Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An izakaya in Stavanger! Kita by Deja Vu by night

Kita has closed permanently!

P1110016During the summer of 2015 we found out that chef Øyvind Næsheim would open a new restaurant in Stavanger. This was during a Magasin Blaa event where it was possible to sample some of his impressive creations. He pointed out that he was going to start a Japanese restaurant but not a sushi restaurant. Øyvind has previously worked for the restaurant Nobu in various places but now he has returned home to the region where he is from to present a “izakaya” concept to the Stavanger audience. The restaurant opened on September 10th 2015 and I got to check it out with Nikki and our friends Ivy and Gaute at the end of September. Kita is located in the same place as Déjà vu…so Déjà vu runs the show during day time and at night it turns into Kita. Déjà vu is a decent place to eat but it has always been a lunch place as it is in a small shopping mall that closes early. But now they have made some adjustments and Kita is open till late. Kita has a more upscale atmosphere but still welcoming. The lampshades are especially interesting in the evening.
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We came to Kita a bit late after a comedy show (about 10.30 pm) and we got a table and the menu. The menu is not that extensive and it will be changing depending on what ingredients the chef can get his hands on. We decided to try to share all the warm dishes and the waiter said that this was fine for sharing but he suggested doubling the portions on some of the dishes and we followed his advice on that. It did not take long before we got a lovely fried fish on the table and it came with a couple of dips. The fish was excellent and it was a joy to taste that it seemed to come straight out of the frying pan and not dripping in oil. We even got the bones and they were deep-fried and edible too.
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After a few minutes we got some dumplings on the table. Again it turned out to be a great little dish. It seemed to be some sort of minced meat stuffing in a pasta shell that had been steamed. I think they are known as gyoza in Japan. Next we were served some small hamburgers – or sliders as they are also known. The sliders were awesome actually – the meat was fried to medium and rare in the center; the buns were warm; and the sauce was excellent. I was not crazy about the wasabi ketchup that was served on the side but then again I’m not a big fan of kimchi.
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The fried mushroom that we had was also good but the next highlight was steamed buns with pork belly! Again served fresh and warm and with a great sauce. Nikki was inspired so now we need to perfect steam bun recipes! The next two dishes served were monkfish with wasabi and deep fried squid / calamari. The wasabi that was on the monkfish was apparently only made with the stem of the root that wasabi comes from and that should give it a different taste. I’m not big on sushi and I don’t really like the taste of wasabi – so this was not my favorite dish. The squid was not bad either and was served in a similar way of the fish we started with. To round off the meal we got chicken skewers (Yakitori) with a tasty dressing.
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We enjoyed the meal at Kita – the food was served in portions which were great for us as we got to taste the dishes one by one. It was also great to have this meal together with friends as it was perfect for sharing. The meal that we had was enough to make us comfortably full and we walked out of there at about midnight. The price for us was about 450 Kroner (50 USD) per person and that included a bottle of Riesling that we shared. The drinks menu also listed some sake.
I’m always glad to see new restaurants open in Stavanger and I’m even happier when it turns out that it is a good restaurant that has opened. This is absolutely a place that we will go back to and I hope that we can go there with more friends in order to taste more of Øyvind Næsheim’s creations.
Check out the Kita homepage for more information. It is great to see that they have a proper solution for online booking!
Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures
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Monday, June 8, 2015

Good seafood in a historic atmosphere

Straen has closed permanently!

