An izakaya is the Japanese version of a gastropub, originally a haven for Japanese businesspeople, with high standards for food and drink. The team behind Jah Izakaya set out to create such a place in Vesterbro with a minimalistically appointed restaurant and open kitchen bar. Everything is steeped in precision and features the meticulous seasoning that has made Japanese cuisine so famous. You choose a variety of dishes to share with the others at your table. It is all very informal and the prices are affordable. The sashimi features the highest quality Faroese salmon, tender tuna and a Danish octopus that also makes a cameo in an ika ichiyaboshi – an unforgettable serving of slightly dried octopus with spicy mayo. Rarely have the sweetness and richness of an octopus come through so clearly. Each of the eight dishes we order is accompanied by a new dip – every one with its own personality. The wasabi here has notes of spiced tea and herbs. Each sauce specifically matches a dish, such as an ingenious yuzu soy sauce with the mouth-watering gyukatsu – fillet steak with a thin breading that is fried so the meat is red and the breading crisp. On the whole, the breading at Jah Izakaya is in a league of its own. The day’s special, avocado in a light tempura, is airy and perfectly crisp. Even the tofu, lightly fried then immersed in a warm dashi bouillon, packs impressive flavour. Beverages range from sake, whisky and Japanese shochu brandy, to beer, kombucha and natural wine. We pair with kombucha and méthode traditionnelle bubbles from Domain Bellaurd in Savoy whose minerality and nutty character fit well with the umami-dominated meal.
The Härg - the Ox - is, as the name suggests, a meat restaurant. The food here isbountiful, a pastoral fantasy come true. Take for example the Härg’s selection of starters, consisting of five dishes meant tobe sampled by a small group. Or the Härg Fest - ten dishes served at once, no matter how many eaters. Sure, the Härg can provide for a light eater, too. Although maybe not the lightest of light eaters, since even a smoothie is fit for a light lunch. The vegetarian dish - Cabbage with Cabbage - satisfies a moderate hunger andis delicious to boot. The Savoy cabbage is grilled to rare. Eating it takes a steak knife and a good set of teeth, more than any meat might. The slightly tart ginger cabbage, onthe other hand, is soft-boiled, and the soft, silky cheese sauce brings the dish together in a perfect balance. But the main draw of a meat restaurant is supposed tobe meat, and the word on the street is that hitting the perfect doneness is a matter of honor here. We have always made a point of paying attention and are currently pleased to report a perfect score. Help yourself to the high-grade balsamico, and pair the high-grade steak with an even higher-grade wine that you'd be hard pressed to find offered by the glass elsewhere. Why not the Antinori Tignanello, or else the Rothschild Chateau d’Armailhac.
The Jop Antonius is situated in a courtyard shared between three buildings and geared atartists and craftsmen. In the summer, the courtyard hosts performances, concerts, and exhibitions; the rest of the year, it's rather quiet. The surroundings tune your expectations down a notch, and you might brace yourself for indifferent, purely practical eats. The entrance from the courtyard to the restaurant, where the restaurant dooron the left might go unnoticed, only contributes to this impression. The restaurant itself consists oftwo dining halls, with frequently changing art exhibitions onthe walls. The art of food tries tokeep up, and as a consequence, the menu changes with every new exhibition. The paintings adorning the walls during our visit are experimental, restless, eye-catching and attention-seeking, complemented with neon LED strips. We open the menu. The tempura grape leaves with herbal pesto and seeds immediately catch the eye. This appetizer is excellent with wine and harmonizes well with the surroundings. The pork tenderloin is glazed black with blackcurrants and titled Must Notsu – Black Piglet –in a charming cultural reference. Served with ramson-potato puree and whey sauce, the dish looks striking, and its smooth flavor and silky texture go a long way towards dissipating the doubts raised by the courtyard. Follow-up visits only confirm the impression that the food will always be a pleasant surprise and the service will keep you ingood mood. Even the flamboyant name will cease to intimidate. Our verdict: if you pass bythe Jop Antonius courtyard, ignore the first impression and walk right in.
