tapas in oslo

March 24, 2009

toro

I am not quite sure what to think of the restaurant that Special K and I went to before Christmas. So i think I’ll just tell you what happened and you can decide for yourselves.

We had decided on tapas and choose Toro Toro as I hadn’t been there before. Our suspicions should maybe have been raised when we spied the fireplace playing on the TV, or when the (authentic) Spanish waiter seemed quite astonished when we indicated we wanted to order some food. The menu wasn’t huge but adequate and we chose a mix of veggie, fish and meat tapas.

Our drinks – a perfectly serviceable red wine – came quickly,  as did the food, though this requires rather more clarification. I suppose my main issue with Toro Toro’s tapas was the wildly varying quality. For example: great olives (harder than you might think to source). Good (but not amazing) Serrano ham, but light, perfectly seasoned deep-fried calamari. The grilled shrimp were full of finger-lickin’, garlicky flavour.

But then there was the slightly odd. The aioli seemed to have more than a passing resemblance to sandwich spread, and the dip for the patatas bravas (in themselves alright) was simply unidentifiable. The bizarre artichoke hearts in blue cheese were a step further along the oddness scale. We thought the chef might have known something we didn’t in combining the two, but sadly, he didn’t.

Finally, definitely terrible was the sorry excuse for Spanish tortilla that was put on our table, soggy and mushy in the extreme. It kept being left as we finished off the other tapas. When the Australian chef happened to walk past, we stopped him to ask just what had happened the tortilla that had led to its pathetic state. I’m not sure if it made things better or worse, that the chef then open-heartedly apologized for its poor quality, saying how he’d been away with his newborn baby, and hence hadn’t had time to prepare fresh tortillas.

To be fair, a fresh dish of tortilla was subsequently delivered to our table, much improved in texture, though sadly not in flavour. Our complaint to the waiter about the first, soggy version elicited a dark muttering of ‘Well, in Spain we don’t reheat our tortillas in the oven’. Even so (and the arrival of new babies notwithstanding), that’s no excuse for trying to sneak out food so clearly past its best.

For that alone, only 1 star out of 5, despite the great calamari. I have no idea what the other (strangely positive) online reviewers for Toro Toro are on about. Because, who knows what that might be like next time around? For your money, Delicatessen is a safer, if slightly too-kool-for-skool, overly crowded bet. And, my new favourite with nice big portions, is Barcelona on Markveien. Good food, friendly service, and you don’t even have to shout to make yourself heard. Bonus!

1/5 stars Toro Toro Ruseløkkveien 14,0251 Oslo. 22 83 25 50

3/5 stars Delicatessen Søndre Gate 8, 0550 Oslo. 22 71 45 46

4/5 stars Barcelona Tapas Bar Markveien 42, 0554 Oslo. 22 37 05 00

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akersberget

November 23, 2008

akersberget

The corner in the picture above was where we all snuggled in on Tuesday’s cold night, on a pile of skins and cushions, toasty from the blazing fire. The red house at the bottom of Telthusbakken has been rebuilt and turned into a wonderfully cosy restaurant, Akersberget. I can’t say so much about the faithfulness of the restoration, but am pleased that the house has been given a new lease of life.

I especially liked the outhouse in the courtyard with only three walls, where the fourth side is the bare rock of the hill behind, where silver was first mined a thousand years ago. No service there, but a great place to sit with your drink. Browse their gallery to see more.

Service was friendly, informal and efficient, while food was traditional Norwegian with an almost imperceptible nod to the modern. The latter was well-executed and balanced, if slightly less than thrilling dishes, certainly for the price. Mains of pinnekjøtt and cod were upwards of 250 kroner, and three courses set us back 495 kroner.

And therein lies my main problem with the restaurant. With its warm and beautifully redone interior I would have been keen to have found a new favourite in town. But the bill was hard to swallow for nothing more than reasonable food. I’ll definitely be back for drinks, and the courtyard looks very promising for the spring, but unless value-for-money takes a favourable turn, I’m afraid I’ll be eating elsewhere.

sanguine

November 17, 2008

sanguine

I’m getting closer and closer to the inner sanctum of the Opera House in Oslo. After numerous rooftop walks, one Sunday night several weeks ago I ate dinner at the Opera’s foyer brasserie, Sanguine. Visually the place is a feast for the eye. High ceilings, angled beams, full glass windows, (almost) white marble flooring and pristine white tablecloths accented by red flowers, candle holders and waiters’ shirts.

