Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A new restaurant in town: Fish & Cow

P1020074It is always great when a new restaurant opens in town – in a small city like Stavanger it doesn’t happen too often. But in March it was time for a new place to open: Fish & Cow! For as long as I can remember the pizza place Peppes Pizza has occupied one of the best locations in Stavanger: right on the city square (Torget). But this year they moved out and Fish & Cow moved in instead. So the place was turned from being a dark, pub like pizza place to a modern and minimalistic restaurant.

The restaurant has the same owners as Tango and the idea is to keep Tango as a fine dining alternative while Fish & Cow will be the more informal restaurant for a lunch or a meal with friends at night. We went there on a Friday night, the day after their opening and this means that this review is of a restaurant in its early stages.

P1020075We joined some friends for dinner and arrived at about 7.30 PM and the staff took our jackets – we were a bit surprised that the staff and some of the guests seemed to be dressed up. This was after all supposed to be the informal alternative but maybe it was just due to the opening night. The first thing that I noticed was the big steaks on display in glass refrigerated encasement. According to the restaurant they are some of the first in Norway that will leave their meat to mature for 3-4 weeks at a certain temperature and humidity. There is also a wine cellar – a striking glass walled center piece.

P1020076We were seated by the window but it gets dark early in March in Norway and the restaurant had dimmed the lighting. So much so that I could hardly read the menu…but thankfully the iPhone (light app) helped me out. My beam of app light (ok, it resembled a search beacon to onlookers) attracted some attention. One of those drawn to the light was one of the guys that runs the place, who came over and conceded “I take the hint”. They actually came out with more candles to place on the tables. But I think there needs to be more than candles I need some direct light from above for the menu and to see the food I’m eating.

P1020080Some fresh bread buns were served to go with the starter and a small carafe with water was also placed on the table. It was so small that when I had filled three of the glasses there was basically nothing left for myself. The buns were actually a bit of a distraction, we had to make an effort not to nibble on them too much and get full before our meal arrived.

Anyway…P1020079Nikki and I decided to have duck terrine as a shared starter and it was served on a piece of toasted bread, some nuts and some watercress leaves. I have to admit that I didn’t make any comments during the meal (shame on me) and I can’t actually remember how it tasted – I guess that means that it was not that memorable.

P1020081I ordered the entrecote as my main and after much debate Nikki ordered the Angus burger. Neither of us got any question about how we wanted the meat prepared – I guess the “correct” way is to have the meat served medium rare but people do have different preferences, so I would appreciate them checking. My angus steak was served medium rare and was quite tender. A bit lukewarm but quite tasty. The side dish of Jerusalem artichokes with some sort of herb butter was fork licking good. Nikki got a “deconstructed” hamburger (meaning that the top bun was served on the side) that she enjoyed. Although we both commented on lukewarm dishes, our friends didn’t seem to have the same issue.P1020082

P1020085We also decided to have dessert but that turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Not that anyone timed it and with the animated conversation we didn’t really notice at first but the desert took “forever and ever” to be served. Eventually we actually had to remind them of the order and it seemed like they were struggling a bit in the kitchen. I don’t blame them for that – it must take a while to get everyone to work together when opening a new restaurant. We had the apple “jam” with homemade Danish pastry and I also think it came with cinnamon ice cream. The dessert was OK but that experience was maybe overshadowed by the wait. And there must have been something wrong with the coffee French press style. We got some rather large particles in the coffee so maybe we were doing something wrong(?)

P1020077The food was notably decent at Fish & Cow but as you can see from the above, the restaurant has a few things to improve. But I’m sure we will try to dine there again to see if they have made some improvements. But the place also needs to decide what kind of place it wants to be. The signal in the papers was that this was an informal place but it seems to maybe be a bit more than that. Before I came there I kept thinking that it would be comparable to Renaa Matbaren but Fish & Cow is more expensive and has a less extensive menu. The meat at Fish & Cow was 375 NOK (65 USD) while Renaa charges 290 NOK (50 USD) and the burger was 265 NOK (45 USD) vs 220 NOK (38) at Matbaren - and the burger at Renaa Matbaren looks a lot better J

You can check out the menu at the Fish & Cow website on - but come on guys…where is the English menu and where is the online reservation option?

