Smalhans is a refreshingly non-themed neighbourhood restaurant, perfectly suited for St. Hanshaugen’s hipsterfied gentry. The rustic but tastefully furnished restaurant is popular and usually filled with a varied mix of young and old, hip and not so hip. For lunch there is simple fare like soups, burgers or fried eggs. Between 4 and 6 pm you can buy “Dagens husmann”, a reasonably priced well-cooked meal served family style. The food on offer might be anything from old school everyday Norwegian cooking like raspeball (potato dumplings) with boiled salt pork to French classics like bouillabaisse or Korean crossover-style steamed buns. In the evening the menu changes to a more sophisticated daily set menu where you can choose between five (Smalhans) or nine courses (Krøsus). A pleasantly acidic halibut ceviche with tiger’s milk and peanuts starts off our meal. Alongside the ceviche, a salad of beets, hazelnuts, kale and kubbeost (a fresh farmhouse cheese) is competently prepared. The lamb shoulder confit is tender, juicy and flavourful in a rich sauce of olive oil and butter with an abundance of fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes. An escalivada is served alongside – a Catalan dish of roast vegetables. While tasty, it’s marred by undercooked aubergines. Dessert is a variation of the classic Norwegian waffle, albeit a slightly flaccid specimen, served with bilberry sorbet, bilberry compote and salt caramel. Interesting organic and natural wines dominate the wine list and the service is informal but charming and effective.
Snapphanarna from Göinge were, according to the history books, warlike peasants who fought against the Swedish crown. At the Malmö restaurant of the same name, the battle is over how to refine what grows next door. The brothers behind Vollmer, Malmö’s best restaurant where seasonality is king, have established in Snapphane their own casual dining restaurant following the same motto, albeit in a more relaxed and pared down form. Snapphane is a tightly run establishment. The chefs work with quiet concentration in the glass-enclosed kitchen located in the middle of the space. The menu is short and the wine list, too. Ebbe Vollmer with his staff guide diners expertly through the evening. Snapphane breathes fine dining, with its sober decor, perfect lighting and its hyper-modern kitchen. And they succeed in the details, not least in the bread serving of small stuffed rolls that make us happy. The parsnip-filled bun sprinkled with liquorice powder in particular elicits shout for more. Later we receive a plate of buttery, sweet-salty salsify with trumpet mushrooms. It’s fiercely good. With each wine serving we get a lesson in oenology. A pinot noir from New Zealand matches the guinea fowl served with a crazy umami-dense purée of fermented vegetables. The dessert is an ode to autumn: dark pink strands of coloured, crunchy pear, a pear parfait rolled in blackberry powder, and a lovely cream made of white chocolate and buttermilk. Snapphane is a bargain among Malmö’s restaurants, especially for those who seek excellent service and good ingredients cooked with a gentle, steady hand.
Time stands still in the beautiful idyllic surroundings of the open-air museum replicating a historic village, Den Fynske Landsby. Unfortunately, the staff fail to establish an air of authority, comfort and tranquillity around our table, even despite the arrival of tried and true Sortebro Kro classics, such as the straightforward tomato quiche and crisp croquettes of pork with a smoked mayonnaise dip to get us started. Of particular note are the strong wine pairings with the maritime dishes. The Burgundy glasses are filled with a full-bodied, fruity vintage that perfectly accompanies roasted cod garnished with fresh pink salt bombs of lumpfish roe and the concentrated sharp taste of onion disguised as small pickled ramson capers. Also on the plate are diced pickled gherkins and a thick, rich bisque made from the cod’s bones to tie it all together. While the cuisine is excellent, our waiter is a bit robotic as he lists the wine options and leaves the dough for the bread with the oyster dish to rise in a jar on the table before baking. The inn nurtures a great love of baking, as reflected in the bread basket with homemade varieties such as sourdough bread and focaccia.
