We did a 3 week tour of Norway and this is the journal of the dining experiences. Norway has some really exceptional offerings. We found great meals in every city we visited, some super spendy, some pretty reasonable. Norway is expensive, but it's a good place to eat well. Both because eating well is always better and because the inflation was steeper on cheap food than on expensive meals. The sandwich in the ordinary cafe was far more inflated than the pre fixe plate at the local destination dining room. Be aware that July is a weird national forced unpaid holiday and many places will be closed. June and August would be better choices for visiting and having a wide selection of places to eat. Some nights we struggled to find anywhere open.
Prima Fila was a nice place for dinner. Himself had the reindeer on a puree of celery, demi glace, with a forest berry sauce and roasted potatoes, creamy and rich. I had the seafood soup which was really more of a bisque, with 4 nice pieces of a white fish and 2 succulent mussels floating in the rich broth. The bread was a nice tender crusty loaf. Service was good. We were happy with our choice. There is great outdoor seating. Near City Hall.
Dagligstuen offered a good luncheon, and comfortable casual sidewalk seating with excellent people watching. The brew selection satisfied the guys and I had a really nice cocoa. We had a mix of salads and sandwiches. The frys were particularly good. The shrimp on my salad were tender and sweet, not over cooked at all. The club sandwich was stuffed with moist breast meat and fresh lettuce and crisp bacon. The service was casual but friendly and while it is a hotel restaurant it had good offerings in an area where things were pretty uninspired.
Cafe Cathedral was smack in the middle of the tourist arcade that is Carl Johans Gate. We wandered out our last evening in Norway. We had had a good dinner early on, but late in the evening I was starving so we walked out in search of something open. The Cafe Cathedral had a lively buzz going on, heaters that kept everything comfortable on the attractive outside verandah that curves around the corner and gives a good view to all the street activity whilst being somewhat removed from the bustle. I took a risk and ordered 'Chicken skewer with apricot sauce and sweet potatoes.' The waiter had never tried it and was dubious, but it just appealed for some reason so I ordered it. It was very good! The sweet potatoes were mashed and creamy with a tiny touch of heat that gave it some interest, and the chicken was moist, flavourful and tender. The apricot sauce was a puree of sorts, not quite a jam, but somewhere in the middle and added a nice fruitiness. Himself was happy with the brew selection. We were surrounded by happy people drinking and eating, so a nice find in the midst of the dreck that lines the street.
Cafe Sara is a brew pub with a large beer list. Nice vibe and friendly personal service. We took advantage of the mild evening and sat out drinking and eating for hours in the endless twighlight, watching the international crowd. It felt like you could, if you listened carefully, hear every language in the world! The beer was good, the food was fine. The lamb chops were tender and thin enough it would have been hard to make them rare, but they managed medium rare and it tasted fine. They have long hours going for them so when you are looking for dinner and everything seems closed, Sara's is still serving food.
Hokkigai Sushi was a pleasant surprise. When we entered it was hard to tell if they were closing, or had never opened. I would have left but others in the party were more hungry and less fussy so we stayed when they assured us they were serving. It all looked a bit sketchy but in the end the counter chef spoke english and helped us muddle thru the Norwegian version of Japanese and everything that came out was fresh and tasted good. Nothing exotic, solid sashimi, nigiri and maki. And Walu! I was a happy camper. The rice was a bit sweeter than I cared for but not over cooked, and all in all it was a success.
Bangkok Thai was on one of those evenings when we were all tired from walking miles and just wanted something nearby and easy and this fit that bill. The food was fine, not great, and pretty salty. The service was friendly. We sat, we ordered, we got food fast, we ate and we went home to bed. Nothing wrong, but I wouldn't go out of my way.
Waldemars cafe had 'potato boats' that were a big hit with the guys and good beer. A local pub.
Maaemo. Culinary Theatre of the Absurd. Book 90 days and 2 seconds out, tables go fast. Pull out your credit card and a fire extinguisher so when it starts to melt you can put out the blaze. Then go and forget about all of that and focus on the experience.
Somewhere in the midst of the second course I was trying to eat the morsels in my mouth, remember what they were and process the flavours, while listening to the waiter explain the next course. I had to raise my hand and say "Excuse me, I'm sorry, I can't eat eat this and focus on everything happening in my mouth and listen to what the next course is going to be. Could we slow down please?" They were very lovely about it and retreated so we could get our mouths and brains all on the same wavelength again before moving forward into one of the loveliest meals I have ever had. The rest of the party had the wine parings, which were very generous pours. By the end of the meal 4 hours later the wine drinkers were tottering, buzzed and in food comas. I had the juice pairings and loved it. Refreshing, surprising and beautiful. I enjoyed sips of the Spouse's abundant glasses of vino, but was happy most of the time to savour the unusual beverages I was brought with each paired dish.