Unfortunately the panoramic view of the Oslo fjord and its islands was shrouded in the inky night, so one tip would be to visit in daylight if you can. The restaurant’s location towards the back of the foyer is a little disconcerting, as there’s no real physical demarcation of the two. So although I know that’s the main point of an Opera house, concert-goers stream past and sometimes even brush against the outer tables when entering and leaving the auditorium. That, and the end-of interval music clangs quite loudly!

But what of the food? To use a musical analogy, the main we all chose – of moose and root vegetable puree with bacon bits and a seriously savoury oil-based sauce – was more Brit pop then Bach. Specifically, unashamedly tasty, yet with brash, loud flavours all competing for attention on the same plate. Some saving grace was served with dessert, cloudberry tart with goat’s cheese sorbet. More subtle than our main but still would not suffer from a handful less ingredients in the mix.

Finally, a series of Norwegian-designed cutlery and ceramics seems to have been especially designed for the Opera House’s eating and drinking outlets. I liked both the look and the utility of the former but the latter fell foul of the first rule of design, prioritizing form over funtion. Swooping plate edges is one thing, but miniscule (unsuable) handles on the coffee cups quite another. The cost of promoting local industry?

grefsenkollen

November 9, 2008

grefsenkollen1

I’ve been up Grefsenkollen a number of times (and Mr. Snow about 30 times that number, while training climbs for The Great Test of Strength), for rock climbing, walking and to enjoy the great view from 367 m above downtown Oslo. The old wooden house there has always been silent when I’ve been, but the news is that it has now been transformed into a beautiful restaurant (and the inevitable conference centre), with good reviews so far.And it’s not just waffles and coffee either, you can choose from a daily, 3-, 5- or 7-course meal with all the whistles and bells.

Their website describes the cabin’s interesting history (in Norwegian). It was built by the Ringnes Brewery in 1926, when there was no car road up to the remote plot. At that time, alcohol laws were strong in central Oslo, which may have something to do with why a brewery would build a pub on the outskirts of Oslo. It became a popular spot for locals, with dance evenings organized several times a week for young people, who would toboggan down the hill again at the end of the night.

Grefsenkollen was presented as a gift to the Oslo city council in the 1930s on the condition that only Ringnes beer would be sold there (!). During the second world war, the occupying German forces had control of the place, using it as a radio station with much technical equipment positioned there. It apparently took several years after the war before Grefsenkollen became popular again, and it’s since undergone several incarnations, of which the restaurant there today is the latest. The pictures I’ve seen indicate that they have kept the raw timber feel of the place, which looks stunning in combination with the minimalist fittings. Now as for the food…

kitty’s sushi

November 8, 2008

kittys

Only two months to go of my year online. What in the world are you all going to read when it’s done?!

I realized I have been posting lots about the special restaurants we have tried, but little about the neighbourhood ones that we tend to go to more regularly, by virtue of being just round the corner, and affordable.

I think Kitty’s Sushi is the single restaurant we have been to most in Oslo. We used to live literally footsteps away, and now less than a 5 minute walk. It’s certainly no Alex, but the fish is always fresh (er, except for that one time that reasons was singly struck down…) and their reasonably priced mixed sushi and sashimi platters have more food than we can usually eat. I’ve also become a fan of their tempura platter, for when I’m not in the mood for raw fish (it does happen!). I don’t think there’s anywhere else in Oslo you’ll find this quality of sushi at this price, and if so, I’d like to hear about it!

We’ve since gotten to know the family that runs the restaurant, and service is always quick and friendly. I even found a chink in the poker-faced sushi chef’s armour, such that I now get an almost half-smile whenever I walk in. Hint: speaking Cantonese helps!

Helgesens gate 14

Grünerløkka, Oslo

+47 22 38 36 93

dark and stormy

November 6, 2008

stormy

What are new friends for but to introduce you to new follies? This particular one, a Dark and Stormy, was partaken of in great company, on the 57th floor of this building with fabulous nighttime views over Boston. Hello Tristan and P, and cheers to Mr. Obama’s brand new job!

boston brunch

November 3, 2008

Two bloggers, one city, 48 hours… and an Indian summer. Tulipgirl and I walked, talked, shopped, drank and ate, starting with this heavenly pile of pancakes with maple syrup, bacon, fluffed butter, orange juice, coffee and the Sunday papers at The Paramount in Beacon Hill.

coliseum cafe and hotel

October 23, 2008

At the end of our walking tour, Mr. Snow and I retired to the Coliseum’s bar on Jalan TAR for the most pre-war, planter-era drinks you can have in KL. Grandpa Myyear used to take Pa Myyear there for a treat many, many moons ago. There’s even still a hat stand, though I don’t know when the last time was that someone hung their hat on it. The place opened for business 87 years ago, funnily enough in the very same year that Captain Ho, who has been manning the restaurant for 40 years in his starched white uniform, was born. He knows the regulars so well they don’t even need to order anymore.

