Everything moves in circles. The world spins around the sun. The moon travels around Earth. And in the same way, trends you thought never would come back, come back. À L’aise is the restaurant equivalent of a high-speed car chase down the wrong lane. The greeting and careful reception is overshadowed by the exceptionally specific turn-of-the-millennium timestamp on the interior design. Some say 2001 should only be repeated viewing the visual spectacles of Kubrick, and that the only people who should be allowed to go back to 2001 should be highly skilled museum conservators. But a lot of people love this beige-on-beige-on-grey look, especially the more senior visitors, for whom all of this is simply magnificent. The champagne trolley, with wheels that aren’t quite big enough to match the high-pile shag carpet, is fully loaded. But disappointingly, they seem to have furnished it with loot from their last trip to the airport. The tax-free selection puts a stain on what could have been a free dive into bubbly fun, but our dismay fades when the food is brought in and we fall into a luxurious state of well-being. It starts off gently, as we sit in the soft grey chairs. The sommelier pulls out classics, a few highlights, and makes sure our palates are cleansed before the next serving. A parade of neoclassic French-inspired dishes follows, since we forked out on the tasting menu, but if you don’t there is a fine selection to be ordered from à la carte. Norwegian seafood is served in new ways. Hidden under a sheet of gelatinised milk, a scallop dressed in a heated and sweating Spanish ham perfumed with hazelnuts and topped with winter truffle evokes a small outburst of joy at the tables nearby. The small and firm langoustine tail is dressed in fresh raspberries and preserved beetroots. The meat dish, veal en croute, is a juicy piece of calf’s meat rolled in a crispy crust. The textures are pleasing and the mild meat gets a little kick from the surrounding crumbs. There is a lot of produce from Norway but no seasonal or geographical restraints. With Chef Ulrik Jepsen’s dedication and drive we have no doubt that À L’aise will find its audience and develop new experiences. À’laise is a refreshing new arrival on Oslo’s dining scene with its contemporary take on French luxury.
With high ambitions in terms of ingredients and the technical execution of complex dishes, Aabyudengaard serves an inspiring array of re-envisioned Danish classics, taking a playful approach while surprising us along the way. We begin with a tour de Denmark whose route passes through Northern Jutland, Funen, the Wadden Sea and Bornholm. The technical finesse of the kitchen is evident in their take on a Danish classic “Sun over Bornholm”. A beautiful egg yolk confit in a velvety coating of smoked cream accompanies a wonderful smoked herring, topped tableside with a potato salad in chiffon form: an amazing combination of rich flavours, soft textures, salt and smoke. Our tour moves on to the Wadden Sea with a fresh and deliciously composed oyster topped with aquavit foam and rosehip gelée. A surprise comes as the waiter removes the empty oyster shell and reveals the second part of the serving: turbot with saltwort, sweet jelly and crisp breadcrumbs, topped at the table with a split seaweed sauce. This cheeky and intense surprise is initially somewhat unattractive in appearance, and the fish drowns in the flavours, but the fresh and highly acidic 2015 trousseau from Baud in Jura is an intelligent and solid pairing. For dessert, we end up on the island of Funen with Denmark’s “brunsviger” cake, traditionally made with a yeast dough coated in a brown sugar glaze. Here it begins as a wonderful apple crumble on a delicate ice cream with goat’s cheese, all of which goes nicely with an Austrian trockenbeerenauslese. The second part of the serving features a daring and successful combination of apple granité with the flavours of brunsviger in a kefir cream with vanilla and nuts. The coffee is brewed at the table and served with a sublime sea buckthorn sorbet with caramelised white chocolate, rounding off an exquisite evening with surprising, innovative and ambitious double servings.
Guests sit rather tightly packed in the lively restaurant, where the menu and drinks are presented elegantly in bound books, reflecting the great effort and attention dedicated to ensuring a memorable dining experience. The book about the dishes also reveals the kitchen’s affinity for local ingredients, while the wine book features profiles of the curated winemakers. The five-course menu begins with an ultra-tender lamb carpaccio with fresh acidic rhubarb that goes nicely with an elegant hazelnut cream and crisp shredded hazelnut. The delicate lobster bisque with the familiar intense flavour of the crustacean’s rich sweetness contains fresh langoustine tails with the taste of the sea, crème fraîche and chive oil, and is paired perfectly with a crisp and mineral riesling 2014 from the Alsace winemaker Leon Beyer. Arriving next on attractively arranged plates is lamb shoulder on the bone, cooked for twelve hours in Carls Special beer at 90°C and then roasted in the oven for one hour at 200°C. The coarse-fibred, juicy and rich meat is served with poached egg, celeriac purée, root vegetables and a delicate fatty lamb jus. The next serving offers a choice between cod or lamb loin. The flavour of the lamb fully justifies the fact that, even here i Tórshavn, Faroese lamb is more highly prized than that from New Zealand. The freshly roasted pink meat has exquisite structure and taste, with the fine accompaniment of small new potatoes in their skins, blanched herbs and jus. A range of dessert options are offered for the finale. We sample a rhubarb compote with roasted nuts and whipped cream, which is a bit tame. But the well-executed liquorice ice cream served with a brownie has pure anise notes to balance the cocoa flavour, and is adroitly paired with a characteristically oaky and creamy sweet Ximénez-Spínola sherry.
