We’re back! Don’t worry, we’re not going to launch into a detailed review of all the stuff that we ate over our two-week trip, because that would just bore everyone senseless. Rather, we’ll just give a brief summary of the highlights of our culinary adventures in the far North…
One of our first and most memorable meals was in Zetor, in Helsinki. It’s a funky restaurant and the menus are designed to look like tabloid newspapers, with creative names for their dishes. The starter we shared, a blini cooked in clarified butter served with red onion, sour cream and salmon roe, was absolutely delicious.
On our various husky, reindeer and snowmobile excursions, we had lunch stops in little huts or tepees seemingly in the middle of nowhere, yet equipped with pots, pans and crockery for serving up surprisingly yummy food. Reindeer meat featured in all 3 meals – a reindeer stew with potatoes and carrots for one, and a delicious sautéed reindeer which was cooked with just butter and some salt. All cooked over a huge open fire out in the wilderness.
Being the Amazing Race junkies that we are, we couldn’t not pay a visit to Kappeli in Helsinki – a lovely café overlooking the main Esplanade park. (In the latest season, the racers had to come here to access some messages from home that contained their next clue.) They only had their Christmas lunch menu available, with two main course choices, so A and I had one each – a grilled pikeperch pillet and a fillet of beef. Both were really good – the beef was tender, and the charred edges of the fish gave it great flavour.
No visit to Helsinki would be complete without a visit to Fazer, Finland’s oldest confectioner. They mass produce chocolates for sale, almost like the Cadbury of Finland, but in the Fazer Café, they have the most delightfully light and delicious desserts as well as their signature chocolates. A had their Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream, and I had an incredible swiss roll-esque dessert with sponge fingers, cream, peanuts and jam. Both were absolutely heavenly.
We had some interesting food in Norway, the highlight of which was dinner at Stortorvets Gjestgiveri, Oslo’s oldest restaurant. Again, only their Christmas menu was available, so we ended up having two of Norway’s most traditional Christmas dishes. The first was Pinnekjøtt - rib of lamb, which has been salted, smoked with birch and dried. It is served plainly steamed, with boiled potatoes and mashed root vegetables. It wasn’t as salty as I expected; it was incredibly tender, with an intense lamb flavour. It’s served in two servings, but after the first and absolutely huge serving which I had to struggle to finish, there was no way I could handle the second (albeit smaller, apparently) serving. A had the Christmas pork platter, containing sausage, roast pork, pork patties and pork ribs. Again, the portion was utterly huge, but absolute heaven for pork lovers.
Another interesting restaurant was D/S Louise in Aker Brygge, which is a hip new precinct in Oslo. The restaurant is designed to look like the interior of a luxury ship, and occasionally they play recordings of ship horns. Maybe it was our imagination, but I could’ve sworn I felt the floor sway a little too… I had a very good but very filling bouillabaisse here, chock full of fish, prawns, mussels, asparagus and a grilled scallop.
All in all, from our experience I think that both as a city and a gastronomic destination, Finland has more to offer than Norway. Somehow the food in Finland has that extra something, perhaps it’s more inspired, or simply just prepared with more heart. The take-out salmon that we bought for dinner one night from Stockmann, a department store in Helsinki, was more satisfying than the food at some of Oslo’s supposedly good bistro restaurants. Similarly, Helsinki as a city is just more charming and inviting than Oslo. We’ll be back… in the not so near future, perhaps, but we’ll be back.
Nice, clean place. Food was good and almost satisfied my salmon mania. Salmon ROCKS!
Not as nice as Finland but had more variety in landscape. Also, huge proportion of pretty girls. Too insanely expensive a country though. You even have to pay 5-10 Kroner (S$2+) to use the public toilets. And the difficulty in finding toilets makes me think these people are a severely constipated lot.
Maybe worth a short visit, but it’s not worth going back. If we do, I’ll just have hot dogs. According to a magazine article I read there, hot dogs are hugely popular there, even though I didn’t see any stands till in transit at the airport. But the hot dog that we did have there was one of the best I’ve ever had.
Also, they drink lots of coffee in Scandinavia so most places make a good latte. Surprisingly, their cappuccinos are good too. Must be in the rich milk they use.
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