Thursday night was special just because me and my resident chef rarely have an evening off from work together, apart from Sundays and Mondays, when most interesting restaurants in Helsinki are all closed. So, previous week, after a short think thank we booked ourselves a table at Helsinki's fine dining scene's newcomer Spis. In a way I recommend you not to read this post if you're planning to go and have the surprise dinner as you will enjoy it much more if you don't know what is coming! I did the mistake of finding out what they were serving at the moment and I wish I hadn't.
We started with pre dinner drinks at wine bar Latva on Korkeavuorenkatu 25. I had a Franciacorta roseand the chef had a beetroot whiskey sour. Nice beginning for the night, and a short walk to Spis around the corner. Will have to visit Latva again to sample more wines and the Finnish tapas.
At Kasarminkatu 26 we found the tiny restaurant with just 18 seats. The sign outside looked promising and I would say that carrots did become the theme of the evening. Nearly all tables were occupied when we came but there were a few seats free for walk ins, as they promise on their website.
We went for the recommendation of a naturally sweet sparkling Beaujolais, which was a refreshingly different aperitif and served from some pretty funky glassware. We chose to have a tasting menu with fish and small glasses of recommended wines for the food.
The first amuse bouche was a carrot in a pot. The carrot was a spoon and the ground was star anise flavoured, with a mayonnaise in the bottom. Delicious and very very funny. Good trick to make anyone smile straight away at the beginning of their meal.
Second amuse was a borch "soup" with a beetroot sorbet, foam and powder. It actually turned into a soup in the mouth and definately was more delicious than any other borch I've ever tasted.
After this came the first starter "Pumpkin and Malt", of which I hadn't gotten a decent picture. The light was a little too dark for impressive food photography so I won't be publishing anything that doesn't do justice to the actual presentation. The dish had pumpkin cubes with malt in several forms; crumble, puree and foam at least. The chef loved it but he is a beer man; for me the malt was very very strong and bitter. However, the wine recommendation was spot on with a German sweet Riesling that tamed the malt and complimented the natural sweetness of the pumpkin.
Next we were poured a chilled Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. As it was a surprise menu we were trying to guess what would come next... Root vegetables was all we could think of. Got it partially right as we did get "something between a soup and a pasta", with a creamy frothy jerusalem artichoke soup and chestnut ravioli. Again the wine was beautiful with the food, contrasting the creamy soup and complimenting the chestnut.
Before the main came "Carrot and Carrot", sorbet and granita. Very fresh and clean taste of carrot.
The main course was "Burbot, Potato and Onion". Even with many components and foams and things the flavours were so simple and clean. The potato tasted purely of potato, and that's how it should be in this restaurant. It was a small shock to the tastebuds that are used to seasoning that often might cover the real original flavours of the ingredients. The burbot was a little tough but not being the expert on how to cook burbot I am not sure if it could have been more tender. We both enjoyed it very much. The wine was an Austrian blend of Gruner Veltliner and Riesling and was well balanced with the subtle flavours of the dish.
Before desserts we got "Gammel Dansk with a milk snow", which they admitted to have copied from Noma in Copenhagen. Herby alcoholic sorbet with a milky powder, again quite funny. (Sorry no pic)
Dessert was "Parsnip and White Chocolate" with white chocolate ganache and parsnip in the form of ice cream, powder and puree, as well as an apple foam. It was a completely new flavour for me to have parsnip in the form of a dessert and I really enjoyed it. The sweet wine was from the Jura area in France.
With our espressos we got beetroot marshmallows and carrot lollipops, which added an another great touch to the evening. The chef enjoyed a Finnish røm from Åland, a surprising addition to the dinner.
We had a great evening and one of the most innovative meals in a long time. We will definately be going back, the menu is to be changed ten times in a year with the seasons so there are more surprises waiting for us in Spis. The service was warm and welcoming, professional (great wine pairing) and friendly. Only critism I have is that I'd wish they'd leave the water jugs at the table, they would save themselves alot of work. (The water glasses are tiny.)
Helsinki is the World design Capital 2012, and I'd recommed Spis for any travellers interested in Finnish design as they pay a lot of attention to detail here with the tableware (especially liked the plates by Nanna Bayer) and even the uniforms of the staff. And the food is definitely Scandinavian, pure, fresh and simple.
Go and let Spis surprise you too!
Ps. Another review found on Liemessä blog in Finnish with very nice pictures.