Wednesday, September 21, 2011

City Brasserie & Vinbar–decent food but disappointed by the wine bar

A few years back this place was called “Bryggeriet” I think and right before City Brasserie & vinbar took over they installed “wine machines” – a machine where the bottles are kept with nitrogen I guess to preserve it longer (I have seen similar ones in butcher shops in Tuscany – see this trip report). The result was of course that they could offer many wines by the glass every day which I really enjoyed. Anyway, City Bistro took over and turned it into City Brasserie & vinbar and I had big expectations as there isn’t really a proper wine bar in Stavanger. So I was a bit peeved when the first thing they did was to remove the machines. I asked them why and they had some sort of explanation that they wanted the wine experience to be more personal and exclusive. But I’m not sure that it has turned out the way I wanted it to at least – when I have gone there I don’t feel like they had lots of options of wine by the glass and buying a whole bottle is normally out of the question.

Today City Brasserie & vinbar is split into three sections: the lower floor is the brasserie, the mezzanine level is the champagne lounge and wine bar and the upper floor is the restaurant. I have been there a few times and I have eaten both upstairs and downstairs but this will mainly be about my latest visit in September 2011. Nikki and I went there to have a meal at the restaurant upstairs but when we came all the lights were turned off. I asked them what was going on and the head waiter said that due to personnel being off sick they had closed the restaurant and only had the brasserie open. When I have been there before there has not been many visitors to the restaurant so I speculate that they closed it off as they didn’t have any reservations but that is just my personal opinion.

photo 1(1)We were offered to go to the brasserie instead and the menu is quite short which is not a problem – but I would like to have seen the menu on their website but I guess that is tricky if they claim that it changes daily. They had a three course meal for 499 Norwegian Kroner (about 85 USD these days) if I’m not mistaken but as we were not that hungry we decided to go for a starter and main and that was about 450 kroner. I went for the foie gras as a starter and pork as the main meal. They did have a few options of wine by the glass but I do get a bit worried when I get to a restaurant early in the evening and they bring out a bottle of red wine where there is hardly anything left in the bottle – does that mean that it was opened yesterday or even the day before? So I got to try one wine and as it seemed to be a bit on the border of going bad, I went for the other Italian red wine alternative. My starter turned out to be not quite what I hoped for – foie gras can be excellent but I got some sort of bloc de foie gras which was more of a pate – still good but not quite the same as the real deal. It was served with shredded lemon and with a lemon sorbet type ice cream which was actually a good combination. Nikki went for a seafood risotto as a starter and it seemed like she enjoyed it and the was a good lobster taste as far as I can remember – the only problem was that it was not warm enough when it was served.

My pork main was one piece of pork belly and one piece of tenderloin I guess served with a block on potatoes and some sort of “cabbage package“ and sauce came on the side. The meat was quite good but the tenderloin was a bit on the dry side but the portion size was quite good.

photo 2(2)All in all the service is quite good and the atmosphere is nice in this small restaurant located on the Skagen side of the Stavanger harbor. But it seems like it is quite empty on most days when I have been there and I’m not sure there everyone gets the “three sections” concept as I described earlier on. I’m a bit disappointed that a champagne and wine bar does not have more varieties by the glass on offer but it is nice to have a glass of Mumm champagne while sitting by the fire place in the lounge. So if you are looking for a place to go for a decent snack before going to e.g. the movies, City Brasserie & vinbar might be a good option – but don’t expect to be blown away by the vast variety of wine by the glass or food. You can read more about the place and book a table on their homepage http://www.citybrasserie.no/

Regards
Gard
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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Café Sting – now you can dine with a view

IMG_5989We have gone to Sting many times over the years as it is a great informal place for a snack before going to e.g. the movies. One of the highlights at this place is the annual garlic festival in March/April where they have a special focus on…you guess it, garlic. The place is located at the top of the hill right next to Valbergstårnet so the location is pretty unique as most other restaurants and bars are located closer to the waterfront. And this location is also what makes their new feature so spectacular: they have opened a new rooftop terrace! I saw the sign for this new rooftop terrace a few months back but I could not really see how this could happen – but the other day when I stopped by they had just installed a sliding door in the middle of the main seating area leading out this new terrace and with a staircase leading up to the rooftop terrace.

