Soft lighting shines through the antique windows of a seventeenth century building in one corner of Frederiksberg Gardens. Torches and small portable fire pits outside Mielcke & Hurtigkarl light up the evening while inside an impressive LED lighting installation hangs side by side with classic crystal chandeliers from the ceiling. The walls of the dining room are studded with works of art, big and small, and visitors to the restrooms are serenaded with the sounds of lapping waves and fluttering butterflies. Many of the historic building’s fine details have been left untouched, and a live tree in the middle of the room is like an extension of nature from the surrounding gardens. The decor itself reflects dedication to the magic of details, something that becomes even clearer as the “Metamorphosis” menu’s many small dishes begin to arrive at our table. Chef Jakob Mielcke’s culinary style is eclectic and wide-ranging, and the menu takes us on a journey to all corners of the world. A deconstruction of Thai tom yum soup with icy coconut milk snow and shrimp tastes familiar, but the texture is totally different. Airy ravioli filled with a spicy 'nduja sausage is a wonderful Italian mouthful, and lumpfish roe with lemon and browned butter in a crisp cone of caramelised milk skin is a tasty tribute to Danish spring. The fare also attests to a kitchen in full command of its craft, with the simplicity and precision reminiscent of Japanese traditions. The kitchen’s storytelling art peaks with two dried “cold cuts” of duck: one from teal and one from a wild duck shot by the chef himself. These two understated bites are a liberating interlude in the evening’s cascade of impressions. The selection of drinks is enticing, with a relatively small but interesting wine list and well-composed pairings that, like the food, offer both adventurous and familiar experiences. For example, a wonderful dish of al dente fried Jerusalem artichoke with an umami-rich sauce of anchovy and egg yolk with pistachio dust is accompanied by a boisterous glass of Beaujolais blanc with slightly oxidized notes, while a serving of pigeon comes with a classic Barolo. The pigeon is roasted pink, garnished with lollo rosso lettuce and served on a bed of shaved truffle and French chanterelles, with a sauce of sherry and morels – a perfect dish that becomes all the more spectacular with the fungal earthy notes of the elegant Barolo. We substitute some of the wine pairings with alcohol-free homebrewed kombucha, a decision we do not end up regretting. It is a revelation to experience an amazing rooibos tea kombucha, whose distinct fragrance matches a dish of turbot, nestled under beetroot wafers and topped with a bright red sauce, fermented blackcurrants and lardo. Chef Mielcke and Sommelier José Santos are not in the restaurant this evening, but both the service and the kitchen perform without a hitch. Restaurant Manager Thomas Amir Korby and his staff exude the expertise, calm, knowledge and professionalism it takes to make a dining experience complete. Combined with one of Denmark’s most eclectic yet accomplished kitchens, the resulting experience is original, distinctive and flawless.
Chef Steffen Villadsen has been responsible for carrying on the proud traditions of Molskroen (Mols Inn) since the beginning of 2016. Lest there be any doubt, let us begin by saying that his high gastronomic ambitions have been realised to the fullest. With a style based on classic French cuisine, Villadsen innovatively combines ingredients in richly detailed and interesting new twists. The first course features Limfjord oysters, quickly fried to intensify the taste of the sea. Savoy cabbage, Høost cheese and toasted wheat berries add deep flavourful notes, while pickled green strawberries add a freshness that plays well against the exotic fruits of a Slovenian orange wine. The wine’s fine acidity and minerality stand up well to the lightly metallic flavour of the oysters. It’s an excellent and creative wine pairing from Restaurant Manager Karina Kannegaard, who came to Molskroen from S’vinbar in Aarhus, bringing with her a number of interesting bottles from the big city. Our waiter playfully “warns” us about the somewhat “nerdy” bottles, but we enjoy the personality, soul and strong storytelling behind the wines, as the small niche winemakers are nicely integrated into the overall composition of the wine menu. Coenobium, the monastery wine from Lazio, is fruity with slightly earthy mushroom notes, making it an excellent match with the next serving’s duxelles of mushrooms and onion. Underneath the duxelles is a piece of perfectly cooked line-caught cod with pickled gooseberries and intensely spiced, paper-thin, crispy slices of ventrèche. A marvellous fumet of smoked fish bones rounds out the excellent flavour of this dish. The service is razor sharp in its choreography where the food is paraded proudly to the table on high-raised platters by a small brigade of chefs. The professionalism shines through, but the chefs also bring the presentation down to earth with personal stories about everything from animal welfare to apprenticeship anecdotes. Exclusivity is evident in the decor, with golden copper lamps, light wooden floors and black wooden furniture with cognac leather. And although the service is often reminiscent of a fine French restaurant, the warm smiles of the wait staff remind us that we are still in Jutland after all. The main course is a cut of succulent rabbit saddle with fried foie gras, crisp pickled Nashi pear and a piquant Madagascar pepper glaze that provides a sharp contrast to the sweet pear and deliciously rich foie gras. Slightly bitter walnuts and fresh celery ensure that the dish touches on the full spectrum of tastes, resulting in perfect harmony. A visit to Molskroen is a consummate dining experience that expertly combines classic virtues with contemporary trends. Delicious flavours and French cuisine remain the solid foundation of the inn, even as refreshing new ideas from near and far wash in from Ebeltoft Bay.