There were many things in the meal that were surprising:
Spruce! Juiced! Delicious. Who knew?
And oxalic acid as the tart note in a creamy dish with a fresh cheese. So fresh it was only one hour old and we were told the cow it was from; Isa Rosa, and how she had come by that name (born outside in a storm, slated to die but survives anyway, had a red spot on her side like a rose) Remember, I did mention the theater of the absurd part. Later when they mention Isa Rosa again, and note with sorrow that they shortly will not be getting her marvelous milk because she is coming into calf and will be a nursing mother instead of a milk source for us, it is all I can do to not ask about the possibility of veal on the menu sometime after that blessed event...
Duck feet. Boned and roasted into a crunchy little platform for other good stuff. Imagine all the tastiest outer bits of a perfect Thanksgiving turkey, the wings and skin? That's what this tasted like.
Formic acid cutting thru the richness of a delicate creamed chicken breast. Yeah. Formic. Go look up where THAT comes from if you don't know off the top of your head...
There were a couple of dishes that were fails, for me. The diced reindeer heart was just tough, dry and flavourless.
Charred rosepetals on a strawberry dessert were just dry and leathery.
My response to the oyster emulsion when I was asked what I thought (they saw me sneaking my plate to the Spouse after taking the obligatory taste) was that "If I liked oysters I would have loved it, but as it was I thought it better to let my oyster addict Husband enjoy mine along with his."
But 3 out of 18 courses? And I ate every bit of that strawberry dessert UNDER the limp petals....
The service was formal and ritualized, but not stuffy at all and the conversation was lively and interesting. This is a place where you can not ask too many questions. And I am pretty sure that never once was the response 'I'll have to check with the chef about that'. These folks know the address of the back yard the rampson were picked in. And it's close; they are happy to point out the window and say ".5 km that way, at 8 this morning, by Sven."
One member of our party is Dutch, and he tells a joke on himself that the Dutch are like the Scots, with the charity taken out, in reference to his frugality. He had ok'ed the reservation, but that morning when he was confronted by the reality of what was going to be possibly the most expensive meal he had ever had, he was a bit tweaked, and the buyers remorse was showing. When I explained the window for cancelling the reservations had closed and we were paying, whether we went or not at that point, he manned up and said ok, but that evening he was clearly in the mood to needle us all a bit about how precious it was. That lasted until he put the third course in his mouth. It was a tiny potato waffle rolled into a coronet and filled with something creamy-sour and something smoky-salty in the form of a roe. He shut up and savoured, and the rest of the meal he allowed himself to be just seduced. And afterwards he couldn't quit talking about it and how it had tasted and what he had experienced and what we all thought of it and he was a good sport when we teased him about how swiftly he had succumbed to the carnal lure of Maaemo.
If it's not in the cards (and by that I mean the credit cards!) then, ah well. Maybe some other time. Ten years ago we would have never splurged like this either. But if your plastic will withstand the heat? Go for it. It's an exceptional experience, less a meal than a performance piece where you are the audience and the star all at once!
It's a bit tricky to find. Once you reach the big open plaza area and are looking around and not seeing anything looking like a restaurant? Go up the huge stairs that look like they lead to an office building. That's where Maaemos is. Be grateful for the exercise, you are going to need it...
Fairytale Cafe. We scored here at a lovely little cafe, that served salads and sandwiches and was really good, very fresh with interesting flavours. The crispy duck salad with melon and studded with cashews was on rocket, cilantro and some other green I didn't recognize, all delicate and super fresh. The duck was very crispy with a hoisun sauce on it, not the whole salad, There was julienned young leeks, sweet and mild and a pickled something that resembled bamboo shots pickled in beet juice, also a nice addition. Himself had a smorbrod with avocado, ham and a perfectly cooked poached egg on a hearty bread. Something I have not had before; Bundaberg's peach soda. I was going to have a ginger beer but spotted the peach and loved it.