Kortteli 5th floor, Urho Kekkosenkatu 1, 00100 Helsinki
At the top of a shopping center you will find Kortteli, a food court with everything from smoothies and pizza to fine dining. Little sister to the fine dining restaurant Ask, Jord is in an airy, rough-hewn space saturated in shades of blue with exposed pipes and beams. Through the giant windows diners can study the ant-sized people on Narinktorget below. Jord means “earth” or “soil” and Filip Langhoff’s food is definitely grounded, in spite of the elevated location. Every plate is a greeting from forest and field. The well-trained staff are anything but locally grown, many of whom prefer to speak English. Do not skip the starters, which offer a lesson in botany and a show of craftsmanship - like crispy-fried shiitake with mushroom mayo, lamb tartare with pickled ramson capers, or ultra-thin slices of air-dried ham served on a cutting board with preserves and pickles and a dab of golden rapeseed mayo. The main course of lamb brisket melts in the mouth. We enjoy the play of textures with popped cereals and a masterful porridge of ancient grains. Conclude with an adorable sour milk parfait resting on buttermilk caramel and strewn with crunchy honeycomb and fresh, green spruce oil. Naturally the food is more relaxed than at Ask, but perhaps it could do with some buttoning up, and it’s missing that pleasant buzz needed to drown out the background music of the neighboring restaurants.
Restaurant Jordnær (which means “down-to-earth” in Danish) is housed in the historic, 350-year-old Gentofte Hotel, where the duo of Chef Eric Kragh Vildgaard and Restaurant Manager Tina Kragh Vildgaard bring forth new tones rooted in French traditions and Danish ingredients. The atmosphere is warm in the modernised “inn” with attractive plank floors, Nordic designer furniture and the impressive beam ceiling, while the service is professional and attentive. Eric knows what he wants and no compromise is accepted with ingredients, as evidenced by our first snack, brilliant in all its simplicity: Osietra caviar filled in a cylinder of carved cucumber with a lightly acidic cream in the bottom. The bittersweet cucumber plays up to the caviar’s elegant nut notes followed by deep umami, while the acidic interplay with the light cream at the bottom ties it all together into a delicious mouthful. This is followed by an immaculately fresh Gillardeau oyster with kohlrabi spheres, freshly harvested beach plants and horseradish to give it all a little punch. The snacks conclude with creamy crab on an “æbleskive” base (traditional Danish doughnut-like cake) that could have been a bit more interesting. A champagne from Robert Barbichon with fresh bread notes and wonderful acidity pairs nicely with the snacks and their recurrent taste of the sea. The first starter, an alluring composition of marinated raw langoustine with green strawberries, oysters and granité, is intense and mineral, while the acidity of the granité and the young riesling provide elegant and fresh balance – a dream for sushi lovers. The next starter is crisp and purely delightful with its touches of sea and nuttiness: white asparagus and fresh foam with a hint of acidity, watercress and Baerii caviar. The wine from Veneto made from the garganega grape is a bit opulent with this dish. A starter with zander wrapped in pointed cabbage in a green jus with ramson fills the palate with the goodness of succulent mild fish, the bit of cabbage and light spices bound together by the ramsons. The light fruitiness of the wine, made with a blend of varieties including spätburgunder, is a sublime vinous pairing on the full-bodied side. The main dish of perfectly roasted pink lamb, green asparagus, morel and truffle rises above traditional as Vildgaard spoons an incredibly elegant sauce over the lamb. The Barolo from Oberto in Piedmont is a perfect match, given its somewhat tight but sweet-bodied character. The first dessert of almonds, vanilla and rhubarb ice cream operates in the realm of delicate nuances, while the cake bottom could have been a bit lighter. The final dessert of hay-milk ice cream, bolstered by French sorrel and oxalis, and split with a cold pressed rapeseed oil, is immaculately well balanced.
Jossa mat og drikke is now temporary closed awaiting it’s and Restaurant Credo’s relocation at Lilleby in Trondheim.
Down a dark narrow alley and up a cramped and steep staircase lies this sibling restaurant of longtime Trondheim food-bastion, Credo. Inside it is warm and cosy, with naked old wooden walls, a nice bar and an open kitchen. Jossa is like the younger kid who escaped the motherland and came back with all kinds of crazy ideas – and the ideas work. It’s laid-back with great, reasonably priced food. You can choose between a three or five-course menu, or today’s meat or fish. The food is inspired from all over the world; it’s rustic, centered around local produce, and features vegetables, grains, dairy, fish and off-cuts of meat. Jossa offers a good selection of wine, beer and pour-over coffee, and it’s possible to order wine from Credo’s legendary wine cellar. We also recommend their artisanal selection of bottled sodas and kombuchas, made fresh on the premises. Their Saturday lunch is easily the best deal in town and the service is easygoing, though sometimes almost too lax. Chef and owner Heidi Bjerkan has assembled a young and ambitious team, who manage to make the restaurant feel like a home away from home. We’re glad we don’t live next door because we would probably be there every other day. Like its parent establishment, Jossa is moving to a new location later this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing what effect the new location will have.
