We’re pretty sure that the general health of the Swedish populace would improve if doctors could prescribe visits to Daniel Berlin. The experience has been fine-tuned even more this year and, without sacrificing the friendly and familiar hospitality, they have sneaked in several small attractive service elements. The outdoor pause, for example, has been expanded to a small buffet around fire baskets and kerosene lamps where the cooks feed us small flavour-packed Brussels sprouts from a stalk just taken out of the garden and sweet chestnut pancakes with leeks and ramson capers. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. After the welcome at the farm by the Berlin clan, Sweden’s most service-minded restaurant manager Ellinor Lindblom kicks off the show at 18:30 sharp. Come on time, because everyone eats in the same sitting. The cavalcade of snacks is brilliant, with a mix of new and old hits. The thin wafer with wildfowl liver mousse and its subtle cinnamon dusting is still one of the yummiest things that has been served in Swedish restaurant history. But there are also new favourites like “the lobster sandwich” topped with dried umami-intense lobster bullion; the little tribute to Skåne in the form of a yeasted pancake with vinegar pork and an icy, fast-melting disk of frozen horseradish cream; and the bright green sorbet egg made from frozen Aroma apples and wild sorrel. The bread serving proves that Berlin’s crew knows when to make things complicated and when to respect simplicity. The bowls contain goat and cow’s milk butter from Vilhelmsdal. No more, no less. But what butter! We could live for a week on that butter and the plump, honey-sweet, four-grain bread. The traditional homage to the artist of the season (Lena Nilsson with underwater-inspired art) is a composition of raw shrimp, tangled seaweed, beets, and pressed rhubarb, eerily well balanced with an intense seafood sweetness, with dill oil to bind the dish together. The charcoal-grilled celeriac with its broth made from Prästost cheese is still here, but returning visitors get a variation in which the same root vegetable is served as a beautiful mille-feuille with opal plums, and smoked wild boar jus. The cod is prepared to iridescent perfection and served with a slightly smoky, frothy butter sauce, onion, and apple. Simple. Obvious. Intelligent. And terribly good. After the break, there’s laughter and fraternization (how often do you get to talk with your fellow diners at top restaurants?), and the wild duck comes in. Heart, breast, fillet, and fried tongue. It comes with a few dabs of slightly different sauces, but they feel almost superfluous once we sink our teeth into the bird. Berlin has mastered game like no one else. The meat is cooked with extreme precision in order to maximise the bird’s deep, muted, iron flavours. The desserts are worth a chapter of their own. First a lukewarm cream of Amandine potatoes is paired with a tart chokeberry sorbet and ground elder oil. An unlikely smash hit. Less unpredictable, but oh-so-irresistible is the combo of ice cream, salty meringue and rosemary caramel. Then it’s off to mother Berlin’s greenhouse where the Kenyan coffee beans are first pressed with the Aero Press and then served with a thin tuile of local bean-to-bar chocolate – just as acidic and intense as the coffee. The second cup is much milder, V60-brewed with the same beans – ingenious. It is served with a nourishing and comforting, warm rosehip soup and ice cream poetically flavoured with whitebeam buds.
De 4 Roser is an institution in Harstad, and the longest-running fine dining restaurant in the northern part of Norway. It has outlived trends and stood the test of time thanks to a combination of quality and conviviality that has pleased visitors and locals alike for 21 years. They welcome you as a friend and you leave many hours later both happy and full. It’s impossible to pin down a time frame for the style of De 4 Roser’s plates; they look like they might be from the 1990s, the 2000s, or even last year, but it’s refreshing to eat food this flavourful. You can choose from a three to six-course set menu based primarily on local produce, where they source what’s available during the warm months and preserve it for the cold months. The menu follows the usual setup: fish, meat, cheese and sweets, and their extensive use of vegetables means that you don’t leave the meal feeling overly full. The wine list is well worth diving into, and owner and sommelier Trond Dahle is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about both wine and local sightseeing and hiking. Although the dining room is in a dire need of renovation, the old wooden building in the middle of the small city center is full of charm and an evening at De 4 Roser is always a pleasure.
