We begin with a champagne called Mémoire. Crisp, with some depth, it proves a good pairing with the evening’s many snacks. It is also a harbinger of things to come: a parade of beliefs and memories manifested as dishes. Renowned for his social engagement and bold creativity, Chef Rasmus Munk compels diners at Alchemist to contemplate a wide array of perspectives. We are whisked away to every corner of the world Munk has visited, into uncharted waters with ingredients such as live insects, udder, blood and offal. The dishes push us to the limit, some gently and others more forcefully, yet the experience is held together by the careful selection of ingredients, impeccable flavour and cordial, humorous and knowledgeable service. Alchemist has but one menu and it contains 45 servings. It is all-in from the get-go with a tart sprinkling of ants over a mouthful of frozen apple foam and picturesque flowers. The kitchen’s affinity for molecular gastronomy and miracle powders is immediately clear as it conjures up juice-filled “cherries” with a hard chocolaty shell, chips with tomato powder in an edible bag, and mushroom quiche featuring a sphere that explodes on the palate with the intense flavours of mushroom and thyme. The meal is interwoven with entertainment and deliciousness, as evidenced by the gin-based drink we sip through straws from an iced lemon to the sounds of Balkan disco. The electronica-heavy soundtrack, curated especially for the restaurant, is a story in itself. Diners arrive throughout the evening, however, so it may be pure coincidence that a scathing violin intensely accompanies the proceedings as we stuff ourselves like caged geese with foie gras cream and freeze-dried maize. It tastes good, but the serving is not exactly pleasant and the symbolism is hard to miss. The same is true when Munk rolls in with a drip bag hanging from a rack that contains “blood” of beetroot and chicken stock. The sauce is sprayed over a lamb’s heart filled with tartare and we are furnished with a leaflet containing information on organ donation. The symbolism is more light-hearted as the theme from Beverly Hills 90210 blares out from a pair of headphones and we let all seriousness subside and simply munch on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The ham is dried Joseli from about the same year (2006) that Rasmus Munk spent time in front of the TV in his teenage bedroom. Similarly humoristic are the satay skewers with “balls” – cock balls, that is – that we grill over charcoal, and wine gum earthworms that we dig up from edible soil. The food is kept on track by the excellent wine pairings and an exotic juice menu featuring such choices as avocado juice and piña colada. Generally speaking, the wines are better matched than the juices. Take the iced tea with yuzu, for example, which is far too sweet for the deconstructed sushi of Japanese cod with caviar and soy sauce in a cone of nori, whereas a deep, mineral aligoté from 2007 fits this lovely dish like a glove. Forty-five servings sounds like a lot, but time flies by from the moment you take your seat at one of the dining bar’s soft chairs and allow yourself to be treated and entertained. Alchemist is intense, often teetering on the edge, and it will expand the horizons of the vast majority of its guests. In return, it is never boring and offers a virtually unparalleled total experience that is equal parts delicious, thoughtful and thought provoking.
Let’s first get the confusion out of the way: there are two restaurants called Alexander. The first in Pädaste Manor on Muhu island, open from spring to late autumn, the other at Toompea in Tallinn, open in the wintertime, when key staff from Pädaste welcome guests at Alexander Chef’s Table. True to its name, it’s an establishment with an open kitchen, a single table accommodating up to fourteen people, with one seating per evening. The excitement is palpable already at the front door. It’s like being invited to a private dinner party; you ring the doorbell of an ordinary apartment building, then you’re invited past a peaceful, quiet courtyard, into an intimate wood-beamed room with elegantly minimalist touches. The staff is casually dressed, focusing all attention on the gala-clad food. Chef Adrian Klonowski and the Maître d’ Carlo Vanzan begin by setting the mood, from there the ambiance is dictated by the guests, most often strangers who finish the night as friends, having bonded over an elegant gastronomic experience, despite language barriers and cultural differences. Communal tables have existed just as long as the family meal, with the Chef’s Table, the ritual of breaking bread has taken a new direction; food connects people. At Alexander, Chef Klonowski found complete creative freedom and developed a unique, multi-facetted cuisine, based largely on Nordic island produce. Today, the restaurant attracts visitors that might not otherwise have come to Estonia. It opened the doors to this country and simultaneously started welcoming exotic ingredients from faraway lands into its own kitchen. To be sure, these don’t dominate, rather they enrich the spectrum of local aromas.
The fairytale of Pädaste Manor began 21 years ago when Imre Sooäär and Martin Breuer purchased the completely run-down countryside estate. They told the locals about a crazy dream they had: someday in the not too distant future, foreigners would come from all over the world to visit Estonia, and expressly to spend a few days on the small and unknown island of Muhu, at Pädaste, which they were making into a sumptuous hotel. People stopped listening. The dream, however, came true. Why? Pädaste mixes luxury with local island life in a rare and savvy way. To experience the true character of Pädaste Manor you can’t just stop by for a quick visit, you need to stay at the hotel, use the spa, and enjoy a meal at Alexander, the establishment’s restaurant. Over the years, Alexander has acquired a reputation for spearheading the development of Estonian culinary culture as a whole. First, they conjure gourmet meals out of humble local ingredient, i.e. slender garfish, dried flounder, local snails, and foraged weeds that used to be considered inedible This has inspired local fishermen and farmers, who in turn have set an example and encouraged other entrepreneurs on the island to open local eateries. By now, Muhu might just have the country’s highest ratio of restaurants per capita. Muhu bread is legendary among Estonia’s bakers. Craft beers are also gaining recognition. There is an ostrich farm on the island, and a grape farm with an emerging vineyard! Muhu’s inhabitants have always depended on the sea for their livelihood, just like seafarers have always brought home new exotic flavors. Alexander’s Nordic cuisine is nothing new, nor is it an ultra-narrow niche. By now, its reputation (as well as that of Pädaste) has risen to such heights that the establishment is no longer merely a place to eat and luxuriate, it’s also a sought-after work place for chefs. Lately, foreign culinary professionals have perfected the local dishes even more. The kitchen, run by Polish Chef Adrian Klonowski, offers a seven-course parade of super-local flavors at the chef’s table, patiently thought through, down to the smallest detail, turning the traditionally rustic palatably fancy. A shorter menu, consisting of three dishes and changing on daily basis, is offered to guests who chose to extend their stays at the hotel and might not be in the business of multiple tasting menu experiences. 21 years have passed since the locals laughed at Sooäär’s and Breuer’s dream, they’re not laughing anymore.
