“A gourmet country kitchen” reads the introduction to Søren Jakobsen and Villiam Jørgensen’s restaurant in Aarhus. The produce featured in the kitchen’s exquisitely crafted cuisine is thoroughly seasonal, including appearances by apple, beetroot, and parsley root and the evening is a parade of beautifully arranged works of art. The menu is composed as a series of snacks. Some are classics, such as a cone filled with smoked cheese and Kalix bleak roe, while the oyster is right on target with a fresh foam of citrus confit and bonito butter. The staff skilfully and precisely navigate through the vocabulary associated with the orchestrated meal, and at times they draw on help from the kitchen. Gastromé is strongest in its seafood and vegetable dishes, while their pot bread is irresistibly alluring alongside a browned butter whipped with crispy bits of chicken skin. Lobster consommé with fresh lobster-filled pasta, poached quail egg and an attractive green lace of powdered herbs is one of the evening’s highlights, served with a balanced 2014 Jura wine, L'Etoile from Domaine Montbourgeau, whose sherry-like oxidised taste is an adroit pairing with the bittersweet lobster. The precisely fried zander is nicely composed with parsley root, fennel, cress and a foam of bakskuld (salted and smoked witch flounder). But the richness, salt and smoke of this excellent local speciality from Fanø lacks acidity, a deficiency that the fresh sauvignon blanc from Philippe Gilbert fails to rectify. The meat dishes pay homage to off cuts, but the pork cheeks are a tad dry in combination with boiled barley grains, mustard and truffle, ultimately comprising too many flavours at once. The dry-aged beef with beetroot in a variety of textures suffers from the same degree of hyperbole. The desserts offer a respite with the return to lighter fare full of sweetness and acidity: passion fruit, apple, pear, lemon, yoghurt and tarragon. In total, the meal is an array of excellent servings, ambition and daring from the kitchen. Though at times the dishes collapse under the weight of myriad flavours, the aesthetic presentation is consistently exceptional.
“Enjoy with style” is the tempting catchphrase at GMP Pühajärve Hotel and Restaurant. It‘s worth accepting the invitation as the countryside is some of Estonia’s most splendid, almost as splendid as the champagne that will be the first thing to catch your attention upon entering the restaurant. A Moët Chandon- branded terrace with umbrellas, pillows and blankets. Does this sound like just another alluring cliché? Don’t jump to conclusions, because it actually only gets better. Wait ‘til you see the bread that’s brought tableside. We’re talking about proper country bread, baked the way grandma has been doing it for decades. The two extremes, fine champagne and rustic bread, complement each other surprisingly well. The uniqueness of GMP Pühajärve Restaurant lies in combining urban style and countryside rusticity. The cooking mimics fine dining; the ingredients, however, originate from the surrounding farmhouses. Imagination runs wild at these flavor-loaded dinners, where themes range from distant past to near future, from elk with rowanberry, to duck with pumpkin; from house ciders and lemonades to rare South African wines. For the most unique experience, spend at least two evenings at Lake Pühajärv. Tammuri Farm, located just two kilometers away, offers similar food in a completely different atmosphere.
After a short period of renovation the hotel has again opened its doors. This famed Viennese-style café had its glory days in the late 1800s, when it was frequented by the likes of the Nobel Prize-winning writer, Henrik Ibsen. Over a period of nearly one hundred years the awe and well-deserved cool the writer and his friends attracted was replaced by elderly ladies dressed in furs and wearing as much musk as their skin could retain. The air no longer has the residual odor of animal skins and the interior décor is fresher, albeit the walls are now darker, in the classically modern way. The food, on the other hand, is lighter and more inviting than ever with its modern take on, well, almost every cuisine possible. Describing the origins of the courses stated in the menu is easier done with a sawed-off shotgun and a world map. It’s all over the place. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the kitchen is as fine-tuned as a German-Japanese Formula One team. This fusion fare is served in small and medium-sized courses and while it’s good, every dish seems to be hiding all the same ingredients. A dry-aged entrecote is quickly seared in a pan, thinly sliced, drenched in sesame oil and then hidden under small shrapnel of spiralized daikon. It’s fresh and mouth-filling but, sadly, the taste of the aged meat is drowned by the vinaigrette and overwhelmed by the aggressive texture of the small bush of greens. A tartare of beef with cured scallops is covered in crisps, so there is texture to match the cold meat and mature-smelling scallop emulsion, but the funky smell gets lost in the sweetness of the blend of sea and land. The celebrated caviar of the north, vendace roe, is placed on top of a Belgian waffle the size of a small mattress. The fish eggs are accompanied by sour cream, dill and vast amounts of crisps. The wine list has more to offer blue-haired ladies than the absinth-drinking writer. Grand Café is a good place to go for decennial celebrations in the autumn of life, although the wine and food will resonate better with a younger crowd.