We receive a fairly brusque welcome. “No, we don’t have your booking,” says the guy who is to be our host for the evening. As it turns out the man, a steadfast, long-standing member of Demo’s staff, gradually eases up and even begins to show signs of a sense of humour. We’re in his hands now, and those of the chef, who has secretively concocted a menu we know nothing about. While still in suspense we pore over Demo’s wine list, which is as expansive as it is expensive, offering a veritable forest of champagnes. To entertain our taste buds we receive a minuscule circular tranche of kohlrabi with dried cod roe. Yes, we are amused. The atmosphere at Demo is a bit subdued and borders on the precious; most of the diners are in their 30s and 40s and seem to know what they’re doing. Intriguingly draped lights play a major role in an interior solely dedicated to eating. Demo’s bread is inventive, featuring a streak of dried and fizzy mushroom stock in its centre. Instead of butter it comes with pork fat, lardo style, with house-cured bacon, honey and flaky sea salt. Before we even know what the first course is we receive a glass of Chablis Premier Cru that we enjoy immensely. And just when we think it’d be nice to eat a minimally cooked king crab with marinated rhubarb, it is placed in front of us. It comes with a hearty jus that jives with the rhubarb. There’s a bit of tarragon-infused mayo playing hide-and-seek in there, too. The crab fits hand in glove, so to speak, with an Alsatian white made from the unusual auxerrois grape. Then more bread, this time a beautifully rich malt variety with whipped butter. Before the third course is laid on we’re being poured a clean and subtle Châteauneuf du Pape, which is just the thing with Demo’s Iberico cheek and “pluma” from behind the neck, accompanied by diced, fermented zucchini, and grilled carrot crème. This pork dish has tremendously deep flavours. Puffed buckwheat, onion flowers, and chopped chives make a contribution, too. After a short break we’re tucking into white chocolate ganache, celeriac ice cream and caramelised bits from the same root, along with crumbled malt bread and a sauce based on whey. Wrapping up our Demo visit, the Faubel beerenauslese riesling neatly dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. Demo may be small in size, but its cuisine has immense flair.
A nondescript wooden door with no sign makes Derelict’s entrance blend into the badly worn neighbourhood. But once you’ve rung the plastic doorbell and have been let in, the exposed bricks, hexagonal floor tiles and warm lighting make you feel warmly welcome. A cheerful waiter with slightly baggy jeans presents the concept along with handwritten menus listing the evening’s ingredients. There are three options: a short one with mostly vegetables; a long one with meat, fish and seafood; and a really long one with over fifteen dishes. A chewy taste sensation in the form of beets with charred skins opens the meal. Next we get bread on a stick, a smoked and grilled oyster in its shell with fermented gooseberries, and baked cauliflower soup with pieces of pickled cauliflower. A rather dry elderberry lemonade and Uno, a forward Spanish white wine, make good company. The fennel bonanza is one of the evening’s highlights, showcasing the vegetable in different forms – raw planed, in ice cream, as fronds, puréed, poached and fried. The following three dishes revolve around lobster: tartare, fried claw with broth, and butter-basted with horseradish. They are so flavourful and buttery that the glass of riesling from Zind-Humbrecht is needed just to break it up. The waiter frequently presents the origin of the ingredients in detail: “Mouflon sheep from DeVilda, shot by Micke”. The mutton is served with red currants and a Jerusalem artichoke trio in the form of purée, potato chips, and baked nuggets. Sweet pieces of venison, also from Järna, come with puréed parsnips and water lingonberries to brighten things up. Derelict is one of the hardest restaurants to book a table at not just because it’s hip, but because it is also a carefully crafted, albeit somewhat uneven, dining experience.
The Dia (from the Latin word for daytime) hides its charms behind a stone wall. When the restaurant is closed, the passer-by might never suspect food and a warm welcome behind the big pair of wooden gates. But they open to a cosy courtyard not a hair broader than the gates are wide; and the first tables are within arm’s reach, and so are the plush, comfortable chairs and couches. In the summer, there isnoneedto venture further. In the winter, the interior appeals with even cushier chairs upholstered in blue velvet, with eye-catching lamps lighting up the room. On weekdays, Dia closes at10pmand thus justifies its name for any Southern European guests. Champagne and sparkling wines take up nearly half of the drinks card. The perceptive browser will take the hint. The menu certainly does– most of the dishes are designed tocomplement sparkling wines. The squid & crab is served on a cushion ofgreens with peashoots and samphire in preponderance. The crab is fresh outof the tin (tut-tut!), butthe squid, lightly dusted with herbs, is extremely fresh, juicy and delicious. The pairing isunusual, but why not? It reflects the streets of Kaunas, where derelict former industrial buildings stand side by side with cutting edge design. During the day, Kaunas looks like anup-and-coming place. Sodoes the restaurant.
