The website implores locals to drop by and enjoy themselves in the united spirits of Christianshavn (where the restaurant is located) and Bornholm (the home island of Kadeau’s founders) – be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The decor perfectly matches the culinary style, which is simple, Nordic and seasonal. On an autumn evening, it is only natural to start with a herby, rich appetiser of beef broth with tarragon oil and beef fat, bringing warmth to body and soul alike. Appetiser number two is a dehydrated beetroot with shredded beef fat and yeast – a sensational umami bomb to kick off our meal. And thus it continues at an impressive clip. Our waiters are well informed about the food and wine, the latter of which are low on sulphites, in keeping with the concept. The appetisers are accompanied by a white Jura made with savagnin and other local grapes, whose nice acidity and slight oxidation make it a fine pairing with the sour and umami-rich servings; it brilliantly matches a simple but refined dish of al dente squid with sweet grilled beetroot, sour yoghurt and fresh citrusy herbs. The tartare, not to be missed, is a real pleaser. Coarsely minced meat with good flavour and structure is joined by sour green tomatoes and oyster mayo, bringing the dish together nicely with richness and bitter/salty notes. A gargantuan and inelegant dessert with a slightly too chewy meringue, sloppily seasoned whipped cream and pickled cherries lacks sweetness and is simply a dud. But the kitchen is otherwise fine-tuned and unmistakably in the Kadeau lineage from beginning to end. A more affordable everyday version of its famous big brother, it’s a genuine “back pocket” deserving of a visit.
Naert opened in 2015 as a Norwegian gourmet restaurant with long menus and high prices, but a revamping of the menu last year saw a reduction in both. We are immediately thrilled by the introductory snacks, a simple and satisfying egg boiled in miso, served with a little dill mayonnaise. Throughout the menu the flavours are intensely delicious. A boned chicken thigh is surrounded by a thick and enticing ultra-crisp skin, while an acidic butter sauce with dulse and fried Tuscan kale envelops the crispness with a jaw-dropping umami punch. An orange wine with strong tannins and bold acidity stands up well to the rich dish. Naert clearly shows that Norwegian/Nordic cuisine is capable of embracing more than the cool and delicate flavours it’s known for. The kitchen makes good use of the season’s available ingredients, while banking those of past seasons with the extensive use of fermentation and pickling. A slow-roasted lamb breast virtually melts under the outer crust, held in check by beetroot and fermented blackcurrant. The beetroot notes in the extremely succulent and meaty gamay wine pairing make the dish sing loud and clear. Our attentive sommelier (the only waiter this evening) has carefully considered the natural wines that he exquisitely pairs with the flavours of our food. The only misstep of the evening is the bland milk ice cream with chunks of dry pastry, pickled sea buckthorn and poppy seeds. It looks like someone smushed a
Danish pastry into a scoop of ice cream, and the accompanying oloroso sherry is too dry to withstand the sweetness of the dish. The dining room has too few tables to fill out the relatively large space, and the naked bulbs hanging from the ceiling do nothing to create a cosy atmosphere, but the friendly service and kitchen’s high level of culinary ability make the overall experience a positive one.
In the middle of reading the menu we notice that the Pommern is gone! Instead of the four-masted steel barque that is usually moored in the harbour outside Nautical and the Åland Maritime Museum, now there is nothing but the (albeit beautiful) glittering waters of Mariehamn. Our first look at the menu inspires fears that that resourceful simplicity that charmed us on previous visits might also be missing. Toast Skagen and flounder meunière sound undeniably like dishes you might find on the menu of a small town hotel. But after assurances that the museum ship has only been temporarily relocated for maintenance, and a delicious amuse-bouche in the form of Jerusalem artichoke soup with smoky bits of lamb tartare and crisp black bread, we feel much calmer. When Skagen à la Chädström turns out to be chock-full of horseradish, and the witch flounder majestically sails in like the Pommern on a 1:2 scale with zesty pickled fennel and a decadent buttery champagne sauce, all our worries are blown away. It’s a bit intimidating to eat, but there is nothing not to like when it’s this intensely delicious. “The cod has arrived!” exclaims our very social waiter, pointing out the fishing spot beside some islets just beyond the harbour entrance. On the plate the fish swim à la bourguignonne, in red wine sauce with diced pork and mushrooms. A nice, smooth potato crème completes the plate. This dish is also rather hefty, but just the right amount of nourishment on a bleak late-winter night in expectation of spring – and the Pommern’s return.
