Kolonialen Bislett is only a Thorkildsen/Hattestad javelin throw away from the Bislett sports stadium, but there is not much space for physical performance once inside the tiny and often packed restaurant. We sit shoulder-to-shoulder here, which is cosy, and suits the relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, but it can get a bit problematic when you must stop eating to avoid a close encounter with a passing waiter. The menu options are limited: a selection of six starters meant to share followed by a range of three main courses and a couple of cheeses/desserts. All our three starters arrive at the same time, reducing our free table space to zero. They all look so delicious that our expectations rise at once and are mostly met, especially when it comes to the perfectly textured beef tartare with mustard and pine powder topped with crunchy breadcrumbs – it goes straight onto our tartare top-five list. The low-temperature-dried egg yolk with cauliflower, hazelnuts and coriander is another hit, though it lacks a bit of acidity or resistance. The croquettes with anchovies could have been even more fluffy and the fried cabbage leaves a dry sensation on the palate, but the anchovies and the lovage in the mayo give the dish a nice edge. Our own suggestion of white wine is professionally swopped for a very well-suited bottle of Arbois. The wine list is not overly long but well selected, with a little bit of everything – including a glass of Crozes Hermitage which, as promised, nicely accompanies the pork serving with samphire, glazed onions and horseradish crème. The latter dish scores high on the yumminess scale but the last bites are almost too much and could have used something to freshen it all up. The same goes for the carrot ice cream with crème anglaise, coffee and malt syrup, and tarragon oil, but we surrender to the perfect texture of the ice cream and the integration of all the flavours into a delightful whole. If not a gold medal, the Kolonialen performance is at least worth a place on the winner’s stand.
Köksbaren once again occupies a position on the forefront of Umeå’s restaurant scene. Year after year they continue tirelessly to perform at the highest level. Their success is a result of genuine and generous hospitality, timing from arrival to finish, and of course, excellent food. The kitchen aims for constant innovation and an appreciative clientele eagerly encourages the chefs. They take every opportunity to serve locally produced greens and exclusive fish – even if the deliveries are so small that they only last the weekend. If a complete three-course meal feels like a lot, why not share a plate of Spanish ham cured 18 months that melts in your mouth? Tonight’s “variation on pig” consists of a perfectly combined trio of slow-baked neck, sirloin and sausage. A potato and goat's cheese tartlet is served with an IPA from nearby Beer Studio. Caboom! Thanks to the creamed roasted corn with brown butter, sweet music emerges from the vegetarian dish of grilled pointed cabbage. A sweet Brännland’s ice cider fits perfectly as a conclusion, that is, if you opt to bypass the lemon and liquorice crème brûlée. The staff make sure that you get exactly what you want and without delay.
The moment you’re inside the door you realise that they know what they’re doing here. This is France, in Helsinki. La Maison is a serenely calm, comfortable and cosy restaurant that is oh-so-stylish without having to shout about it. They have only been up and running for a year and a half, but Madame knows her stuff because she ran a similar eatery before. She says she planned to retire but wasn’t able to, so she made a comeback that many have welcomed. The menu stems from the wines she favours at any particular moment. When we visit it’s all about Languedoc, and the chefs have come up with matching fare – like the pretty lamb pastrami dish with onion, shiitake, shallots and sundried tomato that works nicely with a 2014 red Saint-Chinian from Château Bousquette. We switch to a white Le Clos du Serres for the parsnip soup, which is just a tad too thick. The atmosphere is soft and laid-back. Although Helsinki is a long way from Finnish Lapland, we are treated to wild trout from right up north plonked in beurre blanc, accompanied by vegetables that are so green they look Photoshopped. We're sure the proposed 2015 Les Agrunelles from Mas Haut Buis is a match made in trout heaven. The cheeses include a heady brie from Normandy, a goat’s cheese that grows into rock-steady flavour, and a Roquefort that’s sexed-up with the wine pairing, a port-style Rivesaltes Grenat. The soundtrack of the evening is, as you would expect, French chansons, with the occasional guest appearance by Melody Gardot. Yes, La Maison is a consummate Francophile, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
