March 2, 2017

A few bites of Sweden

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My Favorite Cousin's birthday was coming up, so it was time again for me to take her out for her birthday.  Frantzén's Kitchen has been on my "hit list" since it opened a few of months ago, and I figured that by now they should have hashed out many of their issues, so I decided to book us a table via their website a few weeks ahead.

A couple of days ago, I wanted to double-check my booking, but couldn't find the confirmation email in my mailbox.  It was sent by a booking service, and a keyword search in my mailbox didn't return any hits because I hadn't typed in the accent above the letter "e"...  So I decided to call the restaurant and confirm it over the phone.  The first person who answered the phone - with a more "Asian" accent - couldn't find my reservation. This sent me into panic mode.  Shit!  Was I dreaming that I had booked the table online?  Did something go wrong in the final steps of booking?  Where would I get a table for this birthday dinner on such short notice?!

I decided to make another booking for a later date through the restaurant's website, and got a confirmation email right away.  Using the address of the sender, I managed to find the original confirmation email for this meal, then called the restaurant again.  Thankfully, the person who picked up the phone this time - with a more "Western" accent - found my reservation almost immediately.  Crisis averted!

Knäckebröd - the rye crispbread came wafer-thin, and the three of us probably went through about 5 or 6 trays of it throughout the evening.  It went down so easily because it just seemed to be made of air...

... and the fact that we could spread the beurre noisette on it.  I probably went through two to three mounds of it by myself.  It was sooooo nutty and savory!  Calories be damned, imma inhale myself some more of this!

We ended up ordering one portion of each of the 4 snacks for each of us - except for My Favorite Cousin who refused to eat "Bambi" - then shared the rest of the courses.

Apple- and lingonberry macaron - sandwiched between two "cookies" of apple meringue was a thin wafer made with apple and some smooth and creamy chicken and duck liver parfait, and some chewy, dried lingonberries (does it get more Swedish than this?), with a sprinkle of lingonberry powder on top.  Light and airy.  Inhaled in one bite, and disappeared in a 'poof!' The liver parfait delivered pretty strong and savory flavors, and made me wonder whether it's been fermented.  Delicious.

Poached oyster "63.4C" - I asked and was told that this was "Gaia?" oyster from Normandy, bathed in cream along with Hernö Gin, and sprinkled with frozen gooseberries, seaweed powder, walnuts, and sea spinach on top.  Some acidity here, but thankfully there was plenty of cream to balance it.  Very nice.

"Swedish sushi" - ah yes... this was the moment when I - to quote Mr. Locust describing his experience of dining at Noma - felt like a reindeer.  The "shari" was actually a chunk of lichen, and the "neta" was a thin slice of fallow deer that was very soft and very tender.  Instead of wasabi, there was a rich and savory cep mayonnaise.  Instead of brushing the neta with soy sauce, the kitchen shaved frozen foie gras on top and sprinkled some hay ash.  We were told there were coriander seeds in there somewhere, but I wasn't able to pick out their distinctive flavors.  In case anyone was wondering, Bambi was delicious.

"French toast" - one of the signature dishes that I'd seen so many pictures of.  Rather than pain perdu, I thought it was more similar to the seemingly ubiquitous "bikini sandwich" that popped up around town a few years ago.  A layer of stewed white onions held the two slices of toast together on their sides, and some Swedish cheese was spread on top, before black truffle shavings were added.  A few dots of 25-year-old balsamico became the final touches.  This was, of course, delicious.  What's not to like when there's black truffle shaved on top?!

Sashimi of Norwegian salmon - normally I wouldn't touch generic Norwegian salmon with the proverbial 10-foot pole, but... I guess I'll trust the guys here to source it.  In addition to the raw salmon, there was also some very creamy king crab, along with delicious trout roe that required a little bit of effort to pop.  There was also crunchy cucumber julienne, crunchy raw onions, fennel seeds, as well as the triple-dill - fresh dill, dill powder, and dill pollen.  Unlike a number of my friends, I'm no expert on Nordic cuisine, but I'd be hard pressed to find a dish that was more Nordic to me than this.  Was it good?  You bet your ass it was.

