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

1 comment:

Nikki said...

It seems RENAA now officially has a Michelin Star in 2016! Congrats to them and fantastic news indeed!