Once you have sat down at one of the tables with red chequered tablecloths, just sit back. The kitchen is highly technically proficient, which means that the ingredients are handled perfectly. They also know a thing or two about flavour, which becomes evident the second the amuse-bouche lands: two dollops of a smooth purée of autumn apples and carrots topped with a few slices of cheese from Almnäs Bruk. These are flavours that immediately feel comfortable with each other. Several smaller producers from different parts of Sweden are represented. The cheese, for example, is from Hjo and the venison from Funäsdalen. Some of the ingredients can be bought in the shop in the same building. The menu is short and seasonal. Every evening there are also some extra dishes on the blackboard. “Menu surprise” is an affordable option with five dishes. We order it and are delighted by the variations on the vegetables served as sides, like creamed savoy cabbage, chanterelles and crispy fried potato pancake. The timing from the professionally friendly service staff is perfect. We feel neither rushed nor have to wait for long. In a nice way, we learn more about the farms that the cheeses or the meats come from. The wine list is relatively short and the staff are very helpful in selecting the appropriate option. The desserts keep to the same confident style. In fact, whoa, here come the 70s in the form of a dense and fresh raspberry mousse. Now that was a surprise! Proviant also has locations on Kungsholmen and Gärdet.
The Majorstua area of Oslo may not be the most restaurant-crowded part of town. Compared to similar neighbourhoods in Stockholm or Copenhagen, it’s more like the countryside, with lots of Range Rovers and not so many great places to dine. But you can find one or two pearls in this sea, one of them being this eminent local eatery. Opened almost a year ago, Publiko quickly gained a large following with a full house every day. Now things have settled down a bit, and we are starting to understand what the hype was all about; it’s simply great food. They describe themselves as a sustainable neighbourhood restaurant with playfulness in their cuisine, and the description is not far off. They serve good food using quality produce that doesn’t empty your bank account. The menu consists of four to five starters based on greens and seafood, and two to three main courses from the animal kingdom, all in season and in line with the current trend of serving not-too-big-dishes intended to be shared. The food is flavourful and well balanced, and not overly complicated. We try a variation on beets with Norwegian goat’s cheese, a dish more common in Norway today than shrimp cocktail was in the eighties. A dry-aged tartare with marrowbone, horseradish and tarragon makes our refined inner caveman cry from happiness, and a more modern take on the classic dish of “skreimølje” (skrei cod served with the liver and roe) is an instant classic that should replace the traditional recipe in every household. Add a small and fairly priced quality drink list with a notable focus on beer, and you’ve got yourself the neighborhood restaurant everyone dreams of having.
Fine dining is dead, declared Pubologi in autumn 2016 and exchanged their fixed menus for à la carte. Otherwise things are still the same at this cosy gastropub in the Old Town: the simultaneously humorous and atmospheric interior design; the large community table down the centre with a few small deuces along the walls; the suitcases suspended from the ceiling; the cutlery in the drawer under the table; and the resplendent red book with countless wines to immerse oneself in. But just because tasting menus are a thing of the past here does not mean we shall eat conventionally. Restaurateur Daniel Crespi’s hedonistic disposition calls for extravagance: “Start with a number of snacks, continue with at least two medium-sized plates, share and sample, and feel free to order different drinks with everything, and enjoy”. And we do. A bit of suet has melted down over the Tsarskaya oysters on the grill and been rounded off by tomato vinaigrette in a delicious balancing act. Equally good and fatty are the thinly sliced scallops in a brown butter fragrant with bergamot. We fall in love with the next buttery variation, with lovage and marrow, served with a tartare of topside energised by pickled onions and crunchy pistachios. Another butter, this time smoked, comes with the raw seared lobster and silky celeriac “tagliatelle”. This is paired with an equally buttery Meursault from Burgundy, which makes us long for more acid or maybe bitterness. The latter, however, we get in excess in a cabbage jus served with small pieces pork loin and flowersprouts. With grated dried char on top and tarragon cream the dish gets lost among the flavours and the impression is incohesive. We conclude with a fun dessert with dried apple and meadowsweet sorbet with a Mazarin almond base, but have to admit that we somewhat miss the fixed menu, even if the new concept actually suits the venue better.
