Last summer, I accompanied the hubby on a series of weekend trips to various cities around the country for his RC car competitions. In the process, I took what was basically the abbreviated Sushi Tour of Finland. Such as it is. Finland doesn’t have a huge number of sushi joints, so there are usually only a couple per city at best, unless it’s a particularly large one like Helsinki. Then they might have, like, ten or so. Sadly, I do not exaggerate. And most of them probably opened in the recent past, because there were considerably fewer when I first visited 7 years ago. Coming from a place like Southern California, where you’ll pass by a dozen sushi places within a five mile radius, it was a bit frustrating. It has also led to our obsession with finding these places whenever we travel, which was the case here.
I had first heard of this place from a stack of advertising postcards left at the coffee shop downstairs from the American consulate in downtown Helsinki. It was a bit out of the way during that trip, but I had it in the back of my mind to visit should I ever have any reason to be in the Espoo area. Which, as luck would have it, was last July.
LN-Sushi Art is this little hole-in-the-wall that reminds me of many of the casual sushi bars we have back in West LA. You know the type – anonymous glass plated front, inconspicuous signage, next to a convenience shop, surrounded by apartment buildings, across from a highway. It’s within comfortable walking distance from Aalto University, which is where we happened to be hiking over from during a friend’s break from volunteer duty at a RP convention. That is a completely different story (involving blacksmiths in leather and drunk guys spilling out of a Saunabus) I might get around to later.
Anyway, the interior is just as chill. This is Finland, after all, where walking in and grabbing a booth is the standard. Hostess stands and maitre d’s are about as rare as… well, sushi restaurants. 😉 The decor was minimalist to the point where I don’t really recall anything but one poster with large kanji calligraphy. The menu, however, was anything but. In fact, it’s probably one of the most well-stocked menus I’ve found in the country so far. Not as much as Cali, perhaps, but given the difficulty of procuring even the more common seafood items out here, it’s quite an accomplishment.
I ended going with tuna, ikura (salmon roe, one of my favorites), ika (cuttlefish), amaebi (sweet shrimp), king crab and hokkigai (arctic surf clam). The last two in particular I had never seen at another restaurant in Finland before. Strangely enough, given how ubiquitous salmon is, ikura (at least the large plump ones used in sushi) is hard to come by. I could have easily ordered double what I did, but my friend was a sushi beginner so I stuck to the cooked offerings (grilled salmon, inari, tamago, ebi, and unagi, the usual suspects) for her to ease her into the experience. As you can see, they came neatly presented with a comfortable bite-sized topping-to-rice ratio. Hey, it’s something you notice when you start dealing with different schools of sushi sizing, like back in Cali.
Yeah, that food disappeared pretty fast. We went for a dessert too, so I could introduce previously mentioned friend to the joys of anko daifuku, which is also not something you see really often out here. Mmmm, sweet azuki bean paste. It came, weirdly, with a dollop of sweetened condensed milk topped with sprinkles. Possibly because the proprietors feared that the Asian idea of “sweet” wouldn’t really cut it as a western dessert. Then again, it could just be because sweetened condensed milk is tasty in its own right. I have fond childhood memories of using it as a spread on toast, so who’s to say you can’t use it as a dipping sauce.
Verdict? Gads, I’m SO going back there again at the first opportunity. Heck, I wouldn’t even consider its location out in the ‘burbs to be too far, anymore. I have only tried one other Helsinki Japanese restaurant so far, but this one was fresher, friendlier, and carried a wider selection. The prices were reasonable and everything well-executed. One of the best measures for a sushi restaurant, I’ve found, is if I feel like I could be sitting down to somewhere back home, which is what this place did very well. Based on the pictures they post on their Facebook page, they also have a lot of fun designing creative sashimi displays for parties. A catering service that I would happily take advantage of with alarming frequency if I didn’t live three long, sad hours away.
Sites I contribute to that list this restaurant: