18 September 2014
As chronicled in the previous entry, I spent the day wandering around the fascinating town of Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. But now was getting time for my birthday dinner at my hotel restaurant, Koks — listed as one of the top new Nordic kitchens. I was very excited, as they are reputed to be masters of all ingredients Faroese. After a fabulous dinner last night at Hafnia, including many of the islands’ best produce, I was really looking forward to what these guys can come up with.
Koks is a very slick restaurant with a big, semi-open kitchen. I like the way it looks, a combination of Nordic slick and Faroese minimalism. I began my birthday dinner early as my flight in the morning is very early, and it’s a long, long way back to the airport from here…
I relaxed with a nice martini made from a gin that used local ingredients (but made in Denmark, as gin production not yet legalised, alas). Interesting, but a bit rough. I relaxed and examined the menu on iPad and began quietly drooling. I was anticipating my meal when the first amuse bouche arrived.
The opening number was a “cod chip” in the middle, rolled around a little bit of cream. A cute presentation — we were warned not to eat the cod spines! For some reason this hit the spot with that martini…
After that morsel went down, the second amuse came, a tasty treat based on local salted fish, with a touch of cream and barley. Tasty, enjoyed the barley’s addition to the texture. Very nice.
We continue with the dried fish theme with the third amuse, which featured the Faroese staple with fermented lamb fat with some local cheese on top, all on a mini-crispbread. Excellent, I love the fermented lamb fat coming out on this. Fermentation has historically been very important to the Faroese, and I’m glad they incorporated not just the produce, but also the techniques that bred out of this isolated archipelago. Excellent!
The fourth amuse was even more an exploration of this ethos, a sample of ræst lamb. This was a unique snack. They took jelly from lamb preparation, fermented it, dried it, and then fried. Wow… I can eat this non-stop all the time…
I had finished my martini as the fifth and final amuse arrived — a very humble item — a simple leaf of scurvygrass. This vitamin-rich leaf has helped to keep the Faroese healthy (especially from scurvy) over the centuries. This time it was also keeping secret a little cream. A fabulous journey through the food heritage of the Faroes.
This is exactly why I appreciate a tasting menu here than let’s say in London or New York. You don’t just get great cooking, but you get something really cultural and connected to the land and its history. It’s quite something when the amuse bouches actually tell a story.
I was preparing to begin my meal when I was told that there will be a very large party coming in (but in the other side of the large space) that could be a little loud. They, alongside this being my birthday, gifted me the martinis and a few other things. Now that is sweet. My first birthday gift of this year… But it was nice for them to point this out (and they weren’t loud at all, compared to what a similar group would do in London or New York).
The first dish arrived, featuring local sea urchin. These were brilliant, not too briny. Very neutral and clean, alongside sea purslane and wee cucumber balls. Very nice stuff. Maybe not the intensity of a really strong Hokkaido urchin, but it competes very well with the best of Santa Barbara. Excellent start!
I’m sorry as I was really enjoying myself I didn’t take notes on my wine pairings — I just remember they were excellent, and the pours were once again beyond generous. Wine pairings may cost more in the Nordics than in London or New York, but the pourings here are generous and not stingy like the aforementioned places. And also, I didn’t check the photo quality when I took them, so some of them didn’t come out too well. Sorry, was just enjoying myself…it’s my birthday, after all…
The second course centred around another local favourite, the crab. A cute preparation, sadly in the photo it is hidden under the slices of turnip. The sauce is rich, using crab oil as its base. The aroma is just fantastic and this was small but very rich. One of the best crab dishes you’ll ever have — even the turnip was excellent, especially with that super rich sauce. This would seriously appeal to those fans of south Asian cooking with the strong crab essence. Mmm!
Another thing I liked about this place, even as it got busier, was that the pace of the dishes remained consistent through the night, and never rushed. Enough time to really enjoy the wine and savour the lingering tastes of the islands. Now why can’t some heavily-lauded 2- and 3-Michelin places have pacing like this?
The third dish doesn’t look like what you think it is, but it’s actually scallops. Graced by some cauliflower, the jus once again is richer than rich. You really taste the North Atlantic with these items. I thought the scallops weren’t as good as the ones I had at 1877 (few are) in Bergen, but these, with the jus, were still good.