It was worth noting that this is a popular place for tea and had a beautiful and amazing array of desserts. I has a flower shaped passion fruit mousse and himself had a lemon tart. Both were excellent and there was a wide selection, with many people coming in in the later afternoon just for tea and sweets. Fairytale Cafe was so good we sent other people here who also had good meals, and we came back our selves a number of other times. Over a number of meals we noticed some inconsistency in the composition and presentation of the plates. Some days were prettier than others and some days had better balance and prep than others. But even when the produce was chopped up a bit to small, or the greens were heavy on the cilantro and kind of stemy, it was good. And while the passion fruit mousse was pretty much everyone's fav, the desserts were all good. Not to be missed. Thomas Angells gate 10B
One night we were were headed to Rost, which I had high hopes for, but they, like many local places, are closed for the summer. I don't get it but they view July and August as the slow season... August I expect in Europe, but July surprised me! Instead, after some hunting around we found the new location for Emilie's, and scored a table. They do al la cart and PF 3,4 and 5 plates. They also offer a happy hour meal 16:00 to 18:00 with a 3 course PF. That's a seriously good deal. We did the 5 course, with pairings, and enjoyed it immensely. The amuse was a small bowl of a creamy enriched halibut broth with tiny sweet chives. Three meat courses followed; Halibut in a dashi halibut clear broth, very good. Cured salmon with cucumbers and dill and a scattering of dill "snow" and a dill oil and sour cream sauce poured over. This was my personal favorite, just great flavour, well balanced and yummy. Last meat was a veal entrecote, a but too close to medium for my taste, I like it rare personally, but tender and with a good sear on the outside. This was served with seared cabbage, tiny roasted potatoes with crispy skins that melted in your mouth, and a demi glace that was excellent. The cheese board had a Norwegian blu, creamy with nice crystals in it; a soft rind cheese that has a Norwegian name that began with 'T' but reminded me of a very ripe Camembert which Himself adored. I appreciate the beautiful paste in the center but the rind was to nappy for me so I let him enjoy it all. The piece de resistance was a mild little cheese flavoured cake, like a financier only not very sweet, with a creamed blue dolloped on top and garnished with a lightly roasted fig. Delicious! There were fig preserves and carrot puree on the plate, which added nice notes.
Dessert was the low point for us. The strawberry glace was delicious, bright fresh flavour and creamy mouth feel. The chocolate fudge/mousse/ganache was tooth achingly sweet and milky with a slightly firm caramelly consistency to it. I needed the bite of dark chocolate to balance the sweet fruity glace. The daubs of strawberry gelee didn't add anything in my opinion. Not bad, but I left the square of overly sweet chocolate sitting and just finished the very tasty strawberry glace.
The wine parings were good, with two exceptional choices; a Riesling to go with the halibut and a sparkling Moscato with the dessert. The port with the cheese was good but not exceptional. A Chilean red with the veal was flat lacked a good finish. I don't even remember the glass with the salmon.
Menu changes seasonally.
Over all? This was a good meal, with good service and good food. We had a really nice experience. 30 Konen Gate, behind the Thon Hotel entrance on Prisens Gate
Baklandet Skydsstation is a casual cheerful place, featuring rustic Norwegian fare. The fish stew is hearty and flavourful with a clear tomato based broth and loads of tender shrimp and fish.
Reindeer stew was served with garnish (berry sauce and sort of a mirepoix) to add into the bowl that went a long way towards cutting the gaminess. Good but too heavy to suit me.
Baked salmon was in an almost milky chowder, with not quite enough broth. The salmon was cooked thru so it was a bit dry, but along with the broth that was enriched with creme fraiche it was tasty. A big squeeze of the lemon wedge brightened up the flavours. A salt cod tomato stew was by all accounts good as well.
The blueberry cheese cake wasn't traditional, it was set with a bit of gelatin and more sour cream than cream cheese, but it was light and refreshing.
This is as much about the place as the food. Packed into a small old house, with service in every odd nook and cranny, and decorated as if a very cool granny had lived here and left all of her art and cottage furniture, needlepoint pillows and recipe box. Local beer was on tap and the beer drinkers were pretty excited about the Pilsner they were pouring. There are over 50 Aquavits to sample. The place was packed with locals having a roaring good time, so don't count on quiet and romantic! Øvre Bakklandet 33.
The Pizza Tower.
If you must go make it lunch and have a slice, watch the view as the restaurant turns on its tower and the leave. Dismal food and service, this is just another one of Norway's version of Dennys, "Egon" and is possibly one of the worst of a dismal chain's offerings.
Bryggeloftet & Stuene Restaurant
A historic restaurant situated on the north side of the port, but is oddly lacking water view for its outdoor table section. It's blocked by a cheesy low shed. Service was good, the interior was inviting with a fore playing in the fire place and the white linen and place settings looking just festive enough to be above the run of the mill tourist eatery.
The food was ok, some things better than others. The creamy version of the fish stew (without the dumplings) was a slightly gummy broth, very salty, but with really lovely chunks of tender cod and fat shrimp and sweet mussels floating it it.