In 2001, Iceland received a sensational bronze medal in Bocuse d’Or – the unofficial World Cup for chefs. In 2017 Iceland’s time came again, with Viktor Örn Andrésson at Grillið. However, it is Atli þór Erlendsson who is the head chef here. The dining room on the 8th floor of the Saga Hotel has been carefully restored and the view over Reykjavik is magnificent. It raises one’s expectations. The meal starts deliciously with charred scallops with salted cucumber, drops of ramson oil and vendace roe accompanied by dried roe, both as grains and as an emulsion. It’s a fresh start with finely tuned sea flavours. However, the vermentino wine that is paired with the dish is far too simple. The same goes for a Chilean gewürztraminer with a pan-seared ling fish with butter-baked cabbage and chives, fermented garlic cream and sea urchin foam – they are difficult flavours in an unbalanced arrangement. We expect a lot more from a sirloin with a variation on Jerusalem artichokes and red wine sauce and oyster mushrooms – even though the garnacha wine Tres Patas adds to the flavours. The red beet trilogy on hot ceramic dishes offers delicious flavour combos, where the smoked and creamy Icelandic cumin cheese called Tindur matches the earthy red beet notes and whole grains of barley. The natural wine Sota Mon Soleu, a merlot from Ardèche in France, is right on the money with its soft fruitiness. The service is more correct than personal. The desserts are worth waiting for. A granité of rose petals with dried raspberries and meringue is elegant with a half-sweet moscato wine. The chocolate ganache with malt ice cream and native blueberries mingles well with a porter from Borg Bregghús. Grillið is a cultural treasure worthy of cherishing.
Gro has long since found its formula for success and now plays mainly safe bets. They serve two four-course menus at SEK 500, one for vegetarians and one for omnivores. Both are declarations of love to the seasons. Each plate is like a family photo album, where seasonal produce is displayed in various stages: roasted seeds, baby shoots, raw pieces, pickled paper-thin slices, poached and broken down into a smooth purée in the blender, and dried until chewy. Serving super-cute frozen baby grapes from the abbey in Vreta before dessert is a confident stroke of genius. At best it is certainly endearing to get to hang out with the different generations, but this can sometimes feel a little predictable in the vegetarian menu. Even better is when Gro abandons the formula and simplifies to really blunt minimalism, like when a hearty slow-cooked lamb neck is accompanied by both raw and baked beets. The pitch-perfect wine choices add their own distinct voice to the meal. Unlike many other restaurants, Gro’s wine pairings are very affordable and a nice introduction to the world of natural wines. When a variation on Jerusalem artichokes, both puréed and raw, with apples and dark-roasted hazelnuts meets a delightful, elegantly oxidized sauvignon blanc from Alexandre Bain, the taste buds start spinning. The crowd consists of quiet-voiced food purists. The service succeeds in creating warmth and a presence in the uningratiating and brutally stripped down tiny, white room where naked bulbs hang on wires from the ceiling. Little Gro continues to be a higher alternative for locavores.