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!
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.
Magnus Ek is one of the pioneers of New Nordic cuisine. Yes, long before the famous manifesto came out in 2004. He is best known for his tireless pursuit of different plants and flavour-agents from the forest and the soil. But both at his first location on the island of Oaxen and now at the former shipyard on Djurgården in Stockholm’s inner archipelago, he forages as much along the water’s edge as on hill and dale. Seaweed, sea grass and algae of various types have been included in Ek’s gastronomy for over a decade, so of course it is here we have had the chance to try glass shrimp in their shells, swim bladders and Icelandic ocean quahog. The quahog is seriously chewy with powerful sea flavours, a real ocean tough guy, and can also be over 500 years old. Ek serves the recalcitrant old guy carved in its shell with crispy Icelandic dulse and matches its high salinity with the slightly tart sweetness of sea buckthorn. Then a series of similarly complex and confidently executed servings shows how Ek masters the marine theme and explains how he secured the 2017 Merroir Award. Kalix bleak roe is served with chips on venison topside and a cream of fermented blue plums and pineappleweed. Lightly marinated brown trout is crowned with Finnish Baeri caviar and grilled parsley. With this we drink house-made schnapps of parsley, dill and caraway, which is macerated three days before it is distilled, as the well-briefed waiter informs us. It’s certainly a digression from the house’s famous non-alcoholic juice pairings. Sweet, creamy raw shrimp from Fjällbacka mingle with a high-gloss fat cap from dry-aged rib-eye and a small piece of sirloin steak that is cooked on hot stones at the table. Smoked scallop gets a nice kick from nettles and unripe currants in an oyster emulsion with high mineral notes. A Meursault 2010 from Pierre Boisson meets it with both minerality and smoke and an excess of oak, indicating a classic tilt. The new chef/sommelier Hans Weinefalk has tossed out everything in Agneta Green’s basement that does not come from Europe. Some time into the meal a mighty piece of roasted turbot reveals itself, displayed in a wooden box, before it is served with pickled black radishes from their farm on the island. Of course there is still a focus on vegetation and the island’s wild flora, complemented now by their own garden, where they grow their favourite roots, leaves, flowers and herbs. Even stems, stalks, tops and roots have a place in Ek’s kitchen, and the ambition is to become as sustainable as possible. Yet the only entirely vegetarian dish is the kohlrabi baked in smen, browned and served with pickled peas, and ramsons for a little bitterness. Above all it is the wild-picked that is unique to Oaxen. Last fall on the island they harvested a 20-kg lion’s mane mushroom from an oak tree, not unlike a longhaired cat perched in the tree. The so-called “smart mushroom”, which allegedly has beneficial effects on various brain functions and possibly counteracts dementia, has a strange animal flavour, reinforced by serving it a hollowed-out piece of oak that resembles marrow bone. Naturally the carnivore is appeased by their ten-course meal preceded by eight snacks. Ek has experimented a lot with charcuterie and fermentation, and a thin slice of Swedish Wagyu on creamed corn in a house-made soy sauce on potatoes is certainly one the year’s highlights. The desserts are not super sweet: a roasted carrot sorbet with browned butter and hay-infused cream is based entirely on the inherent sweetness of its ingredients. But sweet tooths will never be disappointed in the ending here. The house’s little box of exclusive chocolates from their own chocolaterie is still in a league of its own.