It’s quite a trek out to the furthest reaches of Copenhagen’s Refshaleøen, where the crew at Amass usher guests into the high-ceilinged, street-art-clad cement-encased room with one of the most beautiful views of the city’s skyline. Chef Matt Orlando is at the head of a unique team comprising chefs, waiters and his wife Julie, who from their open kitchen spend the evening serving diners in a friendly and personable style that never becomes overbearing. Everyone appears to feel extremely comfortable here and the clientele is a diverse group representing more than one corner of the globe. Orlando’s style is all about show-casing pure organic flavour in original compositions and he is bent on avoiding waste and utilising as much as possible from the restaurant’s own raised garden beds and newly-built recirculating greenhouse. Amass is a crown jewel in sustainability, so it comes as little surprise that the kitchen practices the craft of fermentation. Orlando learned many tricks of the trade while at Noma, but he avoids hyperbole and every culinary decision is bound by what makes sense for a given dish. A cured brill is served with residual yeast from a beer brewer, fermented plums from last year and freshly picked shoots of arugula from the greenhouse. It is an overwhelming explosion of sharp arugula balanced by the acidic lemon peel, heat from a little chilli, sweetness from the plums and umami from the yeast. In another attractive dish carrots are seasoned with apple cider vinegar, chamomile and Japanese tea, and come resting atop a “ricotta” made out of blended almonds with notes of marzipan; the pickled elderflowers prove imperative. The sweetness is balanced by a wonderful glass of Pouilly-Fumé from Alexander Bain; it shows how restaurant manager and sommelier Bo Bratlann has curated the wine list without an iota of compromise, while also daring to think outside the box. The kitchen seamlessly weaves new cultural tales into the meal, like when Orlando transforms the chuno technique (the Incan method of drying potatoes) in an enticing dish of mussels, ramsons, dried potatoes and burnt lemon. Vegetables are at the hub of the sustainable philosophy, with meat served sparingly but all the more admirably. The lamb neck comes from animals that graze on pastures of angelica on an island off Iceland – and that flavour comes through in the heavenly meat, whose richness is held tautly together by black pepper oil, celeriac and sour cream. The desserts cater to the sweet tooth without going the pastry path. Despite the brilliance of the caramelised croutons with grated browned butter and frozen yoghurt, the top scorer is the vegan hazelnut ice cream with coffee grounds, marzipan, slightly burnt flakes of Oiala chocolate and meaningful drops of porcini oil. It’s the most luxurious ice cream on a stick ever, and just part of the accomplished execution that indicates that Amass is a restaurant at the pinnacle of its achievement.
The name AOC refers to restaurant manger, owner and sommelier (“Christian Aarø and co.”), but it is also a fitting wordplay on the term “appellation d'origine controlee” because of the originality and exquisite experience of dining under the historic vaulted ceilings of the basement at Moltke’s Palace in the heart of Copenhagen. Aarø, one of Denmark’s most knowledgeable wine experts, is joined by Chef Søren Selin, himself a leader in gastronomic perfectionism and creativity. Selin and Aarø’s competence and professionalism permeate the atmosphere and staff in way that makes everyone relax and enjoy this exceptional culinary journey. The appetisers start off with the Nordic notes of sea lettuce, fermented and subtle cucumber, fried cladonia lichen with chicken liver and, not least, a small fried potato crustade with leek cream that delivers the classic taste of sour cream and onion. The Nordic tartare taco is an impressive display of originality, made from choice minced beef from a biodynamic farm that slaughters one cow a month; it’s accompanied by acidic and bitter pickled gooseberries and distinctive cress. After that we transition to mild creaminess in the form of flounder with hollandaise and Havgus cheese. Only then does the actual ten-course menu begin – and what a beginning! Our fantastic young waiter is ebullient as he serves whole kohlrabi with the top still attached to each guest. Lifting the “lid” from the top of the root vegetable reveals a mild tarragon cream on top of a Limfjord oyster and small cubes of kohlrabi, apple, kale and sweet woodruff. All the taste sensations and multiple textures are at play in this rewarding and comforting explosion of flavour whose green theme is adroitly paired with a grüner veltliner from Weingut Pichler-Krutzler in Wachau. All of the dishes ultimately earn the status of “favourite”, including scallop in thin layers with the crispness of daikon and acidity of fermented asparagus, tied together by mussel cream and dill oil. The signature dish of Zittauer onion with caviar and elderflower is equally unforgettable. This mighty onion is baked to a core temperature of 90 degrees, then presented and carved at the table as part of the evening’s extensive table presentation, after which it is arranged with two types of caviar and then topped with a refreshing beurre blanc with elderflower and champagne. Paired with the riesling Mölsheim from Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier in Rheinhessen, this serving is pure elation. The menu continues with BBQ king crab, whose smoke notes and lemon thyme send mind-blowingly intense flavour careening in all directions through our tasting apparatus. Potatoes with morels, Danish lamb with ramsons, caramelised Jerusalem artichoke, and hazelnut and juniper berry ice cream with fermented gooseberries and blackcurrants all confirm that AOC is a place for a celestial meal that combines innovative Nordic purity with classic virtues.
Fragile, slender parsnip roots are coiled on a stone slab with small dollops of turnip-rapeseed mayonnaise to dip them in. Yes, it’s spring and things are finally beginning to grow in the fields so that Ask, the primary interpreter of New Nordic cuisine in Finland, can start working with “primeurs”. We close our eyes and enjoy the root vegetable sweetness, milder and softer than the stumps of autumn carrot with marigold mayo that also lands on the table, perhaps as a reminder of how long and harsh winter has been. In the sparsely decorated room, with benches along the walls and Ilmari Tapiovaara’s simple wooden chairs, nothing here betrays that we are about to be treated to a spectacular show in roughly fifteen acts. Chef Philip Langhoff surely learned a lot during his years in Norway and Barcelona, but back on his home turf he is engaged in poetically interpreting the harsh and characteristically acidic Finnish traditions. To go with the evening’s tasting menu (the only option), most diners wisely opt for the beverage pairings too, either with purely natural and biodynamic wines or with interesting non-alcoholic options. A buttery broth of roasted barley is paired with a beer from Stockholm Brewing Co., packed with fruity notes of apricot and mandarin to balance the cereal taste. Toasted buckwheat with a crème made of yesterday’s bread (zero waste!) and salsify follows the same idea but gets exhilarating and refreshing acidity from a vinaigrette. After by far the most delicious dish of the evening, a thick chicken broth with celeriac cream, egg yolk confit and ramsons, we get the strangest match of the evening – a rather inelegant tartare of venison with chopped hazelnuts in the company of a glass of Sancerre from Sébastien Riffault. It doesn’t exactly all come together, but we barely have time for concern before we get a waft of a brilliant chenin blanc from Domaine Huet in Vouvray and dig into more buckwheat, in the form of porridge with nettles. The flavours converge; our knowledgable waitress has guided us safely and securely. Dried salmon roe is served in a flower of onion petals, but wait, doesn’t it taste a bit like apple? Yes, there were apples involved in the braising of the onion, she smiles. A sorbet of sour milk, frozen yogurt, pickled elderberry and juniper oil indicates that the end is near. But first we must face one last seduction: mini pancakes, the size of thumbprints, with spruce shoot caramels and brown butter ice cream. It’s heartbreakingly good.
Light charcoal and grays. Wood and wool. The interior got a redesign in 2015 and breathes Scandinavian. It plays well with the New Nordic cooking that Niclas Yngvesson and Gustav Knutsson have become known for. If restaurants were measured in dog years, Bhoga would be about 35 by now and in its prime, and that would explain the maturity, self-assurance, creativity and courage that characterise the experience. Everything they touch gets turned and twisted around, tried and tested, and all with a rare sense of calm and confidence. Diners can choose the menu of five courses, or expand it to seven or nine, all beautifully presented on rough, elegant ceramics. The initial brown-buttery pumpkin tartlet and corresponding pumpkin broth with a vinegar note makes you forget the squash’s sugary-sweet Halloween associations. A fino sherry is a nice pairing, but so is the recommended Bellini cocktail, which has been delicately showered in absinthe. A scallop comes with an unusual and lovely seared exterior and rests in a buttery Ingrid Marie apple broth seasoned with thyme. Those who like the plant kingdom are in luck, for they use animals more like a seasoning here. One example is the perfectly round disc of celeriac confidently seared and topped with yogurt and crushed crunchy chicken skin – but it’s the fresh tarragon leaves that add to the simultaneous feeling of over-indulgence and elegance. So lovely! The mushroom dish is a bit like Bhoga personified: a porcini cream forms a luxurious cushion for the fungi of the year, the king oyster mushroom, lightly pan-fried, flanked by opposition in the form of crunchy buckwheat and raw mushroom slices. Beside it lies a pool of emulsified cream ale, topped with rose hip powder. The contrasts are sublime – in texture, flavour and appearance. It’s hard to say what we like most, the idea or the taste. On the whole, everything related to beer here is done well, from the selection to the matching, to the knowledge and enthusiasm. Those who choose the beer pairings get a journey through time and space. The wines are natural and biodynamic. Thoughtful non-alcoholic pairings are also available. A Muscovy duck (a native Swedish breed) attractively plated on a cream of fermented cherries is the only real meat dish. It comes with a flurry of zealously groomed Brussels sprout leaves and on the side, a crispy rye bun with a hint of fermented garlic. It’s the evening’s hit combo. Then comes cheese and wine. A smooth cream of Anno 1225 cheese from Almnäs topped with a ruffle of grated chervil makes the taste buds turn somersaults with a 13-year-old auslese riesling. The tempo is high without ever feeling stressed. The service is relaxed and charming. Each serving is beautiful and balanced. We get our Ethiopian coffee served in wine glasses, and why not? At Bhoga, anything goes.