This inn could kick back in one of the armchairs in front of the crackling fire in the drawing room and step into the role of tourist trap. It could be content to rest on its laurels with nearly four centuries of history at this location by the picturesque square with old wooden houses and the mythical atmosphere that the incomparable Carl Jan Granqvist created here for decades. This, however, is not the case. The kitchen shows that it is still well worth a journey. The fancy silver cloches are still in use, but no longer lifted with the previous almost comical devoutness, which we appreciate. No, here the service is relaxed and professional, which is evident from the moment we arrive. The engaged and knowledgeable staff guide us through the meal, but above all through Bergslagen’s treasure trove, the wine cellar, and just that is worth a visit. The menu is regional and seasonal and there are two starters and two main dishes to choose from on the four-course menu. The mushroom terrine is a beautiful creation with alternating slices of king trumpet mushrooms, served with chanterelle cream, crispy mushroom flakes and a warm mushroom consommé poured over the dab of truffle butter to melt it down. It is also a courageous move to lift up the different fungal flavours instead of garnishing the plate with some more flattering detail. The spice-blackened steak from Närke is barely touched by fire, flavourful and tender, and it covers creamy, mashed almond potatoes spiked with Västerbotten cheese, salted celeriac and a crispy slice of rye bread. A very successful dish.
The humble vaults in which Gustav Wasa is located are a living reminder of the fire that destroyed the old city of Vaasa and out of which the new Vaasa emerged. The black walls have been cleaned up, soft lighting has been installed and white tablecloths shine in the red brick surroundings. The staff are young and their sense of teamwork is evidenced by the laughter that rings out amongst them and echoes in this historically preserved building. By the end of the evening you’re calling them by name and asking after the due date of owners’ Tina and Kim Hellman’s baby. The mood may be laid-back but these guys run a tight ship. GW7 is the name of the tasting menu that changes almost daily and always promises to be full of surprises. The sourdough bread is nicely salted, the amuse-bouche gets our taste buds going with potted shrimp, a hit of dill and a smooth aioli. Pears, apples and fizz play on the tongue with each sip of the prosecco. The smoked, pale pink trout has a perfect firm texture and is surrounded by sweetly marinated cucumber. Horse fillet, a rather lean cut, can be fairly tough if it’s not handled with care, but these pros know what they’re doing. The smoky-flavoured meat is rare and tender and served with crunchy beluga lentils and beans. A pinot noir from Chile with its sweet, leathery qualities is an ideal match with this hearty dish. Arriving with precision timing, each dish is arranged by the artists in the kitchen and has the right amount of crispiness, crunchiness, creaminess, sweet, sour and smoke to keep you intrigued about what’s up next. That said, the line-up seems to lack cohesion. On the other hand, local, fresh and just plain damn good food could be what they’re aiming for and it’s hard to argue with that.
Isn't that the poet Kristina Lugn? Oh yes, it’s Thursday, when the Swedish Academy has its dinner meeting upstairs. But this is no longer the only tradition celebrated at the cosy restaurant from the 1700s. There is also a huge legacy to uphold here. If you have been serving comfort food to Sweden’s cultural elite for almost 300 years, one should be wary of any overly daring creativity at the stoves. Serious traditionalists can be happy that Zorn’s meatballs are always on the menu – and always just as fantastic with smooth mashed potatoes and classic accompaniments. Freden’s plate of “house-hung” charcuterie is becoming almost as classic, and rightly so – they know how to stuff sausages here! The more elaborate dishes also keep to the classic, even though the accompaniments are occasionally less so. A really nice steak tartare comes with pumpkin, smoked mayonnaise and hazelnuts, while venison, in the form of both rib-eye and sausage, comes with baked carrot with a lot of root vegetable sweetness and a tart blackcurrant sauce. Well executed and finely balanced. The potato dumplings stuffed with mushrooms are rather tired, even though the lingonberries do their best to liven things up. But the atmosphere is great, and the small wooden tables at street level are practically made for intimate conversations – or lofty carousing about life and art. The professionally friendly and caring service staff performs their part well. Freden also gets a gold star for daily offering a special dinner before 6 o’clock, which includes a glass of wine, beer or non-alcoholic beverage for just SEK 215. Stuff like that delights not only poor artists’ souls.
