In honour of one of our favourite local sporting publications and columns, The Provies, we are taking a page out of their book to start The Takeaways – a fun, lighthearted and less formal way of articulating our gastronomic experiences. In certain cases The Takeaways may be accompanied by a more traditional write-up, but in other cases it will be a standalone piece.
In this inaugural edition, we revisit our dinner at Restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm last October.
BEST SIZE DOES NOT MATTER
I’ve read about the actual size of Restaurant Frantzén before visiting, but until I actually stepped into the entrance/dining room, I did not realize how truly small the restaurant space was. With that being said, the kitchen team and front of house staff definitely does a lot with the physical space that they have to work with.
Out of curiosity, I am really interested to know the actual square footage of the restaurant (including the kitchen). If I were to guess, from the parts I saw, I would say that it can not be any larger than 700 square feet. If so, can Restaurant Frantzén actually be the smallest two Michelin starred restaurant in Europe?
Of the five canapés served to us, the pigs skin, rillettes of pigs head, elderberry and pig tongue (second from left) was definitely the standout for me. Texturally it hit all the right notes – crunchy from the skin, smooth from the rillettes and slightly chewy from the tongue. Flavour wise it was as if a life size pig was shrunk, dried, ground up and then vaporized into my mouth – there was no mistake as to what type of protein was being served.
Other canapes the we also received were:
– Galangal root macaroon filled with birds liver
– Vichyssoise of crispy potatoes, cream of leak and truffles
– Mille-feuille of celeriac with chestnut and truffles and nutmeg
– Blood pancake with vendace roe and chives
BEST THAT INGREDIENT WAS NOT REALLY SO BAD
Before the second course at Frantzén, my horse meat cherry was still in tact. Not that I could not get my hands on horse meat here in Vancouver (I believe that they sell some in Granville Island Market), but it really has never crossed my mind as a viable protein option over a cow, pig, chicken or fish. And aside from the anti-horse meat activists and probably the dirty looks I would get from my colleagues and friends, I am really not opposed to trying what many around the world, including Sweden, consider a delicacy.
The horse meat in Frantzén was served sashimi style laying on top of a bed of crispy white moss and topped off with shavings of foie gras and coriander. The horse itself was subtle in flavour, not gamey, slightly sweet and very lean. Taking into consideration the whole bite, I would say the moss had a more pronounced impact overall.
BEST ATTEMPT AT REPLACING BREAD SERVICE
Breaking from tradition, we were not served a typical bread service. Rather than gorging our selves with the carb laden loaves and fat inducing spreads, we were served a bread soup made from fermented rye, chicken stock, veal stock and onion stock. Taste-wise, of all the components used to make this soup, the rye stood out for sure and was the one discerning flavour characteristic that I remember the most.
The one bone I have to pick with this course is that I had no context as to the purpose of it. Was it supposed to replace bread entirely but still provide the same results of still having bread service? Or was this supposed to be treated as a soup course instead? Or was it something else all together? Looking back, I should have probably asked this question to Head Chef Jim as it was not explained to us during dinner.
BEST THAT DEFINITELY LIVED UP TO THE HYPE AND MORE
From the first preparation to the last, the scallop course served three different ways was to die for. It started with a scallop baked in it’s own shell over an open flame, then moved to a scallop tartar mixed with roe and truffle, and was finished off by an intense yet satisfying scallop bouillon.
Instantly you notice that the scallop is the central focus in each course, with its subtle sweet flavour not getting lost in the number of decadent ingredients and strong seasonings accompanying it. But as you move from one type of preparation to the next, you start to appreciate the slight temperature, texture and flavour nuances that are coaxed out of the scallop as well.
BEST PART OF SATIO TEMPSTAS
Though a constant on the menu, the composition of the Satio Tempestas plate changes day to day depending on what produce is available at the restaurant’s vegetable gardens. During our visit it had 26 ingredients, most of which were vegetables prepared in a variety of ways such as marinated, steamed, dried, creamed or just left raw. But the best part of it and my two favourite items on the plate were the fried fish scales and accompanying butter (which was made in front of us earlier in the dinner). When mixed together and drizzled on all the other ingredients on the plate, these two items were the glue that tied all the different vegetables together, adding an aspect of richness and fat to the plate.
