Monday, May 5, 2014

(Rein)Deer Helsinki: Christmas is canceled!

We're obviously very close to the North Pole and are covorting around in the land where plenty of reindeer roam free.  However, after our visit to Kuu, Santa may no longer be able to recite the famous lines of "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!  On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen..."  Because we kind of ate Donner and Blitzen last night, and they were delicious.  [Comet on the other hand "tasted like soap," according to Jon.]

Our superb server Inari started us off with some aperitifs.  [On a side note, she was named after the third largest lake in Finland, in the region of Lapland, and was apparently relentlessly teased about it.  Lesson of the day:  Be nice to people with "weird" names.  They may be in charge of your food one day and also, you may be missing out on some amazing conversation and a unique personality because of your preconceptions.  Just sayin']  She was a bit camera shy, so it took a lot of coaxing before we could get these shots of her with Jeff (who by the way, is totally in love with her- and I don't blame him).

Anyhow, Jeff and I opted for the Aperol spritzer, while Jon and Keith went for the Limoncello (all delicious).  We were presented with three different tasting menu options and chose the Kuu tasting Menu:

We started our gorge fest with an incredibly delicious smoked salmon soup.  The fish was smoked on the premises and the broth was made from all the bones and skin and other yummy bits not being used for fillet-style consumption by the patrons.  None of us were really sure about what to expect from this starter course, but the balance of the smoked fish, with the incredible broth, the light cream, the herbs, potatoes and the seasoning, and a very tasty French Chardonnay (steel barrel matured, not oak) left us all pretty much speechless except for:  YUMMMMMY!  See below for photographic proof:

You can probably guess by now what our main course was reindeer.  Plenty of these animals live in the wilderness that is northern Finland and though easily available for hunting (the season apparently is put on hold for a short period in the autumn), it is not as widely available to Helsinki city folk alongside other meats.  It should be!  I don't know if it's the reindeer's diet of wild plants or whatever, it is freakin' amazing.  It kind of looks like the consistency of liver when it is seared brown (with a LOT of red on the inside), but the taste is not gamey at all and is basically like an amazing steak.  Our version came on a bed of barley "risotto" with mushrooms and a puree of root vegetables (celery root, turnips, parsnips and carrots).  Everything was then highlighted with a gorgeous port wine based brown sauce.

Before the food arrived, we were busy being told by Inari that the wine we got for this course, a Spanish temprenillo called Munia, is not often ordered by Finns.  The reason you might ask:  in Finnish, munia translates as eggs (and more commonly can mean, erm, the equivalent of mountain oysters), so people usually end up giggling and ordering something French instead.

We quite enjoyed our Munia with a side of meat, even though all of us were a little nervous about eating reindeer for the first time:

Once we were done with our main course, we were just tipsy enough, that the race to get a stealth shot of Inari began.  And then the following happened:

Of course things quickly deteriorated and we quickly began posing behind several glasses of wine and Aperol and water.

Our neighbor's at the table behind us thought we were quite amusing and started to crack up and laugh along with us [We LOVE them, almost as much as we love Inari]:

Then our cheese course came and we became a devouring swarm of locusts.  Everything was literally gone within the next minute.  Here's what the plates looked like when they arrived:

Between more cackling laugher (at this point we were entertaining everyone in our corner of the restaurant, aside from the grumpy Russian ladies sitting at the other table behind ours) and Inari coming by to clear our plates and tell us more jokes, we were ready for our second most anticipated dish of the evening, the Cherry Soup:

Uhm, yeah!  Accompanied by pan roasted hazelnuts, chocolate mouse, pistachio wafers and fresh blackberries, the "cherry soup" was HOLY DELICIOUSNESS.  Inari, however, decided that we needed more of the "soup" and asked the chef to come by our table and squeeze more of the stuff onto our plates (heyyyy!) with the instruction to take a picture of him, since according to her, he was "the most handsome man in the restaurant."  We think she may have a little crush on him, but here he is, so you can be the judge:

Our tummies full, Kuu completely satisfied our palates and showed all four of us a good time.  If you come to Helsinki, you MUST go here [and tell Inari we sent you].

Röyhtäyttää (burp!), Kippis (Cheers) and Hyvää yötä (good night).

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