As the little brother of Noma, 108 has yeti-size shoes to fill, though on previous visits the restaurant has proven more than ready and willing to meet that challenge head-on. The cuisine has grown progressively sharper as the freshness of some dishes in the establishment’s early days has given way across the board to great flavour. 108 obliterates the conventional wisdom that New Nordic cuisine lacks punch. The servings are simple, featuring few but attentively prepared elements. One of our favourites is the raw Skagen shrimp, decoratively served as a flower encircled by red sorrel atop small salted green strawberries – a fine, elegant dish packed with fantastic flavour from sweet shrimp of the freshest quality. Ribbon-like slices of octopus in bacon broth – a New Nordic spin on ramen – is a 108 classic whose pure simplicity and deep intensity steal the show, with small pieces of glasswort adding the taste of the sea. Batter-fried oxtail meatballs with fir shoots is an ultra-hyped yet heavenly mouthful; we find ourselves compelled to order an extra round. Another dish deserving mention is the salt-baked celeriac, decoratively sliced into ribbons, rolled into spirals and topped with a rich, thick sauce featuring aged Gammel Knas cheese and grilled parsley, with subtle burnt notes providing the finishing touch. The service is exceptional and attentive, as 108 benefits greatly from its relation to Noma, whose magnetic attraction draws in passionate chefs and waiters from around the world. Sommelier Riccardo Marcon directs the proceedings with an impressively unpretentious and knowledgeable approach, and predominately natural wine pairings. Follow his recommendations and delve into an exciting world of wine that both challenges and pleases. The challenge stems from the characteristic acetic acid in the natural wines and ciders, which can prove to be a tart pleasure. But it is also fantastic to be served a powerful oaked savagnin from Jura full of body, acidity and complexity – and to discover how a light and slightly bitter, almost meaty cabernet franc from a non-appellation region outside Provence perfectly matches an animalistic serving of beetroot, blackcurrant and smoked veal heart. 108 often takes it to the limit, both in terms of food and wine, and that is precisely where a restaurant experience turns truly exceptional: on the border between madness and genius. Yet we land on safe ground every time, as flavour wins over ideas at this tightly run ship, where unpretentious waiters guide the experience with a steady hand from start to finish.
Everything moves in circles. The world spins around the sun. The moon travels around Earth. And in the same way, trends you thought never would come back, come back. À L’aise is the restaurant equivalent of a high-speed car chase down the wrong lane. The greeting and careful reception is overshadowed by the exceptionally specific turn-of-the-millennium timestamp on the interior design. Some say 2001 should only be repeated viewing the visual spectacles of Kubrick, and that the only people who should be allowed to go back to 2001 should be highly skilled museum conservators. But a lot of people love this beige-on-beige-on-grey look, especially the more senior visitors, for whom all of this is simply magnificent. The champagne trolley, with wheels that aren’t quite big enough to match the high-pile shag carpet, is fully loaded. But disappointingly, they seem to have furnished it with loot from their last trip to the airport. The tax-free selection puts a stain on what could have been a free dive into bubbly fun, but our dismay fades when the food is brought in and we fall into a luxurious state of well-being. It starts off gently, as we sit in the soft grey chairs. The sommelier pulls out classics, a few highlights, and makes sure our palates are cleansed before the next serving. A parade of neoclassic French-inspired dishes follows, since we forked out on the tasting menu, but if you don’t there is a fine selection to be ordered from à la carte. Norwegian seafood is served in new ways. Hidden under a sheet of gelatinised milk, a scallop dressed in a heated and sweating Spanish ham perfumed with hazelnuts and topped with winter truffle evokes a small outburst of joy at the tables nearby. The small and firm langoustine tail is dressed in fresh raspberries and preserved beetroots. The meat dish, veal en croute, is a juicy piece of calf’s meat rolled in a crispy crust. The textures are pleasing and the mild meat gets a little kick from the surrounding crumbs. There is a lot of produce from Norway but no seasonal or geographical restraints. With Chef Ulrik Jepsen’s dedication and drive we have no doubt that À L’aise will find its audience and develop new experiences. À’laise is a refreshing new arrival on Oslo’s dining scene with its contemporary take on French luxury.
Hours of yumminess. Can it be too much? No, not in the company of Adam and Albin, who finally get to show off their cooking skills in their first real restaurant. We capitulate the moment a caramelised langoustine with a thin film of jowl meat from an Iberico pig arrives. Under the sea creature there are nice pieces of ginger-scented Iberico cheek, sprinkles of crispy potatoes and a layer of cool cucumber slices. Irresistibly beautiful and delicious. Umami meets meatiness, crunch and crispiness. The two super chefs Adam Dahlberg and Albin Wessman have transformed their “food studio” into an intimate restaurant with a homey feeling where plants, mirrored walls and spotlights create a nice atmosphere – along with cool music streaming from the speakers. The small entrance space contains a bar and closet. The communal table is a holdover from the past but the romantic corner table is new. Our gastronomic delight is at its highest when we dig into the dish that became most popular on White Guide’s instagram last year: a black ceramic dish filled with butter-yellow mashed potatoes that melt in your mouth, which you then mix with bright green chive cream, pale yellow sour cream and a dollop of orange bleak roe from Kalix with grated nutmeg. How can you go wrong with such a super combo? A fatty and tangy savagnin from Domaine Marne Blanches in French Jura heightens the flavours even more. There are no set wine pairings, but rather a discriminating wine list and a wine fridge from which many fun bottles emerge. The concept is that guests buy five servings at a fixed price; you start off with few snacks and select the rest from the menu. This is a good way to begin: a delicious mouthful of chestnut chips with chestnut cream and Brillat-Savarin cheese under a thin slice of raw mushroom. Subtle. An utterly beautiful plate comes next, comprised of thin slices of crudités in different colours – light green, light yellow, pink and white – which cover a piece of crab and French cream with cold-smoked oil. The next dish is a contrast, a hand-cut beef tartare in shades of brown that is no beauty. But – oh, what flavours when the white truffles mix with the egg yolk and toasted almonds in a deep broth made from roast beef! The wine is equally magical, a red Roncevie from Domaine Arnaud in Burgundy. It works well, even with a whole-roasted pigeon with sweetbreads, three different kinds of roasted cabbage and fennel cream. The irony flesh is balanced by the cream and contrasts with the sweetbreads’ caramelised notes. A lovely riesling spätlese from Weingut Vollenweider leads us to dessert. And who can resist a fresh bergamot sorbet with juicy blackberries paired with meringue topping and a powder of wine-red blackberries and green sencha tea? It is addicting, like most everything at Adam/Albin.
