If you’re traveling to Helsinki in search of the best food, you need to make a reservation at Grön. This was our favorite meal of our Finland trip, and one of the best meals we’ve had in a long time. Every single bite delivered a flavor explosion in a way that very few meals achieve. From the tomato tartelette to the lobster beignet to the honey fudge-glazed monkfish, we wanted seconds of practically every dish. Grön currently has one Michelin star, but this restaurant strongly deserves a second. Executive chef Toni Kostian and his team are serving some of the tastiest and most interesting bites in the Nordics. Keep scrolling to read our full review of Grön.
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There’s more to Grön than meets the eye. When you step inside the door, you see there are only a handful of tables. (Maybe they can seat twenty people maximum, but that would be a very tight squeeze.) The compact open kitchen is in the same room as the diners – but the minuscule size of the kitchen does not accurately represent the mighty food they are pushing out. The Grön team is working at such a high level, serving gorgeous presentations even with a small staff. Given the caliber of the cooking, we expected chef Toni Kostian to have trained at Noma or Kadeau or some other top New Nordic restaurant, but he only worked a little in Finland before opening his own restaurant in 2015. Grön currently has one Michelin star, but, in our opinion, they’re overdue for an upgrade.
Our meal began with a fresh dish of raw seafood. We loved the combination of raw shrimps, rose, and garden berry juice, but we could have done without the salmon roe. In general, this type of roe is not a favorite ingredient of ours, and this one, specifically, had a very hard texture.
Next, came a dish that has become a signature at Grön, or at least is set to become one: the tomato, red currant, and kombu pie. Anders had a version of this dish when he first visited Grön five years ago, and it made it to his Best Dishes of 2018. Well, it was great back then, and it’s improved even more in the last few years. The tartelette is thinner than it was before, made with dried tomato skin, and filled with a ton of tomatoes, house-made ricotta cheese, ramson capers, oregano oil, and onion flowers. The tomato flavor was so concentrated, intensified by the oregano, and the kombu added umami without adding much seaweed flavor. All of these strong elements were perfectly balanced by the creamy ricotta. This dish tasted very Italian (evoking memories of eating pizza on a sunny day in Naples), while simultaneously Nordic, with a nice acidity from the tomatoes and berries. It reminded us a little of a preserved berry and dried tomato dish we had before at Kadeau, but it’s also very unique in flavor. We could have eaten fourteen more of these!
A super cute crab scuttled his way to our table for the next serving. Brown crab was sandwiched between red peppers and grilled flatbread, creating the illusion of crustacean claws, topped with dried cep powder, Finnish curry, and chili oil. This was a delicious dish, and a fun presentation. The chili oil really tied the flavors together.
Next up, was perhaps our favorite bite of the meal – the one we actually asked for seconds of. Lobster tail poached with butter and thyme was served inside a fluffy beignet filled with høost (hay cheese), cloudberries, and sweet corn, and topped with smoked salt and Rossini caviar. The beignet was so light and airy, with an explosion of sweet corn cream inside. This was a truly amazing bite – we short-listed this for one of the best dishes of the year.
Following that umami bomb was a mini brioche toast, topped with grilled blue mussels and mussel cream, a thin strip of white currant gel, fennel seeds, preserved dill, and smoked salt. Another incredibly tasty bite! The hits just kept coming. Koji and pumpkin porridge came next, topped with pickled sea buckthorn berries, cured egg yolk, and Rossini caviar. The porridge was cooked risotto-style, using koji instead of parmesan. There were so many wonderful flavors balanced in this bowl. Some notes reminded us of the Alouette squash and caviar dish that we picked as our favorite dish of 2022.
Little did we know we’d have the best bread serving of the year at Grön! A brioche shokupan (milk bread) was glazed with honey, sprinkled with fennel pollen and thyme, and served with house-churned butter. This bread was insanely light and fluffy, and chock full of butter, which literally pooled on top of the bread. Seconds of the bread were offered, and, of course, we couldn’t say no, even though we knew it would kill us later. Anders described the bread as “vein-cloggingly good.” The bread was served with barbecued morel mushrooms which were stuffed with chicken and truffle, served atop a chicken broth-based summer truffle sauce, with spruce shoots. One of the most delicious plates we’ve ever eaten – and with the bread dipped in that sauce? Just incredible.
Leading up to the main course, we had gently steamed Norwegian cod, with a roasted kelp and green gooseberry beurre blanc. Tucked underneath was a warm salad of peas and potatoes, with some wild herbs on top. The cod was perfectly cooked – so tender, soft, and flaky. But we didn’t love the warm salad underneath – it tasted a little too fermented in flavor for us. It certainly wasn’t a bad dish, but it was probably our least favorite course of the meal.
But we soared right back into flavor town for the final savory course: honey fudge-glazed, barbecued monkfish with hazelnuts, elderflower, and a beurre noisette (brown butter) sabayon. Oh, and another healthy dollop of Rossini caviar. (You know, to get our recommended dose of Omega-3.) The sweet and salty flavors here felt a little naughty, like we were eating dessert for dinner. This was a decadent and delicious main course.
Grön’s palate cleanser was not a throw-away dish, as can be the case at some fine dining restaurants. Lemon verbena sorbet was served with an apple and ginger granita, rhubarb, bee pollen, and fresh herbs. It was creamy, acidic, and delicious – the perfect palate cleanser. The main dessert was a caramelized milk and roasted chestnut ice cream, with black currant berries, black currant leaves, a black currant crisp, caramelized white chocolate, and sunflower seeds. This was a very unique sweet serving, with a nice tartness that balanced out the roasted, caramelized flavors. It had a beautiful presentation, and wonderfully contrasting textures.
A final smattering of sweets hit the table, starting with Grön’s carrot cake: freshly baked vintage carrot and marigold flower cake with carrot caramel and carrot cubes on top. Somehow this sweet and moist dessert was vegan! We were shocked that using marigold flower oil as a butter replacement could result in such a tasty treat. This cake was served with a frozen jug of fresh milk ice cream. (Anders and I fought spoon to spoon over this jar.) It was creamy, silky smooth, and we loved the floral accent from the lavender. Two small chocolates came on the side with our delicious Chemex coffee: a morel mushroom caramel, and a licorice and sea buckthorn chocolate. A sweet ending to a memorable meal.
Throughout our meal, the service was friendly and warm, performed by knowledgeable and kind team members. We tried both the natural wine pairing, and some of their house-made juices, and thoroughly enjoyed both options. Everything was presented at a great pace – it wasn’t rushed, but there were no long pauses between dishes. Exactly how we like it!
Grön served us the best menu we’ve had in a while. The meal just kept getting better and better, escalating in flavor with every dish. The menu is New Nordic in style, but with more butter. It reminded us of a combination of some of our favorite restaurants in the world – Kadeau, Frantzén, and Maaemo. Our fingers are crossed for Grön at the Michelin gala this year – this is a real gem of a restaurant in Helsinki. Book a seat now, before you can no longer get a table!
Have you been to Grön? Let us know in a comment below.