What’s going on in Finland? I hadn’t been here in over 10 years when Visit Helsinki invited me to come and take a look at the second most interesting destination in the world, referring to the New York Times in January 2012.
A great trip for sure, as I enjoyed strolling the streets of Helsinki and visit everything from the Design District, the bars in Berghäll, Helsinki Vintage and Kellohalli; the main stage for culinary happenings in Helsinki (and host of the Foodstock Festival coming up next month).
But most importantly I had the opportunity to visit Chef & Sommelier in Ullanlinna, the southern-most city district of Helsinki. A restaurant I had been very curious to try during several years.
If you’re on Twitter I’m sure you haven’t missed out on Sasul Laukkonen, the Chef who seems to put all his energy into a handmade and organic ingredients-focused cuisine. He opened Chef & Sommelier back in 2010, with enough experience in the industry after +15 years working in and outside Finland (including the Swedish restaurants Lux Stockholm and F12).
Amazed by Sasu´s and his colleagues very welcoming attitude I simply had to ask him: What is this place all about? And he describe to me while I was served a series of amuse bouch.
“My cuisine is ambitious, pure in taste, all handmade and original- made from my point of view and coming from my heart since I am mostly a self-taught chef. Finesse-dining is what I want to have customers experience: personal, open and stylish cuisine, ambience and service every day, every time. The term is my own to use and to follow.”
The restaurant offers you to choose a three, five, seven or nine course menu. I kindly asked Sasu to serve me whatever he wants, bearing in mind that the time I was available to spend at the restaurant this evening was limited. I asked the sommelier, Johan Borgar, to select wines for the evening.
I quickly realized that lots of effort was put into the dishes here, without losing focus on the actual ingredients – everything was on the plate for a reason – which might not be the case at all times when you are served “pretty food”.
I had Jerusalem artichoke served in different textures, being chewy, creamy, crisp and deliciously sweet. Bream and pike were surprisingly served with a Finnish version of “brandade” and (by the looks) I feared it would lack of flavour, which was happily not the case.
My favourite dish of the evening was a celeriac risotto where all parts of the celeriac were used in order to create a “celeriostto”. I immediately draw parallels to a fennel dish served at Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian during many years, and if you have tasted that dish you are pretty close to understanding what Sasus risotto was all about. This was a very exciting thing to eat!
Different parts of veal was cooked in various ways and served with onions and leeks, perhaps the only dish gone a little unnoticed this evening.
As for desserts the serving of chocolate and nuts would have qualified on the menu in any Michelin starred establishment. Ice cream made of peanut and caramelised butter, a milk chocolate and hazelnut “foam”, butter-cookies and crunchy dark chocolate. Absolutely delicious.
Every time I find a restaurant where the passion for food is not only shown on the plate but throughout a whole dining room, that vibrates of a personal and open attitude, I am a happy and relaxed guest. There is some interesting cooking going on here and I will most definitely visit Chef & Sommelier again.
Restaurant Chef & Sommelier
Address: Huvilakatu 28, 00150 Helsinki
Phone: +358 400 959440