You can still pop in and hope for a spot here, but now you can also book in advance, which pleases those of us who want to ensure a place at one of the three communal tables. While getting acquainted with our neighbours, we try to choose from among the evening’s dishes. It’s not entirely easy, but thanks to the small plates concept we can order several. Speceriet is the “bakficka” to Gastrologik, a casual dining side that shares a kitchen with the fine dining establishment, so while the dishes are less sophisticated than at the main restaurant, they are delicious and composed with playful finesse. A fluffy “blini” made from chickpea flour arrives in a small skillet topped with the finest bleak roe and delightfully smoky sour cream – a brilliant start. Our knowledgeable waiter recommends a glass of Ca ’Lojera from a magnum to go with it. Egg sandwich with truffles? Yes, thank you, and at every brunch for the rest of our lives, please. Under a sunny-side-up egg hides an umami-fueled Parmesan cream, sautéed onions, and a slice of brioche. Over all of that they’ve sliced a generous amount of Gotland truffles. The attentive staff look after us, making sure the flatware holders on the tables are full and chatting with the diners. A duck breast that’s so tender we almost get tears in our eyes is pleasantly accompanied by pickled oyster mushrooms and the smoothest pumpkin cream. Do we have the energy for one more dish? Oh, yes. And then dessert – Jerusalem artichoke ice cream in caramel sauce with a chocolate crisp from Sthlm Bean to Bar.
Things are so pared down here that the wine glasses lack stems. The space consists of only a few square meters, with black and white furniture framed by exposed brick walls located at an address that is easy to forget. But that hasn’t stopped the whole city from finding it. Since its inception five years ago, Chef Antero Aurivo has devoted himself entirely to capturing the essence of authentic Finnish gastronomy and presenting it in the clearest of ways. The evening’s barely underway and he has already turned winter potatoes into perfectly crispy small spheres, beets into sweet-soft pieces of candy and the forest’s mushrooms into crisps. Vegetables have the leading role in the four and six-course menus. Meat and fish are also present, like the pike that has barely crossed the border from raw glassiness and swims in a deliciously oniony-sweet fish broth. It takes a lot of composure not to gorge ourselves on the signature sourdough bread with fluffy butter. Restaurant manager Marc-Antoine Marcoux handpicks natural wines with justified self-confidence and changes them often. Åland lamb and Jerusalem artichoke are perfectly matched with a buoyant but not too thin southern German pinot noir. Late harvest loin-de-l'oeil is absolutely sweet and delicious with malt cake and blueberries with whey sorbet, even though we manage to drink most of it with the preceding tiny apple pie. Overall there is nothing at all to complain about when the friendly, cool and low-key team at Spis provides the kind of completely seamless food and service experience that we so often crave but rarely encounter.
You would have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with the welcoming, urban, relaxed atmosphere at Spisa. We also fall a little in love with the knowledgeable and attentive waiters and waitresses, who really do their utmost to ensure a good experience. Are we hesitating between two wines? They suggest a sip of each. How is it cooked? They’ll check with the chef. Share a glass? No problem! We are equally happy about the cheeky drink list with sangria and rebujito variations, and the many gin and tonic combinations. The food that travels over the counter from the huge open kitchen along one long side of the dining room is well prepared and comforting, with deliberate crowd-pleasing French-Spanish-Italian hits in their own interpretations. There is something for everyone – in the absolute best sense. The crispy-fried boquerones with lively tarragon mayo and poached eggs, and the coarsely cut beef tartare with tangles of fried potatoes both taste exactly as yummy as they sound. We cannot imagine anyone who can resist the totally decadent, creamy, al dente risotto topped with browned butter, sweet, nutty roasted chestnuts and grated truffles. A cool Langhe nebbiolo to go with it is just what the doctor would have ordered. The main courses are large, and a little less daring flavour-wise, but they work fine at a family-style dinner where everyone picks from each other’s plate. Just like at sommelier and restaurant king Björn Persson’s other restaurants, the wine skills are far above average here, and you can safely let yourself be guided by the rather short but well thought-out list.
In a short amount of time Stadskällaren in central Skellefteå has become an institution in town. With courage and decisiveness, the old paint shop a few steps down from street level transformed into a restaurant entirely integrated in the well-stocked delicatessen – or is it vice versa? It does not matter, for this is where anyone interested in food gathers, either to eat in or to buy a complete gourmet bag to cook at home. The restaurant has its own twist on tapas with small plates that make it interesting for a variety of palates. The menu is divided into four sections: greens, meat, fish and sweet. Five small dishes are equivalent to a three-course dinner. Each component in tonight’s composition of moose, Jerusalem artichoke, lamb and smoked cod is excellent in and of itself, and plays in perfect harmony. The beverages are selected with great care and local character. Even if the setting can at times be a tad noisy, don’t let it get to you. Instead, sit back, enjoy the atmosphere and let the very professional staff take care of you.