The crispy-fried Hasselback potatoes with bleak roe and crème fraîche are seemingly simple, but seductively yummy. A mini waffle with chicken liver mousse and port wine-braised onions fills the mouth with distinct liver flavours and sweet scents. A glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne raises the luxury level. Yes, Galleriet at Görväln Slott is a place for decadence. The castle itself, just half an hour from Stockholm, is a different world in a bay of Lake Malaren. We proceed uphill and into the salons and lower our voices in reverence for the ancestors that have slept in this house since the 1600s. The menu with ten dishes is an entertaining read. Behind the unassuming title, “Potatoes – anchovies, bleak roe and sour cream”, hides one of the year’s most spectacular dishes. At the bottom of a heavy mortar we find potato cream and anchovy fillets hidden by a crispy rye bread cap, along with quark, bleak roe and fresh herbs. With the help of the pestle we crush the cap and mix up the dish. It’s fun and yummy. The kitchen here has a big imagination, evidenced by a red-green-white apparition in which turbot and clam-filled ravioli meet artichoke and diced tomato. The wine list is impressive and the selection is entertaining. A mineral Portuguese wine with Arinto grapes generates a lemony affection toward the octopus with radish and oysters. A deep, fruity white Burgundy punches up a festive seafood dish: lobster pieces, omelette cubes and gelée under a blanket of thin slices of raw mushrooms and Gruyère. A nice, tart Barolo makes itself at home with a charming dish of comfort food: lamb isterband sausage with beetroot pillows stuffed with pork and minced lamb. The beef tartare on a black ceramic plate with smoked salmon roe and Valencia almonds is topped by stylish pumpkin triangles filled with cloudberry cream. It’s eye candy on the plate with flavours that sing in your mouth. The wait staff, in grey T-shirts, sneak silently and smoothly around, exchanging dishes and filling our glasses with noble elegance.
In the entrance stands a large, worn carpenter’s bench, in contrast with the otherwise modernly furnished space. To the left is a spacious bar with cosy armchairs for a layover en route to your table. Or spend the whole evening at Spritbordet (“The spirits table”), where the bartenders tailor-make sets of drinks and dishes for groups of eight. To the right is the large open kitchen with a number of bookable seats at the bar where you can watch over the hardworking kitchen crew. The snacks consist of a miniature Parisian waffle with a dollop of chicken liver mousse and onions glazed in port wine; small Hasselback potatoes with caviar and sour cream; and Japanese omelette – tamago – with a piece of skrei, Västerbotten cheese and mayo mixed with relish. In the breadbasket we find steamed hot tuttul – thin bread that originated in near Lake Siljan - baked with pressed potatoes. It comes with a mini-pot of moist country pâté with a lot of character. The pork chop is slow-braised and tender, and includes such generous amounts of equally soft onions and butter that the fatty liquid drips between our fingers as we try to eat the dish taco-style. The dish described as “Almost raw herring with aquavit, böckling, potato croutons and caviar” might sound intimidating for those afraid of excessive “fishiness”, but is in fact a well-balanced experience with mild, fresh sea flavours and a pleasant little kick from the aquavit. Thinly sliced raw beef from Lövsta Kött outside Uppsala is served successfully with Jerusalem artichokes, Gruyère and intense, roasted hazelnuts. The whipped cream dessert called Änglamat is a sure winner with acerbic lingonberries, crumbled cookies, vanilla ice cream and sticky caramel sauce. The wine list is not too long, but contains a well-chosen assortment that leans towards the natural and organic. The kitchen was recently taken over by Stefan Ekengren – formerly of Görvälns Slott – so we expect even more from Hantverket in the future.
It does not get more beautiful than this in the Åland archipelago – and that is saying a lot. Furthest north, out on a peninsula among the bare cliffs and windswept pines, you will find this place which has developed over time into a full resort with a hotel, several cliff houses for more private getaways, swimming pools and a restaurant. After a stroll through the surrounding area and perhaps a dip in the wood-fired hot tub, when you finally sit down in the dining room with its stunning views over the northern Baltic, it is not without expectations. This kind of pressure could give any kitchen the jitters, but Havsvidden takes a sensible approach. The menu is short and the ingredients are carefully selected, preferably from as close by as possible. An airy green pea soup has been beefed up with pieces of mild smoked salmon, and it’s a good start with its nicely balanced sweetness and acidity. The tabbouleh lamb is a bit odd (a breath of Africa feels a bit strange here in this northern archipelago), but the kitchen is adept and when a nicely grilled perch lands on the table, order is restored. Beef tenderloin with red wine sauce is a very retro dish, especially when served with bacon-wrapped haricots verts, but we honestly enjoy every bite. The wine list is short and does not offer so much by the glass, but the charming staff are happy to open a bottle if you ask. Overnight guests will be treated to a super nice breakfast in the morning.
