Gluten Free Helsinki: Fly me to the moon at Ravintola Kuu

I took a bit of a break from posting because I had a crazy couple of weeks at work and then went on holiday! We have been over in the land of lakes again, celebrating the Pet Finn’s mum’s birthday. The main family get-together was in Ravintola Kuu in Helsinki’s pretty Töölö district. Kuu means moon and it’s pretty fitting, given the astral levels of delicious I ate my way through.

Unlike many places in Finland there are no helpful little G’s on the menu to help negotiate what is safe to eat, but our server was extremely knowledgeable, and said everything was able to be converted to gluten free.

We opted to try two of their set menus, I chose the Helsinki Menu which was recommended by our server as being a little lighter, and The Pet Finn opted for the Kuu menu, billed as showcasing their take on some classic Finnish dishes. He very kindly ordered his food with gluten free modifications (except his bread) so I got to try that too!

Drinks-wise we all started the evening with a celebratory glass of Crémant d’Alsace Chardonnay Brut, Joseph Scharsch, and then to go with our meals I picked out a bottle of 2014 Beaujolais Leynes Haut de Balmont, Julien Guillot which got some strong compliments from my Master of Wine brother in law, and was light, rounded and a very versatile (and delicious) wine, going excellently with the food we chose.

As I’ve become accustomed to in Finland, my bread arrived on its own little slate, with a private pot of whipped butter to avoid cross contamination from crumbs. I will admit to being a little envious of the rest of the party as they scoffed their crusty sourdough and their Saaristolaisleipä, the super dark ryebread from the Finnish Archipelago. Mine was a toasted white roll, which definitely benefited from the char, but for which I am, as always, very grateful.

For our starters the Pet Finn had “Perintiestä savulohikeittoä”, a traditional and very creamy smoked salmon soup. I got to have first taste so that he could get his gluteny bread involved once I’d had my try. In Finnish food it doesn’t get much more traditional than salmon soup and salmon soup doesn’t get much more delicious than this.

My menu had ”Porotartar, kuivatta hirven sydäntä ja puolukkamajoneesia” the suitably Nordic sounding reindeer tartare with shaved dried elk heart and lingonberry mayonnaise. Also featuring the new-Nordic menu mainstays of crispy reindeer moss and some zingy sea buckthorn berries. For something which sounds so Viking, so heavy and meaty, it was perfectly balanced and impressively light.

For main course he had the “Poron ulkofileetä, selleripyreetä, sienia ja mustaherukkakastikketta”, more reindeer, sorry Santa, we ate Rudolph and he tasted delicious. This time medium rare reindeer fillet with celeriac, both puréed and roasted, wild mushrooms and a sauce with black currants and rowan berries. The reindeer was incredibly soft, and the dish was rich with autumnal flavours from the Finnish forest. A much more modern and lighter take than Lappi’s very traditional reindeer dishes.

My main was “Paistettu nieriää, pahdettua kukkakaalipyreetä ja valkoviinikastiketta” a pretty plate of Arctic Char served on rich roasted cauliflower purée with a creamy white wine sauce and with the addition of some snowy white, thinly sliced raw cauliflower for texture and some Brussels sprouts. Before you look at me like I’m mad… yes, fish with cauliflower and sprouts… yes, it was magically delicious! Not a hint of “old people food” I promise, just a sauce I’d happily swim in.

In Finland fine dining does not in any way, shape or form denote minuscule portions and I was by this point feeling dangerously stuffed and a bit worried about the upcoming cheese and dessert courses. The cheese course was mercifully quite small though, a chunk of local farmhouse style cheese on a wafer-thin seed cracker, with a fruity berry compote.

For dessert the Pet Finn got a modified take on the billed sea buckthorn and brown butter combo, coming as sea buckthorn posset, berries and brown butter sauce, minus the gluteny malt crumble. It was delicious, but extremely rich and creamy so I was happy to duck out after a couple of tastes.

The “Uuniomenaa ja kanelijäätelöä” was far lighter, with two pieces of baked apple, one with white flesh, the other a pretty blush pink, cinnamon ice cream, apple gel, chai tea foam and an apple crisp. It was a perfect end to the meal, a sophisticated take one one of my favourite things to eat when the weather turns cold!

The restaurant was extremely accommodating for me being gluten free… Nothing was off limits and they were happy to make adjustments to their dishes for me. Everything that arrived at the table looked delicious and going by the way everyone enjoyed their food tasted great too. The beef with root vegetables was pretty popular with our party, and they also have refined versions of Finnish classics like liver with mash and lingonberries or a fully grown portion of the salmon soup. There were also some good vegetarian options like the herbed buckwheat with more of the wild forest mushrooms and pickled kohlrabi.

The wine list is both extensive and excellent, and they also offer wine tasting events at their sister restaurant Ravintola Carelia, located about a block away, where their wine cellars are.

They picked up the Helsinki menu of the year award a few years back and sit in a lot of “Top 10 Restaurants in Helsinki” lists. It was so easy to eat gluten free here, and unlike a lot of places in the city, they’re open in a Sunday evening if you needed any more excuses to go there!!

I had fallen so in love with the sea buckthorn that I had to pick up this pot of jam from the harbour market a couple of days later! Can’t wait to have a play around with some dessert ideas for this!!

B. xx

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