Finnish Food at reasonable prices? In Helsinki? No way?
Aino is one of the legendary female figures from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. She was a maiden that went to the seas and transformed into a fish, mourning her lost love. Not so much drama in this beautiful restaurant sharing the name with the wet lady. Aino is a relatively new addition to the Helsinki restaurant circuit and - why is anybody's guess - still empty. The saturday night the best girlfriend and I visited (at 20:00) there was nobody there apart from us. I don't understand this, as I certainly didn't find any ratpoo or teeth in my food. Maybe I just missed a damning restaurant review, or maybe Helsinki on a saturday night is just not the place to eat.
Aino is tastefully designed in earth colours and has a terrace on the back (which, in - 10 degrees celsius, we didn't try). The food is traditionally finnish with a modern twist: plenty of fish, reindeer, lamb, tastefully arranged and well presented. My smoked Lamb Soup was inspired and the following lamb steak with traditional finnish sausage and sauteed vegetables was heaven. The same goes for the best girlfriend's fish starter and her vegetarian maincourse.
The winelist is well chosen but, typically for Helsinki a bit pricey (A Jacob's Creek Semillion for 36 Euro? Please!), so we stayed with the classic finnish beer, Lapin Kulta (at only 6 Euro almost a bargain).
Service was swift (well, we were alone) and friendly, and the bill came to 72 Euro which we found comparatively harmless, having spend the night before for similar fare almost double. So, Traveller, if you find yourself in the centre of Helsinki and crave some local food, Aino will be just the right thing.
If you don't mind solitude....
RESTAURANT AINO Pohjoisesplanadi 21, 00100 HELSINKI, tel. (+358 9) 624 327