This is very much a one-man-show. Cuban Chef Arto Rastas glides in between the strict-backed chairs of black wood in this small but charming venue, while the cooks work diligently behind the door to the kitchen. The menu is playful and young couples, locals and visitors, all study its contents with a smile on their lips. The dishes make references to both film and music, like “Smoke in the consommé”, “All you need is lovage” and “Godfather’s egg”. The latter opens both the six and twelve-course menus on a strong note. A 63° egg with seaweed, caviar and Parmesan sauce has a nice saltiness, and it is well balanced by the residual sweetness in the prosecco it’s paired with. The sea theme continues with a piece of pike, served with its fried skin, resting on a slightly too icy Granny Smith apple sorbet. Chilled sake is an exciting taste combination, but hardly raises the temperature. The subsequent “Goldfish”, however, compensates for this. A piece of whitefish rests in a pool of Hollandaise, surrounded by samphire and round slices of yellow beets to complement the palette. When Arto announces “Silence of the Lambs” some of the English-speaking guests become nervous, but they calm down when it turns out to consist of two substantial pieces of lamb liver served with green beans, carrot purée and a powerful reduced sauce. The mellow chianti fits perfectly. Arto is passionate about Old World wines, primarily because of the environment. (“They have not travelled as far”.) On the other hand, the white chocolate in the dessert hasn’t exactly come from next door. It is served with lingonberry gelée and paired with a sweet French white wine to complete our visit to this little understated restaurant.
Spacious and bright, with discrete and efficient service, Hõlm is Tartu’s grande dame of restaurants, an elegant classic. Once awed by the dignity of its atmosphere, you’re bound to be equally impressed by its drinks menu. A more exclusive champagne selection is hard to find. Tartu’s dining scene isn’t exactly known for offering fine wines, Hõlm is the exception. Its food menu might seem shockingly short, but it’s all about quality, not quantity here; the dishes on offer are contemporary and refined, a quarter of them are vegetarian and have become personal favorites. Don’t miss the
leek, false morel and sunflower seeds; mushroom toffee with chocolate and biscuit ice cream. You’d do well to try a glass of Ayala Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008 too. The noble restaurant is modest, perfect for a quiet, elegant meal that would only be improved by spending the night at the Hotel Lydia where Hõlm is situated. Lydia and Hõlm have taken hospitality to a whole new level in Tartu.
Horisont’s biggest draw? That would be the scenery. From the 30th floor of this restaurant within the Swissôtel you can spot the horizon. Most of the dining tables have window seats, affording a mesmerizing, front row-spectacle of evening lights and sweeping views of the waterfront and Toompea, Estonia’s oldest fortress. Swissôtel Tallinn was one of the first international hotel chains to open here, bringing flair and finesse to the country after it gained independence from the Soviet Union. Today it’s a dependable work horse, the food isn’t ahead of its time, but the quality is consistently great. The service is perfect and the bar mixes every tipple imaginable––you need to try at least one, as this is the place that shaped Estonia’s current cocktail culture. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Marko Sõmer, the wine selection is managed Sommelier Jüri Viital, since they were put in charge, Horisont has gained in popularity, attracting not only the hotel guests but also, most interestingly, local food enthusiasts . Sõmer’s menu is inspired by international cuisine, seafood is prominently and generously featured Cobia ceviche with fennel lime gel, grey mullet with caponata and roasted onion-orange purée taste extra special when enhanced by the ocean views far below. In addition to the à la carte options, Horisont also offers three tasting menus with drink pairings.
Much has happened in Sweden’s restaurant world since Pelle opened in the early 1990s. But while restaurant trends come and go, Pelle stands firmly in the kitchen and continues to lovingly transform high-quality local produce into tasty and stylishly plated Swedish comfort food. Whether you choose the dining room or the simpler bar, you’ll always find the place full. Even on a regular Wednesday there are diners of all ages – a young couple, a group of seniors, and a few celebratory groups of families or friends. The sparsely decorated dining room is pleasant and homey with its walls adorned with art for sale, hefty wooden tables, and candlelight. In recent years, Pelle has simplified his menu. There are few dishes to choose from and we recommend Pelle’s incredibly affordable four-course menu. We receive an excellent Swedish squid and oyster mushrooms paired with an equally excellent wine: a Faubel chardonnay. The chartreuse-coloured and wonderfully invigorating Tuscan kale soup with apple and anise caresses the taste buds. Hearty and tender veal cheek with oyster mushrooms has a hint of lovage that contrasts nicely against the sweetness of a carrot purée. It’s paired with a full-bodied and delightful Ripasso. The apple finale comes with the finest almond cream, enhanced by a sweet Monbazillac. “Like stuffing your nose in a jar of raisins”, says one guest about the French dessert wine. We are satisfied after a long evening and hope for continued artful cooking here for another quarter century.
