About a hundred years ago, when this imposing Art Nouveau villa was being designed, a restaurant never crossed the architect's mind. Therefore, eveninour days, the milieu ishomelike and practical, and the newcomer enters an antechamber with a wardrobe. You leave your coat and slowly notice that the restaurant has been adapted to the layout of the house. The kitchen isin the cellar, the bar in the back room... There are several rooms andin the off-peak hours, when the guests are fewer, you might be able to dine in a separate room and feel like home. But the food is much more complex than a home kitchen can handle. The most characteristic (and homelike) dish is the “Paju Villa” seafood soup ofsalmon, potato, and clams, served inan old tureen. The rest of the menu embodies fashionable and creative, decoratively garnished world cuisine. Try the“Marunaka” beef! A fantaisie inspired by the humble old hamburger (or maybe by sushi?), the entrecote hamburger lies on a pillow of sushi rice, covered in turn with a nori sheet and roasted sesame seeds marinated with Ume plum. Tastes like eating hamburger and sushi at the same time.
In the early 90s fine dining in Oslo was a stuffy affair, with predictable menus and besuited waiters. Palace Grill changed all that when it opened in 1994. You got great cooking with high-end ingredients, but it was all presented in a way that was both rebellious and delicious. The “rockekokk” – the “rock and roll chef” – was born. The great food combined with the no-booking policy soon meant that queues of diners formed, with a separate line of young chefs wanting a chance to work in the kitchen. Most of Norway’s celebrity chefs have had a stint at Palace Grill. Twenty-three years on, a lot has changed in the restaurant world, while at Palace Grill much has stayed the same – from the brown decor and the empty bottles on the wall to the background rock music and the mischievous attitude. But that doesn’t mean Palace Grill is outdated: Rock and roll will never die. As we’re seated, our glasses are filled with a Pouilly Fumé, “Triptyque” from Alain Cailbourdin. The compulsory ten-course set menu kicks off with a soup of halibut, shore crabs and miso, a punchy taste of the sea. Crispy chicken skin with lamb tartare and shiso give a quick jab of umami. The meal progresses through a bountiful selection of seafood and shellfish, featuring scallops, langoustines, oysters, and skate wings. A dish of mussels with bone marrow is delicious, in which the marrow offers an interesting contrast to the briny mussels, both in flavour and texture. But the high point of the meal is the pan-fried crispy-skinned mackerel with browned butter, white asparagus and hollandaise. On first tasting the buttery mackerel, one expects the composition to be too rich, but a beautifully balanced hollandaise with plenty of acidity counters the fat, and the toasted quinoa adds crunch. The volume is turned all the way up for this classic rock anthem of a dish, but the execution is of such a high standard that every note is clear. A subsequent dish of pan-fried duck breast with foie gras is classic French cooking at its best, and the rich sauce makes us want to lick the plate clean. The dessert is a fun and delicious interpretation of the chocolate-covered popsicles from childhood. The wines are traditional and of a high standard, with an emphasis on France and Spain. Service is professional, but with a rowdy attitude that only sometimes seems feigned. They want you to leave gorged and inebriated at Palace Grill. After all, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.
A hotel restaurant based on a faddy and restrictive diet may not appeal on first sight, but don’t be put off. The paleo diet encourages the use of fresh and natural ingredients while eschewing grains and sugars, allowing for good if somewhat rich food of a quality seldom seen by real cavemen. Seated in cushy turquoise and gold chairs you can observe the staff in the orderly open kitchen grilling marrowbones, provoking primal pangs of hunger in an environment with modern comforts. The clientele consists mostly of hotel guests, vacationing families and solitary businessmen, with the odd walk-in couple. An amuse-bouche of puffy fried parsnips the consistency of prawn crackers, with cured coppa and a green kale mayonnaise, is delightfully moreish. A hand-chopped beef tartare with marrow, deep-fried shallots and thyme is also a rich treat. The low-carb, high-fat feast continues with pan-fried hake served with turnips, apples and a pleasantly rich but tart sauce of kefir and whey. For dessert, creamy chocolate mounds with crunchy sheets of caramel and refreshing goat’s milk ice cream round out the meal. Sourcing local, seasonal and natural produce is high on the list of priorities for Brasserie Paleo, and the kitchen’s quality cooking lets the ingredients shine. The staff are relaxed and charming, and the wine list is long if somewhat conventional for an otherwise unconventional establishment. All in all, we get an appealing if not so realistic glimpse of the Stone Age lifestyle.