Hours of yumminess. Can it be too much? No, not in the company of Adam and Albin, who finally get to show off their cooking skills in their first real restaurant. We capitulate the moment a caramelised langoustine with a thin film of jowl meat from an Iberico pig arrives. Under the sea creature there are nice pieces of ginger-scented Iberico cheek, sprinkles of crispy potatoes and a layer of cool cucumber slices. Irresistibly beautiful and delicious. Umami meets meatiness, crunch and crispiness. The two super chefs Adam Dahlberg and Albin Wessman have transformed their “food studio” into an intimate restaurant with a homey feeling where plants, mirrored walls and spotlights create a nice atmosphere – along with cool music streaming from the speakers. The small entrance space contains a bar and closet. The communal table is a holdover from the past but the romantic corner table is new. Our gastronomic delight is at its highest when we dig into the dish that became most popular on White Guide’s instagram last year: a black ceramic dish filled with butter-yellow mashed potatoes that melt in your mouth, which you then mix with bright green chive cream, pale yellow sour cream and a dollop of orange bleak roe from Kalix with grated nutmeg. How can you go wrong with such a super combo? A fatty and tangy savagnin from Domaine Marne Blanches in French Jura heightens the flavours even more. There are no set wine pairings, but rather a discriminating wine list and a wine fridge from which many fun bottles emerge. The concept is that guests buy five servings at a fixed price; you start off with few snacks and select the rest from the menu. This is a good way to begin: a delicious mouthful of chestnut chips with chestnut cream and Brillat-Savarin cheese under a thin slice of raw mushroom. Subtle. An utterly beautiful plate comes next, comprised of thin slices of crudités in different colours – light green, light yellow, pink and white – which cover a piece of crab and French cream with cold-smoked oil. The next dish is a contrast, a hand-cut beef tartare in shades of brown that is no beauty. But – oh, what flavours when the white truffles mix with the egg yolk and toasted almonds in a deep broth made from roast beef! The wine is equally magical, a red Roncevie from Domaine Arnaud in Burgundy. It works well, even with a whole-roasted pigeon with sweetbreads, three different kinds of roasted cabbage and fennel cream. The irony flesh is balanced by the cream and contrasts with the sweetbreads’ caramelised notes. A lovely riesling spätlese from Weingut Vollenweider leads us to dessert. And who can resist a fresh bergamot sorbet with juicy blackberries paired with meringue topping and a powder of wine-red blackberries and green sencha tea? It is addicting, like most everything at Adam/Albin.
The guys behind the Ved Stranden 10 wine bar have embarked on an ambitious new project. At Admiralgade 26, the excellent wine is joined by cuisine that is personable and unassuming, yet still maintains an edge. The decor reflects a controlled chaos with designer furniture scattered throughout. Each evening they choose to adorn one of the raw wooden tables with a Damask tablecloth, making it the “elegant” table that diners may end up at by chance. The bistro also has an academic touch, with its own newspaper featuring such luminaries as Rilke and Kafka. Consideration must also be given to sustainability, various dietary interests and other matters of importance in the upper echelons of the gastronomic world. The restaurant’s chosen style is assured with the adept Chef Jonas Hillgaard (formerly of Relæ and Manfreds) in the kitchen: there is room here for culinary enjoyment and luxurious indulgence. The menu inevitably offers oysters and caviar, but in combination with great creativity and artistry. The starters tend to be stingy in size, but the house bouillabaisse is nonetheless worthy of mention. With a reduced, rich fish stock, loads of fresh fish and shellfish, and a generous use of liquoricey herbs, this soup teems with flavour. The main course of hanger steak is succulent and intense with bits of rich marrow and sharp, pickled onions. The juicy pata negra pork is wonderfully chaperoned by a wealth of small chanterelles and slightly bitter cress sprinkled generously on top. Mustard adds an edge to the flavour of both meat dishes, which are of the highest class in terms of ingredients and preparation. Many of the wines are within the realm of organic/natural, though not dogmatically, and every wine on the menu is also available by the glass – a sympathetic touch. We enjoy a 2010 Barolo from Eugenio Bocca in La Morra. With a remarkably elegant combination of classic notes of warm herbs, white flowers and tobacco held together in a highly tannic body, it’s the type of wine you dream of meeting again. Add to this the competent and empathetic service, and it should come as no surprise that we certainly will be paying a return visit.
Imagine a kitchen garden you could raid year round to create inspiring seasonal vegetable dishes. Now you know what von Krahli Aed is up to. Its menu is fit for vegan royalty. In fact, it was one of the first restaurants in Estonia to shift to more vegetarian/vegan-friendly cuisine, and the kitchen crew does so masterfully. The starter of celeriac carpaccio is the only thing that sneaks in meat, it comes with thinly sliced, maltose-marinated duck breast but can also be served meat-free. All main courses focus on one main ingredient; The onion, with “ryesotto” and Jerusalem artichoke; The carrot, with sea buckthorn cream and beet noodles, and so on. Aed’s drink’s list is equally eco-friendly. And the milieu stands true to the restaurant’s name, “aed” is the Estonian word for garden. Also worth noting: the restaurant is housed in an avant-garde theater building, for those of you who want a side of culture with your kohlrabi.