There is a high ceiling at Aloë – both literally and when it comes to flavour. Few restaurants in Sweden take you on such a breathtaking journey through flavours and combinations from different food cultures. The chefs/owners Daniel Höglander and Niclas Jönsson tug and tease out flavours in order to develop new sensations for the palate. Their concept is that nothing should be taken as a given. One evening might be inspired by Asian flavours, another by North African – or some other cuisine that attracted exploration. But seasonal produce is always the foundation. The old grocery store in the suburb of Älvsjö is attracting more and more and more foodies – and they get a lot of inspiration for their money. Especially if they sit at the green marble counter overlooking the concentrated assemblage taking place in the kitchen. Four evenings a week they offer a fixed menu full of surprises. The professional service staff usher out large wooden serving trays. The Galician cockles are a big hit, intermingled with octopus arms under a grilled slice of lemon butter surrounded by light green parsley butter sauce. The minerality of the Portuguese Vale da Capucha wine enhance the experience. Sommelier Per Larsson’s wine selection is consistently spot on and the European-dominant wine list impressive. Aloë is behind one of the year’s most beautiful dishes: three quickly seared langoustines from Fjällbacka, passion fruit, crisps of arborio rice, Parmesan cheese and yogurt alongside an emulsion of smoked egg yolk and another of sambal badjak. After an intense kick-start of flavours, like a miso-flavoured crab with cardamom leaves, comes a soft Junmai sake as an in-between beverage to calm the over-stimulated senses. Then, pheasant heart on a satay skewer and grilled skin, and after that a lark: under a black blanket of amontillado sherry gelée hides a thin slice of steak stuffed with Parmesan cream in a parsley broth and, on the side, a dollop of roe. A syrah from McLaren Vale in Australia amplifies the refined umami and fatty acids. The chefs’ ambitions are high in each dish – like a dessert of fried apple ice cream, vanilla custard sauce flavoured with Jerusalem artichoke and yet another unexpected condiment: a dollop of barely frozen coriander cream attractively decorated with lemon verbena and crispy bread. They sure are having fun in the kitchen. Or, to quote Höglander: “We have to do something to keep the diners from falling asleep”!
Arakataka may not be situated in one of the cosiest parts of Oslo but from the second you enter the mid-sized, elongated restaurant you feel relaxed and looked after. The bar, the open kitchen, and the professional but rather laid-back attitude of the friendly staff all contribute to the feel-good atmosphere. The interior is stylish and could be described as Nordic-woodlands-meets-Japanese simplicity, and it works well with the kitchen’s well-balanced and delicate Asian-European cuisine. After the delicious sourdough bread with malt and house-made butter we are ready for take-off. The menu offers a choice between an à la carte menu with 12–14 different options and a set menu of five dishes with wine pairings. Don’t miss out on the latter as the wine competence here is well above average. This is illustrated by a beef tartare with nasturtiums, fermented turnips and a béarnaise-like crème where the perfect-temperature meat has depth and sweetness. The somewhat surprising pairing is a crémant de Jura; the wine rinses the palate beautifully making the dish stand out and adding a touch of freshness. Bingo! The spaghetti with bleak roe is another winning dish where the precisely cooked pasta combines delicately with the salty roe, adding a Nordic vibe to an Italian classic. The menu offers a good selection of other local/Nordic ingredients, like red king crab and skrei cod. The former is combined with cilantro, lime and chilli and is as an excellent choice if you are looking for high-class comfort/finger food, but the cod is just a tiny bit overcooked and the dish lacks acidity. The barley risotto topped with raw, sliced mushrooms is not perfectly balanced either and the kernels are still a minute away from all dente, but the kitchen gets back on track with the turbot with baked and grilled celeriac and ramsons, and a finger-lickin’ good chicken from Holte with kale and yellow beets. The wine list at Arakataka is a well-curated and fairly priced selection of mostly French and Italian classics mixed with more unusual bottles like Australian natural wines and English sparkling wine. After a well-executed double espresso we are back on the windy street, but wishing we were still inside.
It takes something special to maintain a leading gastronomic establishment far from the big city and without the option of overnight accommodations. Yet that is exactly what Chef Vivi Schou has accomplished with Restaurant Babette, which she runs with her husband, Henrik Pedersen. The duo has been accompanied throughout the years by the indelible talent of restaurant manager Brian Jensen, and additions like Partrick Godborg and Jesper Dams Hansen have invigorated the kitchen. Babette’s menu now combines an innovative touch with an unwavering respect for classic gastronomy, as reflected in the chef’s choice to offer guinea fowl this evening. The hospitality is exceptional and you feel almost honoured by the opportunity to taste the treasures of Pedersen’s cellar, from old burgundies to ingenious new purchases from worlds new and old. The decor is dominated by golden woods, copious white tulips and large green plants. Pedersen’s past as a florist shines through. The menu is predominantly green, fresh and from the sea, but you can count on it touching on a full range of flavours. The kitchen brilliantly seasons, properly salts and insightfully uses acidity and richness, all while retaining the delicate and pure flavours of their unique ingredients. The result is exquisite. After a procession of diverse and inventive snacks comes the highlight of the evening: a baked halibut, white and firm, under a canopy of dried oysters with chamomile tea and oyster emulsion, vacuum-prepared daikon sticks and leftover stalks of watercress. Waste is avoided with great ingenuity, and the resulting meal is a testament to the enlightenment and enjoyment a dining experience can deliver. The creaminess of the dish is held in check by the frail, bitter chamomile, while the stalks and daikon add texture and bite. The pumpkin ravioli is a surprising bull’s-eye. There’s cream cheese and rosehips in the filling, but it’s not overly perfumed, and the pasta is topped with a frothy sauce and a generous dose of vadouvan. It’s piquant, acidic, rich, and trailed by a bitter, creamy edge. It becomes all the more spectacular paired with an older vintage of gewürztraminer from Zind-Humbrecht, the first of several extraordinary wine pairings. Next is Pouilly-Fumé paired with clear beef consommé with foie gras and pickled mushrooms, and then a 2004 Chambolle-Musigny, which escorts the moist guinea fowl through three variations on onion and ramson. We particularly enjoy the fresh parsnip dessert with a broken gel of lemon and wheat berries, resting on a base of perfect vanilla ice cream. Babette is well worth a trip for its brilliantly executed delectable cuisine and untethered indulgence.