A good fifteen minutes’ bus ride west of Oslo, as the villa density thickens and the housing prices rise incrementally, somewhere along the coastline lies Strand Restaurant. Overlooking a number of jetties where the locals keep their sailboats, profiled Norwegian chef and cookbook author Tom Victor Gausdal promises to provide a natural dining experience, free of additives and with a clear focus on organic food. He has built up a whole industry here that spans over multiple fields, and where Strand is located you’ll also find a bakery and a wedding venue along with the restaurant itself. All this heavy use has worn the house down somewhat since its opening in 2010, but the food still holds to a high standard. There are various set menus to choose from, a selection of three, five or six courses from the main set menu, or the cheaper three-course menu that’s available during a couple of hours around dinnertime. Either way, there’s no risk that you’ll leave Strand feeling peckish as the dishes are generously sized. We find ourselves with two main courses – a deep dish of oxtail, gnocchi and shiitake mushrooms and a lovely lamb dish with asparagus, both with a side of mashed potatoes that has been given a solid amount of butter. We finish this off with a platter of homemade crispbread and Norwegian cheeses (if you’re lucky you can taste the delightful, multiple-award winning Norwegian blue cheese called Kraftkar). The expensive cab ride back to Oslo centre has seldom felt as affordable.
Every self-respecting city should have a restaurant that summarises its soul – at least the fashionable part. For many years Sturehof has shouldered the role of “Brasserie Stockholm”. Open from morning to night, everyone seems to hang out or pass through here at some point during the day. The patina of Jonas Bohlin’s interior only becomes more beautiful over the years. It’s classic blond Swedish divided into several sections with a large oblong dining room tightly fitted with damask-covered tables. The entrance is in the middle of the premises so everyone can see who steps forward to the maître d’ podium. Fish and seafood are the main features on the plates and all the ingredients from sea and lake are sustainably caught. The kitchen does a pretty good job, which is impressive given the high pace and the number of diners. The house’s seafood sausage is fun as are the lovely and classic quenelles. From the Barents Sea comes cod, lightly cured and served with shrimp, horseradish and a brown butter hollandaise, so scrumptious it can be eaten with a spoon. Oven-baked turbot from Kvinesdal is served with beurre blanc, the zander comes from Lake Malaren and the apples in the finale are from Små-dalarö. The foie gras, prepared au torchon, is as good as it is heftily proportioned. The wine list follows the same brief, as does the service staff, who are multitudinous, experienced and quick. On Fridays this is a fun scene for those who slaved away in neighbouring offices during the week.
The large windows facing out towards Frederiksgade, the somewhat dilapidated, glossy white-painted floors and the raw oak tables scream bistro, and leather aprons on the waiters, tattoos and long beards play into this style, but the food is exceptionally beyond everyday bistro. We are addressed in a relaxed tone, feel that we are being attentively served, and the presentations are precise with an appropriate degree of detail. The wine list has an affinity for the low-sulphered styles, but with varying degrees of success. We start with finger food in the form of small, soft and chewy Danish tacos with an elegant crab salad, while a small crustade with lumpfish roe gives us a taste of the kitchen’s generally delicate style, with its ultra-light flavours. On the other hand, a brilliantly crisp, precise and tender malted dough quiche with mussels, raw pickled cucumber cubes and kohlrabi packs powerful flavour, but is unfortunately dominated by a cream of smoked fresh cheese. However, Domaine Rietsch’s auxerrois 2015, with its slightly bitter and umami-saturated fullness, tempers the smoke and the two work nicely together. Dry-aged beef (103 days) is featured in the next dish, cut into raw bright-red flakes, over a kind of tartare of cauliflower and Havgus cheese, with a topping of French sorrel. The deep flavours of the dish harken back to the Stone Age, but the acidity is too weak; meanwhile, it’s impossible to determine whether Les Parcelles Tète Nat was chosen because the dish originally had acidity, or due to the sommelier’s wishful thinking. There is no bread with the food, but the bread arrives as its own dish, fried and oil-drenched with powerful flavours and accompanied by a fresh, spring-inspired relish of veg and almonds. It’s light-hearted, delicious and much-needed at this point. Our sommelier demonstrates keenness in the choice of Hervé Villemades Les Souchettes 2015 from Cheverny, a wine with extreme malolactic character; it’s paired with the last season’s Gråsten apples, slow-baked for amplified flavour and topped with caviar of white sturgeon and a divine reduced buttermilk with browned butter. Underneath it all is a relish of pickled fermented beach plants. It’s a memorable, inventive and ingenious dish showcasing fundamental culinary elements in synergy: crunch, softness, creaminess, sweetness, acidity and umami. Two meat dishes – one with sweetbreads and celeriac ragout, and the other with grilled, braised pork breast – demonstrate the same brilliant simplicity, including a sauce of chicken stock and walnut, where the bitter and nearly caramelised sweetness of the walnut support bitter varieties of cabbage on top of the pork. The Jerusalem artichoke caramel with a coconut-like flavour, served with pear cubes and sweet woodruff, is in the same harmonious zenith as the apple-caviar dish. All in all, an adroitly executed orchestration of contrasts.
