Tuesday, December 25, 2012

An amazing evening at Maaemo in Oslo

After a good meal at MaaemoI normally only write about restaurants in Stavanger but I had a great experience in Oslo that I would like to share with you. A while back there was a lot of publicity about the restaurant Maaemo as it went from being a fairly new restaurant that not that many knew about to being a restaurant with two Michelin stars – I think it is the first one in Scandinavia that went straight to two stars! I read about this a while back but I’m not in Oslo that often so chances for checking it out was slim. But in December 2012 my wife Nikki and I was going there for her annual Christmas party and I figured that it would be a great opportunity to check it out. The restaurant seems to be fully booked all the time even if they allow pre-booking 60 days in advance. As I was booking 60 days in advance I just waited until midnight until the right day opened up for booking and booked a table for 4 on December 7th 2012. I will post photos directly into this blog and I have tried to put them in more or less chronologically.

A view to the restaurant P1010559

P1010555The restaurant is not that far from Radisson Plaza hotel in Oslo but due to road work we had to do a de-tour through Grønland to get there but it is within walking distance. The restaurant pretty dim lit and with a pretty discreet sign on the outside. We were met by the door and our jackets got taken care of and we were taken to our table. The restaurant is not that huge and it seemed like all the tables were on the lower level while the kitchen was on the upper level. Our table was set already and each of us had a small folded menu with just keywords of what was on the menu that night. We decided to go for all 10 courses as we were celebrating and soon we had a glass of champagne each and we also got a wet cloth to clean our hands. I guess the cloth made sense as the first dishes was served without cutlery.

P1010560First we got a small snack made with a Norwegian cream cheese called Nyr served with roe…served on a frozen rock. It was a small piece of art and for a minute we were just looking at the little pieces before the waiter told us to enjoy it while it was cold. I think the piece was a bit too cold as it was a bit frozen. Next pre-starter was lobster in carrots again served on a slab of rock and next dish was a warm, grilled potato with a herb mayo and sprinkled with dried egg yolks. All of these dishes were just pre-starters and they were served quickly and presented in detail.

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P1010563The small dishes continued with crispy chicken skin, a sour cream with cured reindeer heart and small cones with a taste of chicken liver, crowberries and juniper. The latter dish was presented in a juniper bush in a wooden trough. There is a first time for everything and the next dish was sea urchin and I think this is the first time that I have tasted that. Served in the shell itself the orange “meat” didn’t look that appetizing but the taste was like tasting the ocean. We continued with some red cabbage and then we went back to seafood again when we got an oyster emulsion with a mussel gel topped with a sauce of blue mussel and dill.

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After all this we were finally ready to get started on the official menu and it started with quite a “show”. We got a piece of langoustine served on pickled spruce. It looked great to start with but then they came and poured a liquid into the bowl and I guess there was some dry ice in the bowl as there was lots of mist coming out of the bowl and it had a spruce fragrance of course. We continued with some scallops and went over to a quail egg served with veal tongue. Next we got fresh wheat bread served with some sort of wheat beer. I don’t think I have seen that served as a separate dish on a fine dining restaurant but the bread was great!

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P1010587There was also some interesting combinations coming up…the next dish was monk fish but it was poached in the fenalår infused butter – fenalår is a traditional Norwegian food around Christmas time and it is dried and salted leg of lamb.  Before we got the next dish, the waiter presented a gigantic carrot at the table. And that is just what we got…an organic grown carrot cooked at low temperature it is own juices. It was not a very exciting dish in my opinion.

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P1010594The following dish was more exciting – it was Jerusalem artichokes with duck breast and the mushroom broth was made at the table with some sort of contraption. By this time we were starting to get comfortably full and also a bit tipsy after a glass of wine for each of the main dishes. P1010596But we continued with a dish of chicken heart served with burnt onions. It was time to round of the meal but first we went through beet root sorbet!, a goat milk ice cream with apple sauce and the last dish was brown butter ice cream with hazelnut crumble that was delicious. We rounded off with coffee made in an old fashioned way.

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AP1010609ll in all this was an amazing experience. We went for the 10 course dinner but we went through a lot of pre-starters so we had about 20 dishes altogether. All dishes were presented in great ways and I’m glad that they didn’t have too many theatrical presentations as that can steal some of the attention from the food itself. P1010615The food itself was great and this was a real treat for us. So if you are going to celebrate something special, go ahead to try to book a table – it won’t be easy. In the end the ladies got a small bag with some candy together with a summary of the menu, presentation of the farms and people that Maaemo cooperates with to find the organic raw materials that they need to create the culinary adventures every night. Thank you for a lovely evening Maaemo and thanks to Henning and Heidi for the great company.

