On top of a concrete staircase with a view over the commuting public on their way to somewhere is where you’ll find Maaemo – a veritable cornucopia where traditions are both kept and reinvented. Since the opening Chef Esben Holmboe Bang has produced new tastes of perfection. “Oysters from Bømlo”; “Butter on butter ice cream”, “Wheat on wheat” – these are some of the items on the tasting menu that have been there since the start and now have a place of their own in culinary history. They now are as important to mention when presenting Norwegian national dishes to a visiting gourmand as lutefisk, rakfisk (fermented mountain trout) and tørrfisk (stock fish). At Maaemo there are few choices. When it comes to beverage pairings there’s either wine or juice, and that choice alone is a difficult one. We can hardly dream of better pairings than the juices made with fermented and sparkling rosehips, the traditional “rød saft” made from red berries, and the morello cherry and blueberry medley. The wines, also carefully crafted, though a bit further away than the juices, are perfectly matched to what the chefs bring out. A duck foot is fried and served with duck liver and fermented cherry juice, all dressed in red oxalis. The tart containing dry-aged reindeer meat with marrow and blood is sweet and juicy, with a broad meaty taste. A cornet filled with yeast and smoked vendace roe is as much of a palate pleaser as it is a refined snack. A soft flatbread, a Norwegian staple, is topped with fermented mountain trout, onions and horseradish. This dish is a contemporary take on tradition: it’s a playful rendition of a taco, the new national dish. If Maaemo could find a way to serve this in people’s homes on Friday nights, they would quash all other grocery store Tex-Mex brands. It has everything you wish for in a Norwegian taco: It’s sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and feels unhealthy in the way that only large amounts of fat can. Some things are eaten with your hands, so between the sets of servings, warm moist towels with fragrances matching the food are brought forward. When the lightly salted cod loin is served with a sauce of ramsons, whey and horseradish, we briefly consider licking the plate, but instead heed mother’s instructions and resist the temptation. Sour cream porridge paired with the best “rød saft” we have ever tasted takes us back to summers in the mountains. The grated smoked reindeer heart comes with butter and plum vinegar that cuts through the rich fat and delicious heavy cream. When a concoction of quail egg cooked in marrow with fenalår and pinnekjøtt is served, we must resist the urge to lick the plate clean a second time. The meal concludes with a spectacular yet understated serving of traditional waffles – made with duck fat and koji, served with berries from last year, sour cream and brown cheese from a cooperative close by. It’s cleverly plated on Danish porcelain that everyone mistakes for classic Norwegian Porsgrund. So it goes with Esben Holmboe Bang. There should be a change in how to pass on old food traditions to the new generation, and Holmboe Bang and his team should write the syllabus.
Tired of the same old breakfast? Mahedik will cure that with their selection of farm-fresh, country-style offerings. Chia bowls with berries; sunny side up duck eggs with ham, avocado and tomato; cottage cheese donuts. To boot, they serve your favorite morning meal until 1pm everyday. But Mahedik is more than just a breakfast joint, it’s an all-day eatery, open also for lunch and dinner, owned by a mother-daughter duo that is 100% committed to a sustainable lifestyle, taking great pride in using all organic ingredients, and going so far as to advertise their purveyors on the restaurant’s website. Their soups are particularly good, the borscht, served with a beef pie, has been on the menu since day one and is clearly here to stay. The name you wonder? It means “mom” in Estonian, further illustrating how cozy, nurturing and welcoming this place is.
Yep, you guessed it, Mami means Mommy, and locals have crowned her the best-loved restaurant in Turku many times. Mami has a lovely location in the heart of Old Turku across the river from the cathedral. Saturday afternoons at Mami embody the spirit of the place with their special menu for shoppers on their way back from the market. Today it is comprised of a hearty soup, fried farmed rainbow trout and a sorbet. We choose the à la carte and eat instead a starter of pressed veal held together with strips of bacon and served with Cumberland sauce, and crème fraîche with mustard. It’s good, hearty and well balanced. For the main course we order cod from the North Sea. It has a nice exterior and consistency, and comes with salsify and mashed potatoes. A glass of German sauvignon blanc is a good match. The sorbet from the shoppers’ menu completes the meal. It is made of raspberries and topped with pears. The service is so amiable that it is easy to agree with local opinion.
