Emmas Under, Tromsø

Today is the last day of our 3 days’ stay exploring Tromsø-Kvaløya-Sommarøy area. During this period we only ate out at one restaurant Emmas Under as we stayed in a self-catering apartment outside of Tromsø.

We shortlisted where we wanted to eat based on 1 key criteria: must serve a Norwegian cuisine – reindeer meat. If you had read up on what a typical tour is like either reindeer-sledding/dog-sledding or chasing Northern Lights etc., it will usually include a visit to a Sámi camp to understand their culture and food. During the tour, guests will get to savour reindeer stew if meal is included in the tour package.

On the last day of our trip in Tromsø before heading to the airport, we visited the city centre for our lunch at the casual eatery branch of Emmas Drømmekjøkken restaurant (They are located in the same shop unit, with the casual eatery on the street level). We arrived at about 1.30pm but the place was full. We were told to leave our name and return about 30 mins later.

The eatery was strategically located right opposite the Tromsø Lutheran Cathedral and near to the Storgata pedestrian shopping street. We made use of the waiting time to buy some souvenirs.

When we returned, there was a table for us. Time to chow down our lunch quickly so that we have sufficient time to reach the airport. Although the airport is just 9 mins drive from the city centre (or maybe it should be called town centre instead) we were extremely conscious of time after our near-miss in Stockholm. The ever-changing weather conditions posed a huge unknown factor…

Began our lunch with the Chef’s Fish Soup in starter portion. The fish soup here presented in a white creamy chowder texture was on-par with the soupy Swedish version (Kajsas Fisk, Stockholm) that we had a few days ago.  Suffice to say when you are in the Scandinavian, you wouldn’t be disappointed with the quality of fish soups here.

For side we ordered the eatery’s signature dish of Emma’s Fish au Gratin Fish, shrimps and macaroni in bechamel sauce, bacon, carrot salad and potatoes. Underneath the crispy top layer was a great combination of tender seafood with creamy and flavorful gravy.

Here’s what we came for – Braised Leg of Reindeer Mashed potatoes, lingonberries, broccolini, cream sauce. Though I expected the reindeer meat to be slightly gamey, it was very well handled and very palatable. The portion was huge enough for us to share it.

To give you an idea on the cost of living in Norway, this meal cost us around S$100 (U$70). I wouldn’t consider it to be exorbitant since Singapore‘s meal doesn’t come cheap either in a serviced eatery…but if you hadn’t booked a self-catering or full-board accommodation- be prepared to spend on your meals.

Photos taken during our 3 days’ stay in Tromsø-Kvaløya-Sommarøy:

We almost missed our flight from Stockholm’s Arlanda airport to Tromsø as the airport bus schedule was delayed and travel time extended due to an accident that caused heavy congestion on the expressway… Total travel time tripled from the expected 35 mins to almost two hours…Made it in time just by a whisker to check-in our luggage after further issues with the unmanned self-service counter…Rushed to the boarding gate to see flight delayed by 30 mins…. What a emotional roller-coaster ride!!!

Recharged ourselves on the short 2-hour flight admiring the landscape from the window. When we arrived in Tromsø at around 3+pm, the sun was already setting since it’s winter. After picking up our car, we made our way to the city centre.

Using our phone google map, the signal went dead after we were led to a tunnel. I tried to keep calm – It’s ok we’ll get the signal back after exiting the tunnel. Lo and behold, we had to navigate through a maze of underground tunnel expressway that has multiple roundabouts~ First time experiencing such unique (& bizarre) infrastructure layout…And as expected, one wrong turn and we found ourselves having to enter a parking garage?!

Finally made it to the city centre, in time (before total dark sky) to capture this beautiful coastline with the Arctic Cathedral – the striking structure is one of the iconic landmarks of Tromsø.

From there we crossed the bridge that links Tromsø with the mainland to take a ride up the Fjellheisen Tromsø Cable Car. The view up the mountain ledge Storsteinen is the best way to see Tromsø. At 6pm (in Feb), the sky was already pretty dark. The city of Tromsø was glistening as we admire the gorgeous night scenery.

While the Northern Lights was not strong for human eye when we were up at Storsteinen, we managed to see it by capturing it on our camera – “Just because you cant’ see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.” Despite having first seen the Northern Lights  a couple of years ago (in Iceland), I’m still excited to see the faint glow at Tromsø,  everyone else at the viewing platform seems pretty indifferent about it.

