Friday, 29 January 2016

Dining and w(h)ining in Helsinki: Spis

While the rest of the planet was practicing the art of self-discipline in the form of dry January or vegan challenge... we didn't. Instead The Cat Blogger and I kicked off another great year of great restaurants at Spis, with the long tasting menu (€77) and accompanying wines (€40). 

Our expectations for the evening were far from modest and quite rightfully so: last year this restaurant was elected the best in the entire country.

Modest is, however, the best word to describe the decor of this tiny (seats less than 20) restaurant. Pale wood, exposed brick walls... just the bare essentials. 

That goes for everything else here as well. Everything is understated, minimalist, simple and fuss-free. Everything we're not, that is. 

This address has housed restaurants of various descriptions for generations, we learned.

We kicked the evening off with interesting French bubbly rosé: FRV100 from Jean-Paul Brunilta (€10 a glass).

Can I just say love their taste in crockery and glassware too? I mean, look at those!

With that, there was first of the kitchen's greetings: semolina porridge. Which had gone through bit of a makeover since my childhood and was deep-fried deliciousness served with lovage mayo.

Another greeting was this delicately presented dish of pickled veggies. 

Vegetables are something that here have been elevated from their ungrateful role as an underpaid sidekick to a speaking part. Meat, for instance only made an appearance in one of the dishes.

First dish celebrated wild mushrooms with deep, earthy flavours. 

The wine list is interesting and consists of artisan producers. They were full of surprises and personality and provided an interesting journey in themselves. 

There was bread, too. Variety of them. Each more glorious than the next. That they (well, of course) make themselves. And butter it was served with is also churned on the premises every morning (well, how else...)

Next up was this beet dish. The real star of this one was that peanubuttery paste and crisp made of sunflower seeds. 

Next dish was a celebration of all things onion.  My cheese-phobia had been taken into consideration...

... but what do you know! The regular serving featured Swedish Västerbotten cheese in a couple of ways and wooed me over to the extent the date had no choice but to share hers with mine. Especially those rich, yet dreamily airy foam balls got me sigh in a way no cheese has ever done. 

The main attraction of the next act was cabbage. Gentle, mellow, very Finnish flavours. To the point my date found it a bit boring.

Puffed pearl barley was a nice addition and something I intend to add into everything I eat from now on. 

There was nothing even remotely boring about the following dish. The scallop had been cooked beautifully and it literally melted in the mouth. It was accompanied by parsnip mousse and crisps with bold and ever so perfectly salty bisque. 

"I want to swim in there", my date sighed. At least that's what I think I heard her say - I myself was too busy dreaming of having this dish served for the next 3 courses, too. 

The palate cleanser featured spruce shoots and got us longingly reminisce Ragu's dessert at last summer's Taste of Helsinki. See, good food really is a great investment that keeps paying off long after the actual meal.

At this point we were served the first and only meat dish that was a tribute to all things Nordic. Slow-cooked reindeer ragu, reindeer tenderloin, fingerling potatos, gravy made by reducing the ragu's cooking liquid and lingonberry dust.

My date doesn't even like reindeer, but couldn't get enough of this one. I on the other hand grew up in Lapland but have never, ever had anything like this before. We couldn't stop praising it to the chef as he paid us a visit and so he sent us home with some of that gravy. I was thinking of taking my vacuum pack to the doctor so I can just enjoy it intravenously. 

Wine pairings were successful throughout the evening, but this Syrah from New Zealand in particular rocked. The pours were reasonable and considering the quality and characters of wine's we had €40 truly is a bargain. 

The pre-dessert (just about the most soul-caressing word of English language...!) was this: a simple looking feast of caramelized pear with whey left over from that butter-making. Deeelicious.

And the actual dessert is this. Potato cake is something the function of which in the pasty family is something I've never understood. It's like an adopted child of a distant and already deceased relative who only get's invited to that cousin's wedding out of sense of duty.

Not this one, though. Oh, no. This baby would be begged to be best man at that wedding. Fudge-like density, chewy and rich, offset nicely by the freshness of seabuckthorn.

Dessert wine was from New Zealand, too. Gorgeous.

Against the asceticism of everything else the way sweets were served off a giant Lego was a hilarious twist.

As the coffee came, we got yet another reason to suffer some serious crockery envy. So, we decided to follow the waiter's suggestion to have some apple brandy from Åland, too. Guaranteed to put some hair in your chest, by the way. 

A great example great service, by the way. When service is smooth, staff knows what they're doing and they do it with such ease and perfect degree of familiarity, the customer enjoys. And is willing to buy more. 

So much so, actually, that we're now planning a trip to Åland, an autonomous island located halfway between Finland and Sweden...!

PS. Interested in more restaurant recommendations in Helsinki? No worries, just see here!





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