Yummy or strange? Whimsical or just ridiculous? This is the kind of place you either love or hate. And if you are amused by attitude, gimmicks and music, with everything from Siw Malmkvist to Eddie Meduza at top volume, then you’ll have fun with these guys, Jocke Almqvist and Kalle Nilsson. Especially if you like smoke machines and childish fancies. As the menu’s name suggests (“Total Overdrive”), the initial flurry of snacks is epic and delivered at a breakneck pace. Colourful plastic water pitchers land on the table along with ice-cold Koskenkorva vodka, and a giant dollop of caviar to lick from the back of your own hand. We have left the gate. Our favourite is the small omelet that is prepared tableside and topped with crunchy deep-fried grated potato – then suddenly a big spoon is shovelled into our mouths with fried lobster, porcini cream and shaved black truffles – followed by rolls of red beets with camembert cream, even more truffles (this time white) and a delicious pancake made from reindeer blood topped with whitefish roe. The iconic butter-fried brioche, with a smiley drawn in rosehip cream on a round of foie gras mousse, served with a plastic duck. All this happens before the first real dish – a subtle and well-executed, punk-free scallop in a kombu broth with dill oil. The tempo and the staff's attitude are a big part of the proceeds. And behind the cheap tricks lurks a solid craftsmanship – a performance with 18-20 dishes requires meticulous control. Still, they manage to convey the illusion that most of it is plunked down on the table at random. Like the slightly absurd dish that is presented as “the classic shrimp tree” where raw shrimp cling to a burned broccoli stalk. Is it good or a parody? We do not know, but right then we do not care. The evening’s high note is a raw langoustine tail topped with cabbage and Spanish almonds – closely followed by the ingenious conclusion: butter-fried brioche with cinnamon roll ice cream and iced Swedish punsch. The punk boys know the limits – and that alone is worthy of praise. Next door, at Punk Royale Café, one can drop in more spontaneously.
Radio looks like the inside of a Scandinavian designer log cabin, with raw wood and large, empty windows facing out towards the iconic former home of the Danish Broadcasting Company’s radio studios – thus the name. The restaurant is the epitome of modern, healthy Nordic cuisine made with the season’s simple ingredients. We begin by feasting on rustic Øland wheat bread and an irresistible butter whipped with buttermilk and browned onion. Strips of Danish octopus are served with a creamy sauce of bakskuld (salted and smoked witch flounder), apple vinegar gelée, and grated egg yolk. A burnt leek adds a tad too much bitterness to this otherwise delicious dish with a good balance of richness, sweetness and acidity. Saltwater-poached cod with raw, marinated celeriac, celeriac purée, hay-cream, apple leather and toasted buckwheat seeds actually proves somewhat bland. Meanwhile, a 2015 aligoté from Meursault, fresh and acidic with a touch of butter, goes perfectly with the dish. Although also arriving in white and light hues, the next dish has a copious and fulfilling depth of flavour: baked Jerusalem artichokes with crisp pickled onion, a foamy sauce of Jerusalem artichokes and roasted almond butter for an added umami kick. A dark yellow 2005 riesling from Joseph Schmidt in Kremstal has a good age and is sufficiently stout to withstand the smoky richness of the Jerusalem artichokes. The cuisine is veg-intensive and many dishes resemble each other, following the formula of a root vegetable, a light sauce and a little bit of protein. It’s monotonous at times, but every dish shows careful consideration of balance and texture. Our waiters share their wonderfully nerdy enthusiasm for the wines and food, so we leave Radio wiser and with a comfortable lightness of body.
You get a nice warm feeling as you stroll into smallish Ragù, which is remarkably buzzing for a Wednesday night. Large parties of guests seated at the longish tables demonstrably thrive on the free and easy vibe. We’re wondering if the table next to us is celebrating somebody’s big 6-0. Our waiter is as attentive as he is charming, despite being rushed off his feet. Although or perhaps because it’s a painfully frosty night, he reckons we need a Negroni before proceeding. Shortly after the apéritif the bread basket arrives. The bread takes a back seat to the spreads, of which there are four – humus, butter, cheesy goat’s cream and cherry compote. The lamb tartare with tarragon-infused mayo, cloudberry jam, rolled sliced carrot and a cool miniature blood pancake hits the palate in just the right way. We’re talked into a sparkling lambrusco from Emilia Romagna that works, while being largely forgettable. The boneless veal rib-eye does not blow our socks off either, but the various trimmings move the dish up to and beyond scratch. Cauliflower in different guises fights with the meat for attention, and is backed up by pak choi and béarnaise. Spicy and lively watercress stretches its long tentacles across the creation. The pinot nero from Aosta works as it should. So what’s the interior like at Ragù? Italian? But of course! With its simplistic white walls and dark floor, leather-clad benches, grey-backed chairs and double linen tablecloths, the restaurant clearly takes its cue from the country that’s given us the world’s most iconic dishes. We stay in Italy for the dessert: lemon cream with slightly blow-torched Italian meringue and basil ice cream.