This small restaurant on the western side of Oslo, on a street where boutiques are few, small and expensive, is no longer the new kid on the block. It’s now a neighbourhood cornerstone, a place where the shopkeepers can guide their customers when they are done selecting bags and blazers of brands only known to holders of black credit cards. The dining room and kitchen are almost naked in their minimalism, decorated sparsely with a couple of erotic paintings. In the basement, where the restrooms are, someone had the idea of incorporating a nature theme. The wallpaper depicts a vast forest and the sound of birdsong spills out of the speakers; we appreciate their sense of humor. The dinner kicks off with an actual bonsai tree surrounded by soil made out of cream cheese and toasted rye crumble, topped with fried moss, fresh spring radishes and small mushrooms. It’s a tribute to spring, and all that green that promises to come with it, freshly produced by their beloved farmer Finn. Paired with a welcome British take on the sparkling traditions of Champagne, the meal is off to a good start. An oyster emulsion with fresh thin cauliflower shavings and cauliflower purée takes us from the earthy field down to the seashore. Just recently back from a trip to the United States, Chef Simon Weinberg shares with us his take on the most American dish of all: fried chicken. The serving is called “Yoda’s Fried Chicken” and is a tribute to his dog. A roulade of deboned chicken leg is filled with chicken liver, then deep-fried and served in a “YFC” take-away box together with embers of spruce. An emulsion of young spruce shoots as a dip hits the spot and gives the juicy, tender chicken a foresty feel. Inspiration from America is also detectable in the meat dish. The beef is blackened before it is cooked sous vide for 24 hours and served with a juniper cream broken with a jus made from the grill drippings. An ice cream made from milk steeped in rosemary melts alongside the meat and gives it all a sweet and tangy taste. The ending comes in the form of a fresh milk ice cream with beetroot and tarragon. It’s not the sweetest of desserts but nicely sums up the playfulness of the kitchen. The coffee comes from a small roaster in the maître ’d’s hometown of Aarhus. Bokbacka keeps confidently evolving in its own direction and is a great place to visit when you find yourself in dire need of a new experience.
Bord 13 was originally conceived as the casual dining side of B.A.R – but the division has never been spot on, and the food here has always been too good for the narrow concept of a wine bar. Now instead the mother restaurant has been bistro-fied (à la carte) and Bord 13 has gone fine dining (menu only) – a wise decision, because the innovative, flavourful, and natural food cooked here is fully capable of fighting it out at the top of Malmö’s restaurant range. The service is quick and friendly, without unnecessary flourishes and, above all, they are well versed in what is served on the plate and in the glass. We begin with Sylvain Bock’s Trou Blanc – funky, unfiltered and wonderfully versatile. It works with the small “eyes” of bone marrow fat, red beets and dark chocolate, as well as with the lamb tartare with small crunchy flakes of chicken skin, encompassing both the elderflower cream and the pickled rose petals. Like all wines here it is produced with minimal intervention from the winemaker. Pontus Elofsson (formerly of Noma and now a natural wine importer) and his predilection for natural processes is evident in the extensive selection. In fact, Bord 13 is one of the best places in Sweden to explore this wine category. The same philosophy also encompasses the kitchen, where neither red-listed fish nor medicated mammals shall cross the threshold. So it is with a clear conscience that we take a little more of the bright green pig fat with accompanying pork sprinkles served with the dark bread made with wheat from the island of Öland and Danish porter. The next dish could be called a seasonal hit with its nutty, raw-planed chestnuts and beurre blanc, baked kohlrabi, pine needles and saithe powder. And the matching juice made from pressed apples with lemon thyme is spot on. It is a low-intensity dish, filled with interesting textures, in which every mouthful contains a new dimension. The contrast could not be greater with the wild duck that follows. It is intense, bloody, and dramatic with sweetness from carrot, acidity from the plums and dried blueberries, crispiness from the fried kale and deeply flavoured with black garlic. The Valencia wine from the Bodegas Cueva fits like a glove. We calm our nerves with a fluffed curdled cream with salty caramel sauce, cacao nibs, pine oil and rosemary – a delicate encounter between the classic and New Nordic dessert traditions that provides both an interesting gastronomic experience and (not least) soothes the sweet tooth. Bord 13 presents modern cuisine at a masterful level – complex but at the same time as nakedly clean as the room it's served in.
For more than 30 years Karin Fransson and her husband Owe have been running this inn on Öland, she at the pots and he standing ready with a highlighter pen at his podium to check off the evening’s guests. Mrs. Fransson’s kitchen is sophisticatedly elegant, with its own high profile. She has made a name for herself – close to the status of international legend – by using exciting local flowers, leaves and herbs, popularizing the use of everything from marigolds to oysterleaf. Now it seems as if “the herb queen of the island” has turned up her technique ambitions (perhaps because of the star that landed on the place in 2016), somewhat overshadowing the focus on local ingredients. We are served sourdough bread with liquorice, and butter whipped with white balsamic, and goat's cheese cream topped with lovage. Not a lot of Öland there. Late summer has always been the best season to enjoy Borgholm’s gastronomy, when it’s based around beets, summer chanterelles, lamb, sweetbreads and always strawberries and of course, seasonings from their own herb garden. The lamb now comes from the mainland, though the waiter does not know exactly where. Sometimes it can be nice not have to hear where each plant had its root or in which pasture the lamb fell silent, but we wish the staff were more knowledgeable, or ready and willing to return with an answer when they are not. The elevated technical level and the eagerness to modernize many components and structures do not always hit their mark. Sure, the steamed turbot works with elderflower-perfumed green pea sauce and lesser calamint, even if it comes with “pacotized” yoghurt and lemon-flavoured snow. But a slow-braised veal tongue with fried sweetbreads topped by “street food onion rings” and red onions, raspberries, caperberries and oxalis flowers scattered around the plate simply does not come together, and is hardly helped by “red beet” in five consistencies. Rather, one of the tasting menu’s best dishes is a wonderfully simple radish, thinly sliced and served in brown butter with a sourdough cracker on the side. With eager anticipation we look forward to the wine tasting dinners that Owe Fransson mentions he is thinking about starting so that visitors get a chance to taste the many treats on their wine list, including a particularly impressive Pomerol section.
