★ Maaemo, Oslo

After travelling for about 1 week in Scandinavian region, we finally pampered ourselves with our first fine dining meal of this trip at the only restaurant in Norway with 3 Michelin stars – Maaemo. They are ranked No. 35 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant 2018.

Having arrived in Oslo the night before, we spent the morning exploring some sights in the city. We worked up an appetite after much walking around town in preparation for the epic, much-anticipated 20-course meal ahead.

We were seated at one of the tables offering us the view of the kitchen on the mezzanine floor above, we later found out that there is a Test Kitchen Table which has a direct view of the chefs at work as well. Every now and then we would see the staff holding the plate and walking down the spiral staircase elegantly and with much ease to serve diners their food. I joked that they must have strong legs to work here…

As per many other restaurants, they do not present us with the full menu at the start of the meal. Instead they enquired about any food allergies or dietary restrictions beforehand during reservations and a further check again on the day of our visit. Hence we were kept in suspense on what would be served (unless you did some reading from others’ blog post prior to the visit).

The staff introduced to us that Maaemo is an Old Norse word meaning ‘Mother Earth’. The restaurant focuses on using local produce and aims to showcase the flavours and nature of Norway. Having travelled across Norway for the last 5 days we were hopeful that the menu would be pretty seafood-dominant. The meal can also be paired with either wine or juice, so we opted for the latter.

Appetizers started with several one-bite snacks to be eaten with our hands. The first being Potato flatbread langoustine claw steamed with beer and fermented turnip. I believe the Norwegian name of the flatbread is Lefse? To be honest it resembles naan bread, but this is made with potatoes and flour, so it has a more chewy texture. What impressed me at first glance was the intricate workmanship required to arrange the redwood sorrel.

The second snack was Fermented trout with leek (bottom-right). This snack is probably a modern take of another Norwegian delicacy – Rakfisk? The traditional Norwegian specialty is known for its strong odor and is typically paired with a shot of aquavit (a Norwegian liquor). The version served here is very much palatable as it was filled only a tiny bit of fermented trout and fermented turnip, encased in a crispy caramelised onion roll and topped with tiny drops of aquavit.

Final appetizer was Sourdough duck liver and rhubarb (bottom-left). For this snack, they fried the mother of the sourdough before adding the duck liver and rhubarb spheres on top. We stuffed this into our mouth to enjoy this interesting interpretation with a crunchy texture of sourdough with paté.

After the trio of snacks, we were presented with one of the signature dishes of the restaurant –  Emulsion of Norwegian flat oysters warm sauce of mussels and dill. The dish was first served bare before being covered with the “Yayoi Kusama style” sauce resulting in a picture of psychedelic green dots floating over the creamy base. Instantly the sight reminds me of another amazing dish I had at Geranium. Instead of a layer of fish underneath, this dish had a gelatinous layer over the oyster emulsion which had a delicate taste. I loved the rich velvety and smooth textures that one can savour within each spoonful of this dish.

Scallop cooked in the shell with fermented celeriac verbena and smoked scallop roe featured scallops from Frøya grilled in the shell with celeriac juice before finishing it with scallop dashi (stock), reduced celeriac juice and a spritz of lemon verbena oil.

Cod from the arctic gently cooked with salted butter horseradish and winter herbs Cod lightly poached, on a sauce of white asparagus with ramson, horseradish, tapioca.

Up next was Chef’s signature dish of Langoustine cooked with spruce. We were briefed that this dish serves to present diners with an overview of Norway  i.e ocean and pine forest. The langoustine caught from the ocean is cooked in pine butter, glazed with pine gel and dusted with pine dust. This is the most photogenic dish so far, with the bright orange tail sitting atop a bunch of green spruce. What a lovely sight! I also loved that we were asked to pick up the langoustine with our hand as we could immediately feel the warm of the butter poached tail as we bite into its chewy flesh and experience the sweet delicate flavour (I even licked up the remnants of butter off my fingers).

There was a strong sense of familiarity when we caught a glimpse of the next dish Grilled eel elderflower and warm eggs.  The Norwegian eel was grilled for 4 hours, finished with acidic sour made by fermented cabbage, egg emulsion, elderflower gel and chives.

Lightly smoked arctic char aquavit and burned onions Arctic char from Lofoten placed above a bed of white onion purée. The char is smoked in juniper before being steamed in the oven. The sauce is quite acidic in order to balance with the arctic char’s high fat content. It’s made with brine of pickled onion seasoned with aquavit and spritz with charred onion oil.

Fresh rolls out the oven glazed in birch syrup our own churned butter and salted butter with buckwheat The warm bread coated with the slightly sweet syrup was soft and fluffy. To be honest it was so good that the butters were relegated to the sideline, though both butters had amazingly creamy textures.

