Onda: Global flavours in the heart of Helsinki
By Julia Vihinen | Photos: Onda
In the near decade since its opening, the Helsinki restaurant Onda has become a beloved institution in the Nordic capital’s vibrant, ever-changing culinary scene. The cosy eatery, located in the trendy Kallio district, serves up some of the most delicious and innovative cuisine in the city, all in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
Founded by a trio of friends with a shared passion for travel, Peruvian culture and South American cuisine, Onda opened its doors at a different location in 2014 and instantly became one of the city’s most popular spots.
Although the founders of the restaurant always had faith in their work and vision, the overwhelmingly positive response to Onda still came as a surprise to owner and manager Maya Talas. “The fact that we continue to grow in popularity still surprises us every day. We are of course deeply grateful for this and committed to maintaining the high standards that got us here in the first place,” she says.
South American inspired dishes
It is the food that truly sets Onda apart. The restaurant specialises in dairy- and gluten-free foods, but from the self-made seitan that has won over the hearts of vegans and omnivores alike to fresh and summery fish dishes that are perfect for warm weather dining, there’s something on offer for everyone.
South American cuisine is an important source of inspiration in crafting the restaurant’s menu, but Onda isn’t married to any particular cuisine. Instead, what is on offer is an array of global flavours inspired by the owners’ own travels around the world, as well as the fresh seasonal ingredients available at home in Finland.
“Our excellent chefs use only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. We make everything ourselves from scratch, down to the spice mixtures we use to season our food. You can really taste this attention to detail in our dishes,” Talas explains.
The iconic lunch buffet includes different foods each day, always consisting of two stews and a large selection of salads. The à la carte dinner menu changes seasonally four times a year, with many dishes prepared on the restaurant’s charcoal grill. Some of the new summer menu’s highlights are the potato gnocchi with puttanesca sauce, the famous char-grilled seitan with cherry glaze, and the miso-marinated grilled cod with asparagus, potatoes and crispy garlic.
Located in an old match factory, the restaurant also prides itself on its unique, laid-back atmosphere. The decor is understated but elegant, with wooden tables and chairs, exposed brick walls and soft lighting. The urban-inspired design choices – along with the loud chatter and clinking glasses – warm up the industrial space.
The name of the restaurant comes from the saying ‘¿Qué onda?’, meaning ‘what’s the vibe?’ in Spanish, a nod to the easy-going and happy vibe of the place as well as the owners’ connection to Peru and South America. According to Talas, Onda has a tight-knit community of both employees and regular customers. “Many team members have been with us since the restaurant’s inception, a rare occurrence in the industry these days. I think this commitment to shared values as a company translates into our excellent customer service and the welcoming ambiance and makes us stand out,” she says.
A multi-functional space
Adding to Onda’s lively atmosphere, the space also hosts one of Helsinki’s most popular nightclubs, Siltanen; after the sun goes down, the restaurant tables are moved to make room for a dance floor.
In the summer, Onda’s terrace stands out as one of Helsinki’s most spacious and sought-after dining spots. With a seating capacity of 500, it is a prime destination for a daytime or nighttime outing in the city.
Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or simply looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience, Onda is not to be missed. With its exceptional cuisine, warm ambiance and attentive service, it’s the perfect destination for those seeking the best flavours and vibes that Helsinki has to offer. Prepare to knock elbows with your neighbour, especially at the lunch buffet tables or on the bustling terrace during warm summer evenings. The packed crowd, however, only adds to the cosy conviviality of the place.
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