It all goes so fast. In the traditional Tokyo-style, called edomae, the name for the sushi that became the world’s first fast food in the early 1800s. In one and a half hours we’ve enjoyed 15 servings in the form of an omakase, i.e., the chef’s choice. Carl Ishizaki packs a big experience into this little room, which is cramped and rather spartanly furnished. Behind the counter he and his mates assemble the servings with a light hand and good humour in disarming, long-sleeved undershirts to the tune of 80s pop music. It begins with a series of small dishes, and we are impressed by the tuna cubes with green okra, puffed rice and an egg yolk that’s been marinated overnight in soy sauce and sweet sake. We are asked to mix it all together to experience the sweet-salty-tartness in a soft cream with roasted notes. More smoke, acidity and fat are supplied by the dish with halibut and plum vinegar – perfect with the soft, elegant notes of a Masumi sake. There are mostly Atlantic fish among the eight nigiri pieces, and these are served with a slightly sweeter sake: Daishichi Masakura. The sake also gives wings to a fun variation on herring with pickled spring onions and crushed ginger. The best, though, is the seared rainbow trout with rice that’s been laced with lightly fermented vinegar. A third, more rough and woodsy sake combines nicely with the ocean notes of salmon roe and Galician sea urchin. The recommended sake pairings are an interesting journey into a new world of flavour, though Japanese beer or fresh German riesling wines are good alternatives. There is no doubt that Sushi Sho delivers – although perhaps in the fastest way possible.
“What strength would you like?” the waiter asks, when we have trouble reading the menu and wonder if they have some reading glasses we can borrow. This says something about the level of service at Svartengrens, where a remarkably well recruited and warm staff unpretentiously and safely pilot you through dinner. When the waiter explains that the flap steak on the cow sits next to the slightly drier flank – and that the tres major sits above the flatiron steak, in front of the ribs, and has a bit of the same character as filet mignon – he does so with his whole body, as if in a dance. It is precisely these different cuts that are the draw at one of the city’s hottest destinations for carnivores. All of the meat comes from small producers close by, often in the Stockholm archipelago. In the restaurant’s basement it is tenderized, smoked and cured. Then it is served with the sophistication that only really good meat can be, naked and alone on the plate, with optional condiments on the side. “Onions, Onions, Onions” is one of the better options, with memorable crispy panko-fried rings. The starters take longer to prepare, like a flower of rolled slices of dry-aged roast beef and coppa standing on end, surrounded by sugar-salted cranberries, thin mushroom slices, and bone marrow butter. Sublime. If you did not have time for a cocktail in the bar before dinner, treat yourself to one with dessert, like the little gem straightforwardly described as “sugar peas, champagne and vermouth”. The venue is often crowded, the customers young and savvy, the wall art liberal and impressive, and the atmosphere is always as high-pitched as the music streaming forth from the speakers.