Natural wines paired with a fusion of New Nordic and Italian cuisines may not sound like a bulletproof recipe for success. But as these elements unfold while dining at Brace, the result is marvelous. After a year at Era Ora, Chef Nicola Fanetti has taken the helm at Brace to pursue his passion for Italian simplicity, where ingredients combine on the plate in a visually tight and artistic presentation. Take, for example, the grilled flank steak with slightly bitter kale and sharp horseradish bordered by black lines of fermented garlic and golden drops of orange reduction – a presentation reminiscent of a work by Miró. The ambitious Fanetti showcases an array of techniques that add surprise and edge. Although the ingredients are primarily Nordic and Italian, the flavour palette touches every corner of the world during the 12-course menu. This diversity is manifest in an unconventional but delicious dish, sous-vide Danish octopus with crunchy puffed quinoa breading, arranged over a purée of pumpkin with ginger, mint and wood sorrel. The octopus is perfectly paired with a glass of white Rhône wine, La Coudée d'Or from Philippe Viret, which combines the right amount of acidity and frutiness to balance the minty refinement of the dish. Our incredibly skilled sommelier, Felix Chamorro, has composed the wine pairings with impressive flair and cadence. In the middle of the menu a bold tannic red wine from the volcanic terroir of Etna matches a blast of warm lamb carpaccio with pasta, fried oyster mushrooms, lamb reduction foam, nasturtium flowers and sour raspberry powder, arranged to replicate the Italian flag. This is followed by a refreshing chardonnay from Fanny Sabre in Burgundy to accompany a surprising and innovative dish of salsify covered with slices of beet, celeriac and a piquant kick of garlic purée. The dish is a peppy zinger in the midst of our meat fervour, while the refreshing white wine provides a boost in the tailwinds of the relatively heavy red. It is a rare feat indeed to see such elegant compositions of food and wine intertwined so seamlessly. With bold originality and flawless presentation, Copenhagen’s New Nordic Italian is definitively top-class.
Jonathan Berntsen has a style all his own in the upper echelons of gastronomy, manifest in everything from the bird-studded wallpaper to alternative interpretations of classic dishes that buck the modern trend and pursue sweetness and richness over acidity and umami. Thanks to Berntsen’s ingenious craftsmanship and uncompromising professionalism, our meal is a memorable and refreshing contrast to the prevailing Nordic winds. The service adheres to all of the classic virtues. An army of tuxedoed waiters and chefs appears with every dish, providing thorough explanations of the wine pairings and their insightful balancing of flavours. However, the alcohol content of the evening’s wines seems somewhat extreme given the refined menu. Sherry, limoncello and Pineau des Charentes in the same menu is a bit over the top, especially when we are also treated to an excellent 2002 Wintzenheim gewurztraminer from Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, whose age and golden colour practically require a knife and fork. The cuisine, on the other hand, combines assertive sweetness and playfulness, weaving tales of the culinary traditions of Denmark’s historic bourgeoisie, such as the clever reinterpretation of the Danish classic, foreloren skildpadde (“mock-turtle soup”), traditionally a pork and fish ragout served with boiled eggs. This dish features four precise small elements in a veal broth with “turtle flavour”: corned veal tongue with foie gras, a fried fish ball, a marbled quail egg and a crisp and hearty croquette with lamb’s brain. Berntsen cannot resist playing with form and he loves technical challenges, like when he serves razor clams with a good spoonful of Oscietra caviar under a net of crispy thin stripes of pressed, dried and sweetened caviar. Despite the almost malty taste of the caviar net, the dish is fresh and invigorating. The kitchen’s experiments include combinations of veal tail and smoked lardo as the filling in a squid dressed in olives, with a side of black bean cassoulet, the tentacles of the squid and a crisp wheat chip blackened with squid ink. Your attention is required in order to understand and interpret the dishes, but the reward is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll not soon forget. The desserts further underpin the chef’s approach, with a white and airy intro of lime, banana and yoghurt, followed by a powerful finale of re-interpreted Crêpe Suzette, which could have been fresher and more acidic. But Berntsen has his characteristic style and he upholds it with an elegance that proves how, despite differences in taste, genius is something we can all agree on.
We receive a fairly brusque welcome. “No, we don’t have your booking,” says the guy who is to be our host for the evening. As it turns out the man, a steadfast, long-standing member of Demo’s staff, gradually eases up and even begins to show signs of a sense of humour. We’re in his hands now, and those of the chef, who has secretively concocted a menu we know nothing about. While still in suspense we pore over Demo’s wine list, which is as expansive as it is expensive, offering a veritable forest of champagnes. To entertain our taste buds we receive a minuscule circular tranche of kohlrabi with dried cod roe. Yes, we are amused. The atmosphere at Demo is a bit subdued and borders on the precious; most of the diners are in their 30s and 40s and seem to know what they’re doing. Intriguingly draped lights play a major role in an interior solely dedicated to eating. Demo’s bread is inventive, featuring a streak of dried and fizzy mushroom stock in its centre. Instead of butter it comes with pork fat, lardo style, with house-cured bacon, honey and flaky sea salt. Before we even know what the first course is we receive a glass of Chablis Premier Cru that we enjoy immensely. And just when we think it’d be nice to eat a minimally cooked king crab with marinated rhubarb, it is placed in front of us. It comes with a hearty jus that jives with the rhubarb. There’s a bit of tarragon-infused mayo playing hide-and-seek in there, too. The crab fits hand in glove, so to speak, with an Alsatian white made from the unusual auxerrois grape. Then more bread, this time a beautifully rich malt variety with whipped butter. Before the third course is laid on we’re being poured a clean and subtle Châteauneuf du Pape, which is just the thing with Demo’s Iberico cheek and “pluma” from behind the neck, accompanied by diced, fermented zucchini, and grilled carrot crème. This pork dish has tremendously deep flavours. Puffed buckwheat, onion flowers, and chopped chives make a contribution, too. After a short break we’re tucking into white chocolate ganache, celeriac ice cream and caramelised bits from the same root, along with crumbled malt bread and a sauce based on whey. Wrapping up our Demo visit, the Faubel beerenauslese riesling neatly dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. Demo may be small in size, but its cuisine has immense flair.
With the first snacks, the tone is set. Algae, rum, ash, and dill (of course). The Icelandic seafood, smoke, fire and locally sourced produce with deep flavours make Dill the Atlantic’s northernmost spot for wandering gastronomes. Here you can experience New Nordic cuisine in the volcanic Arctic environment. The old building in the middle of town has a raw charm with high ceilings and many original details scattered about the rustic wooden tables. When the evening darkens, the spotlights create atmosphere around the cooks as they assemble the dishes in the open kitchen. The three snacks arrive quickly. A baked Jerusalem artichoke covered with tarragon powder stands out, as does dried egg yolk with trout strips which are smoked with, among other things, dried sheep dung – a reference to the time when everything had to be utilized. They have great ambitions here when it comes to matching the food with both beer and wine – though there are no alcohol-free pairings. The sommelier is well read but not that pedagogical when it comes to explaining the ins and outs of the biodynamic natural wines. The Greek orange wine, Roditis from Domain Tatsis, is demanding with its muted fruit – yet a superb combo with the dish containing pickled mushrooms and a tasty mushroom broth under a thin mushroom-powdered crispy round of baked celeriac. An unoaked biodynamic chardonnay from Mâcon is also well matched with char and cucumber. The lightly cured fish is covered with chartreuse parsley powder and accompanied by crème fraîche, pieces of salted cucumber, and toasted crumbs of rye bread. It’s stylish but the flavours don’t quite get off the ground. The smoked haddock is an equally handsome presentation, but with yummier flavours. Dill oil and creamy, whipped skyr (Icelandic yoghurt) create contrast for the smoky fish, which is paired with a bitter sweet-sour Belgian-brewed beer: Mikkeller Hva Såå!? The service is nimble and even the chef is part of the team around the tables. The tempo is high and the atmosphere is good among the international guests who get a seat in this Nordic food temple. In a country that has more sheep than people, a lamb steak is a foregone conclusion – tender and nicely accompanied by baked parsley root, pickled fennel, and fennel cream. It’s not exactly a showstopper, but it is good together with the Montefalco wine from Umbria. The challenging mix of barley grains, malt and dried grated guillemot (a sea bird) is interesting with its wild notes but does not raise the roof. The first dessert, on the other hand, is one of the best of the year: a beautiful scoop of red beet sorbet with a lid of meringue powdered with tarragon rests in a cream of the caramellized whey cheese called brunost. All these intense and contrasting flavours meet in a perfect mix of caramel notes, sweet earthiness and fragile sweetness. The bubbly raspberry-fruity Pieropan wine enhances the experience. They also get it right with a Norman apple cider served with poached pear with almond sorbet and a sauce made from birch sap served in a beautiful ceramic bowl. The entire setup at Dill testifies to ambition and feeling. Though we wish the service had a bit more personality and charm, we leave feeling extremely satisfied.
