If you are the least bit enthusiastic about smørrebrød, the Danish claim to culinary fame, you are likely to fall in love with Schønemann. The restaurant is, as is customary, situated a few steps down from street level, and first thing that catches your eye is the well-stocked bar. Few places in town can compete with Schønemann’s offering of over 140 kinds of schnapps – and if you find the volume daunting the staff are very skilled at finding the very best match for your order and taste buds. The menu is extensive and you can definitely find every kind of traditional smørrebrød here, as well as quite a few original inventions. Some pay homage to regulars and Copenhagen icons like “Renés favourite” dedicated to Noma’s chef, a light creation of Greenland halibut, creamed cucumbers, radishes and chives. The service is folksy and friendly, and very knowledgeable. Although it’s a smørrebrød classic, shrimp is often a disappointment at Copenhagen establishments, as they’ve often been swimming in brine longer than they were in the ocean. Not so here, where both the plump, hand-peeled shrimp and the homemade mayo on the “shrimp pyramide” serving passes the test with flying colours. We are served an oaked dill schnapps to go with “Havfruen” (The Little Mermaid) and it works very well together with smoked salmon, halibut and the dill-spiked shrimp mayo that tops it off. Herring (house-pickled, of course) is a must here, as is trying one of the nine different variations on tartare. Those sceptical to raw meat need not fret, the seared tartare (named after restaurant critic and smørrebrød aficionado Ole Troelsø) is the perfect introduction – spiced up with cognac, lovage and garnished with horseradish and deep-fried capers. So how many smørrebrød can one eat? Well, according to Schønemann’s: two will lay the foundation, three will make you feel satiated, and four will end the meal with a smile.
In the summer town of Porvoo you can eat well all year round at Sinne, situated a bit off the beaten path in a somewhat anonymous grey concrete building on the main road. The restaurant’s interior is industrial with huge pipes suspended from the ceiling and bare walls. It can get loud in here at times. But the waitresses do everything to make the diners happy, and they succeed brilliantly. The restaurant attracts a younger crowd who gladly sink their teeth into the famous hamburger. But try the five-course menu instead, which is Finnish and progressive and contains lots of local produce. The superb spelt bread comes from Malmgård a few kilometres inland, and the lamb meat is from Kivikko, just five kilometres away. (“We bought all 20 animals.”) Some of the meat is salt-cured and served as an excellent amuse-bouche. Some of it was made into the tartare that kick-starts menu, served with cured grated egg yolk, pomegranate and mint cream. A 65-degree egg comes with caramelised butter foam, green asparagus and fried potato shreds. It is slighty overpowering, but the Italian sangiovese provides the requisite balance as a finishing touch. An extremely thinly sliced king crab gets a bit lost in a sauce of fennel and spinach, but it tastes good. The kitchen chooses to braise the boneless veal rib-eye until tender, but is not entirely successful. The amazing cut becomes a little dry. Finally, the birch ice cream gives us a taste of Finnish summer. A panna cotta contributes a continental note, but pieces of almond cake and white meringue sticks emphasise the Nordic heritage.
A red cottage accommodates the small, homey restaurant with sturdy wooden tables and alluring ambiance. Upstairs there are a couple of hotel rooms and a short distance away in the village are the family’s two newly opened sister establishments. It is primarily the Bertilsson brothers who now run the restaurant side of the family business, and with a clear focus. The ambitions on the plate extend so far that their goal is to be completely self-sufficient in vegetables within a few years, a project that is already well advanced. Everything served this evening has its provenance either in their farm in Funäsdalen or comes from very local, carefully selected producers. Rustic dishes dominate the menu with natural flavours inspired by the mountain. The food is simple; every ingredient has a role. The dishes are a tribute to the region and that which nature provides. Homemade charcuterie starts the meal, followed by a buttery Jerusalem artichoke purée topped with pleasantly tart pickled tarragon, slow baked lamb and fried Jerusalem artichoke chips. These tender, nurturing flavours are paired with a nice cream ale from Åre. The beverage recommendations are consistently knowledgeable, and natural wines are chosen gladly so the pure flavours fit the food. The service is familial and professional, present and empathetic. Crunchy rainbow trout fried with its skin on is balanced with round sea-saltiness from trout roe, fermented fennel and mashed potatoes. Yes, in the menu it says simply, “mashed potatoes”. Liberatingly unpretentious.