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.
A big patio is protected from the harsh weather outside by the giant glass-paned roof. The wind and rain seem almost cosy when you’re sipping on a biodynamic crémant and enjoying small bites from Rogaland. A king snail is brought to the table grilled in its shell before being dressed in a vinegar gelée and ramson emulsion. The snail is a chewy yet pleasant surprise, and the chef says not to worry about any heavy metals as they’ve crushed the snail in its shell themselves to measure the metals and determined that they’re in the shell. A small sandwich of bøkling, a traditional Stavanger staple of salted herring, fits well with the crémant. The toast with herring roe and mascarpone is a snack we wish were handy in times of need – like on any given Friday, to accompany the marathon-viewing of the latest Nordic noir series. A razor clam shell is dressed in fermented pear and ginger juice with droplets of jalapeño oil to give it just a little bit of heat. After a chicken liver mousse on a truffle meringue we are led into the dining room. With its open kitchen and minimalistic interior, this room has no excess decoration so that your focus is on the food, the chefs and your dining companion. The crispbread comes on a small rack with butters from cow and goat that would make anyone happy, and we put uncivilized amounts on top of the thin, flat bread. The soft creamy texture of the milkfat against the crispy, sweet bread is hard to resist. An epiphany of umami starts off the round of main courses: scallops fried in a pan with jus made with smoked scallop roe, Parmesan, kombu and truffle. White asparagus, poached oysters and a parsley coulis with the acidity of sorrel is a tribute to spring. A langoustine the size of a forearm is dressed in seaweed butter, and the salty crust matches the intense sweetness of the moist and dripping meat. Next come turbot chops with a vin jaune sauce, green cabbage sprouts and guanciale. Then a real stunner enters: beets, oven-baked for hours, are served with beef marrow and caviar. The sweet, red, moist flesh balances perfectly with the marrow and with the small salty pearls of caviar. The serving seems too small! We drink up the rest of the juice from the little bowl. A small quail, bred on an island outside Stavanger, is matured for three weeks before it’s served here, with its innards on a small toast on the side, dressed in pickled onions. The sweet, rich taste of blood and offal is almost better than the bird’s meat, which is perfectly cooked, moist and salty. The quail comes in three servings, and the last one is its leg. With a sweet, sticky glaze it is to be eaten like a lollipop, or rather as meat on a bone like our ancestors ate when gathered around the bonfire. Thank goodness those ancestors eventually discovered wine though, for without it, this meal would not have been the same. The service at Sven Erik Renaa’s restaurant is pleasant, informative and at some points cheeky, in a good way – and the food stands out as a beacon of regional tradition and innovation.
