Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Eating And Drinking (And Spending) In Oslo (UPDATED)
At Bar Boca
In March, Daisy and I took a trip to Oslo -- our first -- to catch one of our favorite comedians, Louis CK, in concert at the Oslo Spektrum. The show was fantastic. It was very impressive to see Louis come out, stand alone on a bare stage under a single spotlight, and make 8,000 people laugh for 90 minutes nonstop.
My doppelganger, Louis CK
Of course, while we were in Oslo, we ate and drank in some cool places.
Daisy's a big fan of the Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbø, so we checked out a few of Hole's watering holes, including the Underwater Pub and Restaurant Schrøder. The former was very cool, all dark wood and cozy little tables hidden in nooks and crannies. We happened to be there on a Thursday night, when professional opera singers come in and perform for free. The latter, however, was a bit of a letdown. The atmosphere was nonexistent and the food just passable. Of course, we ordered Harry's favorite dish: stekt flesk og duppe (slices of fried bacon, mashed turnip and boiled potatoes). Not sure what he sees in it, but what are you going to to? At least it was reasonably priced, by Oslo standards.
Stekt flesk og duppe
The Underwater Pub
We also enjoyed a few expertly made cocktails at tiny Bar Boca in the hip Grünerløkka neighborhood and enjoyed shooting the breeze with the manager, who was behind the bar mixing drinks and making a fresh batch of raspberry syrup from scratch. I liked that place.
Making fresh raspberry syrup at Bar Boca
We also enjoyed a few pints at a bar and jazz joint we just happened upon called Herr Nilsen at C.J. Hambros Plass 5, right in the center. It was a warm and welcoming place and seems like a fantastic club to see some live music.
Our best meal of the trip was at a restaurant called Von Porat in the Mathallen indoor food hall, which I'd read about on a blog called the Nordic Nibbler. The Nibbler described it as a restaurant that "serves no nonsense modern Norwegian food made from local ingredients. It's the sort of restaurant that Oslo has needed for a long time – simple, honest, and above all tasty food that won't break the bank."
We weren't disappointed.
(UPDATE: I just received an e-mail from Von Porat that reads: "We regret to inform you that von Porat restaurant will be closing its doors due to the imposibilty to bear future economical challenges." Achhhh!)
Ivan Zednik of Von Porat (the place is named after a Norwegian heavyweight boxer from the 1920s) told me that the restaurant tries its best to use only locally grown produce and present the possibilities that are hiding behind the Nordic climate, which is quite challenging due to the long and cold winters. The restaurant also prides itself on its vegetarian options.
"Our vision and goal could be formulated as new Nordic gastronomy where season, simplicity, and clean taste stand in the center of our focus," Zednik says. "We like to add that our modus operandi is to buy from local and small producers and show that Norway and the entire north has much more to offer than snow, darkness, and oil."
The Mathallen food hall
Our meal started with flat bread with creme fraiche, dill and salmon roe, followed by a salad of beef cured with fennel seeds and sugar and served with pickled vegetables, raw beet root and smoked butternut squash puree. Then it was a dish of cod served with kale cooked with apple vinegar, and served with potato and steamed mussels, and then another course of turkey breast poached in milk and turkey leg confit, served with sauteed parsley root and pickled and sauteed Jerusalem artichokes. Dessert was exquisite: coffee ice cream with toasted salted almonds, accompanied by a meringue with a biscuit crumble and frozen dried black currant powder.
We liked the atmosphere of the place, looking down as it does from the mezzanine on the bustling market. And for what you get, it's a reasonable price. Our meal, including drinks, came to about $250 (although I was shocked to see that the bottle of Saison beer from the Nøgne microbrewery that I ordered with my main course and which was recommended by the waiter ended up costing me $22.50).
Yes, $250 for two is a reasonable price for a nice dinner in Oslo.
Let me just say that Oslo is the most expensive place we've ever visited. A pint of regular old beer is around $13. I had a regular old hamburger at an outdoor cafe in Grünerløkka that cost me $30. A cocktail at Bar Boca is around $20. You just have to laugh and hand over your cash if you're traveling to Oslo.
The best bargain of the trip may have been our double at the Radisson Blu Scandinavian Hotel. Our top-floor room had a panoramic view of Oslo, including the distant Holmenkollen ski jump, and was around $150 per night, which included a magnificent breakfast. The hotel was also, conveniently, the last stop for the bus we took into town from the airport.
Oslo has a great vibe. Lots of young people sitting outside at fashionable cafes in the sunshine, even when it was below freezing; a nice city park; a developing waterfront; great culture (including a magnificent new opera house); and good food and drink.
I'd like to go back in the summer, when it must be a different place. For now, we've tasted Oslo, and it tasted good. Just be expected to pay through the nose for a bite of it.
Flat bread with creme fraiche, dill and salmon roe
Salad of beef cured with fennel seeds and sugar and served with pickled vegetables, raw beet root and smoked butternut squash puree
Cod served with kale cooked with apple vinegar, and served with potato and steamed mussels
Turkey breast poached in milk and turkey leg confit, served with sauteed parsley root and pickled and sauteed Jerusalem artichokes
Coffee ice cream with toasted salted almonds, accompanied by a meringue with a biscuit crumble and frozen dried black currant powder
Being serenaded at Underwater
A $30 hamburger in a cafe in Grünerløkka
Oslo's impressive $700 million opera house on the waterfront
The Underwater Pub, one of Harry Hole's watering holes
At Herr Nilsen (that's about $25 worth of drinks there)
Inside Herr Nilsen