Straen Fiskerestaurant is one of few restaurants in Stavanger that focus mainly on fish – hence the name. Fiskerestaurant means Fish restaurant and Straen marks the location of the restaurant. The city of Stavanger is linked to fish and fishing industry so it makes sense to have a restaurant that focus on this. We went there on a Wednesday and I booked a table online. When I say that you book online it means that you fill in s form on their website but it still seems a mail is sent to the restaurant as you have to wait for a confirmation by e-mail or text to find out if you have a table or not. When will http://www.herlige-stavanger.no/ find out that there is technology out there (like OpenTable) that will allow people to do online booking in real time.
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The restaurant was very quiet when we arrived there at about 6.30 PM – only 4 other people were seated. There was only one waitress taking care of taking the orders, serving etc so it took a couple of minutes to get seated, get the menus etc. The menu is mainly about fish but they do have a steak on the menu as well just in case you don’t like fish – but then I think you are in the wrong restaurant.
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The interior of the place is kept old fashioned to give you a historic atmosphere so there are old photos, old newspapers etc on the walls. The Chambre séparée is also quite charming as it is set in a small library. You also get a pretty good view of you are seated by a window – we got a view to the Skagen side of the harbor and the Valberg tower. We looked at the menu and decided to go for a couple of starters each as we were not that hungry. It was a bit weird that the waitress informed us that they only had one portion left of mussels (blåskjell) – there were hardly any people in the restaurant so they ran out of that a bit early. I decided to have the classical fish soup and croquet of cod – also known as bolinos I guess.
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After a couple of minutes we got a small complimentary starter – a small piece of gravlax on a toast. I don’t have much experience with gravlax but I think I prefer sashimi or even better, slightly fried. We also got some flat bread crackers that seemed to be homemade and some lemon butter and that was very tasty. When the waitress came to serve the fish soup I got a bowl with 3-4 pieces of fish and she poured the soup over the fish – a nice way to present it and to prepare it. The fish pieces where thin so they got prepared in the warm soup. I found the soup to be quite good but it was a small portion at least for the 175 Norwegian kroner that it cost (about 22 USD). The croquet of cod was also very good – they seemed to be freshly made and were both hot and fluffy in consistency but I would have enjoyed to taste more of the cod in these fish balls. It was served with some Norwegian cured ham and leeks. Nikki had the last portion of mussels and they were huge compared to the ones that we can get a hold of in the store – and they came with a good sauce made from white wine, herbs and garlic. She also had some sushi rolls that were also approved.
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All in all I was quite pleased with the meal and I would love to try a larger meal here one time. The portions that we had were quite small and they cost from 125 to 175 Norwegian kroner. As a Norwegian I guess I should not complain about prices of wine but I was a bit shocked when Nikki’s small glass of red wine cost 125 Kroner (16 USD) – it was not an amazing wine in any way. Check out Straen Fiskerestaurant if you want some seafood in a historic setting – the dishes are not innovative in any way but you get some good and solid flavors. Check out http://www.herlige-stavanger.no/straen-fiskerestaurant/ for more information.
Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures
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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Starbucks coffee–now also in Stavanger!

I guess it should not be a big thing – but for a small town like Stavanger it is big news when Starbucks comes to town. I started hearing about this a year back and they were able to get a great location in the middle of town with access from Torget (the city square). After a bit of back and forth the opening took place in May 2015 and I stopped by to check it out a couple of days after it opened. The coffee shop has opened in what used to be a bank. This part of the building used to be where all the bank boxes were located and Starbucks have used this as a theme for the place. On your way in you can see parts of the locks for the vault, there is a big red vault door and they have kept some of the green bank safety deposit boxes.

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If you want to check out what Starbucks coffee Norway serves you should check out their homepage. I’m not really crazy about their coffee to be honest. We had an Americano that was pretty tasteless, the espresso con panna was served with a whipped cream that didn’t last long and the caffe moccha didn’t have a proper coffee taste. But I do love their frappuccino but then again that is more of a dessert and not coffee. If you come to Stavanger there are other coffee shops that can provide better coffee – try e.g. Coffeeberry or Bluebird. But I think it is good to see that big brands are also finding their way to Stavanger.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Egget – a hidden gem in downtown Stavanger

A few months back a new restaurant opened in Stavanger. As I like to keep an eye on the restaurant scene in Stavanger, I sent them an e-mail and I asked about opening times and menu but I got a fairly vague response that they were open and that the menu changes on a daily basis. On a recent Friday night, before going to the movies, we finally got to check it out.

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Egget is located in Steinkargata 23 in the middle of downtown Stavanger and when we got there it appeared closed. Once inside we had to go through a heavy dividing curtain and were met with quite packed room. It is a cosy space and I guess there is room for about 20-25 guests – both at the bar and at tables for 2 / 4 /6 guests. We were lucky as some acquaintances were just leaving, so we got a table.  When I say the restaurant was packed I mean that it was full of guests but also full of goods. This is also a wine bar - seemingly with wine related stock being stored one side of the space. Due to this the place is a bit crowded and dark  and quite informal. I guess you can tell that it is an informal place when the sommelier/host is wearing an American football top. The agreeable music and rustic décor all set the mood

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We were first offered something to drink and Nikki got to taste a French wine first that she didn’t like but the next one was to her liking. After a few minutes the chef came over to us to explain the menu – and I guess now I understand why they don’t have a written menu. The chef (he seemed to be French) explained the menu fast in English and basically they had a number of fish dishes and meat dishes. We could order a big portion of one of these or have lots of the dishes as small portions and share it. We decided to go all in and went for the “tasting menu” or sharing menu. Nikki asked if there were lots of milk in any of the dishes and I think she fell in love with the place when the impassioned chef replied that they tried to stay away from both gluten and lactose.