When a man spends six years in planning, the results ought to be good. When that same man spends years training under a sushi master, the results might even be great. And if he is an entertainer of the humble yet funny sort, whose dry jokes can evoke loud sniggering among the small audience of ten, then you will surely enjoy his omakase. Chef Roger Asakil Joya calls himself an Edomae sushi master. He has an eye for raw ingredients and will show you how to identify fresh fish and which ones he prefers for his nigiri. The meal consists of 18 pieces of pristine nigiri sushi. Normae, his take on the Edomae tradition, means that nearly all the seafood here is sourced not too far from Pedersgate. The freshwater fish come from Orrevatnet; the shrimp from Sirevåg, the nearest fishing harbor, which is a wee cab fare south of the city; and the trout from the fjords of Hardanger. Everything is sourced and selected by Joya personally. The fish is of supreme quality. It’s tear-inducing in texture and taste. Laughing, he tells stories of how it got there, or of how he tasted it for the first time, which makes the wait between each mouthful seem as meaningful as the next bite. The rice comes from a small town in Japan and the Po River delta in Italy. The wasabi is grown in England, and this is a game-changer: finally, real wasabi. We start with a fresh and acidic sparkling yuzu sake that makes the grey weather of Stavanger disappear into distant memory. The small room is inviting and intriguing in all its simple Japanese complexity. On the ceiling there is a wave made out of thin oak strips. The wave tells the story of the weather that met Joya when he came to this town. Six years of wind and rain later, he has his own omakase. A room with wooden walls showcases the chef’s strength and a light green wallpaper behind the bar tells the diners he will take care of them, and he does. It starts out with a very light and fresh hot soup, to prepare the taste receptors for what’s to come. Toro of tuna and salmon have just the right amount of fat, if fat is your flavour. He is keen on the importance of cleanliness and of organic ingredients, but at the same time his salmon toro is farmed just a couple of miles up the coastline. Joya is pragmatic and as long as the product is of the best quality, he will use it. We forget any doubts we might have had when his techno-emotional take on gunkan with shrimp is served. The fresh shrimp is rolled in a gel of seaweed and soy, inspired by a guest chef he had from the legendary elBulli. It feels like a small step into modernity, away from the orthodox and almost religious setup of the rest of the menu. The grilled langoustine tail and the coal-heated trout leave the diners open-mouthed, wanting more. The drink pairings are carefully selected and span from sour beers to sweet rieslings. They match well, but these nigiri don’t need company; they are small gems all by themselves. Joya is a true Edomae, sorry, Normae master, with food that oozes with Japanese traditions yet is inextricable from Stavanger.
At Studio, all the aesthetic and material parameters of a meal are attended to with unwavering mastery. Torsten Vildgaard and his incredibly competent staff serve some of the most innovative and delicious Nordic gastronomy in an extremely appealing way. Every time a dish is brought to the table, half of the kitchen staff joins in for the presentation – without ever causing you to feel disturbed or uncomfortable. Rather, it’s as if you are a dinner guest at Vildgaard’s own home. The tightly choreographed open kitchen is another innovative aspect, bolstered by the staff’s attentiveness and respect for guests and their fellow colleagues. With strong roots in Noma’s kitchen, Vildgaard long ago cemented his personal taste profile: bold umami in Nordic ingredients supported by salt and sweetness, nuanced with plenty of acidity, distinctive herbs and berries. Juniper berry seems to be Vidgaard’s signature spice. Pine, juniper berry and thyme form the spine the five rich snacks, including venison tartare with pine oil, herbs and crisp dark rye bread. A small fire of pine needles and juniper bush adds an enticing smell and makes the dish a unique sensory experience. The charcoal-roasted beetroot served with blackcurrants and pickled summer berries is characteristic of the kitchen’s boisterous flavours, elegantly elevated by a rosehip kombucha for those who choose the well-composed juice menu. One of the evening’s highlights in the seven-course menu (preceded by the five snacks and followed by two delightful petits fours) is the poached witch flounder, butchered into sections as if it were a lamb rack. Each little bone is finely cleaned and the fish is cooked with exacting precision, served with pickled onion skins, wild greens, the first ramson shoots of spring, last season’s pickled berries and a wonderful herby buerre blanc. The wine pairings complete the flavour profile, like when celeriac with fermented green strawberries and black truffle is served with a 2013 pinot noir from DuMOL in the Russian River Valley, providing perfect harmony between the acidity and notes of forest floor. A nostalgic, grandmotherly dish is also served, though in a more advanced version: hay-smoked beef cheek in a fatty jus with cabbage. Reflecting the kitchen’s respect for a meal’s composition, this main course is a true crescendo and turning point. The desserts also shine, particularly the final serving of plum compote, plum skin sorbet and plum pit foam, whose marzipan notes mesh perfectly with the creamy brown cheese reminiscent of of dulce de leche. Innovation and originality are united in the meal’s orchestration, making the experience of fine culinary arts at Studio nothing short of extraordinary.