N.B. Sørensen’s Dampskibs expedition started up as a steamship company in Stavanger in 1876. Today it is the name of a brasserie that has been around for the last 25 years, and a more exclusive restaurant on the second floor called N.B. Sørensen Annen Etage. Annen Etage means “second floor” in Norwegian, and underlines the fact that the two restaurants have completely different concepts. The wooden floors are old and crooked, adding to the feeling of being at sea even before the first drop of wine hits your tongue. Chef Filip August Bendi is one of Norway’s strongest hopes for the next Bocuse d’Or. His traditional and creative menu suits the historic seaside location perfectly. In springtime the seafood in Stavanger is at its best – and Bendi and his team know how to make it even better. The menu is fixed and consists of four dishes, though this number generously expands by five with additional treats served in between that could easily be mistaken for regular portions. It opens with fried skrei skin, herring roe and parsley, before moving on to a taste of Norwegian childhood with the simple bread on a stick known as pinnebrød. A whale tartare is elegant and fresh and combines two classic dishes in one with its topping of horseradish cream, Kalix bleak roe, milk and nasturtiums. And the best part? We haven’t even started on the menu yet, which turns out to be loaded with the best the sea has to offer. Squid, scallops and monkfish are plated neatly and luxuriously with the first fresh greens of the year. The dessert tops all this off with an ice cream made of yellow beets and elderflower, homemade ricotta, liquorice meringue, frozen yoghurt and purple oxalis. The servings are accompanied by a traditional string of white wines. The kitchen does a great job at bringing you a truly seasonal Norwegian meal with finesse and a twist. Unfortunately, the service is a different matter. Though the timing is precise, the waiter spends more energy correcting the guests than contributing to the positive ambiance and his knowledge is limited. The staff even argue about an overcharge on the bill. It almost ruins the sweet aftertaste of warm chocolate cake dipped in ice-cold milk.
At the little sister to the finer AOC, Christian Aarø and crew have found a style with quality and craftsmanship of the same high standards at a very reasonable price, executed with greater simplicity and less prestigious ingredients. On this winter evening, sitting by the restaurant’s large-windowed facade, Copenhagen is mirrored in the adjacent waters of Christians-havn. In summer you can enjoy the same view in sunlight, sometimes from the outdoor terrace. The view adds an extra dimension to the meal, and fortunately the restaurant is not short on window tables. Aarø is among Denmark’s best sommeliers, as evidenced in the wine list. The wine pairings (DKK 325 for four glasses), as well as the many glasses and extravagant bottles on the wine list, have all been selected with the greatest of care. We are served a glass of young chardonnay from Hamilton Russel on the Western Cape of South Africa, whose minerality and fresh notes of pear and lime balance a brilliant dish of salted pollock. The fish comes in green robes of lightly smoked Tuscan kale and cod roe cream with pickled elderflowers. Several dishes during our meal employ this discreet use of smoke and richness to add an edge to the creamy flavour, including the boneless rib-eye in a jacket of beets with marrow and slightly bitter parsley emulsion. This subtle smokiness is at its best in the tender lamb belly with large, mild Brussels sprout leaves, parsley root and smoked butter sauce. The smoke, nutty butter and bitter Brussels sprouts are all elevated by a fantastic glass of pinot noir 2012 from Pro Bono from the central coast of California: a velvety, fresh wine with notes of red berries and mushrooms. The menu is smart and edgy from beginning to end, and Chef Nikolai Køster also has a flair for desserts. “Lemon mousse” with caramel and frozen yoghurt has fresh acidity, while mocha foam with chestnut and salted caramel ice cream is sweet, salty and slightly bitter. Both hit the bull’s-eye with few frills. The service is attentive, impeccable and informal (guests fetch their own cutlery, for example). But the food is served hot and often by a team of servers. Our total indulgence of the palate ends with well-brewed mocha and a reasonable bill of less than 2,000 DKK for two.