With the first snacks, the tone is set. Algae, rum, ash, and dill (of course). The Icelandic seafood, smoke, fire and locally sourced produce with deep flavours make Dill the Atlantic’s northernmost spot for wandering gastronomes. Here you can experience New Nordic cuisine in the volcanic Arctic environment. The old building in the middle of town has a raw charm with high ceilings and many original details scattered about the rustic wooden tables. When the evening darkens, the spotlights create atmosphere around the cooks as they assemble the dishes in the open kitchen. The three snacks arrive quickly. A baked Jerusalem artichoke covered with tarragon powder stands out, as does dried egg yolk with trout strips which are smoked with, among other things, dried sheep dung – a reference to the time when everything had to be utilized. They have great ambitions here when it comes to matching the food with both beer and wine – though there are no alcohol-free pairings. The sommelier is well read but not that pedagogical when it comes to explaining the ins and outs of the biodynamic natural wines. The Greek orange wine, Roditis from Domain Tatsis, is demanding with its muted fruit – yet a superb combo with the dish containing pickled mushrooms and a tasty mushroom broth under a thin mushroom-powdered crispy round of baked celeriac. An unoaked biodynamic chardonnay from Mâcon is also well matched with char and cucumber. The lightly cured fish is covered with chartreuse parsley powder and accompanied by crème fraîche, pieces of salted cucumber, and toasted crumbs of rye bread. It’s stylish but the flavours don’t quite get off the ground. The smoked haddock is an equally handsome presentation, but with yummier flavours. Dill oil and creamy, whipped skyr (Icelandic yoghurt) create contrast for the smoky fish, which is paired with a bitter sweet-sour Belgian-brewed beer: Mikkeller Hva Såå!? The service is nimble and even the chef is part of the team around the tables. The tempo is high and the atmosphere is good among the international guests who get a seat in this Nordic food temple. In a country that has more sheep than people, a lamb steak is a foregone conclusion – tender and nicely accompanied by baked parsley root, pickled fennel, and fennel cream. It’s not exactly a showstopper, but it is good together with the Montefalco wine from Umbria. The challenging mix of barley grains, malt and dried grated guillemot (a sea bird) is interesting with its wild notes but does not raise the roof. The first dessert, on the other hand, is one of the best of the year: a beautiful scoop of red beet sorbet with a lid of meringue powdered with tarragon rests in a cream of the caramellized whey cheese called brunost. All these intense and contrasting flavours meet in a perfect mix of caramel notes, sweet earthiness and fragile sweetness. The bubbly raspberry-fruity Pieropan wine enhances the experience. They also get it right with a Norman apple cider served with poached pear with almond sorbet and a sauce made from birch sap served in a beautiful ceramic bowl. The entire setup at Dill testifies to ambition and feeling. Though we wish the service had a bit more personality and charm, we leave feeling extremely satisfied.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a fresher meal. The fish at this rustic seaside eatery in Dirhami Port goes straight form the boats, through the kitchen and onto your plate. The ever-changing menu is dictated by what the anglers catch, and it really doesn’t matter what they pull up, as there isn’t one aquatic creature that the chefs here can’t turn into an extraordinary meal. Extraordinary is not an exaggeration here. Every Estonian loves Baltic sprat but the ones served here are nothing short of amazing; accompanied by rye bread and devoid of that bitter sprat taste so common with this Baltic fish. The flavor is elegantly sour-sweet and the texture is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Always on the menu: three types of traditionally prepared fish dishes, again rivaling anything we’ve tasted anywhere else. You can’t go wrong with the pan-fried pike perch, and for those less interested in local catches, there are plenty of non-fishy options on the menu. Chef Joel Kannimäe is one of the three legendary founders of the equally legendary Põhjaka Restaurant. Finally, consider this: the Fish Café is open year round, there are very few places serving fresh fish straight from the boat in the middle of winter.