If there’s one place we dream of dining again, it is Søllerød Kro. Chef Brian Mark Hansen, Restaurant Manager Jan Restorff and the entire crew embrace you with warmth, offering delicious plates displaying their courageous gastronomic endeavours. The foundation of the cuisine is classic in terms of both wine and food, but Hansen and Restorff enchant and thrill us with a meal filled with enjoyment, exploration and surprise. Hansen’s kitchen manages to make caviar, oysters, langoustine, foie gras and pigeon seem bright, light and almost green. Restorff draws on the powers of his skilled nose and his deep insight to weave compelling stories and, with his empathetic understanding of each diner, he presents you with wines you will not soon forget. Take the halibut confit, served on a bed of buerre blanc with yuzu, pomelo, whitefish roe and a sprinkling of nutty fried Jerusalem artichoke and breadcrumbs, paired with the petroleum of a 2014 riesling, Ungeheuer GG, from Von Winning in Pfalz. The wine bores straight into the nutty Jerusalem artichoke and browned butter, while delivering an acidity unintimidated by the citrus fruit. The almost vegetarian dish with slices of celeriac, crisp chicken skin and artichoke balances on crisp, lightly fried water spinach and is topped with a foam of Høost cheese. This delicious serving is elevated to the heavenly by an exquisite burgundy, a 2014 Chassagne-Montrachet from Ramonet. The surprising star of the evening is Søllerød’s meat course, an interpretation of pigeon as a mosaic of perfectly roasted, petite morsels packed in crisp sweetbreads and served with mushroom-morel gelée and a whole stuffed morel. The pigeon has a fresh, light flavour, but is bursting with umami and acidic sweetness from a special “Russian” onion. The whole dish is bolstered by Diego Conterno’s Barolo Ginestra. The desserts at Søllerød Kro are not to be missed. The restaurant is renowned for its excellent pastry kitchen, and Hansen has an innovative style all his own. Symbols and shapes are at work here, so that by the end of the meal you find your senses elevated and attuned to the artistic culinary creations. We sample all five options: mango, yuzu and yoghurt as leaves on an exotic flower; monochrome parsnip in flakes with honey and chamomile; “The Snow Queen’s Tale” with coconut, passion fruit and vanilla; “Well-insulated Green Fantasy” with pistachio, thyme and hay milk; and the brown finale with chocolate, walnuts and arabica. The standout of the five is the pistachio dream, combining crunchy nuts with the creaminess of the biodynamic milk, whose sweetness is spiced up with thyme. The inventive desserts shine even brighter with the Beerenauslese Scheurebe in our glasses, and we conclude that Søllerød Kro offers one of Denmark’s premier dining experiences.
Since 2001, Ti Trin Ned (“Ten Steps Down”) has been a culinary oasis in Fredericia under the whitewashed vaulted ceilings of the former fermentation cellar of a distillery. White damask tablecloths, Wegner chairs and golden designer lamps create an unpretentious elegance, and the staff demonstrate a finely-tuned ability to maintain relaxed precision in their presentation. This isn’t the place to come for avant-garde provocation, but for classic craftsmanship and cuisine with roots in the local soil. We begin with snacks that come from the restaurant’s own farm outside of Fredericia: honey-glazed carrots sprinkled with fruity blackcurrant powder, Jerusalem artichoke skins filled with a luxurious cream of truffle oil and sunflower seeds, and delicate kohlrabi slices folded as dumplings around pungent sauerkraut. “Fish sticks” made of bakskuld (salted and smoked witch flounder) and cod are perfectly crisp and salty, while a meatball with malted barbeque sauce is umami heaven-on-a-stick. It’s an impressively promising start. We are paying our visit in the midst of darkest February, when kale is the first – and only – harbinger of spring. The kitchen bravely serves four variations – purée, powder, leaves and kale sausage crumble – with poached cod from nearby Skærbæk Bay. The seaweed-like intensity of the powder and a metallic tingle on the palate is counterbalanced by the acidity of a classic Danish “grandmother dressing” (traditionally made with heavy cream, lemon, sugar, salt and pepper). It’s a beautiful and honest interpretation of the season. The fine art of constructing a dish from many elements with a unified result is on display throughout the evening. Tartare of salt-baked beetroot is served with horseradish cream, sour gherkin gelée, shredded duck breast and ramson capers; it almost tastes like kimchi. It’s superbly composed and the cool fruit of a 2015 Planeta from Sicily’s Etna region is a competent pairing. The wine list sticks mainly to Europe, and the menu’s pairings are not from the hipster cellar, but sure-as-Sherlock prove masterful. Of particular note is Château de Montifaud’s Pineau des Charentes, where faint alcoholic strawberry notes are superb with the butter ice cream, parsnip purée and sour plum. But prior to that comes the main course: fillet of beef with bordelaise; a classic dish from a classic cut of beef. The sauce is silky-smooth and beefed-up with bone marrow, while the meat from Grambogård finds fresh contrasts in the crisp garlic and pickled celeriac. The dish is like a decadent reward for our Protestant journey through the empire of cabbage. Ti Trin Ned excels at both classic craftsmanship and seasonal vegetable-based cuisine. Sometimes we find ourselves wishing that the kitchen would aim more for ultra simple but daring dishes, such as the sublime sorbet served as our pre-dessert, made with birch sap from the restaurant’s own farm, but no one can dispute what the couple behind this establishment has achieved: 16 years with international honours, the affinity of the local community and a kitchen deserving of its prominent standing in the world of Danish gastronomy.