Oslo has a fair amount of restaurants with a view, but few can beat Skur 33 in that regard. Situated in a refurbished harbor warehouse on an old pier, this Italian seafood trattoria with an attractive terrace is a sure winner as far as outdoor crustacean experiences go, but it doesn’t need its vista to satisfy. Here, robust flavours get comforting, traditional treatments – a typical three-course can include a wonderfully savoury soup with Norwegian skrei and Italian vongole, a big flaky piece of halibut with crunchy speck and risotto, and an almond crème brûlée. It’s a no-nonsense combo of Mediterranean execution and – at least to a certain extent – local produce and fish. If you want something less expensive, there’s always pizza, courtesy of a traditional brick oven that greets you when you enter the spacious, picturesque and surprisingly cosy venue. The wine list is well stocked, although hardly surprising or non-traditional, and the prices are acceptable. The welcoming staff serves up food with big, well-balanced flavours that will have you singing, “That’s Amore!”.
Situated right on the idyllic harbour, Sletten is one of those restaurants that never seems to disappoint, and everything from the welcome to dessert flows effortlessly and elegantly – we never doubt that we are in good hands here. Sletten has a constantly changing menu of smaller courses that you can combine as you like according to your level of hunger. Ingredients are locally sourced and the proximity to Øresund is emphasised in the menu. This is the place to enjoy a well-prepared and deeply intense fish soup made from a stock of turbot and lobster, further enhanced by black trumpet mushrooms – as well as an enticing view over fishing boats, the pier and the thatched roofs of the well-preserved Humlebæk houses. Or you could try the fried skate wing with lemon-marinated kale topped with mussels. The food is fresh, colourful and well balanced – this is, after all, the sister restaurant of well-renowned formel B in the city centre. The Danish classic dish “brændende kærlighed” (burning love) is a comforting plate of buttery-soft mashed potatoes, dehydrated and deliciously liquoricey beetroots, crispy ventrèche and delicately prepared sweetbreads. A succulent cut of Iberico secreto is fried to pinkish perfection, and the rosemary ice cream atop a pear cream covered with a crisp almond tuile is a delightfully not-so-sweet ending. The wine list is excellent, and Bourgogne aficionados will surely spend a lot of time poring over what to choose. There is also a good selection of wines by the glass.
A stroll through the park and a break at the castle’s Matcafé is a perfect start to an afternoon off. If your goal is to maximise your evening, book a tasting menu in size small, medium or large, at the castle’s impressive Matrum. Slottsrestaurangen has Skåne and Småland as favourite landscapes and the menus change from day to day, driven by clever creations and availability of ingredients, like moose tongue, sweetbreads, cod skin or goose. The dishes are served on handmade porcelain that has been specially designed with inspiration from the castle’s rooms and facades. Whether you take a big or small spending mood with you, the visit is an almost magical experience. We test the daily special and get cherrywood-smoked salmon from the kitchen’s smoker with dilly mashed potatoes. Bands of dill-marinated cucumbers beautifully cut lengthwise, freshly harvested carrots and a parsnip marinated to outrageously sunny freshness are strewn helter-skelter. It would be inappropriate to lick the mash from the plate, but we sure we want to. Both the Matcafé and Matrum are located in the castle with its 800 years of history, and it captures the imagination. It turns out that Thomas and Charlotta Begic accept bookings from all over the world, sometimes of the more quirky type – like a wedding party with a menu comprised only of medicinal plants. After a charmingly handled cappuccino using beans from Balck Coffee, the local roastery in Kalmar, Slottsrestaurangen conjures up a glass of red wine with a balanced, incomparable roundness from northern Médoc. It is a perfect finish.