Swedish Taste is much more than an elegant restaurant. Here they offer cooking activities for groups of friends and businesses, conferences, events and even bags of groceries from the small café/shop next door. The location, opposite the Gothenburg opera house, characterises the crowd, especially when the “Tenor box” (as Gothenburg has dubbed the music scene) hosts one of their more popular performances. There is an opera menu among the tasting menus, of course, but all the dishes here are affordable enough, even to order à la carte. The kitchen works happily, as the name suggests, with a lot of Swedish ingredients, but the flavours and spices are often of more exotic sort. Though this does not apply to the venison tartare that has been given a slight scorching, served with flavour-boosting black garlic and green juniper and some pears for sweetness. Things get really yummy when a plate of fermented Jerusalem artichokes with walnuts and browned butter lands on the table and the talkative waiter proficiently grates Gotland truffle on top. They place great effort in finding good wine matches here, and with some of the dishes the same talkative waiter holds miniature wine tastings to make sure we’re satisfied. To match the tender lamb from Sjuhärad with salt-baked beets, fermented blackcurrants and fun, popped amaranth seeds, our choice falls on a muscular Portuguese wine from Quinta do Vallado instead of the proposed Swedish one. But of course Sweden is in our glasses when the dessert is apples with a little fried donut; Brännland ice cider is hard to resist.
The Tabac defines itself as a Social Club. Their combination of a barand kitchen is a novel one - a testament to actions coming first and being only much later followed by the words and expressions to describe them. The door opens into a classical bar. This isno means a deceptive impression. The bar isan outstandingly good one, too. The signature cocktails are without doubt the most interesting part of the extensive drinks list. (They borrow a fair few ingredients from the kitchen.) But beware: don't get lulled into an evening of drinks without ordering something from that kitchen of theirs. We wrote KITCHEN in all caps in the title because that’s what the Tabac’s kitchen - as a bar kitchen - is. It takes the modern Estonian cuisine forward more than many restaurants do. The Estonian Sushi is a simple dish. It consists of the two perennial favorites of Estonian homes: potato and Baltic herring. The Baltic herring hasbeen salted, then washed and ever-so-gently grilled. Gone is the overpowering fishy flavor. Itis replaced by slightly salty, refined nuances common in rare and precious fish. Forget about wine, by the way. The food is best enjoyed with cocktails. The truffle-flavored negroni is a flawless partner to the sweet and salty dish of grilled rice, smoked eel and cured salmon.
On Brunkeberg hill, Stockholm’s new entertainment district is emerging under the name Urban Escape. At the top of the building is Tak, one of the most talked about restaurant openings in recent years. Chef Frida Ronge’s (formerly of vRÅ in Gothenburg) Nordic Nippon kitchen now has a new home and the food is an appealing, clever mix of Swedish and Japanese ingredients, flavours and techniques. One example is the house “algae potatoes”, which are grown 25 meters from the sea, covered with algae, resulting in a firmer texture and more nutrients. They are served with Arenkha caviar (herring roe), sour cream and herring with a mild, smoky taste; unmistakably Swedish but with a Japanese sea note. Some things are finger-licking good, like the house donburi – a mixture of chicken, sweet and sour pickled rutabaga, rice, sweet caramelized onion and a perfectly baked egg whose flowing yellow yolk binds it all together in a delicious mix. Sure, the flavours get a bit messy, with all those potent ingredients in one deep, beautiful bowl. But it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Another perfection is the grilled redfish that flakes beautifully when it hits the fork joined by a complex “salad” of rice, almonds and iceberg lettuce, moistened with a mayo made from roasted garlic and chicken. All of this is topped with shredded dried pork. Oh yes, it’s seriously extravagant and dastardly good. On the concise list of sweets (there are only two) a tasty ice cream of roasted rice stands out. The restaurant is smart and modern, and the dining room designed by Wingårdh is very “now”. The open floor plan has stylish room dividers and in the background a large tattooed entourage in white coats prepare the food in the kitchen. It’s fun, playful and yet elegant with gold metal, wood, leather and concrete as base notes. The flow of light through the large windows is dazzling – as is the view, with large parts of the city at your feet. On the beverage side, sake plays prominently in different styles and temperaments. This is the place to get more closely acquainted with the complex world of rice wines. The large terrace outside is guaranteed to be this summer’s most coveted place in the sun.
