The website implores locals to drop by and enjoy themselves in the united spirits of Christianshavn (where the restaurant is located) and Bornholm (the home island of Kadeau’s founders) – be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The decor perfectly matches the culinary style, which is simple, Nordic and seasonal. On an autumn evening, it is only natural to start with a herby, rich appetiser of beef broth with tarragon oil and beef fat, bringing warmth to body and soul alike. Appetiser number two is a dehydrated beetroot with shredded beef fat and yeast – a sensational umami bomb to kick off our meal. And thus it continues at an impressive clip. Our waiters are well informed about the food and wine, the latter of which are low on sulphites, in keeping with the concept. The appetisers are accompanied by a white Jura made with savagnin and other local grapes, whose nice acidity and slight oxidation make it a fine pairing with the sour and umami-rich servings; it brilliantly matches a simple but refined dish of al dente squid with sweet grilled beetroot, sour yoghurt and fresh citrusy herbs. The tartare, not to be missed, is a real pleaser. Coarsely minced meat with good flavour and structure is joined by sour green tomatoes and oyster mayo, bringing the dish together nicely with richness and bitter/salty notes. A gargantuan and inelegant dessert with a slightly too chewy meringue, sloppily seasoned whipped cream and pickled cherries lacks sweetness and is simply a dud. But the kitchen is otherwise fine-tuned and unmistakably in the Kadeau lineage from beginning to end. A more affordable everyday version of its famous big brother, it’s a genuine “back pocket” deserving of a visit.
Naert opened in 2015 as a Norwegian gourmet restaurant with long menus and high prices, but a revamping of the menu last year saw a reduction in both. We are immediately thrilled by the introductory snacks, a simple and satisfying egg boiled in miso, served with a little dill mayonnaise. Throughout the menu the flavours are intensely delicious. A boned chicken thigh is surrounded by a thick and enticing ultra-crisp skin, while an acidic butter sauce with dulse and fried Tuscan kale envelops the crispness with a jaw-dropping umami punch. An orange wine with strong tannins and bold acidity stands up well to the rich dish. Naert clearly shows that Norwegian/Nordic cuisine is capable of embracing more than the cool and delicate flavours it’s known for. The kitchen makes good use of the season’s available ingredients, while banking those of past seasons with the extensive use of fermentation and pickling. A slow-roasted lamb breast virtually melts under the outer crust, held in check by beetroot and fermented blackcurrant. The beetroot notes in the extremely succulent and meaty gamay wine pairing make the dish sing loud and clear. Our attentive sommelier (the only waiter this evening) has carefully considered the natural wines that he exquisitely pairs with the flavours of our food. The only misstep of the evening is the bland milk ice cream with chunks of dry pastry, pickled sea buckthorn and poppy seeds. It looks like someone smushed a
Danish pastry into a scoop of ice cream, and the accompanying oloroso sherry is too dry to withstand the sweetness of the dish. The dining room has too few tables to fill out the relatively large space, and the naked bulbs hanging from the ceiling do nothing to create a cosy atmosphere, but the friendly service and kitchen’s high level of culinary ability make the overall experience a positive one.
In the middle of reading the menu we notice that the Pommern is gone! Instead of the four-masted steel barque that is usually moored in the harbour outside Nautical and the Åland Maritime Museum, now there is nothing but the (albeit beautiful) glittering waters of Mariehamn. Our first look at the menu inspires fears that that resourceful simplicity that charmed us on previous visits might also be missing. Toast Skagen and flounder meunière sound undeniably like dishes you might find on the menu of a small town hotel. But after assurances that the museum ship has only been temporarily relocated for maintenance, and a delicious amuse-bouche in the form of Jerusalem artichoke soup with smoky bits of lamb tartare and crisp black bread, we feel much calmer. When Skagen à la Chädström turns out to be chock-full of horseradish, and the witch flounder majestically sails in like the Pommern on a 1:2 scale with zesty pickled fennel and a decadent buttery champagne sauce, all our worries are blown away. It’s a bit intimidating to eat, but there is nothing not to like when it’s this intensely delicious. “The cod has arrived!” exclaims our very social waiter, pointing out the fishing spot beside some islets just beyond the harbour entrance. On the plate the fish swim à la bourguignonne, in red wine sauce with diced pork and mushrooms. A nice, smooth potato crème completes the plate. This dish is also rather hefty, but just the right amount of nourishment on a bleak late-winter night in expectation of spring – and the Pommern’s return.