Sitting pretty by the seaside, at the edge of the city, with a spectacular view of Tallinn’s skyline. NOA is a stunner, housed in a building that was designed specifically to be a restaurant, and there aren’t too many of those in Estonia. Set foot inside and the amazement continues ––it’s cozy and comfortable here. NOA was such an instant crowd-pleaser, it seems the restaurant has been here forever, even though it’s only four years old. It’s a two-in-one operation, with NOA Chef’s Hall offering exquisite fine dining and NOA providing casual nibbles coming out of the same kitchen. It’s particularly pleasant in the summer when guests can spill out on the popular seaside terrace, on sunny days there’s nary an empty seat to be had. NOA, along with Chef’s Hall are the flagships of rapidly developing Siigur Restaurants Group. Usually, when a restaurant group expands, attention is shifted to new projects, leaving older ones to deteriorate. It’s the other way around with NOA, the food and drink here is currently better than ever before; firepit corn, “baby” trout filet, moose pie, to name a few dishes. Head Chef and Partner Tõnis Siigur’s idiosyncratic cuisine always surprises; a portobello mushroom “schnitzel” with peas and truffle cheese is a perfect representation of his culinary imagination. Mixologist and Sommelier Sander Kink’s creative––and also non-acoholic––tipples pair well with the food, one might even say they compete with it, so if you’re not hungry you might want to just stop by for a juice cocktail.
A trifecta of great food, great drink and great ambiance, orchestrated by some of the country’s most accomplished hospitality pros. Tõnis Siigur, the founder and executive chef of Siigur Restaurant Group (NOA Chef’s Hall, NOA, Tuljak, OKO, Paju Villa), has become something of a mentor in the kitchen, encouraging his young, ambitious crew to express their personal culinary creativity rather than imposing his own style on everything. They cook most of the dishes over open flames and in a smoker, making the seemingly simple taste complex and rich with a charred charm. Smoked tomato with blue cheese and chives; asparagus “royal” with caviar dill and truffle; squid with “vintage” egg yolk and mussel jus are perfect examples of how Siigur’s chefs keep pushing for culinary innovation. And though we love wine and can’t really fathom a meal without it, we are forced to admit that Sommelier Sander Kink’s juice pairings are nothing short of genius, making wine seem like a boring beverage choice. Try the smoked tomato with “Tiger Milk” or pineapple-, cucumber and coriander juice, test the squid with apple and dill juice, sample the pigeon with blackcurrant- and blood orange juice and you’ll see what we mean. If you’re not convinced you can always consult the excellent wine list, filled with a thoughtful selection; Vaumorillon”Bourgogne Tonnerre 2016 from Domaine Moutard and SP68 Bianco 2016 from Arianna Occhipianti, Terre Siciliane IGT. The discerning, attentive wait staff knows how to create magic and make the meal an unforgettable experience. The ambiance plays a big role in this too, during a long dinner, the light, either artificial or natural, changes several times. You’d do well to pause before the dessert and visit the seaside terrace where the waves come crashing in right before your eyes. The worse the weather, the more spectacular the sight!
Nok Nok is Thai for bird, the restaurant’s name comes from the building’s owl-shaped bas-reliefs, it also indicates Chef Pensiri Pattanachaeng’s nationality, she’s proudly Thai, cooking her nation’s cuisine with gusto, taking laab, pad thai and tom kha gai to a level you won’t find anywhere else in Tallinn. The service and refined decor can compete with some of the city’s better restaurants too, yet Nok Nok is down-to-earth, reflecting the true flavors of Thailand. Of particular note are Pattanachaeng’s fish creations, like spicy fried fish salad with lemongrass and mint, offering a pungent burst of fresh chili in each crispy bite, or the steamed fish served in an aromatic chili and lime broth. Pair the spicier dishes with a glass of American riesling to balance the heat and finish the meal with the very unique warmed banana in coconut milk.