Where to go for the ultimate smørrebrød? The answer can only be Palægade. The prolific team behind formel B brought in Simon Olesen and Karina Pedersen from the classic smørrebrød establishment Schønnemann, and together they have given rise to a fantastic mix of classics and innovative versions of smørrebrød. This is not only evident on the plates, but also among the clientele of all ages and the decor, which features classic furniture and late modern touches in a well-lit, dark brown room. The spirit of service permeates every iota of the restaurant. Palægade is begotten of the preeminent smørrebrød purveyors of yore, delivering proper yet unpretentious service. The guests are a good mix of smørrebrød connoisseurs, businesspeople, young couples, celebrities and designer types, all swooping in quickly to relieve vacant tables of their empty chairs. The unfiltered beer in our glasses and the many interesting aquavit choices on the menu are merely the opening act for the gastronomic crown jewel of Denmark: the smørrebrød. We order a variety of toppings for our open-faced sandwiches, including a classic breaded plaice fillet with mayonnaise and shrimp, and an innovative signature dish with tartare of lobster, pickled pearl onions and a breaded poached egg. All the ingredients are of the finest quality and everything is homemade. Each of these dishes make a deep impression in our culinary memory as being perfectly fresh, soft, sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy. Once again we choose two different slices: a by-the-book chicken salad with crisp bacon and toasted wheat bread, and a re-interpreted tartare with semidried slices of tomato on dark rye bread with pepper mayo. The tartare is hand-chopped, and we enjoy the excellent contrast from the pepper and solid umami from the tomato. It’s a fitting choice for those looking for something new, while the chicken salad once again underscores this immortal classic’s permanent status in the pantheon of smørrebrød; its creamy delectability and crisp bite make it one of the most pleasing options on the menu. Yet another iconic representative of Danish lunch classics is the potato smørrebrød: it may well be the most proletarian of them all, served here with slices of Skagen ham and ramson mayo. Should your hunger remain insatiable, you can conclude the meal with a Danish layer cake or a rich, crunchy biscuit cake with a wisely innovative and refreshing orange twist. Good French press coffee rounds out our lunch. Palægade is the Parnassus of classic and innovative smørrebrød – and what’s more, it’s pleasantly cosy.
Most ofus have seen how top chefs finish their dishes by placing microherbs or minute ingredients on their precise places with tweezers. Whether in real life orin food magazines. But have you ever beento a restaurant where those tweezers are a major piece of cutlery? If not, visit Parrot MiniBar. Tweezers on their own, of course, neither upgrade nor downgrade the food on the plate. However, they challenge it. Tweezers inhand make the eater feel like anything they touch with itisan exact science - or, here, exact culinary. Perfect and flawless. The interior, slightly over the top, but convincing, is meant to create a tropical atmosphere. Right in the entrance hall, the newcomer is greeted byhuge green plants and the taped chatter of tropical birds. The restaurant’s leitmotif is the parrot, present in pictures and figurines. Drinks take the tropical fantasy a step further. The cocktails are served in large bowls, with plenty of tropical ingredients and exotic flavors. (A small wine selection exists to meet the more conservative tastes.) And the food, of course, cannot be outdone by the drinks. Itisnot. Everything that ison the plate comes with exotic sides, is simply prepared andascetically served. One main ingredient with a few accompaniments. That is it. Two techniques dominate: roasting and burning (with a blow torch). Despite the raised expectations, the food at the Parrot overcomes prejudice and deserves tobe eaten with tweezers. Our favorite is the helmeted guinea fowl inXO sauce – a dish with fundamentally clear and simple tastes.
Restaurant Pasfall is relaxed and informal, yet proper and sufficiently mannered in a way that’s only possible when all of the members of a staff master their roles. The style is traditional with a local twist from the island of Funen. We begin the evening with the Danish classic of fried pork belly and parsley sauce – but not in its usual form. Instead it’s served as a snack of small crisp flakes with parsley emulsion. It’s a little tip of the cap to Pasfall’s roots on the island of Funen. An intense and foamy mushroom soup with pickled beech mushrooms is partnered elegantly with a dry S de Suduiraut, whose aromatic notes of gooseberry and fine, slightly bitter finish is delightful with the rich soup. A cold-poached cod is cured, cooked at a low temperature and served with variations of celeriac and a blanket of black truffle – a hearty but delicious dish whose lack of acidity is partially offset by the accompanying Montagny 1er cru 2013 from Jean-Marc Boillot. We stay in Burgundy with a glass of velvety Hautes-Côtes de Nuits from Michel Gros to go with a deep and umami-saturated consommé with pigeon confit in crisp packaging with pickled onion. The service is top-notch, With just over a year under its belt, The Balcony is already firmly established as more than a passing fad with delusions of grandeur. We begin a spring evening in March with a glass of champagne blanc de blancs from Henri Mandois and a rain of snacks. The most memorable ones include the caramelly Jerusalem artichoke purée in its own crisp, fried Kenneth Rimmer Sørensen heading up the front of house, and the wines are well chosen and mature. Pasfall long ago established itself in Odense’s restaurant scene as a classic, with culinary excellence and good service at the forefront. The preparations are precise and the flavours intense, but we sense a lack of balance in the menu between the light and heavy dishes. It’s almost too much of a good thing, one might say; after our evening at Pasfall we are glad, but also very full.