No, Chef Mikael Einarsson did not shoot the Sormland deer, not this time anyway. But hunt he does, out of interest in food and perhaps even to maintain respect for animals and the raw ingredients. Even though there is also a completely vegetarian menu, it is the meat that takes center stage, or rather, the animal. They serve one at a time here, every few weeks. And what animals! Cow from Rafna farm, Linderöd pig from Halla farm, deer from Äleby farm, and Ockelbo chicken. To mention a few. The kitchen’s focus also comes through in the interior details – meat scales as a coat rack, taxidermied animals and antlers on the walls, and butchering diagrams on the tables. There are a lot of textiles and a lot of ornamentation and all of it together creates a fun, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The knowledgeable and sympathetic staff reinforce the homey feeling and the meal with their apt wine recommendations. Already the mouthwatering little smoked venison sausage that comes with lemon and egg foam and dried venison on the bottom of the plate speaks to the solid craftsmanship, especially as we know how difficult it is to make sausage from game. The broth made from the legs lends itself to an umami-fueled dish that has almost everything one could ask for – flank steak confit, suet-fried steak, a trio of cabbage and truffle! The seared tenderloin is the star of the show with thin slices of baked celeriac shaped almost like flowers, pickled rowanberries, fried kale and Comté-baked egg yolk. And there’s “Quiet chair” on the menu: what’s that? Well, it means that you can choose to have the staff keep quiet about the food and allow you to eat in peace. It costs nothing. We like that.
Now that the entrepreneurial academy and its notoriously zany students in this courtyard on Mejlgade have relocated, things here are not quite as unconventional, but they remain highly creative. Restaurant Domestic provides the entertainment with ambitious cuisine focused on local ingredients, fermentation and pickling, combined with attentive yet discreet service. With an aesthetic sense of the beautiful rustic surroundings, the interior is well appointed as a cosy and distinctive restaurant. However, the overall mood is somewhat unsettled by the boom box in a corner of the restaurant blasting out anachronistic 80s music. We begin with eight different snacks, alternating tactfully between the very fresh, salty and intensely umami-rich. Standing out as small masterpieces are a croustade with potato cream and salted cod roe, and a crisp slice of Jerusalem artichoke with pickled gherkin, while the dried lamb proves overly insistent and strong in flavour. The waiter excuses the next dish in advance as one that some people love and others hate. And, indeed, the attempt to deliver a rethought fried egg with rutabaga, egg yolk, lardo and miso sauce feels like an idea that’s still in the works. The dish is undersalted, the poached egg yolk seems sluggish and dry, and the ingredients just don’t blend well together. On the other hand, however, the sherry pairing is an ingenious and daring choice. The ensuing dish is, however, fully complete in conception and execution: roasted beef rump with shank confit, pickled beetroot, elderflower capers, dried rosehip and rhubarb slices. It’s aesthetically composed, well prepared and the flavours are full throttle. In our glasses, Z rouge 2014 is a brilliant partner with its body and succulent bite. The meal ends like a dream with a kombucha-poached pear, thyme caramel sauce, ice cream and a ton of small meringues, rounding off a delightful evening in the good company of the people behind Domestic.
