Eating out in Helsinki is generally expensive, and I hate spending money on mediocre food, so I figured that I might as well just splurge a little bit and get significantly nicer food. One of my new year’s resolutions was to eat 12 new Michelin stars this year, and Helsinki features 5 starred restaurants, so I was in luck.
I ended up walking in to Luomo around 9:30pm, as I had passed out for a couple of hours after checking into my hotel and didn’t wake up until 9pm. I first tried to get a table at Olo, but they were full for the night (and completely booked about 3 weeks out when I started thinking about reservations). Luomo is located only a block away, and both are located right next to the market square.
The actual restaurant is located on the second floor of a building, so you need to walk up some stairs in a sterile hallway, but the restaurant itself features a minimalist decor.
You can order 3, 5, or 7 courses from the menu. 3 courses gets you one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert, while 5 courses gets you all three appetizers, one entree, and one dessert. I opted for all 7 courses, and it looked like all the tables around me did the same.
To start, I received 4 amuse bouches that were different plays on things found in the market square located nearby. First was a meat pie ice cream served with ketchup, then a cup of “coffee” made out of black olive puree, next a spoon of yogurt with leek made to look like bird poop, and finally a taste of herring and fennel. This was both the best and worst dish of the night: while I loved the playfulness and fanciful nature of these bites, none was actually very tasty.
The first official course was a medley of different mushrooms and preparations. It was rich, earthy, and flavorful, with contrasting textures from the various kinds of mushrooms and thick foam that made the “porridge”. It was served with a brioche studded with mushrooms. This course was crazy delicious, and one of my favorite dishes of the nice. As an aside, the butter was well salted and served at room temperature and thus easily spreadable, two things that I always appreciate.
The next course was a lobster tartare served with pieces of lobster and various purees. To me, this dish was good, but a couple of the purees were a little too acrid and pungent, so the balance was off.
The third course and final appetizer (although all appetizers were pretty large portions) was duck marinated in anise served with pumpkin. I think it was supposed to be a soup, but it was a little confusing because they didn’t pour very much liquid into my bowl, and the liquid that they did pour wasn’t hot. I’m not sure if the temperature was intentional, but the pumpkin/licorice/duck combo worked well together. This course was accompanied by a sage roll.
The first entree of smoked whitefish was served with a little bit of showmanship. The course was brought covered by a glass shell to hold in the smoke, and then the shell was removed to uncover the fish and release the smoke. While the dish was competently executed and cooked well, the fish was not particularly memorable except for the presentation.
Next up was an intermezzo of dried apple, apple jelly, and apple ice.
For the second main course, I had lamb served with artichoke puree, cous cous, citron, and a rosemary focaccia. At this point, I was quite full of savory foods as the portions were much larger than I expected, so I couldn’t finish the plate, but I again couldn’t find fault with the execution of the lamb although it was not particularly memorable.
Before dessert came a pre-dessert of sweetgrass panna cotta with dried berry powders. This was one of my favorite things of the night as there was a great contrast between the delicate flavor of the panna cotta and the bold tartness of the dried berries. This dish also felt extremely Nordic and local, which I enjoyed.
Dessert #1 was a deconstructed carrot cake of carrot puree, carrot foam, marinated carrots, carrot cake crumble, cream cheese foam, and cream cheese ice cream. This was fun, playful, and had a nice carrot flavor, but there were probably 2 too many components on the plate.
The second dessert was a chocolate cake with a molten chocolate chai ganache on the inside, chocolate sauce, chai ice cream, and chai crumbles. The balance of textures was great, with the cake, the liquid filling, the ice cream, and the chai crumbles which had a chew to them. This dish wasn’t overly chocolatey but still incredibly rich and decadent.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this meal and thoroughly enjoyed it. The service was competent (although sometimes hard to understand, particularly near the ends of descriptions of dishes when they would just seem to sort of trail off and their accents would seem to get thicker), and the pacing was deliberate (my meal took about 2.5 hours). The food was extremely well executed, with a couple of memorable dishes, and the food was a good combination of Nordic cuisine with a touch of molecular gastronomy. At 85 euro for 7 courses, I also think that this is a relatively good deal for this kind and quality of food (also considering the relative expensiveness of Finland and that 85 euro is inclusive of tax and gratuity).