Few people in Sweden’s restaurant industry are as freely controversial as John Jureskog. Not just because he played Robespierre in the meat revolution Stockholm underwent a decade ago, but also because he still insists on the virtues of meat at a time when bloody steaks are as modern as fax machines. That’s nothing compared to the shock that swept through the masses of root vegetable hipsters, organic food freaks and sourdough disciples when Jureskog stepped down into fast food Hades and developed three gourmet burgers for McDonalds last year. Still, Jureskog is relentless in his mission. And total salvation is what you get at his meat temple on Kungsholmen. The entrance is like stepping into a horror movie. Heavy carcasses hang on shiny hooks in the huge glass fridge. Tiled walls have the right slaughterhouse vibe. The bizarre ham tree gives you the heebie-jeebies. The approach is brilliant and AG is one of Stockholm’s hottest and sexiest restaurants. The first course is a difficult choice between, say, air-dried Wagyu, lightly smoked bacon or pork pâté with pata negra, Parmesan cheese and pickled vegetables. The main courses are just as direct in their articulation. Some more complex dishes are available but one does best by ordering from the cuts in the fridge: Rib-eye, T-bone, club steak, porterhouse. The sides are classic, like béarnaise with fries or potatoes au gratin. Jureskog likes to go for the meat hot and hard and this lovingly harsh treatment of the excellent raw ingredients results in pieces so heavenly good that we ignore the facts about meat’s carbon footprint and instead let the sin become part of the spice.
You should treat yourself to a dinner menu at the always-packed hipster hole-in-the-wall all the way down on Roslagsgatan. Agrikultur has certainly found its home in the flavours, and the food is delicious, as it only can be from cooking on low heat and with lots of love. For there are happy cooks in this kitchen, and it’s not just a marketing ploy – it shows in the atmosphere. Sure, it can feel a little pretentious when Philip Fastén comes lugging in their firewood for the stove, but the grin on his face is far from affected. The presentations could easily be described as “heaps of food” – but who cares when it tastes this good? Like the comforting broth of over-night-roasted cabbage that kicks off the meal. It is poured from a chipped enamel coffee pot over a potato foam and Gotland truffles. What more could you ask for on a cold November night? The trout dish closely resembles a salad with raw, tender kale and smashed potatoes. “I’m going to splash some sauce over it”, says the chef as he swirls a delightful liaison sauce over the top, flecked with popping trout roe. For wine recommendations beyond "What do you like?" you must practically pester the staff, and this is where the relaxed philosophy goes a little overboard, because it’s difficult to judge from the menu what flavours might be hiding in the dishes. Like the umami-intense moose shank with caramelised beets, goat's cheese, black currants and a generous sauce. It’s only this good when, in Chef Fastén’s own words, “you have stopped making food to impress people”. Hats off to that.
It’s the yin and yang of dining; the city’s finest restaurant rubbing elbows with its most down to earth eatery, both located at Pärnu Hedon Spa. While Raimond is upscale, Akord is the people’s restaurant. We mean this literally, as Estonians love a good barbeque and Akord is just that, through and through. The curious thing about it is the “build-it-yourself” menu; guests can, or rather must, create their own dishes, first by picking a protein or vegetarian option to be grilled, then by choosing sauces and sides. The menu offers guidance, should you have trouble deciding in which direction to go, just trust us when we say hold your horses; while you might want to order multiple things, one dish is more than enough here. We suggest you opt for the hanger steak or picanha of Liivimaa beef with asparagus, rich onion- and mustard sauce. Wash it down with Mamm & Frukt Family Reserve Dry Blackcurrant Wine. Trust us, this berry wine has surprised even the most skeptical sommeliers.
