I was lucky to recently spend 36 hours in Copenhagen, where I had two very different but sensational meals. One a plate of real-deal tacos at Hija de Sanchez run by an alum of NOMA, the other a sensational dinner at 108, next door to the the former NOMA space and recent winner of its first Michelin star.
The relation between Copenhagen and a review of the Stockholm-based Björn Frantzén´s restaurant in Hong Kong is arguably a bit tenuous. All three spots are winning acclaim and turning heads, but Scandinavia is a large and multi-faceted region with distinct cuisine and cultures. Frantzén and others are quite possibly bored with being asked about the Nordic Wave, New Nordic cuisine and more. The latter was first espoused in 2004 – fully 13 yeas ago. Although it´s easy to lump the region´s diverse cooking under one umbrella, to do so seems a bit of a disservice. Would Italian, Spanish and French cuisine be happily branded under ´New Mediterranean´?
Anyway in Hong Kong, Frantzén is doing things his way in Sheung Wan. I was invited to a tasting dinner, one of the very first meals they served after opening, which resulted in a polished evening all round.
Every plate was a textural revelation, while a number of unfamiliar ingredients made for an evening of culinary discovery – always a good thing, but especially so when the outcomes are successful.
´French Toast´ with truffles, balsamic vinegar and aged cheese ($95) was just as decadent and deliberately over-the-top as it sounds. Carbs with cheese have rarely, if ever, been unwelcome. This was cheese on toast pimped-up to the max and a cracking way to start dinner. You will want one of these in your life at some stage.
The most unexpected and unusual dish was ´Swedish sushi´with crispy white moss, fallow deer, cep mayonnaise and frozen foie gras ($80). Last time I hit up Park n´Shop they were just out of crispy white moss, but luckily the fallow deer were on special.
Poor gags aside, let´s be frank: this is not something you ever would or could consider making at home. That makes it special, different, new. So much happens in the mouth, but all of it good.
Grilled chicken came with Jerusalem artichoke, blond miso, lemon thyme with hazelnut and some dinky girolles ($215). It´s brave heroing chicken in this way, but the technique and combination of flavours made it another winner. And I would eat blond miso on anything.
The N word, Nordic, appeared in the roasted Hokkaido scallop in ´Nordic dashi´ with ginger oil, spruce and fingerlime ($205). Finger limes are a native Australian fruit, part of the gourmet bushfood trend that has allowed restaurants down under and elsewhere to celebrate their own indigenous produce. They explode with gentle citrus, if that´s not an oxymoron, sitting perfectly on the seared scallop and in that brilliant take on dashi. These are global ingredients, melded in a way that is inspired.
The finish came with the North Atlantic cod ‘Janssons’ ($230). Talk about comfort food. A sauce made from white wine and butter was blended with anchovy juice and dill oil. The most obviously Swedish ingredients of the evening, even before the smack and brine of the kalix caviar. (That´s roe of the whitefish from The Baltic Sea, fact fans.) Beautifully done, poised and balanced. The only gripe was I wished that there was more of it.
All told, Björn Frantzén is very much a welcome addition to the Hong Kong restaurant scene. Genuinely new, genuinely different -and genuinely delicious.