The dynamic duo of Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet have had a major impact in the restaurant industry in recent years. The most obvious being the move from fine dining to quality, fun eating. Under Marcus Lindstedt's leadership their most institutionalized restaurant, Smak, has parked itself confidently at the forefront of the group. The concept remains the same: small plates from world cuisines are served in rapid succession, each with a single, dominating flavour. You order by making checkmarks on a form, and there are also carefully selected beverage options with each of the dishes. We really enjoyed a brioche with sirloin steak, foie gras and ginger perfume, as well as a pointed cabbage wrap with sweetbreads with a bit of a chilli kick. Dilly brandade of cod from Lofoten and char with nutty brown butter, crispy (!) oyster mushrooms and trout roe, all illustrate the style nicely, too. On the sweet side the trio of pear, mint and chocolate invites you on a trip back to the 70s and we conclude that not everything was better back then. Even the setting is cut from the same conceptual template. It has the generic feeling of a modern big city restaurant over it all - stylish and properly put together, but not without cosiness. High ceilings, large windows, soft lighting from ornate light fixtures, muted colours, smoky mirrors and tapestries are a warm contrast to the glass and concrete of the surrounding city neighbourhood. The guest mix is eclectic - a mix of suits at work dinners, dating young couples and county officials up for a conference. The service is easy-going and knowledgeably leads us through the food and drinks.
Smalhans is a refreshingly non-themed neighbourhood restaurant, perfectly suited for St. Hanshaugen’s hipsterfied gentry. The rustic but tastefully furnished restaurant is popular and usually filled with a varied mix of young and old, hip and not so hip. For lunch there is simple fare like soups, burgers or fried eggs. Between 4 and 6 pm you can buy “Dagens husmann”, a reasonably priced well-cooked meal served family style. The food on offer might be anything from old school everyday Norwegian cooking like raspeball (potato dumplings) with boiled salt pork to French classics like bouillabaisse or Korean crossover-style steamed buns. In the evening the menu changes to a more sophisticated daily set menu where you can choose between five (Smalhans) or nine courses (Krøsus). A pleasantly acidic halibut ceviche with tiger’s milk and peanuts starts off our meal. Alongside the ceviche, a salad of beets, hazelnuts, kale and kubbeost (a fresh farmhouse cheese) is competently prepared. The lamb shoulder confit is tender, juicy and flavourful in a rich sauce of olive oil and butter with an abundance of fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes. An escalivada is served alongside – a Catalan dish of roast vegetables. While tasty, it’s marred by undercooked aubergines. Dessert is a variation of the classic Norwegian waffle, albeit a slightly flaccid specimen, served with bilberry sorbet, bilberry compote and salt caramel. Interesting organic and natural wines dominate the wine list and the service is informal but charming and effective.
Snapphanarna from Göinge were, according to the history books, warlike peasants who fought against the Swedish crown. At the Malmö restaurant of the same name, the battle is over how to refine what grows next door. The brothers behind Vollmer, Malmö’s best restaurant where seasonality is king, have established in Snapphane their own casual dining restaurant following the same motto, albeit in a more relaxed and pared down form. Snapphane is a tightly run establishment. The chefs work with quiet concentration in the glass-enclosed kitchen located in the middle of the space. The menu is short and the wine list, too. Ebbe Vollmer with his staff guide diners expertly through the evening. Snapphane breathes fine dining, with its sober decor, perfect lighting and its hyper-modern kitchen. And they succeed in the details, not least in the bread serving of small stuffed rolls that make us happy. The parsnip-filled bun sprinkled with liquorice powder in particular elicits shout for more. Later we receive a plate of buttery, sweet-salty salsify with trumpet mushrooms. It’s fiercely good. With each wine serving we get a lesson in oenology. A pinot noir from New Zealand matches the guinea fowl served with a crazy umami-dense purée of fermented vegetables. The dessert is an ode to autumn: dark pink strands of coloured, crunchy pear, a pear parfait rolled in blackberry powder, and a lovely cream made of white chocolate and buttermilk. Snapphane is a bargain among Malmö’s restaurants, especially for those who seek excellent service and good ingredients cooked with a gentle, steady hand.
Time stands still in the beautiful idyllic surroundings of the open-air museum replicating a historic village, Den Fynske Landsby. Unfortunately, the staff fail to establish an air of authority, comfort and tranquillity around our table, even despite the arrival of tried and true Sortebro Kro classics, such as the straightforward tomato quiche and crisp croquettes of pork with a smoked mayonnaise dip to get us started. Of particular note are the strong wine pairings with the maritime dishes. The Burgundy glasses are filled with a full-bodied, fruity vintage that perfectly accompanies roasted cod garnished with fresh pink salt bombs of lumpfish roe and the concentrated sharp taste of onion disguised as small pickled ramson capers. Also on the plate are diced pickled gherkins and a thick, rich bisque made from the cod’s bones to tie it all together. While the cuisine is excellent, our waiter is a bit robotic as he lists the wine options and leaves the dough for the bread with the oyster dish to rise in a jar on the table before baking. The inn nurtures a great love of baking, as reflected in the bread basket with homemade varieties such as sourdough bread and focaccia.
