Dim Sum and Then Some at Yauatcha

During a recent trip to London we visited a place that had pretty awesome dumplings. We’d grown tired of the English cuisine and had been recommended both Hakkasan, an upmarket Chinese restaurant, and it’s sibling Yautacha, focusing on dim sum – or dumplings if you like.

We went for the latter and I must say that was a good choice. There was steamed dim sum, baked dim sum, grilled dim sum and pan fried dim sum, deep fried dim sum and cheung fun. Pork, beef, prawn, mushrooms, vegetable – you name it they had it – and we had it all. Well not exactly every single type on the menu but a fair share. I guess we counted 15-some different ones. Not everyone was amazing, I mean the mushroom one (the green thing on the bottom of the picture) was nice but very subtle compared to the five spice pork and prawn one, but overall they were truly amazing!

Arrive a bit early and try some of their very asiatic cocktails. Since I don’t really fancy all that sweetness and ice I preferred the martinis but for all you exotic drink lovers you wont be let down.

One little detail that was a tad annoying was the noise level. Yes I sound like an old fart saying this but we were seated downstairs, which was much cozier than ground level, and it just was very loud. Hey, I usually love a bustling restaurant but here came to be just a bit much for any longer séjour to be pleasurable.

So summing up the dim sum experience – go there. And if you’ve been there – what did you think of it?

El Celler de Can Roca revisited

Welcome!

Just the other week Restaurant Magazine announced this year’s list of the worlds 50 best restaurants. I was glad to see that El Celler de Can Roca grabbed the place as first runner up – cause I just payed them another visit. If last time was awesome this time was twice that. I woud say the big difference was the wine, not that the food wasn’t tweaked too but the wines – wow. Also, this time, we were there for the lunch seating at 1 pm. Must say that was an excellent choice as you will see there was quite a lot to eat and drink.

First amuse bouche: Caramelized Olive. You can see the presentation yourself but what you can’t see is that they were filled with anchovies. Wine pairing for all appetizers was Albet I Noia El Celler Brut D.O. Cava.

Amuse bouche served in a bonzai tree

 

Second amuse bouche: Campari bombon. Basically a fragile bonbon with Campari inside.

Served on ice

Third amuse bouche: Anchovy bones. Like last time – imagine prawn crackers but with anchovy and their bones left. Also a version with seaweed.

Third amuse bouche

Fourth amuse bouche: Chicken cracker.

Fourth amuse bouche

Fifth amuse bouche: Ring calamar adaptation. Best calamar I ever tasted; not particularly traditional but oh so good.

Fifth amuse bouche

Sixth amuse bouche: Vegetable salad. Smallest one I ever tried, like an gunkan-maki.

Sixth amuse bouche

Seventh amuse bouche: Truffled brioche and pot au feu broth. One of the best ones this lunch.

Seventh amuse bouche

Eighth amuse bouche: “Escalivada” with anchovies and smoke of ember. Charcoal-grilled eggplant, pepper, onion and tomato. Served with a glass bowl over the plate that contained the smoke.

Ninth amuse bouche

First course: Artichoke, foie gras orange and truffled oil. Can it go wrong – no it cannot. Interesting way to serve foie gras and I applaude it. Wine: Torre del Moro ’09 D.O. Conca de Barbera.

First course

Second course: Charcoal-grilled king prawn with acidulated mushrooms juice. After devouring the meat part we went for the insides of the head – did they inject something or could it be that good by just being grilled? Wine: Josephshöfer ’99 Auslese VDP Mosel.

Second course

Third course: Onion soup, Crespià walnuts and Comté cheese. A new way of doing the French classic – onion soup with bread and cheese. Hot damn! One of my favourites. Wine: Renard Fourcharme ’95 Magnum A.O.C. Chablis Premier Cru.

Fourth course: Sole, olive oil and Mediterranean flavours. Also one that we had the last time. We ate from the bottom up: fennel, bergamot, orange, pine nut and olive oil. The crystalized olive oil kind of candy on top was awesome. Wine: Stéphane Tissot ’07 Savagnin A.O.C. Arbois.