Restaurant Credo is now temporary closed awaiting its relocation at Lilleby in Trondheim.
After 18 years on a narrow backstreet Restaurant Credo, the best restaurant in the region, and one of the longest-running restaurants in White Guide Nordic’s Norwegian top ten, is finally growing up and moving on. In a way that’s unprecedented, Credo has managed to reinvent itself several times during its lifespan, outshining the rest of its competitors year after year. During the summer of 2017 they are closing down and moving to new and better-suited facilities outside the city centre, a much-needed upgrade for the restaurant and the city of Trondheim. One could assume that the restaurant might go on autopilot in advance of a relocation like this, but that’s not the case with owner Chef Heidi Bjerkan. She’s working harder than ever, steadily improving the quality of each aspect of her operation. Credo has close and exciting relationships with two local farms, Skjølberg Søndre and Fannremsgården, which provide the restaurant with an amazing array of produce, dairy and meat. With these resources, Bjerkan is recreating food traditions from the whole region, preserving these memories for the future, and reprocessing them into modern cuisine. Her blend of tradition and modernity makes us remember long-forgotten flavours from our youth: this is grandmother’s cooking for our grandchildren to try. Some of those memorable flavours are showcased in one amuse-bouche – a small blood pudding made from pork blood and port wine topped with an intense, fermented lingonberry gelée. It is velvety, full of umami and so flavourful that you wonder why this traditional peasant food isn’t served on every street corner in Scandinavia. A thinly sliced lacto-fermented rutabaga taco is filled with lamb sweetbreads and black garlic – as “Trøndersk” as you can get, yet as modern as can be. Her homage to local ingredients is perfectly presented in the serving of “potetlompe”, a potato cake – the best we’ve ever had – served with homemade charcuterie and the most amazing butter and sour cream imaginable from Fannremsgården. It is bold to serve something as elementary as this – yet perfect. It’s spring, but we get a bit of fall with our raw shrimps, which are lightly brushed with chillies and served underneath last year’s kohlrabi (that’s been stored in beetroot wine) and this year’s first dandelion leaves and rose petals. The local langoustine is simply cooked in butter and served next to an emulsion made out of the fascinating sea wrack called siphon weed, topped with green oxalis. Our main course is pork cured for three months to an incredible tenderness with pickled and puffed barley, kale and pickled chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms. It’s so uncomplicated, but at the same time so refined. The dessert is one of the sweet highlights of the year: ice cream made from raw milk in bay leaf oil topped with a caramel made from dulse seaweed comes on a bed of crumbled coffee cake and fermented barley gelée. Chef Bjerkan’s work restoring the region’s food culture can be compared with Magnus Nilsson’s work at Fäviken, right over the Swedish border, and right now her hard work is the greatest culinary asset the region of Trøndelag possesses. We look forward to the next chapter.
We’re pretty sure that the general health of the Swedish populace would improve if doctors could prescribe visits to Daniel Berlin. The experience has been fine-tuned even more this year and, without sacrificing the friendly and familiar hospitality, they have sneaked in several small attractive service elements. The outdoor pause, for example, has been expanded to a small buffet around fire baskets and kerosene lamps where the cooks feed us small flavour-packed Brussels sprouts from a stalk just taken out of the garden and sweet chestnut pancakes with leeks and ramson capers. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. After the welcome at the farm by the Berlin clan, Sweden’s most service-minded restaurant manager Ellinor Lindblom kicks off the show at 18:30 sharp. Come on time, because everyone eats in the same sitting. The cavalcade of snacks is brilliant, with a mix of new and old hits. The thin wafer with wildfowl liver mousse and its subtle cinnamon dusting is still one of the yummiest things that has been served in Swedish restaurant history. But there are also new favourites like “the lobster sandwich” topped with dried umami-intense lobster bullion; the little tribute to Skåne in the form of a yeasted pancake with vinegar pork and an icy, fast-melting disk of frozen horseradish cream; and the bright green sorbet egg made from frozen Aroma apples and wild sorrel. The bread serving proves that Berlin’s crew knows when to make things complicated and when to respect simplicity. The bowls contain goat and cow’s milk butter from Vilhelmsdal. No more, no less. But what butter! We could live for a week on that butter and the plump, honey-sweet, four-grain bread. The traditional homage to the artist of the season (Lena Nilsson with underwater-inspired art) is a composition of raw shrimp, tangled seaweed, beets, and pressed rhubarb, eerily well balanced with an intense seafood sweetness, with dill oil to bind the dish together. The charcoal-grilled celeriac with its broth made from Prästost cheese is still here, but returning visitors get a variation in which the same root vegetable is served as a beautiful mille-feuille with opal plums, and smoked wild boar jus. The cod is prepared to iridescent perfection and served with a slightly smoky, frothy butter sauce, onion, and apple. Simple. Obvious. Intelligent. And terribly good. After the break, there’s laughter and fraternization (how often do you get to talk with your fellow diners at top restaurants?), and the wild duck comes in. Heart, breast, fillet, and fried tongue. It comes with a few dabs of slightly different sauces, but they feel almost superfluous once we sink our teeth into the bird. Berlin has mastered game like no one else. The meat is cooked with extreme precision in order to maximise the bird’s deep, muted, iron flavours. The desserts are worth a chapter of their own. First a lukewarm cream of Amandine potatoes is paired with a tart chokeberry sorbet and ground elder oil. An unlikely smash hit. Less unpredictable, but oh-so-irresistible is the combo of ice cream, salty meringue and rosemary caramel. Then it’s off to mother Berlin’s greenhouse where the Kenyan coffee beans are first pressed with the Aero Press and then served with a thin tuile of local bean-to-bar chocolate – just as acidic and intense as the coffee. The second cup is much milder, V60-brewed with the same beans – ingenious. It is served with a nourishing and comforting, warm rosehip soup and ice cream poetically flavoured with whitebeam buds.