You can still pop in and hope for a spot here, but now you can also book in advance, which pleases those of us who want to ensure a place at one of the three communal tables. While getting acquainted with our neighbours, we try to choose from among the evening’s dishes. It’s not entirely easy, but thanks to the small plates concept we can order several. Speceriet is the “bakficka” to Gastrologik, a casual dining side that shares a kitchen with the fine dining establishment, so while the dishes are less sophisticated than at the main restaurant, they are delicious and composed with playful finesse. A fluffy “blini” made from chickpea flour arrives in a small skillet topped with the finest bleak roe and delightfully smoky sour cream – a brilliant start. Our knowledgeable waiter recommends a glass of Ca ’Lojera from a magnum to go with it. Egg sandwich with truffles? Yes, thank you, and at every brunch for the rest of our lives, please. Under a sunny-side-up egg hides an umami-fueled Parmesan cream, sautéed onions, and a slice of brioche. Over all of that they’ve sliced a generous amount of Gotland truffles. The attentive staff look after us, making sure the flatware holders on the tables are full and chatting with the diners. A duck breast that’s so tender we almost get tears in our eyes is pleasantly accompanied by pickled oyster mushrooms and the smoothest pumpkin cream. Do we have the energy for one more dish? Oh, yes. And then dessert – Jerusalem artichoke ice cream in caramel sauce with a chocolate crisp from Sthlm Bean to Bar.
Things are so pared down here that the wine glasses lack stems. The space consists of only a few square meters, with black and white furniture framed by exposed brick walls located at an address that is easy to forget. But that hasn’t stopped the whole city from finding it. Since its inception five years ago, Chef Antero Aurivo has devoted himself entirely to capturing the essence of authentic Finnish gastronomy and presenting it in the clearest of ways. The evening’s barely underway and he has already turned winter potatoes into perfectly crispy small spheres, beets into sweet-soft pieces of candy and the forest’s mushrooms into crisps. Vegetables have the leading role in the four and six-course menus. Meat and fish are also present, like the pike that has barely crossed the border from raw glassiness and swims in a deliciously oniony-sweet fish broth. It takes a lot of composure not to gorge ourselves on the signature sourdough bread with fluffy butter. Restaurant manager Marc-Antoine Marcoux handpicks natural wines with justified self-confidence and changes them often. Åland lamb and Jerusalem artichoke are perfectly matched with a buoyant but not too thin southern German pinot noir. Late harvest loin-de-l'oeil is absolutely sweet and delicious with malt cake and blueberries with whey sorbet, even though we manage to drink most of it with the preceding tiny apple pie. Overall there is nothing at all to complain about when the friendly, cool and low-key team at Spis provides the kind of completely seamless food and service experience that we so often crave but rarely encounter.
You would have to have a heart of stone not to fall in love with the welcoming, urban, relaxed atmosphere at Spisa. We also fall a little in love with the knowledgeable and attentive waiters and waitresses, who really do their utmost to ensure a good experience. Are we hesitating between two wines? They suggest a sip of each. How is it cooked? They’ll check with the chef. Share a glass? No problem! We are equally happy about the cheeky drink list with sangria and rebujito variations, and the many gin and tonic combinations. The food that travels over the counter from the huge open kitchen along one long side of the dining room is well prepared and comforting, with deliberate crowd-pleasing French-Spanish-Italian hits in their own interpretations. There is something for everyone – in the absolute best sense. The crispy-fried boquerones with lively tarragon mayo and poached eggs, and the coarsely cut beef tartare with tangles of fried potatoes both taste exactly as yummy as they sound. We cannot imagine anyone who can resist the totally decadent, creamy, al dente risotto topped with browned butter, sweet, nutty roasted chestnuts and grated truffles. A cool Langhe nebbiolo to go with it is just what the doctor would have ordered. The main courses are large, and a little less daring flavour-wise, but they work fine at a family-style dinner where everyone picks from each other’s plate. Just like at sommelier and restaurant king Björn Persson’s other restaurants, the wine skills are far above average here, and you can safely let yourself be guided by the rather short but well thought-out list.