Although the calendar shows it’s a Monday, the raw wooden tables in Manfreds’ cosy cellar are filled with diners. Christian Puglisi and Co.’s restaurant on the hipster street Jægersborggade has become a Copenhagen classic in the global bistro genre. We can hear from the languages being spoken that people come from far and wide to dine here. The waiters also come from every corner of the globe, and they all share a passion for the natural wines served with the menu’s predominantly vegetable-based dishes. The wines are explained concisely and without too much talk, and they have no unnecessary additives. This is not the place to come for a classic Bordeaux, but those with an open mind can look forward to unexpected and adventurous wine experiences. The first batch of starters in the seven-course sharing menu is accompanied by a glass without vintage from Emilia-Romagna made from the green grape variety pignoletto, whose crisp simplicity is a fine pairing with a warm and tasty mushroom bouillon and salted cod with broccoli cream. The kale salad with Sicilian blood orange works brilliantly with the moderate tannins and slightly bitter grapefruit notes of an orange wine, as does the dish of golden beets with almonds and cream. Veal loin is the evening’s only meat dish, but the kitchen can also cook meat expertly and the side of pointed cabbage is marvellous. Every dish resembles something you could have made at home with a little ingenuity; this type of simple cooking truly allows the good organic ingredients to shine. Manfreds is not the place you go for culinary feats with foam and dry ice, but it is a rather genuine neighbourhood restaurant whose excellent food and atmosphere work just as well for everyday occasions as for celebrations.
A small green wooden house in the green Kadriorg district houses the Mantel ja Korsten, a restaurant with an unexpected name. In the Middle Ages, chimneys that covered the entire fireplace or even kitchen, then tapered off to a regular smokestack at the ceiling, were a frequent occurrence. Nowadays, few remain. One such chimney graces the restaurant Mantel ja Korsten and gives the eatery its name. Here, ithas been turned into a small dining room. Apart from the lesson in medieval architecture, the Mantel and Korsten entices with a rare skill in making very, very good simple food. Inspired by ravioli, the open raviolo resembles a plate-sized torn-open Italian dumpling, with filling - chopped spiced snow crab - spilling out, accompanied with a huge ladleful of sweetly foaming corn sauce. This is the signature cuisine of Head Chef Jüri Vainküla. Prominent in his cooking are homemade pasta, fresh tartares and uncommon ingredients: swordfish, goose breast, thymus... But make sure to leave the choice of drinks upto the restaurant. This might result in, among other things, a G&T flavored with pureed blackcurrants. As for wine, ask for “something interesting”. This lights up the imagination of the manager and sommelier Robert Põld. For us, he came up with a bottle of Granbazan Limousin Albarino aged in a newoak barrel, and a local Atla manor apple brandy for digestif. The flavors at Mantel jaKorsten are well complemented by a long walk in the Kadriorg Park in the immediate vicinity.
Hotel d'Angleterre, Kongens Nytorv 34, 1050 Copenhagen
Want to try Copenhagen’s most luxurious version of carbonara? Head for Hotel d’Angleterre and Marchal where Chef Andreas Bagh serves up squid tagliatelle-style in champagne butter sauce with oysters, cucumber, and of course, a generous dollop of Rossini Gold Selection Caviar to top it all off. It is quite simply a divine dish, where the oyster’s minerality and the umami in the sauce are elegantly balanced by the bright cucumber and the briny caviar. The texture of the squid is silky but still has a little bite to it, and together with the popping caviar provides an intriguing mouthfeel. It is a dish made for champagne, and the wine list here gives you every opportunity to splurge on a bottle. Marchal is doubtless the poshest place in Copenhagen to dine, and all the trimmings are certainly in place: spotless service, knowledgeable sommeliers, plush décor, and panorama windows that face the heart of Copenhagen: Kongens Nytorv. Though there’s a seemingly never-ending construction project going on in the square, obscuring any view, we still enjoy the steady stream of exclusive sports cars gliding up to the curb outside the hotel, providing ample fuel for who’s-who gossip between the courses. Posh, yes, but thanks to the fact that Marchal caters to a hotel clientele, the menu is all à la carte, so the curious gastro-traveller can actually slip in for a couple of dishes without having to order a complete tasting menu. While we wouldn’t call it affordable (mid-size servings start at DKK 200) it is certainly more accessible than many other restaurants in this range – and it’s even open for lunch. All other things aside, the food is worth a visit in its own right. This is a very self confident kitchen, well grounded in the French culinary tradition, but doubtlessly influenced by modern Nordic cooking – complemented with a pinch of spice here and there from all over the world. Two of Bagh’s other top scorers this year are the intensely flavoured confited sweetbreads with morels and sherry, seamlessly matched with an aged Brunello, and an Iberico secreto with walnuts and velvety sandalwood flavours from a seasoning with black cardamom. The desserts are lavish, with portions as large as the savoury dishes, and a tad less sophisticated. Like the signature “Gold bar” where a hazelnut, coffee and truffle bar is covered in gold leaf flakes and served with calvados ice cream. It’s intense and packed with flavour, but on the heavy side after a large dinner – although we wouldn’t mind at all popping in and devouring it with a coffee as an indulgent afternoon treat.
