Once in a while you stumble upon the perfect little restaurant that has it all: great food, ambience and service. 1H+K is that place, although it happens to be in Vaasa, Finland so I’m not able to pop in nearly as often as I’d like. However, I did make the most of my short stay and enjoyed dinner at 1H+K twice.
1H+K stands for one (1) room (huone) + kitchen (keittiö) and that’s exactly what it is, although there is a private dining room available (they call it a cabinet). The restaurant (ravintola) is tucked away on the first floor above the Pentik shop but it isn’t part of the store. It’s completely independent and is accessed through the main entrance with its own staircase. However, you can spot the restaurant from inside the shop.
Its relatively hidden premises is part of the charm. It’s like discovering a secret location for those “in the know”. It certainly feels as though it’s the type of place only locals know about, as there is no English version of their website. Fortunately, I was able to find their main menu on their Facebook page that included the English translation. The dishes feature local produce and seasonal cooking, which means that the menu changes a few times a year and remains small (as it should be) with 4 or 5 items per course.
Paulo and I were warmly greeted in perfect English and were asked to choose any table we wanted. We settled in the comfortable chairs and benches scattered with cushions. We took in the serene ambience with its grey, white and cream tones and admired the original artwork on the walls.
Although 1H+K have an excellent wine list of carefully sourced producers, we went for a couple of G&Ts on both nights. On this trip we discovered Napue, a rye-based gin from Kyrö Distillery Company located in a converted cheese factory in Isokyrö, only an hour’s drive from Vaasa. This gin was everywhere in Vaasa and with good reason. It’s simply amazing (we may have bought a few bottles at Helsinki airport on the way back). The gin is served with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic and garnished with rosemary and cranberries to bring out its meadowy botanicals.
“Herbal and sweet, essential oils of meadowsweet and gentle citrus on the nose. Full bodied herbal flavour ending with notes of pepper of rye on the tongue.” (Official Website)
Dinner began with some freshly baked bread and butter topped with coarse salt. It was so good we had to resist the temptation of a second serving so we could leave room for our 3-course dinner.
For our starters, we both had the sautéed scallops with cauliflower, broad beans, radishes and fresh herbs. They were perfectly cooked and beautifully presented.
On another evening, I enjoyed the creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup with perch, a fish with firm white flesh that flakes nicely when cooked. The soup was more like a delicious foam as the crowning glory for the tasty perch. A drizzle of olive oil provided depth of flavour. It may not have been a colourful dish but it was a delight in terms of tastes and textures.
The arctic char was a real treat for me, as I haven’t seen it in abundance on menus here in England. The last time I had this rich fish with pale pink flesh was in Canada. The arctic char’s mild flavour was enhanced by mussel sauce, Beluga lentils and a variety of vegetables. It was so delicious I insisted Paulo order it the next evening. He found it excellent too and thought the flavour profile was somewhere between trout and salmon.
On the first evening, Paulo ordered the sirloin with parsnip-foie gras purée, root vegetables, potatoes, broad beans and truffle sauce. The beef came from the Limousin breed of cattle which is prevalent in Finland and renowned for its high quality, delicate texture and full flavour.
I was so glad I had the chance to return to 1H+K to feast on the organic lamb. It was very tender as it had been braised overnight so the meat was succulent and flaky. I was told the lamb came from the Perälä family farm nearby and the owner happens to be a friend of the chef. A great supplier relationship there, one that guarantees high quality. The lamb was served with a medley of delicious veggies, a creamy purée and rich sauce.
It was nice to see cheese offered as a dessert course. Paulo ordered a deliciously velvety cheese from the Mouhijärvi creamery, a 3-hour drive from Vaasa. The cheese was served with crispbread, greens and cranberry sauce.
We both loved 1H+K’s take on crème brûlée, served with citrus fruits. They sat on top of the sugar crust so they were easy to eat first. Once the crisp top was cracked into, the lingering taste of citrus provided a slightly tart contrast to the sweetness of the vanilla custard.
The handmade pralines were decadent little balls of deliciousness that came in three flavours: Venezuelan chocolate, vanilla and blackcurrant.
Paulo’s espresso was an excellent brew from a Finnish coffee producer. The Finns are among the biggest coffee drinkers in the world and know how to make a good cuppa.
I enjoyed a loose-leaf Earl Grey tea, served with a packet of honey. I loved that! Plus, the shopper in me noticed that I could buy the same mug at Pentik downstairs. Before you ask, yes I did go back for a spot of shopping!
I highly recommend visitors seek out 1H+K on their next trip to Vaasa. Locals who haven’t been there yet must set this place in their sights. It’s a nice dinner out, for business or pleasure. They serve breakfast and lunch too.
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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