below Carina Chela, a Venezuelan journalist who loves hunting and discovering tasty dishes both in her Helsinki hometown and abroad, lists her 10 favorites.
Kuurna’s worn-down style décor gives a charming atmosphere to this small bistro. Their dishes are influenced mostly by Finnish and classical French cuisine. Kuurna favours organic and local production. Kuurna serves only suppers.
In a fusion between bistro and fine dining there’s Juuri, a restaurant which is all about Finnishness. Their philosophy is to transform Finland’s nature ingredients into an innovative delicacy to suit modern tastes. Juuri’s famous sapas, a kind of Finnish tapas, is their bravado. Among their most interesting sapas are buckwheat blinis with herring; black pudding with lingonberry; and smoked bream with potato mousse with fried rye dough.
Stepping into Konstan Möljä is going back in time and having homemade food surrounded by sea memorabilia. This is the place to eat if looking for a basic Finnish meal: the famous Carelian roast, smoked reindeer soup or salmon. And Finns’ beloved potatoes are prepared in all possible ways: mashed, boiled, and fried or with dill. Not a trendy bistro, and definitely not a gourmet restaurant but nonetheless a unique, cozy and small eatery with unpretentious but good food. Also great for student budgets.
This much-talked-about modern bistro serves dishes that are beautifully timed with both classic and modern combinations. Their cooking sparkles with unusual combinations but everything has an impressive coherent punch with nods to molecular cuisine. Pure Bistro’s pike-perch à la Mannerheim served with horseradish and mushrooms and their dessert sea-buckthorn with liquorice sauce is a dazzling combination of Finnish flavours.
Lungi is located in an easy-going neighbourhood which also reflects in the restaurant’s atmosphere. Lungi is informal but no less delicious with its food . Their Lungi salmon burger is a great favorite among locals and even their famous risottos are often served with a Finnish Lungi twist adding chanterelles or boletus. Lungi’s comfy sofa, magazines and art make any visitor feel at home.
A popular neibourhood bistro in the trendy Punavuori district which is packed full with locals, especially at lunch time. Rafla offers easy and good food for a moderate price . A must starter is their blinis with Finnish freshwater whitefish roe and gravlax. Rafla’s French-Scandinavian home cooking can be enjoyed by city execs and food lovers alike.
Bar 9 is a regular get-together for many Helsinki natives. It has a lively bohemian atmosphere, good music, chatting customers but not much elbow space, especially in the evenings. Very reasonable prices. Artists living in Finland exhibit in Bar 9.
Kolo, which means little nest or hideaway in Finnish, is truly intimate and small. Produce is fresh and mainly local. Both à la carte and lunch always have Finnish seasonal ingredients. Kolo pulls it off with delicious aplomb offering a fusion of Scandinavian tastes. Often good tasters are offered between meals.
Bistro Helsinki 15
A classy and stylish bistro situated near Helsinki’s Design Museum. Bistro 15 prices are a bit higher but worth trying if in search of continental European food. A restaurant that suits both formal and informal diners, and great to just pop in for a glass.
This renowned restaurant in picturesque Ullanlinna neighbourhood was built next to the theatre in order to accommodate theatre-goers. Its classic recipes include many favourites among Finns – such as Kom’s very own organic meatballs, salmon soup with lemon grass and a must dessert liquorice panna cotta. Dinner prices are fare. On Monday and sometimes Thursday evenings there are performances during which food is not served.