At the top of the Ounasvaara Ski Centre chair lift in the middle of the forest sits Sky Hotel. It’s a quaint little place in need of a facelift with paint chipping off the walls and a lot of stairs everywhere. Inside is the Panorama Restaurant, built on three levels with floor-to-ceiling views on three sides. The interior is simple, inviting nature in. When the food starts arriving our focus shifts to the works of art on the magnificent bowls and plates designed by Finnish artist Anu Pentik. Award-winning Chef Roope Kotila uses reindeer, fish, spruce, mushrooms and vegetables from nearby. Arctic char is crisply grilled and surrounded by fans of steamed, charred and fried leeks on a bed of spinach with a buttermilk sauce and sweet lemon curd foam. The slightly smoked reindeer tartare comes on a round slab of wood. It’s covered in petals of pickled red onion with pungent little bombs of dried capers that explode in your mouth. This creamy, smoky dish is paired with Little Beauty, a New Zealand pinot noir aptly named for its alluring fruity spice. It fills in the gaps, complementing every bite. The main course of pink-roasted reindeer fillet and barbecued reindeer rib-eye is paired with a bold California zinfandel. The dish is rich with a hint of wildness and the jammy and full-bodied wine is reminiscent of Christmas. Just when we think it’s over, after a heady blueberry cake with liquorice sorbet and chocolate pudding, they surprise us with another sweet, this one topped with an intriguing mushroom cream. The menu is thoughtfully composed and the beverages are curated to such a degree that the water comes from a subterranean source in Lapland. The service staff can read your mood like a book and tell stories if they see you want to listen. There is no sommelier; the crazily spot-on pairings are decided on collaboratively. Only one complaint: no aurora borealis to sprinkle more magic throughout the velvet skies.
A beloved Helsinki institution is back after a renovation that kept it closed for more than a year. The enormous venue called Lasipalatsi, meaning “Glass Palace” has been returned to its former 1930s glory. Many original details, like the furniture, lights, and colour scheme, are back. Lasipalatsi will be part of an entirely new and innovative art museum, Amos Rex, which has been constructed underground and is supposed to open in 2018. The menu has many familiar elements but the classics have been given new pondus. Vorschmack, which consists of minced lamb, minced herring, and tomato and is braised for hours, retains its place as a starter here together with baked potato. Zander à la Mannerheim, the war hero’s favourite dish, can be found in many restaurants in town, but some connoisseurs consider Lasipalatsi’s version of the perfectly crisp-fried fish, creamy mushrooms and horseradish braised in butter to be the best. Local wild fish has its place on the menu, now in the form of lake perch with asparagus risotto. The desserts have a new finesse. Domestic wild berries, for instance, might come in the form of a sea buckthorn sorbet with some Moscato d’Asti poured over it. Traditions are observed here and they sell thousands and thousands of pancakes during blini season. In springtime asparagus dominates the menu. Since the restaurant has only recently reopened and many of the staff are new, the service still needs some polishing. That said, their knowledge of wines is evident and there is no doubt that they want the best for their guests.
Le Benjamin is the kind of what-you-see-is-what-you-get place where everybody, from first dates and work colleagues to chefs and gourmands, meet to relax and enjoy the French bistro-style kitchen. The atmosphere is friendly, busy and laid-back, and at least the sofas around the edge are comfortable. Evidence of the service team’s many accomplishments covers the wall in the bar and at least one of the staff members delivers a spotless performance with a welcoming and professional attitude. The à la carte menu offers a selection of about ten starters and ten main courses plus desserts and cheeses (there’s a kids’ menu as well). The crab cakes contain delicious, well-prepared crabmeat but the chilli mayo is more chilli than mayo, which dominates the dish and overpowers the suggested white Vacqueyras. The mussel soup has just the right mouthfeel and the mussels are “à point” but we taste mostly cream and the soup lacks the promised touch of saffron. The turbot serving with sweetbreads and brandade is an enormous portion with a well-executed fish and rich flavours, but the deep-frying of the delicate sweetbreads leaves limited opportunity for them to shine. The “almost-there” feeling continues throughout the meal, leaving us with the impression that it wouldn’t take much for the kitchen to go all the way. We finish off with a couple of safe bets: a delightful crème brûlée with chocolate and berries and a selection of cheeses served at the perfect temperature, which we would have enjoyed even more had we not been forced to share the smell of the cheese fondue served several tables away for the last few hours. The wine list at Le Benjamin is – not surprisingly – very French, and lovers of Burgundy wines in particular will have little to wish for. The suggested red from Anne Gros captures both the fish and meat as advised and is professionally decanted but sadly not maintained at the initial perfect temperature during the meal. There it was again: very good, but still not quite there.