In a short amount of time Stadskällaren in central Skellefteå has become an institution in town. With courage and decisiveness, the old paint shop a few steps down from street level transformed into a restaurant entirely integrated in the well-stocked delicatessen – or is it vice versa? It does not matter, for this is where anyone interested in food gathers, either to eat in or to buy a complete gourmet bag to cook at home. The restaurant has its own twist on tapas with small plates that make it interesting for a variety of palates. The menu is divided into four sections: greens, meat, fish and sweet. Five small dishes are equivalent to a three-course dinner. Each component in tonight’s composition of moose, Jerusalem artichoke, lamb and smoked cod is excellent in and of itself, and plays in perfect harmony. The beverages are selected with great care and local character. Even if the setting can at times be a tad noisy, don’t let it get to you. Instead, sit back, enjoy the atmosphere and let the very professional staff take care of you.
A good fifteen minutes’ bus ride west of Oslo, as the villa density thickens and the housing prices rise incrementally, somewhere along the coastline lies Strand Restaurant. Overlooking a number of jetties where the locals keep their sailboats, profiled Norwegian chef and cookbook author Tom Victor Gausdal promises to provide a natural dining experience, free of additives and with a clear focus on organic food. He has built up a whole industry here that spans over multiple fields, and where Strand is located you’ll also find a bakery and a wedding venue along with the restaurant itself. All this heavy use has worn the house down somewhat since its opening in 2010, but the food still holds to a high standard. There are various set menus to choose from, a selection of three, five or six courses from the main set menu, or the cheaper three-course menu that’s available during a couple of hours around dinnertime. Either way, there’s no risk that you’ll leave Strand feeling peckish as the dishes are generously sized. We find ourselves with two main courses – a deep dish of oxtail, gnocchi and shiitake mushrooms and a lovely lamb dish with asparagus, both with a side of mashed potatoes that has been given a solid amount of butter. We finish this off with a platter of homemade crispbread and Norwegian cheeses (if you’re lucky you can taste the delightful, multiple-award winning Norwegian blue cheese called Kraftkar). The expensive cab ride back to Oslo centre has seldom felt as affordable.
Every self-respecting city should have a restaurant that summarises its soul – at least the fashionable part. For many years Sturehof has shouldered the role of “Brasserie Stockholm”. Open from morning to night, everyone seems to hang out or pass through here at some point during the day. The patina of Jonas Bohlin’s interior only becomes more beautiful over the years. It’s classic blond Swedish divided into several sections with a large oblong dining room tightly fitted with damask-covered tables. The entrance is in the middle of the premises so everyone can see who steps forward to the maître d’ podium. Fish and seafood are the main features on the plates and all the ingredients from sea and lake are sustainably caught. The kitchen does a pretty good job, which is impressive given the high pace and the number of diners. The house’s seafood sausage is fun as are the lovely and classic quenelles. From the Barents Sea comes cod, lightly cured and served with shrimp, horseradish and a brown butter hollandaise, so scrumptious it can be eaten with a spoon. Oven-baked turbot from Kvinesdal is served with beurre blanc, the zander comes from Lake Malaren and the apples in the finale are from Små-dalarö. The foie gras, prepared au torchon, is as good as it is heftily proportioned. The wine list follows the same brief, as does the service staff, who are multitudinous, experienced and quick. On Fridays this is a fun scene for those who slaved away in neighbouring offices during the week.
