Chef & Sommelier The Epitome of New Nordic in Helsinki

Chef & Sommelier was the spark that triggered the entire trip to Helsinki. As I explained in my previous post on restaurant Ask, I met the owner Sasu in Stockholm earlier this year. We discovered that we shared a strong passion for food and exploring exciting restaurants. That night, Sasu suggested I should come to Helsinki and dine at his one Michelin star restaurant Chef & Sommelier.chefandsommelier-chef-and-sommelier-sasu-laukkonen-new-nordic-michelin-helsinki-finland-scandinavia-restaurant-review-food-foodie-eat-eating-dine-dining-best-tips-guide-travel-4-2015

A few months later the plans were made, flights tickets booked and restaurant bookings secured. Unfortunately, faith did not want me to meet Sasu again this particular time. Due to some last-minute changes of dates on my part, I ended up visiting at a time when he was doing a guest performance at another restaurant. He assured me, however, that his team would cater to our every need and treat us well.

This awesome label is a Vall Dolina Reserva Brut Nature Cava
This awesome label is a Vall Dolina Reserva Brut Nature Cava
The menu, similar to Ask, doesn't reveal too much
The menu, similar to Ask, doesn’t reveal too much

With the amazing meal from restaurant Ask fresh in mind, we entered through the doors of restaurant Chef & Sommelier on a Saturday evening. Situated in the area of Ullanlinna in Helsinki; an area which reminded me a bit of Östermalm in Stockholm or parts of Frogner in Oslo. Areas which can be a bit impersonal, quiet and cold if you judge from the exterior. The first thing that struck me was how tiny and intimate this place was. It can’t have been more than 8 tables, seating about 20 people. Peeking into the kitchen, it looked even tinier than the one at Pjoltergeist in Oslo! The interior revealed a very warm atmosphere, which was further reinforced by the wonderful staff smiling towards you.

chefandsommelier-chef-and-sommelier-sasu-laukkonen-new-nordic-michelin-helsinki-finland-scandinavia-restaurant-review-food-foodie-eat-eating-dine-dining-best-tips-guide-travel-27-2015

Butter with birch leaf salt to the left. Glutenfree bread in the back with rosemary & sunflower seeds. Rye bread and sourdough on the right
Butter with birch leaf salt to the left. Glutenfree bread in the back with rosemary & sunflower seeds. Rye bread and sourdough on the right

Just like restaurant Ask, the team at Chef & Sommelier had prepared well and Andrea’s gluten allergy was not a problem at all this night. We had a waiter and sommelier who took care of us the entire time, explained all dishes, talked passionately about each wine and told us quirky fun facts about the food we ate. The service level here almost bordered to the experiences we had at both Noma and Maaemo.

ColleStefano - Verdicchio di Matelica DOC 2014. A fresh crispy white wine, with nice sweetness. Taste of green apples, perfumy and smells of pears.
ColleStefano – Verdicchio di Matelica DOC 2014. A fresh crispy white wine, with nice sweetness. Taste of green apples, perfumy and smells of pears.
"Nettles and cheese". A cashew pie with a nettle cream, with buckwheat and spinach. Very subtle flavors! Too little taste in my opinion.
“Nettles and cheese”. A cashew pie with a nettle cream, with buckwheat and spinach. Very subtle flavors! Too little taste in my opinion.

As the various servings came out it dawned on me that this was one of the most hardcore new Nordic restaurants I had ever eaten at. An extreme focus on organic produce and wild plants foraged in nature. Odd herbs, roots or other vegetables in almost every dish. However, besides a few exceptions, it really worked out quite well. The meal reminded me a lot of the first times I dined at Manfreds and Noma in Copenhagen.

"Tartar of 'Löyly'-kyyttö". Tartare of ox. Topped with grilled onions, parsnip, and shavings of dried meat. A sauce of green onions and whey
“Tartar of ‘Löyly’-kyyttö”. Tartare of ox. Topped with grilled onions, parsnip, and shavings of dried meat. A sauce of green onions and whey
We learned that the ox was very young, but the farmer had no use of it anymore. And so he called Chef & Sommelier...
We learned that the ox was very young, but the farmer had no use of it anymore. And so he called Chef & Sommelier…

Showcasing the various local produce seemed to be more in focus than the actual dish as a whole, or the complete meal. The classic French, heavy flavors that punch you in the face, are almost entirely gone. What looks up at you from the plate is a single vegetable, begging you to taste its independent essence. Just slightly lifted up by some contrasting flavors or textures.