Leaven is living a quiet life in Copenhagen’s city centre – so quiet, in fact, that we’re all alone in the restaurant on the evening we pay a visit. This must be pure chance, because although it’s a Tuesday, the combination of such low prices for such excellent cuisine and good wines should make Leaven a sensation among diners. We start off with king crab, morels and apple in crab bisque, and it’s precisely as delectable as it sounds. We also make room for a serving of lumpfish roe – ‘tis the season – with cool potato cubes and a mild citrus mayo that is equally satisfying. This is followed by one of Leaven’s heavenly classics: strips of Danish squid with ventreche in a foam of Vesterhavsost cheese. Paired with these dishes is a 2014 riesling from Fritz Haag and Montagny 1er cru from Boillot in Bourgone, both of which are superb choices. The next dish is an unconventional serving of chicken in the form of succulent roasted breast and sausage with a warm remoulade sauce, followed by delightful, perfectly fried sweetbreads with a robust caper vinaigrette and sauce with leeks. These are paired with a glass of Morey-Saint-Denis 2014 Clos Solon. Or rather, two glasses – but who’s counting? Time for dessert: Jerusalem artichokes, both raw and sugar-pickled, and fudge with a wonderfully rich milk ice cream and thyme. For anyone who doesn’t particularly appreciate veg-based desserts, this is a pleasant surprise. A wonderful Tokaj from Leonis concludes a truly fine meal for the price; the four-course menu costs DKK 400 and the à la carte options are also available at reasonable prices. Heed this advice: put the money saved to good use by exploring Leaven’s impressive Burgundy list, be it Tuesday or any other day of the week.
The best indication of an Estonian restaurants’ ambition and level of quality lies in the bread basket, it’s a sure indicator of what’s yet to come. At Leib Resto & Aed they’re not kidding around, even the name suggests they take their bread seriously, leib is the Estonian word for black bread. Although the traditional black rye stuff can be quite dry, Leib’s loaves are the most moist and delicious you’ll ever find. It might come across as a simple place, but it’s all in the details here, and if you don’t pay attention, you might not even notice how great the restaurant actually is. It has not been easy for them to stay within the narrow limits of traditional Estonian cuisine. This is inevitable: the essence of local rustic cooking is humble, maybe even boring, when compared to the temptations and opportunities that the rest of the culinary world offers. Nevertheless, it seems that Leib has found a new source of inspiration in recent years. Among other things, they’ve had the courage to bring current vegetarian trends into their rather traditional, pork-heavy menu that Estonians are so fond of, and they’ve done so not merely to follow the trend. Their carrot tartar is first dehydrated, then brought back to life with vinegar, and served with carrot- and sea buckthorn cream as well as dried buckwheat sprouts. The taste and texture are a revelation. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was some exotic fruit, not a plebeian carrot. The drinks menu also deserves special attention, offering the latest in Estonian craft beverages. Leib brews its own beer; not just one kind but several. They also offer homemade aquavit and other infused vodkas. The wine list is equally progressive, that carrot tartar is paired with a biodynamic, Italian orange wine. The atmosphere is somewhat clubby, which makes sense as the premises used to be a Scottish club. Hence the Sean Connery bust that greets guests in the restaurant’s garden. Estonia and Scotland are actually very much alike, even when it comes to food and drinks.
At the forest's edge, a stone's throw from the water, one finds Hesselhuset and its phenomenal view of the Great Belt, where the simple and pure concept of Patrick Lieffroy’s restaurant has brought gastronomy of the highest class to new shores. A three-course menu is extremely reasonably priced, and additional dishes are available according to the occasion and budget. With bubbles of chardonnay and pinot noir from Taittinger in our glasses and a delicious serving of snacks that includes an exquisitely seasoned tartare of veal and a crisp chip with lumpfish roe and shrimp, the stage is set for a evening in the company of the finest ingredients. Classic craftsmanship doesn’t come much better than this, and many of the evening’s dishes stand out with their brilliance. The freshly caught cod from the Great Belt approaches signature status for this establishment, prepared to perfection and topped with a thin and porous toast Melba providing a crisp “skin” on the cod’s succulent meat. The dish is accompanied by small potatoes from the restaurant’s home island of Funen with Osietra caviar, lovage oil and an airy clam sauce with a touch of smoke from a mild smoked cheese cream and small morsels of smoked eel. The stout and impressive body of a weissburgunder from Rheinhessen provides a fine balance with the dish’s notes of sea and smoke. Danish lobster is served with an excellent light hollandaise with sage and classic peas à la française with shallots and bacon, a tasty twist of pickled gherkins and a black cream of fermented garlic. The Mâcon-Villages from Jean Marc Boillot, with its minimal oaked notes and fine acidity, goes well with the sweetness of the dish. Lieffroy is an alluring virtuoso and absolutely well worth a trip to experience.
