The Pet Finn headed to the rehearsal studio for the evening and left me to my own devices… Helsinki has been hit by a rare heatwave, it’s 33c here in a city built co conserve the warmth not dissipate it, and I found myself getting the serious wants for some tapas. A bit of wandering from our meeting point at The Riff I walked past Juuri (translates as root) and their selection of sapas (Suomalaiset tAPAS was my guess, but their website tells me it’s from Suomalaiset AlkuPAlaSet – Finnish staters). Anyway I’m not here to argue semantics, the Sapas dishes are small plates with Nordic roots.
In a change to my constant consumption of gin longdrink in all its many wonderful forms, and it just being too damn hot for wine I went with a Finnish cider. They have a crazily long growing season in their orchards and slightly less student disaster oriented cider culture here which makes for some genuinely dinner table worthy ciders.
As well as the three dishes I’d ordered I was given a plate of gluten free toasted bread and this cauliflower amuse-bouche of cauliflower and almond, and in true Finnish style it was the same size as a main in some London restaurants. I know cauliflower and foams split people as quickly as a badly made foam does on a plate. FYI this refreshing delight seemed to cope with the heat admirably compared with the rest of the city and was a great introduction to their food, light, simple, modern Nordish.
The bread I’m still getting used to… not the actual bread, just it turning up for free on my dinner table. No supplements for being a gluten dodger, and very welcome! Actually my whole experience was amazing and I would love to return with the Pet Finn when it’s cool enough to eat more food, the waiting staff were friendly and very knowledgable about allergens, going through the menu options, what was suitable and what could be easily adapted for me, and though I’d asked about gluten free options when I first walked in, I heard the front of house team asking each table about allergies or intolerances before taking their orders.
The vendace, small white fish known locally as muikku are popular in Finland, and look a little like very big, fat anchovies. These were served with sweet tomatoes and a rich pepper cream and crisp gem lettuce. All the vegetables were peak performers showcasing the great locally grown produce that is one of Juuri’s focal points, the dish completely brought together by the fish’s earthy meatiness.
Next up was the Mushroom, Egg and Buckwheat. Yes, me voluntarily eating buckwheat. I know I complain at length about it often but there is s difference between well placed and balanced buckwheat, and it appearing unwanted in a pizza. Here it was a clever counterpoint that balanced the salted chanterelles with their natural sweetness, and the rich egg.
While I was picking my dishes the server told me there was a lot of concern that the hot weather and lack of rain will wreck this summer’s blueberry and chanterelle season.
The trout was lightly prepared and served with horseradish and citrus, almost Japanese if I closed my eyes, but also still very Finnish.
All the dishes shouted for Finnish summer on a plate. Light, colourful, brightly flavoured and beautifully balanced.