Past and present meet most deliciously at Dragholm Slot, the over 800-year-old castle which for the past nine years has housed Claus Henriksen’s experimental kitchen. Henriksen traverses the surrounding forests, fields, meadows and beaches in search of ingredients, collecting herbs, roots and berries for the restaurant’s hyper-local, seasonal and personal cuisine. Humble ingredients are often allowed to play a starring role here. Take, for example, the assortment of snacks, which includes a piece of dried “parsnip bark” with the deep and sweet taste of a cigar box, joined by small dots of fresh goat’s cheese; or the folded pancake of nutty celeriac covered with an equally nutty layer of Havgus cheese and a drizzling of pine oil; or the decidedly intense cup of mushroom bullion, slurped through a spoon of smoked whipped cream. In the castle cellar we enjoy a peaceful fire around an open hearth, sitting in the comfort of stylish Wegner chairs. The lime-plastered castle walls absorb every sound, so that even when this restaurant is at full capacity, you can still take part in pleasant conversation. The menu starts with cabbage confit in perfectly straight, layered rows with Norwegian scallops, topped with the salty sea flavour of clam juice. Pickled elderflower buds hold the sweetness and richness in check, paired beautifully with a glass of local white wine from Odsherred made with solaris grapes, whose bold aroma of elder bolsters the exquisite acidity of the dish. A thin layer of sliced, baked “egg yolk” potatoes (a Danish variety of small, round and very yellow potatoes) are topped at the table with a smoked butter sauce and caviar; the smoke and potato flavours compliment one another exquisitely. Claus Henriksen makes vegetables shine in a way that makes you forget all about meat-based proteins. We are blown away by the main course, composed of nothing but onions prepared in myriad ways. A layer of “onion leather” made of browned onions covers approximately 100 tiny pearl onions in a bold glaze, which of course is garnished by the season’s first ramsons: it’s a harmony of sweetness and acidity and incredibly delicious. The pure fruit and fresh notes of an unoaked frappato from Sicily cut nicely through the dish. There is also room for some meat, and it’s naturally a cut that is often overlooked and bereft of praise. Braised veal tongue is rolled in a herby veal mince to form sausages and served with croutons fried to a crisp in tallow. The intense flavours are brought together by chicken liver with cognac and a thick, reduced veal jus. The dishes are accompanied by natural wines, matched skilfully by sommelier Peter Fagerland throughout the evening. A more pleasant countenance than Fagerland would be hard to imagine; his calm and comfortable manner enhances the overall experience. In short, Dragsholm Slot rises up as one of the nation’s brightest beacons of gastronomy.
It is with nervousness that we approach Dryck och Mat, which has moved one notch to the left in the same building as before (the grand station building). Uppsala’s smallest and most charming restaurant has gone from 16 seats to 60. Will the charm and personality remain? We are greeted by jazz and candlelight among the simple wooden tables. A sigh of relief comes after the starter – a surprisingly flavourful rutabaga cream with bleak roe and root vegetable chips. We sit back, listen, taste, and learn a thing or two, and so the evening proceeds. At Dryck the beverages are the starting point for the menu and the food is composed around them. What is new is that you can now choose between a three-course and a five-course fixed menu and there is also an à la carte. Each glass comes with a detailed description, often spiced with little anecdotes that make the concept easy to grasp. The food is simple but with notable finesse. A hefty grill note underscores the scallops with pomegranate dressing. The moose rib-eye that hides under a serious heap of grated truffle is unfathomably tender and the sides of beetroot and cranberry sauce balance each other perfectly. With this we are served a giant croquette filled with black salsify and yogurt that makes you wonder why croquettes are not included in the daily diet. After the last bite of carrot and apple ice cream that’s served with a sponge cake dipped in raspberry sauce, we conclude that everything is as usual – and we are pretty happy about that.
A good rule of thumb for determining a restaurant’s quality in the Baltics is the bread. Itisalways served first; ifit leaves something tobe desired, the evening is unlikely togo uphill from there. At Džiaugsmas, bread comes to you even sooner – right at the door. Upon entering, you see the administrator and a sculpture of a Neanderthal man. The latter lived to eat. At Džiaugsmas, the staff lives to feed everybody well andto help the time pass pleasantly. The bust is designed to remind usof this. Designed in the numerous shades of black, Džiaugsmas is stylish down to the minute details, from the Neanderthal bust down to the eye-catching cutlery. Asper tradition, bread is presented first. As per trend, itis a soft multigrain bread that goesas well with olive oil as with butter. It certainly gives rise to high expectations. The guest might want to note that the appetisers are moderately small. The mains, however, would do the Neanderthal proud. The escalope, a pleasantly juicy piece ofgolden meat, is larger than the plate itself. The fries and sumptuously crunchy spiralled beetroot are served separately. Two or three appetizers or one entrée will feed you well. Getting in, however, might prove complicated. Booking tables online isnot possible at Džiaugsmas, and the impression at the door is that all of Vilnius is trying to spend time there. And we mean it when we say spend time – the crowd, on the younger side, is quite loud, perhaps even too much so for a solo diner.
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.