We begin with a champagne called Mémoire. Crisp, with some depth, it proves a good pairing with the evening’s many snacks. It is also a harbinger of things to come: a parade of beliefs and memories manifested as dishes. Renowned for his social engagement and bold creativity, Chef Rasmus Munk compels diners at Alchemist to contemplate a wide array of perspectives. We are whisked away to every corner of the world Munk has visited, into uncharted waters with ingredients such as live insects, udder, blood and offal. The dishes push us to the limit, some gently and others more forcefully, yet the experience is held together by the careful selection of ingredients, impeccable flavour and cordial, humorous and knowledgeable service. Alchemist has but one menu and it contains 45 servings. It is all-in from the get-go with a tart sprinkling of ants over a mouthful of frozen apple foam and picturesque flowers. The kitchen’s affinity for molecular gastronomy and miracle powders is immediately clear as it conjures up juice-filled “cherries” with a hard chocolaty shell, chips with tomato powder in an edible bag, and mushroom quiche featuring a sphere that explodes on the palate with the intense flavours of mushroom and thyme. The meal is interwoven with entertainment and deliciousness, as evidenced by the gin-based drink we sip through straws from an iced lemon to the sounds of Balkan disco. The electronica-heavy soundtrack, curated especially for the restaurant, is a story in itself. Diners arrive throughout the evening, however, so it may be pure coincidence that a scathing violin intensely accompanies the proceedings as we stuff ourselves like caged geese with foie gras cream and freeze-dried maize. It tastes good, but the serving is not exactly pleasant and the symbolism is hard to miss. The same is true when Munk rolls in with a drip bag hanging from a rack that contains “blood” of beetroot and chicken stock. The sauce is sprayed over a lamb’s heart filled with tartare and we are furnished with a leaflet containing information on organ donation. The symbolism is more light-hearted as the theme from Beverly Hills 90210 blares out from a pair of headphones and we let all seriousness subside and simply munch on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The ham is dried Joseli from about the same year (2006) that Rasmus Munk spent time in front of the TV in his teenage bedroom. Similarly humoristic are the satay skewers with “balls” – cock balls, that is – that we grill over charcoal, and wine gum earthworms that we dig up from edible soil. The food is kept on track by the excellent wine pairings and an exotic juice menu featuring such choices as avocado juice and piña colada. Generally speaking, the wines are better matched than the juices. Take the iced tea with yuzu, for example, which is far too sweet for the deconstructed sushi of Japanese cod with caviar and soy sauce in a cone of nori, whereas a deep, mineral aligoté from 2007 fits this lovely dish like a glove. Forty-five servings sounds like a lot, but time flies by from the moment you take your seat at one of the dining bar’s soft chairs and allow yourself to be treated and entertained. Alchemist is intense, often teetering on the edge, and it will expand the horizons of the vast majority of its guests. In return, it is never boring and offers a virtually unparalleled total experience that is equal parts delicious, thoughtful and thought provoking.
Let’s first get the confusion out of the way: there are two restaurants called Alexander. The first in Pädaste Manor on Muhu island, open from spring to late autumn, the other at Toompea in Tallinn, open in the wintertime, when key staff from Pädaste welcome guests at Alexander Chef’s Table. True to its name, it’s an establishment with an open kitchen, a single table accommodating up to fourteen people, with one seating per evening. The excitement is palpable already at the front door. It’s like being invited to a private dinner party; you ring the doorbell of an ordinary apartment building, then you’re invited past a peaceful, quiet courtyard, into an intimate wood-beamed room with elegantly minimalist touches. The staff is casually dressed, focusing all attention on the gala-clad food. Chef Adrian Klonowski and the Maître d’ Carlo Vanzan begin by setting the mood, from there the ambiance is dictated by the guests, most often strangers who finish the night as friends, having bonded over an elegant gastronomic experience, despite language barriers and cultural differences. Communal tables have existed just as long as the family meal, with the Chef’s Table, the ritual of breaking bread has taken a new direction; food connects people. At Alexander, Chef Klonowski found complete creative freedom and developed a unique, multi-facetted cuisine, based largely on Nordic island produce. Today, the restaurant attracts visitors that might not otherwise have come to Estonia. It opened the doors to this country and simultaneously started welcoming exotic ingredients from faraway lands into its own kitchen. To be sure, these don’t dominate, rather they enrich the spectrum of local aromas.
The fairytale of Pädaste Manor began 21 years ago when Imre Sooäär and Martin Breuer purchased the completely run-down countryside estate. They told the locals about a crazy dream they had: someday in the not too distant future, foreigners would come from all over the world to visit Estonia, and expressly to spend a few days on the small and unknown island of Muhu, at Pädaste, which they were making into a sumptuous hotel. People stopped listening. The dream, however, came true. Why? Pädaste mixes luxury with local island life in a rare and savvy way. To experience the true character of Pädaste Manor you can’t just stop by for a quick visit, you need to stay at the hotel, use the spa, and enjoy a meal at Alexander, the establishment’s restaurant. Over the years, Alexander has acquired a reputation for spearheading the development of Estonian culinary culture as a whole. First, they conjure gourmet meals out of humble local ingredient, i.e. slender garfish, dried flounder, local snails, and foraged weeds that used to be considered inedible This has inspired local fishermen and farmers, who in turn have set an example and encouraged other entrepreneurs on the island to open local eateries. By now, Muhu might just have the country’s highest ratio of restaurants per capita. Muhu bread is legendary among Estonia’s bakers. Craft beers are also gaining recognition. There is an ostrich farm on the island, and a grape farm with an emerging vineyard! Muhu’s inhabitants have always depended on the sea for their livelihood, just like seafarers have always brought home new exotic flavors. Alexander’s Nordic cuisine is nothing new, nor is it an ultra-narrow niche. By now, its reputation (as well as that of Pädaste) has risen to such heights that the establishment is no longer merely a place to eat and luxuriate, it’s also a sought-after work place for chefs. Lately, foreign culinary professionals have perfected the local dishes even more. The kitchen, run by Polish Chef Adrian Klonowski, offers a seven-course parade of super-local flavors at the chef’s table, patiently thought through, down to the smallest detail, turning the traditionally rustic palatably fancy. A shorter menu, consisting of three dishes and changing on daily basis, is offered to guests who chose to extend their stays at the hotel and might not be in the business of multiple tasting menu experiences. 21 years have passed since the locals laughed at Sooäär’s and Breuer’s dream, they’re not laughing anymore.