Spontaneously queuing in sleet and snow may have one advantage. Namely that, once inside, you have a shot at the best seats, at the bar, with full view into the kitchen. At 5 o’clock sharp the door opens and then – bam, they’re off! Yes, it’s an adrenaline-fueled gang here, five in the kitchen and three on the floor, all men, most with beards and several with cooking medals in their back pockets, and they’re in a particularly good mood. “How cool that you got the last seats. Welcome!” The motley public is warmly received. A roughly chopped horse tartare intermingled with thin slices of semi-dry pickled kumquats is nicely balanced with the chilli kick of a broth and foie gras mousse. One does not always get the visually beautifully along with the flavourful here; the lightness that meets the eye is sometimes contradicted by too much food on the stoneware plate. It can also get a bit fratty and (deliciously) indulgent. The salmon is cured and blackened, and the Swedish-Asian rendezvous comes with a real perk: gari with a rice paper sail askew. The foodie eating alone looks sick with longing at the iron pan with potato pancakes that rushes by with a cone of caviar on the side, which is among a handful of dishes only offered to parties of at least two. It is charming here, but it goes by too fast, sometimes so much so that they seem to lose their grip. The small, yuzu-sour kohlrabi package does its best but fails to liven up languishing pieces of char. And the sabayon with cherries might have had a few too many swigs of marsala. And then – bam! Time is up. Barely two hours have passed. We stagger slightly dazed out onto the street and watch others sit down on the chairs we just possessed. How nice it looks in there, where we would still really love to be.
In a hidden away spot in the centre of the city, behind an inconspicuous metal door, you’ll find a restaurant whose reputation has reached far and wide. In a story in a local paper from another town a good distance north, Linnéa & Peter has been presented as “Umeå’s best restaurant”, despite the distance of 140 km, and fierce competition from a very tight Umeå restaurant scene. In the crowded and pleasant dining room spontaneous conversation between tables is highly likely. The staff contribute greatly to the light-hearted mood by offering both relevant information and amusing anecdotes. The hospitality here is really in a class by itself. The menu has a strong local character and the staff gladly present the origin, preparation, and seasoning in depth. They also serve a very affordable prix fixe three-course Sunday dinner. The perfectly balanced seafood soup is a great start both in terms of portion size and its ability to awaken the taste buds. Three cuts from the pig form an interesting combination: shoulder, leg and secreto. The latter is a small muscle found in the throat, which is often not used in Sweden despite its status as a delicacy in Spain. The crispy oven-roasted sides are served in small cast-iron forms with each and every main. If you want to explore the kitchen’s specialties further, we recommend a seating at the chef’s table, where just about anything can happen. But no matter when you want to eat here, book a table in advance.
Do not let the casual, nondescript and cosy atmosphere fool you – Lux houses both artisan perfection and creative height. Season, origin and change have always been part of the Lux DNA, which is partly reflected in the current suffix “day by day”. Yes, each day there is a new bill of fare. In autumn a four-course menu honours not only the seasons, but also felled deer. The dinner subtly weaves a story based on the achievements of protagonists like Daniel, the hunter, and Niki, a forest-harvesting friend, who have made possible the kitchen’s refining of what we see on the plate. The ingredients are excellent and the processing sometimes brilliant, like the mushroom dashi with the venison shank, with its salty umami and deceptively transparent red broth, and the tartare of lightly smoked venison with mushrooms and moss. The latter is like agreeably stumbling through the woods, a gastronomic collage of autumn’s every scent with notes that force the amygdala to recall childhood memories of similar outings. When we get to tonight’s big main course, young venison with Gotland truffles, we reach meat overload. Not even the poor Gotland fungus can compel the gluttony to continue. The finish, a pear simmered in woodruff, is certainly not epic, but it is rescued by a good sauternes from tonight’s competent beverage pairings. The imprint of the entire experience is epic, and Niki and Hunter Dan have taken on the same status as legendary heroes in our urban folklore as Ulysses and Njal once did.
