Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nero is still great - but there are some issues...

I went to the Italian Restaurant Nero in the end of August 2008 in connection with a business dinner. I have been there a few times before and it has always been a real pleasure (as you can see from this review http://eatingoutinstavanger.blogspot.com/2007/10/bravissimo-nero.html


We came to the restaurant at about 7 PM and as always it is a pleasure to return to Nero as they have a personal touch to it. When we arrived we were greeted with a handshake by Sebatstien, one of the owners of Nero, and we were led into the bar in order to have an aperitif before sitting down. We visited the restaurant in the middle of ONS week (one of the largest oil & gas conferences/exhibitions in the world) and this has some negative side effects of course. I was hoping to go for the 7 course dinner but instead I found out that they "only" had a 5 course dinner and the prices had been adjusted up :-( But what can you do...it is the same all over town during this week.




Anyway, we went into the bar to have an aperitif before dinner and I asked if I could get some sparkling Italian wine and to my big surprise Sebastien had to inform me that they didn't have any. So I went down on my list and asked for a Kir Royal and once again Sebastien had to inform me that he couldn't serve it as they were out of Creme de Cassis. I can accept the fact that they don't have creme de cassis at an Italian restaurant but it seems a bit strange when they don't have some Italian sparkling wine. But Sebastien saved the day by suggesting that we go for an Americano - no, not the coffee but the drink made from Campari, Cinzano Rosso and club soda. It was a tiny little drink at least when it was 100 kroner (18$) per glass.


Soon we were ready to get seated and we got our first dish pretty fast. Well, it turned out that it was not the first dish but just an appetizer from the kitchen: some olives, ham and some sort of bread. We also got our first wine of the evening...and Italian sparkling type wine that reminded me of a a rosé wine. It was good with the first appetizer and the following dishes. The second appetizer from the kitchen was a pea soup served with caviar (big style) and some fish. Eating large fish eggs is always a bit of an experience...it is a strange sensation to feel the eggs pop in your mouth :-)


We finally came to the first real dish of the evening...the wonderful, rich and creamy lobster soup served with crab on top. This has become a signature dish of Restaurant Nero and it is delicious indeed :-) Next we moved over to another starter: a huge ravioli served with chicken pieces, foie gras and apples. I have to admit that I enjoy fois gras in limited amounts and this was just right :-) Next in line was the first "main" course and the fish of the evening was the turbot served with black caviar on top and served on a bed of vegetables. Again a nice dish and the fish was perfectly prepared. As a resting dish before the main meal we got a tiny little dark berry shake :-)


I'm a bit ashamed to say that I'm not quite sure what meat we had for the main meal but I think it was lamb (I guess that is what happens when you don't take notes when you are eating). But what I do remember is that we all thought it was nice and it was served with Brunello wine on the side :-) To round of the evening we got the tiramisu served with dark, dark chocolate and vanilla ice cream on the side :-) Sebastien claims that this was made after his mothers recipe and it was very, very tasty and the dark chocolate ice cream was very rich :-) We also got a sweet dessert shot after this to round of the entire meal. In the end we ordered some coffee and my colleagues wanted cognac but to our surprise they did not have any cognac at all...just grappa. This is a bit strange as Norwegian love their cognac after a good meal :-) But I was even more surprised to see that the waitress had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for a limoncello. The bill this evening was about 6100 kroner (1125$) which is more expensive than the previous times I have been there.

Conclusion
This was another great meal at Restaurant Nero but as you might read out of my review this time there are a couple of issues that they need to look into. First of all you have the ONS issue where you "pay more and get less" in my opinion but I guess there is not much to do about that when the whole city adjusts to this mode. But it seems a bit strange not having Italian sparkling wine as aperitifs, not having cognac on the menu along with the coffee (Norwegians love their cognac) and the waitress that had no clue whatsoever what limoncello was. And even if we got a bit better wine we didn't get very much of it...this was however a blessing in disguise as we were going to work the next morning :-) Maybe I'm just being picky....it was a very nice meal and Restaurant Nero is still highly recommended in my opinion. Sorry for the quality of the images by the way. They were all taken with my cell phone. You can find more info about the restaurant on the homepage http://restaurant-nero.no/


Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com/ - trip reports and pictures

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mediocre food at Al Forno

In the end of August 2008 Nikki and I went into town to grab something to eat before we went to a concert. We decided to try something new and we ended up going to Pizzeria Al Forno located at Skagen in Stavanger. It was during ONS (a big oil conference) so when we came there we had to wait for a couple of minutes as we didn’t have a reservation but at least we got a table. We got the table close to the entrance door and it was constantly open so it was a good thing there were blankets on the chairs so that we could keep warm

The menu is quite extensive and I was thrilled to see that they had risotto, gnocchi, pizza etc on the menu. The wine selection on the other hand was very sad…only like 3-4 red wines that you could get by the bottle (or half a bottle) and only one kind by the glass. Anyway, I ordered the gnocchi con carne for starter, Calzone con pesto e pollo for main and Nikki went for lasagne. One positive thing with the menu was that it was possible to order small portions of the pasta dishes for half the price.

The restaurant is located in the very middle of town so the location ideal. As the restaurant was full it took quite a bit of time to get the food. I was actually impressed to see that the main waiter managed to keep up to speed with all the new guest, people ordering food etc. But I did at least get the wine pretty fast. But I never did get to see what wine it was as the waitress ran of as soon as she had poured it into my glass :-)

When the food was served I was very disappointed. The gnocchi that I had ordered was not gnocchi but dry pasta shaped to resemble gnocchi. Come on guys, you know and I know that this is not gnocchi so why write it on the menu? The dish itself was not bad once I got over the disappointment and it contained real meat and not just minced meat. Nikkis lasagne was drowning in cheese so they had been pretty generous with it. As Nikki is lactose intolerant I got to steal most of the cheese. The lasagne was OK but not the best I have tasted (but not the worst either).

After a few minutes I also got my Calzone con pesto e pollo served. It looked pretty nice as it was in a perfect shape served with a few basil leaves on top. But as I started digging into it I found out that the appearance was misleading. The pizza was extremely boring in taste as it seemed like the only content was fried chicken breast (which can be extremely dry and boring), cheese and something that I assume were pesto. But it was a big thing so at least it was filling.

Conclusion
I don’t think we will be going back to this place soon. Well, maybe if we want to grab something fast to eat before going to the movies but not for a romantic dinner. I was very disappointed to see that the gnocchi was not gnocchi at all and I’m wondering if they are faking other dishes as well. Italian food can be simple and very tasty…at Al forno it was just simple. So if you want a great Italian meal in Stavanger you should rather go to Allegro or Restaurant Nero.

For this meal we had to pay 75 Kroner (about 14 $) for the gnocchi and the same for the lasagne (these were ordered as small portions) and 145 kroner (27$) for the pizza. The glass of wine was 62 kroner (12$)…the same as a bottle would cost me on a restaurant in South Africa J. So the bill came to about 400 kroner (74$) which is not bad for Norwegian standards.


Check out the restaurant homepage on http://www.pizzeria-alforno.no/ for mor information.


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