The iconic hunter’s chairs are no longer to be found in front of the fireplace in the inn’s main hall – the first thing to catch your eye when entering Southern Funen’s Falsled Kro. The chairs were destroyed in connection with a serious burglary at the inn in late 2016. Nonetheless, a peaceful calm quickly falls upon us as we take our places in front of the fireplace on new Børge Mogensen chairs, armed with a glass of champagne and the season’s first lumpfish roe. The meal itself takes place at a large table with thick white tablecloths as the warmth of the open hearth radiates throughout the inn, and where waiters donned in sleeve garters kindly and discreetly serve us. Time stands still here – in a good way. Falsled Kro is old-school luxury, as are the plates sent out of the open kitchen by Chef Per Hallundbæk. A wood-roasted onion peel with smoked sweetness conceals razor clams and sea snails below, in a rich and creamy clam sauce. Every bite is absolutely delicious. A cut of steamed cod – wonderfully firm in structure – is served with fried kohlrabi leaves and a crisp roll of raw kohlrabi with oysters that provides full and salty minerality with an intense watercress sauce to tie the dish together. The generous body and rich quince aroma of a viogner from Château de Beaucastel proves a nice pairing with the oysters – an often difficult feat. Fried duck hearts with a mountain of highly aromatic black winter truffles, morel cream and 36-month Comté provide umami with small acidic explosions of pickled golden beets. The sommelier’s only misstep here is a rather lukewarm blaufränkisch. Our disappointment dissipates as a “pigeon chop” of perfectly pink roasted breast and thigh of pigeon, forged together with chicken mince and caul fat, arrives at our table. The chop is an aesthetic work of genius that seduces the eye with its size and brown-glazed presentation. The condensed meat flavour is accompanied wholeheartedly by porcino mushrooms and an intense demi-glace seasoned with warm Christmas spices. The rich flavours are joined with the bitterness of red cabbage and much-needed acidity from quince, pickled mustard seeds and green grapes, while a Spanish tempranillo served at the proper temperature matches the dish with spicy oaked intensity and dark berries. The dish powerfully demonstrates that this agrarian Southern Funen kitchen is still running like a well-oiled machine. The inn’s garden supplies year-round produce to the kitchen, which is keen to pickle and preserve for the winter months. When the inn’s legendary cheese cart rolls up to our table, we take the last few steps up to heaven. Our waiter knows the story behind each of the 35 well-ripened cheeses, all at the right temperature and the majority are French and unpasteurised. We are welcome to taste them all, he adds. Three glasses of wine for the challenging cheese board prove a boisterous but prudent choice. Among these is a sancerre whose grassy aroma and crisp acidity make it a perfect companion with the fresh goat’s cheese. Coffee and exquisite homemade chocolates by the fire round off a nearly perfect experience. Falsled Kro is by all means worth a trip.
Finnjävel is Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen’s big restaurant dream come true. Both men have some twenty years of experience working in traditional restaurants in the French tradition. Then came the awakening, and the quest to find out what Finnish cuisine is all about. They consulted old cookbooks, delved into their own heritage and fortunately found living traditions that can still be found in different parts of Finland. It was obvious that poverty and necessity had been great sources of inspiration. Finnish cuisine also had influences from Scandinavia to the west, and Russia to the east. These Finnish (dare)devils distilled their ideas and the result has been a highly successful restaurant at a prime location beside Helsinki’s harbour. The nostalgic flavours and the smells of freshwater lakes and saunas are sure to appeal to every Finn, and are mostly familiar to fellow Scandinavians – but they also happen to appeal to the curiosity of foreign visitors. The kitchen is strict about using only traditional ingredients. Close connections with producers and foragers have been crucial. Imported items are only used if they were already being imported some hundred years ago, like herring, coffee and lemon. Today environmental regulations limit the use of some ingredients, like wild salmon, otherwise the sky is the limit. Even the choosiest international visitors have found something familiar in the menu, like meat jelly, and blood sausage. There are two menus – one with six courses and one with ten in which the different dishes are supposed to complete each other. A lot of the more familiar dishes take the form of something unrecognisable. Take the national dish of Karelian pie, presented here as a heap of rice porridge, boiled egg and rye crackers. But most of the treats are more conventional. The amuse-bouches are interesting, like buttermilk from the restaurant’s own dairy, or “From the pit”, an oven-baked onion. Part of the concept involves the design, which was created specifically for the restaurant by Atelje Sotamaa. All of the tableware and furniture are for sale. Not everybody likes the idea of inventing fork and knife again, and some of the ideas aren’t very practical, but it hasn’t gotten in the way of Finnjävel’s popularity. The food is paired with superior wines and other beverages and the enthusiasm of the staff is contagious. However, the team behind Finnjävel has only committed itself to remaining in operation for two years. On their web site the days are busily ticking off until spring of 2018. But who knows, with success like this, they might be tempted to go on with the show.
