GO: Esperanto (Stockholm, Sweden)

29 Feb

On our final night in Stockholm, David and I treated ourselves to a romantic dinner at Esperanto.  Housed inside a former theater, Esperanto has a Michelin star and recently shared the title for Stockholm’s best restaurant in the much-respected White Guide.  Having read many positive reviews and after checking out the menu of the website — which seemed fairly paleo-friendly — I was keen to go before leaving Sweden.

And boy, did it not disappoint!

Esperanto only offers tasting menus — 5 or 8 courses.  David and I went for the full 8-course experience.  I would describe the food approach as modern “Scandinavian kaiseki” with wonderful, whimsical theatrical flair.  There is great emphasis on seasonal produce and their presentation, and each course has a “title.”   Inspired by the season — winter at the moment — each dish seems to bring forth a winter scene.  There is a great amount of Japanese influence, whilst using many Swedish/Scandinavian ingredients.

The tasting course is preceded by wonderful amuse bouche — 4 lovely, playful treats.  The service was excellent, very personal and attentive.  All the service staff are trained sommeliers, and our wine suggestions were perfect for our taste as well as the dishes.

Although it was a kind of “cheat day” for us — wherein we eat some things that are not paleo — it wasn’t too bad a stray and it was definitely worth the experience!  We had a great time throughout the meal.  What we loved was the playful, humorous, entertaining aspect of the dishes and the quirky flavor-combinations — as well as the commitment to using offal in interesting ways — offset by very restrained, skillful and beautiful presentations as well as tastes.  If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it!  (Just make sure to book in advance, and leave a lot of time for eating.)

Here are a few snapshots of our meal there:

As you arrive to your table, you find not a bread basket but fried cod skin and meringue dip. I am already in love with the restaurant.

Moss...? Onion fritters that appear to be moss. Part of the amuse bouche.

Steamed egg custard with seaweed and oyster, inspired by the Japanese chawan-mushi. Also part of the amuse bouche.

1st course: Grilled frozen cream of oysters and parsley root, trout roe, cucumber and oyster juice.

2nd course: "Winter concerning cauliflower and garden mushrooms."

3rd course: Flaky Norwegian cod and dry cured cod roe, dashi-infused egg yolk and wasabi (grated table-side).

4th course: "Obscure chicken from Ockelbo, beans from Tuscany and preserved black trumpets" (grilled chicken heart and liver, chicken skin on top)

I think my favorite dish was below: the lightly boiled langoustine served with bone marrow and caramelized hazelnuts.  It was amazing!  The langoustine is just barely cooked — beautifully creamy on the inside.  Eaten together with a bit of marrow and some hazelnuts… it’s the most incredible version of surf and turf your mouth has ever tasted!

5th course: Lightly broiled langoustine served with bone marrow and caramelized hazelnuts.

(Bone marrow that accompanies the langoustine, above.)

The 6th course – Pommes de terres avec truffles, along with the moss fritter amuse, was one of the funniest, charming dishes.  It looks like dirt, so it’s literally “pommes de terres” (apples of the land).  Beneath the black “dirt” (which are essentially made of onions and black truffles), lies creamy mashed potatoes.  And as if to signal the approach of spring, out of the dirt sprouts some fresh greens and sprigs made of fried potatoes!  It does feel like you’re eating dirt (not taste, but texture), which feels ridiculously silly in such a refined environment.  It felt like a mood shift — a little comic relief.

6th course: "Pommes de terres avec truffles."

7th course: A study of Swedish reindeer calf with blackened salsify.

8th course: "Pumpkin festival with Butternut squash, Hokkaido pumpkin and sea buckthorn" -- beautiful dessert, much of the sweetness comes from the pumpkins themselves, and the frozen yogurt was wonderful.

The meal took about 3 hours — which was ballsy (or potentially stupid) for us to do, as we needed to pack up our apartment to leave early the next morning.  But the experience was so worth it, so wonderful, I am so glad we went.  The service was fantastic and the food so lovely, it turned out to be the most fabulous and glamorous “3 hour break” from our packing frenzy.  (We continued packing late into the night after we returned home, newly refreshed by the gorgeous dining experience.)

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2 Responses to “GO: Esperanto (Stockholm, Sweden)”

  1. Chris Armstrong February 29, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    This looks awesome. I can’t wait to try this place.

    • tomoko February 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      Yes, do! Great for a special night out for sure. By the way, on a much less “fancy” scale (but always buzzy when you go) we also love Smak, which creates dishes around a flavor/aroma component and you come up with your own list of courses. http://restaurangentm.com/en/

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