Juuri Sapas is a not quite Michelin starred newbie on the Helsinki scene. Popular and recommended by some of my husband's gourmand cousins, we were eager to try it. Sapas is like tapas, albeit slightly smaller, small plates of food.
We're meeting my husband's cousins whom he hasn't seen in about 20 years. They're Helsinki natives and love fine dining and a good drop of wine so we are eager to take advantage of their knowledge of the city. The menu is contemporary Finnish cuisine with a lot of local ingredients and native foods which makes it rather exciting. All 4 mains are savoury and sweet and have meat combined with a fruit in some way. There are some little issues, a couple of people at the table have to ask for new plates as they were given dirty ones, my husband having to ask for a new plate twice.
The Sapas are 3.50 each and we choose the Lingonberry marinated salmon on maltbread, tarragon garlic oil; raspberry marinated arctic char with radish sauce; smoked small perche from Pielinen with egg sauce; crayfish cottage cheese filled cabbage leaves with melted dill butter; fresh sausages a la Juuri with vodka mustard; terrine of reindeer liver with jelly made of berries; smoked lamb with gooseberry jam.
Array of 3 breads
We're given a large basket of 3 different breads with a carrot butter. The carrot butter is interesting, distinctly carroty in taste but with the creaminess of butter.
_Lingonberry marinated salmon on maltbread, tarragon garlic oil _3.50
The salmon is gorgeous, lightly sweetened with the lingonberries and perched on top of the maltbread which soaks up the tarragon and garlic oil nicely. It's much better than regular marinated salmon.
_Raspberry marinated arctic char with radish sauce _3.50
The slender slice of arctic char resembles salmon in texture but is a whitefish. I'm not usually a fan of radishes but the sauce is creamy enough but still retains the radish flavour.
_Smoked small perche from Pielinen with egg sauce _3.50
The small smoked fish are intensely flavoured whilst the egg sauce is an interesting accompaniment. The fish aren't too dry and the sauce is delicious.
_Crayfish cottage cheese filled cabbage leaves with melted dill butter _3.50
The stuffed cabbage leaves resembles a small spring roll but the taste is distinctly different. The sauce is gloriously delicious, with a honeyed tone to it. It's one of my favourite dishes as well as my husband's although anything with crayfish is a winner with me.
_Fresh sausages a la Juuri with vodka mustard _3.50
The tiny sausages aren't particularly distintive and the mustard isn't particularly vodka-ey. It's a bit of a disappointment given there are so many other delicious dishes.
_Terrine of reindeer liver with jelly made of berries _3.50
The pate like reindeer liver terrine is delicious and unusual. Distinctly different from other liver terrines or pates it is enhanced by the berry jelly. If only we had some little toast points to eat it with.
_Smoked lamb with gooseberry jam _3.50
The smoked lamb is very smokey in aroma and I'm not sure about the gooseberry jam with it. Although the lamb is delicious when I dip it in the other sauces.
Grilled salsify with rosehip jam 3.50
Pike quenelle in wild herb bouillion 3.50
Beetroot and nut stew with small mushrooms 3.50
Eggcheese spiced with oregano baked on top of straws 3.50
Willowherb asparagus 3.50
Roasted swede with cauliflower puree 3.50
The mains we choose are the Wild Boar Ribs with apple butter and vegetables cooked in beef stock, Organic Lamb Tenderloin with dark orange bolete sauce and fried organic barley porridge and Artic Char (a fish native to Finland) braised in whitecurrant wine, jeruselum artichoke puree, beetroot sauce and parsnip chips.
Wild Boar Ribs with apple butter and vegetables cooked in beef stock _22.50_
My Wild boar ribs with apple puree, dutch carrots and other vegetables are absolutely divine, sticky sweet and soft they completely conquer regular pork ribs or any other ribs I've had. I almost sob that I know that I can't get them in Australia and I begrudgingly give some to my sister and husband, knowing that they will love them too.
Organic Lamb Tenderloin with dark orange bolete sauce and fried organic barley porridge 25.50
The Lamb is soft and tenderly pink inside and the accompaniment of fried porridge is delicious. It's similar to fried polenta but softer and stickier. Like Chinese radish cake or something similar in texture although not in taste. The dark orange bolete sauce is a midly sweet accompanying sauce.
Artic Char braised in whitecurrant wine, jeruselum artichoke puree, beetroot sauce and parsnip chips 22.50
The fantastic looking Arctic Char with a streak of fuchsia beetroot puree as mentioned before tastes like salmon whilst being a whitefish.The artichoke puree and beetroot sauce not only providing visual contrast to the fish but also flavour that never overpowers the fish.
Fried perch fillets with Finnish original onion and tomato salad, rhubarb sauce and new potatoes 22.50
Chocolate cake de capo with seabuckthorne mousse 7
Although we are full we can't pass up on the desserts-there's one that has caught my eye-the chocolate cake de capo with seabuckthorn mousse. My husband's cousins tell us the seabuckthorne is actually used in a medicinal sense-whenever someone is feeling ill or coming down with something, they take some seabuckthorne juice. So not only is it tasty but good for you. The chocolate cake resembles a brownie and the mousse a sweet slightly tangy tamarillo mousse. It's finished with a streak of thick butterscotch sauce.
Selection of Finnish cheeses and crowberry jelly 7.50
My sister orders the cheese plate and when it arrives, with 4 small cubes of cheese with crowberry jelly 7.50. I don't have the heart to ask her to share any of her tiny 4 cubes with me and she reports back that 1 was "ok" but the rest were unmemorable. She actually wanted to spit out one of the hard cheeses. Not to mention the tiny portions. The crowberry jelly is more like a syrup than a jelly and honeyed in taste although the consistency doesn't lend itself to all of the cheeses.
Seasonal sorbet Rhubarb 5
We sample some of the Rhubarb sorbet, intriguingly it's a forest green shade. it tastes like a fruit and vegetable juice, almost like parsley or another herb has been added to the rhubarb.
Rosehip and white chocolate ice cream with marinated strawberries 7
Later, we head off to Mecca bar, an ultra chic and a bit posey bar populated by Helsinki's beautiful people. We're persuaded to try the Sweet Salty licorice drink. It's a glisteningly black tar shot glass and even the smell at a short distance is heady with aniseed. I take a sip, after all I'm not a big licorice fan and indeed it is just like the salty sweet licorice lollies. My husband adores this and wants to buy a bottle.
We leave whilst the night is still young, after all in the Midnnight Sun season, night never falls.
Korkeavuorenkatu 27, 00130 Helsinki
Tel. +358 9 635732
Open: Mon-Fri 1124, Sat 1224, Sun 1420