Olo, or the essence of restaurants

Cristina Bowerman and one of the most famous establishments in Helsinki: the goal is not making good food, but giving clients a sense of peace

13-12-2019
The dining room at restaurant Olo in Helsinki, F

The dining room at restaurant Olo in Helsinki, Finland, one Michelin star (photo myhelsinki.fi)

I love roads uphill. I love crossroads. I love thinking that life is full of surprises, and that there is no such thing as a bad surprise. I love travelling, discovering new destinations, colours of the skin, languages, different habits. I will remember the year that is coming to an end as one of the richest ones in terms of culinary experiences in many restaurants around the world. Short trips during which, on each occasion, I treated myself to a significant stop, for my palate and for my senses.

It’s becoming more and more difficult to find something that surprises me among the many different offers and cultures in the restaurant and food industries: c'est la vie! And for the same reason, when something does surprise me, I experience it so intensely that I acknowledge it as a unique and unrepeatable moment which happens when I least expect it...

I was in Helsinki on business, a lovely pop up that included a competition between two famous pianists and, right after that, my friend Rikka brought me to Olo for dinner. To be honest, I knew about the restaurant, one Michelin star for ten years now, but I had never been there. I sat down and found a clean – essential, but not too much so - mise en place, and I was immediately charmed by the sommelier announcing he was to make us have a fun time.

Foie gras and beetroot 

Foie gras and beetroot 

Norwegian King crab claw cooked with home-made butter and glazed with a garum from the same crab (photo Intasgram/Olo)

Norwegian King crab claw cooked with home-made butter and glazed with a garum from the same crab (photo Intasgram/Olo)

I awaited a great night. What followed was thrilling, starting with the bread leavened by the table and then cooked (Narisawa style). It was not the Nordic kind you would expect in a banal world, but one soft on the inside and crispy on the outside which reminded me of the potato bread made by Niko Romito with a butter, salted, of course, on which I could have fed for days. One important detail: the temperature of the butter was perfect, neither ice-cold nor too soft. These details tell you a lot. The entrées: only 3, but well focused, in terms of flavours and textures.

During the dinner, a series of beautiful dishes from the venison foie gras, to the fermented raw meat and the smoked monkfish with caviar which convey enthusiasm as well as the strong research and concentration that’s typical of someone who’s participated in the Bocuse d'or. The chef, Pekka Terävä, is one of the great ambassadors of Finnish cuisine and for many years guided the national team at the Bocuse d'Or, one of the best in the world.

But back to the dinner. The wine pairings started with a Champagne De Lamotte served only at Olo and ended with a Krug 2004 including a Tokaij Aszu Disznókõ served with a deep and beautiful dish made with foie gras and beetroot, and other unusual and fun pairings. In other words, it really was a dinner worth remembering and a great lesson of life for me, both as a person and as a chef... when I least expect it, here comes someone who reminds me of the reason why I love this profession.

Artichoke cake 

Artichoke cake 

Chef Jari Vesivalo

Chef Jari Vesivalo

Tuomas Vierelä, executive head chef (photo Intasgram/Olo)

Tuomas Vierelä, executive head chef (photo Intasgram/Olo)

No money and no parameter can measure the satisfaction that I get when a client is pleased, knowing they will remember not perhaps the dish, but the feeling of wellbeing and of being at peace with the world. I can’t wait to return to Olo, perhaps with some friends with whom I can share the experience, of course after a Finnish sauna and a bath in ice water!
 

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso 
 

Olo
Pohjoisesplanadi 5
Helsinki, Finland
 +358103206250
Closed on Sunday and Monday, open only in the evening 
Tasting menu: 93 and 133 euros


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