The “U” dances above “formel” in the logo, reflecting the connotative U-turn from “formal” to “informal” in Danish. The dancing letter may also reflect the central role of musicality in formel B’s precocious sister establishment. Such tactful and carefully choreographed sensory indulgence is rarely seen in this price class, invitingly and seductively executed to the smallest detail in this cosy cave bedecked with heavy curtains, sparkling golden facades, dark velvet and glowing lamps. The waiters exude attentiveness and a desire to serve. You are the centre of the universe. The tempo is fast-paced, but this suits the overall atmosphere, as does the music. Our first course of four arrives from the “An informal experience” menu, which naturally offers choices ranging from oysters to pork rinds and other whimsical snacks. In the first dish we expect the lobster to be overpowered by the highly acidic tomato vinaigrette, but it proves to be the perfect contrast to the wild flavour of the fresh, red-white meat. Dill is given the opportunity to stand out here with its deep green colour and intense aromatic flavour. The ice-cold thin slab of frozen crème fraîche with ramsons releases its fat as it melts on the palate, elevating the dish’s acidity. There is also crunch and deep umami from dried strips of kelp. It’s truly liberating when culinary techniques are presented in such an understated and mature way, without showing off. The same can be said of the wines, which are presented with great passion and typically stem from close partnerships with the natural winemakers themselves. We enjoy a classic Loire in our glasses: a chenin blanc from Agnès & René Mosse, which starts with intensely sweet yellow fruits then, as it opens, has nutty notes that tame the many coy flavours of the lobster dish. The city’s unruly culinary pulse is beating strong at Studiestræde 68.
The Inn at Ulriksdal, north of Haga Park, is a Swedish national treasure. Now the beautiful white building has been awakened from its gastronomic slumber thanks to the Svenska Brasserier restaurant group. With Sturehof, Riche and Teatergrillen to their credit, they know how to manage and renew restaurants with a gentle hand. And with Tommy Myllymäki as gastronomic commander, no one need hesitate about the quality and ambition. Here you can take family and friends, and have quiet business meetings. Visually, everything is the same; there’s a timeless elegance where nothing stands out. This also applies to the food that Myllymäki is gently coaxing into the present. A poached Lake Malaren zander comes with browned onions, anchovies, bleak roe and crispy oven-baked potatoes. A handsomely baked char in a butter sauce flecked with trout roe comes with steamed cauliflower and Anya potatoes. He also composes classics like veal with sweet and sour sauce and Wallenbergare. The starters are more contemporary, like the thinly sliced whole-roasted celeriac with Parmesan and truffle cream. For sweet tooths, the magnificent dessert buffet is a memory for life. It is ceremonious to step into the space with its old-fashioned tidiness. Many are attracted by the daily smorgasbord, which has been simplified to a fresh appetiser version with the best from the cold kitchen. What we now see at Ulriksdal is only the beginning of a new era. The once unrivaled wine cellar has also been updated, a new cooking studio with a lab is being built, and in the garden they are planning to build beds that will supply both Ulriksdal and the other Svenska Brasserier restaurants with fresh produce.
The hospitality in the north of Norway has long been legendary, and no place is this more evident than in the town of Harstad. At Umami, Sigrid Rafaelsen and Kim-Håvard Larsen have perfected the art of northern hospitality so that dining at their small, reservation-only restaurant is like visiting two good friends – who also happen to be the best chefs in town. They run their restaurant with devotion, catering to their guests’ every need. Since it’s a small operation, they also clear tables, and pour and present the wine. They have a good and important relationship with the local cooking schools, bringing in apprentices and helping to recruit people to the industry. Umami offers classic and refined fine dining inspired by the region’s produce and the current season. It’s an admirable devotion, and their hard work is obvious by how great the food is here. Our meal starts off with a long string of appetisers. The first is a reindeer tartare served in a cylinder of spring onion pastry topped with ramson cream; it’s an umami-filled and refreshing way to begin the meal. We’re treated to a number of flavourful bites, like blini with vendace caviar, and king crab and Jerusalem artichoke soup. Next come ravioli filled with chicken confit and pickled pumpkin, cod with peas and onion and a delightful wild boar with cauliflower, beetroot and truffle jus. The chefs’ devotion to creating delicious dishes is never-ending, and we can’t wait until we have another chance to experience their northern hospitality.