Instead of staying in Tromsø, we chose to stay on an island about an hour’s drive away from the city centre. Along the way we stopped by Eide Handel – a fine food store selling locally sourced seafood, fresh fish, meat, cheese and vegetables. We picked up some groceries to fill us for 2 days as we would be staying in an apartment with a kitchenette.

They also stock a good range of local craft beer. However do note that Norway has very strict drink driving laws – much stricter than other European countries. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is extremely stringent. So don’t ever drink and drive! Else you could face hefty fines and/or be jailed.

As we continued our journey towards our accommodation, we began to spot people with their cameras pointing to the sky in parking lots along the road. Something must be happening~ Excited by the prospect we also pulled our car into an empty parking lot. We sat in our car for a while for our eyes to adjust to the darkness before we saw a faint glow. Thereafter it was a frenzied moment as we scrambled to put on our jackets and braved the chilling wind to set up our tripod. Thankfully, by then the spectacular light show was just beginning to warm-up.

We were engulfed by darkness as we stood in freezing temperature with howling wind to capture this magical moment. The lights grew so strong that we could see it with our bare eyes and even managed to capture it on our iPhone (albeit not as discernible as on DSLR).

Having witnessed this fantastic light show on our first night’s stay up North has already made our trip worth it~ Not forgetting that it’s first day of Chinese New Year back home. What a way to ring in the Lunar New Year! 

As it was already closed to 11pm by the time we settled down in our accommodation for our meal, this was probably considered Supper.

Never would I have imagined that I would wake up the next morning at 9am to be greeted by this fabulous sight with a dreamy sunrise at Sommarøy Island.

Loving the pine wood panelling in the Fishermen’s Cottage – creates a serene feel.

We stayed in one of these Fishermen’s Cottage at Sommarøy Arctic Hotel.

Other than loving the cold chilly weather, another reason for loving winter is the chance to see sunrise. Being a late riser, I seldom get to see the sun climbing up the horizon. Happy to see this!

We didn’t have any specific plans for the day other than driving around Kvaløya to enjoy the scenery. While driving out of Sommarøy Island, we caught sight of Haja Island. It is the highest island around the area. It looks like an enormous rock protruding out from the sea and was even said to be the inspiration for the Arctic Cathedral design in Tromsø.

The only specific spot I had in mind to visit was the Ersfjord. This is the first of the many impressive Norway‘s fjords that we would visit on this trip.

We drove around on Kvaløya hoping to spot any wild reindeers while uncovering hidden spots. Only saw some folks on a dog-sledding adventure instead of reindeers though…

Stopped our car by the parking bay for a shot when we caught sight of this view at Kaldfjord with gentle flowy water ripples against the backdrop of the rock-hard mountains.

Another wonderful view captured of Grøtfjord. This area is popular during Summer for the stunning beaches.

Chanced upon this amazing scene at around 3.45pm when the sun was beginning to set…

Finally…we spotted our first reindeer on Kvaløya. Someone stopped their car along the roadside and we suspect they were probably onto something. We pulled alongside only in time to see this reindeer trod deeper into the forest.

With the sun setting, our hopes of catching sight of wild reindeers was dwindling fast…We were really grateful to receive a tip-off from a local and were lucky enough to see a reindeer when we stopped our car at a parking bay! Four Leaf Clover on Apple iOS 12.2

Shortly after we started to hear sound of cars slowing down along the road and spotted this darling walking calmly on the road. Deer on Apple iOS 12.2

After crossing she stood there by the roadside, posing for us…or so we thought…Until we realised she was pooping while waiting for the rest of the herd… Face With Tears of Joy on Apple iOS 12.2

Fun fact: Both male and female reindeers grow antler. But the males shed theirs in winter leaving him without antlers until the following spring, while female reindeer keep theirs until their calves are born in spring/summer. Therefore scientists explain that Rudolph the red nosed reindeer is actually a female.

The whole procession only took less than 10 mins before they all disappeared into the woods… Therefore we were really counting our blessings to have met this herd. Folded Hands on Apple iOS 12.2

Caught sight of the Hillesøy Church while on our way back to Sommarøy Island. The white, wooden church was built in a long church style in 1889.

