A21 Cocktail was awarded the World's Best Bar 2009 and continues to maintain itself at the top of the game. In 2010 they expanded into a restaurant called A21 Dining that based a menu upon the seasons and their cocktails, which was a first in the world of dining.
Winter brings around the journey up north to the Lappish region and so similarly food and drink on the set menu are designed with this in mind.
I had the pleasure of meeting and being served and educated by one the owners Nikos. He spent diligent time with me explaining the history behind A21, the concept, the menu, and each individual dish and cocktail as he brought them out. It was refreshing to see a manager interacting with the customers.
A21 Dining also has a spectacular lounge area which was recently adorned with a continuous "fireplace" on the tables themselves (which I discovered later is a machine with steam, a computer-programmed LED light show and plastic "wood") which I want to mimic for my living room or outdoor setting back home.
The menu allows you to choose between 3, 5 and 7 courses with or without matching cocktails or wines. I chose the full 7-course with cocktail experience.
- starter of marinated herring, thick blob of squid ink and a shot of warm onion broth;
- Ruska (beauty of the fall) - creamy pumpkin soup, roast pumpkin, pumpkin puree, walnuts (for texture), cep mushrooms, pickled vegetables, medium-strength Finnish blue cheese, bland pumpkin bread. Served with a bitter cocktail of carrot, orange, cinnamon. Definitely a standout dish with divine soup and presentation;
- Tunturipuro (pure mountain stream) - lighltly roasted white fish, apple & fennel ice, mustard seeds, white fish caviar, bread crumble, seaweed caviar, snow crab. Served with potent clear spirit (?vodka) apple, fennel, coriander cocktail;
- Lumi (snowland) - slices of snow glazed grouse, heavy-flavoured mushroom porridge, oatmeal cracker, cauliflower 4 ways (raw, boiled, dehydrated, foam). Served with a blackcurrant & rosemary cocktail - odd but nice;
- Loimu (a moment in the Kota) - delicate Norwegian wood-smoked salmon, herb crackers, horseradish veloute and cream, salmon cream, radish & salmon roe. Served with a coffee bean, cocoa bean & crowberry cocktail in a kuksa - like a sweet berry coffee with alcohol. Salmon was a second standout - this was not smoked salmon, this was salmon wood-smoked as a whole piece and lusciously light and delicate;
- Revontulu (dance of the northern lights) - elk glazed in its own juice, beetroot 'risotto', beetroot puree, liquorice sauce, liquorice crumble, olive crumble, honey and homemade rosemary focaccia. Served with an intensely alcoholic lingonberry & liquorice cocktail. Spectral presentation, tender elk with a slight game flavour and nice beetroot;
- Kevataurinko (spring sun) - sea-buckthron tart, berry sorbet & sauce, white chocolate muesli, salted peanuts, meringue, berry candy. Served with an exotic spring sun cocktail of orange, passionfruit with vanilla foam;
- Jaakarpalo (jewel of the snow) - cranberry slush/sorbet/parfait/jelly/jam, caramel crisp, pistacchio & peanut earth. Served with a maple leaf, cranberry & vanilla cocktail;
- petit four - orange passionfruit marmalade, homemade chocolate truffle.
All-in-all a great experience partially due to the host, the venue, the food and the journey.
Next time I would order all the courses in the Scenery Path given the time. If you want to stick to something shorter, the Arctic Path covers the best 3 dishes. The essential dishes are Ruska and Loimu. Revontulu and to a lesser degree Lumi were also good. They apparently have the option of smaller tasting portions of the cocktails, which I would recommend unless you like to drink a solid amount of alcohol.