On a long stretch of Vesterbrogade where fine dining bastions are few and far between, a grey bunker-like building stands proud, having housed a gastronomic forerunner of Copenhagen’s restaurant scene for more than a decade. The team behind formel B (formula B) can boast of having endowed the city centre with both its light-hearted little sister Uformel (Informal) and the king of smørrebrød restaurants, Restaurant Palægade, not to mention Restaurant Sletten in Humblebæk with its stunning sea views. As soon as you open the heavy door, you get the sense of having entered into a secret lodge where the butter is nobly embossed with a B and the international brotherhood of guests is privy to fact that formel B delivers to the fullest every time. We are greeted with a warm and professional reception, and the keen team of waiters quickly establishes a good rapport with their guests. The sommelier’s proud presentation of recommendations and the fixed menu pairings are akin to exploring the big questions of life with a trusted older family member. He exudes impressive authority despite his young age. Leave the decisions to him or have a deeper, exploratory chat with him about the menu and the cellar’s many other options in terms of both conventional and natural wines, with an emphasis on the latter. A jazzy atmosphere prevails in this tightly designed restaurant where the warm light of the kitchen shines through the glass window separating the din and bustle from the diners’ cosy surroundings in one section of the restaurant. The tables are placed so that you can sit in peace and enjoy the reverent parade of delights, from a Danish squid encircled by pickled onions and smoked foam to a rich dill emulsion. The remarkable take on surf and turf is certainly one of formel B’s signature dishes: a crisp yet succulent fried turbot with braised veal tail in a deep green parsley sauce. We recall this dish from our first visit in 2006, and it completely swept us off our feet back then, too. This time it is wonderfully paired with a mild and lightly spiced gamay. A dark, refreshing syrah escorts corned beef brisket, a crisp toast with morel pâté, thin wafers of celeriac and a glaze with such an amazing depth that it shines in tandem with the intense cherry notes of the wine. Formel B is the epitome of excellence in gastronomy and a place we instinctively want to revisit again and again. May it stay that way for decades to come.
If the food at Fotografiska weren’t so full to the brim of personality and soul, we would be tempted to think that the place was dreamed up by an advanced think tank with the task of condensing all of the current food trends into a single format. But thanks to the confident flavours and the focus on ingredients, the concept of “medium-sized plant dishes”, with clear ambitions for zero food waste, feels anything but contrived. And this year, the service staff have also stepped up and contribute to the experience, something that has previously been a bit uneven up here in the beautiful space with spectacular views over Stockholm. Four dishes per person are recommended – and don’t worry whether or not plants alone will satisfy you. A few “sides” in the form of meat or fish are a great way to take the animal protein out of focus while maintaining a little lifeline to a more traditional restaurant meal – but it is hard to imagine that guests will miss the meat after four vegetable dishes. The best is the delicious little tagliatelle made from beetroot and sea spaghetti algae topped with a Sanda egg yolk, Parmesan cheese and liquoricey tarragon. Hmm, no black pepper? We have just enough time to wonder, before the first sip of the amphora-aged natural wine, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and trepat, hits our tongues and gives the dish the peppery smack it screams for. A baked onion, lovingly burnt around the edges, is pepped up by truffles and rich mushroom cream – and gets textural juxtaposition from fried Jerusalem artichoke. A delicious slow-baked carrot plays the lead role in a composition with coriander seed, almond potato purée and basil and still we don’t miss the meat. But when the perfectly baked char and small, intensely flavoured wild venison tenderloin makes its entrance our hearts are gladdened – for the subtle display of craft in letting fine ingredients speak for themselves. Sea buckthorn and carrot we have seen before. Or so we thought. Then we are floored by the dessert, an ice cream made from boiled cocoa bean husks (“it’s white but tastes dark”, the waitress aptly notes) paired with almost raw carrot coins, crushed meringue, cacao nibs, super sour and piquant sea buckthorn berries and something as fun as a meadowsweet granité. The dessert is built as much on texture as taste – it is chewy, creamy and crunchy across the board – and unlike many one-dimensionally sweet desserts, it is interesting to the last bite.
Since Chef Tommy Friis and his wife Birgitte took over Fru Larsen in 2012, they have maintained a very high culinary level. Don’t be fooled by the traditional and stuffy-but-cosy décor of the dining room, this kitchen elegantly combines equal parts classic techniques and modern experimentation ensuring that a meal here is never boring. A miniature bowl of delectable and comforting bacon broth with an edible wrap filled with potato and lovage is a great start, and the tartare of dry-aged beef with croutons and capers is both the perfect temperature and deeply flavourful. The first dish, halibut, is served raw and still (a bit overly) frozen atop an oyster cream, cucumber and white asparagus. An herb jus is sprayed over the dish, adding colour along with herbaceous notes that blend subtly with the aptly paired albarino from Rias Baixas. A salt-baked slice of white cabbage is the base of the next serving. The cabbage, which still retains some bite, is doused in a rich, lemony beurre blanc and topped with dried and fresh Romø shrimps and crispy chicken skin. The wines are well paired throughout the menu, although one could argue that slightly more daring choices would have lifted this creative kitchen’s flavours even higher. Then again, it’s hard to whine too much when the earthy, iron notes of a perfectly cooked pigeon breast mingle with the classy Bourgogne from Liger-Belair. Venison from red deer comes wrapped in a thin mushroom gel “package”. It’s at the centre of a dish that contains, according to the menu, a “sauce mysterie” whose spices keep us guessing. We settle for “gingerbread” to describe the warm, Christmassy flavours that suit the sweetness of the sauce, which is a tad too sweet for the Rosso di Montalcino, but the combo pulls off the pairing thanks to the venison’s wild, gamey aromas. A solid piece of advice at Fru Larsen is to save some space for dessert (or a lot of space if you also plan to indulge in the cheese selection). The spectacular ending of the meal comes in as a perfect sphere that we knock open with our spoons. It falls apart like an eggshell revealing a kefir ice cream and shavings of white chocolate with hempseeds and pumpkinseeds. Together with tangy sea buckthorn and earthy chamomile dust, the combination is a wonder of balance, and it’s utterly delicious.