Although the calendar shows it’s a Monday, the raw wooden tables in Manfreds’ cosy cellar are filled with diners. Christian Puglisi and Co.’s restaurant on the hipster street Jægersborggade has become a Copenhagen classic in the global bistro genre. We can hear from the languages being spoken that people come from far and wide to dine here. The waiters also come from every corner of the globe, and they all share a passion for the natural wines served with the menu’s predominantly vegetable-based dishes. The wines are explained concisely and without too much talk, and they have no unnecessary additives. This is not the place to come for a classic Bordeaux, but those with an open mind can look forward to unexpected and adventurous wine experiences. The first batch of starters in the seven-course sharing menu is accompanied by a glass without vintage from Emilia-Romagna made from the green grape variety pignoletto, whose crisp simplicity is a fine pairing with a warm and tasty mushroom bouillon and salted cod with broccoli cream. The kale salad with Sicilian blood orange works brilliantly with the moderate tannins and slightly bitter grapefruit notes of an orange wine, as does the dish of golden beets with almonds and cream. Veal loin is the evening’s only meat dish, but the kitchen can also cook meat expertly and the side of pointed cabbage is marvellous. Every dish resembles something you could have made at home with a little ingenuity; this type of simple cooking truly allows the good organic ingredients to shine. Manfreds is not the place you go for culinary feats with foam and dry ice, but it is a rather genuine neighbourhood restaurant whose excellent food and atmosphere work just as well for everyday occasions as for celebrations.
This all-white decorated establishment in Frogner is much cosier than first meets the eye. Beneath the somewhat formal decor we find this to be one of the most charming and inviting spots to eat in this part of Oslo. Despite its above-average pricing it has many regular costumers, like the older couple reading books and drinking champagne, with the woman’s bag dutifully placed on its own stool by the table. The service is first-rate and personal, and the dishes share some of the same qualities: composed but passionate. The homemade bread is a delight, and hints at the coastal focus of the menu. The loaf, combined with pieces of anchovies dipped in a shellfish-infused oil, rockets us off to the colourful starter with lightly smoked scallops, “Bloody Mary”-laced Avruga caviar and fluffy pillows of spinach gnocchi with a soft Taleggio sauce. We continue down this path with a halibut that sparkles with citrusy flavours and crisp fava beans, or a lightly seared piece of cod breaded in ground “clipfish” (dried and salted cod) with spelt risotto in a rich morel sauce. The desserts are equally flavourful and fun. We like the idea of white chocolate and thin slices of plum contrasted with a dollop of refreshing sake ice cream. They have a comprehensive wine list focused on France, with a large selection of decently priced champagne. Their beverage recommendations are as solid as the whole experience; this is a posh place with a huge heart.
Marg & Bein (“Marrow and bone”) is a rustic restaurant with an atmosphere that is the definition of Norwegian ”hygge”, or cosiness. The wooden house is snug and warm with candlelit tables and sheep fleeces draped over the pinewood chairs. The whole room conveys Norwegian nature, raw and pure. There are pictures of cold and snowy landscapes on the walls; the tables are decorated with jars of animal bones, and vases containing dried flowers. The decor features grandmother's bureau and more jars, filled with preserves. At Marg & Bein, the atmosphere is informal, just like the clientele and the food. Today’s menu is representative of the restaurant’s style – it consists of chicken livers, pork cheeks and lemon cream with meringue. Marg & Bein cooks substantial food using the whole animal, which suits the hard, Nordic climate. The dishes are often rich and nutritious due to ingredients like cod tongue and marrow-bones. Unfortunately the pork cheek dish is disappointing, poorly balanced in taste and texture, with dry, over-cooked beans and drowned salad leaves. But the rest of the dishes are tasty and well composed. Veal sweetbreads with fried capers and mustard mayonnaise is an exciting, salty combination of fat and crunch. The restaurant’s classic dish of beef cheeks with mashed potatoes and baked vegetables is still on the menu and just as tender and flavourful as last year. The waitress is very helpful with drink recommendations and when she has time for it, she is happy to share her knowledge by telling a little about the producers. The focus on coffee is not as strong as it once was, but the restaurant still makes it from freshly ground beans.