Past and present meet most deliciously at Dragholm Slot, the over 800-year-old castle which for the past nine years has housed Claus Henriksen’s experimental kitchen. Henriksen traverses the surrounding forests, fields, meadows and beaches in search of ingredients, collecting herbs, roots and berries for the restaurant’s hyper-local, seasonal and personal cuisine. Humble ingredients are often allowed to play a starring role here. Take, for example, the assortment of snacks, which includes a piece of dried “parsnip bark” with the deep and sweet taste of a cigar box, joined by small dots of fresh goat’s cheese; or the folded pancake of nutty celeriac covered with an equally nutty layer of Havgus cheese and a drizzling of pine oil; or the decidedly intense cup of mushroom bullion, slurped through a spoon of smoked whipped cream. In the castle cellar we enjoy a peaceful fire around an open hearth, sitting in the comfort of stylish Wegner chairs. The lime-plastered castle walls absorb every sound, so that even when this restaurant is at full capacity, you can still take part in pleasant conversation. The menu starts with cabbage confit in perfectly straight, layered rows with Norwegian scallops, topped with the salty sea flavour of clam juice. Pickled elderflower buds hold the sweetness and richness in check, paired beautifully with a glass of local white wine from Odsherred made with solaris grapes, whose bold aroma of elder bolsters the exquisite acidity of the dish. A thin layer of sliced, baked “egg yolk” potatoes (a Danish variety of small, round and very yellow potatoes) are topped at the table with a smoked butter sauce and caviar; the smoke and potato flavours compliment one another exquisitely. Claus Henriksen makes vegetables shine in a way that makes you forget all about meat-based proteins. We are blown away by the main course, composed of nothing but onions prepared in myriad ways. A layer of “onion leather” made of browned onions covers approximately 100 tiny pearl onions in a bold glaze, which of course is garnished by the season’s first ramsons: it’s a harmony of sweetness and acidity and incredibly delicious. The pure fruit and fresh notes of an unoaked frappato from Sicily cut nicely through the dish. There is also room for some meat, and it’s naturally a cut that is often overlooked and bereft of praise. Braised veal tongue is rolled in a herby veal mince to form sausages and served with croutons fried to a crisp in tallow. The intense flavours are brought together by chicken liver with cognac and a thick, reduced veal jus. The dishes are accompanied by natural wines, matched skilfully by sommelier Peter Fagerland throughout the evening. A more pleasant countenance than Fagerland would be hard to imagine; his calm and comfortable manner enhances the overall experience. In short, Dragsholm Slot rises up as one of the nation’s brightest beacons of gastronomy.
Hay-fired, char-grilled, cabinet-smoked, flamed, blackened and baked in smouldering embers – yes, almost everything here is defined by how it met the fire. Ekstedt’s high-profile restaurant offers sparkling entertainment, especially if you sit at the communal table closest to the kitchen with its blazing hearth. There, with heat-flushed cheeks, you can watch the young head chef Rodrigo Perez use a special iron to melt a fat cap over the fire so the hot droplets fall down, kissing away all the innocence from some oysters that are served like ultra-elegant offerings in their shells. It was a dramatic step for Perez to go from Esperanto’s silk-gloved tweezer gastronomy to Ektedt’s brutal blast furnace mitts, and initially it felt a bit unsteady. But now Perez has found his groove somewhere in between and his self-assured execution is pitch-perfect. Restaurateur Ekstedt himself contributes to the strong character of the place, both through his celebrity presence in the dining room and his Jämtland roots, which come through both in the atmosphere and the cooking. The meal starts with a Norrlandic taco: finely diced venison topside browned in an red-hot cast iron bowl on the table served with pickled forest berries in a warmed flatbread. After a juicy coal-fired lobster in its broth and on a skewer, it’s time for more venison, dried and grated in an airy heap and served with birch coal cream and bleak roe from Kalix that you get to dig out of a charred leek. Blackened bits of hay-fired sweetbreads are so tender they melt in your mouth. The dish gets refreshing acidity from fresh sauerkraut, elegantly enhanced with sorrel, in great contrast to a cream of fermented garlic, the colour, texture and flavour of which is reminiscent of chocolate. The zander has been baked skin-side down on a bed of embers. The crispy skin with large burn flecks makes the dish, and the crunchy theme continues with snow peas and chanterelles. A wild duck cooked over a birch fire comes in two servings, bleeding breast in its jus with grilled heart salad and a thigh to pick up at the exposed bone and eat with your hands. Rolled in sweet crumbs of Jerusalem artichoke and elderflower, the next dish looks like a Magnum ice cream treat. The desserts are the establishment’s weak side. Quince is a vapid fruit which neither wood-oven baking, saffron ice cream nor a fierce herb granité can bring to life. The wine matches are brave, whether you order the pairings or enjoy a bottle with a few dishes. An Italian grenache, with elegant smoky notes, works as excellently as expected, with everything from pike to sweetbreads to a farm pig. Even the beer selection is faithful to the concept with full-bodied beers that support with fire and smoke.
Sayan Isaksson and his kitchen staff continue to hone their finely tuned poetic gastronomy, which so credibly blends the best of the Nordics and Japan in a generous yet restrained performance that engages all the senses. On a staggeringly high technical level Isaksson is the master of small expressions, which is evident in the initial parade of nine amuse-bouches. A quail egg in an eggcup made of salt is marbled in black vinegar, and the umami volume increases a half-notch when you dip it into a speckled mushroom mayonnaise (see cover photo). In this era of umami shock it is gratifying to find an example of the fifth taste sensation’s entire lovely register. Nowhere else can you eat with your eyes like this. Brittle tubes of dried black garlic on a bed of charred garlic peel are mesmerizing and, with a hidden filling of freshly picked greens, it is as much an exercise in texture as taste, where soft and chewy meet fresh and crunchy. This clear focus on textures is the big revelatory experience of the year. A little taco boat of cod skin contains a raw shrimp with an almost sticky-sweet creaminess on a bed of airy shrimp mousse with a bite of acidity. The first bread presentation is a crispy branch of seaweed with small paper-thin leaves and house-made nori – a calligraphic sculpture. That Isaksson recreates his entire menu (the six-course is a compressed version of the ten-course) between seasons is impressive. A few signature elements naturally stay on, like the origami flower of dried milk skin, now with crab inside, which is presented tableside in a small smoke-filled cloche. Most dishes include a small flourish at the table, and the whole dining show has found a new confidence that balances deftly between the formal and the informal, underscored by the fact that the sommeliers now glide around in long-sleeved, black cotton sweaters. A semi-transparent screen partitions off the Imouto sushi enclave in the far corner, and the slightly subdued hustle from there no longer collides as it did initially with the dining room, which develops its own light and murmur with a little help from what head sommelier Sören Polonius pours in our glasses. Polonius has now managed to build up the cellar with proper top picks, often six unique bottles from one legend and a unique case from another, and the wine menu refuses to take a supporting role in the big picture – for better or worse. This applies in particular to the “Coravin” section, three glasses of unique old-timers that you can get as part of your wine pairings “at the daily price”. The risk is of course that a wine with over 50 years behind it, like the red ’67 from the Cotes du Jura, does not have enough fruit to cope, in this case with one of the winter menu’s highlights – a shiny disc of beef marrow doused in a high-octane bouillon of oxtail and roasted cauliflower and topped with a spoonful of fresh Carelian caviar. Here Isaksson shows that he has also mastered the flavours in the heavier register without losing his unique musicality. He hits every note with the Linderöd pig, whose seared loin is hiding, along with a clam cream, under a slim circle of crème fraîche strewn with hazelnuts and delicate pieces of puffed pork rind. Never before has pig been served with such finesse. A quail from Norrby Säteri shows that the house takes advantage of the bird from beak to tail. The breast is served with “a study in white onion”, an artistic arrangement where a jus, cut with the fat from the quail and scented with poppy and mustard seeds, is poured over the heart and liver from the bird. On the side, the thigh to gnaw upon. For dessert, delights from the vegetable kingdom are a surprise: it is not every day one gets a fresh beetroot caramel and brown bean tartlet.