There is a high ceiling at Aloë – both literally and when it comes to flavour. Few restaurants in Sweden take you on such a breathtaking journey through flavours and combinations from different food cultures. The chefs/owners Daniel Höglander and Niclas Jönsson tug and tease out flavours in order to develop new sensations for the palate. Their concept is that nothing should be taken as a given. One evening might be inspired by Asian flavours, another by North African – or some other cuisine that attracted exploration. But seasonal produce is always the foundation. The old grocery store in the suburb of Älvsjö is attracting more and more and more foodies – and they get a lot of inspiration for their money. Especially if they sit at the green marble counter overlooking the concentrated assemblage taking place in the kitchen. Four evenings a week they offer a fixed menu full of surprises. The professional service staff usher out large wooden serving trays. The Galician cockles are a big hit, intermingled with octopus arms under a grilled slice of lemon butter surrounded by light green parsley butter sauce. The minerality of the Portuguese Vale da Capucha wine enhance the experience. Sommelier Per Larsson’s wine selection is consistently spot on and the European-dominant wine list impressive. Aloë is behind one of the year’s most beautiful dishes: three quickly seared langoustines from Fjällbacka, passion fruit, crisps of arborio rice, Parmesan cheese and yogurt alongside an emulsion of smoked egg yolk and another of sambal badjak. After an intense kick-start of flavours, like a miso-flavoured crab with cardamom leaves, comes a soft Junmai sake as an in-between beverage to calm the over-stimulated senses. Then, pheasant heart on a satay skewer and grilled skin, and after that a lark: under a black blanket of amontillado sherry gelée hides a thin slice of steak stuffed with Parmesan cream in a parsley broth and, on the side, a dollop of roe. A syrah from McLaren Vale in Australia amplifies the refined umami and fatty acids. The chefs’ ambitions are high in each dish – like a dessert of fried apple ice cream, vanilla custard sauce flavoured with Jerusalem artichoke and yet another unexpected condiment: a dollop of barely frozen coriander cream attractively decorated with lemon verbena and crispy bread. They sure are having fun in the kitchen. Or, to quote Höglander: “We have to do something to keep the diners from falling asleep”!
Artful, chic and effortlessly cool, Amandus is housed in the equally tasteful, ambitious and new hotel Artagonist in Vilnius’ quaint old town. And while Amandus’ street level, à la carte dining room has its charms, the real gem here is Chef Deivydas Praspaliauskas’ tasting menu-only basement lair with vaulted ceilings and white washed walls. The multifunctional environment here is high tech, resembling a culinary- and communications studio––a nod to our social media-obsessed culture, perhaps. A large, white table dominates the space and serves as a chef’s counter where Praspaliauskas shows off his talents, both to curious diners and to a live camera as the chef appears frequently on TV and the shows are most often filmed in the restaurant. We made a curious reflection as the waiter asked us how we would like our duck filet cooked; the restaurant recommends medium rare. We found that the same “medium rare” characterizes Amandus very well in two respects. On the one hand, it’s almost got the doneness preferred by the chef, on the other, given time, it has plenty of potential to mature nicely. The nine-course menu, made with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and hand picked “pedigree” imports, changes monthly.
It’s quite a trek out to the furthest reaches of Copenhagen’s Refshaleøen, where the crew at Amass usher guests into the high-ceilinged, street-art-clad cement-encased room with one of the most beautiful views of the city’s skyline. Chef Matt Orlando is at the head of a unique team comprising chefs, waiters and his wife Julie, who from their open kitchen spend the evening serving diners in a friendly and personable style that never becomes overbearing. Everyone appears to feel extremely comfortable here and the clientele is a diverse group representing more than one corner of the globe. Orlando’s style is all about show-casing pure organic flavour in original compositions and he is bent on avoiding waste and utilising as much as possible from the restaurant’s own raised garden beds and newly-built recirculating greenhouse. Amass is a crown jewel in sustainability, so it comes as little surprise that the kitchen practices the craft of fermentation. Orlando learned many tricks of the trade while at Noma, but he avoids hyperbole and every culinary decision is bound by what makes sense for a given dish. A cured brill is served with residual yeast from a beer brewer, fermented plums from last year and freshly picked shoots of arugula from the greenhouse. It is an overwhelming explosion of sharp arugula balanced by the acidic lemon peel, heat from a little chilli, sweetness from the plums and umami from the yeast. In another attractive dish carrots are seasoned with apple cider vinegar, chamomile and Japanese tea, and come resting atop a “ricotta” made out of blended almonds with notes of marzipan; the pickled elderflowers prove imperative. The sweetness is balanced by a wonderful glass of Pouilly-Fumé from Alexander Bain; it shows how restaurant manager and sommelier Bo Bratlann has curated the wine list without an iota of compromise, while also daring to think outside the box. The kitchen seamlessly weaves new cultural tales into the meal, like when Orlando transforms the chuno technique (the Incan method of drying potatoes) in an enticing dish of mussels, ramsons, dried potatoes and burnt lemon. Vegetables are at the hub of the sustainable philosophy, with meat served sparingly but all the more admirably. The lamb neck comes from animals that graze on pastures of angelica on an island off Iceland – and that flavour comes through in the heavenly meat, whose richness is held tautly together by black pepper oil, celeriac and sour cream. The desserts cater to the sweet tooth without going the pastry path. Despite the brilliance of the caramelised croutons with grated browned butter and frozen yoghurt, the top scorer is the vegan hazelnut ice cream with coffee grounds, marzipan, slightly burnt flakes of Oiala chocolate and meaningful drops of porcini oil. It’s the most luxurious ice cream on a stick ever, and just part of the accomplished execution that indicates that Amass is a restaurant at the pinnacle of its achievement.