If you want to read more about the restaurant you should visit the restaurant homepage on http://maaemo.no/

http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Salza Steakhouse–not the most memorable meal

P1010493Salza is a steakhouse located right on the harbor of Stavanger (on the Straen side) and it has been around for quite a few years. I have tried to go there a few times but it always seems to be fully booked. But a couple of weeks back I decided to try again and I was able to book a table after we had done a city walk around Stavanger town.

P1010485The restaurant is located in an old “sjøhus” – one of the original houses around the harbor area of Stavanger (just like the houses that you find at Bryggen in Bergen). The restaurant occupies the ground floor while there is a night club upstairs and at the very top you can find a meeting room or a room for hire in connection with parties.

P1010486We came in on a cold evening and we got the menu pretty fast from our waitress. We decided to go for a starter to share as we were quite hungry and we decided to have some meat (surprise surprise) as our main meal. But you can also go for burgers, pork, lamb and they even have a fish dish on the menu. Before we got our food we got a few pieces of thinly sliced bread served with three types of dip…a tomato kinda salsa, a yellow bell pepper salsa and a red bell pepper mayonnaise – quite tasty to have three different dips.

P1010487The starter was “KFC Kristoffer’s fried chicken”…which seemed to be deep fried chicken pieces which the same red bell pepper mayonnaise. The chicken pieces were juicy, had a zing and seemed to be freshly made….excellent. I wonder if the colonel knows about the unauthorized use of the name of the dish ;-)

P1010489Nikki decided to go for the grilled rib eye (known as entrecote in Norwegian) and I went for the sirloin. Nikki ordered her steam medium rare and seemed to get it pretty right and it was served on top of a bit of vegetables. I’m all for the “avoid the gigantic portions” but I think there could have been a bit more vegetable. Nikki was pretty OK with the meat but it could have been warmer – we were a bit puzzled that the plates were not hot when the food was served.

P1010490My sirloin was served with beetroot, fried mushroom and a pepper sauce. I asked for the steak to be medium and I think it could have been grilled a bit more and I had the same issue as Nikki that the steak was not that warm and not served on a really hot plate. So I guess it is kinda sad that what I remember best from the meal is the potatoes that we got to share as they seemed to be freshly made, they were hot and were seasoned just right.

P1010491I had a glass of red wine to start with and I was pleasantly surprised that they could offer three different kinds by the glass. But when the main meal was served we were asked if we wanted to have something to drink and I said “Yes, I would like to have another glass of red wine”. I guess the waitress forgot all about me as I never did get another glass of red wine. When we walked out of the restaurant we were not totally blown away by the dining experience – the meat was decent enough and the service was good enough. But it was not a memorable meal in any way.

Read more about the restaurant and book a table on their homepage. The main meals were about 350 Norwegian kroner (about 60 USD) and my glass of red wine was about 105 Kroner (about 18 USD).

http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chili Thursday at Thai Cuisine

IMG_4613Stavanger’s iPhone app UrbanKandi was the source of our recent dining experience - Thai Cuisine restaurant is on the corner of Kirkegaten and Øvre Holmegate. The façade is mostly glass so passersby can double back and peak in if something looks tasty on customer’s plates. We had some pre-Xmas errands to run - yes Xmas is not that far away – before we arrived approximately one hour earlier than planned. There were a few guests and table settings seemed to ready to receive a number of guests in larger groups. The owner was very welcoming and led us to our table and we had no qualms about hanging up our jackets as the restaurant was just the right temperature – not too warm and not blasting cold air con either.

IMG_4615There was a faint aroma wafting from the kitchen but not overpowering as spice laden dishes sometimes can do. The table setting was simple but met our needs. As it was the newly launched theme night “Chili Thursday”, red was the main color to be seen. Our plates were adorned with fresh small chilies – not recommended for pre-dinner snacks though. And larger chilies were strewn across the tables. There are 2 separate bathrooms – the ladies room was a welcome site. Clean, with plants and a bunch of blood red roses. There is also a convenient coat hanger – a necessity in colder climate cities.