N.B. Sørensen’s Dampskibs expedition started up as a steamship company in Stavanger in 1876. Today it is the name of a brasserie that has been around for the last 25 years, and a more exclusive restaurant on the second floor called N.B. Sørensen Annen Etage. Annen Etage means “second floor” in Norwegian, and underlines the fact that the two restaurants have completely different concepts. The wooden floors are old and crooked, adding to the feeling of being at sea even before the first drop of wine hits your tongue. Chef Filip August Bendi is one of Norway’s strongest hopes for the next Bocuse d’Or. His traditional and creative menu suits the historic seaside location perfectly. In springtime the seafood in Stavanger is at its best – and Bendi and his team know how to make it even better. The menu is fixed and consists of four dishes, though this number generously expands by five with additional treats served in between that could easily be mistaken for regular portions. It opens with fried skrei skin, herring roe and parsley, before moving on to a taste of Norwegian childhood with the simple bread on a stick known as pinnebrød. A whale tartare is elegant and fresh and combines two classic dishes in one with its topping of horseradish cream, Kalix bleak roe, milk and nasturtiums. And the best part? We haven’t even started on the menu yet, which turns out to be loaded with the best the sea has to offer. Squid, scallops and monkfish are plated neatly and luxuriously with the first fresh greens of the year. The dessert tops all this off with an ice cream made of yellow beets and elderflower, homemade ricotta, liquorice meringue, frozen yoghurt and purple oxalis. The servings are accompanied by a traditional string of white wines. The kitchen does a great job at bringing you a truly seasonal Norwegian meal with finesse and a twist. Unfortunately, the service is a different matter. Though the timing is precise, the waiter spends more energy correcting the guests than contributing to the positive ambiance and his knowledge is limited. The staff even argue about an overcharge on the bill. It almost ruins the sweet aftertaste of warm chocolate cake dipped in ice-cold milk.
Thereis a deep meaning to the name of the restaurant at the intriguing new design hotel Pacai in Vilnius. The processes that started in the Baltic states in1918 culminated with the three becoming independent countries. The restaurant serves Baltic cuisine. Itis the first and only such in all three states. Apart from this historic date, the Baltics are certainly similar in their Nordic landscape. Anything else, though? Itis too early to tell. The restaurant is conducting R&D to find out. The Nineteen 18is a small restaurant in the back of a large hotel complex. Its limited space is divided into anopen kitchen and a small dining hall seating just 22. Its interior isminimalist, with black-painted walls and a low white ceiling. The tables are made of dark wood and the chairs are upholstered in grey. The overall impression is formal and slightly introverted. Not unlike, perhaps, the first impression upon meeting Baltic natives...Dinner at the Nineteen 18is a single tasting menu. The dishes are kept secret until they hit the tables. The guests have a single choice to make: whether toopt for the alcoholic ornon-alcoholic matching drinks selection. The head chef, Matas Paulinas, is a Grand Old Man in Lithuanian culinary circles. It took him just a year to skyrocket his previous restaurant, Nüman in Kaunas, to the position ofthe top restaurant in Lithuania. His ambitions for the Nineteen 18 seem tobe even higher. Matas’ cuisine is honest, thoroughly original fine dining. Every concept is taken toaninnovative, original solution. Vegetables, grown on the restaurant’s own farm, dominate themenu. The most spectacular of the dishes is the turnip-stuffed turnip. A turnip is hollowed outand filled with creamy churned milk-horseradish sauce, with layered, pastry-like squares of baked and marinated turnip. Simple and clear flavors are Matas Paulinas’ signature. Hehas a way of blazing trails, doing what others haven’t tried. The food is paired with house-made juices (or if you chose the alcoholic selection, try atleast the carrot-hazelnut juice or the smoked beetroot juice to know what you're missing out on). Or with a selection of alcoholic drinks, of which some Latvian and Estonian ciders are the most memorable. The challenge posed by Baltic cuisine is massive. Each of the three national cuisines isstill undefined. So how can there be overlap when there are no boundaries? But you have to start somewhere. The first menu at the Nineteen 18is a first, brief, but appealing excursion to this undiscovered land. We look forward to the next steps.