IMG_5992We came there at about 5 pm on a Saturday to have a snack before going to the movies. The weather was beautiful as the sun was shining from a cloud free sky but it was also a bit of a chill in the air. But we went to the rooftop terrace and we were happy to see that there were a few tables available. I think this will soon change when the word gets spread that this terrace is now open. The rooftop terrace is placed in such a way that most of the tables did get sunlight and that is always a plus in a cold place like Norway.  The rooftop terrace still needs the last finishing touches but nothing that prevents it from being a nice hangout spot already.

As always I had to go to the cashier to place the order and we decided to go for the burger (as we have tried that at various places lately). Sting is also the only(?) place in Stavanger were you get wine by the glass by the weight. They just place the glass on a scale and they ask you to “say when” as they pour the wine in. They have a few bottles to choose from when it comes to wine but with the new rooftop terrace I think it can turn into an even more popular spot for a cold beer as long as the weather cooperates.

IMG_5994It was great to sit in the sun and enjoy the view of Stavanger while waiting for the burger – and the burger was served sooner than expected. We talked a bit to the girl who served us the burger and she said that it had been a bit chaotic earlier on and people had been waiting for quite some time to get their food served. I guess that is something that the management has to deal with – they have just more or less double the seating capacity but it seems like they have the same kitchen and staff. That could spell disaster if they don’t plan for it. The burger was served with small, fried potatoes on the side and a garlic dip. But where was the tomato sauce or ketchup? The burger itself was good but I would have enjoyed pickles on mine instead of just cucumber. We were never asked how we wanted our burger done but it seemed like medium was the default setting so Nikki found her burger to be a bit too rare. The garlic dip really had lots of garlic in it by the way – I could feel my garlic breath myself the rest of the evening. Not that it is a negative thing but just be aware of it ;-) So I think the burger at Matbaren is still the best burger in town so far (you can read the Matbaren review here). The burger at Sting is 169 Kroner – with the current currency value that spells about 32 US dollars or 22 €.

IMG_5991But all in all – Café Sting is still a great place to go for a bit of snack. Even if their menu is limited you should be able to find something that you like. And it looks like there are lots of new things happening at this place and I’m sure they will stay in business for many years to come. With their new rooftop terrace I’m sure they will attract new crowds when the sun hits Stavanger in the summer months. You can read more about Sting on their homepage http://www.cafe-sting.no/ . It does not seem like their homepage is in English but click on Mat (meaning food) to see the menu, it is both in Norwegian and English.

Regards
Gard
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Renaa Matbaren–still a great option for a meal!

IMG_5829It has been almost 2 years since Renaa took over both Jans and Craigs Kjøkken and created Renaa Matbaren and Renaa Restauranten. Matbaren is the more informal hangout spot while Restauranten has replaced Jans as a fine dining and gourmet restaurant. I was invited to the opening a couple of years back (as you can see here) but after that I have been back a number of time – after all Stavanger is a small place and there are not that many restaurants to choose from ;-)

This is just a few words about Renaa Matbaren which I have checked out many times. First of all: the good news is that it seems like the place is going really good and most days when I have been there it is always crowded. We have just popped in a few time in connection with going to the movies and it is not always easy getting a table – so if you want to make sure to get a seat, make a reservation!

IMG_5828We stopped by there on a weekday before going to the movies and as I had gotten recommendations from Whitney (from the Thanks for the food blog) about the hamburger I decided to go for that. The setup at Renaa is quite cool – the menu, cutlery, glasses, menu and butter is already laid out on the table so when you sit down you can just start looking at the menu…which is both in Norwegian and English. Well done guys! Their menu also varies a bit and I have attached the menu for evening – for some reason I took a photo of the Norwegian version – my bad. But it contains smaller portions like oysters, or local blue mussels, or mozzarella with Parma ham and local tomatoes and basil, beef tartar etc. Other larger options are tagine, homemade sausages and also a variety of barbeque stuff. They actually have a coal barbeque in the kitchen where they fry up burgers, meat and fish.