Fourth course

Fifth course: Baby squid with onion rocks. One of the top squid dishes I had. Crisp and good. Wine: El Rocallis ’06 D.O. Penedès.

Fifth course

Sixth course: Red mullets with suquet (Catalan seafood stew) and lard. They sure know their seafood here and the green lard dumplings was really interesting in a very good way. Wine: Nelin ’08 D.O.Qa Priorat.

Sixth course

Seventh course: Steak tartare with mustard ice cream. Spiced tomato, caper compote, pickles and lemon, hazelnut praline, meat béarnaise sause, Oloroso-sherry raisin, chives, Sichuan pepper, Pimentón de La Vera (D.O.) smoked paprika and curry, small scoops of mustard ice cream and mustard leaves. Do I need to say this was the best steak tartar I’ve ever tasted. Wine: Pardas Rosat ’07 Vi de Taula {Penedès}.

Seventh course

Eighth course: Lamb with mint and peas. It was the neck of the lamb and the sauces was simply magical. Wine: Oloroso del Puerto Lustau Almacenista D.O. Jerez.

Eighth course

Ninth course: Green Colourology. This little miracle cleared our palate before the deserts. Quite similar to the green chromatism we got last time. The small candy like things was Chartreuse candy – well needed. Other flavours was mint and avocado. Wine: Clos Martinet ’07 D.O.Qa Priorat.

Ninth course

First desserts: Blood orange and beetroot sherbet. Bold flavours and just plain fantastic. But never mind that, don’t you just love the way it looks?! Wine: Grans Fassian Kabinett ’07 VDP Mosel.

Tenth course

Second dessert: Vanilla, caramel, liquorice, dried and caramelised black olives. No comment other than – yummy. Wine: Mont-Rubi Advent Sumoll ’08 D.O. Penedès.

Eleventh course

Bonus round: Apple and foie gras timbal with vanilla oil. Are we at… what, 19 servings? Well why not one more? And hey, we all love foie gras, specially this classic Can Roca creation. Wine: Olivares Monastrell ’08 D.O. Jumilla.

Extra course

Time for coffee and grappa, no problem to down the nice sweets that was served: Golden praline, Palet d’or, Yuzu bombon, Mont Blanc and Raspberry. Phew, we managed all pralines as well. The raspberry was my favourite.

Bonbons

After it all we got a tour of the wine celler and kitchen where we bumped into Joan Roca, the savoury master mind.

Today's menu

Oh yeah, we can do this at home… just need to upgrade my kitchen.

Not your normal kitchen-ware

Seems like a humble and collected guy, at least here after service.

Cuiner

So how could we end this magnificent day when the time was only 6 pm? We took a taxi into River Café on the steps to the cathedral and drank beers and margaritas and ate pintxos and tapas in the warm spring sun. Awesomeness!

The natural cuisine at Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren

So we finally got around to visiting Mathias Dahlgren at Grand Hôtel here in Stockholm. I’ve tried a few times to get a table at Matsalen, with two stars, set menues and a more formal setting, but we went for Matbaren, a more laid back but still awesome place. The top 50 web describes it as a twin restaurant concept. Nevertheless, if you’re in Stockholm – go there, it’s a must!

At Matbaren they offer a variety, all seasonal of course, of medium sized dishes. They’re larger than an appetizer but smaller than an regular entree. Basically divided into regional (Swedish) and globally inspired they also have vegetarian and a part with pastries and one with dairy products and cold cuts. The beverage section is very well matched and we got a lot of competent advise in our choices. Here’s what we had:

I started with a glass of cava, Agusti Torello Barrica -06, that went well with Artichoke & leek, served with watercress, truffles, onion rings and aged cheese. As a guy that use the quote “never trust a vegetarian” a lot, I was pleasantly surprised by this choice from the greens section. Lisa had Sashimi of salma salmon & reindeer, served with avocado, ginger and horseradish and complemented with a glass of Jacobus -09 a Riesling Trocken from Peter Jakob Kühn, Rheingau.