At times we must rethink our conventional notions of what constitutes a top-class dining experience. Geist indisputably serves food at a high gastronomic level, but also challenges common doctrines. As we sit in the restaurant’s tightly-packed bar surrounding the open kitchen watching the chefs fast at work, and Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” blasts out of the speakers, the first in array of culinary jewels arrives. Chef Bo Bech’s aesthetic prowess leaves nothing to be desired, and his dishes are edgy in both appearance and taste. The signature dish of delicately stacked pieces of fully ripened avocado, brushed with almond oil and topped with caviar, looks and tastes amazing. The oil brings together the almond notes of the two other elements in pure, seductive elegance – a true masterpiece. Bech is not shy when it comes to combining textures, as evidenced by a serving of smooth, creamy potato purée and Kalix bleak roe. The two elements alone comprise the dish, which may initially seem banal but proves to be courageous and right-on, as the flavour-absorbing mashed potatoes coax forth the depth of the salty fish eggs. The kitchen also masters the art of contrasts. Once again, the eye is provoked by the poached Gillardeau oysters, resting like the Princess and the Pea atop a high bed of baby romaine leaves. Yet there are no peas between the leaves, only oyster cream with the intense flavour of the shelled crustacean, combined with the complex saltiness of the airy whey butter on top. Oysters, lettuce and whey – so simple and yet incredibly delicious. There are some miscues. A large pile of onion skins is unappetising because of the coarse texture and overt raw onion flavour that cuts through the otherwise excellent dressing of tamari, lime, and sesame seeds. On the other hand, the dessert is perfectly tuned with a chewy caramel, caramel cream and flakes of soy meringue seasoned with wasabi. The spicy root gives just the kick needed to escort the caramel instead of derailing it. Paired with a glass of oxidised dessert wine from the Jura winemaker Domaine de Cavarodes, which also plays on the caramel notes, we couldn’t possibly ask for anything more. While the wait staff are pleasant and friendly, their knowledge of the food and wine is quite limited, so oenophiles are left to their own devices. But the bartenders, sharply dressed in white tuxedo jackets, are eminently knowledgeable about their cocktails – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The mocktail with lemon and liquorice root syrup is a stroke of genius, where the liquorice adds depth without dominating the spectrum of flavours. If you enjoy dining in bustling but relaxing surroundings without compromising on culinary quality or complexity, then Geist is among Copenhagen’s best bets.
Fermented and organic ingredients with a focus on vegetables, natural wines, a small room with a relaxed atmosphere and a tattooed staff. Check! Grön is the kind of modern, enthusiastic and uncompromising restaurant that you find in all the world’s major cities in the year 2017. But that doesn’t mean there’s something superficially trendy about the place – no, the entire experience is seamless from the bread serving to the last sweet bite. The owners/chefs Toni Kostian and Lauri Kähkönen have a penchant for umami-rich dishes, composed with a light hand, and with a profound yumminess that makes you yearn for more. And more. A good example is the buckwheat tartlet filled with eggs, a sweet onion cream and shredded baby spinach – sprinkled with flakes of frozen onion butter. The small pastry is nicely matched by the acidity in a Vouvray from the bio-winemaker Francois Pinon – fun! Raw, dry-aged beef is an even better combination with hip German winemaker Enderle and Moll’s slightly rough-hewn pinot noir, which is able to match the fiery mustard-flavoured green cabbage that comes with the tartare. This leads us to the best dish of the evening, which is not at all green, but as meaty as can be: a hefty piece of oxtail that has been cooked sous vide for almost 24 hours. It is so tender that all you have to do is poke it and the meat falls off the tail vertebrae. It’s glazed with “pea soy” and has a herby crust. Every bit of fat and cartilage has been broken down and it’s so yummy that the accompanying soft grilled onions, mushrooms, and potatoes have difficulty holding our attention. The beets in a split sauce flavoured with dill and horseradish are a good vegetarian option, though not sensational. We conclude with wild crowberries, reminiscent of blueberries but less sweet. They are served with sorrel sorbet, a cream flavoured with meadowsweet and strewn all over with bits of meringue. One more of those, please!
There is a criterion in the White Guide called “It’s in the walls". Rarely is this as apropos as at Gula Hönan (“The Yellow Hen”). Here the variegated wallpaper converses with the floorboards creating a narrative that sets the imagination reeling. At the beginning of the last century the stately guesthouse was owned by Annie Beutelrock-Krokstedt (what a name!). Annie, strong-minded and modern for her time, was not only one of the first women on the island to get a driver’s license – she was also sheriff in Ronehamn. Even today Annie’s strong spirit floats through these halls. And her reincarnation is very much alive in the garden plot. Surely the colourful Gotländic Anne-Marie Qwiberg is a soul sister with her almost-namesake. Passionate in her task, together with her family, to create a genuine gastronomic experience, she runs the motor at Gula Hönan – the garden. For should we seek the roots of these fairy-tale flavours we must first dig into the plots that surround the house. Anne-Marie’s son and head chef Marc Enderborg’s greatness lies his ability to deftly refine what is grown around the corner. It is also in the soil that our stay begins. The large menu opens with a tour of the kitchen garden. Anne-Marie nips buds, unearths roots and lets us taste shoots that will later become melodies in the symphonies Marc composes in the kitchen. In six years, the symbiosis between mother and son, soil and table, has become praiseworthy. The menu is congenially abrupt. First course: “Skin". A baked zander skin. Concentrated fishy saltiness. The taste buds stand at attention. Via a flavour bomb of potatoes with smoke and lumpfish roe, we are back at skin. “Milk skin. Turbot". On rocks from the beach a few delicious bites of turbot have been plated, wrapped in brittle leeks, dotted with anchovies, smeared with crown dill butter, and topped with fatty milk skin. In our glasses we receive an unexpected New Zealand sauvignon blanc from Momo, proudly served by the winemaker himself. What? Yes, it turns out that our waiter has actually just come from the other side of the earth where he helped create the wine. These things happen at Hönan. “Gotlandic beef. Star-tipped reindeer lichen”. A tartare of beef reverently rests in a little bed of lichen. Then comes a purifying garden salad, pretty as a midsummer bouquet. Dry-aged lamb from Stora Karlsö, Tuscan kale and kelp comes in a rich gravy. After that, a rabbit that has just been friskily munching clover on a neighbouring farm is now a little calmer on its root vegetable bed, and flanked by an unusually deep beaujolais. The Hen has rarely sung so tunefully.
