10 September 2012


After internship at some of the worlds most famous chefs (Charlie Trotter, Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal) Niklas Ekstedt started his first restaurant, Niklas, in 2000, only 21 years old.
It was a small fine-dining restaurant in Helsingborg in the southern part of Sweden and one of the chefs working there was René Redzepi who now is the head chef and co-owner of the famous restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. I remembered when I, many years ago, went to a guest performance that Niklas had at restaurant Eriks Bakficka in Stockholm and was served foie gras snow.

2005 Niklas became famous for the masses in Sweden as a TV-chef and released several cookbooks. In 2007 he decided to move to Stockholm and opened restaurant 1900. I've never been attracted to visit 1900 and always thought there was more interesting options in the capital. But then, less then a year ago, Niklas opens restaurant Ekstedt.
The unique thing with this restaurant is that every thing is cooked over an opened fire. Tons of birch wood is delivered to the restaurant weekly and there is no electricity in the kitchen. There is a small cast iron stove and a pizza oven, also run by the centerpiece fire.

Gustav Otterberg is the head chef at Ekstedt. He’s a well-experienced chef that got one Michelin star for his food at Leijontornet when he was only 23 years old, not bad.

I was so excited when I entered the restaurant.
The smell of the open fire gave a warm atmosphere and I loved the interior with its details of leather, brass and wood. We were seated on chefs table on bar stools, literally two meters from were the chef was plating the food. Another two meters on my left was the main kitchen, which looked more like a smithy behind a glass wall. We must have gotten the best seats in the room.

We chose to go for the big, five courses, tasting menu. In the glass we started off with Brut Premièr Cuvée NV from Bruno Paillard. Floral and a food-driven champagne, which I think, lacked a bit of freshness to be a perfect aperitif.

As an appetizer we were served; mini pizza with mozzarella, rocket, basil and truffle, fougasse-bread filled with dried tomato and finally a wrap of lamb. Everything tasty, but as an appetizer it was a bit heavy. The pizza would have been enough.

I ordered a bottle of 2006 Allende from Finca Allende in Rioja, Spain. Burgundy-like texture with it's soft, medium full body. Really elegant wine and a true bargain.

Sour dough bread was torn by one of the waiters and served with butter that was smeared on a stone. Very nice bread and a beautiful, rustic presentation.

First serving was Turbot baked on hay, served with squid and artichoke. What a fantastic start.

Next two servings were some of the best dishes I have ever eaten. First up was chimney-smoked lobster with a raw lobster cream, tomato and almonds. Indescribable!!!

Next, a smoked tartar of beef with bone marrow, chanterelle duxelle, pickled onions, blueberries and pine powder. What a dish, so, so good. Almost like taking a big bite of the forest.

The Rioja was now almost finished so we ordered a glass each of 2009 An/2, which is the second wine of the producer Anima Negra from Mallorca. This wine is a blend of Callet, Mantonegro-Fogoneu and Syrah. Medium-bodied with silky tannins and herbaceous, fruity flavor it was great with the next dish;

Neck of pork served with pork and truffle sausage, Brussels sprouts and generous amounts of grated truffle. Once again, a magically good dish with rich flavors.

We skipped sweet wine and went straight to the dessert; Rum-flambéed peach with thyme, served with cardamom doughnuts and on the side, in a small dish, was a salted caramel ice cream topped with peach sorbet. What an ice cream, yummy.

What an amazing dinner we had and I’m chocked if Ekstedt doesn’t get a Michelin star next spring. If I have to try to find anything negative about the food it would be the sizes of the portions, which in my mind was on the edge of being too big, especially with such rich flavors. I will definitely be back and I strongly recommend anyone visiting or living in Stockholm to go there, you’ll have a truly memorable dinner.

06 September 2012

Fjäderholmarnas Krog

There is so many beautiful things in Stockholm and the archipelago is one of them. You don't need to go far to see the charms the islands outside the capital offer. A twenty-five minutes boat ride from Slussen and you arrive to Fjäderholmarna. There are a few restaurants on the main Island and we had a reservation at Fjäderholmarnas Krog, a five minutes walk from the dock where the boat anchored.

