Fusion strives to create an international urban atmosphere, with lounge music in the sound system, high-tech decor and the added bonus of a view of the fjord. The concept succeeds by combining inspiring cuisine with adept service. The long wine list includes renowned makers and regions, but could use a bit of an update in terms of semi-sweet wines that go well with Asian flavours. We are served a soft colossal scallop, fried perfectly crisp on one side, with small broccoli shavings marinated in lime and miso, a mild umami bomb with a liquoricy tarragon oil that could have made more of an impact. Next is a fried, juicy turbot with a crisp crust topped with a poignant sauce of soy sauce, ginger and buttery depth. The plate also contains salsify in three versions – fried slices, crisp chips and a caramel-like purée and a garnish of mild watercress, fennel and nasturtium, adding a discreet touch of liquorice. With the light dishes we drink Louis Roederer Brut Premier. Our server suggests that its depth can stand up to the sweetness, acidity and umami – and he’s right. A succulent roasted thigh of quail with spiced mince and a sauce of chicken stock, blackcurrants and hoisin is a romantic symphony. Yet the highlight comes with the fried sweetbreads with coriander oil and deep base note of ponzu, served with a powerful and creamy potato purée and mighty truffle foam. A sprinkling of kimchi-spiced sesame seeds adds a spicy chilli kick. The desserts are mostly light and fresh. Fusion combines Asian and Nordic cuisine with bravado.
Åre, is that the alpine resort near Fäviken? Yes, Magnus Nilsson’s cult restaurant has become a global destination, not just for initiated foodies but also for an increasingly broader audience. And indeed, the show is unique: a big dining experience that, in its radically local focus, is just as exotic for Stockholmers as for Koreans, and with a set design that supports it in every way. The landscape dotted with red timber houses and the Åreskutan ski slope in the background is most dazzling in winter, even if there is a paucity of fresh local greens on the table, though Nilsson and his crew are adept at procuring frost-kissed treasures from the snowdrifts. Like the garden’s last Brussels sprouts, whose outer leaves have such highly developed sweetness that they are simply steamed, plated stylishly around a hefty dollop of Carelian caviar. The summer’s rich offerings are naturally stored through various conservation tricks that once kept people alive over the dark season but today have the primary task of entertaining the taste buds with lively acids and deep, complex umami. The guests gather in the hall at seven o’clock on the dot for drinks, snacks and a chat beside the crackling fire. The special house beverage this year is a Negroni made from pickled rowanberries on their sprig, adding both bitterness and muffled yeasty notes. Tasty tidbits from the kitchen are served at breakneck pace, and all with a small presentation, some by Nilsson himself. Sometimes it’s needed: what is this tjesmus served with fermented crowberries with the broth of smoke-dried reindeer meat? Ah, Jämtlandic curd. It gets a little crazy sometimes. Under a cap of fermented hazelnut hides a mini tartare of cow’s heart, though it is presented as moose heart by the waiter before Nilsson cuts him off, “It’s too late in the season for moose!” The big hit among the snacks is, as always, bird liver custard. With its cloak of malted cabbage it’s better than any foie gras with its broad and deep umami sweetness. Yes, everything is as it should be at Fäviken, which is both a strength and a weakness. Nilsson will always have a place as one of the great innovators in Swedish gastronomy, but ongoing renewal is not at the top of the agenda. Obviously some dishes deserve a place in eternity, and perhaps diners might even become angry if they did not get the iconic scallop “in the shell from the fire” or for that matter the mighty, juicy king crab leg with its “almost burnt cream”. A 2010 Meursault 1er Cru Les Poruzots by Colin-Morey can handle a number of dishes with its pure acidity, restrained fruit and long minerality – until sommelier Anders Forssell breaks in with an amontillado to go with a sourdough pancake with chopped seaweed and meat butter, one of this year’s newcomers. Other impressive newbies include a spruce-steamed piece of cod loin with glassy pickles and buttery coins of Jerusalem artichoke; a 60-year-old ocean quahog in beer vinegar; a blackened apple with a dollop of milk that’s inoculated with white mould, a fresh Brie de Fäviken – one of many homages to the old dairy school once housed here. But the one that made us happiest is the pork chop, first presented as a complete rack before being served with the pig’s shiny fat cap, a piece of pie from its liver and a single accessory: a large wafer of fermented, roasted and finely ground lupine. Nilsson has made something of a mission out of gastronomizing this industrious legume and we get to test its distinctive flavours in another dish, too, a tofu-like gratin with flowers and seeds – plus a fermented stalk, an exclamation point in umami. Then it’s back down to the hearth for sweets, a fireworks display of light entertainment, where the highlight is always the burning marrow pudding, this year accompanied by frozen milk. Anyone who needs to numb the oral cavity after all these umami excesses can do it with the house’s snuff made from home-grown tobacco.
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.