There are few things that can beat the atmosphere of an outdoor restaurant along the docks of Copenhagen’s Nyhavn on a sunny spring day. Add to this a wonderful meal at a reasonable price, and you’ve got pure bliss. We are welcomed by a young woman who also is our server for the day. She quickly proves to be highly knowledgeable about both food and wine. The first impression to arrive from the kitchen is a crisp bread with the consistency of puff pastry, baked with buttermilk and whole sage leaves, adding a strong, herby flavour balanced by the accompanying homemade butter with salty grains. For a very reasonable price, we order a serving of 30 grams of sustainable baerii caviar served on blinis. The large, bright fish eggs reveal elegant nut and umami notes, balanced by the slightly acidic organic crème fraîche and walnut. Another sublime dish is fresh green asparagus, sweet and sour pickled white asparagus sprinkled with leek ash and an oyster emulsion that together form a symphony of sea and spring flavours, adeptly matched by a huge-bodied 2013 chardonnay from Rustenberg in South Africa that combines great thickness with elegant acidic structure. Grilled leek with whole, lightly grilled Danish squid – akin to sushi in bite and pure fish flavour – a lightly smoked bacon sauce and a black, faintly sweet cream of fermented garlic, all garnished with fresh ramson leaves, is aesthetically pleasing and a light yet generous taste experience. A crisp grilled turbot is delicate, white, firm and juicy, served with onion rings filled with foam of whipped Vesterhavsost cheese and dill oil. A half lobster with lemon, dill and mayonnaise – the eponymous restaurant’s muse (hummer is the Danish word for lobster) – is delicious but difficult to eat without making a mess. The meat is perfectly prepared, releasing fresh shellfish sweetness and mineral notes of the sea.
You can hardly get more local than this. Restaurateur Stefan Söderholm presents the menu in a way that only a restaurateur who knows all his suppliers can. With arms waving right, left, up and down and, in the same breath, he presents the beer, the meat and where the milk comes from, and adds, “You should go there, it’s only a X kilometres in that direction”. Of course the closest source is their own vegetable plot, which also happens to be one of Sweden’s most beautiful castle gardens. Several times during our visit we see the head gardener Simon Irving in complete head gardener-castle-regalia chugging past on his green scooter equipped with a loading platform. It is amazing here all year round – but in summer it’s enchanting. The view from beneath the cherry trees is unbeatable, of beautiful, white Läckö Castle surrounded by rocky cliffs, and the boats out on Lake Vänern. The menu is not very long and it used to change more frequently, but it is carefully conceived and mostly dominated by vegetables. The salad soup crackled with cream and topped with Väner bleak roe is a classic, as is the beef tartare whose toppings vary with the seasons. Today’s version is gold-coloured, and comes with planed and summery, sweet-sour golden beets and dried, torn sections of chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms. The dishes are large, so you have to be careful with the generous basket of fried new potatoes that’s served with every main course – for you must save room for dessert, especially during berry season. Organic strawberries, and white and red wild strawberries, do not get any better than here.