This single lane bridge is the gateway to the lovely Sommarøy Island. If you are lucky enough you can catch sight of the Aurora dancing above the bridge on those special days.

For us, we could even capture the Northern Lights from the balcony of our accomodation. No need to be exposed to prolonged period of extreme chill as we could retreat back into the living room every now and then. I woke up a few times at night during our 2 days’ stay hoping to see her dance.

Last but not least, we enjoyed breakfast with a view and cooked fresh local Mussels with Chili Crab Sauce for dinner.

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The Flying Elk, Stockholm

While we missed the chance to visit Björn Frantzén‘s Michelin-starred eponymous restaurant, we made it to Frantzén’s little sister – The Flying Elk.

Once we enter the gastropub in Gamla Stan (Old Town) area, we were greeted by a Kuma (Japanese name for Bear)~

Naturally we ordered the Frantzén Kuma Lager to go with our meal – it is a Japanese lager brewed exclusively for Björn Frantzén’s restaurants.

Tasting menu is available but we chose to go ala carte since we had a late lunch. The appetizer that caught my attention was Truffle Popcorn Truffle salt, butter, Parmesan, dried black trumpet mushroom & fresh truffle. When given a choice, I always like my popcorn sweet. But the truffle+popcorn combination was too tempting to resist.

On hindsight, we should have tried the highly raved Gougères Beer cheese” & jalapeño too. It is a baked savory choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese.

Up next was the Steak Tartar Aged Parmesan, pickled white onion, crispy garlic, toasted almonds, Caesar aioli & gem lettuce. The simple yet luxurious dish is a delicacy of French origin, usually served only in high-end restaurants. Wonderful see this on the menu here and I absolutely loved the feeling of silky smooth beef gliding across my palate.

As though trying to tease Frantzén in jest, where there is a signature scallop dish served in the fine restaurant, there is a Pan seared scallop “Signature” Truffle scrambled eggs, “pommes paille” & smoked brown butter served here. This is yet another ingenuously simple looking dish that piques diner’s palate with the superb flavours.

For mains we picked a seafood dish of Oven Baked Cod with Sherry & Beurre Noisette Emulsion Lardons, parsley root, broccoli & toasted walnuts. The fish, served in a cast iron skillet, was tender and flaky.

Having tasted cloudberry – often referred to as “forest gold” in Scandinavia, during my previous visit to Denmark; I was keen to enjoy a Crème brûlée with Cloudberry Valencia almonds. What’s better than ending our last dinner in Stockholm with a dessert that incorporates one of the Swedes‘ traditional and beloved berries? In terms of popularity cloudberries are probably second to lingonberries.

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Meatballs for the People, Stockholm

While one of Sweden‘s most successful export is IKEA furniture store, the brand IKEA is probably synonymous with Meatballs. Tired of the same old beef meatballs, we wanted to make use of the opportunity in Stockholm to try a variety of meatballs. Meatballs for the People is the place for us as their meatballs are served in different kinds of (exotic) meat.

As the restaurant does not take reservations on Fri-Sun, we deliberately planned for a late lunch around 2pm hoping to avoid the peak hours. But we were wrong…there was a waitlist with a few names jotted on it when we arrived at the restaurant.  The staff told us that the waiting time would be around 30 mins, we reckoned since we were not in a rush we don’t mind the wait. More importantly, our minds were set on having a meatball lunch.

After the chilly morning sight-seeing walk, we were happy to warm our body with a Swedish beer flight: Piston Kustom Lager, Melleruds Pilsner, Sleepy Bulldog Pale Ale and Shogun Bulldog JIPA.

Now for the meatballs! These are the 5 meatballs available on the day of our visit: Boar, Beef, Moose, Veal and Beef & Pork. They have other varieties such as rooster, reindeer, salmon, lamb, venison etc. and even vegetarian option.

We ordered The Starter whereby we get to choose 4 types of meatballs served with a creamy gravy sauce, lingonberries, pickled cucumber & red onion. This platter will allow customers to have a taste of the variety before deciding on their favourite choice if they subsequently order the main course (yes, they eat meatballs as a main course).

While choosing the meatballs, we were updated that they have roe deer meatball that day as well, so we opted for Boar, Moose, Veal and Roe Deer for the platter and the meatballs were differentiated with their respective flags.