It isn’t easy to get a table at Frederikshøj. Like everything else about this place, the booking system is out of the ordinary. You can’t just click on a desired date – you actually have to write and request a table. But once that request is granted, a unique experience awaits. Chef Wassim Hallal’s strong personality and creative soul permeate every aspect of Frederikshøj. It’s a place for going all-in, and you’ll drink classic wine in divine pairings that will live on in the annals of your memory. Despite the arrangement of large round tables for two, the immaculately skilled staff create a warmth and comfort that make you feel like you’re sitting in your very own oasis on a gastronomic expedition. A torrent of seven humorous and tasty appetisers arrives with undertones of richness, sweetness, umami and smoke. Among the innovative and playful bites is a bowl of attractive stones, two of which are edible. These are “potatoes in potatoes” with lightly smoked fish and a marbled potato membrane to create the illusion of a stone. You can’t help but smile. Culinary acrobatics with form and texture are one of Wassim Hallal’s trademarks and they continue throughout the meal’s 15 courses. An oyster is not just an oyster, but a crisp flake of dried oysters with an oyster cream and springy salicorn: a wonderful taste of the sea. Another standout among the many original and characteristic dishes is the tuna; the marbled cuts are barely browned on the edges, garnished with parsnip (both creamy and crispy) and topped at the table with a heap of almonds in browned butter. The characteristic umami of the tuna and the flavours from the Maillard reaction in the browning butter combine remarkably with the crunchy texture of the almonds: an amazing interpretation of a classic Barcelona tapa, further elevated to ethereal heights by the smoke and hay notes of a Loire Valley wine, Montlouis-sur-Loire "Les Borderies" from Le Rocher des Violettes. Next is a potpourri of ingenious desserts: a facsimile of a cherry with cherry filling, crumble and sorbet, followed by a chocolate sphere that looks like a ball of yarn filled with passion fruit, finished by “washing the plate” with a convincing copy of a scouring sponge that turns out to be an edible sponge cake with passion fruit “dishwashing soap”, and lastly, an edible soft-boiled egg of sour fruit and white chocolate, and a gold-plated edible chocolate bar. To complete the extravagance, the coffee comes with a petit four cart brandishing small ice cream sticks, filled chocolates and classic French confections – all executed with elite aptitude and featuring a bevy of distinct flavours in each little bite. Thus concludes an original and impressive meal underpinned by exquisite wine pairings featuring classics carefully chosen by the talented sommeliers. All-round, it’s an experience of the highest calibre.
Præstø is often considered to be an unremarkable dot on the outskirts of metropolitan Denmark, but this is where Chef Jonas Mikkelsen creates small gastronomic miracles on par with the nation’s finest restaurants. He has a flair for creating incredibly delicious cuisine with just a few simple ingredients, as exemplified in the highlight of the evening: a slice of hay-baked rutabaga, fried in butter and smoked in a pan with the hay. The soft, sweet rutabaga is covered by a layer of crunchy black sesame seeds and a sauce of warm crème fraîche, salted to the max. This exceptional dish is soft and crisp, sweet, acidic, and smoky-rich, all at once. It unequivocally deserves signature status at this establishment, where they are driven by seasonal awareness and where even the likes of rutabaga and celeriac can be kings for an evening. We too feel like royalty, sitting in the sunroom’s comfortable chairs at large tables clad with stiff white tablecloths. The deliberately antique interior is a fun wormhole through time, but the room is a bit large for the few tables and the acoustics are poor. We have the feeling that other guests can eavesdrop on our conversation if we raise our voices even the slightest. However, nearly every dish is perfectly balanced. The snacks alone offer a deft array of sublime flavours. For example, the luxury take on sour cream and onion crisps, here with dill and vinegar dust and a cream of smoked witch flounder. The intensity of a small cup of mushroom broth with fermented celeriac juice brings literal tears of joy. The kitchen masters both the subdued and the elegant with preparations built on classic French cuisine. A prime example is the perfectly steamed lemon sole with burnt Tuscan kale and a wonderful sauce nage with a meticulous balance of buttery richness and acidity, held in the tight corset of a firm, mineral white from Languedoc. Other times, the ingredients speak for themselves. A large langoustine tail is served naked and then bathed in pine oil, browned butter and reduced cream. The richness and sweetness are distinctly underpinned by a skin-fermented natural chenin blanc from South Africa. The unconventional wines are well chosen and have at least one leg in the world of natural wines, though they are not presented as such. Instead, the waiter provides an insightful and engaging account of their pairing with the dishes. The desserts fall fully in the throes of Nordic traditions. An airy walnut mousse is freshened up with a French sorrel granité and tiny cubes of green apple and celery. Such desserts often end up as an exercise in sugar-free asceticism, but in the hands of Mikkelsen it proves a happy marriage of the sweet, rich and fresh. A creamy celeriac ice cream with caramel and layers of caramelised chicken skin and mushroom dust is a rich and earthy autumn greeting, paired nicely with a caramelly dessert wine from Friuli made from dried grapes. Hotel Frederiksminde has emphatically made Præstø one of the gastronomic shining lights of provincial Denmark.
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.
Extra-dry hipster champagne sets the tone with steely acidity, nuances of wet seashells, herb gardens and a tantalising aftertaste. This is to wash down the butter-brushed flatbread made from barley flour, and an ethereal pâté made from porcini and paper-thin slices of smoked celeriac. We get to fold them ourselves into soft mini tacos, like a Friday night supper for hobbits. It’s a low-key statement, an incarnation from an imaginary peasant’s kitchen in a country similar to ours, but a little prettier. A dinner at Gastrologik is a slow build-up in flavours and expressions that should be assessed as a whole once each piece of the puzzle has been laid. The base note is a little shy, like a reflection of the restaurateur duo Jacob Holmström and Anton Bjuhr. The setting and the service staff, too, have a quiet, warm quality that shines through though on the surface they may seem austere and a bit chilly. But that could be said about Scandinavia, when it’s at its best. Here New Nordic cuisine is celebrated without it feeling like a straitjacket. The season and the ingredients are at the centre. This of course leads to rather different experiences depending on the time of year you eat here. Unforgettable from last summer: a risotto made from asparagus, in which even the grains were made out of the shoot and all those flavours were distilled into a new and higher definition of asparagus. Winter requires a few more accessories, and sometimes these take the upper hand, like when the scallop from Hitra, despite its sweetness and size, is overpowered by browned yeast, fermented garlic and drops of cider vinegar. The seafood surges onward, with monkfish liver and pickled gooseberries on crispy chicken skin. Bright green circles of Savoy kale folded into half-moons over plump cockles are so tremblingly springy that they explode in your mouth. Sea and pasture are amplified by lovage leaves, samphire, and butter made from an Icelandic algae that tastes like truffles. Honey-brushed, flaky cod with sloe berry-poached onion petals, with spruce shoots and dabs of burnt cream complete the theme. Crowd-pleasing mini tagliatelle-like spelt semolina hides a creamy quail egg “from Karolina” with Gotland truffles. It marries with a juicy pinot noir-based Rully wine. The same wine lends itself at least as well to a variation on guinea fowl with thigh, heart and liver in the company of flowering quince, apple and a rich cabbage broth that’s all thrown into the same bowl. A small jewel box with sparkling flavours contains the meal’s crescendo, a midwinter saga about summer’s slaughter and harvest. It contains all those metallic notes of cool Nordic cuisine: water lingonberry, briny elderberries and garlicky pickled ramson buds against the primal and sensual iron sweetness of a dense blood cream. In this case the non-alcoholic blueberry juice works even better than the trendy red wine from Sicilian Arianna Occhipinti. Two goat’s cheeses from Löfsta – aged, finely grated, and fresh – on a hefty pancake made out of maple peas. It’s blunt and too much of a good thing, and of course absolutely wonderful. It is with the dessert trio that Gastrologik hammers home the message that New Nordic is not passé. This year’s dessert is made of caramel from whey with celery-scented beach angelica and a coarse rhubarb mead granité. The caramel sticks to the palate and we want to keep it there. More intellectual and hard to love is the smoked ice cream with resin marmalade and a canopy of spruce shoots and lichen. The apple dessert forms a cloud of raw milk ice cream that rests on a crispy bed of roasted apple pieces and yet another caramel, from tart rowanberries. Elegant sweets made out of propolis, bee pollen, sloe berries, lovage, beets and malt, are flanked by a coffee selection and an entire archive of house-dried herbs that you blend yourself for infusion. It’s a menu that begins really well and just gets better.