After the bread, we were served a traditional Norwegian delicacy which is a signature dish at the restaurant Rømmegrøt – a porridge of very sour cream and freshly milled wheat smoked reindeer heart, browned butter and aged plum vinegar. Traditionally eaten with cured meat, the version here is served with crunchy dehydrated smoked reindeer heart finished with clarified butter infused with the plum vinegar. It was also interesting to learn that the Norwegians take the traditional Rømmegrøt as a main dish and is a nourishing meal served for special occasions.

Our meal paused for a kitchen tour interlude which gave us the chance to do some exercise as we climbed up the spiral staircase. Other than the impressive panoramic view of the newly developed Barcode Project from the kitchen, I was pretty surprised to see them working in such a compact kitchen space! The visit also confirmed our guess that the Head chef probably monitors and adjusts the pace of the meal according to guests’ eating pace from the CCTVs. While Chef Esben Holmboe Bang was not in the house, we were told that we gonna meet another TV celebrity on the team – Tim Read.  Tim was the winner of MasterChef New Zealand (yes, we googled that immediately after our kitchen tour haha).

For the courses earlier the juice pairings were Smoked AppleWhite tea and elderflowerSour Plum and Cherry.

The subsequent juice pairings for the next few courses were Blackcurrant, thyme and beer vinegarBlack cherry and star anise and Blueberry and pine kombucha. Interestingly as we progressed to the meat courses the colour of the juices served also resembled the red wines.

Meal service resumed with Salted baked rutabaga broth of salted sheep Salted sheep ribs (pinnekjøtt), a traditional dish eaten during Christmas. Here the meat is made into a stock and paired with rutabaga (a root vegetable that is usually served as mashed purée with pinnekjøtt).

Our main protein of the day was Duck “Royale” chestnuts and lingonberries.  Hidden under the beautiful leaves made out of Jerusalem artichokes were mousse of chestnuts and the duck. For the final touch, a stock with lingonberries was added.

Frozen blue cheese with pickled black trumpet mushroom Norwegian blue cheese (Fønix) from Stavanger is frozen with liquid nitrogen and turned into dusted cheese. It is then served with pickled Trompette mushrooms jam and powder on top. Though many people felt that blue cheese has an acquired taste, this course serves to change that perception.

Apple blossom pine and preserved blueberries Sorbet of apple blossom with fermented blueberry juice, covered with Italian meringue and dusted with pine powder. The result was a blissful combination of citrus-sour sorbet with the sweet soft meringue.

A dessert made from salted butter from Røros with table-side service by Chef Andrea Selvaggini. This signature dish is made with brown butter ice cream, caramelised butter, served with caramelised hazelnut crumbs finished with coffee molasses and salted brown butter on top. This rich and decadent dessert is well worth piling on the calories for.

The desserts were paired with Raw milk and birch and for the snacks we had Filter Coffee Gedeb Beriti Kebele, Gedeb Woreda, Ethiopia Harvest – December 2017 Roasted by Tim Wendelboe. The coffee has light floral notes without bitterness.

The spread of snacks (in clockwise from top) Young pinecones preserved in honey for several months, Buckwheat “chocolate” the buckwheat bars resemble chocolate but did not include any cocoa at all, (Coffee), Grains and cloudberries liquid waffle served with cloudberries jam, Brown cheese tarteCinnamon bun just out of the oven brown cheese and beef fatWarm traditional Norwegian waffle with our miso seasoned with brown butter and cardamon.

We finished the entire meal in slightly over 3 hours. And it’s time to bring our attention to the sign hung up on one of the walls…

Earlier Photos Taken:

Train ride from Bergen to Oslo. Weather wasn’t good so it was pretty gloomy throughout the journey.

Explored some major sights in Oslo before lunch. A look down Karl Johans gate towards The Royal Palace.

Passed by the Norwegian Parliament building, as well as visiting the City Hall (Rådhuset) – venue of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony every December.

It was well worth spending time visiting the City Hall as the place is decked out in Norwegian art and culture both outside and inside! Before entering the main hall, there are 16 wooden friezes made by Dagfin Werenskiold (1892-1977), painter and sculptor, along the corridors surrounding the courtyard. They are motifs from Norse mythology.

The one that we are most familiar with would be Thor (thanks to Marvel). This wooden frieze depicts Tor is Driven by His Goats.

Behind the gilded main entrance were even more impressive large scale artworks on the walls.

The paintings are all very colourful and depicts various history and life in Norway.

We only had time to cover the main hall but not the other rooms on the upper level.

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