While the meatballs were generally bouncy and moist, I thought the Moose meat had a strong gamey flavour compared to the other meatballs. For sure, they are way better than IKEA ones. I never liked the meatballs at IKEA despite their popularity.

Next we had the Spaghetti Bowl with a choice of meatball (we chose to go with veal) served with grandmas tomato sauce & loads of grated parmesan.

Earlier Photos Taken:

Sensed a bit of Chinese New Year with these familiar festive plants – Silver Willow and Peach Blossom.

View of Riddarholmen in Gamla Stan. With the river covered in snow, it made the colours of the facade pop.

From the riverside we made our way to Katarinahissen, or the Katarina Lift that looked like a tower crane actually. Its viewing deck offers an unblocked view of Gamla Stan. Unfortunately this space is above a construction site now as the area is undergoing massive redevelopment with many construction equipment in the foreground.

On the other side is the Gröna Lund amusement park, it is only open from late spring (April/March) to September.

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Valhallabageriet AB, Stockholm

If the aroma of freshly baked bread is what you look forward to every morning, then you can probably relate to this post. On the second day of our Stockholm stay, we made our way to Valhallabageriet AB to grab the famous Cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) right after having breakfast at our hotel. This beloved pastry is so popular that the locals dedicated 4th October to be National Cinnamon Bun Day in honour of their favourite sweet treat.

The overnight snow turned the whole city white as everything was coated in a blanket of wintery powder.

We were pretty lucky to arrive and secure a seat inside the tiny bakery with limited space. Worthy of special mention was the sweet pastel coloured and country-themed wall that made the place so homely.

There was a roll of numbered tickets right next to the entrance door and you have to tear a number for your turn.

Here’s our order of the signature Cinnamon Bun along with the Swedish coconut macaroon (kokostopp). As we typically associate coconuts as a tropical fruit, I was surprised to know that it is widely used in the Scandinavian countries pastries!

The freshly baked, aromatic cinnamon bun has a hint of cardamom (another surprise!) and covered with a dash of crystallised sugar on top.  At this point I’m convinced that the European nations are so obsessed with spices that they started a spice war between the 15th and 17th centuries.

While we were still enjoying our fika moment over a cup of coffee in the shop, the crowd started to grow.  While there were a number of customers who popped by for takeaways, the seats were also filled up quickly. As more customers took their seat in the shop, I also observed that the coffee served was refillable? Seems like that was also the case at Vette-Katten too.

Afternote: For filtered coffee lookout for sign “påtår ingår” (refill included), but the unwritten rule is limited to one refill.

Earlier Photos Taken:

Since we are on the topic of bakeries, let me introduce to you a few iconic items to try at the breakfast buffet in Sweden.

If you like to start your mornings with a glass of fruit juice, you can try Rosehip Soup. But what is Rosehip? Turns out it is the accessory fruit of the rose plant.  This is a Swedish classic soup/beverage which is the perfect winter drink as rosehips contain a lot of the vitamins C, D and E, calcium and antioxidants. It has a sweet/tart flavour which was pretty appetising.

Just like Dutch who call their mini pancakes Poffertjes, the Swedish people called their flat cake of batter Swedish pancakes. It is slightly thicker than crepes but not as fluffy as the McDonalds type (I used McDonalds as benchmark as I suppose the pancakes served at the fast food chain around the World should be about the same?).

Being in Scandinavia country meant having abundance supply of salmons~ So in love with the Cured Salmon (Gravadlax).

Finally the Swedish Kaviar in the classic toothpaste tubes is actually fish egg spread. Don’t confuse this kaviar-with-a-k with upmarket Caviar. The main ingredient for this iconic spread low grade cod eggs that is lightly smoked and seasoned with sugar and salt. Then it is mixed into a paste with potato starch, tomato paste and vegetable oil.

I’m including a photo of automatic juice dispenser cos it looks so sleek.

After breakfast we began our short exploration of Stockholm‘s subway stations which are filled with amazing artworks.

The T-Centralen (Central) station is one of the most famous subway stations in Stockholm. This station is a huge interchange hence has a network of linkways. It took us a while scurrying in the underground walkway like lost mice before finding these two spots.

Over at Stadion station, we were greeted by this rainbow once we alighted from the subway.