An izakaya is the Japanese version of a gastropub, originally a haven for Japanese businesspeople, with high standards for food and drink. The team behind Jah Izakaya set out to create such a place in Vesterbro with a minimalistically appointed restaurant and open kitchen bar. Everything is steeped in precision and features the meticulous seasoning that has made Japanese cuisine so famous. You choose a variety of dishes to share with the others at your table. It is all very informal and the prices are affordable. The sashimi features the highest quality Faroese salmon, tender tuna and a Danish octopus that also makes a cameo in an ika ichiyaboshi – an unforgettable serving of slightly dried octopus with spicy mayo. Rarely have the sweetness and richness of an octopus come through so clearly. Each of the eight dishes we order is accompanied by a new dip – every one with its own personality. The wasabi here has notes of spiced tea and herbs. Each sauce specifically matches a dish, such as an ingenious yuzu soy sauce with the mouth-watering gyukatsu – fillet steak with a thin breading that is fried so the meat is red and the breading crisp. On the whole, the breading at Jah Izakaya is in a league of its own. The day’s special, avocado in a light tempura, is airy and perfectly crisp. Even the tofu, lightly fried then immersed in a warm dashi bouillon, packs impressive flavour. Beverages range from sake, whisky and Japanese shochu brandy, to beer, kombucha and natural wine. We pair with kombucha and méthode traditionnelle bubbles from Domain Bellaurd in Savoy whose minerality and nutty character fit well with the umami-dominated meal.
Jossa mat og drikke is now temporary closed awaiting it’s and Restaurant Credo’s relocation at Lilleby in Trondheim.
Down a dark narrow alley and up a cramped and steep staircase lies this sibling restaurant of longtime Trondheim food-bastion, Credo. Inside it is warm and cosy, with naked old wooden walls, a nice bar and an open kitchen. Jossa is like the younger kid who escaped the motherland and came back with all kinds of crazy ideas – and the ideas work. It’s laid-back with great, reasonably priced food. You can choose between a three or five-course menu, or today’s meat or fish. The food is inspired from all over the world; it’s rustic, centered around local produce, and features vegetables, grains, dairy, fish and off-cuts of meat. Jossa offers a good selection of wine, beer and pour-over coffee, and it’s possible to order wine from Credo’s legendary wine cellar. We also recommend their artisanal selection of bottled sodas and kombuchas, made fresh on the premises. Their Saturday lunch is easily the best deal in town and the service is easygoing, though sometimes almost too lax. Chef and owner Heidi Bjerkan has assembled a young and ambitious team, who manage to make the restaurant feel like a home away from home. We’re glad we don’t live next door because we would probably be there every other day. Like its parent establishment, Jossa is moving to a new location later this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing what effect the new location will have.
It would not be right to shun the sapas at Juuri, as in all truthfulness they are what’s given the restaurant its special status. Sapas are small dishes, appetisers really, based on traditional Finnish cuisine made with a modern – and it has to be said – tapas-like twist. So, Finnish tapas. The first one we try is lamb’s tongue with beetroot and crème of the same, plus yoghurt and pickles. The tongue is incredibly tender, and a great start. Clocking in as sapa number two is the equally addictive cured Baltic herring. It features yellow beets in two forms as well as crumbled flatbread. We’re instructed to pick the Toivo red ale with our sapas, and do exactly as we’re told. It happens to be spot on. All of the beer served at Juuri is Finnish, by the way. The restaurant seems to attract a youngish clientele, and an international one, too, because all of a sudden there are Americans next to us, and then two Japanese parties come through the door. Fillet of perch is our next stop on the menu, and we fancy a glass of Roero Arneis from the Piedmont to go along with it. The wine and the fish prove to be an excellent combo. Not only is the dish lovely, but the perch is also pan-fried to perfection, and made to swim attractively in a frothy cauliflower crème with florets attractively strewn about. Suddenly we find ourselves with a juniper-scented crème brûlée dotted with transparent gin jelly, crème anglaise and rosemary sorbet. How did it all go by so fast.
That old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” could not be further from the truth at Kaks Kokka, which not only has two chefs (like the name suggests), but also shares a kitchen with its “big sister” Ö. The modern, Scandinavian-inspired decor is inviting, with large jars of pickled vegetables and preserved berries placed on tall shelves in a sort of culinary laboratory esthetic. The best tables are, in fact, the ones behind those shelves as they offer views of the bar and a glimpse of the kitchen. The menu is a blend of Asian and Scandinavian-inspired dishes. Locally cured elk or sauna-smoked ham can be chased by ramen or steamed buns. Simple combinations and delicate flavors are skillfully executed, yet the Kaks Kokka chefs are certainly not afraid of bold experiments. Some of the more exciting dishes have more obscure descriptions––caramelized cauliflower with aged rennet cheese, or roasted leg of lamb with ramson béchamel. The dining room balances that same high-low notion with a casual atmosphere of fun and indulgence. A short drinks list complements the menu, starting with seasonal specialty cocktails and continuing with expertly paired wines by the glass (or bottle) to match any palate or budget.