This all-white decorated establishment in Frogner is much cosier than first meets the eye. Beneath the somewhat formal decor we find this to be one of the most charming and inviting spots to eat in this part of Oslo. Despite its above-average pricing it has many regular costumers, like the older couple reading books and drinking champagne, with the woman’s bag dutifully placed on its own stool by the table. The service is first-rate and personal, and the dishes share some of the same qualities: composed but passionate. The homemade bread is a delight, and hints at the coastal focus of the menu. The loaf, combined with pieces of anchovies dipped in a shellfish-infused oil, rockets us off to the colourful starter with lightly smoked scallops, “Bloody Mary”-laced Avruga caviar and fluffy pillows of spinach gnocchi with a soft Taleggio sauce. We continue down this path with a halibut that sparkles with citrusy flavours and crisp fava beans, or a lightly seared piece of cod breaded in ground “clipfish” (dried and salted cod) with spelt risotto in a rich morel sauce. The desserts are equally flavourful and fun. We like the idea of white chocolate and thin slices of plum contrasted with a dollop of refreshing sake ice cream. They have a comprehensive wine list focused on France, with a large selection of decently priced champagne. Their beverage recommendations are as solid as the whole experience; this is a posh place with a huge heart.
Marg & Bein (“Marrow and bone”) is a rustic restaurant with an atmosphere that is the definition of Norwegian ”hygge”, or cosiness. The wooden house is snug and warm with candlelit tables and sheep fleeces draped over the pinewood chairs. The whole room conveys Norwegian nature, raw and pure. There are pictures of cold and snowy landscapes on the walls; the tables are decorated with jars of animal bones, and vases containing dried flowers. The decor features grandmother's bureau and more jars, filled with preserves. At Marg & Bein, the atmosphere is informal, just like the clientele and the food. Today’s menu is representative of the restaurant’s style – it consists of chicken livers, pork cheeks and lemon cream with meringue. Marg & Bein cooks substantial food using the whole animal, which suits the hard, Nordic climate. The dishes are often rich and nutritious due to ingredients like cod tongue and marrow-bones. Unfortunately the pork cheek dish is disappointing, poorly balanced in taste and texture, with dry, over-cooked beans and drowned salad leaves. But the rest of the dishes are tasty and well composed. Veal sweetbreads with fried capers and mustard mayonnaise is an exciting, salty combination of fat and crunch. The restaurant’s classic dish of beef cheeks with mashed potatoes and baked vegetables is still on the menu and just as tender and flavourful as last year. The waitress is very helpful with drink recommendations and when she has time for it, she is happy to share her knowledge by telling a little about the producers. The focus on coffee is not as strong as it once was, but the restaurant still makes it from freshly ground beans.
Mat Bar is a new restaurant on what is now one of the chicest streets in the center of Reykjavík. Knowing that Chef Gísli Matthías Auðunsson is also the owner of Slippurinn and the former owner of Matur og Drykkur tells you that at the very least this place is worth a visit. All of the dishes at Mat Bar are built on the idea of sharing for two or more and you write down your order on a piece of paper. There’s a 5-course menu with wine pairings, or you can choose to order à la carte from the selection of house tapas, vegetables, proteins and more. The place is rather small but smartly designed. The service is warm and professional. We start by sharing beef tartare on bruschetta with truffle mayo, and scallop ceviche with oranges and fresh coriander. Both are good. Next we try the glazed beets with smoked buttermilk flavoured with tangy liquorice, wow! Salt cod with smoked tomatoes and onion is a typical Spanish dish, and good enough, but the veal is even better, bolstered by baked fennel with chilli and grilled polenta with cheese. The dessert of white chocolate “skyr” is smooth though a bit underwhelming. Overall, we enjoy our visit to Mat Bar and look forward to coming again.