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It didn’t take that long before the dishes were served – by the chef himself. We got a new round of explanations about the various dishes but there were a lot of dishes so it was not easy to keep up with his summary. Dishes included e.g. got trout that was cured in a Japanese way; ; spring rolls on top of kimchi; kale chips; and nigiri sushi. One of the dishes seemed a bit blend when looking at it…young mango mixed with shrimp. But when tasting this dish there was an explosion of Thai flavors – almost like an excellent green curry. It was certainly a flashback to excellent fresh Thai streetfood!! In addition we had the main fish dishes: skate wings and cod with almond milk and mushroom on top. Truly a surprisingly tasty experience to start this “show”. Nikki and I both throroughly enjoyed the taste of Asia.

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We took our time and worked our way through the fish dishes. Not a morsel left in sight! The chef and sommelier checked in and when we were ready, we moved on to the meat dishes. First we got some pork belly served – it is always impressive when they manage to serve pork belly in slices with a crispy skin and sambal on the side. I like pork belly – it is the traditional Christmas meal for me and these slices were tasty! Next up was lamb tail! I have had ox tail a number of times but I don’t think I have had a lamb tail before. It was served in a simple way…it was oven baked and served with shredded radish of some sort and kale that was a bit salty. We also got a couple of bowls with a hot broth that we could dip the meat in. The succulent Voss lamb tail was excellent and  easily peeled off the bone. The meat on the tail was so tender and the fat had a lot of taste. Nikki couldn’t resist and was happily crunching on the bone – as if she was dining in some night market in SE Asia.

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Again the chef made sure to check on our progress and whether we wanted more. So far the meal had been so excellent so we told him to bring us more. I know this sound like gluttony but the meal had been so good so we wanted more. The next dish was leg of lamb where the meat was served in slices. The lamb was tender and rich, however I think that the best part of this dish was the root of celery that had been baked and was served with the meat. Maybe it had been salt baked.

All in all this was a fantastic meal - I can understand why they don’t have a menu – doing it this way gives them more flexibility and affords us more variety. But it would have been good to have some sort of idea about the prices before you start to eat. I don’t think that the restaurant takes reservations so make sure to get there early (or really late, apparently another dish was only going to be ready to serve later that evening). What can I say? Make sure to check it out as soon as possible before it gets too popular. I hope to go there again soon – and this time I hope to bring along some friends and have more time to enjoy the food and the wine. Hopefully the outdoor seating will be in place once the Stavanger weather starts to resemble summer. As I was driving, Nikki had a few glasses of red wine. We shall be sure to return to explore the wine selection better. Just be warned - once you sit down and start eating and drinking you might want to sit there the rest of the evening

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fine dining in Stavanger has reached the next level: review of RE-NAA

I have been fortunate to eat out at some of the great restaurants of Stavanger over a number of years. In the end of last year Renaa Restaurants opened a new concept called RE-NAA for fine dining. This replaced the larger Renaa Restauranten located in the same building. This building also contains Renaa Matbaren for informal dining and next door (at Sølvberget) you will find Renaa Xpress which is more of a sandwich/pizza and snack place. You can read more about Renaa on the restaurant homepage.

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I booked a table at RE-NAA in advance as there are only 22 seats in the restaurant. The day of my booking I got a phone where I had to reconfirm my reservation and I also got a code to enter into Breitorget where the restaurant is located. It was a bit strange entering this place as this used to be our favorite lunch place a couple of years back when Renaa Xpress was located here. Now it had been transformed as the layout was different, tables were darker etc. But it also seems like some of the old elements from the previous place had been reused. We were welcomed by our host when we arrived at 7.15 PM and he put our jackets in the wardrobe and we were shown to our table. As mentioned this is a small place and quite intimate – with the open kitchen you can always keep an eye on the work that is being performed there.

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Usually in fine dining restaurants in Stavanger there has been an option of 3,4,5 or 6 courses and all the details are normally listed in the menu. At RE-NAA we were asked if we wanted an aperitif and we decided to go for a glass of champagne to start with. We also got a tray with two types of flat bread and homemade butter and homemade butter made from goat if I’m not mistaken. The menu was simple – it had a long list of all the elements and ingredients that would be served but not in much detail. The only thing we had to decide was whether we wanted wine pairing or not. We decided to go all in and had the menu with wine pairing.  The menu had about 16 items on the menu in addition to petit fours at the end.