The website of the Joyce promises the best flavors in the town of Tartu. Bold, isn’t it? Quite so, but not really overconfidence. The head chef Mihkel Manglus takes frequent learning trips to outstanding restaurants around the world. The resulting food is unique in Tartu. A particular highlight of the summer menu was a cucumber-almond soup, with crunchy lemon-pickled cucumber dice floating in a broth of almond milk, cucumber juice and garlic, and lime gel pulling the components together into a creamy whole that glides across the entire range of sour flavors. The autumn menu surprised with a simple tuna tartare elevated by blue mussel sauce andherb cream. Last year we found the Joyce particularly impressive for its food. The creative dishes were miles ahead of the somewhat conservative drinks selection. The latter hasnow become more interesting and varied and the service has gained confidence. If you really offer the best there is, there isno shame in saying so.
A man by his word, anoxby his horn,”goesan ancient Estonian proverb. Old Estonians were careful with their words and promises. They didn't offer either lightly. In modern Estonia, though, not every word stands upto scrutiny. Two years ago, when the Juur (meaning a root) opened in the Ülemiste City innovation hubin Tallinn and promised to offer hidden treasures of Estonian nature prepared with culinary mastery, the idea seemed plenty innovative enough for the location - but could itbedone? What are those hidden treasures of Estonian nature, sparse and Nordic asit is? Today, a cursory glance at their menu proves that the people at the Juur keep their word. Birch bracket, goosefoots, entire goat’s head... Indeed, they tread a way no restaurant hasgone before. The whole goat’s headis probably the most extreme dish served in modern Estonian cuisine. The scant meat on the skull resembles pulled meat by consistency and bear meatby flavor (you can try the latter at the Pull in Tallinn orat the Vihula manor restaurant). Itissomewhat dry, but what it lacks in fat is corrected by the crêpes served for wrapping the meat. The flat meat is promised elevation through Gabriel Meffre’s three-grape blend Gigondas Laurus. Indeed, this word holds as well. Tomato dust and marinated green strawberries contribute a pleasant contrast. More conservative guests can taste the history captured inancient Estonian farmstead food kört (grain porridge) and drink mead. The discoveries tobe made here keep us coming back for more. Most of the dishes are served on crockery made by the Head Chef Kaido Mets personally. The bread is served on a stone and the knife rests on another one. Make note, though - stone and stone are not alike at Juur. The bread stone is from the Paldiski beach and the knife stone from the Kaberneeme. They really are different - just don’t bite down to test!
It would not be right to shun the sapas at Juuri, as in all truthfulness they are what’s given the restaurant its special status. Sapas are small dishes, appetisers really, based on traditional Finnish cuisine made with a modern – and it has to be said – tapas-like twist. So, Finnish tapas. The first one we try is lamb’s tongue with beetroot and crème of the same, plus yoghurt and pickles. The tongue is incredibly tender, and a great start. Clocking in as sapa number two is the equally addictive cured Baltic herring. It features yellow beets in two forms as well as crumbled flatbread. We’re instructed to pick the Toivo red ale with our sapas, and do exactly as we’re told. It happens to be spot on. All of the beer served at Juuri is Finnish, by the way. The restaurant seems to attract a youngish clientele, and an international one, too, because all of a sudden there are Americans next to us, and then two Japanese parties come through the door. Fillet of perch is our next stop on the menu, and we fancy a glass of Roero Arneis from the Piedmont to go along with it. The wine and the fish prove to be an excellent combo. Not only is the dish lovely, but the perch is also pan-fried to perfection, and made to swim attractively in a frothy cauliflower crème with florets attractively strewn about. Suddenly we find ourselves with a juniper-scented crème brûlée dotted with transparent gin jelly, crème anglaise and rosemary sorbet. How did it all go by so fast.
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.