The eight-headed, silk and bamboo dragon by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei that greets guests is the first clue: the St. George hotel, which opened in May 2018 makes a strong bid to be Helsinki’s most cosmopolitan accommodation. More proof comes in the restaurant one floor below, which is overseen by Mehmet Gurs, the chef of Istanbul’s Mikla restaurant.
With its low lighting, chocolate velvet chairs, and smoky gray walls, Andrea is a sophisticated spot, and at lunchtime its tables fill with fashionably dressed business people. Like Mr. Gurs himself, who is the child of a Turkish father and Swedish-Finnish mother, the menu at Andrea is something of a mash-up. But rather than fusion cuisine, with all the haphazard blending the word implies, Andrea serves highly polished Turkish dishes made with Finnish ingredients.
Or at least mostly. An exception starts the meal in the form of the house-baked bread — instead of a warm pide, it’s a proper sourdough served, in the Nordic way, on a slab of polished tree trunk with freshly churned salted butter on the side. From there, though, the flavors change quickly to the bright, supple tastes of the Mediterranean. The mezze, or small plates meant to be shared, belie their apparent simplicity: from the lush muhammara, a walnut-and-red-pepper paste slicked with fruity olive oil to a chicken salad spiked with kebab spices to a stew of smoky braised eggplant sparked with tomato and tiny, nutty chickpeas.
Mains are built largely around the grill that is the star cooking technique of the Anatolian kitchen, whether a simple skewer of lamb, its edges perfectly charred, its interior still rosy; or a thick curl of octopus, the tentacle glazed sweet and smoky with pomegranate molasses. But throughout, there are hints that we are far from the Bosphorus. That lamb skewer, for example, is served with a dollop of cicek, the traditional herb-flecked yogurt, but instead of fresh cucumbers it’s spiked with very Nordic pickled ones. A starter of perfectly cured salmon, the flesh pink and plush, is beautifully offset by its own pickles — in this case tart green apples — and an emulsion of the same fruit that is like the best apple sauce you’ve ever tasted. A final dusting of sumac transforms it into something far more cosmopolitan than its parts.
Andrea. Andreahelsinki.com; Lönnrotinkatu 4; Chef’s menu, 52 euros.
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