Tango is a small, bright, elegant restaurant located within sight of the harbour – a place to see and be seen. It has a great view of the city, which is only exceeded by the view from their rooftop seating area, where the restaurant serves food from the grill throughout the summer. At first glimpse Tango might seem to have a fine dining concept. The staff are perfectly groomed and formally dressed in suits behind the welcoming desk. The tables are covered with white linen, and the diners are also formally dressed. But when the waitress comes over to have a seat on the couch next to us while she presents the five-course menu, we realize the place is a little more relaxed and informal than it appears. Tango defines its offering as "rough dining" , and there are several reasons why, including the loud noise from the bar and the fact that the bar and the restaurant share restrooms. The menu captures the essence of Stavanger in a classic but technically diverse way. The two first servings are like tiny jewels of white asparagus and herring with egg cream. They are gone in a second and easy to mistake for teasers, especially as they are not accompanied by wine. The two following plates have a very different style. They are bigger and more traditional. A trout from Sirdal is served with ramsons, pickled cucumber, fried noodles, fennel and chervil. Both the trout and the new interpretation of lamb fricassee attempt to balance on the border between an everyday Norwegian dinner and a luxurious dining experience, but unfortunately end up on the less exciting side of things. Tango offers a reliable restaurant visit when it comes quality and expertise, but the menu and the classic wine pairings are very expensive in comparison with what you get.
Gustav Öhman, the restaurateur at Taxinge Krog, lives for food and loves talking about food with his customers. He is excited about the chewy gluten strands of the last delivery of Warbro Kvarn’s flour, about the taste of the meat from the six-year-old cow that he had the privilege to come by, and the delight in a childhood memory of BigPack ice cream now reinterpreted in a version containing strawberry, porcini and spruce shoot ice cream. In the next second he’s acting as sommelier, presenting his selected drinks with equal amounts of engagement and knowledge. He explains how the flavour of the beers or the organic and biodynamic wines will pair with the food. Non-alcoholic beverage pairings are also available, with different flavours of house-made barley waters. He is currently assisted by a young Swede who, during his internship in Paris, was referred to Taxinge because it is considered to be at the forefront when it comes to green and sustainable cooking. The rumour has reached Europe. It’s true, Gustav probably runs one of Sweden’s most sustainable restaurants. The plant kingdom forms the basis of the food served here and he uses as much as he can of each ingredient. The season governs what is collected, grown, picked, fished, butchered and prepared. The menu is fixed at six to eight small dishes that vary week to week, depending entirely on what his small producers and entrepreneurs from the neighbourhood have to offer, or what they find in the forest and soil.
Tore Wretman knew what he was doing when he opened the doors to Teatergrillen nearly five decades ago. Across the street is the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s stage entrance and the goal was to attract the best-known names from stage and film. Specially discounted prices after performances did the trick and the place became a veritable celebrity magnet. Even today the crowd consists of entertainers, albeit of a different kind – these come from the financial world and the political scene. And they have a decent amount of money. Which may be needed, for it is expensive at “Grillen”. In exchange one gets to see one of the country’s most complete restaurant experiences come to life. This includes the gentle clatter when the silver carriage rolls over the wall-to-wall carpeting, the mannered murmur of a self-conscious and sometimes recognizable crowd, along with well-mixed cocktails. The spot-on 60s interior design by Yngve Gamlin does its part to establish the Mad Men aura, with nicely divided rooms, marble, theatre props and red velvet. Even the output from the kitchen rests on a classic foundation. From the aforementioned silver trolley comes a hearty piece of salt-baked beef that’s carved tableside and served with a lovely tarragon-laced béarnaise. Another feature taken directly from Wretman's era is Tosca pears, which it’s fair to say is rather simple for SEK 145. The cod bourguignon with beef brisket and fried almond potatoes as well as a foie gras terrine with fried oyster mushrooms are as well prepared as they are apropos. The masculine service staff are stoic and knowledgeable and match with the environment and the atmosphere. In the small entrance bar you can order slightly simpler fare: a burger or toast Skagen with a glass of wine.