IMG_4611We had the pleasure of meeting the chef who has varied experience and a background from the SE Asian hotel industry. The owner himself was previously an oil man. Judith was our attentive and friendly waitress. The menu included a variety of dishes to meet every palate – for those who like it hot and the not so adventurous friends that come along with them. The concept of “Chili Thursday” seems to stem from commentary from locals and visitors that have travelled to the East and enjoyed the local food served as it should be. The Norwegian cuisine generally does not include much in the way of curry / spices - certainly not chili – and thus locals are not used to truly spicy/chili based dishes. Having grown up with a Malay/Indian influence on local South African cuisine, Nikki has no problem with hot and spicy. In fact the spiciest dishes I’ve ever encountered was the aptly named Indian Fireball pizza at a local take out place in Johannesburg and then a beef in green curry dish on one of our first trips to Bangkok. In order to meet the needs of the predominantly Norwegian customers, a number of restaurants in Norway tone down the spiciness of their dishes. However, vindaloo is still “put the fire out hot” where ever you go in Stavanger.

IMG_4614As this was the first time we were going to try the Chili Thursday menu we decided on dishes that were on different levels of the hotness scale. We shared spring rolls as an appetizer; beef in ginger (medium) and Chili Tom Yam noodles (red hot) as the main dishes; and rounded off the evening with spicy coconut balls. We were thoroughly impressed with the presentation of all the dishes – a subtle touch of Thai with the styled chili and orchids. Food and plates was served warm and plates and cutlery replaced with each dish. The crockery is plain white – without the customary patterns on the edges – but letting the dishes themselves be the attraction.

IMG_4616We both enjoyed the spring rolls (fresh, firm vegetables; not too sticky/chewy rice paper wrappers; tantalizing tamarind based sauce with quite a kick). The Tom Yam noodles were not as red hot as expected. The soup itself had a sweet taste and the spiciness kicked in a bit later on - making it a multi-tiered taste experience. The stir fried beef was well rounded with a milder sauce but we did think that there could have been a bit more ginger in the dish.

IMG_4617We were pretty stuffed after the meal but the Chili Coconut balls sounded too interesting to be missed. And it was quite a combination as the chili balls were a bit on the spicy side and served on top of sweet fresh grated coconut flesh - a great combination. It is a shame that the Singha beer is 80 kroner per bottle (about 14 USD) as it is refreshing with a cold beer whilst enjoying spicy Thai food. But all in all a great meal and on next chili Thursday we’ll be sure to try out something super hot - if we can handle that ;-) The main dishes cost about 230 kroner in average (about 40 USD)

Gard & Nikki
Http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Congratulations to Renaa Restauranten

Renaa Restauranten was just reviewed by one of the larger newspapers in Norway (VG) and they got a 6 out of 6 score. You can read the entire review in Norwegian here http://www.vg.no/vgpluss/article/15HOZZN but let me translate the conclusion.

The bill did not come as a surprise. The 8 course dinner with wine, coffee and avec cost about 2500 Kroner per person (plus tip) (440 USD). You can get a meal cheaper as the seasonal menu cost 795 kroner (+ extra for the drinks) but it will be pricy no matter what. Too expensive? Not for those who work within the oil industry. But not too expensive for the foodies either which tends to have money on a special account for experiences like this. It was not too expensive for the couple in love on the table next to us..and they also stumbled out into the night after getting their lives enriched by eating one of the best meals you can eat in Stavanger or even in Norway.
Value for money: it is expensive but it will be hard to find something that can beat this experience

So congratulations to Renaa and his team for the achievement and for bringing some attention to the Stavanger food scene. Read more about the Renaa restaurants on their homepage http://www.restaurantrenaa.no/indexStavanger.htm

http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spiseriet –the new Stavanger concert house’s dining spot

P1010438The new Stavanger Konserthus (the new concert house) officially opened in September 2012 and in the same building, they opened a new restaurant in town called Spiseriet. We decided to check it out in connection with celebrating our wedding anniversary and I booked a table online on http://spiseriet.no/bordbestilling/. It is still early days for the new concert house so there are lot of events and there were concerts going on when we got to the restaurant at about 7.30 PM on a Saturday night. P1010441The restaurant is located in the lobby area of the concert house which has both positive and negative sides. It is a pretty open layout and with the big window façade, you get an amazing view of the Stavanger harbor area and a genuine feel of a lively arena. We managed to be seated around sunset, and we were lucky with the weather. But with the open layout you also face challenges when it comes to the music from the concert arenas, crowds walking past etc.

