Fine Dining in the Nordics – Michelin Stars for 2016

It is that time of the year again, that Guide de Michelin launches its stars for the Nordic countries. This is not that much of a star-struck region (compared to France or Britain for example). Its only a hand full of cities that are evaluated and I secretly suspect the critics avoid this part of the world during the winter. So we are proud of every single star we can get. This year, Stockholm was granted 13 stars (28 in Sweden), Helsinki 4 , Copenhagen 19 (26 in Denmark) and Oslo 7. Two restaurants in the Nordics reached that magical three stars this year: Maaemo in Oslo and Geranium in Copenhagen. Bjorn Frantzen in Sweden, who is said to be completely obsessed about that third star was yet again left with “just two”.

As we are semi-serious foodies, me and M, we do try to visit as many of these restaurants as we can get reservations to. Due to the absurd cost, we of course have spread these visits out as we cannot afford too many in a year. We always have something in the plan though. We have reserved Chef & Sommelier in Helsinki for Easter and I really want to finally visit Operakällaren, serving traditional Swedish cuisine in Stockholm. Perhaps something to wish for my birthday.

And now to the serious part of this post: what do I actually think about the stars? Is it worth all that fuss, and not to mention all that money? What I can say is, that it is definitely interesting. My best (ever) restaurant experiences have not been from the three star restaurants though. I rate many of the two star experiences much higher. Perhaps its the expectation versus what you actually get. However none of the three starred restaurants make it to my top-five list.

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Eye candy at Takasawa, which is said to be the best restaurant in the world without a star

However, when talking best value for money, they have always been the one star restaurants (although the quality varies a lot). Or actually, lunch deals at the two and three starred restaurants. I don’t know why they don’t do this in the Nordics, but in London we used to go for set menus as great restaurants all the time. A three course menu with wine could be one third or even one fourth of the dinner price. For example Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester had an awesome deal for around 50£. Writing this post makes me miss London again (ETA 14 days).

So here is the list of 2016 starred restaurants in Stockholm. Even though many of these will cost you an arm and a leg (Stockholm is a expensive city), they are worth truing out.  I have been to three of them: Gastrologic, Volt and Matbaren and can recommend all three. Perhaps worth mentioning though that I seldom find the wine lists that interesting (read: reasonable in price), so I am definitely there for the food rather than the drinks.

** Frantzen
** Oaxen Krog (gained one star)
** Mathias Dahlgren Matsalen
* Gastrologic
* Esperanto
* Volt
* Ekstedt
* Operakällaren
* Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren
* Sushi So (NEW)

 

I would also like to mention that Fäviken up in the north of Sweden was also granted two stars (the prices doubled over night)

Have a great week!

xx Soile

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Champagne for lunch at l’Effervessence (**)

Coffee bar review: The New Black, Singapore

The New Black are trying to further develop the Third Wave of Coffee in doing something a bit different from all the other coffee places that are around. Design-wise they are at least succeding, it is refreshing to see a place that has a very different feel to it. To say that the place is colorful is somewhat of an understatement. The walls are covered in colorful photos of the roasters they are using, despite the colors being bright it does not feel tacky or too much. The staff also have very colorful but neatly designed clothes and there is a lot of blue, yellow and orange everywhere, but as it is combined with a lot of metal it does fit nicely together. The concept is designed by Phoa Kia Boon and from what the Director of Coffee Will Frith is saying this is the first outlet but many more are to come (and from what I understood they are not only looking at Singapore or even Asia so fingers crossed it will be somewhere close to me). The modern idea is also included in the payment, no cash accepted so only possible to pay by card. Not an issue for me but still good to keep in mind as Singapore still seem to be a country where in many places only cash (or the local crappy bank cards) is accepted.

The carefully considered design is also displayed in the coffee and tea cups. The same cups are used irresepctive of having coffee there or taking it with you. The cups for coffee are nicely designed with the lid being possible to also use as a coaster. The tea cups are in bright plastic and possible to reuse. The little carry bag for take out is just awesome. The New Black is not huge and seem more gesred towards taking a cup with you but it is possible to sit there, not that many seats but possible to squeeze in around 10-15 people. There is also free wifi so while it is not the most comfortable place it is still fine to hang out for a while.