For the second dish we both found one we had to try – Swedish squid & shrimp in a spicy broth served with raw vegetables, lime, coriander and chili. We thought “Swedish squid, what the hell is that?” but it turned out to be just that, squid off the west coast of Sweden, and damn was that good! The squid itself was cold and perfect in texture and the broth incredibly well balanced for being a fresh and spicy one. Instead of wine we were recommended Ginger Beer from Williams Bros Brewing that simply rocked.

Now Lisa had to try the Artichoke & leeks that I’d had and I went for Seared flanksteak from Nebraska served with beetroot, horseradish ox marrow and watercress. The meat was full of flavor, perhaps it was just a tad tough, but all in all a great plate. To this I didn’t want the Californian wine recommended and chose Arlay Rouge -05 from Château d’Arlay, Jura, which turned out to be a great combination.

As Lisa saved herself for the desserts I had to try another savory dish – a Salad of salted cod served with fennel, capers, lemon and olive oil. This was my favorite course of them all, a bit like gravlax but with cod and no sugar. Simply clean and well matched flavors. The wine came from outside their list but sharing the cellar with Grand Hôtel has its perks I guess; Huber -09, Grüner Veltliner, Traisental D.A.C.

Now – desserts. I had Baked wild chocolade from Bolivia served with sour cream, toffée ice cream and nuts. Almost like a chocolate fondant and a really nice dessert plate for a guy not that crazy about sweets. Lisa had an even better dessert: Bitter lemon cream served with meringue, honey, olive oil and vanilla. Next time I’m having that one! To this we had Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia -09 from La Spinetta, Piemonte and Vin doux Naturel Vendange -08 from Domaine Pouderoux, Maury.

We finished off with some espressos, curiously enough from Nespresso, and an avec. Lisa got Cidre De Glace, Ice Cider -06, from Domaine Leduc-Piedimonte in Canada. This ice cider is made in the same fashion as eiswein and are only made in like one or two places in the world. I got Grappa Sauvignon Blanc, Nonino -04.

The evening was in short amazing and I’ll be back soon. With a couple of dishes and a glass or two it doesn’t have to cost you more than the average restaurant. Thank you Mathias and crew.

An evening at Mugaritz, Gipuzkoa 17 August 2010

Now there’s something special with some meals. With some restaurants. With some evenings.

I’ve already written about our plan to visit Spain again after last summers fantastic experience and told you about the great pintxos in Donostia. Now it’s time to summarize my party’s evening at Mugaritz.

According to the San Pellegrino top 50 Mugaritz is on fifth place – yes for all you observant people reading it dropped one from last year and who took the fourth place if not the good people at El Celler.

I’ll just go dish by dish and end with a little thought about the experience as a whole and how I compare it to the restaurant that took it’s fourth place.

Arriving a little early, how un-Spanish of us, we took a seat in the garden. I had a look at the herbs and flowers that they use in their cooking and behind me in the picture you see their new kitchen – with all the windows – nice!

As an amuse buche we got stones. Well biting into them we found out it was really potatoes. Don’t know what kind but they were really tasty and they came with awesomely good aioli and a glass of Mokoroa 09, Getariako, Txakolina by Mokoroa.

Potatoes as Stones for appetizers

Inside we were seated at a big round table, love those, and also got a tour in the new kitchen. I’ve seen a few kitchens, both as a member of the staff as well as a curios patron and I’ve never seen such a well-organized and squeaky-clean kitchen.

Kitchen at Mugaritz

Back at the table we got two more appetizers. First some grilled paprika and then a baby squid salad served in its ink. Now we got to decide on the wine. They didn’t cater a set wine menu so we asked our very helpful sommelier for a selection that would fit both our menu and our wallet – he hit a home run! First up – Ossian 07, Verdejo, VdT de Castilla y Leon.