Morgan (Mogan) and his brother are young upstarts by comparison, having worked at the Coliseum for a mere 33 years each. According to a newspaper interview hanging on the wall, starting there was tough. They were apparently given two weeks to lean Hainanese or leave. Morgan said, “(The) manager Wong Chin Wan used to shout at me when I mispronounced words, but I knew that he was good at heart and only wanted me to speak the dialect well.”

On the rainy evening we visited, all three were waiting the tables in the bar and restaurant. A group of middle-aged lawyers were kicking back around the low tables and armchairs. With the High Courts around the corner, the Coliseum isn’t a surprising choice. And with the beer bellies in evidence, it didn’t seem like it was their first time there either.

We had a dinner date with Ma and Pa Myyear at Nathans, so no sizzling steak for us this time. But the Tiger beer was cold and the bartender chatty. And in which other bar in the world, when you ask for peanuts to go with your beer, are you directed to the kacang stall at the art deco, Indian-language cinema next door?

98-100 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman
Kuala Lumpur 50100 Malaysia
+60 3 2692 6270

dim sum at beijing palace

October 7, 2008

Dim sum is one of the reasons Sundays exist. I’ve been casting around for a good place for this in Oslo and think I’ve found the place to wave my chopsticks: Beijing Palace, just behind the law faculty downtown on Pilestredet.

I’m not sure where the owners come from, but they speak Cantonese, and the dim sum is good. Lighter and less stodgy than Taste of China, and a much more pleasant restaurant too.

We went for the classics mainly: siu mai, ha kow, pai kuat, lo mai gai, gow choy gow, char siu pau and ha cheong fun . Service was a little slow, if friendly, so we probably ended up eating more than usual! But we were happy to sit and chat in between, especially as it had decided to pour down outside.

Apparently Dinner and Oriental do pretty well too, but something about paying through your nose for dim sum (no matter how good) seems really wrong. So, not quite Royal China, but for 160 NOK each to be more than full of decent dim sum, I haven’t managed to find better in Oslo. If you beg to differ, I’d be glad to hear why!

Beijing Palace

Pilestredet 27, Oslo

Tel: 22 11 08 00

restaurant fjord

September 28, 2008

On Friday night, Mr. Snow and I discovered our favourite fish restaurant in Oslo. With informal but attentive and friendly service, Restaurant Fjord beat the socks off Solsiden, also food-wise. It’s a good-looking place as well, and someone must have had lots of fun designing the walrus-tusk chandeliers (only in Norway, I tell you).

The restaurant operates on a menu that changes weekly, you can choose from a three-, four- or five-course meal. East-West fusion is definitely on the menu, but does not seem to cross continents too violently in a single course. For example, the halibut and pollack mains were grounded firmly in their root vegetable puree and French sauce tradition, but both dishes also had a lightness that does not come easily.

The Salma sashimi starter on the other hand was clearly Asian, with reduced soya sauce (or possibly Marmite?!) for dipping. I was also thrilled to bite into an old favourite, salt and pepper fried prawns, or the Cantonese yim kok ha, on the same plate. Celebrity chef-owner Ole Jonny Eikefjord alludes to China as a source of inspiration in this article, so no surprise perhaps. Next time, even with shell on?

It’s hard to go wrong with chocolate and berry desserts, and Mr. Snow reported full satisfaction with his cheese platter. So if anything (and just to be picky), I would point only to the fennel and mussel soup as the odd one out on the night’s menu. The mussels were fine, but the breaded scallop tragically too tough (good try on textures though). Also, the horseradish (and/or mustard?) overpowered the dish. But overall, only a small blip on a horizon of delicate, balanced flavours.

Must go, if you love fish. And actually, even if you don’t.

I realized that My Year Online hasn’t focused enough on food, given what a big part of (my) life it is. So, more on the places that have filled my belly and made it sing this year coming up!