|Bringing together under the sun.|
NOW that the gloom of winter is finally behind us and the sun is promising to make up for lost time, there’s one thing that increasingly comes to mind this time of year: terassi. Suddenly, after months of life under snow, under the weather, under jackets and hats, the populace has already forgotten about the long cold months and can be found happily seated out in the open air, basking under even the smallest ray of sunshine.
So, with establishments around town eager to tap into this seasonal enthusiasm, it comes as little surprise to find that men are hard at work constructing a wooden terrace on the sidewalk in front when I arrive to Kamppi’s Sushibar + Wine in Fredrikinkatu. Just a stone’s throw from Eerikinkatu, here punters can choose from a wide range of refreshing beverages under the sun, all the while enjoying the fruits of a refreshing mesh of Japanese and Finnish cultures.
“We were looking to do something a bit different than what was on offer; we did not want to build a mini Tokyo in the middle of Helsinki,” states CEO and co-owner Anders Westerholm. “We wanted to make an easily approachable Scandinavian design, and build a concept that is very natural.”
After Westerholm established restaurant and publishing-based company We Are Group with his friend Matti Sarkkinen a handful of years ago, the idea for bringing sushi and wine together in a more relaxed environment was born out of repeated requests from customers at their acclaimed Japanese restaurant, Raku Ya. Seeking the option to take home with them some of the unique tastes on offer, customers were soon privy to that very opportunity when the original Sushibar in Uudenmaankatu opened its doors towards the end of 2009. Here people could enjoy both dine-in and take away Japanese dishes made to order, along with a selection of wines in the familiar environs of Marimekko and Artek designs.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert in Japanese culture, but we love the food and try to do it our way,” Westerholm explains. “We have had quite a lot of Japanese tourists coming by, and film crews, and they are very interested in the concept that we have.” The success of the original idea paved the path for this location here in Kamppi one year later, expanding extensively on the wine list and selection of bottled beers. “The terrace is one of the main reasons we came here, we wanted to be able serve wines outside.”
The range of beverages on offer at Sushibar + Wine is certainly impressive, with the possibility to wash down your meal with an Asahi, Sapporo or Kirin for 5.90 euros, or even a sake starting at 13.90 euros for 18cl. The constantly evolving wine list includes a wide array of grape varieties falling into such categories as “full bodied aristocrats”, “aromatic fruit bombs”, “young & smooth” and “I am mr. big”. There are even a number of champagnes on offer, including a 1997 Champagne Jacquesson at 184 euros a bottle for those with a little more loose change in their pockets.
East meets West
Sushibar + Wine Sushibar
Fredrikinkatu 42, Helsinki Uudenmaankatu 15 , Helsinki
tel. 010 666 8454 tel. 010 666 8456
Opening hours for both:
Mon - Thurs 11 - 22
Fri 11 - 24
Sat 14 - 24
Sun 14 – 20
Lunchtime brings with it a choice of two sushi platters of 10 or 15 pieces, at 10.90 euros and 14.70 euros respectively. When our food arrives, we are greeted by a neat and colourful presentation of rolled seaweed sushi (nori), tofu, tamago (sweet egg omelette) and a variety of fish including salmon and whitefish.
Without further ado, I follow Westerholm’s lead, opening my chopsticks and ensuring the tips are evenly placed in my hand by tapping them on the tabletop before reaching for food. Taking a swipe at the dollop of wasabi sitting next to a bed of pickled ginger, I drop it into a small bowl of soy sauce and swirl it around, leaving the black dipping sauce littered with fiery lumps of green paste.
The sushi flavours are subtle and the textures delicate, with the occasional fierce whiff of wasabi eagerly announcing its presence on occasion. Although the heat isn’t too overpowering, I’m nonetheless glad to have the glass of water at the ready just in case.
“We serve lunch from 11-15, a bit longer than usual in Finland, as many of our customers are working in creative environments where the lunch hours come and go,” Westerholm continues, in between mouthfuls. “A lot of portions are take away. We try to encourage our customers to call beforehand and come and pick up their order. The good thing about sushi is that the food is already served cold, so it is very easy to take with you.”
Keeping it fresh
A trio of twenty-somethings at the table next to us fall silent as their food arrives, leaving the pulse of gentle electronica to fill in the space that only seconds before was taken up by their excited conversation.
“Our customers are very willing to try new stuff,” Westerholm enthuses. “We are constantly developing new dishes and we try to tell the chefs to be as crazy as they can be – of course they need to be good ideas – but they don’t need to stick to traditional sushi dishes!” Certainly, with such ingredients as bacon, parma ham and jalapenos appearing in various selections on the menu, this isn’t your ordinary sushi experience.
“I don’t know too many combinations of sushi and a wine bar in the world,” Westerholm ponders, as he dips his final piece into the wasabi/soy sauce mix. “It’s not the first combination that comes to your mind. [laughs] Traditionally people have gone to tapas places to have wine. We are very happy with the fact that they come here.”
Text: James O’Sullivan
Photo: Robert Lindström