It takes a special disposition to continuously improve something year after year that, in eyes of most people, is already perfect. Geranium’s Chef Rasmus Kofoed is just such a person, as evidenced in the three sparkling Bocuse d’Or statues adorning the restaurant’s lounge. The menu testifies to this, too, with classics that have been further honed and new dishes that are refined to the smallest detail. Stylistically speaking, the interior of Geranium provides a comfortable setting for a meal where guests can enjoy every aspect of the dining experience, overseen by restaurant manager and all-encompassing host Søren Ledet. The thick tablecloths stretch down to the squeak-free floor, while the comfortably upholstered Danish design chairs offer views of either the open kitchen or the treetops of adjacent Fælledparken, Copenhagen’s largest city park. The service does not leave anything to chance, as waiters hover around the tables like elegant dancers to the sounds of classical music. The mere serving of a gin and tonic is a minor work of art involving an ice cube mould, Danish gin from Klelund, homemade sea buckthorn juice and a thorough explanation from the talented Norwegian sommelier. Lobster in fermented milk with carrot and sea buckthorn is a smooth and gentle start. The complexity and sheer deliciousness of tomato water with ham fat and aromatic herbs proves that simple ingredients can also push the culinary altimeter to uncharted heights. The dish called “Razor clams” is actually composed of thin wheat shells filled with lumpfish roe and sour cream; a crisp and creamy mouthful. The charred potato – served under a glass dome filled with smoke – is a fun déjà vu harking back to childhood camping trips. Trout masquerading as green “stones” covered with dill gelée rounds out the parade of signature snacks, all of which are just a touch sharper and on point than the last time we dined here. The autolytic glass of 2009 blanc de blancs champagne from Larmandier-Bernier proves a good pairing with the luscious snacks. Its biodynamic roots and clean style are emblematic of the wine menu, which features carefully crafted wines, but without the unconventional bent so common in the world of natural wines. The pairings are virtuosic, such as a 2015 alvarinho from Anselmo Mendes in Vinho Verde, whose tight acidity and fruitiness is in perfect tandem with Kofoed’s artistic mosaic of hake rolled in parsley ash. The fish is served like a jigsaw puzzle with Carelian caviar and topped with a sauce split with parsley oil. The dish caters to the eye as much as the palate. The oil is made from parsley stems and the dish has a delicious crunch from the fish’s scales. The no-waste approach recurs in subsequent dishes, including a serving of perfectly fried scallop with a silky thin tuile of roe – the rest of the roe is used in the sauce. This is just one of the many gems preceding the main course, a sweet and delicate Jerusalem artichoke with herbs and a sauce made from duck feet. It is a pleasant surprise to be served an entire menu without a meat-centric dish, yet that still has such intense flavour from beginning to end. It exudes elegance and acumen. After four deserts and a total of 15 courses we retire to the lounge for rum, petits fours and one more show in the form of hand-brewed espresso. At Geranium, Kofoed and Ledet have found an extra gear, and they continue to fine-tune microscopic imperfections that make Geranium sparkle in its richness of detail and dedication.
The summer cottage is nestled with an unequivocally impressive front row view, high above the Baltic Sea on Bornholm’s southern coast. The decor is simple and kept in light tones; there are no tablecloths on the tables and the sound system plays subdued soft jazz throughout the evening. The relatively young wait staff are thoroughly professional in a pleasant and relaxed way throughout the 13-course menu. After a handful of small dishes featuring such delights as oysters, cabbage and mussels, the bread arrives as a serving on its own: warm flatbread with fermented corn juice, which is also mixed into the butter. It tastes good, but after a few bites we are ready to move on. We would prefer the more traditional serving, with the bread at our side throughout the meal, so we could also use it to soak up the delicious sauces. We move on from here to a dish with a wide array of elements, including raw scallops resting in a sauce of horseradish with golden beet and hemp, top shoots of Norway spruce, and grated dried roe on top. The flavour notes of the various elements of sea, forest and meadow, as well as their textures, come together in symbiotic unity. The juice menu’s pairing of gooseberries and horseradish both mirrors and complements the dish exquisitely. A slice of pickled and baked pumpkin topped with a sprinkling of Bornholm forest ants –purported to be the most scrumptious in Denmark – and petals from the invasive beach rose is accompanied by a sauce of white asparagus with a nice acidity. It is an incredibly well-balanced and delectable dish, as the pumpkin’s sweetness, the sauce and the acidity of the ants suit one another beautifully. Especially entertaining is when you bite directly into a ant, releasing a powerful explosion of citrusy sourness on the tongue. A skewer with tender lamb neck and folded slices of veal tongue are marinated in a strong BBQ marinade and served with cabbage and an intense jus. The dish is full of deep flavour, but unfortunately doesn’t meet much resistance from the somewhat too light Beaujolais, Côte du Py 2015 from Jean Foillard, which also fails to impress on its own, despite the waiter’s assurance that this is one of the two best vignerons in the appellation. However, the tables are turned by the wine served with the two desserts. Keller’s wonderful auslese, Westhofener Kirchspiel 2015, has a deep body with notes of honey, pear and a touch of limestone, and still has quite a bit of fresh young acidity. Both of the desserts are refreshingly light. First, a long roll of crisp apple with caramel, served in a clear cold soup with the flavours of sweet cicely, buckler leaf sorrel and rhubarb root. This is followed by a compote of diverse berries from the restaurant’s own garden, seasoned with walnut aquavit and homemade sour cream. In both of these dishes, the sweet flavour elements take a backseat to the more acidic, which we appreciate greatly after the myriad preceding dishes. However, sweetness is centre stage in the Auslese, and it is a perfect pairing. Kadeau Bornholm understands how to playfully utilise the island’s fantastic ingredients at an innovative and masterful gastronomic level.