If you continue along the quay, so far that the indistinct signage makes you think you made a wrong turn, you will soon find yourself at the epicentre of Finland’s wild flavours. It’s a rather unexpected location for such an extraordinary restaurant experience, a stone’s throw from the moored cruise liners with their giant smorgasbords. At Nokka they make it clear early on that the kitchen adheres exactly to seasonal variations and is dependent on what they receive from small-scale suppliers, both in terms of animals and vegetables. This sets the tone for the two set menus, one of which is vegan. The first courses look confusingly similar. The omnivore’s dish, smoked pike with its roe, has a strangely delicious saltiness under pickled radishes, brightened up by a bowl of tarragon-laced cucumber salad as ice cold as the ocean outside. On the vegan dish the fish has been replaced by pieces of porcini. The pairing of a six-year-old, oak-barrel-aged, cognac-scented and white grenache from Montsant is more interesting than good. But the non-alcoholic pairing is perfectly on point: a lightly spiced sparkling beverage made of black currant leaves meets a small caramelized onion with browned butter and crispy “muesli”. At Nokka they are proud to have their own fisherman, who has provided the pike for the main course, which has been pan-fried with honour and comes with vegetable “cannelloni” and a potato croquette to suck up the creamy and tart sauce. The passion-fruit-flavoured sauvignon blanc from New Zealand is a fresh exception to the wine list that is primarily dominated by the Old World. Though the food is finely nuanced it’s never pretentious in this former warehouse on the harbour. It’s warm and inviting here, between the brick walls, with a full view of the kitchen where the happy cooks have eschewed knitted hats in favour of baseball caps. The staff are in a really good mood when the dining room is filled with tourists from far away, often from Japan and the United States, sitting side by side with jubilant large family gatherings. Over elderflower granite served in the restaurant’s obligatory carved wooden box we discuss how rare it is at a restaurant of this calibre to find the kind of generosity they exhibit in switching out dishes on the fixed menus. The food odyssey is rounded off with riches from “the land of a thousand lakes” in the form of a milk chocolate with gooseberres.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We long for history, and every once in a while a restaurant opens its doors so you can return to the past, if only just for one meal. The Nõmme Railway Restaurant Elsa does just this. The building, which has housed many different restaurants over the past 100 years, has been restored to its original glory. While modern trains pass by outside, inside it’s still 1950-something. Olive green carpets line the floor, crisp white tablecloths cover the tables, and the waitress behind the solid bar is dressed in a black dress with a clean white apron. Get a taste of the Soviet Era with a shot of vodka and bite of herring, or lamb dumplings with sour cream. Back then, everything paired well with vodka, but if wine is more your thing, the beverage list has plenty of that too.
The gigantic windows facing Åsögatan give Nook a metropolitan feel that’s followed up by dark, eclectic furnishings. The menu is playful with street food-inspired dishes at surprisingly affordable prices based on Nordic ingredients with long distance influences and an eye to fine dining. A glass of white Burgundy matches the salmon sashimi slider with mayo, cucumber and pickled ginger, and the kohlrabi tacos with crab mayo, trout roe and lobster tail. The Swedish octopus starter with green chilli oil, Avruga caviar and potato pieces rolled in nori marries nicely with a riesling, but the condiments conceal the mollusc’s delicate aromas. The tartare of dry-aged beef is among the best in town with pickled chanterelle mushrooms, salt-cured pickles, horseradish mayo, crispy fried onions and mustard cress. “That went down easy, I see”, says the waiter as he takes it away to leave room for the main courses. One is brill with tomato and sardine butter, fermented fennel beurre blanc and mashed potatoes. It’s a bit like a fine dining version of the Swedish classic, Jansson’s Temptation. A large serving of venison, seared rare, is accompanied by hearty beets, porcini mushroom cream, sour blackcurrants, brown butter and oyster mushrooms. These are paired with a tight white Spanish godello and a simpler but tasty red bordeaux. The desserts are welcomely light-hearted: a fresh citrus salad and yuzu curd with Sichuan pepper meringue; and a plum and filmjölk sorbet with umeshu foam. As long as you are not misled by the prices and order too many dishes from the flexible menu, a visit to Nook is a stimulating and satisfying culinary experience.