Grand Hôtel, S Blasieholmshamnen 6, 103 27 Stockholm
“No, no, you should not drink red wine with the flank steak tartare, it might turn metallic”. The waiter is so determined that you do not dare to order anything other than the suggested Trebbiano Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. And of course it glides very smoothly down with the macadamia nuts and the birch sap emulsion that bottoms the ceramic plate, which in and of itself is rather flavourless. A beautiful light oak paneling embraces Matbaren. The menu is lined with a nice, sprawling selection of dishes. How many should we get? “Get one at a time, there’s no rush, order when you’re hungry. This is endearing. Yes, the style here is relaxed, and it’s nice to be able to choose freely. Leaves, shoots and herbs from Ugglarp, for example. It may look like just a salad, but the diversity of beautiful leaves, mandolin-planed beets, carrots, delicate radish shoots and finely layered daikon is a recipe for happiness in chlorophyll. You dress it yourself; three bottles are placed on the table – olive and rapeseed oil and a chardonnay vinegar. The house-churned butter accompanying the flatbread has a vivifying air of maturity. Together with a fresh, orange, and slightly cloudy apple juice from Naess in Flen, the salad soars. So does the saithe, which is broiled like no saithe from Lofoten ever has been before. It is crispy and crunchy, with a sublime note of lemon, but is unfortunately pulled down by a heap of hazelnuts and broccoli that have slightly burnt notes. Maybe the new restaurant next door has made the kitchen here a little unfocused. The uncooked green dishes are generally best; a salad of red, mild endive comes with tiny orange pieces, crushed walnut and a soft goat's cheese cream. It’s really lovely. Randy Crawford’s Street Life is on the playlist and the clientele is on average about the same age – i.e., born around 1979. Both Stockholmers and travellers who have journeyed here from the countryside and abroad sit at the tastefully put together tables, and at the main bar. It’s quite cosy. Some diners are seated in front of the large windows, with the quay and the castle as a backdrop across the water, while some look into the open kitchen and talk to the staff, and still others have eyes mostly for each other. And they are all attended to by the throng of smiling and rapid waiters and waitresses, not all of who have had time to read up on the menu in the way we are used to here. No matter. That Matbaren endures makes us very happy.
Stavanger has seen some heavy storms lately. The big spenders from the oil industry have been subject to a tighter spending regime since oil prices plummeted in 2015, and restaurants have watched their golden age wither away. But they still come to Matbaren, all those whose spending habits have been reduced to fewer plates and to burgundies of the lesser villages. The rest come here too, after their shopping sprees, or just to warm up after a walk in the heavy winds that tend to oppress this city. Sven Erik Renaa runs the place with his wife and together they have steered this ship steadily through the rough financial times. At Matbaren the food is robust. Their take on modern bistro fare is both filling and elegant. At lunchtime there are Copenhagen-style open-faced sandwiches to be had, with cod, liver pâté, and roast beef among others. The open kitchen gives the wooden interior a warmth and livens up the dining room. The chefs work at a nice pace, not too loud and not too disturbing, and act as a combination of backdrop and entertainment. The highlights of the dinner service are the meats and fish. At Matbaren they are particular in their selection, and the rib-eye is dry-aged from an older animal. Because of its age the meat has nutty flavours, and together with a béarnaise, a big portion of fries and a deep-fried onion ring, it all comes together in a unified dish. The fat in the lightly grilled rib-eye melts on the tongue, and the buttery sauce gives the fat just the right amount of acidity to make you close your eyes and chew slowly so as to enjoy the last little bit and fibre of flavour.
Tromsø is proud of its food heritage and this food-stall-by-day and restaurant-by-night is a great place to taste some of the region’s best produce. Here you can indulge in local meat and fish, all in the comfortable surroundings of a modern restaurant – or take it back home from the take-out counter. Chef Gunnar Jensen’s food always brings a smile to our lips. Be sure not to miss his classic-modern herring dish with local potatoes, horseradish, rye and brown butter. A serving of chicken broth warms our bones on this cold, soon-to-be-spring evening. The cod, served with lemon, carrot, bacon hollandaise and kale is a scruffy sight, but it tastes great. Generous slices of lamb come with onion, celeriac and mushrooms. It’s not the most instagram-friendly food, but it’s as tasty as one could want. Mathallen’s unusual décor is a fresh breath in this town; we like their humorous approach to a garage-meets-restaurant, but showing off everything also demands greater tidiness. Unfortunately, our service is on a par with a fast-food restaurant and lacks all of the hospitality the region is known for. And with a new player in town, Mathallen needs to fine-tune its front of house – until then we’ll save this place for quick meals.
Every Icelandic chef with an interest in food culture has channeled Helga Sigurðardóttir. This mother of Icelandic food, like Julia Child, set the standard in Icelandic cuisine with her 1954 recipe collection, Matur og Drykkur (Food and Beverage). These traditional dishes are the inspiration at the restaurant called Matur og Drykkur. The raw environment echoes the building’s history as a fish factory. The design and decor today are playfully creative and the staff have a nice, relaxed style. In both the kitchen and at the bar, their ambitions are high. Why not start with a Brennvin Negroni, one of several fun cocktails that have made them famous in town? Interestingly enough, it works well with a trout that has been smoked with a mix of sheep’s dung, straw and blueberry rice served with horseradish cream. A German riesling is perfect with their halibut soup, in which a magically tasty fish broth is poured over the fish, some mussels, marinated raisins, apple cubes and dill oil. The flavours are equally balanced in the arctic char dish, where dill oil is combined with cucumber, fennel and a cream made from skyr (Icelandic yoghurt). The homemade birch schnapps that goes with their Ástarpungar – twisted donuts with caramelized whey – is a must as a finishing touch. And with that, good coffee from locally roasted beans.