photo 1I went for the burger as I mentioned and in this place they actually ask you how you want the burger fried…that does not happen very often in Stavanger. The burger took a while to get served but in the mean time we got some bread and the butter is already on the plate…an organic butter from Rørosmeieriet. The burger was served split as you can see on the photo and it was quite a challenge to deal with. It is always a delicate decision – try to eat it in a civilized way with fork and knife OR just put it together and use your hands to dig in. I’m not sure my mouth is big enough so I went for the fork and knife option and the burger was excellent. It was fried to medium as I asked for and it had a great barbeque taste as well (most likely from the coal fired barbeque). On it there were cheese, bacon, large slices of tomato, onion and pickles. And on the side fresh and hot (as in very warm) French fries with two sauces on the side. An excellent meal, presented in a nice way (as nice as you can present a burger I guess) with fresh ingredients and a great taste. So not much to complain about in other words. The burger is 220 Norwegian kroner (about 40 USD).

IMG_5831The second time I went there lately I went there on a Friday evening. It was still early but already full so we had to sit in the bar. Not the best place at least if you want to talk to your company as you are not facing each other and you have the noise from the kitchen. But as you are facing the kitchen it can also be interesting – obviously they are confident in their product if they allow people to look straight into their main operation. I wasn’t that hungry this evening so I just went for a platter of Italian ham and a selection of cheese while my friend went for the fish of the day fried on the barbeque. I think they were a bit busy this evening and they seemed to forget us a bit in terms of serving us e.g. bread. It was also a bit when they came to serve the fish as they brought two portions and I said that I was still waiting for my ham and cheese. But they seemed to handle the challenge pretty well…the fish was sent back to the kitchen and I got my food pretty fast. I love the combination of salami and cheese and this was served in a rustic way…on two wooden boards and with a bit of rocket and honey. The meat and cheese was good but it would have been great to get just a short presentation of what I was actually eating. The salami/ham plate was 185 Norwegian Kroner (33 USD) and 150 Kroner for the cheese (27 USD).

Conclusion is that Renaa Matbaren still works and they still serve some great food in a nice environment. So if you haven’t been there already, there is no reason to not try it out :-) Enjoy. You can check out their homepage on http://www.restaurantrenaa.no/ . It would be great to see the menu online by the way!

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

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Stavanger wine festival coming up

The annual Stavanger wine festival is coming soon – this year it is from April 27th to April 30th. The “Route de vin” is already sold out unfortunately but there are of course other activities. You can read more about the wine festival on http://www.stavangervinfest.no/

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Matmagasinet–our new little gem in Stavanger?

MatmagasinetIt is not that easy to find new places to check out in a small town like Stavanger – and certainly not on a Sunday afternoon. We were going out with some friends and as the weather was good we looked into places like Bølgen & Moi (full), Sting (only opens at 3 PM), Hall Toll (closed on a Sunday) etc. In the end we decided to go for a new place called Matmagasinet located on the corner of Løkkeveien/Eiganesveien. Well, it has been there for a while I guess but it is new to me at least. The place is quite small and it seems to follow the concept that quite a few stores in Stavanger is following Matmagasinet_selectionthese days…it is part café, part coffee shop, part restaurant and part shop where you can buy food products (including Kusmi tea) to bring back home.  The same concept is being used my e.g. FoodStory, Ostehuset etc.  Anyway, we came there about 2 pm on a lazy Sunday afternoon and there were a table for us – they even have a few tables in the backyard if the weather behaves, how excellent is that? We decided to go for an antipasti menu as a shared starter while Nikki went for the risotto a fruite de mare (seafood risotto) while I was a bit more boring and went for the lasagna. This is not a restaurant by the way so you just place your order by the cashier and pay up front and the food will be served at your table. I tried to tell the young Swedish girl behind the counter that we wanted the antipasti as a starter but I’m not sure she totally understood my Stavanger dialect Winking smile

Matmagasinet_antipastiWe had to wait quite a bit for the antipasti to be served but it was a excellent platter: Brie de maux, pecorini, Parma ham, Italian salami, artichokes, olives, capers flowers(?), pesto etc. It was an excellent selection and a good starter for the four of us. The only problem was that it took so long to get it that we were only half way through it when the main dish was served – so you guys have to work on your timing a little bit! Nikki’s risotto was quite a sight when it was served. A good portion of risotto served with a big crayfish on top and with 3-4 scallops. It was of course Nikki’s food but she allowed me to taste a bit as I love risotto – the risotto was maybe a bit over cooked but with a great taste of seafood so I think good stock has been used here. It could also have been seasoned a bit more with salt and pepper but apart from that it was excellent and Nikki was also happy with the crayfish and scallops. Actually this risotto was far better than risottos we’ve had in many other fancy restaurants!