This continental-style brasserie attracts an international audience. On some days you can hear American, British, Korean and Swedish being spoken amongst the diners. The staff handle everything correctly and in perfect English so there are no misunderstandings. The entrance is in the middle of the restaurant, so it can be a bit draughty if you get a table by the door – especially in winter. But the friendly staff warm you up, and so do some of the dishes. Normally, you can choose between three or five courses. The latter is preferable, but when the amuse-bouche enters you will think it’s the starter, given the size. It is pig’s cheek, paired with egg yolk, red beet cream and yellow beets. When the real starter lands on the table it takes the form of salmon, including its roe, potato cubes and crumbs of dark bread. It’s very good, even if it lacks a bit of saltiness. The house version of onion soup contains pieces of wheat bread that almost taste like sweetbreads! All this is swept up by the restaurant’s own unfiltered APA, whose bitterness matches the sweetness of the dish. The rest of the courses are paired with wine, preferably from the Piedmont. With the black sea bream we drink Arneis from Langhe that’s powerful enough to handle both the snails and pickled red onions included in the dish. Unfortunately, there are six or seven additional ingredients, making the preparation feel a tad overloaded. The lamb racks are presented as Baby Lamb, accompanied by a hefty piece of porcini mushroom, and parsnip purée. We receive a palette cleanser before the dessert – sea buckthorn sorbet with liquorice cream and subtle fennel strips. It’s complex and delicious enough to work as a stand-alone dish.
Pastis is the kind of French bistro we all dream of having nearby. The moment you step into its cosy bar and dining room a few steps down, you are transported to Paris and voila, it’s “la vie en rose”. In fact, the menu almost feels like a parody of French cuisine with frogs’ legs, snails, bouillabaisse and quenelles. But that doesn’t mean that the food lacks sincerity. Chef and owner Timo Linnamäki’s love for all things authentically French is deep, honest and appreciated. The crispy-fried, breaded frogs’ legs are tender and filling – we have not seen the like in many years – but perhaps we would enjoy them even more if they weren’t surrounded by so much eggplant caviar. But oh, the veal tongue! Served with a silky parsley root purée with a slightly mineral taste, and a deep red wine sauce seasoned with lovage, it is by far the best tongue we’ve ever bitten into. The wine list has a strong bias towards France, naturellement, but the selection is personal and the breadth is rather impressive for a restaurant of this size. The charming staff are happy to assist with their tips on good pairings. Finish with chocolate parfait and coffee with armagnac!
Pastor has the sort of rough-and-tumble feel that we associate with Brooklyn. It used to be a primary school, to which the chairs still bear witness. It morphed into a hardware store, then a nightclub with an adjoining strip bar. The walls at Pastor surely have tales to tell, as do the friendly and garrulous staff who happen to look strikingly similar to their patrons. It’s Nikkei cooking at Pastor Drink & Dine, that fashionable fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. We’re off to a smart start with sea bass and lime, coconut sauce, jalapeño and deep-fried lotus root. It’s not bad, although the attractive plating outshines the dish’s flavours. Most people who dine at Pastor seem to favour beer but we go for a passable Toni Jost riesling from Mittel-rhein in Germany, which suits the fish well. On a weekday night it’s relatively quiet at Pastor, but on weekends DJs move in with music that matches the brute, industrial, no-nonsense look of the place. Grilled red and yellow beets are served with a quinoa salad, mustardy mayo, crème fraîche and beet juice. A glass of Italian Blauburgunder is a fine match with the slow-cooked veal neck, presented with grilled celeriac and a tamarind sauce. Next to us sits a bearded hipster in a red t-shirt and a girl in a hoodie with the name of one of the capital’s top restaurants printed on the back. Apparently this is where restaurant people spend their hard-earned cash.