In the midst of the minimalist era Markus Aujalay has invested deeply in its total opposite: fuchsia, turquoise, plush fabrics, cosiness, pillows, chandeliers and warm ambiance en masse. And actually, we note how our shoulders sink a few centimetres when, without resistance, we are embraced by the comfortable armchairs. The furnishings and soft jazz streaming from the speakers are an effective counterpoint to the extreme urban location in one of the city’s main traffic junctions. But can the food from this master chef judge withstand the same harsh scrutiny that he himself subjects to aspiring chefs on TV? Indeed it can. The simple little burrata serving manages to eclipse most interpretations in the genre: the creamy cheese is the perfect temperature and served with intense, cured tomatoes and powerful herbs. The halibut carpaccio, which is more like a love child between carpaccio and ceviche in style, is even better. Massive slices of supple halibut topped with well-dosed amounts of both lemon and piment d’Espelette. Among the heavier dishes we are impressed by a perfectly cooked piece of venison, paired with red wine and coffee sauce and an orange-braised, slightly bitter endive cleft. It’s an impressive balancing act where the bitterness of coffee and endive functions like clockwork with the wild game’s iron bloody sweetness and the fruitiness of the orange. The food is straightforward, tasty, and very well thought out. And the drinks? Yes, there is a bevy of fun cocktails, a well-curated wine list, and knowledgeable staff to help you along. Our wine selection is handled as carefully as the food, and the staff are just as wonderfully untrendy (aka., genuinely warm) as the pink, plush furniture. A new favourite restaurant is born.
Telegrafas, the Kempinski Hotel restaurant, is situated in the very heart of Vilnius, facing the cathedral across the central square. The atmosphere, foodand drink are accordingly elegant and measured. Even the pace of time seems to disengage from the rush of the city behind the tall windows. Itis customary here to start the dinner with an aperitif at the bar or the restaurant itself. The cocktail list, while very short, is drawn upof signature drinks closely tied to Lithuanian customs and preferences. The Taste of Victory blends the local ancient monastery liquor Krupnikas with sea buckthorn juice and old school moonshine for a dry, slightly bitter overall impression. The state of Lithuania recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Perhaps this is indeed the taste of hard-won freedom. The ingredients used in the restaurant are valuable, carefully selected and often imported from faraway places. But the menu always includes a specially chosen local dish, whose history is noted down for the visitors’ edification. We have always opted for those dishes and taken pleasure in the way flavours change with the times in a classic, long-established restaurant.
“This wine is damn good with the steak”! Our waiter tries to convince us to order the newly arrived bourgueile, and of course he is right. The young tattooed waiter knows his stuff and has an attuned ear for service: he’s straightforward, witty and has a twinkle in his eye. Björn Frantzén calls this restaurant off Mälartorget a gastropub but, note that they do not serve regular pub food here – and especially not at regular pub food prices. The bill can easily run up to SEK 2000 for two. The environment is an upscale interpretation of a pub, robust and elegant at the same time, with wood and leather as a backdrop. The clientele is also in line with the concept: it’s a fun mix of colleagues out to dinner, peppered with a remarkable number of couples in different configurations. A hand-cut lamb tartare is a fine tribute to classic Swedish flavours when it intermingles with a mayo tinged with acetic acid, pickled carrots and onion. It is also stylishly presented in a hefty cast iron casserole. The Kalix bleak roe with pork belly and brown butter is a dish with a similar spirit. Quite simply, yummy Swedish food. The house fish ’n’ chips succeeds in being crispy on the outside and beautifully flaky inside. And the aforementioned steak comes with porter-glazed onions, fried straw potatoes and a fantastic gravy. The thick pancake with macerated cloudberries is a heavy finish. A lot of fun and complex stuff streams out of the beer taps here. Behind the restaurant hides Back Bar, a simpler section with a focus on beer and music. Here you can show off your smarts in a recurring music quiz.
In uncertain times, it always is nice to find yourself in a safe harbour, a place where time seems to stand still, where quality is more important than constant change, and where you can sit for a couple of hours while you enjoy a glass of port and contemplate life itself and how you ended up here. Theatercaféen could have been one of those places. It is not. It has actually blended its posh, luxurious history with a breath of inspiration from the more pulsating and greener present day. The menu has elements that will please everyone, and all are welcome in this room where unspeakable things have been done in the name of art. Here you’ll find timeless classics like a traditionally executed tartare, Olso-stlye open-faced sandwiches and waiters dressed the old-fashioned way. The big red disk of hand-cut meat with the condiments on the side and the yolk in its shell for you to blend in yourself is like time travel on a plate. Kalix bleak roe comes on white bread from the French bakers in town with a generous portion of sour cream. It might seem simple, or easy, but the chefs show their strength in not messing up a classic dish, and by just using great ingredients, and that is admirable. Theatercaféen is stylish; it’s tradition, history and future.