The white villa sits majestically in an old apple orchard. Inside, the house is buzzing with energy. Friendly servers hurry you to your table while balancing drink trays. The semi-open kitchen is brimming with activity; gurgling pots, hissing pans, and aromas that waft through the dining room, prompting you to exclaim “I’ll have that”. Umami doesn’t try or even pretend to be an Asian-style restaurant. The chefs just like to experiment with bold and daring flavors. Hints of coriander, soy, ginger, wakame can be found in many of dishes, complementing salads or delicate pieces of marinated fish. But, it would be unfair to say that Umami’s cuisine stops at Asian. Latin accents turn up unexpectedly in dishes like green peas with guasacaca or ramson chimichurri. The drinks list is equally daring, with many local beers as well as interesting Old- and New World wines, selected by the restaurant’s sommelier co-owner Kristjan Peäske. This child-friendly restaurant doesn’t eliminate the possibility for a romantic evening either as there are numerous, intimate tables for two.
Restaurant and wine bar Umb Roht was a hit from the moment it opened. The staff’s incredible enthusiasm, coupled with the innovative food and drink contribute to making this quite a scene. The menu (five starters, five mains and five desserts) changes often enough to lure the regulars back again and again; creamy celeriac soup with Roman cauliflower, carrot oil and buckwheat crisp; pork belly with enoki mushrooms, white truffle, white asparagus and rhubarb broth; birch jelly with redcurrant, gooseberry, birch leaves and chickpea meringue. All paired with an excellent wine selection, which is kept semi-secret as it’s never published on Umb Roht’s website, making each visit an exciting blind date with the (Coravin preserved) drink. And if wine isn’t the order of the day, then the cocktail menu is sure to do the trick, co-owner Karl Astok is one of Estonia’s top mixologists. Umb Roht is a thief of time, people often pop in for one glass of wine and end up getting another, and yet another, staying longer than anticipated. Be sure to order your dishes the same way, one by one. Even starters are so generous that you might not want a second course. The unique and cozy courtyard is Tartu’s most popular place for al fresco dining during the summer season.
Vanasadama, Suuresadama küla, Pühalepa vald, Hiiumaa
Until Ungru came along, Hiiu County, comprised of a smattering of islands, was off the Estonian restaurant-radar, even though it has always attracted visitors. The main island of Hiiumaa, with its rich forests, marsh lands and remarkable wildlife (elk, deer, wild boar, lynx, fox and some 250 bird species!), is a bountiful larder of local goodies, made for gastronomic exploration and experimentation. And though there are plenty of guesthouses on the island, Ungru, housed in the harbor’s former customs building, is the one you’ll want to hit up, it’s intimate, it has an exciting history, and best of all, it boasts a restaurant. The barque Hioma was built in the very same harbor, she was the first Estonian ship to round Cape Horn. Ungru’s seaside accommodations are comfortable; the food is creative, melding tradition with modern cooking methods; the really short menu features nine dishes in total, ranging from virgin herring with pumpkin, herring roe, egg and potato, to slow cooked pork with pepper sauce, roasted carrot mustard, onion cream and fried potato, and juniper créme brûlée. All is served with a side of storytelling, the staff is happy to share the region’s past. Once you have finished your meal, order a cup of tea made with handpicked wild herbs, and let the tall tales begin!