For nearly 20 years, Piaf’s Head Chef Marc Noël has served attractive plates with the gastronomic DNA of his childhood in southwestern France, a touch of Italian sensibilities regarding ingredients and seasonal herbs of central Jutland. The restaurant appears modest from the outside with an awning, a faded display case on the facade and a cast iron doorway – an appropriate symbol of the informal southern European style that characterises our visit. Noël welcomes us in as if we were his closest friends, as the tones of iconic French crooners such as Aznavour and Gainsbourg fill the room; the decor is stylish yet old-school with draped fabric tablecloths, fresh white roses and spotlessly polished, high-quality glasses. The fish dishes stand out during the evening’s seven-course programme. A cut of steamed turbot shines in the company of a crunchy garnish of julienned Granny Smith apple, salicorn, celeriac purée and a creamy beurre blanc with terse citrus. Textures and flavours cover the full gamut, complementing one another while also singing in their own right. The dish is washed down with a biodynamic Alsace riesling from Bott Geyl, whose mature fruit character interacts brilliantly with the richness of the beurre blanc. Noël’s presentations are informative and unpretentious, but never negligent. The maritime highlights of the meal also include a fried monkfish tail in a foam of Vildmose potato and drizzled with an intense ramson oil. The piquant, garlicky ramson balances the intense flavours of the crisp fried crust of the fish, as do the toast notes in the well-paired Burgundy from Leflaive. Beautiful and classic. The meat dishes and desserts round out the evening with a certain laid-back routine; precise preparations and top-shelf ingredients, but not that innovative. The sweet finale in particular, a moelleux au chocolat with chocolate sorbet and crème anglaise, was heavy on top, lacking both acidity and variation in texture.
Step down into Pjoltergeist on any given day and you’ll find a bustling little bar filled with everything from tattooed youngsters to suit-clad businessmen. There’s hip-hop on the stereo and staff in hooded sweatshirts or ironic printed t-shirts, serving the best wines known to humanity. This is not your average fine dining establishment. The name “Pjoltergeist” is derived from the classic Norwegian name for a drink of brandy or whiskey and soda (a “pjolter”) but wine takes centre stage here. We’re looking for something orange to drink and the friendly but busy waiter suggests a South African bottle of Testalonga Sweet Cheeks to go with our order of “zuper pakki” – a seven course set menu, which is compulsory if you’ve booked a table. The food is an eclectic mix of Icelandic, Korean, Japanese, classic European and Mexican. To start with we share a bowl of puffed pork rinds with smoky bacon mayonnaise. It’s followed by the best dish of the evening, the house classic of takoyaki, fried balls of octopus in batter, with spring onions and mayonnaise. A dish of battered cod tongues with chive mayonnaise and seaweed is crunchy, juicy and delicious. The next course is white asparagus with hollandaise and fried grasshoppers brought back from a recent trip to Mexico. The grasshoppers are crispy and nutty, but the tiny legs get stuck between our teeth and make the insect-eating experience more of a novelty than a pleasure. The service is more laid-back and the presentation less sophisticated than on earlier visits, but Pjoltergeist is still one of the best places in town for great atmosphere, exciting wines and fun food.
Deep down in the jungle of Hegdehaugsveien lies a restaurant so Thai it even has official approval from The Office of Commercial at The Royal Thai Embassy saying that it’s very Thai. They even imported a playlist of that essential lounge music that could be played in any luxury hotel in Bangkok. But jokes aside, Plah is the very essence of Thai fine dining, rooted in Norwegian produce and inspiration, and it has been going strong for thirteen years. Chef Terje Ommundsen has managed to merge the cuisines of these two countries together in a way that is incomparable to anything else. Here you can sample the great tastes of Thailand, and everything is made on the premises from the ground up using only the finest of ingredients. Choose either a large tasting menu that mixes the different styles and regions of Thailand, or a vegetarian menu that is mainly inspired by the north. “Khao griab goong” – a dish of prawn crackers and fish sauce – starts off a serving of three small starters, soon followed by poached chicken in coconut and chillies. It’s not mouth-wateringly delicious, but a great start. The wait staff is great, with a perfect comeback after a slow-and-not-so-welcoming beginning, now they are as proficient as can be, explaining all the different ingredients and the idea behind each dish, pairing it with excellent wine, mainly from the classic regions of Europe. Unfortunately, the interior is a bit passé – and we honestly have no idea why a dressed-up manikin doll is hanging in a swing over our heads, but as soon as the next dish arrives we focus again on the food rather than the décor. The flavours are authentic and not too adapted to the Nordic palate. Plah neung follows – roasted hake in sour garlic and chilli sauce – a perfectly executed dish with a balance of sourness and spiciness. Our dessert, grilled coconut and rice with pineapple and malt sugar, is the highlight of our meal. We wish we were on a beach in Koh Chang instead of in windy, cold Oslo.