It’s personal, you either like it or you don’t, but it doesn’t leave you indifferent. Chef Rudolph Visnapuu’s cooking style is entirely his own, he’s one of Estonia’s most experienced chefs, a long-term board member of the Estonian Chef Association, and a culinary authority that has probably taught every single one of the country’s top young chefs. Visnapuu’s latest venture, Noot, is nestled in Pärnu’s tony, new Resort Hotel and Spa Estonia. The restaurant reflects this most experienced chef’s originality. Noot is an eatery in a big spa hotel, yet it refuses to obey the boring taste-dictates of mass catering, instead it boldly offers a set of flavors that have matured, with much experience and savvy, over the course of countless years. What might look like a conventional salmon salad is, at closer inspection, a delicious mix of fish, vegetables and tiger prawns, decked with a zesty rhubarb dressing. Similarly, a dish called simply Black and White turns out to be a visual checkerboard of the catch of the day, playing with black mayonnaise, parsnips and salsify. The wine list is an exposé of European favorites.
Nordisk Spisehus features a carousel of changing themes, but the common thread is signature dishes from top restaurants around the world that the kitchen has been granted permission to copy or build upon. This evening’s inspiration comes from the European restaurant Arcane in Hong Kong. We start with four snacks that include fried veal sweetbreads and trout cream on toast: a delicious mixture of crisp and smooth textures. We consult with the sommelier and, heeding his advice, we choose a wonderfully structured chardonnay-auxerrois-blend from Zind-Humbrecht to accompany the first two courses. The first serving is a small masterpiece from Arcane: fresh halibut, lightly marinated in yuzu, soy sauce, ginger and olive oil, with small cubes of confited jicama root. This citrus-driven opener with a nice bite to both the fish and the root is a perfect match for the wine. The ensuing butter-fried scallops of the restaurant’s own design are served with lumpfish roe, a crisp net of crepe batter, butter-fried broccolini and a creamy, well-seasoned herb hollandaise. The dish looks and tastes fabulous. Returning to Hong Kong, we are served a small and very tender cut of garlic-glazed flat ribs with spinach and fried shallots. Next up is another Nordisk Spisehus original - canette and a roll of pointed cabbage, salsify and walnuts in three wonderful variations: boiled, confited and fried. It all meshes beautifully with flavourful duck in crispy bites that reflect the quality ingredients and expertise of the kitchen. The restaurant is cosy, though a bit formal, and the staff perform with precision and professionalism throughout the evening. They have certainly succeeded at their stated mission of bringing the world to Aarhus, partly due to their own innovations.
The town of Kaunas is perhaps best known among sports enthusiasts as the home base of Kaunas Zalgiris, one of the world’s best basketball teams. But that doesn't mean it’s had much to offer food enthusiasts. Until now. The culinary scene has changed dramatically lately and if this trend continues Kaunas may soon be Lithuania’s Barcelona. The most prominent star on Kaunas’ gastronomic arena is a new man in town, Chef Matas Paulinas at Nüman. And yes, he’s another Noma alum. He spent many years honing his skills under René Redzepi’s watchful eye, now he’s preparing radical food, hitherto not experienced by Lithuanians. Nüman is a freshly painted exclamation mark. What strikes you first when entering Paulinas’ dining room is that the “mandatory” black color, so ubiquitous in Lithuanian restaurants, is nowhere to be seen. This place is refreshingly white, bright, and spacious. Though it’s minimalist to be sure, the bare tables are set with nothing but glasses and napkins. Open only for dinner, Nüman offers three-, six -or nine-course menus, kept secret until you are seated. To whet appetites, Paulinas offers an amuse of fried potatoes; ingenious spaghetti strips of raw potatoes, coiled into small balls, deep-fried, and covered with koji-vinegar powder. Before popping one in your mouth, you’re instructed to roll it in an accompanying dill emulsion––a very Noma:esque opener, prepared here and there around the world, by other Noma veterans. And while the dish’s pedigree cannot be denied, it’s a bit unfair to Pulinas, as his version has further developed its own character.
The menu’s first- and the last dish are the most memorable: cured scallops in grilled cucumber- and elderflower vinegar sauce; white chocolate and yoghurt ganache with marinated cucumber, plum seed cream, and black garlic. The mixed juice- and nectar pairing is a brilliant alternative to wines, using the same ingredients that are presented on the plate ensures the highest possible food-drink harmony. Dinner ends with a dramatic coffee or tea ceremony, the coffee made with a vacuum press, the tea mix created tableside with hot water poured over various fresh herbs.
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.