OAXEN KROG: respect

This was embarrassingly my first fine-dining meeting with Magnus Ek and Agneta Green. And while I was on my way to the new Oaxen Krog on Djurgården in Stockholm I was equally as excited to have this dinner as I was disappointed not being able to compare it with what the couple created over 17 years on the island of Oaxen. I will never forgive myself missing out on that yet I’m really happy that I had the chance to visit the new Oaxen early on. This time I will make sure to see how the restaurant develops.

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I have never got a grip on Magnus Ek and his cooking compared to other chefs opening restaurants, where it’s quite easy to figure out what the restaurant will be about just by looking at their background or their Facebook-page that has some pretty pictures on food and tells about a great concept. But for years I have heard great things about Magnus from other foodies as well as respected chefs, most of them not located in Sweden. In fact, when one travels the world for eating, chefs have asked questions about “the new Oaxen” and “how is Magnus and Agneta doing” instead of being curious about any other Swedish restaurant having international recognition.

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In other words, it took me long to understand the amount of respect this couple have in the culinary world. But quite early on in this dinner a few things started indicating where we were going this evening.

The meal began with a series of nibbles and small servings to get the palate and curiosity going. Lard, onions and blueberry was delicate with champagne from Cédric Bouchard. Next was a one bite snack of crispy cabbage with a sliced scallop hidden under air-dried ham from Nibble. This was not only a scallop of great quality, having a beautiful sweet taste, but a little snack of beautiful textures.

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To follow was a dish of herring broth, arctic char, puffed wheat, egg yolk and artichoke. With this dish my whole evening took a different direction as I was so impressed by its balance and harmony. The broth had a wonderful deep and salty flavour, the arctic char having the very delicate and mild flavour and beautiful texture contrasted by the crispy puffed wheat with the smoked egg yolk adding a really nice character to the dish. This dish stunned me in a way that only great food can, making the following dish of scallop juice served with scallop roe and grated walnut difficult to eat as I was still so excited about the other serving.

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Cod roe with a poached quail egg and onions was a fun version of the ever so boring “egg halves”, and the Oaxen ham with pine and mushroom (don’t know the English word for Kungsmusseron) was interesting, the mushroom having a lovely meaty texture.

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Next was an oyster with sour milk curd and grilled lettuce. The curd had the nice tangy flavour I expected and the grilled lettuce having a really intensified, slightly bittersweet, flavour yet it didn’t kill that fine oyster (not sure from where) whose length and complex flavours developed on the palate in every bite. A very good dish indeed.

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Beautifully cooked langoustine having fresh and sweet flavour was next, accompanied with a rich cream of fermented mushrooms that, in some way, extracted the natural flavour of the langoustine. In a way it reminded me of the ”almost burned cream” Magnus Nilsson uses with his langoustine at Fäviken. The sour cream and dill was a nice addition here, offsetting some of the very rich flavours, but perhaps I would have been more satisfied with less cream on the plate.

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Spider crab had been cooked in seaweed and was served with shellfish broth, carrot, pepper and rhubarb. This looked simple on the plate but it was a plate that revealed intensity and complexity in each bite but not losing focus. The crab had superb flavour enhanced by the shellfish broth and the carrots, dried for some time and having almost sticky texture, had an amazing sweet flavour being beautifully offset by burned pepper. The rhubarb added the acidity that this dish needed.

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To follow up this dish the shells from the spider crab had been used to make a soup having really concentrated flavour. Just like the serving of scallop roe earlier on, nothing seems to be wasted in this kitchen.

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Next was cod cheeks baked in yoghurt with lichens, seaweed, cockles and black garlic. This was such a clever dish with the lovely gelatinous and succulent cod cheeks, the textural balance and character from the lichens and seaweed with the black garlic being sweet and rich adding perfect balance and harmony to the dish.

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To follow was a tartar of Swedish Wagyu. This was served with blue cheese from Sörmland, Arctic char roe and cream cheese flavoured with lavender. Here was complex flavours in great synergy with each other. The meat had dazzling flavour and the blue cheese adding some richness perfectly balanced with the salty roe and light cheese, having just the right hint of lavender (which otherwise could have killed this dish completely).

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White beans, plums and cheese. Perhaps one of the most complicated dishes I have had this year. The cream of the white beans was slightly nutty and dense contrasted by a complex and evolving acidic flavour from the plum “juice” that somehow worked well with the dish. The cheese (not sure which one) this time worked the other way around, from adding rich flavour in other servings to the mild and fresh element this dish needed.

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Saddle of lamb was next, tender and juicy meat with excellent flavour. This was served with the sweetest garlic, pickled chives, preserved leeks and some pieces of lamb lard that added depth and more character. This was followed by fillet of ox that had been baked in birch having lovely texture, accompanied with celeriac that had been baked in oven over night and made into a cream and some really rich tasting oxtail sauce.

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Purée of polypody and chervil with white chocolate and fennel was the first dessert and a real liquorice dream, but the fennel-juice granitee I thought made the whole dessert a bit unpleasantly wet.

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Fermented blueberries with yoghurt cream, almond paste, puffed wheat and blueberry sorbet was light and good and a perfect dessert to finish off this very long meal.

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To make one long story short I would say that Stockholm and Sweden has yet another restaurant to be counted as world class.

The food served at Oaxen Krog is creative, folding in the best of our ingredients up north. It is not about pretty food, cooked and prepared hours before service, and I never felt it was more daring than delicious. The main ingredient on every plate is allowed to shine, yet Magnus uses interesting and sometimes genius combinations to complement, contrast and enhance flavours of that main ingredient. Never, except the fermented mushrooms served with the langoustine, I felt another flavour dominate the show.

This was a truly elegant and harmonious meal where I learned a lot. And immediately I have to count it with some of the best meals I have had in Sweden for a long time. Respect.

More pictures from this evening can be found here!

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Oaxen Krog & Slip

Beckholmsvägen 26
115 21 Stockholm
+46(0)8 551 531 05
info@oaxen.com

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