It is impossible to visually differentiate them, the glasses containing López de Heredia from Rioja and the one with clear pressed apple juice from Urshult. But the former is creamy and sweet to the taste, the other tart and cool – and both are equally suited to the parade of amuse-bouches. But first some healing! Everyone gets a hot stone, first burning hot and after a while delightful to hold in your hand. It works. It’s actually calming – and it makes you focus, so you can take in everything that’s about to happen at PM because it’s the details that make the experience. The bread alone comes with three spreads: a house-churned cow and goat’s milk butter, wonderful smoked whitefish rillettes and lard topped with spruce tips. Oh yes, there are a lot of logs and stones to cross over. “Eat the quail egg in one bite so you don’t spill any of it”, says the waiter thoughtfully. Yes, that’s a good idea, because you don’t want egg yolk on your shirt, nor Carelian caviar for that matter. The langoustine is one of the few ingredients that does not have its origins in Småland or Öland. With a square, smooth stone as a backdrop it lies, quickly charred and naked in one of the year’s most sacred presentations. A ball of butter-basted kale keeps its distance, while a gelée-shimmering mustard emulsion watches like the full moon over them both. The service staff are calm and pedagogical and take plenty of time to explain everything in spite of the full dining room. With the buttery zander, the white gloves come on for the truffle grating. Those who want may have another glass of pressed apple juice, this one diametrically different from the first; it is cloudy, austere and so tart that it feels bittersweet in the back of the mouth. Time for snacks! The chewy macaroon with sweet black pudding cream is really something to write home about. On the whole, the entire PM establishment with its beautiful hotel, its grand roof terrace and bar, its bistro and fine dining restaurants, its lovely bakery, and its florist, is a world of its own that you cannot wait to initiate others into. Few are those who end up in PM’s dining room by chance. From old restaurant veterans to young wine nerds, they usually come from far away and purposefully. We are surprised to learn that Smålands Gräbba, a high-octane blueberry beverage, can replace a sancerre pinot noir from Vincent Pinard because each of them plays equally well with the scoop of natural foie gras that you get to spread on brioche. Tender moose comes next (respectfully accompanied by a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Chateau la Serre), but the king of the forest is overtaken by the next presentation: a brännvin case from which emerges a threesome of homemade schnapps. The one made of nettles and fennel is purely, wonderfully audacious. Yes, everything related to beverage making is in a class by itself here – beer, wine, liquor, juice – the alcohol content does not matter when it comes to the level of dedication. Lemon verbena lends the perfect green note to the sorbet in the apple dessert with beautiful flavours that transport you to a Småland apple orchard on a chilly morning. Four hours at the table and still it is with a kind of melancholy that we nibble at the last thin coin of chocolate and juniper. Oh, Småland! We will be back soon.
The casual dining side of well-renowned PM & Vänner is far from a scruffy little brother but a restaurant that stands strong on its own merits, and indeed, “bistro” may be an understatement. The comprehensive menu admittedly incorporates both French classics like steak minute and Småland blockbusters like three kinds of isterband sausage, but there are also considerably more refined dishes that, in terms of flavour, are like high level spin-offs from the mother ship in the room next door. One example is the delicious, gently baked char with sweet-sour pickled cauliflower, chanterelles, dill and an airy, caramelly brown butter emulsion. The meltingly tender pork belly from Olinge farm is more rustic in style but equally delicious. And, like everything served at this address, it is extremely wine-friendly. Just imagine what it’s like to have Sweden’s most knowledgeable wine geeks on the payroll. On our visit the beverages are brilliantly handled by Swedish sommelier champion John “Patjanga” Nilsson who guides us through the wine bible that makes every visiting wine enthusiast tremble with glee. The dessert, too, shoots well over the bistro target with a delicious pistachio and strawberry terrine, flanked by a small salad of orange-marinated strawberries, elderflower gelée and vanilla bavaroise, sprinkled with violets and marigolds. It is quite rare that “something for everyone” equals a culinarily interesting experience – but PM & Vänner Bistro delivers exactly that, every evening.
“Just like the good old times,”we overhear somebody just leaving the manor tell a friend.Their eyes get slightly misty, because memories of the good old times are an emotional thing. And even though everybody might not say itout loud, they’ll think it. The minimally renovated Põhjaka Manor is skilled at preparing the food and the drink and even at living the life that we remember from the good old times. Some of the fare is available for buying to take home, either at the manor itself orin well-stocked stores. The bread, pâté, liquors and upcoming new products are turning Põhjaka into a real manor. Just like manors used tobe.The dishes served at Põhjaka are the same ones offered in dozens of other restaurants. And homes. Smoked bream cream soup with quaileggorpan-fried pike perch with cottage cheese sauce andnew potatoes are easier than easy to make. But only at Põhjaka are they seasoned with a generous helping of the good old times. How else can those simple dishes stand out so much! An old gramophone stands in the corner and a collection of vinyls on the shelf. Anyone iswelcome to play the DJ and put on their favorite music. Strangely, the music playing at Põhjaka is often (good old?) glam rock. And it doesn't bother us. Instead, it makes the simple country food glam.