This restaurant and its owners exude enthusiasm and dedication. In the middle of Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district, three talented restaurateurs who present themselves as Partick, Johann and Andreas have opened a wine bar with a five-course daily menu, from which diners can also order à la carte. The room resembles the rustic living room of a local designer. In the back is the treasured collection of wine constituting the establishment’s primary raison d’être. But make no mistake: the food is excellent and excellently priced. The cuisine here is inspired by the leading Nordic restaurants and a love of flavour. Take, for example, an invigorating and delightful cut of perfectly prepared cod on a fresh and creamy potato purée with miso cream and a forest of cress, topped with crisp rye flakes. The composition of this evening’s dishes is exquisite. Nordic cuisine is in full effect with pickled leek, burnt leek, chopped pickled parsley stems that taste like capers and small islands of ramson mayo. The wines are available by the glass or bottle – all of which cost less than DKK 500. In our glasses, we enjoy bubbles from Mas Candi, Tinc Set from Penedes, and a north Catalonian L’Esprit de l’Horizon, which despite its warm origin is cool like a burgundy and razor-sharp – and, of course, biodynamic. The service is remarkably attentive and professional. If you don’t happen to eat lamb, which is the main course today, the kitchen can instead whip up a serving of pork neck. In which case the wonderful Comté with browned butter is substituted with an inventive celeriac dish. With a lively glass of red Loire wine from Hervé Villemade, we arrive at the lemon soufflé at the end of an inviting meal that’s perfectly suited to a weekday evening out, as well as slightly more festive occasions.
It’s all in the details at Antonius, the cuisine here is a whispered study in subtle details and aromas. Small, considered accents such as flaxseeds, chervil oil, birch syrup, spruce sprout vinaigrette, cornflower and buckwheat muesli create enticing nuances and rich flavors. The plates hold few ingredients, focusing on a pair that carries the dish. Trout and avocado, lamb and Jerusalem artichoke are perfect examples of Chef Taavi Adamson’s stellar use of this unassuming cooking style. His food, made with locally sourced ingredients, from carefully vetted purveyor, matches the surroundings. The restaurant is located in the Hotel Antonius, a handsome edifice boasting a rich and storied past, once the Livonian Noblemen’s Manor House Credit Association, later a hat shop and a police station. The dining room is in the basement, affording guests the pleasure of admiring rare historical and architectural elements, impressive rib vaults among them. An affordable, seasonal prix fix, three course menu has recently been added, proving old time values can be preserved and presented in a fresh, exciting manner.
The name AOC refers to restaurant manger, owner and sommelier (“Christian Aarø and co.”), but it is also a fitting wordplay on the term “appellation d'origine controlee” because of the originality and exquisite experience of dining under the historic vaulted ceilings of the basement at Moltke’s Palace in the heart of Copenhagen. Aarø, one of Denmark’s most knowledgeable wine experts, is joined by Chef Søren Selin, himself a leader in gastronomic perfectionism and creativity. Selin and Aarø’s competence and professionalism permeate the atmosphere and staff in way that makes everyone relax and enjoy this exceptional culinary journey. The appetisers start off with the Nordic notes of sea lettuce, fermented and subtle cucumber, fried cladonia lichen with chicken liver and, not least, a small fried potato crustade with leek cream that delivers the classic taste of sour cream and onion. The Nordic tartare taco is an impressive display of originality, made from choice minced beef from a biodynamic farm that slaughters one cow a month; it’s accompanied by acidic and bitter pickled gooseberries and distinctive cress. After that we transition to mild creaminess in the form of flounder with hollandaise and Havgus cheese. Only then does the actual ten-course menu begin – and what a beginning! Our fantastic young waiter is ebullient as he serves whole kohlrabi with the top still attached to each guest. Lifting the “lid” from the top of the root vegetable reveals a mild tarragon cream on top of a Limfjord oyster and small cubes of kohlrabi, apple, kale and sweet woodruff. All the taste sensations and multiple textures are at play in this rewarding and comforting explosion of flavour whose green theme is adroitly paired with a grüner veltliner from Weingut Pichler-Krutzler in Wachau. All of the dishes ultimately earn the status of “favourite”, including scallop in thin layers with the crispness of daikon and acidity of fermented asparagus, tied together by mussel cream and dill oil. The signature dish of Zittauer onion with caviar and elderflower is equally unforgettable. This mighty onion is baked to a core temperature of 90 degrees, then presented and carved at the table as part of the evening’s extensive table presentation, after which it is arranged with two types of caviar and then topped with a refreshing beurre blanc with elderflower and champagne. Paired with the riesling Mölsheim from Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier in Rheinhessen, this serving is pure elation. The menu continues with BBQ king crab, whose smoke notes and lemon thyme send mind-blowingly intense flavour careening in all directions through our tasting apparatus. Potatoes with morels, Danish lamb with ramsons, caramelised Jerusalem artichoke, and hazelnut and juniper berry ice cream with fermented gooseberries and blackcurrants all confirm that AOC is a place for a celestial meal that combines innovative Nordic purity with classic virtues.