BEST I DID NOT KNOW YOU CAN GET THAT FLAVOUR OUT OF THAT INGREDIENT
When I first had a taste of that clear brown bouillon that accompanied the beef fillet, beef tongue, cabbage and truffles course, I was more than certain that a lot of care and time was put into roasting and simmering the bones of some Swedish cow until the flavours of the resulting broth were just perfect. However, I was more than surprised to find out that the bouillon was actually made from roasting and simmering just cabbage. I would have never guessed that that much depth, richness and flavour can be extracted from any vegetable. Truly remarkable.
BEST REPRESENTATION OF SWEDEN IN A DESSERT
This dessert had everything I tasted and learned about Swedish cuisine during our one week visit. With each spoonful, there was a dance in my mouth between polar opposite sensations and contrasting flavours – hot and cold, crunchy and tender, sweet and sour. Just phenomenal. Wow.
BEST ARE WE THE ONLY DINERS IN THE RESTAURANT THIS EVENING FEELING
When making your reservation, you have the option to dine at either the Dining Room or Kitchen. We selected the Kitchen, which is basically a marbled counter top with an unobstructed view of the kitchen.
Aside from the obvious bonus of getting to see course preparations first hand and additional demonstrations by Head Chef Jim, another bonus of sitting at the kitchen counter was that it seemed like it was just Carla, myself and the couple (whom we were sharing the counter with) in the restaurant. It felt as if we were in a vacuum, disconnected from the rest of the dining room, and had the kitchen team at our disposal.
I’m not sure if this is what Frantzén had in mind when he thought of adding the kitchen counter. Maybe it was just a way to maximize the space they had in the restaurant, but in any case, it definitely heightened the overall experience that evening. If you have a chance to visit, do anything you can to snag one of the four seats that are made available every night.
BEST ON-GOING DINNER SMALL TALK
I always thought that in a hockey mad country such as Sweden that it would be the number one sport that Swedes follow, but going by the conversations that I had with our fellow kitchen counter dining companions, it seems like soccer and Zlatan Ibrahimović (and not hockey and Henrik Lundqvist or the Sedin twins) are on top of the Sweden sports totem pole.
That evening the soccer conversation was all about team Sweden’s World Cup qualifying match against Germany. If Sweden won, they would advance. If they lost, then they would have to wait and see if they’ve done enough to qualify for the World Cup. Sadly, Sweden lost the match by blowing a two goal lead and ultimately failing to qualify for the World Cup. Ouch!
BEST I DID NOT KNOW WE HAD THAT IN COMMON
As mentioned earlier, Carla and I shared the four seat kitchen counter with a couple (a husband and wife celebrating the wife’s birthday). While booking our reservations, I knew that whoever snagged up the other two seats was going to be a crap shoot and before dinner, I was thinking to myself how we would handle sharing the next three hours with complete strangers. Luckily for us we were able to bond with the couple (the wife in particular) over our common interest in golf and our single digit handicaps. Once we broke the ice discussing all things golf, the rest of the evening was history.
This may not be a big deal for others, but if you prefer not to sit with strangers over dinner, then reserving in the Dining Room over the Kitchen is the route to take.
BEST WISHFUL THINKING
Though not directly related to our dinner in Restaurant Frantzén, not making a reservation to The Flying Elk (one of Frantzén’s other establishments in Gamla stan) for The Sportsman guess dinner series was definitely a missed opportunity. When we were planning our itinerary for Stockholm, news of Stephen Harris cooking at The Flying Elk was not made available yet. So by the time we found out, reservations to The Flying Elk were fully booked. Oh well.
BEST VISUAL GUIDE
If interested, a complete photo set of dinner can be found here.
Thanks for reading and happy eating,
Sonny and Carla