Built for life’s larger celebrations, for joyous gatherings where elegant guests enjoyed a cornucopia of exquisite food while lubricating their conversations with plentiful drink, Rannahotell was constructed to symbolize the glamour of the 1930s. Today both the hotel and its restaurant have been fully renovated twice but, most interestingly, the special spark of the past is still very much present. This atmosphere carries through the food, traditional yet prepared and served in a modern manner. Chef Herkki Ruubel creates complex dishes, though refreshingly, he leaves his ego out of them; he uses innovative techniques to bring out the distinct characteristics of the ingredients rather than to show off his skills. Ruubel is especially good with sauces, his whey dressing makes a dish of burnt onion soar, it’s a very special culinary experience. His porcini mushroom velouté gives an incredibly aromatic nuance to an expertly cooked filet of halibut. The Rannahotell and restaurant are also special for another reason, time stands still here. It always has. This, however, doesn’t mean it’s stagnant and boring, rather, it invites you to take some time off and enjoy a whiff of the olden days.
Restaurant 1877 is a traditional but modern restaurant in the heart of Bergen at “Kjøttbasaren”, the old meat market. This soulful place that has held an important position in Bergen’s trade history. The room is filled with warmth and generosity. The service is attentive and jovial, and the elegant, original interior is filled with brass, brick and wood. The first thing you see when you walk in the door is the open pass station, raised and framed in a wooden bar. In from the left comes a smiling waitress. “Welcome”, she says, with a firm handshake. The staff at 1877 make a big deal out of this handshake as a symbol of the restaurant’s personal service. The chefs regularly come to the table to present the food and their stories are clearly rehearsed, without too much detail, bringing you closer to the food and to the suppliers. One of them comes to the table to explain how she prepared the chicken that lies before us. On the plate is a chicken dish in several forms, one of which is stuffed with a homemade pesto. The potatoes are roasted in chicken fat to make them rich and salty and the carrots are pickled and sieved into an intense purée. 1877 plays with traditional flavours and gives them a new twist. The cheese course is a good example of this. The traditional sour cream porridge called rømmegrøt is served in a hot stone mortar. On top is a crumbled blue cheese from Stavanger. The dish is creative, but excessively rich. The chocolate dessert with barley ice cream rounds off the meal with some of the best flavours Norwegian cuisine can offer. A visit to 1877 is a visit you will remember.
Bodø can be one of the most unpleasant places on earth. It’s cold, windy, rainy, and the nightlife is almost non-existent. That is, until now. Restaurant Nyt has opened in the old premises of Smak (which has moved up to Tromsø) and taken over the position as the culinary frontier in central Norway. The rain still pours down in amounts that might lead to complete shutdowns a bit further south, but here they don’t seem to mind the weather, as they cast glances at small-shoed travellers fighting the wind with oversized umbrellas. The restaurant is buzzing, and the staff treat their guests as if they are all old friends. First course is a scallop cooked in its shell, sliced thin and resting in its juice with fried scallop roe. It’s a nice presentation of time and place, this being both the prime season and location for the mollusc. A composition of butter-fried Jerusalem artichoke with morel cream and morels is too brown, too salty and too creamy. The bread serving, to our relief, is awesome. Small pan-baked loaves of whole wheat bread with fermented wheat grains added in are excellent with the homemade butter that’s salted with the local salt from Saltstraumen (which has one of the strongest tidal currents in the world). The season is also peak for Atlantic cod, which comes almost all the way into the harbour to reproduce more Atlantic cod. This white, lean meat has been cured with salt and sugar for 24 hours before it’s baked and served with Romesco sauce, celery root purée and cod roe. It’s a light, perfectly salted fish course that leaves us longing for more. For dessert, raisin compote with bread crumble, coffee ice and coffee syrup has flavours that take us happily back to vague memories of what our grandmothers served at family reunions. We leave the restaurant with a reason to travel again to Bodø. Not to mention that they also have damn good coffee. Two reasons, then.