So far I am really loving the seafood, the best of the islands. The next dish I was told would be in two parts. The first part came after a few minutes.
Well…this was a beast. I was told it was caught earlier in the day and was still moving until a few minutes ago. I swear I saw it move… This was about as clean as it gets, a beautiful strong piece of langostine goodness. I took my time (they didn’t rush me) sorting out the rest of this beast, from claw to head. Wow, one of the best langostine I’ve ever had.
Then part two — a tail from another langostine, this time smoked with pine. Just fabulous, with the tiniest glaze that helped to really collect the smoke. You can see it still flickering on the side. Oh this was tasty. It may have even been better than at Maaemo, without the grand production. Fabulous… I sat there breathing in the pine smoke for several minutes afterwards…I miss that smell…
I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the wine. Again, they weren’t rushing me, watching me to see when to move. This is great, the staff actually watches you and not push you either to eat or drink or anything. This is attentiveness. Why can’t other places do that?
As we went to dish five, we now really visit something extremely local — garnatálg. This is a delicacy from one of the northern islands, something similar to haggis. As an offal lover, this was a treat I was hoping to get. Already wrapped in caul, they also prepped this in fermented lamb fat. Wow, this was a lamb taste explosion… I really, really cannot eat lamb again when I go back to North America…
After that a break was needed, and they provided a very nice palate cleanser — based on lemon and thyme. Wow, what an aroma… I relaxed and just enjoyed the view of the lower town through the window. I was then told that the little hut outside of my room’s window was actually the drying hut for all of the produce they serve here. How cool… After that wonderfully fragrant break we start up again — albeit most humbly.
The next dish was kind of cute, a really odd but cute thing — a humble turnip. They like their local turnips here. I like turnip. This featured goat cheese sprinkled on top and a very nice but not intrusive jus. I like this, I feel the earth tasting this dish. Sorry about the reflection of my wine that kind of messed up this picture. I wasn’t trying to be artistic…
The seventh dish was the final savoury dish of the night, and it was another local specialty — fulmar. They do like their seabirds in the North Atlantic, and this was one I’ve never had. It was surprisingly mild, without the very harsh taste you often get with these wild seabirds. But it was just fabulous, a sweet but not dominating flavour. The onions on top just added to the taste of this exotic bird. I’m sorry the photo basically just shows the onions on top, but rest assured the meat was fantastic!
We slowed down a bit at this stage, as the last two dishes were desserts. I enjoyed chatting with members of the staff, talking even about Estonia. Small world sometimes! The excellent pours continued and we moved into the desserts.
The first of two desserts featured the islands’ beloved rhubarb. Baked with a side of cream, this was an excellent treat — especially for someone like me without a sweet sweet tooth. Solid stuff.
I was a little sad when the last dish arrived, as this had been such a fabulous tasting menu — I guess it had to come to a close. The final dessert was centred around skyr, the interesting yoghurt-y treat of these North Atlantic areas. A generous amount of chervil adulterated this to something really interesting, again not sweet — perfect. What a great closing number.
I enjoyed a few more drinks as I savoured this excellent dinner. Chef came out for a long chat later as well, as we had some excellent wines chatting about the ingredients, food, the industry and so much more. This was a truly excellent dinner and experience.
The service was excellent, paced in conjunction with the kitchen to make the diner feel comfortable for a long tasting session — a key feature lacking in so many 2- and 3-Michelin places. Those places tend to dictate, this place accommodates. This is nice. Friendly and knowledgeable staff.
The food was excellent. The thing I loved most is how they really featured the best of the Faroes, not just the ingredients and dishes, but also the techniques and history. The appreciation and exploration of the islands’ cultural heritage through food makes this such a more memorable tasting menu than others that may be more extravagant and flashy. When you come to a place like the Faroes, this is exactly what you want in a tasting menu.
Full kudos to this team, front and back, for a wonderful birthday experience. It was definitely worth it — even if I needed to collapse after setting a wake-up at an ungodly hour…
I am gonna miss the Faroes, but I am gonna be back. There is something magnetic about this place, like Bergen, that will bring me back in the future. I feel symbiotic with the rocks here, and my stomach will demand a return sooner than later after this fantastic meal.
Wow. Folks, please visit these islands. You’ll utterly love it.