Even though it’s been open for over a year, Grünerløkka’s Kamai still feels like a hidden gem in the jungle that is Oslo’s dining scene. In taking inspiration from South America and placing it inside the frames of the Japanese “kaiseki” meal, Kamai have created one of the most fun dining experiences in the capital as far as flavours go. Choose between a four and seven-course menu of well varied, unpredictable and exciting combinations of tastes and textures. A yoghurt-marinated skrei, tainted with turmeric and garnished with deep-fried shrimp shells and cucumber bends the concept of ceviche a bit out of context, but it tastes excellent. Refreshing, tart and meaty. You can also expect such combinations as tectonic plates of crisp chicken skin, Jerusalem artichoke and miso foam that leave a lasting impression. Also memorable is a tortilla made of corn and blue potatoes filled with avocado cream and goat, and a dish featuring strips of beef heart with kimchi and chimichurri. The food is a stark contrast to the predictability of the Queen, Katrina & The Waves and Billy Joel tunes polluting the ambience, but dining at Kamai never gets boring. It’s a casual setting (to the point that the diners are almost exclusively more formally dressed than the waiters) and the thoughtful menus and electrifying flavour combinations make you love Kamai more and more each visit.
The end of the world isn’t far away, it’s located right here in Latvia, in a place called Annas that also features a ten-room design hotel, Spa Vannas, and a restaurant, Kannas. All of them are cozied-up in one little house. Annas turns into the end of the world at summer’s close, when there’s been constant rain or snow for a few days. Follow your navigation device closely when driving here, and don’t under any circumstances turn back, even when the road narrows and you start doubting the GPS, wondering if it hasn’t taken you for a ride in the wrong direction. You’ll get there, it’s just not the most obvious place to find. But it’s worth the effort as Kannas easily rivals some of Riga’s best restaurants. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Dzintars Kristovskis, a new recruit and bearded man with striking tattoos (is that an oxymoron?) who didn’t end up here by chance while losing his way. He’s not exactly a man of many words, but he speaks the language of flavors. Every one of the ten dishes on his short à la carte menu, including the roasted mutton, is made with ingredients from this Red-Riding-Hood region. Of course, the mutton is the most surprising, as all chefs seem to speak in unison about the diminishing availability of local mutton, the meat’s usually of poor quality, coming from unskilled butchers. It’s easy for a small party to try all ten dishes, they’re all winners. Venden mineral water from Gauja National Park is every responsible driver’s drink, but for the non-designated drivers there are local berry wines and beers. And though this might seem like the end of the world, it’s still Europe; the wine list is full of Old World favorites.
The white farmstead is a little hidden away but guests have been finding their way to Karlaby Kro for more than ten years, to enjoy their luxury weekend packages with romantic dinners and swim in the large, heated indoor pool. After a several-year slump during which owners Sophie and Pär Bonér sold the place in order to run a hotel in the U.S., they have now bought back their life’s work and everything is back to normal. In the foyer candlelight spreads a welcoming glow over broken-in leather sofas and, if it is slightly damp outside, the fireplace crackles in the corner. In the equally cosy dining room you sit comfortably on floral upholstered chairs and look out over the hotel garden’s greenery. A new chef has command over the pots and the creative dinner menus are worth a trip even for those who do not stay overnight. Here seasonal ingredients take the lead, which could mean a yummy amuse-bouche of lamb sausage and cheddar cheese cream followed by a perfectly seared foie gras with pumpkin cream, and a mini blood sausage with apple and hazelnut foam. Thyme-braised pointed cabbage and blackened leek might accompany main dishes like venison and wild duck, cod and halibut. Among the desserts you’ll find elderberry mousse with smooth Jerusalem artichoke ice cream and citrus notes from lemon curd that are hard to forget. The selected wines are a thoughtful mix of Old and New World, which means that the dessert wines come from a vineyard on Long Island as well as from a chateaux in southern Bordeaux.
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.