The Polpo with its history of Mediterranean cuisine has been a noteworthy place in Tartu since its opening. Rarely, however, hasit stolen the limelight. This is changing. The kitchen at the Polpo is now helmed by Ken Trahv, oneof the most talented young chefs in Tartu. Head chef at the Fii, heis a main actor in lifting the town’s gastronomy from its long slumber. The Polpo now offers modern casual dining, Ken Trahv’s signature cuisine #2.The chef’s characteristic style is dominated by visual appeal and innovation. See also: potato tartare. The potato is“medium boiled” and finely chopped. The creamy sparkling wine sauce gives the potato an unexpected festive, slightly sour flavour, which is counter balanced by crushed hazelnuts. The saltiness of the herring roe, dyed black with squid ink, gives the simple dish its final touch. The cuisine at the Polpo is clearly upand coming. It will be interesting to see how the author will share his attention and creative touch between two signature cuisine restaurants.
This affordable lunch restaurant with its backyard entrance has held its own on Helsinki’s competitive lunch scene largely thanks to its seasonal buffet table. But the charm of the place comes from the firefighting tradition. The main dining space is a former firemen’s club with paraphernalia and photographs going back 150 years. The soup is always good, for example the tomato with a green sour cream topping. There are usually seven different inventive salads that are far from the ordinary drab cucumber and tomato set-up. A main course of chicken really tastes like it is supposed to. The atmosphere is casual with regulars often lingering at the long communal tables. There is a limited selection of beer and wine.
There is a wide range of restaurants in Copenhagen operating at altitudes just under the gourmet heavy hitters – Pony is one them. While they offer fewer elements on the plates, and the comfort and service are not quite as extravagant – the flavour is beyond reproach. We choose the changing four-course menu, dubbed “Pony Kick”, and a corresponding number of à la carte dishes to ensure a thorough exploration of the menu. The vegetarian starter is comprised of baked beetroot with fresh goat’s cheese, pickled mustard seeds and ramson capers generously sprinkled with freshly ground pepper. The salty cheese and acidic capers elegantly counter the sweetness of the tender beetroot – and had it not been for the earthy and bitter beetroot wafers, it would have been a perfectly balanced dish. The great flavours continue with thick slices of salted brill. The firm fish rests in a fiery horseradish cream, while the raw Brussels sprout leaves on top add juiciness and a touch of sweetness to the dish. The accompanying grüner veltliner from Arndorfer is an invitingly drinkable choice – as reflected by the one-litre bottle – whose palate-cleansing crispness goes particularly well with the sprouts. The wines are consistently natural wines, featuring small winemakers. A nest of Tuscan kale encircles an orange egg yolk confit, which flows nicely out into the sauce of reduced chicken stock split with parsley oil. The depth of the chicken stock is unforgettable – if Pony sold it to go, people would stand in line for hours to get their hands on it. A standout among the main courses is the flaked cod with a crystal-clear centre, served with baked, shrivelled Jerusalem artichokes and a subtle cream of cod roe reminiscent of the Swedish specialty, Kalles Kaviar. Our delight continues unimpeded throughout the evening, as we are treated to exemplary service by the team of waiters, who exhibit flexibility and a keen sense of each diner’s needs. Pony goes all-in on delicious cuisine, without digging deep into your wallet.
The room is more authentically Italian than a trattoria in Milano. That’s what you get when you use the best interior designers in Norway and the brief says, "Italian style". The wine list is naturally focused on Italy with bottles made by heroes of the non-interventionist wine world as well as more classic producers. The array of antipasti della casa varies every day; today we feast on bresaola with pine nuts and Jerusalem artichoke, salad with bread and capers, truffle tortellini and Parmesan crackers. For the main course we choose grilled boneless rib-eye served with roasted marrowbone and a good heap of butter. The food comes in vast amounts, and we seriously struggle to eat it all. The recommended skin macerated white from Friuli has a glorious orange sheen. A ravioli filled with oxtail is one of those dishes that everyone in Olso has had for lunch at least once. The fatty and gelatinised meat is perfectly tender and the deep taste of the broth makes this a dish worth returning for. The service is attentive in the beginning, but when the room fills up with guests it is harder to get the waiter’s attention. Trattoria Populare is a good place when you’re hungry for pasta, or if you just want to nibble on olives while drinking Tuscan rosé. The outdoor seating area is jammed full of people clambering for a glass of what in Norway is known as “utepils” (a beer outside) even though there is just a hint of sun peering out of the cloudy sky.