Forget all about foam, dust and live shrimp. Instead, lean back in the wide chairs and enjoy the classic French-Danish cuisine from the hand of the unassuming power couple, Lisbeth and Bo Jacobsen. At the helm of Restaurationen for more than 25 years, they do so much to make sure guests feel comfortable that we practically feel like we’re visiting them at home. This is the kind of true hospitality that you should find everywhere. Bo cuts thin slices of 660-day air-dried Danish ham at the table while sharing tales from far and wide. Along with the ham, we enjoy a perfectly poached egg with truffle cream, crisp croutons and freshly shaved truffles – a sexy dish and also the evening’s best. Pot pies with mushroom sauce and breaded sweetbreads are simply too much after two mouthfuls, lacking in freshness and contrasting flavours. The fish of the day is fried redfish, served on a vegetable terrine with a green parsley clam sauce. It tastes good, but looks like something a skilled home chef could easily prepare on a Saturday. A 2000 Henriot champagne at a very attractive price brings some added exuberance to the evening. The wine list as a whole is modestly priced, offering an impressive selection of vintage bottles, and we are expertly guided through it by the house sommelier. Our coffee is accompanied by Lisbeth’s fantastic selection of homemade petits fours. We leave the establishment full, satisfied and ebullient from the champagne. We don’t go here to be modern, but to enjoy expert service, drink mature wines, eat well-cooked food prepared with the finest ingredients, and simply surrender to the warm embrace of Bo and Lisbeth.
To say that Estonians have a love for Italian cuisine would be an understatement. You will encounter more Italian restaurants than ones offering Estonian cuisine in the Old Town of Tallinn. Bocca stands out among the better ones for its sleek design, but also refined interpretation of rustic Italian cuisine. The pasta dishes, for example, take something traditionally rustic and present them carefully plated, paying close attention to every detail. One can question if pasta really needs to be plated this elaborately, but the flavours are nonetheless sharp and rich. Bocca continues to feature game bird on the menu, and oven roasted wild pigeon served with salt baked carrots, onions, and dates. The underappreciated meat is paired beautifully with a glass of pinot noir, as suggested by the waiter. The small selection of fish dishes are also worth noting, like the grilled tuna fillet served with turnip fondant, Piquillo peppers and spiced red onion jam. We finish the meal with a classic tiramisu, a wonderful pick-me-up at the end.
Cru’s name is inspired by the world of wines, and lives up to expectations in various ways. We find ourselves returning here increasingly more often as it’s exciting to watch a restaurant mature the way Cru is doing, demonstrating great culinary skills and precision; nothing here is done without a reason or for the sake of vanity. Newer menus have included not just one, but several gastronomic treasures. Cru’s improvisations with the most common flavors of Estonia’s simple cuisine are especially pleasing. The so-called ice herring is a special late autumn treat, caught by the most skilled anglers in already frozen waters, and prepared with utmost care to bring out the delicate aromas of the stout fish. Ice herring season is definitely when you’ll want to visit Cru. The rest of the year, you can comfort yourself with another classic of Estonian cuisine––aspic. Estonians are so fond of aspic that every larger festivity is called an “aspic party”. The aspic at Cru, especially the one made with wild boar, is a true celebration of flavors. Living up to its name, Cru has its own wine cellar, furnished as another dining room, perfect for observing the wine maturing slowly and relishing in the peace that this process creates. Of course the beverage selection is wine-focused and Chef Dmitri Haljukov is always ready to suggest dishes to pair with specific wines, if necessary. The atmosphere is festive while also democratically tolerant and casual. It seems that the guests are maturing hand-in-hand with the restaurant, there are now fewer random passers-by and more regulars.
The name of the restaurant stands for “The art of modern Estonian cuisine” and indeed, Chef Rene Uusmees’ craft is impeccable and contemporary. Roasted pork with lard, pepper, coriander and garlic-fries or baked lamb with soy sprouts, cherry and red onions––everything here is prepared with utmost accuracy. The restaurant’s interior is rather interesting; there’s a moss-wall with neon lighting and the ceiling boasts sleek beams, as if to say, “Look! Nature and Estonian cuisine are one.”
