Behind the three chefs dressed in white is a row of coat hooks left over from the time when the whole house was a theatre. But the show that goes on here today may be filled with even more artistry and craftsmanship. Imouto is an experience for all the senses where you and seven other guests sit in front row seats and experience a spectacle in almost 20 acts. You are served from the wooden shelf that surrounds the bar and constitutes all of Imouto. You are waited on from behind by an efficient and professional service staff. The beverages are expertly recommended – riesling, sake and Japanese beer are all quite right. From the first serving of Japanese snacks, pickled eggs and cream made from fermented garlic, you are ushered into Sayan Isaksson’s world of flavour. It continues with a sublime mini bowl of dried cod skins stuffed with monkfish liver and topped with seaweed meringue. With the next serving, a mini-bundle of dried soy milk skin with black roe and smoked crabmeat, the taste sensation is complete. And it mostly continues in this vein. Not least, the spectacular serving of langoustine in different contexts that is tonight’s showstopper. First, it is killed with a direct stab of the knife, and then the ultra-fresh meat is threaded onto sticks. In the final serving it lies seared on rice with red wine vinegar, browned beef tallow and smoked salt on top. Even if Sayan Isaksson disagrees, this is a signature dish. The display of nigiri pieces offers only the best seafood from Scandinavian waters: perch, zander, char, rainbow trout, octopus, eel, redfish, turbot, mackerel... The zander is the most impressive, only brushed with smoked soy; the farmed eel, flash-grilled; and the charcoal-grilled turbot served with white seaweed and ramson oil. The leftover fish heads from the zander and redfish are roasted while the next course is served. From cheeks and chin the meat is plucked, then mixed with innards from the langoustines into a refined blend served in a temaki cone with ramson oil and salmon roe. When a few delicious profiteroles stuffed with ice cream made from bean paste and caramel sauce are served, three hours have passed. All in a seamless performance where everyone leaves the premises smiling happily.
After a couple of years out in the cold this centrally located Mariehamn restaurant is back. And it’s a good thing, because this is the kind of place where everyone is welcomed with open arms – night-clubbing young people, families and those craving a snack, as well as gourmands. The friendly staff promptly provides us with a little mood-boosting amuse-bouche in the form of a spoon of smoked salmon with horseradish cream. Most of the old regulars wave the menu away, but the kitchen shows ambition and finesse by offering tuna tataki with fermented pointed cabbage and soy pearls, and the variation on beets is accompanied by salty roasted pine nuts and a nice, wholesome cashew nut purée instead of the usual chèvre. The portions here are huge and packed with flavour. After lobster risotto with both croquettes and fried scallops, and duck with Puy lentils and parsnip puree, we enjoy a little chocolate bite with the coffee. It’s an extra plus that they have an ambitious wine list with reasonable prices.
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.