Restaurant MeMu in Vejle is an establishment in rapid development. After having moved to a larger location just one year ago, they are already in need of another expansion. In late summer 2017 the gourmet restaurant will move to a smaller, more intimate location, and the current restaurant will be converted into a brasserie. MeMu is well attended on this visit, and the clientele are in high spirits. White tiles line the walls around the semi-open kitchen. The light furniture and vibrant atmosphere will be a good match for the coming brasserie, and the gourmet kitchen will benefit from additional room for the contemplation and full concentration that Michael Munk’s exquisite creations deserve. The menu begins with a cured scallop, whose sweetness provides a base for the dish, while cucumber, mint and ramsons add pleasant and familiar aromatic nuances. The flavours are all distinctive, but the mint and ramsons add a particularly scintillating edge that works beautifully in the overall composition. Precise dollops of yoghurt support the scallop’s creamy and rich texture, while hazelnuts add a bit of crunch to the canvas. Sommelier and co-owner Mette Derdau presents an excellent pairing from Tenerife. Made with the listán blanco grape, which is also used for sherry, the wine has a complex and slightly oxidised character that captures both the herbs and nuts of the dish. The wine list features many interesting bottles, but we recommend choosing one of Derdau’s two curated sets of wine pairings. The glasses are poured generously and the knowledgeable service staff are masters of their profession, providing the excellent hospitality characteristic of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula. The kitchen shines with delicious dishes, all of which feature a small culinary twist. In a dish with pork breast, the meat is swathed in bergamot, which penetrates the grilled meat with an acidic and bitter touch in a new and welcome flavour combination, promoting the complexity of the succulent pork, slightly bitter bok choy and crisp fried salsify. The dessert unites caramel, Jerusalem artichokes, vanilla ice cream and a warm sauce of browned butter and brown sugar over a slice of grilled sourdough bread. It’s simple and delicious, and the sourdough’s grainy depth and slight acidity give the dish unique character. With masterful flavour composition in the kitchen, superb service and world-class wines, it is really no surprise that MeMu faces another impending expansion.
Let’s make it clear right away: this is a place for meat lovers. After the walk over the cobblestone streets of Old Porvoo you step through the old wooden door on the corner of a building from the last century. Almost immediately you encounter the fridge with its large glass doors, behind which pieces of meat hang in a row. Some realise right away that they are in the wrong place, but they actually have vegetarian options here. If you sit in the room by the fridge, you also get to enjoy the open kitchen with its flaming grill and savvy cooks. And you won’t be the only one. The locals, young and old alike, appreciate the progressive meat theme and the quality here is very high. Many of the cuts have been hanging for six weeks, with guaranteed tenderness as a result. But we start out gently with pieces of salami, chorizo and pata negra. The latter is very good, with a pronounced nutty flavour. But it is the beef tartare that really make us happy. The cow, of the Charolais breed, has grazed just twelve kilometres from the restaurant. Mini burgers are cooked to medium and topped with cheddar cheese. We wash all this down with a light pinot noir from Hungary. The main attraction on the smaller “Half In” menu (as opposed to the “All in” alternative) turns out to be sirloin, lightly grilled medium rare over an open fire. The standout among the condiments is the red wine sauce with marrow. Amazing! Naturally we sit on cowhide chairs. They’re not very comfortable but certainly appropriate at this establishment. The wine list is packed with good bottles from the Old World.
The Meat Market occupies an experimental niche in the Tartu dining scene, always exploring the boundaries of what the town people are ready to accept and what not. Itstarted out as a meat-and-cocktails restaurant. The cocktails were popular, the meat-only menu less so. Then it took a turn towards latest trends, experimented with a pure fine dining degustation menu, then calmed down and returned to its roots. Itnow offers a daily changing steak menu based on meat of different origins and a short list ofnon-meat dishes. The retro cheese schnitzel signals that the experimental spirit isnotdead. Slicing into the crisp deep-fried crust releases deliciously aromatic molten cheese topourouton the plate, and the carrot-basil side salad is pleasantly juicy. Cocktails, especially the signature cocktails, remain the best choice. The Meat Market is a place for those who seek out change.