As the saying goes, third time’s the charm. This means that if we want to achieve some clarity, we must try a restaurant least thrice. The first time probably offers beginner’s luck, the second time is usually a failure, and the third time is often magical. Latvia is the land of small eateries, you won’t find any chain-operations here. Three Chefs (Tris Pavari) and 3 are a bit of an exception, however, as they belong to the same owners. They are without a doubt Latvia’s most creative restaurants. In order to understand the nature of 3, you need visit it at least three times. That’s exactly what we do. The first time we meet some friends and socialize. We order an appetizer; marinated beets with goat cheese and horseradish cream, and we quickly realize that this place deserves a much more thorough inspection. Success. When we return the second time, the old saying, astonishingly, doesn’t apply. Nothing about our lunch goes awry. Mushroom pie and black garlic dessert get us even more exited to try everything else. The third visit takes place in the evening. Now there’s a world of possibilities, both à la carte- and tasting menus. There are three set menus, more or less elaborate amalgams of the à la carte offerings, as well as a vegetarian option. Latvian cuisine is, as of yet, internationally unknown, there are surprises to be had here. It starts with the bread basket; white cone-shaped wheat rolls with cocoa! “No, it’s definitely not a tradition, we like experimenting,” says the waiter. Marinated herring doesn’t taste sweet like in Sweden, or spicy, as in Estonia. If anything, it’s tangy; a clever match for horseradish-marinated potatoes. Slightly hesitantly, the waiter offers an apple distillate from local brew master Abavas. The tart nuances of both food and drink make for a perfect pairing. If you can’t visit restaurant 3 more than once, go for dinner and opt for a tasting menu, it’ll give you an idea of where Latvian cuisine is going these days.
Ten year old Ribe isn’t trying to pursue fashionable trends, it doesn’t need to. This stylish restaurant isn’t afraid of appearing quaint; the kitchen crew’s names are written on a chalkboard, wine glasses are stored in boxes under the stairs––all that is part of Ribe’s charms. The spacious dining rooms (on two floors) are flooded with light and teeter between old-timey and contemporary. This place will make you feel at home, whether you’re a local stopping by for some mushroom ravioli or a tourist who just wants to relax with a glass of Chateau Nenin 1999 after a long walk around the Old Town. Estonian restaurants usually prefer to hire local chefs, Ribe is an exception; Rado Mitro, who has built his career in London, is Slovakian. His interpretation of Estonian gastronomy is elegant and skillful: stewed cod cheeks with lemon mayo, served with buckwheat pancakes, Saaremaa beef tartar with onion-caper cream, pumpkin seeds and pickles, everything will make your taste buds tingle. The chef is betting on local products, yet doesn’t shy away from featuring imported delicacies such as Scottish salmon, prepared with leeks, langoustine bisque and almost flawless gnocchi. Some desserts are true culinary masterpieces. Don’t miss Ribe’s rhubarb-specialty, served with milk ice cream and dill oil. In order to fully experience Mitro’s local gastronomy, you’d do well to order the set menu of three- to six course. The service you wonder? It’s excellent: fast, accurate and very informative, a pleasant bonus.
Architects Sandell and Bohlin’s interpretation of a modern, socially focused restaurant is unique: a beautiful combination of harsh concrete, intimate floor plan and warm hues. Here you sit around the bar and the open kitchen or along the wall, shoulder to shoulder with other diners, many of whom have been hanging out at “Roffes” for many years. They often have creative but commercial jobs, which characterises the mood. Many of the dishes on the menu are classics. The perfectly fibrous braised ox cheek with smooth pressed potatoes is one such example. The always-crispy potato pancake with caviar is another. Johan Jureskog has run the restaurant for a while and has the sense to protect their signature dishes. Sometimes more elaborate compositions feel a bit uneven. But the kitchen does have a way with pig. The Iberico shoulder has a nice texture and fat, nougaty flavours. The pork belly confit with cabbage and beer-poached onions is also outstanding. The Lobster Thermidor has been under the broiler a little too long but is still really yummy, filled as it is with sweetbreads and foie gras. You would be wise to begin all this with snacks: a few slices of pata negra, some oysters and perhaps a handful of snails with lardo. Yes, the style is robustly masculine. The wine list is impressive both in breadth and depth, and the staff know how to match drinks and food, but sometimes this gets rushed over. Likely because of the awaiting diners who stand stomping in the undersized entrance. That Roffes is as crowded as an Indian train compartment and as loud as a college frat party is, however, part of the charm.