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We nibbled on the bread that we had gotten but it didn’t take long before the chefs started their work on serving up wonderful small dishes for us and the rest of the guest. There were quite a lot of chefs involved and the master himself, Sven Erik Renaa, seemed to be the director of it all. The menu items have a focus on Norwegian ingredients and with a long coast there will be a lot of seafood on the menu of course. We started out with a small plate of radish served with an emulsion of oyster. The oyster dipping seemed to be a part of the plate at first but we soon discovered that it was the dip. The emulsion had a distinct taste of oysters that’s for sure and it was an unusual combination to start with. Even if there were a lot of chefs involved in the kitchen located just a couple of meters away it did not feel like this was stealing the attention from the food or the company but the soundtrack was a bit weird when I think about it. It was a nice touch that the chefs came over to our table to serve the various dishes while our host made sure that we got topping of champagne and gave us information about the various wines that we got. Next dish was roe from lumpfish (Rognkjeksrogn in Norwegian) served in a small waffle and with sour cream. This was a great snack and a little piece of art at the same time. We also got a small piece of lamb tartare that was excellent and an aubergine cream to dip it in.

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Next dish was 4 small shells (cockle or hjerteskjell in Norwegian) served on a bed of sea salt and it seemed like the shells had been gratinated.  Again a delicious snack and it reminded me of having snails in a French restaurant – I totally forgot to use the cutlery to eat this and just used my hands and mouth to dig in. Next dish was smoked mussel (blåskjell in Norwegian) and this was steamed and smoked in some sort of hey – it had a great smoky flavor. The small sardines we got in the next dish were not my favorite but I’m not much of a sardine person and I’m not a big fan of horseradish that it was served with either.

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I feared the next dish that was coming up: sea urchin and raw shrimp sounded a bit too much for me. Some combination of food can be a bit much – like when we had a combination of sea urchin and foie gras powder at Gallery VASK in Manila in the Philippines (check out the Philippines trip report here). It turned out that the sea urchin and shrimp was served in a celery puree(?) and hence it was a great combination of tastes.

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All of a sudden we got a small freshly baked bread on the table – it is easy to fall for the “bread trap”…meaning getting full on the bread instead of enjoying the food. But for a bread lover like me it was hard to resist the fresh, warm sourdough bread with homemade butter on top. But I was saved by the fact that our table was quite small so when the next dish was served our host had to place it behind Nikki.
Next dish was squid and garlic (akkar in Norwegian) served with chive and garlic and maybe some balsamic vinegar. A lot of the time squid can turn out quite chewy but this was really tender. We continued with seafood as the next dish was artic cod (skrei in Norwegian) with a green sauce based on broccoli. It is wonderful to get a good quality cod that is prepared the right way – the layers separated as we touched it with the fork and it tasted great. Another classical fine dining ingredients is lobster. Our next dish was just that – a piece of lobster served on a cauliflower puree and with shredded egg yoke! I’m not a big fan of cauliflower but when you puree it you get a lovely side for various types of food. The only problem with this dish is that we wanted more lobster…and more cauliflower puree ;-)

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We were not done with the seafood yet – next dish was skate with onion and topped with a beurre blanc sauce mixed with kalix caviar (løyrom in Norwegian). This was probably my favorite as it was very tasty with the beurre blanc sause and the caviar. There is only so much you can get of a plate by using the fork and spoon – I was tempted to go in a lick of the sauce of the place but I restrained myself.

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I have to admit that at this time I was getting pretty tipsy as we got various wines for the various dishes. I’m afraid I did not make a note of the wines we had so I can’t give details about this.  But for the next dish I believe we got a Barolo in the glass and we got a small dish to clean the palate. We also got special knives produced in Sweden if I’m not mistaken - sharp and with a wonderful pattern on the blade.  The blade was used on the next dish – a small but tasty piece of reindeer meet served with beetroot and truffles.

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We were getting closer to the end of the meal and we started on the sweet stuff. The first dessert was basically an egg! When looking at this it looked just like a soft-boiled egg with a bit of toast on the side. When I started digging into the egg it turned out that the “egg white” was a wonderful panna cotta and the yoke was made out of buckthorn berries (tindved in Norwegian).  We also managed to squeeze in the next dessert: blueberry ice served with blueberries, sauce and a small sweet bread. We had to head home before we got to taste the last dessert and the petit fours but we were more than satisfied anyway.
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All in all I’m very impressed with the evening at Renaa. I have been very fortunate to eat at some great restaurants in both Norway and abroad and this must be one of the top 5 dining experiences that I have ever had.  Sven Erik Renaa has certainly taken the fine dining scene in Stavanger to the next level and right now there is no doubt that this is the best fine dining restaurant in town. Hopefully the Michelin Guide with stop by Stavanger this year to try out RE-NAA – I see star(s) on the horizon.

Regards
Gard
gardkarlsen.com – trip reports and pictures