It’s a bitterly cold February day as we fight our way along muddy paths through Vilhelmsborg Forest. Then we catch a glimpse of the light and warmth of the former dairy. A beautiful room with whitewashed walls and arches awaits us, where we find comfortable seating in designer chairs at tables with thick damask tablecloths. At the controls in the kitchen is a distinct gastronomic personality, Allan Poulsen, whose résumé includes stints at Henne Kirkeby Kro and Bagatelle in Oslo. The meal begins with six savoury snacks and we are served three good petits fours as a finale. From end to end the dishes are prepared with pinpoint precision. Two of the starters stand out: the small celeriac ravioli filled with Rømø shrimp is a treat for the palate, as is the complex crisp biscuit with truffle cream and pickled pearl onion with shavings of dried veal heart. It's an orgy of umami, acidity, saltiness and a certain interesting funky taste – exactly the kind of dish you expect from Allan Poulsen. The same goes for the sweet black lobster with chives, garnished with a layer of whitefish roe, wood sorrel and turnip sprouts. This is the first of the dishes on the eight-course menu. Poulsen is able and willing to experiment with the jewels of the sea. Most striking and memorable is the long strip of Danish octopus with gelled beads of green tomato and crisp slices of raw Jerusalem artichoke, served with a split Jerusalem artichoke cream and a small, intense chlorophyll bomb of puréed dill. The acidity, slight liquorice flavour and nutty Jerusalem artichokes are wonderfully paired with the limestone and fruity notes of the white wine from southern French Côtes Catalanes. The wines, like the food, are exquisite and ingeniously paired with the dishes. The list is fondly focused on France, with classics and newcomers alike, but other European bottles also make an appearance. Two of the three richest dishes are based on mushrooms: the fried skate wing comes with porcini flakes and sauce blanquette, wonderfully harmonized with a spätburgunder from Pfalz, while the mushroom-infused sago porridge with a sauce made from mallard gizzards and hearts is served with a heavenly 2012 Barolo from Mauro Molino, La Morra. Our highly attentive waiter professionally and discreetly ensures that we are well informed and supplied with food and drink throughout the evening. Among the sweet dishes, the winner is the signature desert: a white chocolate sphere filled with pickled late-summer raspberries, milk chocolate with coffee and burnt hazelnut in a crisp croustade (harking back to the starter of crisp biscuit with truffle), a pickled plum with dark chocolate ganache and crispy wood sorrel salad, and lastly a small trio of all three chocolates on their own. Even after the extensive eight-course menu with many small snacks and sweets in between, we leave Mejeriet in high spirits and in awe of their impressive surgical craftsmanship.
A wall of moss provides atmosphere and acoustic insulation in Mes, the small restaurant owned by Chef Mads Rye Magnusson. With previous experience at restaurants such as Falsled Kro and Geranium, he certainly knows his stuff. Mes serves reasonably priced gourmet cuisine with wines – both natural and more classic vintages – almost exclusively from Jura and Germany. The atmosphere is informal with relatively loud electronic music, simple black tables and naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. All diners are served the same five-course menu, along with the option of purchasing additional snacks and cheese. The snacks are impressive and demonstrate Magnusson’s high ambitions. Platters arrive with shrimp chips and mushroom mayo, malt croustades with chive cream and tart red sprinkles of dried tomato. Toasted Tuscan kale with sous vide egg yolk, lovage hollandaise and crisp-fried potato crumbles is pure vegetal enjoyment. Another brilliant yet simple dish is the coarsely chopped veal tartare under a lid of paper-thin slices of raw mushroom surrounded by nothing more than small dots of horseradish mayo and shaved horseradish. The cold mushrooms and horseradish kick give the dish a refreshing coolness. A hippie wine from Arbois of chardonnay and merlot reeks of farmyard and tastes more like grape juice than wine, but it goes brilliantly with the raw freshness of the tartare. Magnusson’s modus operandi is to serve his personal favourites and we are not disappointed. His cuisine is modern yet unpretentious with simple dishes that reflect his personality and provide diners with no-frills Nordic luxury.
