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.
A private house with a large garden near the city centre. Isn’t it nice? Like living in the town andin the country at once! No matter how big or small the city, such treasures are few andfar between. The Umami occupies one such house in Tallinn. In the summer, unless perhaps it rains, everybody eats outside among the apple trees. The children can play in the sandbox in the corner of the garden. In the winter, the two-story wooden house is warm and cosy, and children have a big playroom where parents can sup with their children asif they were at home. Umami is an exceptionally family-friendly restaurant. The menu lists safe and familiar local ingredients that are given entirely new flavors through their exotic accompaniments. Trout, baked in the restaurant’s smoker, is served with a Guasacaca sauce of avocado, parsley, and coriander. The chef seems to have a fondness for trout. In the short menu, we encounter it among starters (sashimi) andin the fish pond soup. Raised in Saaremaa spring water, the trout with its clean flavor deserves its position ofhonor. The drinks list features an exceptionally broad selection ofnon-alcoholic drinks. This small garden house is indeed rich in flavors.
Estonian folk wisdom has it that weeds cannot be destroyed. Restaurant lovers will behappytohear that, far from destruction, Restaurant Umb Roht (loosely translated: weeds) only keeps getting better, year after year. This unpretentious-looking little eatery delivers an original cuisine with a character. The young head chef Arvo Sulu rejects boundaries on principle; the menu ranges from octopus to birch sap curdle. The sweet-sour aroma of the latter makes for a particularly fond memory. The chickpea meringue contributes the sweetness and the crunch, with anadditional sour hint from marinated gooseberries and currants. Every dish on the menu is paired with a wine recommendation, but matching cocktails andmocktails can be requested just as well. Itis hard to decide whether the food or the drink isthe bigger attraction. The Umb Roht isoneof the few places where you are sorry to leave and start plotting your next visit upon walking outof the door.
Vanasadama, Suuresadama küla, Pühalepa vald, Hiiumaa
Ungru Restaurant and Guesthouse form an inextricable whole. The restaurant offers the best food on Estonia’s second largest island, and the small guesthouse with its five rooms offers the island's coziest accommodation right above the restaurant. Taking one and leaving the other means leaving your Hiiumaa experience incomplete. The restaurant is open only during the summer and offers the best of the island’s harvest and catch. In many cases, the visitor has a direct view to the place of origin of the food on the plate. And witnessing it yourself contributes a special Hiiumaa flavour to the simple local food. Be it smoked goat’s cheese from Varese farm, local organic beef tartar or juniper-smoked crèmebrûlée. Same products made elsewhere never have this Hiiumaa flavour.
Do you know what uoksas means? If not, you may initially find the restaurant confusing. Lights dimmed, night and day. Red brick walls accentuated with plenty of tree branches, moss, and other organics. Bird nest lamps in the ceiling. But when you find out that uoksasis the Lithuanian word for burrow, everything falls into place. While it stands above the ground, it’s a plenty convincing place to settle down andeye the proceedings in the open kitchen. The chef welcomes the guests to his den with chunky pulled beef tartar served on a potato chip, sprinkled with crushed hazelnuts and freckled with creamed pumpkin. The welcome bite combines with the surroundings to activate your imagination. This is an earthy bite indeed...it hints at rich and fertile soil. Uoksas isnot a carnivore’s abode. Ingredients other than meat are in preponderance. The autumn cucumber with pureed peasand onion gel is a juicy dish, where various techniques are used to present the clear and natural flavour of each ingredient to its best advantage. We are surprised by the trout: the fish displays neither the pinkish shade of farmed trout nor the grey of wild fish. Itis milky white! Smoked, then poached in cow’s milk, the fish tastes half of trout, half of flounder. Coffee is accompanied by the local digestif Suktinis – a mead brewed of grain, honey, andwater distilled into strong liquor. Uoksas is a stylish, natural, rustic streetside den, where excellent cooking brings out the clean flavours of simple ingredients in a way fit for a feast.
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.
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.