All kinds of interesting places have emerged in Katajanokka in the past few months. A cosy wine bar Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, beer lounge Sköne with live music, and of course the acclaimed Holiday. All these can be found at Kanavaranta, and there’s more by the Market Square where Allas Sea Pool is still being built under the Sky Wheel but has already served customers at the terrace.
But, instead of all these places we were heading to Restaurant Nokka, which has been the pioneer of Finnish local food for 14 years. Chef Ari Ruoho personally picks all the seasonal ingredients used by the kitchen and works closely with small producers. All this makes me give the restaurant pretty good points before even visiting it. I give even more points due to the fact that in Nokka children eat in half price from the same menu as adults. Thus it was easy to pick Nokka as the restaurant in which to celebrate with the family.
We had a reservation at six, at the beginning of dinner time. We were given a nice table by the window, and our child was able to watch the personnel working in the kitchen. The mood was calm, space familiar – red brick, high ceiling – from the neighboring café Johan & Nyström and the wine bar Chaperon Rouge. The child was taken into consideration right from the beginning as me and my husband ordered sparkly wine and the waitress asked whether our daughter would like to have currant leaf sparkly drink as a toast. The drink was incredibly delicious, luckily you can buy it from the restaurant’s little market, and from Alko as well.
The Helsinki menu at Nokka changes seasonally. I had decided beforehand to have the Green Helsinki menu. My husband wanted the 4 course Helsinki menu, and our daughter chose the lamb main course. While we waited for our food we were served a nice basket of stinging nettle focaccia and half dried tomato with seed muesli as amuse bouche.
The starter of the green menu was surprisingly hearty soup named Sipoo & Sulkava, which was a green gazpacho with rapeseed oil yoghurt ice cream. The waitress recommended I should mix the ice cream into the soup, which made it beautifully rich and soft, and the flavours went nicely together. I was not fast enough to have a bite of my husband’s starter Suomenlahti, which was smoked bream rye tacos with Baltic herring.
The green menu main course was also surprisingly large, although I have no complaints about the flavor of the chard filled with horse beans and mushroom. The main course brought to our daughter was basically the same size as the one my husband got, and I was able to get a bite of this lamb dish named Bovik & Pertteli. The meat was tender and delicious, and the side dish of brown cabbage and fermented garlic were to our daughter’s taste as well. For a second I almost thought maybe I should have chosen the other menu…
After the main we were served a wonderful Saunavihta, which means a birch whisk used in sauna. It was a sorbet made of smoky Koskenkorva vodka with birch granita. It indeed tasted just like a birch whisk! The restaurant gathered more points by serving our daughter a passion fruit sorbet in a matching wooden kuksa cup. All in all the service was great throughout the evening. Sure we spent three hours in there without noticing it, but we did not feel that we had to wait for long time at any point. Also, we noticed the group behind us with a small child were served quite promptly as the child began to get quite tired.
At our own table the child chose the same dessert that was included in the green menu, a forest fruit churro with mint strawberry and bilberry-raspberry ice cream. I strongly doubted I’d be able to eat the whole thing, but somehow it just slowly vanished from my plate. The child liked her dish that was only one churro smaller than mine so much she probably would have licked the plate if I had let her. Husband’s dessert Salo was bilberries and milk. A slightly lighter but as delicious as mine (I managed to taste this one as well).
As we were leaving the waitress politely asked whether we needed a taxi, but luckily we live in a walking distance from Nokka.
Nokka’s terrace was empty as we left, August was exceptionally chilly this year. Luckily it wasn’t too chilly for the small farming box with mint at the corner of the terrace, no doubt where the mint in my dessert had come from. Right around the corner you can find the newest of the new in Katajanokka, Shelter, whose chef is Teemu Laurell. It’s great to see new things and more life at the neighbourhood of almost 15 years-old Nokka, and I’m sure I will visit Nokka again as well.