Soft lighting shines through the antique windows of a seventeenth century building in one corner of Frederiksberg Gardens. Torches and small portable fire pits outside Mielcke & Hurtigkarl light up the evening while inside an impressive LED lighting installation hangs side by side with classic crystal chandeliers from the ceiling. The walls of the dining room are studded with works of art, big and small, and visitors to the restrooms are serenaded with the sounds of lapping waves and fluttering butterflies. Many of the historic building’s fine details have been left untouched, and a live tree in the middle of the room is like an extension of nature from the surrounding gardens. The decor itself reflects dedication to the magic of details, something that becomes even clearer as the “Metamorphosis” menu’s many small dishes begin to arrive at our table. Chef Jakob Mielcke’s culinary style is eclectic and wide-ranging, and the menu takes us on a journey to all corners of the world. A deconstruction of Thai tom yum soup with icy coconut milk snow and shrimp tastes familiar, but the texture is totally different. Airy ravioli filled with a spicy 'nduja sausage is a wonderful Italian mouthful, and lumpfish roe with lemon and browned butter in a crisp cone of caramelised milk skin is a tasty tribute to Danish spring. The fare also attests to a kitchen in full command of its craft, with the simplicity and precision reminiscent of Japanese traditions. The kitchen’s storytelling art peaks with two dried “cold cuts” of duck: one from teal and one from a wild duck shot by the chef himself. These two understated bites are a liberating interlude in the evening’s cascade of impressions. The selection of drinks is enticing, with a relatively small but interesting wine list and well-composed pairings that, like the food, offer both adventurous and familiar experiences. For example, a wonderful dish of al dente fried Jerusalem artichoke with an umami-rich sauce of anchovy and egg yolk with pistachio dust is accompanied by a boisterous glass of Beaujolais blanc with slightly oxidized notes, while a serving of pigeon comes with a classic Barolo. The pigeon is roasted pink, garnished with lollo rosso lettuce and served on a bed of shaved truffle and French chanterelles, with a sauce of sherry and morels – a perfect dish that becomes all the more spectacular with the fungal earthy notes of the elegant Barolo. We substitute some of the wine pairings with alcohol-free homebrewed kombucha, a decision we do not end up regretting. It is a revelation to experience an amazing rooibos tea kombucha, whose distinct fragrance matches a dish of turbot, nestled under beetroot wafers and topped with a bright red sauce, fermented blackcurrants and lardo. Chef Mielcke and Sommelier José Santos are not in the restaurant this evening, but both the service and the kitchen perform without a hitch. Restaurant Manager Thomas Amir Korby and his staff exude the expertise, calm, knowledge and professionalism it takes to make a dining experience complete. Combined with one of Denmark’s most eclectic yet accomplished kitchens, the resulting experience is original, distinctive and flawless.
It might well be that somebody passes the Mimosa, located in a small wooden house inthe Järve district of Tallinn, right by. From afar, it resembles too much a regular home andnot enough a restaurant or even a public establishment ofany kind. The impression stays with you when you enter. Each of the small rooms across the two floors accommodates a couple of tables. The absence of beds, desks, wardrobes and other household furniture barely registers.
The service? Like a relative getting you a plate of food from the kitchen. And the food isregular home food. (Only much tastier than regular home cooks normally manage.) Even the wines are available in shops and may well bide their time in the guest's own home. For lots of people living in bigger cities, temporarily or for longer, their true home issomewhere else. Mimosa isan irreplaceable place in the moments when homesickness strikes.
From the seductive decor in bordello red, with bar, sofas, small tables and booths in an enchanting blend, this place is slick. We could be anywhere in the world, but this is Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet’s Östermalm, where the women like bubbles in their glasses and the men all have beards. The smart, minimalistic menu offers 15 “salty” dishes and six “sweet”, broadly embracing all of Asia. A sesame-sprinkled rack of lamb, Korean BBQ-style, comes with asparagus, broccoli and goat's cheese cream. It’s a home run. So, too, is the duck confit with ginger and Asian pear, though the spices sometimes knock over the other ingredients. The tuna with wasabi, yuzu-soy and Avruga caviar is also seriously yummy, one of our faves. Or does the initial lobster taco with a wasabi and avocado cream still take the prize? The drinks we choose are good, well matched, and doled out liberally. And so is the ending. What could it be? Our fleet-footed waiter proposes a combination of all the desserts, all seven, in a grand dessert. It is a beautiful performance with chocolate and plum, coconut with tapioca and fruit salad, mango with kaffir lime, and a spicy crème brûlée with apple and almond. But what about ice cream, ask the children. Done! And some sorbet for the adults, at the conclusion of a trip through Östermalm’s orient.
The Mix is a bright yellow painted restaurant at the lower lobby of a hotel in Tallinn Old Town. The ambient music is sultry, timeless variety music. The din of the city center outside seems tobe miles away. Time for a nap? Not a chance! No matter your pick, each dish comes with a twist. It begins right off the bat with a miniature loaf of bread served on a little wooden peel. The addition of dark beer has turned the otherwise solid structure softly spongy. Unexpected, yes –buttasty. Next, the menu proposes a modest Estonian organic beetroot tartar. But the beetroot hasbeen marinated in vanilla to taste half of raw, half of boiled beet. Feta crumbles, pureed peasand beetroot dust contrast in its presentation. The Head Chef offers the guest no welcome. Instead, thereis a farewell drink. A small glass of masterfully made lemon liquor redolent of tart lemon peel.