The large windows facing out towards Frederiksgade, the somewhat dilapidated, glossy white-painted floors and the raw oak tables scream bistro, and leather aprons on the waiters, tattoos and long beards play into this style, but the food is exceptionally beyond everyday bistro. We are addressed in a relaxed tone, feel that we are being attentively served, and the presentations are precise with an appropriate degree of detail. The wine list has an affinity for the low-sulphered styles, but with varying degrees of success. We start with finger food in the form of small, soft and chewy Danish tacos with an elegant crab salad, while a small crustade with lumpfish roe gives us a taste of the kitchen’s generally delicate style, with its ultra-light flavours. On the other hand, a brilliantly crisp, precise and tender malted dough quiche with mussels, raw pickled cucumber cubes and kohlrabi packs powerful flavour, but is unfortunately dominated by a cream of smoked fresh cheese. However, Domaine Rietsch’s auxerrois 2015, with its slightly bitter and umami-saturated fullness, tempers the smoke and the two work nicely together. Dry-aged beef (103 days) is featured in the next dish, cut into raw bright-red flakes, over a kind of tartare of cauliflower and Havgus cheese, with a topping of French sorrel. The deep flavours of the dish harken back to the Stone Age, but the acidity is too weak; meanwhile, it’s impossible to determine whether Les Parcelles Tète Nat was chosen because the dish originally had acidity, or due to the sommelier’s wishful thinking. There is no bread with the food, but the bread arrives as its own dish, fried and oil-drenched with powerful flavours and accompanied by a fresh, spring-inspired relish of veg and almonds. It’s light-hearted, delicious and much-needed at this point. Our sommelier demonstrates keenness in the choice of Hervé Villemades Les Souchettes 2015 from Cheverny, a wine with extreme malolactic character; it’s paired with the last season’s Gråsten apples, slow-baked for amplified flavour and topped with caviar of white sturgeon and a divine reduced buttermilk with browned butter. Underneath it all is a relish of pickled fermented beach plants. It’s a memorable, inventive and ingenious dish showcasing fundamental culinary elements in synergy: crunch, softness, creaminess, sweetness, acidity and umami. Two meat dishes – one with sweetbreads and celeriac ragout, and the other with grilled, braised pork breast – demonstrate the same brilliant simplicity, including a sauce of chicken stock and walnut, where the bitter and nearly caramelised sweetness of the walnut support bitter varieties of cabbage on top of the pork. The Jerusalem artichoke caramel with a coconut-like flavour, served with pear cubes and sweet woodruff, is in the same harmonious zenith as the apple-caviar dish. All in all, an adroitly executed orchestration of contrasts.
It all goes so fast. In the traditional Tokyo-style, called edomae, the name for the sushi that became the world’s first fast food in the early 1800s. In one and a half hours we’ve enjoyed 15 servings in the form of an omakase, i.e., the chef’s choice. Carl Ishizaki packs a big experience into this little room, which is cramped and rather spartanly furnished. Behind the counter he and his mates assemble the servings with a light hand and good humour in disarming, long-sleeved undershirts to the tune of 80s pop music. It begins with a series of small dishes, and we are impressed by the tuna cubes with green okra, puffed rice and an egg yolk that’s been marinated overnight in soy sauce and sweet sake. We are asked to mix it all together to experience the sweet-salty-tartness in a soft cream with roasted notes. More smoke, acidity and fat are supplied by the dish with halibut and plum vinegar – perfect with the soft, elegant notes of a Masumi sake. There are mostly Atlantic fish among the eight nigiri pieces, and these are served with a slightly sweeter sake: Daishichi Masakura. The sake also gives wings to a fun variation on herring with pickled spring onions and crushed ginger. The best, though, is the seared rainbow trout with rice that’s been laced with lightly fermented vinegar. A third, more rough and woodsy sake combines nicely with the ocean notes of salmon roe and Galician sea urchin. The recommended sake pairings are an interesting journey into a new world of flavour, though Japanese beer or fresh German riesling wines are good alternatives. There is no doubt that Sushi Sho delivers – although perhaps in the fastest way possible.
“What strength would you like?” the waiter asks, when we have trouble reading the menu and wonder if they have some reading glasses we can borrow. This says something about the level of service at Svartengrens, where a remarkably well recruited and warm staff unpretentiously and safely pilot you through dinner. When the waiter explains that the flap steak on the cow sits next to the slightly drier flank – and that the tres major sits above the flatiron steak, in front of the ribs, and has a bit of the same character as filet mignon – he does so with his whole body, as if in a dance. It is precisely these different cuts that are the draw at one of the city’s hottest destinations for carnivores. All of the meat comes from small producers close by, often in the Stockholm archipelago. In the restaurant’s basement it is tenderized, smoked and cured. Then it is served with the sophistication that only really good meat can be, naked and alone on the plate, with optional condiments on the side. “Onions, Onions, Onions” is one of the better options, with memorable crispy panko-fried rings. The starters take longer to prepare, like a flower of rolled slices of dry-aged roast beef and coppa standing on end, surrounded by sugar-salted cranberries, thin mushroom slices, and bone marrow butter. Sublime. If you did not have time for a cocktail in the bar before dinner, treat yourself to one with dessert, like the little gem straightforwardly described as “sugar peas, champagne and vermouth”. The venue is often crowded, the customers young and savvy, the wall art liberal and impressive, and the atmosphere is always as high-pitched as the music streaming forth from the speakers.