Baby Squid Salad

Ok, first dish. Roasted Tomato Salad and its own cool water. Best tomato I’ve ever eaten. So rich in flavor it was insane. The cool water was a kind of white tomato juice sorbet.

Roasted Tomato Salad

After that came a Silky Bread Stew, infused with pink geranium leaves covered with crabmeat. Just the smell of it was lovely. Digging in was even better.

Silky Bread Stew

Now came the favorite of a couple in our party – Roasted Lobster, herbs and dried peach. Even if I do think that lobster usually is a tad overrated this one was good. I wouldn’t say dry but a big chunk of lobster is, well a big chunk. The flavor combination was excellent though. I think this is when we got the next wine – As Sortes 09, Godello, Valdeorras, by Rafael Palacios.

Roasted Lobster

Now for a fun ingredient – Razor Clams flavored with a rich black bean broth, perfumed with cinnamon oil and Sweet Black Beans. The flavors was very delicate but when I think about the painstaking job of picking those clams by hand with snorkel and mask I wonder if it’s worth it. Pick an oyster instead. But then I’m not fair. Sorry no picture of this dish.

Next on the plate were Megrim Stuffed with Vegetable Pearls, pickled herbs and small sautéed onions. This dish was more about the clean flavors of the ingredients, as was most of the menu, and it was very nice. Nothing more, nothing less, just very nice. Next wine was Etiqueta Negra 07, Albariño, Rias Baixas, by Terras Gauda. Could be that Rias Baixas is a new favorite denominación.

Megrim Stuffed With Vegetable Pearls

Continuing on the sea theme we got Sea Bass with tomatillos and Iberian sheen. Got to love that sea bass and tomatillos was a fun type of tomatoes that looked like black currants.

Sea Bass

Now we went over to Loin of Duck, served with iodized compliments; crumblings and shavings of summer truffle. Me, I really like truffle so this was tasty. The duck itself, maybe, just maybe, a tad overcooked. It seemed like a fantastic idea that in the end was just very nice and not all that fantastic. However, the wine that was being poured up was amazing – AALTO PS 05, Ribiera del Duero by AALTO. Kudos to AALTO!

Loin of Duck

Now for the absolute favorite – Tradition, Ocean and Land they call it. Braised Iberian Pork Tails and pan fried Langoustines, reduced braising juices infused with Iberian “jamón”. Halle-friggin’-lujah, that’s what I call a surf ‘n’ turf! That pork had such a rich taste and langoustines cooked to perfection are just filthy good – there was a party in my mouth.

Iberian Pork Tails and Pan Fried Langoustines

Exit savory main dishes; enter dessert. Not my focal point in any meal but hey, who am I to pass these little plates of heavenly sweets up. Warm Artisan Tablet with whipped honey and oats – say what? Well look at the picture. Loved the honey foam and all in all a nicely put together ensemble. The dessert wine that followed was Seleccion Especial No1, Malaga, by Jorge Ordonez – great stuff.

Warm Artisan Tablet

The second dessert was the best – Broken Walnuts, Toasted and Salted, cool milk cream and Armagnac jelly. It was ice cream on goat milk that worked like a charm with the faux walnuts, eatable what else, and the fiery jelly inside.

Broken Walnuts, Toasted and Salted

The chef said in the beginning of the evening that we could switch any dish and ask for more whenever. Now came the time when some ordered an extra dessert. They got an awesome chocolate thingy like a chocolate cream or soup with a lid of white chocolate and powdered sugar.

Extra Dessert

As for all the wine, I liked that we got to try two dishes with each wine so we got the opportunity to see how the wines played out differently. Well of course you think but the thing is – the wines was so damn well matched with all dishes and that I’m impressed with.