Located 100 kilometres from Helsinki the town of Lahti can be reached by train in less than one hour, and Roux, a charming family restaurant, is the main attraction for many visitors. The French tradition is obvious from the name of the place, but most of the ingredients they use are carefully selected from domestic suppliers with consideration for the season. In late April asparagus plays a major role. Fans of that seasonal delicacy can enjoy it in an amuse-bouche mousse, in a soup with morsels of smoked salmon and even for dessert in a posset with pickled strawberries. There are many other delicacies, including fish and game. A farmed whitefish from Bothnia Bay could not have tasted better with spring potatoes and garnished with anchovy crème. Chef Sami Häkkinen has good connections with producers up north, so reindeer is always on the menu, now as a tender fillet and hearty blood sausage. Roux is proud of their wine selection. Though they are open on the weekends, they do not have a lunch menu. In a way it is a pity, because this old chemist’s shop with its attractive traditional interior is practically made for brunching, which is still a rarity in Finland. The service is friendly, efficient and dedicated.
Sadama tee 10, Neeme küla, Jõelähtme vald,, Harjumaa
A couple of years ago, nobody knew what “ruhe” meant in Estonian. For German speakers, it means “tranquility”, but here it refers to a boat carved out of a tree trunk. The first thing that catches your attention at the restaurant Ruhe is one of these rudimentary boats, under a lone apple tree on a sleek wooden dock, set against the endless sea beyond. We’re willing to bet everyone who’s ever been here has a photo of that overly Instagrammable spot, it’s one of Estonia’s most picturesque, quiet and peaceful places, a mere 30 minute drive from Tallinn, in Jõelähtme county’s Neeme village. A place that is guaranteed to make you catch your breath while oohing and aahing. At first, the idea was to offer a fish-forward menu, prepared with mainly local catches, but the carved out boat and the tranquility turned out to be such magnets that there just wasn’t enough fish to feed the steadily increasing stream of hungry guests. Although they’ve adjusted the menu somewhat, Ruhe remains faithful to the bounties of the sea, and the food keeps getting better every year. By now, “the place with the boat” is confidently competing with the country’s best-known restaurants. Lately, Estonian chefs have been obsessed with goat cheese and beets. Frequent restaurant-goers might have tired of that combo by now, and although Ruhe is also guilty of dabbling with the two, do yourself a favor and order the beet ravioli with goat cheese, a marvelous goat cheese- and beet combination only found here at Ruhe. The dish is perfectly balanced, with a cream sauce that doesn’t dominate the unexpectedly pure taste of beet and cheese. The establishment is known for preparing common dishes better than anyone else, and it uses its own tricks to do so. Champagne is definitely the best drink to sip while looking out over the foamy waves. Thankfully there’s an excellent selection of sparkling wines, served by glass, to boot. If you have one too many, you can always spend the night in one of the well-appointed guestrooms. We promise you, the same boat and tranquility will be there when you wake up in the morning, and like us, you won’t want to leave.
Grand Hôtel, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8, 103 27 Stockholm
Chili, lime and coriander. Avocado and mango. These components are from a lot further afield than Mathias Dahlgren’s former “natural kitchen” concept. With Rutabaga – ”a world-class vegetarian restaurant” – he is headed in a whole new direction and invites us to experience flavours and ingredients from around the world. The interior is decorated with greenery, and naked light bulbs create a warm, welcoming glow. A bartender shakes cocktails – developed in collaboration with the kitchen. We begin with an alcohol-free, homemade kombucha poured over a glass of beautiful red berries. The version with alcohol is based on umeshu plum wine and is topped with tofu foam and small flakes of nori; it smells like sushi and tastes delightful. The appetiser goes well with the drinks – seared spicy pineapple, roasted cashew nuts, sesame bread and fresh yogurt cream. What you see is what you get: Mango and mozzarella are mango and mozzarella; avocado with jalapeño is avocado with jalapeño. The simplicity is striking, but everything is fresh and flavourful. If you want to drink wine, it comes in four different sizes. Choose between light, full, funky or exclusive – white or red. A lot of the dishes follow the formula of “main ingredient plus condiment”. For example, the small, fried falafel-like chickpeas balls are accompanied by of a coarse pea guacamole. The roasted cauliflower comes with a deep-green ”béarnaise”. The highlight of the evening is raw, grated carrots on a bed of silky mayonnaise, sprinkled with peanuts and coriander. Eggs and dairy products are allowed, but rarely play the main role except in a few dishes: a light echo of Dahlgren’s previous restaurant Matsalen, appears in the truffle-laced, fried “twin” egg yolks with large, tender white beans. Rutabaga is the sort of uncomplicated and consistently enjoyable experience we would like to see more of.
