Formerly a busy industrial area, today the island of Pikisaari, just a short walk over a bridge from the heart of Oulu, Finland, is an idyllic residential area, with lots of artists who have converted the old factory buildings into studios. Standing for at least 150 years, the building that is now home to Sokeri-Jussin Kievari — an old sugar warehouse — almost became the final resting place for the warehouse owner, John Grunstrom, when he fell into a 1,000-liter vat of syrup. Fortunately for him, he was rescued by a worker, and “Sugar John” (Sokeri Jussin) became his nickname, and the name this wonderfully sweet restaurant has adopted. If you’ve never sampled the cuisine of Finland’s Northern Ostrobothnia region (a name that just drips with Tolkienian mystique), this is the place to try it.
Try This: Sample the Finnish beer Kukko Pils as you get comfortable at your outdoor table, right on the quiet main road, across from the Matila House, the city’s oldest wooden house (1739) and now the site of the Sailor’s Home Museum. Then begin your feast with a creamy soup of smoked reindeer and false morels, served with toasted rye bread and butter. Follow it up with poached perch in butter and a creamy leaf spinach sauce, steamed roasted seasonal vegetables, and parsley potatoes, or the pike perch from nearby Lake Oulujärvi. For dessert, you’ll love either the white chocolate cheesecake with strawberry sauce or the Arctic cloudberry ice cream with Arctic cloudberry sauce.