Gard – trip reports and pictures

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fisketorget: fish market with no sushi?

P1010937Norway is famous for its seafood so it makes sense that a coastal city like Stavanger has proper seafood restaurants. For as long as I can remember “Fisketorget” has been a place where it has been possible to buy fresh seafood. A few years ago a small house was built on the spot to give both seller and buyer some shelter from the unpredictable Stavanger weather.  Just recently it was also decided that it makes sense to have a seafood restaurant in the same spot – at least they have easy access to the ingredients Smile This restaurant is now called Vågen spiseriet but commonly just referred to as “Fisketorget” (the fish market) and it is located at what is called Vågen (the city harbor) - basically in the middle of downtown Stavanger.

P1010938I booked a table online on the restaurant’s homepage but note that you have to send them an e-mail to book a table. I would also like to see the restaurant homepage in English and I was also a bit surprised that they don’t have an a la carte menu. According to the restaurant homepage the menu is presented daily on the restaurant Facebook page but that does not always seem to be the case. Perhaps the reasoning is that they compile a daily menu based on freshly caught fish?

Nikki and I went there on a week night before going to the movies and we arrived about 20 minutes early. The entrance is not that great as you just walk right into the main room of the restaurant and in windy Stavanger it would make sense to not get a table close to the door.  The decoration is pretty simple with wooden tables, black chairs and dim lighting. On the wall there was a couple of photos from the Norwegian photographer Petter Hegre – I guess in some countries they would be rated X as it contains nudity but in Norway we are pretty liberal and there is a link to food as the photographed models are posing with fish and other types of seafood. As we were early we were asked to come back as there was no space for us yet and I guess they didn’t want us waiting in the bar. There is limited space and most of the tables were occupied by larger groups that night.

P1010940When we came back we got a table for two in the middle of the restaurant and the waiter came over with a huge blackboard that contained the evenings 5 course menu (in Norwegian and English). Before Nikki could order the sushi that she had been looking forward to, the waiter informed us that they were out of sushi. Is it just me or is it quite ironic that a seafood market runs out of sushi? Another issue for Nikki was that more or less the entire menu contained some form of dairy products (milk / cream) – not ideal when you are lactose intolerant. In the end Nikki decided to skip the starter and just enjoy the bread that we got together with some water while I went for the scallop and tusk timbal with fennel foam. As a main dish I chose the creamy fish soup while Nikki opted for the fish of the day.

P1010941My starter came pretty fast and the presentation was not bad at all. But it seemed like the foam part had been supplemented as there was quite a lot of liquid so basically it was a small fish soup. But I enjoyed the warm creamy soup and there was a good taste of the fennel. The scallop and tusk timbal were also quite good –I guess it is just a fancy name for a fish ball. If I remember correctly it was also served with a couple of grilled scallops that were pretty good. Nikki also asked for a glass of the house red wine and it was served without the waiter presenting the bottle (i.e. region or name)– but based on the receipt later on it was an Italian Valpolicella.

P1010943Nikki’s fish of the day was tusk (or is it cusk? It is brosme in Norwegian at least) – a cod fish. It was served on a mixed bed of of lentils, anchovies and olives and I guess it was quite healthy but it was the kind of meal where you think “I think I could have thrown this together in a pan back home”. P1010944My fish soup came in a large preheated bowl and it was sprinkled with herbs and oils. The creamy soup was rich and tasty and contained large chunks of fish – both a cod like fish and a salmon type fish. The shrimp in the soup seemed to be just regular small shrimp that you get in a jar – it would have been more extravagant with a few larger scampi.

P1010945All in all we were not totally impressed by Fisketorget this evening. I guess we came off on the wrong footing when they didn’t have sushi (in a fish market) and a very limited menu dominated by cream based dishes. So when they asked if we wanted dessert (chocolate cream based on sour cream) we decided to get out of there and rather get a chocolate at the movies. We will probably give it a new chance in the near future – I’m sure it will be wonderful to sit outside on a warm summer evening and enjoy a drink. Having kept an eye on the lunch menus published on FB, Nikki figured it would make a great outdoors weekend lunch place. But the next time I think I will make sure that they have sushi.

Gard – trip reports and pictures