At the little sister to the finer AOC, Christian Aarø and crew have found a style with quality and craftsmanship of the same high standards at a very reasonable price, executed with greater simplicity and less prestigious ingredients. On this winter evening, sitting by the restaurant’s large-windowed facade, Copenhagen is mirrored in the adjacent waters of Christians-havn. In summer you can enjoy the same view in sunlight, sometimes from the outdoor terrace. The view adds an extra dimension to the meal, and fortunately the restaurant is not short on window tables. Aarø is among Denmark’s best sommeliers, as evidenced in the wine list. The wine pairings (DKK 325 for four glasses), as well as the many glasses and extravagant bottles on the wine list, have all been selected with the greatest of care. We are served a glass of young chardonnay from Hamilton Russel on the Western Cape of South Africa, whose minerality and fresh notes of pear and lime balance a brilliant dish of salted pollock. The fish comes in green robes of lightly smoked Tuscan kale and cod roe cream with pickled elderflowers. Several dishes during our meal employ this discreet use of smoke and richness to add an edge to the creamy flavour, including the boneless rib-eye in a jacket of beets with marrow and slightly bitter parsley emulsion. This subtle smokiness is at its best in the tender lamb belly with large, mild Brussels sprout leaves, parsley root and smoked butter sauce. The smoke, nutty butter and bitter Brussels sprouts are all elevated by a fantastic glass of pinot noir 2012 from Pro Bono from the central coast of California: a velvety, fresh wine with notes of red berries and mushrooms. The menu is smart and edgy from beginning to end, and Chef Nikolai Køster also has a flair for desserts. “Lemon mousse” with caramel and frozen yoghurt has fresh acidity, while mocha foam with chestnut and salted caramel ice cream is sweet, salty and slightly bitter. Both hit the bull’s-eye with few frills. The service is attentive, impeccable and informal (guests fetch their own cutlery, for example). But the food is served hot and often by a team of servers. Our total indulgence of the palate ends with well-brewed mocha and a reasonable bill of less than 2,000 DKK for two.
The best way to arrive in Tallinn isby sea. It offers a captivating panoramic view to the silhouette of the approaching city. If you arrived in a different way, visit Restaurant NOA. Itoffers front row tickets to the same view. The view, of course, contributes to the experience, butitisnot the main reason to visit. The NOA Chef's Hall, located under the same roof, is the best restaurant in Estonia. NOA itself is a slightly simpler, more affordable version of it. Round chairs in different colours, designed in the 1960s minimalist fashion, contribute to a cheerful impression in the whole restaurant. And they are comfortable seats for when the panoramic view over the ever-changing sea to the city along with good food and drink nail you to the place. NOA offers a signature cuisine by Tõnis Siigur and Orm Oja, the most creative in Estonia. The creativity is mainly expressed in the numerous additions to familiar dishes. The chicken schnitzel - crunchy surface, juicy middle - becomes a special NOA schnitzel with ruccola mayonnaise, plum ketchup, deep-fried sage leaves, coal-roasted Padron peppers and marinated onions. Sounds like a bit of a cacophony, butitisin reality an excellently balanced dish with plenty of different flavor nuances and visual appeal. And the newest news is the new NOA cocktail list that matches the menu in creativity.
