I’ve lived in Helsinki for almost 8 years and still keep finding exciting new adventures there every day. The Nordic capital of Finland is known for its design and architecture and slightly odd inhabitants, but until lately nobody has really been raving about it as a possible site for delicious discoveries.
All that might be about to change. The city currently has four Michelin starred restaurants and a further four with Bib Gourmand special mentions. Beyond gourmet restaurants, Helsinki offers a multifaceted adventure through the world’s various cuisines.
Come with me and take a trip around the world in Helsinki’s restaurants!
Japan / Gyosai Sushi, Runeberginkatu 40
Helsinki is overflowing with wonderful Japanese restaurants. For authentic dishes, try Hoshito or Kabuki, for the best sushi try Tokyo 55 or Umeshu. The most authentic feel? Gyosai Sushi.
Entering the tiny restaurant feels like teleporting to a remote district in the outskirts of Tokyo. The Japanese owners pretty much only speak Japanese, adding to the delightful and authentic experience.
Russia / Saslik, Neitsytpolku 12
Saslik is like a time capsule to the time of Russian Tsars. Bright red walls covered with intricate gilded artifacts and portraits of blue blood families, live renderings of Russian folk music (mostly wailing tunes backed by an accordion), steaming samovars full of black tea and a never ending stream of vodka.
Ethiopia / Kuningatar Saba, Mechelininkatu 8
The beautiful neighborhood of Töölö is full of interesting ethnic restaurants, including Kuningatar Saba or Queen Sheba. This Ethiopian restaurant offers authentic delicacies such as azifa, timatim fitfit, dabo and the Ethiopian national dish doro wot – a delicious berber dish of spicy chicken stewed in clay pots.
Jamaica / Jamaican Mamas, Vilhovuorenkatu 5
This offbeat Jamaican restaurant in the lively Kallio district gives you a sample of fresh homemade Caribbean food, including jerk chicken, oxtail stew, crispy dumplings and banana cake.
Venezuela / Restaurante Coco Grill, Tulisuontie 1
Located in the suburb of Roihuvuori in East Helsinki, this restaurant is definitely off the beaten path. It is however, worth the trek, thanks to delicious bites such as aguacate relleno con atun, churrasco con chimichurri and bistec de frijoles.
Lebanon / Vivo’s, Malminrinne 2
The best shawarma north of Beirut. Garlicky, spicy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. They also have authentic falafel, hummus and baklava. The Lebanese bistro also has a Deli on Iso-Roobertinkatu.
Pakistan / K2, Iso-Roobertinkatu 10
This unpretentious restaurant, located right next to the Vivo’s Deli on a quaint promenade in the charming Punavuori district, is far from fancy gourmet, but the authentic Pakistani cuisine – mostly vegetarian and all delicious – is incredibly tasty.
Peru / Pastor, Erottaja 4
Pastor’s decor is sleek and minimalist but the menu is full of fiery passion. The restaurant opens a wonderful window into the world of Peruvian cuisine. Dishes are meant to be shared.
India / Namaskaar Bistro, Mannerheimintie 100
The restaurant has an authentic tandoori clay oven, ensuring authenticity. Try the cold mango soup or palak paneer with potato gnocchi and goat cheese, a dish that proves you can combine indian food and a bistro sensibility.
Morocco / Sandro, Kolmas Linja 17
The extremely popular Sandro now has two outposts in the city, but the one in Kallio is the original. Both offer magnificent Moroccan dishes, with great options for vegetarians. Weekend brunch is insanely popular, booking a table is necessary weeks in advance.
Mexico / Lucha Loco, Korkeavuorenkatu 4
There is an overwhelming amount of great options for Mexican food in Helsinki at the moment, but one of the more fun experiences is Lucha Loco, where Mexican wunderkind Manu Torchio serves up delicious tacos and other delights in a playful kitch environment.
Georgia / Café Raffaella, Fredrikinkatu 19
Café Raffaella started off as just another café, but slowly the Georgian born owners gathered the courage to bring their heritage to play, and gladly so – they now offer a very popular lunch of traditional Georgian dishes, including the crazy good khachapuri.
China / Annankatu between Simonkatu & Kalevankatu
Helsinki’s unofficial Chinatown is located on Annankatu, stretching only a few blocks and containing just a few Chinese restaurants, some Thai establishments and a great Japanese grocery store. The area seems to be building momentum, though, and is the best place to go if you want a piece of China in Helsinki.
Brazil / Favela
Named after the brazilian slums, this restaurant-bar in the Töölö district is filled with young professionals every night. The lively atmosphere and colorful decor function as an energetic background for small bites and big drinks.
Turkey / Antiokia Atabar, Eerikinkatu 44
photo courtesy of Antiokia Atabar
Antiokia Atabar or ATA as it’s known by regulars, is slightly over the top, but in the best possible way. Belly dancers, authentic Turkish cuisine, shisha and a very lively atmosphere amount to an incredibly fun night out.
India, again / Bar Bhangra, Runeberginkatu 28
Finish off your trip around the world in this insane explosion of Indian kitch. Enter the small neighborhood bar with an open mind, dance to blaring Bollywood music or try some chili vodka while swinging in the indoor swing set!