The previous night we've been to restaurant Pelikan at Södermalm where we had meatballs, bacon with onion gravy and a few other classic Swedish dishes and now we where craving for more.

We had a table on the porch overseeing the water and the nearby islands. The smell of the seaweed from the ocean, the clear, sunny sky and the ducks bobbing in the water under us made me think of how wonderful the Swedish summers are.

C had a bit too much to drink the previous night so she stuck to water while I started of with Bedarö Bitter, a bitter ale brewed by Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri located one hour drive south of Stockholm. This multi awarded beer is a big favorite of mine with its fresh fruity taste and well-balanced bitterness. It was served in a Tuborg glass, why? If restaurants insisting on having labeled glasses then use it for the correct beverage.

We decided to share two starters and two mains.

First up three types of herrings; the classic matjes, one seasoned with chili and finally pickled with a marked flavor of cloves. All served with dill-cooked potatoes and home made crisp bread. I just love herring!!!

As a second starter we chose Toast Skagen. Prawns blended with sour cream, mayonnaise, onion and dill and served on a butter-fried toast, creamy and yummy.

For the main course I ordered a glass of 2011 Albariño from Vina Cartín. I love the crisp, aromatic wines this grape from Rías Baixas in Galicia, Spain normally produces but this wasn't a favorite. A bit flat and boring but still went down easily in summer warmth.

The cod that we got in front of us was fantastic. Thick piece that was perfectly cocked and served with brown butter, horseradish, dill oil, prawns and egg cream. Once again, classic Swedish flavors at its best.

We also had Wallenbergare. This famous, soufflé-like meat patty isn't a dish for anyone on diet. It consists of minced veal, cream and eggs that is rolled in breadcrumbs before its fried in butter. It was served traditionally with lingonberries, mushy pies, potato and brown butter. Great but not the best. The meat wasn’t as soft end tender as I like it.

Stuffed as we where we skipped dessert and instead rushed to the boat that took us back to the city.
What a great little trip.

04 September 2012


When I'm back in Sweden and Stockholm I often try to visit Esperanto. I was part of the opening team and worked there for over three years as head sommelier and restaurant manager. During that time, we got a Michelin star; we got awarded 72nd best restaurant in the world by the prestigious San Pellegrino Best Restaurant list and also voted the best restaurant in Sweden by White Guide etc. It was truly an inspirational time for me.

Esperanto is run by the head chef Sayan Isaksson who named the restaurant after what was meant to be the new world language and this is how he's been looking at his food, like a world language with French modern technique blended with inspiration and flavors from all parts of the globe. When the restaurant opened in 2005 there was a strong Moroccan touch to the food and recently the dishes were heavy influenced by the food from Japan (Sayan now also runs the acclaimed sushi-restaurant Råkultur).

This time I could, once again, sense a slight change in the food, without loosing its unique style. Most of the ingredients are now local produce and an earthier feel pervades the whole restaurant. Both the presentations and the flavors are a bit simpler now but still refined and elegant. Nothing negative about that.

When we arrived we got a warm welcome by the restaurant manager Linda Stensen and her all-female staff. As soon as we sat down we got a glass of 2005 Experience Blanc de Blancs by André Jacquart in our hands. This crisp champagne with aromas of toasted bread and citrus was served with some crispy potato with a cod dip that had a smokey touch. Great combination and the "chips" were beautifully presented on a rack made of the cod bone.

Then followed three amuse bouche.
First a cup layered with chawan mushi (Japanese egg custard), chanterelles and foamed vichyssoise, great little dish with mild, elegant flavors.

Next, a tartelette of zucchini. A bit tasteless and quickly forgotten when we were served the last appetizer; a lovely sausage made of Swedish wagyu meat topped with crispy leek. The garlic flavor made it taste like a luxurious beef-salsicca, fantastic.

To follow the champagne we had 2010 Riesling Trocken from Fritz Haag. Aromatic, light and flowery but a bit short. Nothing amazing but a nice fresh wine with the next few courses.

Sourdough bread with homemade butter. I always prefer this kind of simple classic bread rather than having them seasoned with onion, bacon or god knows what, especially when eating a long tasting menu like this.

First "proper" serving: on a beautiful bowl, handmade by Sayan's mother, there were oysters resting on rocks and dried flowers. The mollusks were grilled on hay, which gave them a slight smoky touch before they were arranged on the plate and served with pickled cauliflower, yogurt, cucumber and dill. The Swedish vinegar "ättika" which is made of alcohol was blended with salt, sugar and dill and made the dish taste like the classic, Swedish crayfish we Vikings eat during August. Lovely dish and great with the warm but still raw oyster contrasting the other, cold ingredients.

Next course was divided into two servings. On the side, in a classic Chinese tea snifter, we were served a chanterelle-tea. The base was made of Pu-Er, a rich earthy, matured tea from China. The mushrooms just boosted the flavors already existing in the brew.
On the plate: low-temperature cooked egg from Sand Hönseri. Creamy all the way through and served with chanterelles and broccoli. Great, rich flavors.

Then it was time for what turned out to be my favorite of the evening; Jerusalem-artichokes with a texture and taste out of the world. They had been fried three times in burnt cream to get an almost toffee like texture and an airy interior, served with fresh buttermilk cheese and a sauce with a nutty brown butter taste. This dish was just mind-blowing   ...wow!!!

At this time we had already changed the wine in our glasses to a 2002 Auxey-Duresses from Morey-Blanc.
Slight note of maturation on the nose but still with a creamy body and fine acidity. Nice but it missed a bit complexity.

The next serving was a bit confusing; it was almost too sweet to be considered a savory dish. In a teapot on the side, the waiter smoked fresh apple juice that got poured over apple meringue with fresh hazelnuts, tapioca, elderberry capers and bleak roe. A sweet and salty dish with interesting textures. The fish eggs, with its high amount of umami, can easily turn metallic in the mouth when combined with apple but the sweetness saved it and it was actually really good. Obviously the Chardonnay I had chosen clashed with the dish. Well, well, what to do.

Then it was time for the great Claret I ordered in the beginning of the meal and now was ready to be poured in big Riedel glasses after 2 hours of decanting in Riedel’s beautiful Swan decanter. C is a fan of rich, more fruit driven wines so I chose to meet half ways with this Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou from the warm 2003 vintage.
Still young with firm tannins and a full body. Great mouth feel with notes of coffee and dark fruit. Still a baby but a great wine. 

The Chicken that was served after came from Ockelbo, close to Sayan’s homeland. It wasn’t any boring chicken breast, but details like the heart and crispy skin. The dish was glued together with a rich jus and truffles. For me, the pronounced taste of celery got me thinking of Italy when eating this finger licking good dish.

Monkfish isn’t my favorite fish but here it was cooked to perfection and not as dry as this fish easily can be. It was served with burnt onion cream and monkfish liver. This part of the fish is called Ankimo in Japan, were it is considered as the “foie gras of the sea”. Even though it hadn’t anything to do with this dish I started to think of an “intermezzo” we used to serve at Esperanto long time ago. Monkfish liver macaroon with iced peach tea. That was truly a memorable “afternoon tea” as we called the serving.

The meat dish was Iberico pork cooked medium rare, topped with Lardo di Colonnata and served with its jus and various textures of cabbage. Can pork get better than this? So good.

The dessert was another winner: blueberry sponge cake with warm marzipan, un-sweet blueberry sorbet, and braised fennel. Served with a glass of 2007 Recioto di Gambellara from Angiolino Maule. Deep tones of apricot blended with a touch of balsamic vinegar was the flavors I got in my mouth when sipping on this nectar.

To round off the evening I had some coffee served in fantastic cups from Bernardaud. Seven sweets was served were the most remembered was a cream of tar with dried berries.

Extremely satisfied we left Esperanto with a secure feeling that this wasn’t the last visit to the amazing restaurant. Thanks Sayan, Linda and the rest of the team.