The main thing here is however the coffee, the New Black does not roast any of their own, but they are rather celebrating some of the top roasters from around the world. I was impressed by their selection as they have a line-up with Tim Wendelboe (Oslo, Norway), Verve (Santa Cruz, US), Small Batch Roasters (Melbourne, Australia), Workshop (London, UK), Olympia (Washington, US), Sweet Bloom (Colorado, US), George Howell (Massachusetts, US) as well as local Nylon Roasters. The tea selection is also good with teas from Rodrick Marcus of Chicago and Japan’s Hojo. They also have cascara (coffee cherry tea) from Has Bean from the UK.

The coffees are really nicely prepared, they are made on the expensive Alpha Dominche Steampunk 2.1 (this little baby will set you back around $15k, I have still not convinced S that it is essential for our kitchen but I am workin on it). The beauty of this machine is that it actually makes you less dependent on the skills of the individual barista as, if it is set properly, most people should be able to produce a great cup on it (with the right instructions). I am not sure it always produces the absolutely best result posdible but it is very consistent and it does look pretty cool. From a cafe perspective it is also good that it can actually have a significantly higher output than someone just making pour-overs by hand. With the Steampunk it is possible to make between 60-80 cups per hour (the latest version can make four different coffees (with different beans, settings etc. at the same time) so it is basically an half-automated single serve coffee maker that produces a great cup. It is able to make everything from French Press to Syphon so the only thing it does not make is Espresso.

The fact that basically anyone can make coffee on the Steampunk does not stop the New Black from training their staff, they are all knowledegable about coffee, happy to chat about it and in general very friendly and attentive. I was often disappointed by service in Singapore but the New Black together with a few other places stood out with excellent staff.

The quality of coffee is in general high, I sampled all of their coffees and have only occasionally been disappointed and that was the decaf so my own mistake. Who in their right mind orders a decaf. They did however see that I did not like it and offered another coffee as replacement. The quality is consistent and high but it does not reach the level to be mind-blowing. Instead this is a solid choice for good coffee, one of the best in Singapore in my view. The location was also convenient for us, so we popped by many times. What I have not really addressed is the price level, in general I do not icnlude it in my ratings but just want to mention that the average cup of coffee here is more expensive (count in at least 7-10 SGD) than in most places but to me still worth it.

Food selection is very limited, usually croissants and perhaps some more bread/pastries but not the place to come for food (what they have is however tasty). What I have not mentioned in much detail is the tea selection. I am not at all as knowledgeable about tea as about coffee but on one of the visits here S decided she wanted tea. As she did not know what to order we chatted a bit with the staff and they offered small tasters of all the teas (3 of them). To me the quality was impressive. that said I am not an expert, but I do drink my fair share of tea as well and this was really good. So the New Black is not only a place for coffee lovers.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 4
Ambiance and service: 4
Food: 2 (quality is good but selection lacking)
Vs local competition: 5

Coffee Bar Review: Mean Coffee, Stockholm

Mean coffee is a small coffee bar located across from the train station in Stockholm. A rather unlikely spot for a really good coffee place but here it nonetheless is located. He same spot used to house another great coffee bar (V Street) so seems to be something about these premises that are superb for good coffee. Style wise it somehow reminds more of a Southern European coffee bar but luckily they serve good coffee here as opposed to what one can expect in Italy, Spain or France.

The space is fairly small with three lower tables, two high tables and some chairs along the window. In summer time there are some seats outside but as it faces a heavily trafficked road it is not that nice to sit outside. Free wifi and very friendly and knowledgable staff makes this places a favorite of mine. The big minus is the lack of a toilet so not the place to lounge for long.

They serve a lot of excellent simple cafe style dishes (the hot sandwiches are exceptional) and great pastries. Breakfast is also good with an assortment of sandwiches as well as porridge, yogurt and juices and smoothies. The main thing here is however the coffee. There is a rotating selection of roasters offered for hand-brew coffee. There is usually something local such as Koppi, Drop Coffee, Johan&Nyström or Love Coffee as well as some international roasters (lately I have seen the Berlin’s the Barn, London’s Square Mile Coffee, and a variety of Nordic roasters such as Tim Wendelboe and Coffee Collective. Coffee quality is usually excellent and price level is pretty decent as well. The espresso based beverages are also superbly prepared here.

For me it is the top spot for quality coffee in Stockholm. Unfortunately it is only open on weekdays and frequently closed during summer and winter holidays so I do not come here as much as I would have wanted.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 5
Ambiance and service: 3.5 (loses out on the lack of toilet)
Food: 4
Vs local average: 5