During the day, Aparaat is a popular lunch place. You get your food fast, you don’t go hungry (the portions of no-nonsense food are very large), and it all comes at a reasonable price. Just as the guests like it. This is not when you should visit Aparaat. You want to come here for dinner when the dining room becomes a venue for exciting culinary encounters. Of course, the restaurant is an attraction in and of itself, housed in the former Widget Factory that during Soviet times manufactured secret submarine parts and––in an effort to mislead the public,––non-functioning umbrellas and zippers. The supper menu is still reasonably priced, though portions are less he-man sized, with a flavor-spectrum full of personality; smoked pork neck on Muhu bread is a classic favorite, other dishes include a non-traditional vitello tonnato, made the Aparaat way, with pork instead of veal and a tuna sauce flavored with spiced Baltic sprat. Aparaat’s burger is legendary nationwide. The establishment’s owners have understood well what the people of Tartu desire when stepping out on the town. The atmosphere is homey but not too much, a bit old-fashioned, but not excessively, a tiny bit modern, but within non-threatening, acceptable limits.
Apelsini Raudtee or orange railroad gets its name, not only from its proximity to the train station, but also from the railway’s history of bringing exotic fruit to the country from St. Petersburg over a century ago.
With a strange name comes an even more peculiar restaurant. Upon entering, it may seem like you’ve walked into the wrong place, as you’re greeted by bathroom showroom, but behind the tubs and sinks is the small dining room.
The menu is just as experimental as the decor, with a mix of local and international dishes and brunch at the weekends. Apelsini Raudtee is not so experimental, as dinner is still served at the table, not in the tub.
We are sitting on discount café chairs and the table is far from spacious. There’s music in the background and the decor is neutral at best. Yet none of this matters because food and people are what it takes to create atmosphere and a great experience. Mads Hyllested’s cuisine is grotesque, in the positive sense: affordable yet innovative, humorous, and perfectly served in complex compositions. We choose a 2012 German biodynamic riesling from Clems Busch, but could just as well have chosen another from the many excellent options. The wine list is well composed and even the cellar wines are inexpensive. The service is youthful and relaxed, but highly knowledgeable and capable. Our starters include delicious and sticky teriyaki-marinated chicken drumsticks with a bold marrow cream full of ferrous notes. This dish is surpassed in its coddling of our instinctive pleasure receptors by a crushed potato confit in browned butter with rich sour cream swathed in lumpfish roe with a perfect balance of salt and acidity. A slice of grilled, oil-drenched bread with a discreet Høost cheese sauce and crisp, generously salted chicken skin on an artichoke cream is a true incarnation of Hyllested’s genius and economic acumen. It’s a simple yet rousing seasonal dish with a wise use of ingredients – but comfort food first and foremost. The baked cod with acidic and crisp marinated kohlrabi and a blanquette sauce with smoked butter is a bit dry, unfortunately. But we are spellbound by the magnificence of the roasted Brussels sprouts and Tuscan kale with parsley cream and shredded, dried lamb heart, which of course packs umami and a powerful depth that would bring a smile to the lips of even the greatest of cabbage sceptics. A little twist of lemon here adds to the brilliance and testifies to
Hyllested’s gastronomic deftness. Applaus is a venue for small dishes that showcase popular flavours, though often surprising in concept and composition.