The “Love Stew” is heartwarming and seductive: a creamy egg foam surrounded by potatoes and onions shouldered by hearty dollops of Kalix bleak roe. It’s one of the tastiest things we’ve eaten at the city’s top restaurants this year. And the dish is in many ways typical of Klas Lindberg’s ambitious first effort. He is well known from competitions (Chef of the Year and Olympic Gold Medalist), but don’t expect any convoluted contest creations. Here Lindberg has sought out his inner chef – and he is apparently a sympathetic and downright uncomplicated guy. The style is mature and unpretentious with excellent ingredients and the cooking is precise. Dinner is a steady journey through culinary geography and restaurant history. The gastronomy takes no great leaps forward but cherished classics are tightened up. Many of the dishes are finalised tableside. A coarsely ground beef tartare made from dry-aged topside and tasting heavily of iron is mixed by the waiter’s nimble hands. It is simple and good along with flavourful friends in the form of cucumber and horseradish. The scallops get a quick pick-me-up in a red-hot cast iron skillet and are further enlivened by lemon, mushrooms and bottarga. And the sweet conclusion’s showpiece, Baked Alaska, gets a shower of flaming rum. Such flourishes in the dining room add as much to the experience and the taste as they do to the cosiness. A brilliant pork chop is elegantly rustic in its deliciously crunchy, breaded coat served along with sardines, potatoes, and onions in different textures and temperaments. Occasionally the aesthetics and the straightforward flavours are out of synch. The excellent chuck steak with béarnaise potatoes and smoked pearl onions is a welcome ruffling of this populist dish but it looks like a pretentiously arranged pile of leaves. Probably a vestige of all that competitive training. The setting is stylish, comfortable and well groomed – in that generic way that many modern restaurants are. The crowd is savvy and affluent. Some are dressed up, but most are smartly casual, which fits with the relaxed atmosphere. When it comes to what ends up in our glasses, sommelier Totte Steneby performs seamlessly. In a short time the wine experience here has established itself as one of the best and, in accord with the tone of the place, it’s knowledgeable but uncomplicated with a twinkle in the eye. At first glance the wine list is a string of world-renowned prestige players. It’s not cheap, but relax. The wines by the glasses are very good, and so is the whimsical selection of domestic beers. The latter works fine if you’re just there to hang in the bar. Be sure to try some of their snacks, like the tasty house-made version of pancetta and an airy duck liver mousse in bite-size format.
Listen to the murmur spilling out from the Postboxen wine bar and relax at the fine dining restaurant where every serving in the seven-course menu becomes a little adventure. We start lasciviously with seared scallops that melt in our mouths together with a lobster emulsion. Then, with a tart, fresh pumpkin from Vassmolösa paired precisely with a nutty chenin blanc, we are off on a taste journey – the Småland way. The broccoli is a surprise. It comes planed and dried paper-thin, in the form of a cream, and as a vinaigrette based on the stem, together with poached Swedish oysters, almonds, and horseradish snow. Beautiful. Sweetbreads with chicken mousseline, cream of local corn with sherry and black trumpet mushrooms together with the oxidized yet crisp white Rioja makes a sparkling combo. Chef Johannes Persson comes to the table and puts a knife in the perfect, pink, pan-fried venison from Kåremo, lying on a bed of twigs on a rustic cutting board, wilderness-style. That he is flying solo in the kitchen and yet gets everything out at exactly the right tempo to two crowded dining rooms suggests incredible control. Pure love comes out of the oven in the form of a syrup loaf based on grandmother’s recipe. It comes with lard flavoured with thyme and apple, and house-churned butter with cider-marinated mustard seeds. Served in a wooden box with four kinds of bread on straw, the bread serving is a dish in itself. The house apple juice from the juice press is like an exclusive wine. The Postgatan gang’s friendship and appetite for knowledge has led to strong gastronomic development since its inception two years ago. This is how crazy good Småland tastes!
In music, a prelude is a brief preface to a longer work. The Prelude vinotheque is certainly suitable for popping in before –or after – a dinner somewhere else. But first and foremost, itis a restaurant in its own right, a good place to settle down for a dinner or a leisurely wine-tasting session. The close quarters of the dining area are furnished with upcycled furniture. The proprietess Ülle Kiirend might as well live here. She is always around, putting a personal touch on things and taking care of the guests; and if not, she is probably on a journey to discover and bring back new drinks. The wine selection at Prelude is without doubt the best and most interesting at Saaremaa. Estonia’s most famous island rarely hears reproaches; but were we to nitpick, we'd mention that its restaurants’ wine lists can be awfully similar. As such, Prelude is the wine lover’s abode. As for food: make sure to ask about the daily special! Other than the permanent small selection of dishes, Prelude always has a little something extra available. The food has never disappointed. It is islanders’ simple everyday fare. And fresh oysters. With sparkling wine, of course!