Stavanger has seen some heavy storms lately. The big spenders from the oil industry have been subject to a tighter spending regime since oil prices plummeted in 2015, and restaurants have watched their golden age wither away. But they still come to Matbaren, all those whose spending habits have been reduced to fewer plates and to burgundies of the lesser villages. The rest come here too, after their shopping sprees, or just to warm up after a walk in the heavy winds that tend to oppress this city. Sven Erik Renaa runs the place with his wife and together they have steered this ship steadily through the rough financial times. At Matbaren the food is robust. Their take on modern bistro fare is both filling and elegant. At lunchtime there are Copenhagen-style open-faced sandwiches to be had, with cod, liver pâté, and roast beef among others. The open kitchen gives the wooden interior a warmth and livens up the dining room. The chefs work at a nice pace, not too loud and not too disturbing, and act as a combination of backdrop and entertainment. The highlights of the dinner service are the meats and fish. At Matbaren they are particular in their selection, and the rib-eye is dry-aged from an older animal. Because of its age the meat has nutty flavours, and together with a béarnaise, a big portion of fries and a deep-fried onion ring, it all comes together in a unified dish. The fat in the lightly grilled rib-eye melts on the tongue, and the buttery sauce gives the fat just the right amount of acidity to make you close your eyes and chew slowly so as to enjoy the last little bit and fibre of flavour.
Tromsø is proud of its food heritage and this food-stall-by-day and restaurant-by-night is a great place to taste some of the region’s best produce. Here you can indulge in local meat and fish, all in the comfortable surroundings of a modern restaurant – or take it back home from the take-out counter. Chef Gunnar Jensen’s food always brings a smile to our lips. Be sure not to miss his classic-modern herring dish with local potatoes, horseradish, rye and brown butter. A serving of chicken broth warms our bones on this cold, soon-to-be-spring evening. The cod, served with lemon, carrot, bacon hollandaise and kale is a scruffy sight, but it tastes great. Generous slices of lamb come with onion, celeriac and mushrooms. It’s not the most instagram-friendly food, but it’s as tasty as one could want. Mathallen’s unusual décor is a fresh breath in this town; we like their humorous approach to a garage-meets-restaurant, but showing off everything also demands greater tidiness. Unfortunately, our service is on a par with a fast-food restaurant and lacks all of the hospitality the region is known for. And with a new player in town, Mathallen needs to fine-tune its front of house – until then we’ll save this place for quick meals.
Every Icelandic chef with an interest in food culture has channeled Helga Sigurðardóttir. This mother of Icelandic food, like Julia Child, set the standard in Icelandic cuisine with her 1954 recipe collection, Matur og Drykkur (Food and Beverage). These traditional dishes are the inspiration at the restaurant called Matur og Drykkur. The raw environment echoes the building’s history as a fish factory. The design and decor today are playfully creative and the staff have a nice, relaxed style. In both the kitchen and at the bar, their ambitions are high. Why not start with a Brennvin Negroni, one of several fun cocktails that have made them famous in town? Interestingly enough, it works well with a trout that has been smoked with a mix of sheep’s dung, straw and blueberry rice served with horseradish cream. A German riesling is perfect with their halibut soup, in which a magically tasty fish broth is poured over the fish, some mussels, marinated raisins, apple cubes and dill oil. The flavours are equally balanced in the arctic char dish, where dill oil is combined with cucumber, fennel and a cream made from skyr (Icelandic yoghurt). The homemade birch schnapps that goes with their Ástarpungar – twisted donuts with caramelized whey – is a must as a finishing touch. And with that, good coffee from locally roasted beans.
Let’s make it clear right away: this is a place for meat lovers. After the walk over the cobblestone streets of Old Porvoo you step through the old wooden door on the corner of a building from the last century. Almost immediately you encounter the fridge with its large glass doors, behind which pieces of meat hang in a row. Some realise right away that they are in the wrong place, but they actually have vegetarian options here. If you sit in the room by the fridge, you also get to enjoy the open kitchen with its flaming grill and savvy cooks. And you won’t be the only one. The locals, young and old alike, appreciate the progressive meat theme and the quality here is very high. Many of the cuts have been hanging for six weeks, with guaranteed tenderness as a result. But we start out gently with pieces of salami, chorizo and pata negra. The latter is very good, with a pronounced nutty flavour. But it is the beef tartare that really make us happy. The cow, of the Charolais breed, has grazed just twelve kilometres from the restaurant. Mini burgers are cooked to medium and topped with cheddar cheese. We wash all this down with a light pinot noir from Hungary. The main attraction on the smaller “Half In” menu (as opposed to the “All in” alternative) turns out to be sirloin, lightly grilled medium rare over an open fire. The standout among the condiments is the red wine sauce with marrow. Amazing! Naturally we sit on cowhide chairs. They’re not very comfortable but certainly appropriate at this establishment. The wine list is packed with good bottles from the Old World.