Since the beginning of time, mankind prepared food with smoke and fire and nothing else. The invention of electricity changed everything. But to move forward, you sometimes have to take a few steps back. The frontrunner of Estonian fine dining, NOA Chef’s Hall, makes a fine art outof this balancing act. Modern kitchen equipment has been carted away into the kitchen of the simpler NOA restaurant under the same roof. And now, when the evening drowns the restaurant in shadows, if you were to turn out the lights, you’d see a smithy rather than a kitchen: hungry flames, radiant coals,and smoke... But fine dining is very much present. Preparing cutting-edge food inan ancient way isaneven finer art; the chef displays his skill unassisted by modern technology. A saucepan isbubbling on the coals, and a burning piece of timber is sometimes dipped into help with the authenticity of the flavor. There is more. But the guest doesnot need to know every secret of this kitchen. The alliance of robust techniques and fine dining is still young andfragile. There are sights worth seeing already, though. Such as the way diced lard is melted into fat in a metal cone on a bedof coals. The hot fat is then poured over thin slices of elk meatand the meat is proclaimed ready. The Chef’s Hall has two clearly superior tables. One of them is part of the table on which chefs prepare the food. Sitting here feels like taking part in making your food. Everything happens under your eye and in the hand’s reach. The other oneis the back endof the chefs’ L-shaped working table. Like the head chef himself, you won’t miss a single move by a single chef. These tables can be booked atan extra fee. Goonand request them! And one more thing to boldly order: Choose the matching selection of juices! Orif you have company, then consider having one person order the wines and the other the juices. The wine selection is delicious with its progression of rarities. But the juices are better yet. Blood orange with fenchol, pineapple-cucumber-coriander juice, capsicum-chilli-white chocolate drink... At the Chef’s Hall, the guests take their pick from two tasting menus. The longer lists eleven courses and the shorter two fewer. The cuisine, born in smoke and fire,isanimpressive experience even for the most seasoned food lover.
If you continue along the quay, so far that the indistinct signage makes you think you made a wrong turn, you will soon find yourself at the epicentre of Finland’s wild flavours. It’s a rather unexpected location for such an extraordinary restaurant experience, a stone’s throw from the moored cruise liners with their giant smorgasbords. At Nokka they make it clear early on that the kitchen adheres exactly to seasonal variations and is dependent on what they receive from small-scale suppliers, both in terms of animals and vegetables. This sets the tone for the two set menus, one of which is vegan. The first courses look confusingly similar. The omnivore’s dish, smoked pike with its roe, has a strangely delicious saltiness under pickled radishes, brightened up by a bowl of tarragon-laced cucumber salad as ice cold as the ocean outside. On the vegan dish the fish has been replaced by pieces of porcini. The pairing of a six-year-old, oak-barrel-aged, cognac-scented and white grenache from Montsant is more interesting than good. But the non-alcoholic pairing is perfectly on point: a lightly spiced sparkling beverage made of black currant leaves meets a small caramelized onion with browned butter and crispy “muesli”. At Nokka they are proud to have their own fisherman, who has provided the pike for the main course, which has been pan-fried with honour and comes with vegetable “cannelloni” and a potato croquette to suck up the creamy and tart sauce. The passion-fruit-flavoured sauvignon blanc from New Zealand is a fresh exception to the wine list that is primarily dominated by the Old World. Though the food is finely nuanced it’s never pretentious in this former warehouse on the harbour. It’s warm and inviting here, between the brick walls, with a full view of the kitchen where the happy cooks have eschewed knitted hats in favour of baseball caps. The staff are in a really good mood when the dining room is filled with tourists from far away, often from Japan and the United States, sitting side by side with jubilant large family gatherings. Over elderflower granite served in the restaurant’s obligatory carved wooden box we discuss how rare it is at a restaurant of this calibre to find the kind of generosity they exhibit in switching out dishes on the fixed menus. The food odyssey is rounded off with riches from “the land of a thousand lakes” in the form of a milk chocolate with gooseberres.
