Published: March 24th 2009March 13th 2009
I had to hold myself back and eat politely because this was so damned good!
After work I dropped Dave off in Tampere and pressed on to Helsinki. I rolled into the Crowne Plaza approximately 18:00, got checked in and dumped my bags at the foot of the bed. The hotel presents itself as brand new (maybe it is) and was very nicely appointed in modern decor. I was quite happy with the heated tile floor in the bathroom, ample closet space and aesthetically pleasing, but still useful lighting. This place is definitely recommended if you're staying in Helsinki. It's especially fitting for business travel, IMHO.
After some discussion with the concierge regarding a place to dine, I settled on Ravintola Saaga. The concierge made a reservation for 20:15, which gave me plenty of time to walk there. The walk was pleasant and took just over 20 minutes. I passed most of the main drag in Helsinki (Mannerheim) and then turned onto Bulevardi heading away from the city center. On Bulevardi I passed Ekbert (the oldest cafe in Helsinki) and the Old Helsinki Theater, finally arriving at Saaga's front door, quite inconspicous despite the large animal skin on the door.
I'm generally leary of concierge-recommended activities as they are oft over-priced and touristy. However,
This is pretty much how I plate everything I cook at home too ;)
Saaga, albeit kitschy, offered unique decor, great food and friendly service. They are celebrating their 5th anniversary and offered a special menu with wine package for the occasion. I opted to join the celebration and selected the menu and wines. Prepare yourself for a menu rundown:
I started with salmon from River Teno ceviche, lavaret terrine, vendace roe and fennel compote paired with Domaine Camin Larredya , AOC Jurançon Sec L'Esguit 2007. The salmon was incredible, but add the wine and fennel to the mix and it was a match made in heaven! The next course was deer roast, mustard sauce and sautéed ceps with Château de Nouvelles , AOC Fitou Cuvée Augusta 2002. This was simple, but perfectly done. The delicate mustard sauce was the most memorable part of this dish. Now things get interesting... The middle course was a rosemary sorbet. I was wondering how this would work when I first read the menu, but I must admit it was wonderful. A simple sorbet, served in a Kuksa (traditional wooden cup) with a couple sprigs of rosemary. It was surprisingly refreshing, full of rosemary flavor, and a good segue into the heartier, main courses of the menu.
Kuksa of Rosemary Sorbet
I'd have never guessed rosemary sorbet could be so good. Quite unique in my experience.
The main was roasted breast of snowgrouse and overriped rib of reindeer, potato-carrot ”fondant” and crowberry sauce with Domaine Labranche Laffont, AOC Madiran Vieilles Vignes 2005. All of this was excellent, but my memory sticks with the fondant. Creatively done, it was a light potato cake with a carrot puree filling. All parts of this dish worked well together; the wine was effectivly full-bodied, but not overpowering. A perfectly paired dish and wine in my opinion. To finish I was served warm raspberry cake and mocha ice-cream and Château de Nouvelles, AOC Muscat de Rivesaltes Cuvée Prestige 2007. Another well done dish which was followed up nicely with a strong cup of coffee. What a great meal!
Eventually leaving the wild n' rustic confines of Saaga I looked up and guided myself by sight to the Ateljee Bar in the tower atop the Sokos Hotel Torni. This spot was recommended by a friend since it offers one of the better views available of Helsinki. Having now been there I must agree! I smoked one of my favorite cigars, an Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur Maduro, and enjoyed a glass of Six Grapes port on their outside patio. Some friends may
Snow Grouse & Reindeer
The fondant was clever and tasty. I might have to figure out how to do that myself.
recall cashing in a bottle of this port during my last days at Pax. I kept with the goodbye motif and determined it was motel time again after the port was gone. So far I'm loving Helsinki.
There are more photos below