This is a top-rate sushi joint. Though we miss the intimate view of the chefs at work, now that the bar section is gone, we get to watch as the stylish, oblong glass panels are carried in laden with sushi and sashimi pieces. Aw, shucks! We should probably have also ordered a few nigiri with seared cod and apple purée. It’s like a parade of pastel-coloured confections. And everything looks unabashedly good. Less colourful treats, like the gunkan sushi with grilled duck heart, get visual help from a cummerbund of thinly planed cucumber. When one gunkan falls to the floor (the one with scallop tartare, browned butter and miso emulsion) the waiter immediately offers us a new one. “It’s one of my favourites. I don’t want you to miss out”. The sweet seafood pieces with umami-rich cream are delicious. Our humble and easy-going waiters also have full control of everything drinkable – from the bitter Reparationsbajer (“recovery beer”) from Denmark’s To Øl brewery to a polished, mineral sake. We even get a sneak taste of an Argentinean white, just because “it’s so good”. It suggests a certain confidence to serve a mixed sashimi (Moriawase) without any other bling. But there is ingenuity in the other dishes, like zander with lardo from Swedish Wagyu, and beautiful beetroot-salted halibut. The food is imaginative, tasty and loaded with finesse. Our glass plate, overloaded just a bit ago, is now almost empty. Not even one roe remains. It was just too good.
Ræst is among the small enclave of restaurants in Tórshavn that excel in traditional Faroese cuisine. You can count on an experience that will get completely under your skin – and on your clothes. Upon entering the centuries-old wooden house, you are immediately bombarded with the pungent smell of fermented fish and lamb that sticks to – and remains on – your skin, hair and clothes. We are welcomed by the chefs, who also serve as waiters and sommeliers; they escort us through a couple of low-ceilinged, homey rooms with crooked doorways where classic Faroese decor combines with beautifully set dining tables. The five-course menu is firmly rooted in local traditions and ingredients, including a confoundingly airy and delicate lamb blood sausage cake with a cream of cod hung to age for three months, mixed with stilton cheese and angelica, giving the clearly fermented cod sharpness and acidity, which in turn is balanced by the sweet pickled raisins. It’s a cavalcade of flavours with amazing lightness, and the harmony is completed by a complex ale with fresh bitter notes, KOKS Ræst Fisk by Mikkeller. The next dish features exquisite skerpikjøt, a wind-dried lamb hung for eight months whose appearance and taste is incontrovertibly in the same league as pata negra, together with slices of a fatty, roasted sausage with significant umami notes from offal. The dish is also accompanied by egg cream with beer-pickled seaweed, sunflower seeds and Dijon mustard. After having enjoyed this dish, the chef informs us that we have eaten sperðil: pan-fried slices of fermented lamb sausage stuffed in its own intestines and made with the tallow surrounding the intestines. The dish of pork fat and meat is very beautifully arranged – and highly delicate. The dessert with angelica is also deftly executed. For novices in controlled rancidity, the odour and certain dishes require some acclimation, but the visit is highly recommended as a historical, cultural and culinary experience for life.
A relative newcomer to Trondheim’s dining scene, Røst maintains its position as one of the frontrunners for the city’s best restaurant. Situated inside Trøndelag Teater in a lush, spacious room previously used as a theater stage, you could be fooled into thinking that the cuisine is as old-fashioned as the white tablecloths and red velvet curtains that surround you. This is not the case. Despite the formal backdrop the menu is wonderfully eccentric and diverse, with surprising textures and flavour combinations. With an ever-changing menu you never know what you will get – perhaps a beef tartare with Kalix bleak roe served in a crêpe to be eaten like a soft taco, or butter-fried potato bread with whipped sour cream? From the homegrown herbs to the yeasted sourdough and the impressive execution, these well-renowned chefs (from such fine dining bastions as Ylajali and Maaemo) aspire for greatness. When in peak form, Røst serves some of the most fully balanced and inventive meals in the country. While this level of quality is not always evidenced throughout the whole meal, the three, five, or eight-course set menus are well worth your time. In fact, expect to spend half an hour on each course. In the meantime you can chat with the clever, welcoming staff, peruse the evening’s theater productions, and mentally begin planning your next visit.