Happolati is located in the old grounds of the former fine dining bastion of Ylajali, but it doesn’t need any of this legacy to stand firmly on its own. Since opening in 2016 it has rocketed towards stardom and is now considered one of Oslo’s – and Norway’s – most exciting restaurants. The foundation is Asian cuisine, but from there it grows out wildly in many directions. You’ll find homespun variations on street food traditions such as the Chinese bao bun, but that’s where tradition stops and inspiration takes over. Picture it filled with red king crab and then deep-fried, hitting very spicy and buttery notes simultaneously. It appears again, served on a DIY platter of desserts, caramelized and ready to be stuffed in your mouth with banana-chocolate ice cream, sorbet, popcorn, and fruity dipping sauce. Expect to use your hands quite a lot during the set menus, as this is tactile, messy food – and it’s deeply satisfying both to handle and consume. Whether you’re asked to put on blue plastic gloves to eat shellfish Neanderthal-style, assemble your own veal cheek tacos, or dip deep-fried cod’s tongue in a tart chilli sauce, dining at Happolati never gets boring, old or gimmicky. It is an effective way of engaging the customer, and this playfulness permeates the whole experience. Most important of all, though, is that everything tastes extraordinarily good, and in comparison with many of their peers, the cooks at Happolati do not hold back on the chilli. After perusing their wine selection you’ll be able to name your new favourite Greek or Hungarian varietal, and with a good sake menu to bookend the night, you’re in for a unique treat
Paul Cunningham’s wizardry in the kitchen is currently celebrating exorbitant triumphs everywhere one looks. But is Henne Kirkeby’s similarly magical? We arrive at the low-ceilinged and fully booked inn at 12 noon on the dot to take in the kitchen’s exploits by the light of day. We are briskly escorted to the furthest corner of the establishment by a young crew of waiters, who immediately – in an informal but not unprofessional tone – present the day’s six-course lunch menu and the optional cheeses. The premises are characterised by an airy, minimalistic decor with mile-wide leather designer chairs, white walls with artworks in predominantly dark shades and contrasting explosions of colour from the fresh flower bouquets imported from the North Sea terrain just outside the door. It is exquisite and elegant, aided along all the more by the crisp and distinct acoustics: perfect for intimate conversations with your lunch companions. Two fresh starters arrive in the wake of a glass of apricot-aromatic and acidic albariño from the somewhat overlooked Galicia: a crispy open pie with lumpfish, lumpfish roe, chives and crème fraîche, and a small dark rye bread crisp with tartare and quail egg yolk. Unpretentious and heavenly, the kitchen delights in the quality ingredients, with variations in texture and no-nonsense presentations. The direct style insistent on fresh, top-shelf ingredients permeates the meal, including the next maritime dish: Cod, beurre blanc, pointed cabbage and a handful of Danish shrimp. Rustic and, once again, unpretentious. The citrus of the beurre blanc, the firm bite of the shrimp and the perfectly prepared cod (which falls into clear flakes) join in beautiful sensory symbiosis. The wines are kindly available in half glasses so that you can drive home, but if you aren’t getting behind the wheel and choose to drink away, your glass will be attended to expertly by your skilled waiter. Unfortunately, an oaked 2012 riesling from Trimbach in the dry Alsace style can just barely go toe to toe with a fat-intensive, rich serving of terrine of pork, foie gras, red onion compote, watercress and grilled, oil-drenched bread. Here we would like to see the wine offer a palate-cleansing balance to the heavy and somewhat oversized dish. The next dish is also rich and delicious, the pub classic fish and chips in a tear-jerking version with triple-cooked chips and all the trimmings. The acidic richness is perfectly balanced, not least thanks to a vinegary tartar sauce and a refreshingly sturdy Provencial rosé, which impresses not with its complexity, but rather its hyperbolic drinkability. The dish – and indeed the meal in its entirety – is informal and wonderful in the abode of the ever-vivacious Paul Cunningham.
We take the last steps down into José Cerda’s alternative universe and close the door. The city’s alarms are dampened, the sound of the trams passing the crest of the hill subside and expressive flamenco music begins on a sober, minimalist stage featuring dark woods and a gently rolling cloth ceiling in the Japanese style. A bamboo blind has been rolled up, and on the counter above the six illuminated dining stations, directly in everyone’s focal point, is the epicentre of the action – the massive cutting board. There is no doubt that the ingredients and the food play the lead roles here. With the first bite of a crisp, buttery Savoy cabbage leaf topped with soft, tangy cream, hay-smoked trout roe and lemon zest, everyday life ceases to exist. Then, when a rowdy nest of fried potatoes rustles apart in your mouth it releases yummy, intense flavours of chive emulsion, black and mighty fruity-sweet fermented garlic, air-cured luxury Spanish ham and pulverised sharp and tangy malt vinegar. Next, a beautiful forest-crazy combo of chartreuse-coloured raw mushrooms wafers that have been dipped in spinach and yuzu powder. Underneath them hides a mushroom cream, charred pine needles, Jerusalem artichoke and bleak roe from Kalix. The drama continues and José clarifies that he does not like leeks. Flames and sparks crackle in front of our eyes, and a minute later we are served a study in sweetened, mashed and steamed leeks – mastered and tamed into something familiar yet magically different. When mashed potatoes with crayfish and crayfish coral make an entrance we almost drown in a subdued flavour register of pure and deep umami. The first act is over and the silence settles, except there’s a whisper from one of the guests: What flavours! The following eight bites of sushi are just as memorable. Zander has been marinated in seven-year aged kombu kelp. The rice is handpicked from Nigata and mixed with both acclaimed Spanish sherry vinegar and Japanese sake, giving it a lovely, deep and mellow sweetness. Old mouldy wooden beams have given life to the three-year aged soy sauce and the fresh wasabi from England is grated on sharkskin. The octopus is epic, beautifully tender and buttery with a silky consistency. And a single bite of tender and meaty 30-day-old char that has been smoked with pine needles picked by picked Cerda himself is award-worthy. Finally, we glide into a sweet ending in which a brûléed pudding that tastes like tamago with caramelised sugar and scallop plays with our expectations and perceptions. The spectacle served here is an eclectic mix of Japanese, Spanish and Scandinavian – and the performance is deeply affecting.
Many places in Scandinavia are located off the beaten track, as there’s a lot of empty space and long stretches between traces of civilization. But you don’t get more in the middle of nowhere than the old mining community of Longyearbyen, now the science and tourism capitol of the Arctic. In the wintertime the harbour is frozen over, so produce is only shipped in every fifth week. Not the easiest conditions for chefs that are used to an abundance of fresh produce being accessible every day. But somehow the restaurants up here are thriving, attracting great young chefs and service staff from all over the Nordic region. Huset, the social heart of Longyearbyen since the fifties, has been the northernmost fine-dinging restaurant since it first started serving wine in the 1990s. Even if the competition from Svalbard’s other establishments is stronger than ever, Huset is still the best place to eat north of the Arctic Circle. Current Chef Simon Idsø has added a more contemporary feel to the food served here. Inspired by the surrounding environment and the current preservation movement, his menu would hold its own in any of the major Nordic cities. Considering his whereabouts, this is a singular performance. One of the appetisers is an outstanding stew of reindeer lungs. Naturally, reindeer is served throughout the whole menu – cured and as a pâté accompanying the bread; in a sausage paired with cabbage and Västerbotten cheese; and as the evening’s main course, topside with onion and butter. We especially enjoy the raw sirloin of bearded seal, thinly sliced with rapeseed oil and sea lettuce, as well as a beautiful serving of slow-roasted celeriac topped with vendace roe butter. The wine list at Huset is legendary, boasting almost 20,000 bottles, some of which have been aging here for over twenty years. Our sommelier of the evening, Mattias Nodvall, presents both the wine list and the wine pairings with enthusiasm, and the pairings are interesting and thoughtful. It pleases us to see such a passion flourish up here in the middle of nowhere.
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.