Review: ‘Sapas’ lunch at Restaurant Juuri in Helsinki
We had been strolling around in the ‘Capital of Design’ for a couple of hours, when the rain suddenly began to pour down and reminded us that it was time for lunch. Juuri was on the top of our list of restaurants that we wanted to visit. The restaurant was located on Korkeavuorenkatu 27 (Swedish: Högbergsgatan), a roughly 10-minute walk from Helsinki’s city center, and the sign outside told us we had come to the right place.
Juuri opened 2004 and quickly stood out with its focus on traditional Finnish food culture. Since the opening, it has been elected ‘Restaurant of the year’ by the Finnish Gastronomical Society (2010) and mentioned in the Michelin Guide. It is currently ranked #3 on TripAdvisor’s list of best restaurants in Helsinki, and holds a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence, which, according to the website, is only handed out to “restaurants and attractions that consistently receive great traveler reviews on TripAdvisor”.
Since we arrived at nearly 2 pm (lunch is served from 11 am to 2.30 pm), the majority of the lunch guests had already left, and the staff could seat us right away. Reserve a table if you want to eat an earlier lunch, since this is a popular spot for lunch dates. The tables were set with colorful glasses and jugs from the well-known Finnish design brand Marimekko. Our waitress directed us to our table, right next to the window, where we could watch people trying to escape the rain. We quickly threw ourselves over the menus and it did not take long until I decided to try ‘Sapas’, the Finnish version of tapas. Juuri’s website declares the history of the name: “The name Sapas originally comes from the Finnish words for small Finnish starters” (Suomalaiset AlkuPAlaSet). Any similarity to the Spanish word “tapas” is purely coincidental.
My boyfriend went for the lamb and shortly thereafter, we were served our dishes. My first thought was that I should have ordered more Sapas (a main course consisted of a selection of four sapas for 16 Euros). When I thought about it, the waitress might have mentioned that I could add the two piece Sapas from the starter menu to my main course. Despite my Finnish background, it can be difficult to keep up when the locals start talking really fast. However, the first bite compensated the small portion – the dishes are extremely well-made with outstanding flavors and impeccable presentation! Juuri gets an additional plus for the small but very appreciated details, like the butter, which was served in beautiful paper bundles.
Overall, we were extremely pleased with our visit to Juuri. Friendly staff with good English, central location, clean toilets, but above all; well-made, beautiful food with carefully thought-out, authentic flavors and nice details. The portions are however small, so do not come starving.
Craving another Finnish classic for dessert? Take a short walk down to Helsinki Market Square after your visit at Juuri and top off your lunch with coffee and the Finnish pastry Munkipossu.