You can’t help but think about the parties and dinners that have been arranged in this stately mansion over the years, even if today it is primarily the haunt of conferencing groups. A lot of foodies find their way here too, and with good reason. A menu is served here every evening and soon after one is shown to the table the sommelier sneaks in to talk about the evening’s beverage pairings, with or without alcohol. The amuse-bouche consists of small pieces of fried sweetbreads with an emulsion of tarragon, and it immediately gets us in the mood. The first course is a delicate balance of seared scallops, creamed clam and a beautifully cut pointed cabbage roll that, to the untrained eye, resembles a sheer piece of leek. It’s a bit strange, though, that part of the dish is cold while some ingredients are lukewarm. But the porcelain is beautiful and there is a well thought-out unity in the presentation. The main course of lamb is tender and tasty but it’s the crown dill emulsion that makes us howl with pleasure. We find the same intense flavour explosion in the dessert, a phenomenally beautiful arrangement of “apple pie”. Here they have paved the plate with crumbs of cinnamon and chocolate. A light green sorbet of Granny Smith constitutes the dish’s centre, and it is flanked by thin flakes of cider-flavoured meringue with a tingling acidity. This is truly the menu’s crowning dish and when the golden drops of Brännland’s ice cider slip down our gullets, we shudder with happiness.
Nowadays they play popular Swedish rock at Thörnströms. And at relatively high volume, too. Thörnströms turns 20 years old this year and for 20 years has offered a predictable and traditional fine dining restaurant experience. The mature, loyal, affluent clientele who still sit for long dinners on the padded seats have now been joined by a younger crowd since Hakan Thörnström’s successful stint on television. And the staff! Last year the more serious, suited service staff started being replaced by young girls in black jeans with corkscrews in their back pockets. This year they own the floor fully; unpretentious, professional, charming and easy-going. The kitchen on the other hand has rarely produced so much heavy metal. An egg royale with cauliflower and drifts of truffles is like eating hangover food at first, due to its flavour-fueled, cheesy-creamy indulgence, but it’s fun in combination with a mature champagne. The amuse-bouches are multiple: a cheese-filled macaroon is a sweet intro and chips with horseradish cream are post-modernly stylish. Among the cold starters there’s a chilled rabbit ballotine encrusted in pistachios accompanied by a product of the year’s zero-waste craze: fried carrot tops (which, it should be said, also have zero taste). The main courses are protein-heavy calorie bombs. Six tender slices of venison flanked by a thumb-sized venison sausage and an herb-disguised stew. We look desperately for acid among the plate’s greenery, where a few thin apple slices fight valiantly among some twigs of rosemary. But then, oh! – a super-cute cookie jar appears with the coffee, packed with old-fashioned shortbread cookies like brysselkex, lingongrottor, kolasnittar, and schackrutor.
One of the culinary staples in town, this is a go-to place for locals to fulfil their fine dining needs. Given its affordability and high quality over a number of years, it a force to be reckoned with. The ambience gives the otherwise loud-mouthed Trønders a sense of ceremony and quietness, in contrast to the cheery and jovial (but still highly knowledgeable) staff. The recipe for To Rom og Kjøkken’s success is based in big flavours with an emphasis on ingredients found nearby served with a French spirit – like proteins prepared in butter with plenty of sauce. The three-course menu is generous, but if you find room add the cheese course where Trøndelag’s best local specialty, the Munkeby, plays a large role. The restaurant’s stand-out feature is nonetheless the dish of the day, which is served during dinner time and changes daily. It’s a rustic, hearty meal for well under NOK 200. There are a few other welcome attributes that give the place a huge advantage in Trondheim’s steadily growing restaurant scene, such as a designable kid’s menu for aspiring gourmands, a heralded mixologist (not equally kid-friendly) and one of the largest and best local craft beer selections around.
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.