Salt proves that small can also be big. It might be a local restaurant, but its fame reaches far beyond its home turf of Kadriorg. There’s a couple of reasons for this: the drinks never cease to amaze and the food is a fireworks display of gastronomic bravado, a culinary United Nations of sorts as Peru, Laos, Sweden, China, Malaysia, France, Japan, Italy and Thailand are all represented here. And though some may say this is a baroque exaggeration and an overly enthusiastic endeavor, it works for Salt because the restaurant manages to ace even the most ambitious dishes. Though we’re not going to lie, occasionally the execution fails to stand up to the idea. The seasonal menu changes weekly, and yet, with all this variety, there is also some sense of permanence. Grilled octopus with crispy potatoes, red onion, fennel salad and perselata (a Spanish sauce of parsley, garlic and olive oil) has been on the menu every time we’ve visited. “As requested by our guests,” says the waiter. They’ve tried removing it several times, bringing about protest from the regulars. The staff is highly skilled at pairing this rollercoaster of global flavors with various beverages; the wine list includes sparkling wine from England, red wine from Georgia, ice wine from Romania, there are also pilsners, lagers and other suds as well as non-alcoholic options, and splendid cocktails. Contrasting all that brouhaha on the plates, Salt is sparsely decorated; the result is simple, beautiful, and very cozy. It gets crowded during prime dining-time, making the place look more like the overpopulated dining room of a private home. You’ll want to sit next to the open kitchen, the better to chat with the chefs about the peculiarities of the current mushroom season that brought about the black trumpet risotto you’re enjoying.
When dining at Sarfalik, it’s impossible to forget that you're in Greenland. We're reminded as soon as we look out the top floor windows, with views that encompass sea, mountains, snow (most of the year) and local street art. We're also reminded, of course, by the menu. Sarfalik does its very best to embrace and cherish what is uniquely Greenlandic, with ingredients such as musk ox, angelica root and caribou. While the menu at a glance has an air of New Nordic about it, the kitchen is not constrained by any rules; imported goods are freely featured. We let the chef's choice be ours, and are rewarded with an appealing first dish: a generous heap of pale pink lumpfish roe with pickled onion, darker pink beet-coloured sourdough, lumpfish meat and more, topped with thick, tangy crème fraîche. It's a joy to look at and eat, as the fresh roe burst between our teeth. Another high point of the evening comes in the form of tenderised, smoked strips of caribou, accompanied by homemade kimchi and shallots in different forms. Throughout the night, fish competes with meat for the throne, but Sarfalik is also one of the few places you can be comfortably vegetarian in Greenland – the kitchen lets its creativity loose in dishes such as pea terrine with beet and rye crisp, and blackened asparagus. Whatever's on the table, it's pleasantly paired with traditional wines. The three sweets that come with the coffee are a fun affair, showcasing a range of inventive flavours and textures. In spite of the natural light, the dining space low-lit and classic as can be: there’s even a piano player in the corner, delivering mellow tunes.
Savoy is an institution in Helsinki, which is not so strange given that its space on the eighth floor was decorated by design icon Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino in 1937. It is worth going just to see the setting. Since Marshal Mannerheim’s beloved Vorschmack has been a regular feature on the menu for almost 80 years, they cannot stop paying tribute to this national hero: Polish “balls” of lamb and herring with beets, smetana and pickles. That said, today the Savoy is a place that attracts tourists and dressed-up locals looking for traditional fine dining. The service is impeccable, the tablecloths are starched, the views are captivating and wine is served at the proper temperature. The food is classic French – the pigeon comes from Anjou, asparagus is in season as soon as it shoots up in France and sole is served Belle Meunière. You pay for what you get, with most entrées hovering just under 50 €, and the wine list includes innumerable, expensive and mainly Old World bottles. Over the years the quality at the Savoy has fluctuated between mediocre and really good. This type of cuisine, with a lot of imported ingredients and classic recipes, works great if the kitchen is fully focused on execution, but is not at all forgiving of missteps. This spring we have noticed some sloppiness at the pots and pans, which we hope is temporary. Savoy’s kitchen is at their best when they let a little New Nordic inspiration seep into all that Francophila, like when a refreshingly acidic fern consommé is nicely balanced by the sweetness of onion purée against a sounding board of Puy lentils and mushrooms. The recommended pinot noir from German Jurtschitsch matches perfectly. More ideas like that and the bill might feel a little more affordable.
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.