A wall of moss provides atmosphere and acoustic insulation in Mes, the small restaurant owned by Chef Mads Rye Magnusson. With previous experience at restaurants such as Falsled Kro and Geranium, he certainly knows his stuff. Mes serves reasonably priced gourmet cuisine with wines – both natural and more classic vintages – almost exclusively from Jura and Germany. The atmosphere is informal with relatively loud electronic music, simple black tables and naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. All diners are served the same five-course menu, along with the option of purchasing additional snacks and cheese. The snacks are impressive and demonstrate Magnusson’s high ambitions. Platters arrive with shrimp chips and mushroom mayo, malt croustades with chive cream and tart red sprinkles of dried tomato. Toasted Tuscan kale with sous vide egg yolk, lovage hollandaise and crisp-fried potato crumbles is pure vegetal enjoyment. Another brilliant yet simple dish is the coarsely chopped veal tartare under a lid of paper-thin slices of raw mushroom surrounded by nothing more than small dots of horseradish mayo and shaved horseradish. The cold mushrooms and horseradish kick give the dish a refreshing coolness. A hippie wine from Arbois of chardonnay and merlot reeks of farmyard and tastes more like grape juice than wine, but it goes brilliantly with the raw freshness of the tartare. Magnusson’s modus operandi is to serve his personal favourites and we are not disappointed. His cuisine is modern yet unpretentious with simple dishes that reflect his personality and provide diners with no-frills Nordic luxury.
From the seductive decor in bordello red, with bar, sofas, small tables and booths in an enchanting blend, this place is slick. We could be anywhere in the world, but this is Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet’s Östermalm, where the women like bubbles in their glasses and the men all have beards. The smart, minimalistic menu offers 15 “salty” dishes and six “sweet”, broadly embracing all of Asia. A sesame-sprinkled rack of lamb, Korean BBQ-style, comes with asparagus, broccoli and goat's cheese cream. It’s a home run. So, too, is the duck confit with ginger and Asian pear, though the spices sometimes knock over the other ingredients. The tuna with wasabi, yuzu-soy and Avruga caviar is also seriously yummy, one of our faves. Or does the initial lobster taco with a wasabi and avocado cream still take the prize? The drinks we choose are good, well matched, and doled out liberally. And so is the ending. What could it be? Our fleet-footed waiter proposes a combination of all the desserts, all seven, in a grand dessert. It is a beautiful performance with chocolate and plum, coconut with tapioca and fruit salad, mango with kaffir lime, and a spicy crème brûlée with apple and almond. But what about ice cream, ask the children. Done! And some sorbet for the adults, at the conclusion of a trip through Östermalm’s orient.
In the midst of Mols Bjerge National Park lies the Friland eco-village, home to the vegetarian gourmet restaurant Moment since 2016. With new Head Chef René Warn, whose past experience includes a stint at Kommandanten in Copenhagen, the menu is light-years from simple salads. The flavours are full throttle, as techniques such as pickling, fermentation and smoking transform familiar vegetarian ingredients into intense new culinary experiences with depth and complexity. Slow-braised green cabbage has a caramelised, sweet depth, as juice from fermented cabbage gives the dish more power and balanced acidity. Le Sacre from Ebeltoft Bryghus, a fine and vinous beer from the drinks menu, does a good job of capturing both the fermented and fresh notes, but struggles a bit with the sweetness of the cabbage. The host couple, Morten and Rikke Storm Overgaard, are working the floor this evening. They share their expertise on ingredients, preparation and the wines in our glasses, while providing warm and welcoming hospitality. The restaurant is bright, with modern Nordic decor and a view of the somewhat futuristic greenhouse, where many of the kitchen’s ingredients are grown during the summer. The dessert nicely concludes a well-composed meal with a taste of sunny summer: pickled wild blueberries and a refreshing granité of aronia berries with crystallised white chocolate, caramel and rich, creamy sheep’s milk yoghurt topped with dried rosehip petals that give the dish a lightly perfumed and floral summer aroma. A meal at Restaurant Moment is a tour de force in vegetarian diversity with sustainable principles underlying the delicious cuisine on every plate.