Swedish Taste is much more than an elegant restaurant. Here they offer cooking activities for groups of friends and businesses, conferences, events and even bags of groceries from the small café/shop next door. The location, opposite the Gothenburg opera house, characterises the crowd, especially when the “Tenor box” (as Gothenburg has dubbed the music scene) hosts one of their more popular performances. There is an opera menu among the tasting menus, of course, but all the dishes here are affordable enough, even to order à la carte. The kitchen works happily, as the name suggests, with a lot of Swedish ingredients, but the flavours and spices are often of more exotic sort. Though this does not apply to the venison tartare that has been given a slight scorching, served with flavour-boosting black garlic and green juniper and some pears for sweetness. Things get really yummy when a plate of fermented Jerusalem artichokes with walnuts and browned butter lands on the table and the talkative waiter proficiently grates Gotland truffle on top. They place great effort in finding good wine matches here, and with some of the dishes the same talkative waiter holds miniature wine tastings to make sure we’re satisfied. To match the tender lamb from Sjuhärad with salt-baked beets, fermented blackcurrants and fun, popped amaranth seeds, our choice falls on a muscular Portuguese wine from Quinta do Vallado instead of the proposed Swedish one. But of course Sweden is in our glasses when the dessert is apples with a little fried donut; Brännland ice cider is hard to resist.
On Brunkeberg hill, Stockholm’s new entertainment district is emerging under the name Urban Escape. At the top of the building is Tak, one of the most talked about restaurant openings in recent years. Chef Frida Ronge’s (formerly of vRÅ in Gothenburg) Nordic Nippon kitchen now has a new home and the food is an appealing, clever mix of Swedish and Japanese ingredients, flavours and techniques. One example is the house “algae potatoes”, which are grown 25 meters from the sea, covered with algae, resulting in a firmer texture and more nutrients. They are served with Arenkha caviar (herring roe), sour cream and herring with a mild, smoky taste; unmistakably Swedish but with a Japanese sea note. Some things are finger-licking good, like the house donburi – a mixture of chicken, sweet and sour pickled rutabaga, rice, sweet caramelized onion and a perfectly baked egg whose flowing yellow yolk binds it all together in a delicious mix. Sure, the flavours get a bit messy, with all those potent ingredients in one deep, beautiful bowl. But it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Another perfection is the grilled redfish that flakes beautifully when it hits the fork joined by a complex “salad” of rice, almonds and iceberg lettuce, moistened with a mayo made from roasted garlic and chicken. All of this is topped with shredded dried pork. Oh yes, it’s seriously extravagant and dastardly good. On the concise list of sweets (there are only two) a tasty ice cream of roasted rice stands out. The restaurant is smart and modern, and the dining room designed by Wingårdh is very “now”. The open floor plan has stylish room dividers and in the background a large tattooed entourage in white coats prepare the food in the kitchen. It’s fun, playful and yet elegant with gold metal, wood, leather and concrete as base notes. The flow of light through the large windows is dazzling – as is the view, with large parts of the city at your feet. On the beverage side, sake plays prominently in different styles and temperaments. This is the place to get more closely acquainted with the complex world of rice wines. The large terrace outside is guaranteed to be this summer’s most coveted place in the sun.
Tango is a small, bright, elegant restaurant located within sight of the harbour – a place to see and be seen. It has a great view of the city, which is only exceeded by the view from their rooftop seating area, where the restaurant serves food from the grill throughout the summer. At first glimpse Tango might seem to have a fine dining concept. The staff are perfectly groomed and formally dressed in suits behind the welcoming desk. The tables are covered with white linen, and the diners are also formally dressed. But when the waitress comes over to have a seat on the couch next to us while she presents the five-course menu, we realize the place is a little more relaxed and informal than it appears. Tango defines its offering as "rough dining" , and there are several reasons why, including the loud noise from the bar and the fact that the bar and the restaurant share restrooms. The menu captures the essence of Stavanger in a classic but technically diverse way. The two first servings are like tiny jewels of white asparagus and herring with egg cream. They are gone in a second and easy to mistake for teasers, especially as they are not accompanied by wine. The two following plates have a very different style. They are bigger and more traditional. A trout from Sirdal is served with ramsons, pickled cucumber, fried noodles, fennel and chervil. Both the trout and the new interpretation of lamb fricassee attempt to balance on the border between an everyday Norwegian dinner and a luxurious dining experience, but unfortunately end up on the less exciting side of things. Tango offers a reliable restaurant visit when it comes quality and expertise, but the menu and the classic wine pairings are very expensive in comparison with what you get.