Hervé Villemade Cheverny Blanc. Our sommelier explains that they are not dogmatic on nature wines, but they like to cooperate with small producers
Hervé Villemade Cheverny Blanc. Our sommelier explains that they are not dogmatic on nature wines, but they like to cooperate with small producers
"Wild herbs and egg". Slow poached egg with wild herbs like ramson, garlic mustard, fireweed, nettle, wood sorrel, spruce and meadowsweed. A pesto of garlic mustard and sunflower seeds
“Wild herbs and egg”. Slow poached egg with wild herbs like ramson, garlic mustard, fireweed, nettle, wood sorrel, spruce and meadowsweed. A pesto of garlic mustard and sunflower seeds
"Sunchoke and dill". We learned that Jerusalem artichoke can also be called sunchoke, here fermented, salted and topped with orpines, cucumber and dill
“Sunchoke and dill”. We learned that Jerusalem artichoke can also be called sunchoke, here fermented, salted and topped with orpines, cucumber and dill

Chef & Sommelier is the restaurant for those who truly want to experience the New Nordic cuisine, and get a feel of the Finnish nature, vegetables, wild plants from the forest, locally bred meat and artisan cheese. I am really looking forward to going back, and next time I will make sure that Sasu is present!

2011 Loimer Riesling Terrassen Reserve. A dry, fresh and acidic wine with scent of honey and fruits
2011 Loimer Riesling Terrassen Reserve. A dry, fresh and acidic wine with scent of honey and fruits
"Parsnip and grains". Parsnip grilled in the big green egg, topped with quinoa, dried parsnip and emmeret grains. A rice polenta flavored with the common polypody root and a sauce of smoked brown butter and apple vinegar.
“Parsnip and grains”. Parsnip grilled in the big green egg, topped with quinoa, dried parsnip and emmeret grains. A rice polenta flavored with the common polypody root and a sauce of smoked brown butter and apple vinegar.
The common polypody root gave the rice polenta a liquorice / anis / fennel flavor. We had to ask to see this magnificent root, and our lovely waiter brought a sample
The common polypody root gave the rice polenta a liquorice / anis / fennel flavor. We had to ask to see this magnificent root, and our lovely waiter brought a sample
2013 Le Rocher des Violettes Côt Vieilles Vignes. A light red wine made with taste of dark berries, black currants and a slight tanniny aftertaste
2013 Le Rocher des Violettes Côt Vieilles Vignes. A light red wine made with taste of dark berries, black currants and a slight tanniny aftertaste
"Pike-perch and horseradish". Different parts of the pike-perch wrapped around each other. In the middle is a mousse of the leftovers, which we found ingenious! Crispy skin of the same fish, birch leaves, yellow carrot, horseradish and potatoe puree
“Pike-perch and horseradish”. Different parts of the pike-perch wrapped around each other. In the middle is a mousse of the leftovers, which we found ingenious! Crispy skin of the same fish, birch leaves, yellow carrot, horseradish and potatoe puree
The cheese selection with plum compote and crispbread. The most interesting cheese was the Finnish blue cheese "Selin", which is made as a school project in the private secondary school of Ahlman, in Tampere city. The cows are a typical Finnish breed, and our waiter told us that the cheese they produce are not always good. This was good, though, luckily!
The cheese selection with plum compote and crispbread. The most interesting cheese was the Finnish blue cheese “Selin”, which is made as a school project in the private secondary school of Ahlman, in Tampere city. The cows are a typical Finnish breed, and our waiter told us that the cheese they produce are not always good. This was good, though, luckily!
A pre-dessert served in a tiny Iitala box
A pre-dessert served in a tiny Iitala box
Parsnip sorbet
Parsnip sorbet
Jaillance Clairette de Die Tradition Vin Bio. A sparkling, fruity dessert wine
Jaillance Clairette de Die Tradition Vin Bio. A sparkling, fruity dessert wine
A wood sorrel sorbet, yogurt meringue, wood sorrel and rhubarb. A great dessert!
A wood sorrel sorbet, yogurt meringue, wood sorrel and rhubarb. A great dessert!
Meadowsweet and plum kernel ice cream which tastes of bitter marzipan, topped with brown butter cookie crumble
Meadowsweet and plum kernel ice cream which tastes of bitter marzipan, topped with brown butter cookie crumble
We had to ask to see the plum kernels used to flavor the last dessert. This idea was inspired by a very famous dessert at Noma invented by Rosio Sanchez
We had to ask to see the plum kernels used to flavor the last dessert. This idea was inspired by a very famous dessert at Noma invented by Rosio Sanchez
Good Life Coffee! Ethiopian Wottuna Boltuma
Good Life Coffee! Ethiopian Wottuna Boltuma
The final coffee snack. A sea buckthorn gel with raw liquorice powder
The final coffee snack. A sea buckthorn gel with raw liquorice powder

What is the most typical New Nordic restaurant you have been to? Feel free to leave a comment below.

3 comments

  • Dear all,
    I’m a student of the University of Gastronomic Sciences (founded by the Slow Food creator Carlo Petrini) in Pollenzo where I’m attending the master program in Italian wine culture. I’ve been working as sommelier in wine bar, and restaurant, I would like to develop my skills as a sommelier and in the art of serving, and I am sure an experience in your restaurant would be extremely fruitful.
    Do you have any internship vacancies to which I could apply?
    Thank you for your time,
    Kind regards,
    Alessandro Scarpulla

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