Matmagasinet_risottoMy lasagna was also a good portion and what seemed to be good chunks of meat in it. On the menu it says lasagne with meat ragu and that is actually what it tasted like…like the ragu I had in Bologna last year (see my Bologna trip report). It was maybe a bit on the dry side but I guess I’m just a bit spoiled as I make it all fresh at home from time to time (and there is nothing like home cooking right? ;-) We were actually quite full already but as it had been so great so far we decided to go all the way and also go for dessert. Nikki went for the carrot muffin and I went for the tiramisu (quite a boring choice once again). Nikki was not totally crazy about the carrot muffin as it was a bit compact and it also contained chocolate chips. My tiramisu was served in a small bowl and the taste was good but serving it in a bowl like this makes it look pretty messy if you ask me. I would have like to see more defined layers of cream and ladyfingers. I always try the caffe mocha hoping to find one that can match the one at Charlie Brown but I think I will stick to double espresso the next time.

Matmagasinet_lasagneBut all in all I think we have found a small gem in Stavanger Open-mouthed smile It is only a few minutes walk away from the city center but I doubt that it is as crowded as e.g. Ostehuset on a Saturday afternoon but I will certainly check it out. From the web pages I see that this place has been open since the end of 2007 and I’m wondering how I have been able to miss it. The owners, Ruth and Else, seems to have lots of experience from around the world and are inspired by the Italian kitchen – my kinda place in other words. Well guys, I will certainly be your guest again, that is for sure and I will certainly recommended your place to people that I meet. There are some details that could be improved like a web page in English, a larger selection of wine, timing of the starter vs. the main dish etc. But these things are only details – I will be looking forward to my next visit and the next time I’ll try Ruth’s famous chocolate cake.

The antipasti was about 175 Kroner (32 USD), the ristotto was 245 kroner (45 USD) and my lasagna was 28 USD).  Here is the link to the Matmagasinet homepage: http://www.matmagasinet.no/ . The also have wi-fi available and you‘ll get the password if you ask them politely ;-)

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Matmagasinet_tiramisu Matmagasinet_creme_brulee

Matmagasinet_coffee_products

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mogul India–not quite what we hoped for

photo 3(2)We have been to Mogul India before and Nikki went there recently and found it to be quite good. So we decided to do a re-visit before going to the movies one day. The restaurant is located at Verksgaten 9 and it has the same entrance as Piren Pub – not the most upscale pub in town. We did not have a reservation when we went there but they did have a table for us. The rooms are painted in a salmon reddish color that works OK in the restaurant – but in the toilet it is over the top as it is painted in the reddish color and has a pinkish toilet and sink. But enough about interior – we decided to have some vegetable pakora for starter, Nikki went for the lamb rogan josh, I went for a lamb dish (lamb mullaman?)that was recommended by the chef and we wanted it served with raita, pickled vegetables and garlic naan bread. We got a question about how spicy we wanted the found and we went for medium +. It is always difficult to answer this as most Indian restaurants has a tendency to make the dishes a lot milder to fit the Norwegian palate. But we do like it a bit spicy and that is why we went for medium to spicy. We first got a mint sauce and some chopped up chili/garlic(?) and a poppadum, and we soon also got the vegetable pakora which was pretty tasty. We soon got our main dishes served as well in little bowls with a small candle underneath to keep it warm.

photo 2(2)My first impression of my dish was that it was tasty but a bit on the salty side, not spicy at all and not sizzling warm. Nikki had the same comment about her dish when it comes to the dish not being spicy and not being warm enough. My dish had lots of chunks of lamb in it so the portions were generous for us – but Nikki’s portion had not that many pieces of lamb but quite a lot of sauce and the sauce was a lot less rich compared to what I have experienced before in rogan josh dishes. The garlic naan bread was good and Nikki seemed to enjoy her pickled vegetables. We had almost forgotten about the raita when a waiter came to the table to serve it and by that time we were almost done with our meal.