Pan-fried Hokkaido scallop - another busy-looking dish.  The scallops were buried underneath a pile of stuff, which I assumed to be the "cauliflower x 4" in the description: sliced cauliflower, cauliflower purée, caramelized cauliflower purée, and I'm guessing cauliflower foam.  Add to this some burnt bread pudding that was sticking to the plate and that beautiful beurre noisette I'd be shoving in my face since the moment I sat down, and it's easy to see how I completely missed the existence of mie de pain that was supposedly there, as well as noticing what hay ash was supposed to bring to the dish.

North Atlantic skrei "janssons" - this was a damn delicious piece of cod, browned to caramelized the edges.  It sat in a deliciously rich sauce made with beurre blanc and anchovy oil, topped with onions, crispy onions, vendace roe, and dill powder.  Even though it wasn't really cold tonight, this was such a warm and comforting dish that I immediately ordered up a second portion - after bitching to myself inside my head that there was no way I was leaving this place with just half a mouthful of this manna from heaven.

Tartar of Swedish dairy cow - dry-aged for 100 days and served with smoked eel which added a really nice dimension to the flavor profile.  Topped with mushroom julienne, crispy onions, chopped chives, and flowers. The menu said herring caviar, but I thought I heard our server say squid ink.  In any case, this seemed less like real fish roe and more like avruga.   A beautiful dish both visually and taste-wise.

Veal cheeks - cooked for 24 hours so it was very tender, but honestly I can't remember any sweetbreads in the dish.  Swimming in this creamy, foamy sauce that had acidity from ättika.  Topped with a combination of glazed carrots, carrot purée, and crudité carrots covered in dill powder - as well as fresh dill and crispy onions.  Must say this was pretty damn good...

Roasted Swedish pork belly - YES!!! Pork belly!!! What more can I ask for?  Maybe some pumpkin purée, roasted black garlic, pumpkin seeds, and kale chips.  The carrot "hot sauce" really packed a kick, which I think came from the sprinkle of chili powder.

Green asparagus - someone decided that it was too weird for us to order all this protein without any veg, so we picked up this bowl of asparagus.  Came covered in fermented white asparagus juice, and a dab of curry-flavored purée on the side, plus verbena, pistachios, and some bitter flowers.

Smoked ice cream - our server came to pour the hot fudge onto the candy dome, melting it to reveal the contents underneath.

So we've got some smoked ice cream, tar syrup (we eat tar?!), and some cocoa nibs and nuts for the crunch.  Pretty tasty, and the cloves in the salted fudge was really nice.

"Syltkakor" - meh.  I'll trade these brown butter shortbread with some of that beurre noisette they used to make them.

I brought a bottle of Aussie shiraz in honor of my Aussie cousin, and ordered a bottle of rosé Champagne that I love.  They ended up waiving the corkage for the bottle I brought.

Chartogne-Taillet Le Rosé - nice and fruity, strawberries, yeasty nose.  Always love this Champagne.

2006 Mollydooker Carnival of Love - decanted for 1 hour before pouring back into bottle for another hour.  Lots of coconut butter upon opening.  Showed forest notes as well as sweet fruit.  Still pretty tannic but very sweet on the palate.  The alcohol was evident at 16%.

This was a very good dinner.  I was very much relieved that the dishes we had weren't swamped in acidity, like the scallop prepared by Björn Frantzén at the Michelin Gala in Macau last year or many of the dishes I had at Noma Tokyo. The main dishes were also warm and hearty, which was great.  There were no fails tonight, and I pretty much liked every single dish we had.

If I had to pick a bone, it would be with the service.  Not that the staff weren't friendly or incompetent, but I had some issues with the introductions to the dishes.  I understand that the dishes are complex and there were many different components, but the staff seemed intent on reciting all the ingredients as quickly as possible - that it all turned into one big blur.  Taking literally a few more seconds and slowing it down would make things much easier to understand.

Well, guess what?  I have myself another reservation for next month.  Let's see how many new dishes they come up with by then.  The good thing is that even if they don't, I'd be happy to eat pretty much anything we had tonight as an encore performance.

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