Restaurant review: Ravintola Taivaanranta, Lahti

If you ever find yourself in Lahti, Finland (even if it is quite unlikely), and are a friend of good food, you might want to visit Ravintola Taivaanranta. I would say it’s the best restaurant this city has to offer, and I’d like to think I know a thing or two when it comes to good dining experiences. The city hosts multiple international events every year, from classical music to sporting events, including the FIS World Cup, so I’m hoping this review could be useful to some. I visit the city (it’s my hometown) with my husband few times a year, and tend to always gravitate towards this restaurant. Sure, we have also tried the other upmarket restaurants around here, but think this is the best one by far. The restaurant has a small distillery downstairs, and you might even want to sample their own whiskies and beers. Also, in terms of ambience, I find this to be the nicest and most comfortable place.

We went to the restaurant around 4.30pm without a booking. Taking into consideration that it was early Friday evening, a week before Christmas and the place is very popular, the restaurant did very well to accommodate us by shuffling their table plan. They are open all day from 11am until 10pm, which is very suitable to those browsing the shops and getting hungry at unusual hours.

We decided to opt for the 5-course Tasting Menu. At €61 per person, the price seems decent.

The meal started with a decadent, flavoursome Lobster Soup. It was smooth, rich and creamy, yet the lobster flavour was still very well present rather than disguised by cream. And it went perfectly well with our champagne aperitif.

Soup was followed by Boletus (mushroom) Risotto. It was quite mild in flavour, yet pleasant in taste. I thought the risotto itself could’ve been ever so slightly more al dente, however my husband didn’t think that was required.

We had a bottle of 2007 Amarone Della Valpolicella (this wine always brings nice memories, as it’s the red wine we served at our wedding). The first bottle was corked. This of course is not the restaurant’s fault, and the only reason for mentioning it is because they dealt with it very professionally. Soon enough we were enjoying a perfect bottle.

Next course was fillet of beef, Whisky Pepper Steak. The cooking of their fillet steak has kept us going back to this restaurant in the past over and over again, as it’s right up there with the best Michelin star restaurants we’ve dined in (we’ve been to around 40, ranging from one to three starred). We both had our steak medium rare, and it was perfect for us, however I could see someone might think it being on the borderline of being just a tad too rare. For my taste, something on the plate was a little bit salty, however I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was. My husband didn’t think this, so it might just be a question of personal taste, and it didn’t stop me from cleaning the plate.

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Next was Chocolate Sorbet. I would strongly advise you to try this, even if you’re not normally a fan of sorbets. You could be fooled into thinking that it’s actually very dense, chocolatey ice-cream.

Last course was Cheese (Viinitarhurin juusto) with apple jam. I’m a lover of strong cheese, and even though this wasn’t that strong, it was pungent enough to satisfy me. The sweetness of the apple jam also went nicely with this medium-hard cheese.

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After this we had a couple of drinks at the bar, with a bar food platter of smoked vendace toast, crayfish tortilla and cured ham. I would recommend to everyone even just to pop in for this if passing by, the smoked vendace toast is a delight.

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I would definitely recommend this restaurant. From a traditional fine dining point of view, considering we had a five-course tasting menu, the portions were very generous, however we must’ve been very hungry because we managed to finish all plates. For most, having big portions is probably not something that would be seen as a negative, so this will serve everyone, even if you have a big appetite.

Rating:★★★☆☆

Wiener Schnitzel

This dish, one of Austria’s national offerings, is one of my favourites. It’s a thin piece of breaded, pan fried steak, traditionally veal (however I use sirloin steak when cooking at home). The key is you will use a mallet to hammer the beef thin, which will keep the steak tender. The dish should be served with a slice of lemon, however I ran out of fresh lemons so I just drizzled some lemon juice on top.

sirloin steak
1 dl plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg
2 dl breadcrumbs
butter
slices of lemon

1. Hammer the meat with a mallet until thin, 5-10mm. I tend to place the steak inside a freezer bag for this, to reduce mess. After this, it’s easy to cut the fat off.

2. Mix flour and the spices on a plate. Beat the egg, and place on another plate/ bowl. On a third plate, pour half of the breadcrumbs.

3. First, coat the steak with the flour / spice mix. Second, coat with the egg. When lifting the steak off, let excess egg drain back onto the plate. Third, place on the breadcrumbs, and pour the rest of the breadcrumbs on top. At each stage, make sure the steak is fully coated.

4. Let rest for 5 minutes on your chopping board.

5. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and fry the steak, 2 minutes each side.