photo 4So all in all I would say that this was an average meal. The portions were good but the taste of the dishes that we had did not blow us away in an way. It was also a bit of a letdown to have the food served a bit on the lukewarm side and having raita served way too late. We will go there again in the future but there are room for improvement. And one last word of advice – I know this is an Indian restaurant run by Indians but you have to get someone to spell check the Norwegian menu. It is full of mistakes and it doesn’t make a good first impression. Our food came to about 600 Norwegian kroner (about 110 USD). You can read more about the restaurant on http://www.indiamogul.com/

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

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Big Horn Steakhouse in Stavanger–a bit too rare and cold

We went to Big Horn Steakhouse at 8 PM on a Friday night before going to the movies and we were a party of three. The restaurant is located in the middle of town at the Hotel Victoria and it is a part of a restaurant chain so you can also find a branch in e.g. Sandnes and 27 other places around Norway.

photo 4When we sat down at the table a waitress came over to ask us if we wanted to have something to drink and she was speaking in English. This always throws me off a bit as I’m not sure if the waitress don’t know Norwegian or that she assumes that we are non-Norwegians but it is not a big deal for me as I am able to make myself understood (more or less Smile ) in both languages. I went for onion rings to start with and a t-bone steak as the main. My friend was joking that we would be out of there in an hour and he was wondering how we would kill time before going to the movies. I didn’t take him seriously but it only took like a few minutes before the onion rings were served and I started thinking that he might be right. My wife went for the salad bar instead of a starter but as they waitress pointed out “it only includes one serving”. The salad bar was not very impressive in my opinion. The 4 onion rings I got was a nice portion – not some gigantic thing that we have seen on some restaurants the world – and the taste was not bad.

photo 1My wife was still eating her salad when the two waitresses came over with our main meal – and I was just done with the onion rings. We were amazed on how fast the meal was served and we were starting to wonder if they had started preparing our meal the minute we walking through the door! My t-bone steak meal included the meat, half a large tomato, some fried corn, potatoes of your choice, sauce of choice and butter of your choice. I had ordered my t-bone steak medium done and on the menu it said that when you receive the meat you should cut it in half to make sure that the meat is like you wanted it. photo 2But this sounds a bit strange to me – don’t you lose a bit of the juice in the meat if you cut it in half and it turns out that it has to be fried more? Anyway, my meat was more medium-raw but the main “problem” was that it was a bit on the cold side so there was no point in putting the butter on top as it didn’t melt. But the meat itself was not bad and was quite tender. The tomato was supposed to be a fried tomato but again it seemed like it had barely touched the frying pan and it was just a raw tomato basically. My garlic and creamed potatoes were excellent – nice portion and piping hot. I also ordered the coleslaw and it was also quite good as it came in a good size portion and chunky vegetables. I went for béarnaise sauce and I found it to be OK – my wife is lactose intolerant and she asked if the sauce contained cream and the waitress answered that it only contained egg and butter but we doubt it.

photo 3My wife was not that lucky with her tenderloin – the meat came out too rare. And she followed the advice in the menu by cutting the meat in two but by that time the waitresses were long gone and after trying to get their attention without any success , she just gave up and ate some of the meat that were fried. Her meat was also quite cold by the way. The waitress finally came over to ask us what the meat was like and we informed her of the steak that my wife found cold. The waitress immediately asked if my wife wanted a new piece of meat and when my wife said that it was a bit late, the waitress said that she could get a dessert for free – I think this was very well handled by the waitress.

The meal was about 400 NOK per person (about 70 USD) for the starters, a glass of red wine and the main meal. We were not impressed by Big Horn Steakhouse this time but I have been there in the past and I have been more satisfied at least. I’m not sure why they wanted to serve us the food so super fast this time – I mean, I don’t like waiting around for hours for the food but it is nice if you at least get to finish the starter before the main meal is served.

Regards
Gard
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