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Nystekt Strömming, Stockholm

Nystekt Strömming (it’s Swedish for ‘freshly fried herring’) is a local food truck which used to be located around Slussen. However when we visited Stockholm, the Slussen area was already heavily cordoned up for redevelopment and the food truck has relocated to Gamla Stan area. So please check out their FB post for their latest location at the time of your visit.

While there were many variations on how to enjoy the fried herring, we chose to pair it with mashed potatoes, along with pickled cucumber, red onion and creme fraiche salad (it’s the standard combi as well); although you can build-your-own sides as well.

The fried herring had a nice crispy and crunchy crust and the pickled cucumbers work best to cut through the fried item. Onions help if you are afraid of briny taste of the herring, though I don’t find it overly strong after frying.

Comparatively I prefer eating the raw herring in Amsterdam to this fried version. But hey, herring is also one of the pillars of Swedish cuisine and therefore should give it a try when you visit Stockholm. It’s also one of the cheaper food options around if you are on a budget since everything in Scandinavia countries cost much higher than Europe.

Nystekt Strömming, Stockholm
Kornhamnstorg 1, 111 27 Stockholm, Sweden

Earlier Photos Taken:

Stockholm City Hall with golden spire is one of the most famous silhouette along the river (left).

Exploring the streets during blue hour in Gamla Stan, the old town in central Stockholm. This area has a wealth of historic churches and mostly with Gothic style architecture.

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Melanders Fisk, Stockholm

After finishing the Swedish Fish Soup at the neighbouring shop at the Hötorgshallen Saluhall, we were so full that we decided to buy takeaway Gravadlax (dill-flavored cured Salmon) from Melanders instead of dining at their counters.

Each portion of the cured salmon is served with boiled potatoes (packed separately, not pictured). If you are a smoked salmon fan, you are likely to fall in love with the cured version as well. In fact I liked the cured version more than the saltier smoked salmon. The cured salmon was so fresh that it remained moist and silky!

Although the cured and smoked salmon are also available at the breakfast buffet lines of the hotels throughout our Scandinavian trip, the version we bought at Melanders remained the best I had.

Melanders Fisk
Hötorgshallen, 111 57 Stockholm, Sweden
Open hours: 10 am – 7 pm on Monday to Saturday.

After the short downtown exploration, we had to head back to our hotel for a quick nap to combat the jet lag…

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Kajsas Fisk, Stockholm

After having some cakes we took a walk around the Central area hoping to work off some of the food and avoid the lunch crowd before heading to our next food stop.

Saw this interesting plaque by chance – a location with historical value as its the site where Swedish Football Association was founded in 1904.

Our next stop was Hötorgshallen Saluhall – a food hall housed in the basement of a modern complex. It means Haymarket in English.

There are two stalls that I shortlisted and they are located next to each other. Starting with Kajsas Fisk occupying unit #14 and Melanders (in next post) occupying unit #25.

Toast Skagen (prawns/shrimps on toast) is an absolute Swedish classic named after a fishing port in Denmark. It essentially is a piece of toast topped with shrimp mixed with mayonnaise, creme fraiche and topped with kalix löjrom roe.

While the toast had a nice crisp to it, the small shrimps were tough and rubbery. Not sure if that’s how it should be? Presumably the colder Nordic waters made their flesh tougher??? I tried other shrimp salads during my trip and they were all generally difficult to chew on…

The best-seller here is the Svenska fisksoppa (Fish Soup).

At first glance, the colour of the soup reminded me of Goulash Soup I had in Budapest. But unlike Goulash that is made with beef, Svenska fisksoppa is a delicate seafood soup made with fish stock, fresh salmon, cod, mussels and juicy prawns; topped with tangy sour cream. Do also note that the soup is generously portioned, sufficient to be a main on its own for me. This is the ultimate comfort soup perfect for the cold winter~

Although the seating area is limited, don’t be turned off by the queue. Service staff would assist to allocate seats once you placed your order at the counter. I would say this soup is a must-try when in Sweden.

Earlier photos taken:

The famed 3-Michelin starred restaurant in StockholmFrantzén. They opened an outpost – Zén in Singapore in late 2018, taking up the shophouse unit vacated by Restaurant Andre. Had to give this place a miss this time round…we could still try their outpost back in Singapore.

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