When I asked my Finnish chef crush Peter where I needed to eat in Helsinki he insisted that he call his friend Filip from Resaurant Ask (Ask Resturant in English) and said it would be Helsinki’s next Michelin star.
It’s a small place with less than 30 seats, and while it’s fine dining it is gracefully balanced with the feel of a neighborhood joint. Filip’s wife of seven years, Linda, pairs the wine. She has worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years, she knows Filip’s style well and tries to find small producers in Germany and France.
The pair are adorable.
I start with a simple beet dish beet with beets from a biodynamic farm, smoked dried duck and goat milk and then Filip’s take on blinis and I realize this dinner is different.
I’m going to be lonely.
One of the best parts of a meal is sharing something amazing with another person and from the beginning I know this is an amazing meal and I am so thankful Peter insisted that I come here. I just wish I had someone to share this with.
But as the meal progresses I start to reconsider my loneliness.
With each course Filip brings out the food, crouching to explain to his guests what the food is and where the ingredients come from, always some local farm only an hour or so away, most importantly he explains why he made the dish or what inspired it. I’m not sure if the other guests realize it is Filip serving the courses.
He brings me an incredible dish of carrots, hazelnut and reindeer – with seabuck thorn, hazelnut mayo, hollandaise sauce and wild mushrooms. I had never thought carrots could be beautiful, delicate and ridiculously delicious until I tried this dish.
I see others sitting, laughing, talking in a group, unaware or appreciative.
They are oblivious to the best food in Helsinki.
By the time Filip returns to pour the brown butter sauce over the burbot and celeriac I am quite content to be alone because there is nothing to distract from the food. No mindless conversation, just food and I can sit with my thoughts, marveling in how fortunate I am to experience this meal.
Linda comes by with wine and shares that Filip believe fish need to swim two times: the first time in water, the second time in butter. They lived in Norway where cooking fish perfectly is a mandatory.
And with that a 2.5 hour meal passed with a blink.
At the beginning I told Linda that I did not eat dessert so she offered a cheese plate from a biodynamic farm in Denmark where the cows only eat grass and hay. And while Filip knew I did not like anything sweet he insisted I try the green tea “snow” from frozen yogurt. He explained when it’s cold outside we need to bring snow inside.
I could not argue with the man.
It is rare that I would describe a meal as beautiful. I have recounting many as fucking awesome or insanely delicious but Filip’s food is simple and delicate. There is a sense of fragility that requires someone with such skill to transform a dish from basic to exquisite.
And if you’re wondering yes, Filip makes it to the chef crush list. The first restaurant I would recommend in Helsinki would be Ask Restaurant. At 4 courses for 55 Euro and accompanying wine pairing for 50 Euro, it was an absolute bargain and a pleasure to pay.
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Finnish Tourist Board as part of a Navigate Media Group project. They did not pay for this meal, in fact it was the best 95 Euro I have ever spent.