Asian cuisine is en vogue, and Estonia is deep in the trend. The quality of the restaurants, however, varies wildly. Thai restaurants are perhaps the most uniform among them. Nok Nok stands out with the same sultry atmosphere that we have come to expect of higher-class Bangkok hotel restaurants. The soundscape is smooth and unobtrusive, the atmosphere calm and serene, the design stylish without resorting to faddish tricks. The servers move soundlessly and anticipate the client’s every need; the vibe they create is a rare one in Tallinn. And the dishes are authentic at Nok Nok. Ever-so-slightly more conservative on heat, perhaps, than you’d find in Thailand. The waiters make a point of adding a word of caution about the spiciest dishes, and the kitchen is happy to regulate the heat level to the eater’s comfort. Often, soups are overshadowed by the rest of the menu. At Nok Nok, however, we came across a pleasant surprise – one that ties into our Nordic culinary traditions in its own way. If you like milk and vegetable soup, be sure to try Tom Kha Kai. The sweet-and-sour flavour palette of the perennial Estonian childhood favourite – milk soup – is complemented by a touch of heat. Other than the broth, the ingredients, of course, are new rather than nostalgic. In Bangkok, restaurants like this shield the visitor from relentless sun, smog and crowds. Tallinn’s Nok Nok offers shelter from bad weather and miserable mood.
The gigantic windows facing Åsögatan give Nook a metropolitan feel that’s followed up by dark, eclectic furnishings. The menu is playful with street food-inspired dishes at surprisingly affordable prices based on Nordic ingredients with long distance influences and an eye to fine dining. A glass of white Burgundy matches the salmon sashimi slider with mayo, cucumber and pickled ginger, and the kohlrabi tacos with crab mayo, trout roe and lobster tail. The Swedish octopus starter with green chilli oil, Avruga caviar and potato pieces rolled in nori marries nicely with a riesling, but the condiments conceal the mollusc’s delicate aromas. The tartare of dry-aged beef is among the best in town with pickled chanterelle mushrooms, salt-cured pickles, horseradish mayo, crispy fried onions and mustard cress. “That went down easy, I see”, says the waiter as he takes it away to leave room for the main courses. One is brill with tomato and sardine butter, fermented fennel beurre blanc and mashed potatoes. It’s a bit like a fine dining version of the Swedish classic, Jansson’s Temptation. A large serving of venison, seared rare, is accompanied by hearty beets, porcini mushroom cream, sour blackcurrants, brown butter and oyster mushrooms. These are paired with a tight white Spanish godello and a simpler but tasty red bordeaux. The desserts are welcomely light-hearted: a fresh citrus salad and yuzu curd with Sichuan pepper meringue; and a plum and filmjölk sorbet with umeshu foam. As long as you are not misled by the prices and order too many dishes from the flexible menu, a visit to Nook is a stimulating and satisfying culinary experience.
Nordisk Spisehus features a carousel of changing themes, but the common thread is signature dishes from top restaurants around the world that the kitchen has been granted permission to copy or build upon. This evening’s inspiration comes from the European restaurant Arcane in Hong Kong. We start with four snacks that include fried veal sweetbreads and trout cream on toast: a delicious mixture of crisp and smooth textures. We consult with the sommelier and, heeding his advice, we choose a wonderfully structured chardonnay-auxerrois-blend from Zind-Humbrecht to accompany the first two courses. The first serving is a small masterpiece from Arcane: fresh halibut, lightly marinated in yuzu, soy sauce, ginger and olive oil, with small cubes of confited jicama root. This citrus-driven opener with a nice bite to both the fish and the root is a perfect match for the wine. The ensuing butter-fried scallops of the restaurant’s own design are served with lumpfish roe, a crisp net of crepe batter, butter-fried broccolini and a creamy, well-seasoned herb hollandaise. The dish looks and tastes fabulous. Returning to Hong Kong, we are served a small and very tender cut of garlic-glazed flat ribs with spinach and fried shallots. Next up is another Nordisk Spisehus original - canette and a roll of pointed cabbage, salsify and walnuts in three wonderful variations: boiled, confited and fried. It all meshes beautifully with flavourful duck in crispy bites that reflect the quality ingredients and expertise of the kitchen. The restaurant is cosy, though a bit formal, and the staff perform with precision and professionalism throughout the evening. They have certainly succeeded at their stated mission of bringing the world to Aarhus, partly due to their own innovations.
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.