Arriving at building 10B on a cobblestone street, we ring the bell and immediately feel like invited guests. The door opens and we are guided through Kadeau’s heart – the kitchen – and escorted to soft furniture with a cup of warm bouillon. The mirage of a visit with friends would be complete if someone sat down and enjoyed the delicious drink with us, but the chefs in the open kitchen are busy. They are likely chopping and slicing, given that virtually every dish this evening is comprised of countless tiny elements – perhaps too many, in fact, as many of the dishes seem to lack leading roles and links to bring together the diversity of details. Kadeau’s renowned boyish spontaneity seems replaced by a more controlled style, but there remains no doubt that the majestic isle of Bornholm is the common thread. No dish reflects this as clearly as a crisp biscuit filled with a cornucopia of small pickled leaves and flowers, including cypress, chamomile, seaweed, rhubarb, elderflower capers, dried rose hips and morsels of poached mahogany clam. The dish is a delicate, edible business card, a reduction of the fields and sandy beach meadows of Chef Nicolai Nørregaard and Restaurant Manager Magnus Høegh Kofoed’s native island. The owners are not here themselves, but a sharp corps of waiters and chefs adroitly serves us with a relaxed charm. Kadeau has an international vibe; one feels transmogrified into a Kinfolk magazine, sitting in the elegant dining room with its shades of turquoise, wood and gold, and drinking biodynamic wines and sumptuous juices with the menu. The wines stay on the safe side of the modern wine spectrum and the juices are fresh, aromatic and well paired. The best “juice” is a blend of fermented white tea and pickling brine with a lovely aroma. It nicely accompanies a light-hearted dish of lumpfish with tiny pickled bits of Bornholm’s summertime bounty. Pickles are a recurring theme in Nørregaard’s kitchen, but the characteristic acidity underlying Kadeau’s reputation has been turned down a notch. We discover this in the beautiful signature dish with a thousand layers of preserved vegetables: this evening it includes cabbage, beets, salted plums and dashi made of dried trout. It is undoubtedly beautiful, but it tastes a bit bland. On the other hand, the flavours are turned up to full-blast with the skin-fermented vermentino from Italy’s Massa Vecchia that accompanies a dish of langoustine under lavender and shaved walnuts. The slightly bitter and perfumed notes of the orange wine prove a good match for the dish. Like so much else this evening, the langoustine is cut into small pieces, which causes its flavour to drown in the other dominant elements. By now we are longing for something to really chew on. Our wish is granted with a large fillet of aged pork, perfectly prepared with good flavour, that is surprisingly simple and robust compared to the menu’s other dishes. After a handful of desserts, petits fours and aromatic filtered coffee, we step out into the Christianshavn night with the memory of an intellectual Borholmian meal that seems more firmly rooted in the world of art than food.
The two remaining musketeers from the Koch empire, Lasse and Michael Koch, haven’t slowed down in the slightest since Jesper Koch went solo with his own projects. Their style remains free of dogma and full of intense flavour, as epitomised by the snacks that begins our meal. Spicy minced pig snout with pickled chilli and tarragon mayo, and a cone filled with aubergine purée, kumquats and braised pig udder are among the first treats. These rather unconventional cuts push us to the limits of our comfort zone, but the familiar flavour of pork quickly makes us feel at ease in the complex culinary world of the Koch brothers. The opening course is like a first rite of spring, with small green shoots of fresh herbs topping an arrangement of cod carpaccio. The thinly sliced cod is beautifully marbled with a gelée of langoustine stock, adding extra depth to the flavour of the fish. A creamy sorbet of champagne and the citrusy freshness of grapefruit and lime complete the dish by ensuring a harmonic balance between the sweet and acidic. In our glasses is a fruity and floral sauvignon blanc with faint grapefruit notes – a good pairing with the early spring dish. Outside the restaurant ships gently bob in the marina; inside, we are serenaded by the crackling fireplace that helps to ensure a relaxing atmosphere in the otherwise neutral decor of the restaurant. The intensity of flavours gradually builds with each subsequent course. Aromatic vapours from a halibut fill our noses from the moment the burning hot plate hits our table. Thin slices of avocado, walnut confit, fresh greens and herbs are layered over the fish – while a healthy portion of oyster tartare lies hidden under the greens to uphold sea-freshness. All of this is topped tableside with hot melted duck fat, which is both surprising and a bit odd, but ultimately the dish is a rich success. As is characteristic of the brothers’ cuisine, it is an intense bombardment of complex flavours that nonetheless results in a well-composed and complete serving. It takes deep professional insight to convey the mad genius of the kitchen, but the service staff presents every detail flawlessly and the wines are accompanied by intriguing and descriptive narratives. With an almost Burgundian character of butter notes and richness, the wine Guru from the Douro Valley escorts a dish containing a scallop marinated in barbeque sauce topped with puffed pork rind. A bold sauce of grilled carrots accompanies the dish, together with a carrot pickled in cumin and orange, which adds intense acidity, a bit of sweetness and spiced notes. As always, creativity is paramount in the Koch kitchen, and their style is without compare. It is free of dogma, boasts an abundance of ostentatious elements from near and far, and never loses sight of absolute delectability as the common thread.
The first thing almost every diner here does is adjust the ingeniously designed lamp above the table. If it’s raised, they might be talking business; if it’s lowered there may be romance in the air. Neither the lamps nor the venue has aged a bit since Valentine’s Day 2014 when Björn Persson’s Kock & Vin turned into the slightly more playful Koka. In spite of the initial modern impression, the light planks along the walls speak to our collective pastoral memory. To a certain extent the staff do, too, not least Persson himself who enjoys coming out into the dining room to check on the guests. And then there’s the food, which at first glance appears ultramodern. Upon closer examination we see it’s also a tribute to our common roots, like the potato, for example. The first thing to come out of this incredibly affordable tasting menu is a half Amandine potato, perfectly al dente, topped with sour cream that almost tastes like smoked herring, and grated, cured egg yolk on top of that. Raw, chopper oyster, plucked up with diving help from the Klemming brothers in Grebbestad, rests together with an oyster cream under thinly planed and grilled celeriac. The next dish is the same shade of beige – king trumpet mushrooms, looking like they have been passed through a paper shredder. But don’t get us wrong – the slim, blond strips, dusted with dried seaweed set a new standard for how a masterful dish can look – and taste. Another example is the decadent lobster and vinegary fennel in a light bath of clear and assertive lobster broth. Cauliflower, crab and beets form a kind of textural illusion, indistinguishable from one another were it not for their strong colours and flavours. This combination of visual minimalism and articulated flavours can also be found in the vegetarian dish of grilled pointed cabbage with buckwheat, tarragon and tapioca – and it’s just like Persson to reconnect to our cultural history by choosing to call it porridge. By the time we get to the cheese dish we are a little tired of the consistent visual impression (aka., “beautiful heaps”), although goat's cheese from Skattegården is a good match with salty caramel sauce and beautifully bleeding Icelandic red dulse algae crowned by frozen chokeberries. The frozen yogurt is topped with chicory fluff, and the dessert is confidently paired with an almost transparent Fioles Rosées Friandise from Huguenot-Tassin (Champagne’s response to lambrusco). Persson now imports wines from France, and some of what Koka offers is impossible to get elsewhere in Sweden. Though the staff have vigilantly refilled the flatware in the tray throughout the evening, now there is only a small soupspoon resting on the wine-splattered leather. The treat with the coffee, a small bark biscuit topped with juniper cream, neatly wraps up what is currently one of Sweden’s most modern gastronomic experiences.
