5 December 2014
I sadly left Tallinn after a coffee and some stale pastry at one of my haunts from the late 1990s, flying out to Oslo for an overnight stop. It was not originally planned, but when I saw the possibility of returning to the brilliant Maaemo for dinner that Friday evening I made the detour. My previous time at Maaemo was for my 40th birthday and it was one of the best tasting menu I’ve ever had, so was hoping for another great night there.
I was staying near the airport overnight so took the pricey train into town and walked to Maaemo. This time there would be no issues about getting lost as I walked up a now familiar path. I was early, but they were already waiting for me. I was actually placed at the same table as I was last time, and with a glass of bubbly in hand I relaxed. Ah, it’s good to be back.
The staff made me feel extremely welcome as a returning guest, and that was much appreciated. I was hoping for better pictures tonight with a slightly better camera; I also noticed it was a bit brighter inside than last time. That should help.
Soon the first of many, many courses showed up. The first series are all snacks, and the opener was a Maaemo staple — a macaroon of nyr cheese with whitefish roe.
A nice bite, a sure way of knowing I’m back in Maaemo. The second snack was a piece of salsify preserved with juniper.
Interesting, and the wooden cup of juniper broth was rather tasty and seasonal. Sorry for the off-focus on this photo, the stupid “picture stabilisation” feature often messes up on the focus on low-light photos… The third snack was based on smoked mackerel.
Another tasty treat, as this also featured chicken skin on top. So far this has gone pretty good as the quick-but-not-rushing snack service continued with the humble beet.
This interesting modern-traditional preparation has the beet glazed in fermented birch sap, adding an interesting take to the already nice beet. The next dish was another Maaemo staple, the rømmegrøt.
The rømmegrøt is a fantastic and rich porridge that’s one of the most traditional of Norwegian cuisine. This version boasted a shaving of dried reindeer heart. It was as good as last time I was here!
The multilingual cooking staff each brought different dishes down to introduce them, which was interesting to hear all the different accents that span several continents. The next dish was a “cornette” of chicken liver and pickled chanterelle.
A beautiful presentation, I thought my photo with the candle really added to the visuals (lol). The chanterelle theme continued into the next and final “snack” of a not-so-simple cookie.
This cookie was made from dried and pickled chanterelles, and dehydrated broth of chicken bones. Pretty intense stuff, loved it. There is a deep love of chanterelles upstairs in the kitchen, and I really liked this item and how focused the flavours were.
We begin to move into larger, more complex items with another of Maaemo’s staples, the oyster.
This is one of their best-known dishes, always a beautiful presentation, the oyster bathing in a sauce of mussel and dill. Wonderful flavour, I can eat this time and time again.
At this point one of the kitchen team brought down the raw scallop that was to be in a future course…
Mmm, can’t wait for that! The seaweed looked good too! At this point we had an interesting small dish of carrots and salmon.
This small treat was all about the carrots, which was preserved in a traditional fashion. The salmon was understated though. After this, the scallop in question was the next offering.
The scallop was grilled in-shell complemented by celeriac. Honestly I was disappointed, as the celeriac actually clashed with the sweetness of the scallop. Too bad, and I of course began thinking of the scallop I had at 1877 in Bergen a few months earlier… Oh well. However, the next dish brought me back to the wow stage…
This tasting of Finnish caviar really wasn’t the star of the dish. It was actually the roasted chestnut puree. Wow, it was rich and the aroma was just heavenly. Fish eggs, what? But really, a wonderful contrast here of salty and sweet. The next dish is another of Maaemo’s staples, the bread course.
They take great pride in their sourdough and butter. I am never a bread person per se, and for some reason this really filled me up. Not a good sign especially when I was told what the next course was, sunchokes…
Though it was a small serving I can see this causing havoc with my digestive system later, a very bloated ride back to Gardermoen on the train… This was nicely cooked in malt, but the roasted yeast will no doubt add to my discomfort later on the train back…
The following dish was the charred onions and quail egg in a bone marrow and onion vinaigrette. There was also fenalår, which I wished was more prominent. Didn’t I say that last time here as well? Then we moved to the final savoury dish, the reindeer.
This was delicious but a modest portion, which was good as I was starting to feel the bloat. Love the presentation. The staff was very happy as this was the first of the season. Delicious and tender, a wonderful seasonal dish.
At this point I also had the chance to catch up a bit with Pontus Dahlström, the master of the front-of-the-house at Maaemo. Was good to be back and have a good chat before the dessert courses began.
The first dessert was frozen blue cheese with pickled black trumpet mushrooms. It’s Maaemo’s version of a cheese course. Unique and very nice, and the iciness really went well. The second of the desserts is just really cute…
“The smell of the blackcurrant bush” as they call it, excellent taste of the currant in this very cute dish. Next up is an ice cream sandwich layered with grilled milk and spruce ice cream.
Mmm, delicious. I love the use of spruce here. As you know from the review of Ö a few days ago, there is a great love for pine, birch, juniper and spruce for all the people on the Baltic Sea and Nordic region. Then the final main dessert course appeared:
This ice cream is made of brown butter, accentuated by hazlenut and molasses. A sweet finishing course. At this point I was invited up to see the re-organised kitchen and to have a chat with chef. Esben Holmboe Bang is a man devoted to his art and craft, and we talked about the refining of the cuisine and cooking since my last visit. I brought up the bread-and-sunchoke-bloat thing (sorry!), but agreed it was more refined. I love how he plays such a teaching role to his young team, some hailing as far as from Nebraska and Australia.
I took enough of their time so I headed back down for a series of closing dessert snacks, which of course ended with another of Maaemo’s staples — the macaroon with nyr (same as the opening savoury snack), but this time graced with sea buckthorn. A perfect close. Sorry, the picture came out very bad.
I actually stayed for some extra drinks after this, chatting with some members of staff front and back of the house. A little hiccup in service as they were very busy, but all was good. I headed out more than happy, though the bill was an anvil in my pocket. Thank goodness the Norwegian kroner was so weak against the dollar thanks to the cratering of the price of oil.
Maaemo proved itself again as one of the very best in the food world today, with a chef that is both creative and inventive, with some of the best service in Europe — better than a slew of 3-star Michelin places. This restaurant needs to be elevated from 2-star to 3-star soon. A must for anyone who loves great cooking!
Yes, it is pricey as hell, so take advantage of the weak kroner now!
Schweigaardsgate 15 B