Arakataka may not be situated in one of the cosiest parts of Oslo but from the second you enter the mid-sized, elongated restaurant you feel relaxed and looked after. The bar, the open kitchen, and the professional but rather laid-back attitude of the friendly staff all contribute to the feel-good atmosphere. The interior is stylish and could be described as Nordic-woodlands-meets-Japanese simplicity, and it works well with the kitchen’s well-balanced and delicate Asian-European cuisine. After the delicious sourdough bread with malt and house-made butter we are ready for take-off. The menu offers a choice between an à la carte menu with 12–14 different options and a set menu of five dishes with wine pairings. Don’t miss out on the latter as the wine competence here is well above average. This is illustrated by a beef tartare with nasturtiums, fermented turnips and a béarnaise-like crème where the perfect-temperature meat has depth and sweetness. The somewhat surprising pairing is a crémant de Jura; the wine rinses the palate beautifully making the dish stand out and adding a touch of freshness. Bingo! The spaghetti with bleak roe is another winning dish where the precisely cooked pasta combines delicately with the salty roe, adding a Nordic vibe to an Italian classic. The menu offers a good selection of other local/Nordic ingredients, like red king crab and skrei cod. The former is combined with cilantro, lime and chilli and is as an excellent choice if you are looking for high-class comfort/finger food, but the cod is just a tiny bit overcooked and the dish lacks acidity. The barley risotto topped with raw, sliced mushrooms is not perfectly balanced either and the kernels are still a minute away from all dente, but the kitchen gets back on track with the turbot with baked and grilled celeriac and ramsons, and a finger-lickin’ good chicken from Holte with kale and yellow beets. The wine list at Arakataka is a well-curated and fairly priced selection of mostly French and Italian classics mixed with more unusual bottles like Australian natural wines and English sparkling wine. After a well-executed double espresso we are back on the windy street, but wishing we were still inside.
Not that it’s a totally new concept, many restaurants display art, but few turn their dining rooms into full-fledged galleries. When wittily named Art Priori opened in 2015 the restaurant became an immediate hit thanks to the inventive cuisine and the perpetually rotating, young chefs preparing it . The first group of them is already triumphing elsewhere, Orm Oja, for instance, was entrusted with managing NOA Chef’s Hall. In Estonia’s most prominent restaurant kitchen, the present kitchen crew is still extremely young and talented. An eatery where the chefs change as quickly as the paintings on its walls? It’s rather unheard of in the restaurant world, normally that’s a surefire recipe for failure, not so here. Though Art Priori isn’t receiving as much media attention these days, the food is still great, the tasting menus have been replaced with à la carte options, but everything is still as interesting and innovative as it used to be, supervised by rising star Chef Aleksander Kolomar. Lately, he’s snuck Russian nuances into his offerings, stroganina with three types of fish, accompanied by artisan horseradish aquavit is a perfect example.
Artipelag combines art and architecture, and the food is just as beautiful. The pines sway welcomingly when we arrive, and the waters of Baggensfjärden seem to stand up and wave. The dining room is modern and pared down. The maître d’ is jovial; he greets us with warmth and a boisterous laugh. It’s nice here, far out in the archipelago. The salad made from pickled celeriac, portabello, Jerusalem artichokes and farm eggs is candy to the eye, as well as for the palate. Greens from Artipelag’s roof are chopped up in the salad. More nature is served up during a casual yet exquisite outdoor barbecue buffet on summer weekends. It takes place at Bådan’s, the somewhat simpler restaurant on the ground floor. Late in the fall we eat bleak roe with nicely carved vegetables. The fish that follows comes at a price, but falls apart so nicely in sheer layers that we want to applaud. We conclude with a raspberry bavaroise and supernaturally good chocolate.
Fragile, slender parsnip roots are coiled on a stone slab with small dollops of turnip-rapeseed mayonnaise to dip them in. Yes, it’s spring and things are finally beginning to grow in the fields so that Ask, the primary interpreter of New Nordic cuisine in Finland, can start working with “primeurs”. We close our eyes and enjoy the root vegetable sweetness, milder and softer than the stumps of autumn carrot with marigold mayo that also lands on the table, perhaps as a reminder of how long and harsh winter has been. In the sparsely decorated room, with benches along the walls and Ilmari Tapiovaara’s simple wooden chairs, nothing here betrays that we are about to be treated to a spectacular show in roughly fifteen acts. Chef Philip Langhoff surely learned a lot during his years in Norway and Barcelona, but back on his home turf he is engaged in poetically interpreting the harsh and characteristically acidic Finnish traditions. To go with the evening’s tasting menu (the only option), most diners wisely opt for the beverage pairings too, either with purely natural and biodynamic wines or with interesting non-alcoholic options. A buttery broth of roasted barley is paired with a beer from Stockholm Brewing Co., packed with fruity notes of apricot and mandarin to balance the cereal taste. Toasted buckwheat with a crème made of yesterday’s bread (zero waste!) and salsify follows the same idea but gets exhilarating and refreshing acidity from a vinaigrette. After by far the most delicious dish of the evening, a thick chicken broth with celeriac cream, egg yolk confit and ramsons, we get the strangest match of the evening – a rather inelegant tartare of venison with chopped hazelnuts in the company of a glass of Sancerre from Sébastien Riffault. It doesn’t exactly all come together, but we barely have time for concern before we get a waft of a brilliant chenin blanc from Domaine Huet in Vouvray and dig into more buckwheat, in the form of porridge with nettles. The flavours converge; our knowledgable waitress has guided us safely and securely. Dried salmon roe is served in a flower of onion petals, but wait, doesn’t it taste a bit like apple? Yes, there were apples involved in the braising of the onion, she smiles. A sorbet of sour milk, frozen yogurt, pickled elderberry and juniper oil indicates that the end is near. But first we must face one last seduction: mini pancakes, the size of thumbprints, with spruce shoot caramels and brown butter ice cream. It’s heartbreakingly good.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.