Gustav Öhman, the restaurateur at Taxinge Krog, lives for food and loves talking about food with his customers. He is excited about the chewy gluten strands of the last delivery of Warbro Kvarn’s flour, about the taste of the meat from the six-year-old cow that he had the privilege to come by, and the delight in a childhood memory of BigPack ice cream now reinterpreted in a version containing strawberry, porcini and spruce shoot ice cream. In the next second he’s acting as sommelier, presenting his selected drinks with equal amounts of engagement and knowledge. He explains how the flavour of the beers or the organic and biodynamic wines will pair with the food. Non-alcoholic beverage pairings are also available, with different flavours of house-made barley waters. He is currently assisted by a young Swede who, during his internship in Paris, was referred to Taxinge because it is considered to be at the forefront when it comes to green and sustainable cooking. The rumour has reached Europe. It’s true, Gustav probably runs one of Sweden’s most sustainable restaurants. The plant kingdom forms the basis of the food served here and he uses as much as he can of each ingredient. The season governs what is collected, grown, picked, fished, butchered and prepared. The menu is fixed at six to eight small dishes that vary week to week, depending entirely on what his small producers and entrepreneurs from the neighbourhood have to offer, or what they find in the forest and soil.
Renowned and respected since its inception, Tchaikovsky’s French-Russian cuisine harkens back to the Golden Age of imperial Russia while using Nordic ingredients to make it contemporary. It’s the sort of place where local dignitaries take important foreign guests, its weekend suppers are accompanied by wildly popular live music sessions blending tunes and flavors in a multi-sensory spectacle. Both are particularly delicate at Tchaikovsky; subtle and refined aromas are Chef Vladislav Djatšuk’s signature. It takes great skill and patience to develop such rich flavor nuances, even more to keep them consistently on the same high level. Start with the traditional dishes: pelmeni, blinis, borscht (definitely with pies), etc., they are dulcet, classical cantatas compared to the rock n’ roll versions you’ll find everywhere else. Adding to the festive atmosphere is the grand interiors that make a soirée here feel like a visit to the Bolshoi. Do yourself a favor and finish off with a classic dessert, the pavlova and the baba au rhum are divine.
Tore Wretman knew what he was doing when he opened the doors to Teatergrillen nearly five decades ago. Across the street is the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s stage entrance and the goal was to attract the best-known names from stage and film. Specially discounted prices after performances did the trick and the place became a veritable celebrity magnet. Even today the crowd consists of entertainers, albeit of a different kind – these come from the financial world and the political scene. And they have a decent amount of money. Which may be needed, for it is expensive at “Grillen”. In exchange one gets to see one of the country’s most complete restaurant experiences come to life. This includes the gentle clatter when the silver carriage rolls over the wall-to-wall carpeting, the mannered murmur of a self-conscious and sometimes recognizable crowd, along with well-mixed cocktails. The spot-on 60s interior design by Yngve Gamlin does its part to establish the Mad Men aura, with nicely divided rooms, marble, theatre props and red velvet. Even the output from the kitchen rests on a classic foundation. From the aforementioned silver trolley comes a hearty piece of salt-baked beef that’s carved tableside and served with a lovely tarragon-laced béarnaise. Another feature taken directly from Wretman's era is Tosca pears, which it’s fair to say is rather simple for SEK 145. The cod bourguignon with beef brisket and fried almond potatoes as well as a foie gras terrine with fried oyster mushrooms are as well prepared as they are apropos. The masculine service staff are stoic and knowledgeable and match with the environment and the atmosphere. In the small entrance bar you can order slightly simpler fare: a burger or toast Skagen with a glass of wine.
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.