KOKS explores and experiments with the untapped possibilities inherent in the surrounding Faroese landscape of sea, fjords, fields, meadows, and beaches, while practicing traditional fermentation methods and seeking sublime culinary experiences with respect for vulnerable species and the environment. The restaurant decor features plank flooring, lambskin on the chairs and oak tables free of tablecloths or pressed napkins, with a breathtaking panoramic view to the surroundings outside. All of the dishes are rooted in local traditions and ingredients. Fish, sheep, seaweed (complete with parasites) and herbs are caught, harvested or fermented daily, just a few hundred metres from the kitchen. Live shellfish are kept in the restaurant’s underwater pantry. The menu comprises 19 unforgettably delicate courses, all of which demonstrate extreme Faroese gastronomic savvy, in addition to a wine list stocked with superbly paired top wines from renowned winemakers in strong vintages. Head Chef Poul Andrias Ziska presents the dishes himself, while Head Sommelier Karin Visth selects and presents the drinks, including wines and the incomparable range of non-alcoholic drinks that she brews herself to match the menu’s potpourri of unconventional flavours. Ocean quahog garnished with dried elderflower is served on the shell in a purée of its own meat and mushroom sauce. The taste of sea from the raw clam is counterbalanced by the oily morel notes and elderflower acidity of the sauce. Fried swim bladder of cod with a cream of leek and ramson is decoratively served on cod vertebrae. The swim bladder is crisp and light as a pork rind without the fat, offering the generous pure flavour of cod, while the ramson’s notes of garlic and the leek’s creaminess hold contrasts in taste and texture. Both fish and lamb are traditionally fermented in the Faroe Islands in a so-called hjallur (a wind-blown shed) where they change in structure, aroma and flavour. “Ræstur” is the half-dried stage this meat reaches after three months. A soup of ræst lamb is served with roasted mealworms, crisp slices of kohlrabi, radish, onion and carrot. The aromas in the steam bash through one’s senses with notes of rancid lamb fat, while the strong flavour packs deep umami tones. Garnatálg is the lining surrounding the lamb’s intestines and stomach, fermented for three months in a net of the lamb’s caul fat. It is served as a bright and appetising layer atop the fermented then boiled ræst fish. These delights are eaten on a traditional Faroese biscuit called a góðarað. The flavour is intense, pure cod with the garnatálg serving as an able substitute for butter in both taste and texture. Northern fulmar is a sea bird that breeds on the wind-blown cliffs of the Faroese coastline. When they fly from the nest, the chicks are so fat that they splash into the sea and can then be fished up by boat. As the flapping of wings has not yet toughened the breast, the pink roasted meat is extremely tender, with a coarse fibre structure and distinctive fish flavour, while the fat cap has strong notes of whale oil. These flavours are matched well by boiled, burnt and dried beetroot. Crisp candied stalks of angelica, which grows and thrives on the windy islands, is served as candy under the moniker confiture d’angélique. These so-called "candies" full of vitamin C, aromatically spiced and fresh, yet sweet with notes of fresh quince and candied citrus peel. One is rarely on familiar grounds here, yet a secure feeling of being safely in the hands of a master reigns throughout this culinary voyage.
Kong Hans exudes quality, from the historic setting, inviting decor and ingredients of the finest calibre, to the masterful kitchen of Head Chef Mark Lundgaard, the impressive world-class service from the staff of waiters, and no less than two renowned sommeliers, Peter Pepke and Nina Jensen, the latter of which was recently named Best Nordic Sommelier. The restaurant’s quality is further bolstered by its 40-year history as a Danish pillar of classic gastronomy. Here you can expect to enjoy oysters, foie gras, lobster, pigeon and generous amounts of butter and cream. Indeed, somebody must protect the culinary crown jewels from a bygone era – and that is exactly what Kong Hans is doing, with the talent of Mark Lundgaard notably shaping the interpretations. The foie gras is not as heavy as expected – in fact, quite the contrary. A thick slice served with a pain d’epices sounds like a bomb, but the slightly acidic cherry “vinegar” lifts and lightens the dish, almost causing the taste of the fatty liver to seem fresh. Peter Pepke charts our course for the evening’s wines. The servings are presented with attentiveness, discretion and sincere interest in the pleasure of the guests. They guide us impressively through the wine list, inviting us to explore the whole world of wines, even though the heart of the list is in France. The seasonal appetisers are paired to our delight with a 2006 Tattinger Comtes de Champagne. The classic bubbles open the palate to the flavours of fried quail egg, snail toast, oysters with elderflower and venison consommé, as we consider the extravagant options offered by the à la carte menu. The lobster emerges victorious. How often are you served a whole Danish lobster at the table, prepared à la nage, à la américaine and Thermidor, fulfilling your butter quota for the entire next week, thanks in part to the irresistibly ethereal brioche? The excellent Gillardeau oysters are both inventive and extremely delicate. The acidity of a rosehip compote and zing of horseradish cream are brilliant with the rich and salty taste of the oysters, while kohlrabi adds crunch to the soft flesh. Our delight is complete with a Chassagne-Montrachet, whose elegant balance of acidity and ripe apple pairs perfectly with the oysters. Today’s five-course menu features such dishes as scallop with pickled onion skins and Oscietra caviar, followed by the highlight of the menu: a poached halibut with the old-school touch of a Noilly Prat sauce with whitefish caviar. This is creamy goodness, heartily salted with an acidic and bitter edge. Once again, Lundgaard’s talent manages to lighten the taste of a heavy classic. In the wake of the halibut come veal sweetbreads with morels, as well as a guinea fowl en cocotte with endive and truffle. These are followed by a delightful “ice cream parlour” where the pastry chef offers a wide selection of fresh fruit sorbets and small traditional Danish cookies. We have no choice but to raise the white flag upon arrival at the delicious homemade chocolates: we are fully satiated. Kong Hans is not cheap, but you can suffice with just a few dishes and a glass of wine, while still enjoying a cloud-nine culinary experience.
This is Chef Mikael Svensson’s brainchild. The restaurant balances between modern and traditional and his cooking has one foot in the classical world, and one foot in Scandinavian avant-garde cuisine. We have been following Svensson since he first opened Kontrast in the somewhat restrictive breakfast halls of a hotel on the other side of town, eager to see how his restaurants would develop and how his cooking would evolve. And, slowly, Kontrast is finding its place and growing up to be one of the finest restaurants in the country. Sitting in the beautiful but sparsely decorated dining room, which is furnished with bespoke wooden furniture and contemporary art, our meal starts off with an array of small introductions to Mikael’s playful cooking: cured quail egg yolk in a shell made of quail egg meringue; a small root vegetable and smoked juniper tartlet; a wafer made of porcini topped with foie gras mousse and hazelnut crumble; and braised oxtail with pickled cranberries in a delicate and flavorful beef stock. It’s photogenic and stylish but most importantly, it’s extremely tasty. We are presented with the option of a large or small tasting menu, with the possibility of choosing à la carte as well. It’s a brave move, as most restaurants in this league often choose to streamline the menu as much as possible. We also get to choose between a well-curated wine list, a set of wine pairings and a set of non-alcoholic pairings as well. To our surprise, the non-alcoholic pairings are our favorite: a well made and thoughtful combination of cold-brewed tea and fruit or berry juices combined with different cold extracts, vinegars and syrups. Every juice we receive surpasses the previous one. They are refreshing and complex, with layers of flavours, acidity and depth, and wonderfully matched with the dishes being served. The first course of the evening is raw shrimps with horseradish and a variation on beets, promptly followed by scallops topped with an emulsion made of scallop roe and a scallop dashi. One of the meal’s highlights is the langoustine, almost as large as a lobster and kindly served in three parts: the tail in beurre noisette; in a soup with rose hips; and with fresh, emulsified mushrooms. Unfortunately the wine pairing, a savagnin blanc from the esteemed producer Domaine du Pélican in Jura, does not have the power to match the greatness of the extraordinary langoustine, but this is just a small setback in what is overall a great set of wine pairings, elegantly presented by Marko Radicev – perhaps the nicest sommelier in the business. Kontrast’s strength is in combining great produce and excellent cooking, and one of the most memorable dishes is the potato risotto – a risotto made entirely out of the boring old potato instead of rice. Finished with lardo, cheese from Holtefjell, and black truffles, it’s guaranteed to melt the coldest of hearts. And that is what Mikael’s cooking does to you. We definitely have a crush on Kontrast.
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.
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.