Another interesting detail is that almost every ingredient is sourced from no more than 30 km away. The Iberian pork is apparently an exception as the Galician ones are the best. Also something that we learned when we asked if they had anything with Foie Gras, we love that shit, they told us it wasn’t in season. Silly us thought that it could be consumed whenever.

So how can I compare this with last year’s evening at El Celler de Can Roca? Well, I don’t really want to. I know that the total experience was a tad better at El Celler; the least exciting dishes was better there, the setting and service just a tiny bit better, the bread better, the appetizers more inventive but the wines was better at Mugaritz. But as I said, don’t really want to compare the two. Both evenings were truly fantastic. Go visit them both!

And by the way, what do you think – have you tried any of the above or what do you think about ranking these kinds of experiences?

Wagamama in Stockholm!

Finally! Seems like I’ve missed that every noodle loving blogger and news regurgitator already written about this but passing Stockholm Waterfront today I saw that Wagamama is coming to town. Sugoizo! Good Japanese fast food neatly presented. Can’t wait for an after work there with Gyoza, Udon, Edamame washed down with alot of Kirin or even better, Sapporo.

By the way, did you know that wagamama means selfish or self-indulgence in Japanese? My kind of restaurant I say! See you there soon…

A little gem called Grythyttan

Salmalax

We were travelling from Gothenburg to Leksand and thought to ourselves – what the hell can we find on the way. In the middle of Sweden. In the middle of all that coniferous forrest. In the middle of nowhere. Then it hit me – there’s a culinary epicentre somewhere on our way with a culinary school and a lovely inn with a renowned restaurant called Grythyttan.

We booked a night at inn and a table for the evening. The room was charming. In fact the whole town is charming. But let’s focus on – surprise – the dinner. We had a summer tasting menue that was affordable and worth every penny. They kicked it of with Cucumber Water. It was a refreshing cleanser of the taste buds with taste of citrus, mint and of course cucumber.

First course was Salmalaxsalmon from Norway famous for how the freshness is preserved. The lax was accompanied by baked egg yolk and cured cod roe emulsion. The wine with this was 2008 “Le Bel Ange” a Chardonnay by Domaine Begude, Pays d’Oc, France. Nice!

Main course was Veal Shoulder with Fried Tongue – a magnificent pairing with the tender veal and the crisp tongue full of flavour. To this came chestnut puré, butter fried apple and oxtail gravy. Wine was 2006 Pilheiros from Douro in Portugal by François Lurton. Yummy!

Before dessert we got some great Hard Cheeses from Sivans Ost. Along came honey from Mörkö, peach chutney and toasted fruit bread. A perfect escort to the dessert and well matched with 2009 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling by Fritz Haag, Mosel, Germany.

Dessert was Baked Chocolate served with caramelised malt, rosemary croutons and raspberry sorbet. Wine was 2007 Curina by Barone Pizzini, Marche, Italy.

To top an already perfect evening we made our way to the garden and ordered some coffee and avec. I also jumped at the opportunity to enjoy a good cigar – a Swedish brand called Hafströms that was a pleasant surprise. Quite potent.

The room at Grythyttan's Inn

Dining in Istanbul

View from the Bosphorus

Me and Lisa was down in Istanbul before summer. Basically to jump start the summer but also to experience the city so many spoke so highly of. It’s suppose to be the worlds fifth largest city in the world not counting suburbs.

During the long weekend we stayed at the W which was a real treat. As always we wanted to dine our way through the city and here’s what we found.

The best dining in Istanbul are the local gems. Whether it’s a backstreet in Beşiktaş or around the Grand Bazaar you can always find a good charcoal grill. For dinner we went to one of the best – Köşebaşı. Great grilled meats and mezes matched with some nice local red wines.

Two more posh places were recommended. The first, Vogue, was ok. They had good sushi and decent entrees. All in all it was a tad overrated and thus overpriced. The second, 360, was lousy as a restaurant but picked up more points as a club. The food was so so, the service was worse than average, the cocktails was a joke but the club had a good DJ so with a few beers the night ended well.

Fresh fish