Helsinki Restaurants

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Helsinki Restaurant Reviews

Most restaurants open at 11 for lunch, switch to a dinner menu at 4, and close their kitchens around 11; virtually all non-hotel restaurants are closed on Sunday. Finns generally prefer to eat at 7 or 7:30 when dining out, so it's rarely necessary to make a reservation to eat before 7 or after 9. No dress codes are stated and jackets are rarely required, however at top restaurants it is expected that patrons look sharp. Take note that restaurants in the bigger cities are often closed in July.

Helsinki is dotted with cozy yet decidedly modern-looking venues offering reindeer, herring, and pike accompanied by delicious Finnish mushrooms or wild-berry sauces. Don't be turned off by spare menu descriptions such as "reindeer with lingonberry sauce and chanterelles,"—it's a classic example of the Finnish tendency toward understatement, and the skill will be evident in the taste. You'll find everything from Mexican to Nepalese (quite popular with locals) in the city, though not at every price point. Expect European-size entrées, excellent location, and service at a steep price. A strong café culture makes it easy to find a tasty, reasonably priced lunch.

Helsinki's recent restaurant scene expansion appears only to be gaining momentum as modern Finnish cuisine comes into its own. The city is dotted with cozy yet decidedly modern-looking venues offering reindeer, herring, and pike accompanied by delicious Finnish mushrooms or wild-berry sauces. Don't be turned off by menu descriptions such as "reindeer with lingonberry sauce and chanterelles,"—it's a classic example of the Finnish tendency toward understatement, and the skill will be evident in the taste. You'll find everything from Mexican to Nepalese (quite popular with locals) in the city, though not at every price point. Expect European-size entrées, excellent location, and service at a steep price. A strong café culture makes it easy to find a tasty, reasonably priced lunch.

Finnish food emphasizes freshness rather than variety, although in keeping with European trends, restaurants are becoming more innovative and expanding on classic Finnish ingredients—from forest, lake, and sea.

The better Finnish restaurants offer some of the country's most stunning game—pheasant, reindeer, hare, and grouse—accompanied by wild-berry compotes and exotic mushroom sauces. The chanterelle grows wild in Finland, as do dozens of other edible mushrooms, including the tasty morel. Fish is served in many ways, and is especially savored smoked. Come July 21, when crayfish season kicks in.

Other specialties are poronkäristys (sautéed reindeer), lihapullat (meatballs in sauce), uunijuusto (light, crispy baked cheese), and hiilillä paistetut silakat (charcoal-grilled Baltic herring). Seisova pöytä, the Finnish version of the smorgasbord, is a cold and hot buffet available at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is particularly popular on cruise ships.

Local yogurt and dairy products are extremely good and ice cream is popular; an increasing number of places sell low-fat flavors or frozen yogurts. Finnish desserts and baked goods are renowned. Mämmi, a dessert made of wheat flour, malt, and orange zest and served with cream and sugar, is a treat during Easter. More filling are karjalan piirakka, thin, oval rye-bread pierogi filled with rice or mashed potatoes and served warm with munavoi, a mixture of egg and butter. Munkki (doughnuts), pulla (sweet bread), and other confections are consumed with vigor by both young and old.

Alcohol is expensive here, but beer lovers should not miss the well-made Finnish brews. More coffee is consumed per capita in Finland than in any other country, and you'll see a staggering number of cafés and coffee bars throughout the country. Particularly in Helsinki, patrons of cafés downtown and around the waterfront spill outside onto the streets.

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