Chef Steffen Villadsen has been responsible for carrying on the proud traditions of Molskroen (Mols Inn) since the beginning of 2016. Lest there be any doubt, let us begin by saying that his high gastronomic ambitions have been realised to the fullest. With a style based on classic French cuisine, Villadsen innovatively combines ingredients in richly detailed and interesting new twists. The first course features Limfjord oysters, quickly fried to intensify the taste of the sea. Savoy cabbage, Høost cheese and toasted wheat berries add deep flavourful notes, while pickled green strawberries add a freshness that plays well against the exotic fruits of a Slovenian orange wine. The wine’s fine acidity and minerality stand up well to the lightly metallic flavour of the oysters. It’s an excellent and creative wine pairing from Restaurant Manager Karina Kannegaard, who came to Molskroen from S’vinbar in Aarhus, bringing with her a number of interesting bottles from the big city. Our waiter playfully “warns” us about the somewhat “nerdy” bottles, but we enjoy the personality, soul and strong storytelling behind the wines, as the small niche winemakers are nicely integrated into the overall composition of the wine menu. Coenobium, the monastery wine from Lazio, is fruity with slightly earthy mushroom notes, making it an excellent match with the next serving’s duxelles of mushrooms and onion. Underneath the duxelles is a piece of perfectly cooked line-caught cod with pickled gooseberries and intensely spiced, paper-thin, crispy slices of ventrèche. A marvellous fumet of smoked fish bones rounds out the excellent flavour of this dish. The service is razor sharp in its choreography where the food is paraded proudly to the table on high-raised platters by a small brigade of chefs. The professionalism shines through, but the chefs also bring the presentation down to earth with personal stories about everything from animal welfare to apprenticeship anecdotes. Exclusivity is evident in the decor, with golden copper lamps, light wooden floors and black wooden furniture with cognac leather. And although the service is often reminiscent of a fine French restaurant, the warm smiles of the wait staff remind us that we are still in Jutland after all. The main course is a cut of succulent rabbit saddle with fried foie gras, crisp pickled Nashi pear and a piquant Madagascar pepper glaze that provides a sharp contrast to the sweet pear and deliciously rich foie gras. Slightly bitter walnuts and fresh celery ensure that the dish touches on the full spectrum of tastes, resulting in perfect harmony. A visit to Molskroen is a consummate dining experience that expertly combines classic virtues with contemporary trends. Delicious flavours and French cuisine remain the solid foundation of the inn, even as refreshing new ideas from near and far wash in from Ebeltoft Bay.
In the midst of Mols Bjerge National Park lies the Friland eco-village, home to the vegetarian gourmet restaurant Moment since 2016. With new Head Chef René Warn, whose past experience includes a stint at Kommandanten in Copenhagen, the menu is light-years from simple salads. The flavours are full throttle, as techniques such as pickling, fermentation and smoking transform familiar vegetarian ingredients into intense new culinary experiences with depth and complexity. Slow-braised green cabbage has a caramelised, sweet depth, as juice from fermented cabbage gives the dish more power and balanced acidity. Le Sacre from Ebeltoft Bryghus, a fine and vinous beer from the drinks menu, does a good job of capturing both the fermented and fresh notes, but struggles a bit with the sweetness of the cabbage. The host couple, Morten and Rikke Storm Overgaard, are working the floor this evening. They share their expertise on ingredients, preparation and the wines in our glasses, while providing warm and welcoming hospitality. The restaurant is bright, with modern Nordic decor and a view of the somewhat futuristic greenhouse, where many of the kitchen’s ingredients are grown during the summer. The dessert nicely concludes a well-composed meal with a taste of sunny summer: pickled wild blueberries and a refreshing granité of aronia berries with crystallised white chocolate, caramel and rich, creamy sheep’s milk yoghurt topped with dried rosehip petals that give the dish a lightly perfumed and floral summer aroma. A meal at Restaurant Moment is a tour de force in vegetarian diversity with sustainable principles underlying the delicious cuisine on every plate.
Rabbit husbandry is common in Estonia, but few rabbits are fit for dinner. Therefore, Kärme Küülik - the Rapid Rabbit - stands out with its offerings. They lay it on thick, too: rabbit paintings, symbols, figurines cover every inch of the premises. And naturally, rabbit immediately catches our eye on the menu. Kärme Küülik serves its dishes homelike. All starters, servedon colorful platters, are meant for sharing. Colorful is also the word that best describes the atmosphere, the visitors, and the moods at the eatery. The experience begins with focaccia. Served on the house to inspire the palate, it has become legendary in Estonia. With a single exception, the food is prepared on open fire in a brick oven. The exception: applewood smoked shrimp flambé. We are brought a plate with applewood twigs on which the shrimp are laid. The whole affair is doused in strong liquor and set on fire. It is almost unbelievable how delicious something so simple can be. If you go heavy on starters, take a minute to ask yourself if getting a main makes sense. The mains are huge– and no less delicious.
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.