It has been a little shaky at the top of the middlemost of the three Gothia skyscrapers, but now it seems like new Head Chef Gabriel Melim Andersson has his house in order. Even if the place at times seems like an anachronism: a formal fine dining restaurant for business dinners in an era of casual fun dining when food enthusiasts eat on their own dime. You could say that the restaurant passes through a narrow window in time, thanks to a service staff who, in spite of the starched grey uniforms and golden sommelier brooches (yes, all are certified sommeliers) succeed in creating a warm, intimate atmosphere and manage to correctly adjust the tonality to various types of guests. Not that there are so many; it is pretty empty in the large dining room with its glass walls facing out towards the city’s nightly glitter competing for attention with the plates that rain down on the table. The six amuse-bouches are fireworks from the start: the opening quince meringue with sturgeon caviar from Bulgaria sets the standard. Then comes the house’s signature: the small yet highly aromatic slice of fresh mushroom atop a mushroom croquette that tempts in a pas de deux with a blood tartlet, Kalix bleak roe and orange marigolds. That we are in Gothenburg is confirmed by a charcoal-grilled langoustine on a thin rye crisp, served with a crown dill emulsion. It’s almost like Leif Mannerström himself were standing in the kitchen. The bread presentation continues to be one of Sweden’s most entertaining. A brioche is stone-baked with bay leaves, tableside, naturally in the form of the iconic Hönö flatbread. The wine pairings are well chosen, even if the classic top wines, primarily from the United States, which were present here a couple of years ago, are conspicuously absent. The sommelier now shows his skills in the non-alcoholic beverage pairings. The actual tasting menu jump-starts the meal with a delicious brown crab with sour milk, whose mild umami is hidden under a slightly over-worked arrangement of green algae sails. Bonny Doon’s Verjus de Cigare made from the unfermented juice of grenache blanc and mourvèdre grapes supports the dish with its aroma and lively acidity. The evening’s highpoint is the crispy pan-fried cod loin with small pieces of corn under paper-thin daikon slices and flower petals in an herb-split jus, scented with puffs of smoke. A non-alcoholic spätburgunder from Bernard Ott in Austria matches the dish as nicely as the chablis, a 2013 1er cru Forêt with both mineral and floral notes. Next, an “anjou noir”: Maupiti from Clos de L’Elu, with its spicy fruitiness, is a devoted husband to the stylish dove from Skåne served with fermented plum and lilac under red pointed cabbage. Yes, there are a lot of floral displays here, even in the middle of winter. They continue all the way into the sweets, ending with violets and hibiscus. You can choose something from the bar to go with the sweets, but a few of these four scrumptious bites are tinged with alcohol, minimizing the need for liqueur.