P1010442When we arrived I had to wait a bit as there was no one to welcome us to take us to our table. We were taken to a table that was set up for 4 persons which I found a bit odd as I had booked a table to just 2 people and there were other tables setup for 2 people. My wife wondered if we should request a table near the window, to better enjoy the view but we figured there might also be a draft so class to the windows. P1010443The menu was already on the table and in connection with the opening they have a 4 course menu and we decided to go for 4 courses with paired wine. The only problem was that no one came to take our order – I think we sat there for 10-15 minutes and no one came over to say hello and welcome, to ask us if we wanted an aperitif, if we wanted some bread to nibble on etc. After we had waited a while we realized that we had to take action to actually get to order some food so I tried to send some discreet signals to one of the waitresses. In the end a Danish waitress came over to take our order and as the menu was not that detailed we asked questions about the ingredients of some of the dishes as Nikki has some lactose issues. Our waitress seemed a bit uncomfortable with the situation and later on she told us that this was a first time for her so she was a bit insecure about the whole process. Which was a bit disappointing – there was only one menu that evening and she had to enquire with the kitchen when Nikki made enquiries about the soup.

P1010444After we had placed our order another waiter came over to us to ask us if we had placed our order so it seemed like there are some communication issues at the restaurant. We did get some bread to nibble on in the end and the first dish that was served for me was a creamy mushroom soup served with some toast pieces and parmesan cheese on the side (or actually on top). The soup was maybe not as creamy as I would have liked it to be but it contained some nice chunks of mushroom and it was served hot. I was not too keen on the choice of sparkling Spanish wine Anna De Condorniu for the soup – I would have preferred it as an aperitif.

P1010446The next dish was scallops with paella. It was served in a strange plate and to start with it looked like there was foam in the middle but it was just the plate that had a dome in the middle. The scallops were served warm, braised to perfection and just the right consistency (not rubbery/overcooked) and their twist on a traditional paella was, for lack of a better word, exquisite! The paella was rich, with a lemony/lime undertone and a pasta like consistency. This time the accompanying wine Condes de Albarei Albariño was spot on.

P1010447The main dish was lamb and it was served in two parts: one plate with a lemon/thyme/garlic mayonnaise and a small pot next to it. The small pot contained pieces of lamb, potatoes, cabbage and a rich sauce. The lamb was excellent – very tender so obviously cooked for a long time, quite hot and perfectly paired with the mayonnaise on the plate. The wine was Louis Jadot Bourgogne Convent des Jacobins Rouge which I enjoyed.

P1010449The dessert was a frozen cheese cake served with a generous chunk of stirred raspberries and an even more generous portion of Fleur de Cap Noble Late Harvest (and as I love the sweet dessert wines I did not mind that at all). The frozen cheese cake was sweet and it was delectably balanced by the tanginess of the frozen raspberries.

P1010451Conclusion: The first impression of the restaurant was not very good at all. We had a less than warm welcome; we waited a solid 15 minutes (with no bread/water/apertiff served) before anyone took our order. But when we did get to order and they started serving, the food turned out to be quite a culinary experience. The staff also seemed to be more attentive once contact was established as even the maître D came over to replace the knife Nikki accidently dropped. Although my wife and some friends had a light dinner here during the soft opening, and had a lovely evening with few hiccups (coffee and the bill), it seems there are still some other basic issues that need to be resolved here. Getting the bill also took quite a while and when I did get it, it was not correct but before I could point it out the waiter was gone and I had to wait for another few minutes to get it corrected. But I would love to go back when things are flowing better and they have introduced a more extensive menu.

P1010452During the meal there were various levels of noise coming from the concert arenas and also announcements over the loudspeakers about start of the different events so I’m not sure this is the best place for a romantic and quiet dinner. Which is a contrast seeing as the menu that evening was more suited to our needs. There was a varied crowd of guests – concert goers; couples on dates; double dates; and larger groups (8-14) of colleagues and friends. The décor was in line with the first floor of the concert house – modern industrial (?). The table and chairs were notably a nice height – although I didn’t find the chairs to be that comfortable. The lighting was rather harsh – with spotlights directly over each table. During our meal the lights were dimmed and then reset and just as we were paying, all the restaurant lights went off. That night there seemed to be no option for drinks in the bar but if you take the stairs up one floor, there was a bar with a spectacular harbor view.

The 4 course set dinner was 495 Norwegian kroner (about 85 USD) and the wine pairing was 455 Norwegian Kroner (about 80 USD). You can read more about the restaurant on http://spiseriet.no/ but at the moment it seems like it is only in Norwegian.

http://gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures