Very modern Nordic fare at Helsinki, Finland’s Spis [classic article]

Do you live in an area where cupcakes are (still) the trendiest thing on the dining scene? Maybe their idea of cutting edge is to add some bacon to the mix. Ho ho ho hum. Or maybe this holiday season, family dinners with canned cranberry sauce and canned cream of mushroom green bean casseroles made you wanna cry “Uncle”. The gastronomic poet in you longs for creativity, something that’s not so tried-and-true. There are many reasons to visit Helsinki, Finland, including the dining scene.

I was happy to be hosted to experience Spis, a restaurant that’s unafraid to create unorthodox combinations and to plate/present in unexpected ways. This ain’t Aunt Millie’s meat and 3, so come prepared to try new things . . . and, well, maybe leave Aunt Millie at home! Also, you’d better make reservations: the casual place only seats 18! Dinners are the super-leisurely, European style . . . pace yourself, drinking-wise!

You choose between short and long tasting menus, built on what’s fresh that day. It’s mostly vegetable based, but there’s always one meat or fish course. Since it changes daily, I’ll give an overview of what I had. Check out the slideshow for the presentation.

The house aperitif was beer with elderflower liqueur. This sets the stage right away that this restaurant’s on a different kind of wavelength.

There was a “salad” was a deconstructed style. It was a bite-sized lettuce leaf with dots of vinaigrette done up more like molecular gastronomy spheres.

The “house salad” then came: bits of potato, leek, barley and tomato on a plank.

There was an amuse bouche that was a dab of cucumber, but whipped up with something elusive . . .

Then came what I thought of as a “roots course”: licorice root, parsley root and horseradish root. They were served cold and were icy, rather than spicy.

Ashes of leek were made into a biscuit.

There was a “summer soup” that had a crispness to its broth.

Onion with sorrel was sweet and acidic.

The hard to find but local black trumpet mushrooms were served with chard and egg.

Then came a sorbet made of cucumber and wild fennel . . . that maybe felt a little bit like a(n over) duplication of the amuse.

The main course was Norwegian cod, broccoli, fennel, potato and tomato juice, very Fall-like.

The first dessert course was cinnamon buns and chocolate/porcini mushroom ice cream. That was one of the more challenging desserts I’ve tried. It was quite earthy!

Then were donuts flavored with beetroot — very Baltic — and donuts flavored with strawberry.

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