It looked like a disaster waiting to happen when the charismatic chef of Latvia’s very best restaurant suddenly jumped ship after 23 years at its helm, Food enthusiasts all over the country were following Vincent’s fate. Us too. And we continue to do so as an important lesson is being played out in real time. In short, instead of plummeting into neglect, good old Vincent found new elegance and charm. It might indicate stagnation that the restaurant’s décor, with its contrasting tones, timeless classics and modern-ish elements, hasn’t seen the slightest change, but let’s not jump to conclusions. The new chef, Alexander Nasikailov, has been with Vincent’s for eleven years already. He’s added a tasting menu to the repertoire, a five-course extravaganza that isn’t revealed until it unravels in front of the guests’ eyes. Here’s what we’ve seen so far: Nasikailov’s, food is prepared with exclusive, imported ingredients as well as more local products than ever before, from birch sap juice to apples straight out of the chef’s private garden. Most of the dishes get their final touches tableside, adding a bit of drama, flavor and, of course, aroma. Last year, Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Raimonds Tomsons was named best sommelier in Europe and Africa by the International Sommelier Association. Just in time to spruce up Vincent’s wine selection. The list includes a De Venoge Louis XV 1995 champagne and Barriours, a rare dessert wine that can only be bought by the barrel. Previously, there wasn’t much interaction between guests and staff, now Vincent’s waiters relish telling stories about both the food and drink, it creates a much warmer atmosphere. Vincent’s is far more interesting these days, which just goes to show that sometimes it takes a bit of a shake-up to improve things.
Mats Vollmer’s strongest talent lies in his ability to elevate humble creatures and make them into stars. The beet broth is a shining example. This seemingly simple little slurp of garishly Bordeaux-red liquid has an intense, fruity sourness that makes other renditions of borscht seem insipidly amateur. This is how it should taste and yes, thank you, another tiny dollop of sour cream would be lovely. The generous amuse-bouches are also tempting with a delicious little fried “kale sandwich” where two crispy leaves enclose a kale cream, topped with a sea-flavoured powder made from bladderwrack. The last one is a world-class pork belly from Olinge farm, salted and smoked over applewood then hung for three weeks. The process is described while the bacon slices are finished off tableside and then topped with sage and vinegar powder. The atmosphere is elegantly balanced, just like the flavours in the food, and formal fine dining mingles elegantly with a genuine and personal approach that brings to mind an inn in Skåne. Karin Chudzinska has a firmer grip than ever on the wine presentations – and she always has a linen napkin ready, which she folds into different shapes in order to pedagogically illustrate the locations of different wine regions. It’s much more entertaining than long reports on the wine farmer’s family relationships. She freely mixes classics, unknown gems, and natural wines, and the matches are both spot on and fun. The best is perhaps the Lugana wine from Tenuta Roveglia with its saffron notes paired with the fusion dish made from cream-poached and caramelised cauliflower, topped by crunchy, dried papadum-like cauliflower flakes and “Skåne curry” with twelve spices derived from either nature (like ramsons) or Skåne’s culinary traditions (like allspice). The result is a wonderfully multifaceted dish where Christmas vibes and India’s aromas play magically together, and with chutney made from Victoria plums. In Sweden’s most multicultural city, it is a small exclamation mark in a string of dishes that are otherwise more firmly rooted in nostalgia for Skåne. The non-alcoholic pairings have improved significantly since last year; the elegant cherry-tasting green tea with plum juice is one of the highlights. The dish that has been dubbed “Against principles” is exactly that. Control freak Mats Vollmer has resisted jumping on the fermentation wave, despite an otherwise pretty Nordic approach to food. But now he has found a way to control the bacteria as he likes and his fermented rhubarb adds juxtaposition to a tasty little mussel in an intense clam broth. Another winning number is the mushroom soup, which could be printed out as a prescription against winter depression with its deep, intensely nourishing and comforting umami. The secret involves vacuum-cooking the mushrooms to prevent even a single drop of water from sullying the pure juice that forms from the mushrooms. And of course: there’s the irresistible bread. Presented in the same beautiful rod shape as usual, but under the surface, like the restaurant, it’s been under constant development. It still has its foundation in the 100-yearold sourdough starter that the brother duo obtained from relatives on Östarps Gästgivaregård when they opened the restaurant. The first sweet kick here is the vanilla cream-filled freshly baked signature Danish pastry. The rest of the desserts are elegantly and finely tuned, like yogurt in four consistencies with pear and lemon verbena. They are fresh and light, and we appreciate that more than sugar bombs. Vollmer in its 2017 vintage is better than ever.
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.