We celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary in early June and chose Penélope as the place for our anniversary dinner. The owners, Hans Välimäki and Arto Rastas, say that they decided to open a restaurant where they would like to go. An uncomplicated restaurant that focuses on high-quality ingredients and friendly service. A restaurant where customers are treated like you would treat your guests at home. Every portion has a story that has become etched in out memory thanks to its deliciousness – a story we want to share with you. Before dinner we enjoyed some champagne at the Champagne bar at Stockmann. I decided to try something a little different, Veuve Clicquot Rich Rosé, which is a very fruity champagne with 12% red wine. It has a higher dosage of Pinot Noir than the traditional Veuve Clicquot (45%) which gives the flavor more depth.
I immediately liked the vibe of the place. We started with an aperitif and took some time to study the menu. There was a nice selection of cocktails to choose from and the ones we had were tasty and refreshing. The menu is divided into seven sections: Bread & Dips, Small, Charcuterie, Medium, Large, Sides & Extras and Desserts. The idea is that you can mix and match from all sections and the food is brought to the table whenever it is ready so it’s not the traditional starter, main & dessert approach. There was also a separate specials menu.
We decided to both have three small portions and one large portion each. I had Siikli, vendace roe & smoked fresh butter, Scallop & summer truffle, and an Asian inspired Arctic Char dish from the specials menu. Hubby ate Asian style beef tartar & shiso, Gambas pil pil, and Quenelle de brochet. All the small portions were lovely and there were some clever ideas like the smoked butter with the potatoes, the crispy potatoes on top of the scallop, and the coriander and sesame oil with the tartar. My large portion was Pan fried white fish & wild mushrooms and Penélopes ”Clam Chowder” and hubby’s was Chicken “Piri Piri” inspired by Carlos Henriquez. We had planned to share a portion of Patatas fritas mojo rojo with our large portions but forgot to order them, which was actually not a problem because there was plenty of food anyway. The large portions were also nice. The only issue was that the small portions were served relatively quickly but then we had to wait quite a long time until eventually a waiter came around to ask if everything was okay and I said yes but we were waiting for our mains. This resulted in the mains being served so quickly that my guess is they simply had forgotten to serve them and the food felt like it had waited under a heat lamp for quite some time. This probably affected the food somewhat and I’m sure the large portions would have been better if they had been served right away after preparation, for example the skin on my fish was not crispy at all, which I believe it was supposed to be.
The food and atmosphere at Penélope were great and apart from the small mishap with the mains the service was also good. The place was packed and without a reservation there was no way we would have gotten a table. I really liked the idea of the different portion sizes and would like to go back for a cocktail or two and some of the smaller dishes instead of a full-blown dinner. I am also interested to see how the menu evolves depending on the time of the year.
We rounded off the evening with G&Ts at Casa Largo. A great anniversary celebration and now we start our 23rd year of marriage.
Last Saturday we decided to go test a couple of new places after visiting an exhibition at the National Museum of Finland. We started by heading back to Runar, the bar located at hotel F6 and this time we were there late enough for the bar to be open. I had a lovely rum-based cocktail with cherry, vanilla and blood orange flavors – it was refreshing and not too sweet. Hubby opted for a traditional dry martini, which was nice and neutral. After these aperitifs we headed to Bystro. The restaurant that serves Slavic cuisine has been around since March 2016 but at first the menu did not entice us. The menu had clearly been updated at some point and now there were several interesting options. They offer a three course menu with a set starter and dessert but you get to select the main. As the menu was reasonably priced and the starter and dessert sounded good we chose the menu. It also turned out that until the end of September, Bystro had a two for the price of one campaign on this menu. We also decided to try out the wine paring consisting of three glasses of wine.
The starter was a selection of zakuska consisting of onion pie, whitefish roe mousse, rye bread with butter, and Russian pickles with honey and house made sour cream. The pie was relatively standard but tasty. I really liked the mousse and the rye bread was among the best I’ve ever had. The pickles worked well with the accompanying honey and sour cream but by themselves they had a bit too much spices and not enough salt. Another problem was that they were a bit “raw” to my taste, which may be due to them being so small. But all in all the zakuski were nice and I was amazed at how well the accompanying rose wine paired with all of them, even the pickles.
We both chose pelmenis for our main. Pelmenis are dumplings consisting of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. These were filled with meat and served with caramelized onion and house made sour cream in a meat broth. The waitress recommended a side order of red and nut adjika to go with the pelmenis and it was a perfect addition to the dish. Adjika is a Georgian-Abkhaz hot, spicy but subtly flavored dip often used to flavor food. The pelmenis were delicious but personally I would have preferred a “deeper” broth with more flavor. The pelemenis were served with a nice French red wine.
Dessert was a honey bavaroise with apple and salted caramel. The dessert tasted really lovely but there were a few texture problems. The caramel was a bit too stiff and the topping of roasted barely was too hard and you had to be careful not to chip a tooth. I actually left most of the barley on the plate. The dessert wine was a nice Sauternes. All in all, a lovely dinner experience at a reasonable price and very good service. Our waitress was friendly and professional and the fact that the chef served the dessert was a nice touch. If there are new interesting options on the menu we will certainly visit Bystro again.
Image courtesy of Bystro as I was so excited about the dessert I forgor to take a pic. The restaurant kindly sent me this upon request.
This Saturday we headed into Helsinki to check out the Modern Life exhibit at Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) as the exhibit was closing on Sunday. The Modern Life! – Finnish Modernism and the International Dimension exhibit showcased highlights of architecture, design, visual art and photography that contributed to the construction of a modern and international Finland between 1917 and 1968.
After an interesting tour of the museum we had planned on heading to Bar Runar at hotel F6 for drinks but after walking to the hotel we realized the bar would not open until 4 p.m. which I could have seen on their webpage had I bothered to check. I did snap a few pictures of the courtyard, however. We will definitely head back to Runar for cocktails some other time during opening hours.
We were heading to Salve, an old sailor’s hangout that has been operating since 1897 but that quite recently moved to new premises, for an early dinner. So we decided to walk there and stop at a bar on the way. However, as it was July and Finland is practically closed and apparently no one needs or wants a drink before 4 pm we could not find an open bar on the way. This meant we simply went to Salve and had some food. I chose the fish hash with smoked salmon, prawns, tuna fish, onion, potato, dill and egg yolk and hubby opted for Salve’s special with a breaded pork schnitzel, fried egg, sausage, choron sauce and fried potatoes. The food was tasty and the portions were huge, I barely ate half of mine.
As I still wanted a cocktail we decided to walk to the Clarion hotel just across the dock basin from where we had dinner. This hotel that opened in October 2016 has a rooftop bar called the Sky Room on the 16th floor. We stepped into the hotel and I immediately liked the lobby with huge windows opening up to the sea. Then we headed to the elevator that took us up to the 16th floor that also hosts a rooftop pool & terrace. We peaked into the pool area and I absolutely want to come spend a night at the hotel and enjoy the facilities. The Sky Room bar had a nice vibe, excellent views and tasty but pricy drinks. As the bar was quite full I could not really take any pictures of the views.