The Arctic Char was a bit over cooked, but had good flavour and was not dry. Just in general getting Norwegians to not cook the fish past medium rare was challenging. They tended to 'insist' that THAT fish MUST be more cooked...
And I was told that the whale was good also.... :- P
Good place to grab a lunch if you are stuck by the docks, but on another afternoon we went to the nearby farmers market at the head of the port and had the fish and chips at the booth that does the fish fried on the spot. It was excellent, with a very fresh tarter sauce. Crisp, light, not greasy. Get a basket of strawberries for dessert. It made an excellent meal!
Bar Barrista is a few blocks up the hill from the port and worth the very short walk. The cocoa and coffee was good but can we just take a moment and talk about waffles? The Nords have a real love affair with the things and eat them as 'light snacks' just about any time of day, smeared with all sorts of sweet things. Bar Barrista makes the best ones I have had. I had one with just butter and one with strawberry jam. Just so amazingly light and crisp and tender and chewy and perfect. A perfect execution of a very simple thing, and elevated because of it. Nice little protected garden as well as funky indoor space. Go.
The roast kid was succulent and beautifully complemented by a complex bed of cabbage, apple, turnips and potatoes. The sugar peas added a bright sweet element and it all was delicious.
Himself had the 3 course menu with a starter of 3 aqua vites and bites to accompany, all good. The smoked trout was especially nice with the salty smoky flesh set off by the creamy spicy accompaniments.
His main was a beautiful veal with tender creamy root vegetables and sharp sweet red currents spiking it all.
Dessert was another trio and the cheese course was exceptional; complex cheeses and the dense fruit bread to accompany it.
I had the chocolate cherry dessert and while I thought the chocolate fudge was ok, I LOVED the cherry sorbet. It was just an explosion of fresh sweet cherryness in my mouth. I could have eaten a bowl full and been a happy camper!
Service was spot on, the atmosphere was relaxed and gracious, the tables were a bit close, but for an intimate little place, that seats 20 up top and 22 in the basement dining room, to be expected. The wine list seemed good, we were happy with our selections and pairings.
This was a real value meal in my book. Exceptional experience for very reasonable prices. Make reservations, they are small!
Marg & bein
Another really nice find. The smoked mackerel and tongue starters were both satisfying and complex. Lots of flavour and texture at play and beautiful on the plate as well.
The soup was a beautiful delicate fish chowder, light and creamy with succulent chunks of fish and shellfish swimming in the bath.
The pork plate was beautifully turned out by the kitchen, an array of chops and sausages and sides that was delicious.
Lemon cream dessert was solid, well executed with nice balanced flavours and a really nice meringue.
Service was knowledgeable and attentive.
On the train bring a picnic. Go with the Komfort class on anything over a few hours. The endless coffee and tea will pay for itself. And I have to say here that as huge a snob about my cocoa as I am? The machine made cocoa was actually pretty palatable. Nothing like the dreck from machines in the States.
On the AM coffee scene. I have heard that the 7/11s in Norway do a good cheap cup of coffee, but that is not my idea of a way to wake up. And cocoa. I do cocoa while everyone around me is slurping up hot coffee. So 7/11 was a no go for us. We found that in a country that seems to no go in big for chains, chains rule the day, or the morning, as it were, but that in general they were fine.
Kaffebrenneriet. This is an ubiquitous coffee house chain. They are everywhere. The coffee is fine, the goodies are good and the cocoa sucked.
Dromedar Kaffe Bar. (yet another chain) has the advantage of being open where not many things are before 8:00 so we were happy to find them. Coffee and cocoa were both fine, not exceptional, but if you don't care for barstucks,which is everywhere, is is a very acceptable option. The seedy scone with the iconic caramelized goats milk was good. The small round of chocolate and marzipan with coconut on top, not so much. Around 8:15 the bakery delivered the days goods so there was a much nicer selection then that looked promising, but we were on the way out.
Pascals. Also coffee house chain but very small, nicer, with a good selection of tasty goodies. Excellent cocoa and coffees.
Espresso House. Yet another Coffee chain. Good coffee, great cocoa, pretty goodies that tasted pretty sad. Nice ambiance and we consistently got good service in whichever one we entered.
I loved Norway and came away with a very happy outlook. The freshness of the diverse seafood was outstanding, and as we are real fish lovers, it was a great chance to try things we don't see so often. Varieties of mussels and shrimps and crab in particular! The emphasis on local with all the limitations imposed by this challenging climate was really fascinating. It helped being there in the summer when all the growing things arer on fast forward in the 22 hours a day of sunshine!