Mon Repos, a duo of dining options in a pristine, old wooden villa, has an illustrious past. Back in roaring 1921-22 it was a decadent restaurant with a renowned chef who trained at St. Petersburg’s Imperial Court and a bartender plucked from London’s Savoy Hotel. Mon Repos, French for My Rest, was a den of vices, offering repose from humdrum daily life with a lively cabaret scene and a casino too. Sadly, the cops put an end to this gaiety in 1922 when a raid exposed moonshine and gambling. Quel domage! The homonymous eateries occupying the same locale since October 2016 are just a bit more serious. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The building from 1870 has been respectfully renovated, preserving its original integrity; it blends beautifully with the neighboring historical Kadriorg Park, which, incidentally, is great for a post-prandial walk. The golden age of Kadriorg has obviously been a source of inspiration for the ground floor bistro where the menu matches the old-world exterior. The first floor, on the other hand, is completely modern, with minimalist décor and fashion photographer Toomas Volkmann’s dynamic images on the walls; an austerity that perfectly spotlights Chef Vladislav Djatšuk’s artful cuisine. He’s known both for working at Tchaikovsky, one of the country’s top restaurants, and for representing Estonia in the 2009 Bocuse d’Or finale. Choose between the four- or the six-course menus and let the sommelier suggest appropriate wine pairings, if you wish to conjure some of yesteryear’s excess. It’s a rare treat to taste cooking contest dishes; wild Scottish salmon is the dish Djatšuk prepared for the Bocuse d’Or in Stavanger. Anchoring the highly imaginative cooking, the wine pairings lean toward the traditional.
One of the friendliest restaurants in Lithuania––the staff at Monai greets every guest as if they were family––is also one of the most fast paced dining experiences in the country, serving up a three course meal, bookended by an aperitif and an after dinner drink, in less than an hour. The three waiters work at a dizzying speed, appearing to constantly be in two places at the same time, darting from table to kitchen where the pace is equally frenzied. Guests come and go at a frantic rate, bringing to mind some lesser establishments that cater to fast food fiends. Don’t let them stress you, Monai deserves to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. The tuna tartar is a house specialty, uniquely flavored with herbs and accompanied by marinated radishes, the halibut is a frequently recommend main course; crispy on the outside, with a melting interior, served with zucchini, potatoes, and butter sauce. It’s very homey, yet all dishes exhibit intense flavors. Don’t miss Monai’s own strawberry jam tea, it’s straight up jam in hot water, the taste, however, stays with you until breakfast the next day.
Two of Estonia’s best chefs, cooking traditional Russian cuisine, side by side in a family restaurant that is so much more than just another eatery, it’s a home, offering not only hearty food and drink but also well-being. While Moon’s kitchen is helmed by Roman Zaštšerinski and Igor Andrejev, the front of house is run by Jana Zaštšerinski, who makes everyone feel like family. The first half of Moon’s menu––starters, snacks and soups––is classic; buckwheat blinis with caviar, dumplings, herring tartar, borscht and uhhaa fish soup. It’s in the main courses that Zaštšerinski and Andrejev show their real creativity, tweaking time-honored dishes in exciting ways; Chicken à la Kiev comes with a kohlrabi-spinach salad and hazelnut dressing, roast duck is brightened by Dijon mustard, carrot puree and ginger sauce, a lamb patty is dressed up with Israeli couscous, tzatziki, eggplant puree and minty wine sauce. The desserts are also inspired by old recipes but as with the mains, Moon manages to conjure new, clean and deep flavors from rather common ingredients. Pastry Chef Ljuda Sarnavskaya’s pies are by now legendary and there’s an excellent pavlova with passionfruit and sea buckthorn ice cream, also giving a nod to the Russian theme. The beverage list supports the dishes well, with suggestions for every taste; ecological, biodynamic and kosher drinks, craft beers and ciders. The non-alcoholic selection is also wide; from spruce sprout-, apple-, orange and sea buckthorn juices, to kombucha.
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.