Reinventing classic Lithuanian dishes with modern techniques and presentation, Uoksas focuses on high quality local products while incorporating a sense of history and tradition, as well as a dose of Nordic esthetics. Take for instance their rye bread broth with quail egg, smoked eel and cucumber, it’s an interpretation of the typical fisherman’s tidbit of dark rye bread, a boiled egg and said smoked, slithery fish, modernized with an unexpected texture as a cold soup. Patés and purées are prepared particularly well. For many food connoisseurs, these dishes are already yesterday’s news, but the consistency of Uoksas’ preparations are precisely between purée and foam, a masterful achievement in its own right. Opt for the four- or six course tasting menu at dinner and toss in the wine pairing, it’s a culinary walk through Lithuania’s new gastronomic landscape. Or stop by for lunch and enjoy a few of the á la carte lunch-creations. Uoksas dining room has a certain school cafeteria-charm with its sparse décor and exposed brick wall, the atmosphere, however, is warm and the service attentive and friendly. The savory doughnuts with onion are a hit, and the beet granite and kohlrabi- and apple cider sorbet with brown cheese ganache and black currants is another innovative take on sweet endings.
It has been a little shaky at the top of the middlemost of the three Gothia skyscrapers, but now it seems like new Head Chef Gabriel Melim Andersson has his house in order. Even if the place at times seems like an anachronism: a formal fine dining restaurant for business dinners in an era of casual fun dining when food enthusiasts eat on their own dime. You could say that the restaurant passes through a narrow window in time, thanks to a service staff who, in spite of the starched grey uniforms and golden sommelier brooches (yes, all are certified sommeliers) succeed in creating a warm, intimate atmosphere and manage to correctly adjust the tonality to various types of guests. Not that there are so many; it is pretty empty in the large dining room with its glass walls facing out towards the city’s nightly glitter competing for attention with the plates that rain down on the table. The six amuse-bouches are fireworks from the start: the opening quince meringue with sturgeon caviar from Bulgaria sets the standard. Then comes the house’s signature: the small yet highly aromatic slice of fresh mushroom atop a mushroom croquette that tempts in a pas de deux with a blood tartlet, Kalix bleak roe and orange marigolds. That we are in Gothenburg is confirmed by a charcoal-grilled langoustine on a thin rye crisp, served with a crown dill emulsion. It’s almost like Leif Mannerström himself were standing in the kitchen. The bread presentation continues to be one of Sweden’s most entertaining. A brioche is stone-baked with bay leaves, tableside, naturally in the form of the iconic Hönö flatbread. The wine pairings are well chosen, even if the classic top wines, primarily from the United States, which were present here a couple of years ago, are conspicuously absent. The sommelier now shows his skills in the non-alcoholic beverage pairings. The actual tasting menu jump-starts the meal with a delicious brown crab with sour milk, whose mild umami is hidden under a slightly over-worked arrangement of green algae sails. Bonny Doon’s Verjus de Cigare made from the unfermented juice of grenache blanc and mourvèdre grapes supports the dish with its aroma and lively acidity. The evening’s highpoint is the crispy pan-fried cod loin with small pieces of corn under paper-thin daikon slices and flower petals in an herb-split jus, scented with puffs of smoke. A non-alcoholic spätburgunder from Bernard Ott in Austria matches the dish as nicely as the chablis, a 2013 1er cru Forêt with both mineral and floral notes. Next, an “anjou noir”: Maupiti from Clos de L’Elu, with its spicy fruitiness, is a devoted husband to the stylish dove from Skåne served with fermented plum and lilac under red pointed cabbage. Yes, there are a lot of floral displays here, even in the middle of winter. They continue all the way into the sweets, ending with violets and hibiscus. You can choose something from the bar to go with the sweets, but a few of these four scrumptious bites are tinged with alcohol, minimizing the need for liqueur.
We’ll be the first to admit that Uulits on Soo Street is an attempt to turn a hamburger joint into a real restaurant, but really, there’s no shame in being just a straight-forward burger joint when you make burgers as good as these. To be sure, there are other options on the menu, but they’re probably merely an attempt to make that restaurant connotation more plausible. If you look around, you’ll occasionally see someone eating something other than a burger. But it’s very rare. Uulits’ regulars are true burger connoisseurs––the kind of people who sneer at a conventional burger––that’s because Uulits’ offers plenty of creative alternatives to the classics; blackcurrant marmalade burger, grilled goat cheese burger with beet jam and mustard-honey sauce, for instance. All it takes is one bite to realize that great effort and hard work have been put into achieving this splendid harmony of tastes.
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.