Chez Dominique is like a stream of bat’s piss

Which is to say, it shines out like a
shaft of gold when all about is dark; the culinary scene is so very,
very dark in Helsinki. If you can live with the geological pace of
service, this restaurant provides the best food we have experienced
in Helsinki.

Our initial impressions from their
website were coloured by the outrageous mark-ups on their wine-list;
most prices seemed like outright robbery. There were literally a
handful of less insanely priced wines, and we chose two that should
allow us to have a good time no matter what came out of the kitchen. Our impressions were improved by the design of the dining room, which
was suitably minimalist with large tables that were well-spaced. It
was a shame they felt the need to have background music playing.

Since we were dining on a Saturday
there was only a surprise menu of various course-lengths to choose
from. We bit the bullet and went for the nine-course tasting menu.

It started off extremely well with
three little ‘gifts from the kitchen’. Firstly came a cep ravioli
with cep foam in a cep broth. This was very mushroomy with great
purity of flavours, quite delicious. Following on came blinis with
turbot roe, smetana ice cream and red onion spaghetti. The blini had
a great crunchy texture, the ice cream interesting and tasty, the
spaghetti quite lovely and the roe very pleasing. It took forty
minutes for these two amuses-bouches to be served. The final offering
was duck confit with beetroot ice cream and beetroot broth. The duck
was very rich and crunchy with an excellent flavour that was
perfectly matched by the powerful beetroot, its slightly vinegay
tang giving this a good bite.

The last amuse bouche followed very
quickly after the second, so at this point we were a tad concerned
about the random pacing of the meal, the slow arrival of the first
real course demonstrated the speed was glacial. However, the dish was
quite excellent. It was a shelled oyster with the oyster water
whipped into a foam (a l’Arnsbourg) with exotic fruits. The fruit
sweetness perfectly balanced the flavour of the oyster and the whole
dish was a delight.

Foie gras followed, which is always a
bit of a worry in places so far from foie gras-land. We were not
disappointed by this. The piece of pan-fried foie was utterly
delicious and the pate was just great with some good shavings of
black truffle to add decadence. It came with a melon sorbet that had
a delightfully pure flavour and a little ‘Swiss roll’ made from a
sheet of melon stuffed with foie gras puree. Lovely stuff.

Next came a scallop with cauliflower
and scallop risotto, shaved black truffles, tarragon sauce and a
deep-fried tiny baby squid. This seemed to have been hanging about
for a while before it had been served, but it was lovely. Not only
was the scallop perfectly cooked, but the risotto was very
flavoursome and matched the scallop wonderfully. Perhaps the calamari
was a bit salty, but it did not detract from an otherwise excellent
dish.

Our final fish course was a piece of
sole with ginger sauce. David detests ginger so was pleased the fish
had not been smothered with it as the fish was cooked wonderfully and
had a great meatiness. This came with three little ravioli of lobster
that had a reasonable lobster character but were not amazingly
thrilling.

Then came a course to cleanse the
palate. Carrot puree with tarragon sorbet, a granite of carrot and a
lemon and ginger sorbet. Again, this looked like it had been waiting
around a few minutes too long, as the sorbets had melted slightly.
Yet, the flavours were most pleasing. The tarragon sorbet was
particularly intense. David avoided the ginger option but it was
extremely refreshing and powerfully flavoured.

We then had a truly marvellous piece of
milk-fed veal that was served with sweetbread, shaved black truffles
and a potato puree. The veal was meltingly tender and excellently
cooked, as was the piece of sweetbread. The pace of the meal may have
been sluggish in the extreme, but this was another dish that stopped
us from making a scene as it was so good.

Three microscopic pieces of cheese
followed. They were in reasonable condition but it was a shame that a
restaurant of this obvious quality could not manage to have a cheese
trolley.

Before dessert we chose three different
glasses of dessert wine to share. They had an excellent selection on
offer, all available by the glass. The Deiss 1989 Altenberg
Gewurztraminer SGN was mind-buggeringly good.

The pre-dessert was the only really
disappointing dish we had. It was titled ‘Crepe Suzette a la Chez
Dominique’. This consisted of a hard wafer of a crepe, on top of
orange blossom ice cream and orange sauce misted with some Grand
Marnier and orange water. It was quite bland, the wafer was too hard
and it had obviously been hanging around (again) as the ice cream was
liquid. It was a small dish so we were not forced to endure its
boring nature for long.

Dessert itself was a concoction of
berries with berry ice cream and sorbet, fresh berries and a berry
sauce. Nice fresh flavours that perked one up at the end of the meal.

We did not stop for coffee as we had
been there for over four hours and it was getting rather late. But
the meal had been a great success. We were bowled over by the quality
of the cooking, which was only slightly marred by the slowness in
getting dishes to the table. You have to chose carefully from the
wine list if you do not want to drink filth at outrageous prices.
This was the best meal we’d had since we’d last been at l’Arnsbourg,
demonstrating that this was indeed worthy of its two stars and
marking Chez Dominique as a beacon in the culinary desert that is
Helsinki.

Contact details and menus on theirwebsite

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