Once you have sat down at one of the tables with red chequered tablecloths, just sit back. The kitchen is highly technically proficient, which means that the ingredients are handled perfectly. They also know a thing or two about flavour, which becomes evident the second the amuse-bouche lands: two dollops of a smooth purée of autumn apples and carrots topped with a few slices of cheese from Almnäs Bruk. These are flavours that immediately feel comfortable with each other. Several smaller producers from different parts of Sweden are represented. The cheese, for example, is from Hjo and the venison from Funäsdalen. Some of the ingredients can be bought in the shop in the same building. The menu is short and seasonal. Every evening there are also some extra dishes on the blackboard. “Menu surprise” is an affordable option with five dishes. We order it and are delighted by the variations on the vegetables served as sides, like creamed savoy cabbage, chanterelles and crispy fried potato pancake. The timing from the professionally friendly service staff is perfect. We feel neither rushed nor have to wait for long. In a nice way, we learn more about the farms that the cheeses or the meats come from. The wine list is relatively short and the staff are very helpful in selecting the appropriate option. The desserts keep to the same confident style. In fact, whoa, here come the 70s in the form of a dense and fresh raspberry mousse. Now that was a surprise! Proviant also has locations on Kungsholmen and Gärdet.
The Majorstua area of Oslo may not be the most restaurant-crowded part of town. Compared to similar neighbourhoods in Stockholm or Copenhagen, it’s more like the countryside, with lots of Range Rovers and not so many great places to dine. But you can find one or two pearls in this sea, one of them being this eminent local eatery. Opened almost a year ago, Publiko quickly gained a large following with a full house every day. Now things have settled down a bit, and we are starting to understand what the hype was all about; it’s simply great food. They describe themselves as a sustainable neighbourhood restaurant with playfulness in their cuisine, and the description is not far off. They serve good food using quality produce that doesn’t empty your bank account. The menu consists of four to five starters based on greens and seafood, and two to three main courses from the animal kingdom, all in season and in line with the current trend of serving not-too-big-dishes intended to be shared. The food is flavourful and well balanced, and not overly complicated. We try a variation on beets with Norwegian goat’s cheese, a dish more common in Norway today than shrimp cocktail was in the eighties. A dry-aged tartare with marrowbone, horseradish and tarragon makes our refined inner caveman cry from happiness, and a more modern take on the classic dish of “skreimølje” (skrei cod served with the liver and roe) is an instant classic that should replace the traditional recipe in every household. Add a small and fairly priced quality drink list with a notable focus on beer, and you’ve got yourself the neighborhood restaurant everyone dreams of having.
Fine dining is dead, declared Pubologi in autumn 2016 and exchanged their fixed menus for à la carte. Otherwise things are still the same at this cosy gastropub in the Old Town: the simultaneously humorous and atmospheric interior design; the large community table down the centre with a few small deuces along the walls; the suitcases suspended from the ceiling; the cutlery in the drawer under the table; and the resplendent red book with countless wines to immerse oneself in. But just because tasting menus are a thing of the past here does not mean we shall eat conventionally. Restaurateur Daniel Crespi’s hedonistic disposition calls for extravagance: “Start with a number of snacks, continue with at least two medium-sized plates, share and sample, and feel free to order different drinks with everything, and enjoy”. And we do. A bit of suet has melted down over the Tsarskaya oysters on the grill and been rounded off by tomato vinaigrette in a delicious balancing act. Equally good and fatty are the thinly sliced scallops in a brown butter fragrant with bergamot. We fall in love with the next buttery variation, with lovage and marrow, served with a tartare of topside energised by pickled onions and crunchy pistachios. Another butter, this time smoked, comes with the raw seared lobster and silky celeriac “tagliatelle”. This is paired with an equally buttery Meursault from Burgundy, which makes us long for more acid or maybe bitterness. The latter, however, we get in excess in a cabbage jus served with small pieces pork loin and flowersprouts. With grated dried char on top and tarragon cream the dish gets lost among the flavours and the impression is incohesive. We conclude with a fun dessert with dried apple and meadowsweet sorbet with a Mazarin almond base, but have to admit that we somewhat miss the fixed menu, even if the new concept actually suits the venue better.
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.