Dinner Date: Roster (pop-up)

Yes, this visit concludes our dinner at the Roster pop-up, but hold on there: the Unioninkatu pop-up restaurant was set up as a trial run for the real deal whereas the pop-up itself was only open for a couple of days. Roster at the corner of Pohjois-Espa and Unioninkatu will open on June 17th – which is this coming Friday! Not that we’d need any occasion for fancy food (I do consider this as a hobby at this point), yet Roster was our choice for an anniversary dinner.

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The location in the space at Basso Radio is not quite what you’d expect of a place with a menu like this. The “backstage” area was turned into a makeshift kitchen, the dining area made of three big round tables that guests would share. Rather bizarre and it certainly made me curious as to how these two very different aspects would fit it. I like the idea of fine dining in a casual environment and taking away the prestigious stigma to it (that sounds so dramatic), regardless of status, income or outfit – Roster is a place for everyone who enjoys a great meal. With both a bar and restaurant coming up, a great line-up of local and foreign chefs, sommeliers and bartenders, this place will be truly exceptional!

Dishes are made to share and to be available for the whole family. Mastermind Kari “Kape” Aihinen tells me that Roster is a place where the chefs show off what they enjoy making and eating. This creates a wonderful fusion cuisine that doesn’t have any particular story behind it, which I found quite refreshing. Amongst all the delicious options of New Nordic restaurants out there, Roster is an option for those who’d like to explore something beyond Finnish origins. Unlike in many other places, the whole team is part of your experience, and we enjoyed figuring out who was who from the caricatures on the menu (it wasn’t very difficult, good job) – the Roster family is what makes your dining experience, it’s not just an anonymous group of people preparing your food. They also want to bring back the tradition of a family supper, where everyone gathers to enjoy great food amongst their loved ones. Looking forward to seeing that happen!

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Our menu was lined with different influences, from both France and Japan, yet also Finnish. The team is exceptionally proud of their selection of wines, that have been carefully matched with every course. We got started with the highly recommended Birch 75 cocktail that is made with home-made birchleave-syrup and the much-loved Napue Gin of course, along with some tasty marinated peppers and feta.

With one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian, we got to try an even wider selection of what they have to offer. With three appetizers each, the start was a pretty good base for what was to come. It had been a while since a decent Foie Gras, even though it’s not my favourite thing on the planet (as in, I would probably not order it, but I appreciate it nonetheless) and coming from a French-speaking country, it’s a given thing and also the combined spring cabbage worked perfectly with the smooth Foie Foie Foie. Lightly grilled salmon is – on the other hand – something you instantly win my heart with, with some fresh crisps and peas this marked the most Finnish dish on the menu. All accompanied by a fresh and delicious salad of avocado and baby gem lettuce, and tomatoes topped off with a Jalapeno mayo. On the vegetarian side was some fantastic looking asparagus with parmesan, and a curious salad with Burrata cheese (call me ignorant, but this one was new for me) and dried malt bread.

Already at this point I’d like to give a special shout-out to the wine selection and the genuine enthusiasm of the sommelier(s) on site. Even though I only tasted sips of each accompanying wine (health reasons), I was in awe over the stories we heard, the background on each wine and of course the impeccable match for each course. The same with the bartender and generally the offer of carefully put together cocktails and apéritifs that effortlessly matched menu and setting.

For me the main course was Waguy beef with a BBQ sauce, along with chive crème fraîche and pickled vegetables. As tasty as it was, I can’t wait to visit the “real” restaurant and see what the chefs manage to do with this delicate beef in a proper kitchen! Also what’s the deal with pickles vegetables these days? I enjoyed them, yet I just wonder where this sudden trend comes from. Feel free to leave me a comment if you can solve this mystery for me! They’re eeeeverywhere! The veg option was also lined with those, mainly consisting of white beans in romesco sauce. The dessert was again Finnish inspired with fresh blueberries and the secret signature sweet, a kind of yoghurt cream; which came with a dessert wine unlike anything I’ve tasted before! At this point I was quite sad that I didn’t get a glass of my own (being responsible is overrated sometimes), fresh and a tad sour while still being an obviously sweet wine, yet not the kind that melts your teeth.

 

I hope I’ll get the chance soon to experience the real deal of Roster! Now that I saw that the provisional kitchen had to offer my expectations are set high for the full-on restaurant. My favourite, you ask? Well, even though I was happy for something non-Finnish, the fish dish as starter with the salmon was delicious and probably most memorable. And the dessert wine for sure! I’m sad I didn’t get to taste that delicious looking asparagus, which was the misters preferred part of the menu. I’ll report back to y’all after a visit to the restaurant, I’m also quite curious about the design of the place!

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