I could watch chefs cook and prepare food for hours, I find it incredibly soothing and inspiring, and of course the treat of tasting high quality dishes is one of my favourite things ever. The term “casual fine dining” is something that defines the Helsinki dining scene for me, and a new trend is sprouting these days, having a private chef that is! Recently I was invited by the #HelsinkiSecret Residence to attend a private dinner hosted by Heleats.
If you’re not familiar by either: the #HelsinkiSecret residence is an initiative by Visit Helsinki who has international bloggers of any kind staying in a fancy apartment downtown Helsinki. The Aallonkoti flats are in one of the new residential buildings down by Töölönlahti, beautifully furnished and decorated. Heleats is a local organisation promoting Finnish food, products and the Helsinki foodie scene. Markus from Heleats and chef Joona were the hosts of the night, as we got together to celebrate Lauras birthday with Lance, Jerry, Elisabeth and Kea.
The menu was supposed to be a lot smaller than what it ended up being, simply because the chef enjoyed it all so much. And so did we. We got started with an amuse-bouche that was Pickled kohlrabi, Metsuri-cheese by Herkkujuustola and salt cured egg yolk, followed by Whitefish skin crisp, horseradish cream and rainbow trout roe – certainly one of the most impressive dishes of the evening, for it’s combination of structured and consistencies.
Finnish and Japanese (for example) have some similarities in the cuisines. Both are all about respecting the flavours and adding only what is necessary to make the dish great. Of course this is really just generalising. Adding umami, the right amount of acidity and the great leading component to the dish is key line in both. -Joona
Although, my personal favourite part of the menu was the celeriac soup. It doesn’t take all the fancy ingredients to create something great, but often the most simple dishes are the most complex ones.
Simple design and clean flavours are what make Finnish and Nordic cuisine so popular these days, says Joona, who is also part of the Culinary Team Finland. We are “exotic” because of the short growing season. That’s why we are and always have been very innovative at using different preserving and cooking techniques. -Joona
We were treated to two delicious main courses, one of them being Brown butter sauteed whitefish, sourmilk and cauliflower – and I got confirmed again in the fact that cauliflower is so versatile and underappreciated, but really the whitefish was incredibly soft and so well complemented by the rest of the dish.
The second main being Deer, roasted celeriac, marinated red onion and veal jus with red currant sauce, totally blew my mind as this meat was so tender, it’s not even funny. As I keep claiming in these articles, I am not a food critic, but I like food and I have opinions, so trust me when I say how this was insanely good! Also, roasted celeriac needs to be on my plate more often. I have a feeling that this is becoming the the ultimate vegetable underdog.
I like different vegetables (sunchokes, celeriac, onions are my favorite right now) a lot because there can be many different ways of using them in an innovative way. In my cooking I also use vegetables for seasoning the dish (dried celeriac powder from the leftovers and so on), but I also think they can be easily spoiled, for example my mother used to boil broccoli so long that it almost turned gray and obviously that’s not pretty or tasty. So with vegetables you can try around and play, but they don’t taste great if you don’t know what you’re doing! -Joona
To finalise this foodie dream menu, served was Helsingin Meijeriliike Yogurt parfait, lingonberry granola and caramel sauce. Not necessarily my favourite, but that lies more in the general nature of what is a parfait and granola, but that’s not any judgement about the quality or love that was put into preparation of the dish. With the coffee we got a huge caramel-lingonberry-macaron, and that thing I could literally eat all day. If you have an occasion coming up and don’t feel like going out for it, let yourself be inspired by this and consider the #heleatsmenu. You can book it directly through the guys and have a private chef at home to treat you to all the fancy food while you’re in your pyjamas. If you want.
Nordic cuisine is evolving all the time. We are starting to have better “knowhow” at telling stories. We also have started to appreciate and be proud of what we do. -Joona
Thank you to Visit Helsinki and the Heleats team for the lovely evening and of course, my dining company! I took the liberty of taking the menu description from this blog post by Heleats. Thank you to Joona for spicing the article up with some insight from the chef!