Thursday, December 20, 2007

Restaurant Review: Saslik (Helsinki)

Knowing that Finland had not so long ago declared independence from Russia, I had some low grade but not necessarily well-founded qualms about eating at a Russian restaurant while in Helsinki. It seemed vaguely unpatriotic? But because the restaurant was so enthusiastically recommended, these concerns were more or less eclipsed by eager anticipation.

Unlike the sad little Russian restaurant in St. Paul which was a bit too USSR for our tastes, Saslik was virtually layered in plush tsar-style Russianness.  Upon fabric wallpaper hung portraits of grim mustachioed men with good posture, ornate clocks, and hand-painted trim; even the ceiling was lushly decorated with fabric and moulding.  (Yes, lushly!)  The stained glass windows and big wooden door pleasantly sealed us into a time warp.

We started with an appetizer sampler which included: many kinds of herring, make-your-own-pickle-salad, make-your-own-lamb-and-potato-salad, salmon, lamb, bear sausage, pork, and another kind of meat I've forgotten.  All of this reminded me of our last meatiful visit to China Grill in Chicago, which, though tasty, had a tragic ending, if you know what I mean.   But I ate them all anyway; how could I not?  This assemblage of foods before me was not likely to be repeated any time soon.  I advise future diners to guard against eating too much marinated garlic.  Though it may seem a necessary palate-cleanser, you may find yourself regretting (and reliving) that choice for the rest of the evening.  

For the main course we had the popular "Ivan's Sword" - a skewer of more meats (bacon, beef, and lamb) brought to the table on an actual sword.  Lest you think that this restaurant was all gimmick and no ginger, I assure you that this food was quite savory -- mildly spicy, even! The lingonberries were a perfect complement to the smoky meats and obligatory root vegetables.  I'm happy to say that this very good food has taken the place of that grayish St. Paul meat pastie in my mind's mental image of Russian food.   Since I'm no expert on how Russian food is supposed to taste, I suppose this is the best review I can give it.  

Price: €€€€
Rating: ★★★★

No comments: