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.