This is part 1 from our dinner at Maaemo.
After our first 1-star Michelin experience, we are now hooked for stretching our wallets and experiencing the ultimate in fine-dining. Booked 2 months in advance, Maaemo is a 2-star Michelin restaurant and coincidently, we were celebrating our 2 year anniversary. Maybe it was a bit of an indulgence for us as we both aren’t earning big bucks presently, but then, why wait for the perfect time? If there ever was one, it was then.
Maaemo is an all organic-biodynamic restaurant with only 8 seatings a night for an approximately 3-4 hour luxury event. Yes, 8 seatings, that means resos aren’t easy to come by. Heart pounding, I was counting down the seconds to midnight all the while hitting the refresh button in order to capture this reservation. Actually, my boyfriend had done it first, but we had to rebook due to a scheduling conflict. Since, I was an hour behind in Scotland (at the time), I figured it was easier for me to do.
One thing I’d like to mention: don’t come to these sorts of restaurants expecting to leave overly full. Don’t be deceived by the pictures either. We were served about 20 courses (nearly 10 were “appetizers”). We joke because these were like 2 or 3 bites each. We also decided to do the 10-glass wine/beer pairing…let’s just say, we could’ve used more than a few bites to soak up the alcohol. However, this food adventure is intended for the sophisticated palette. I’m not saying my palette deserves to be in this line-up (hopefully someday), but these sort of restaurants and experiences are intended so the individual can experience the most bang for each exquisite and unique bite.
Upon approaching the entrance, the restaurant looks unassuming and dark. Yet, immediately, we were warmly greeted as a man came and opened the door for us. You fast recognize that everything this night will be over the top along with some excellent food service, not a common trademark of Scandinavian culture.
The evening started with a glass of champagne, heaven forbid the name escaping me. Do I make for the worst food writer or what? At NOK 190 a glass ($34), they were lofty pours and we were given a second one too.
This was followed by a series of appetizer bites:
Nyr from Grøndalen Farm with Vendace Roe
This was served on a rock that was frozen cold. Okay, it was some special sort of tool that froze the bite size delights. Of course, it’s so cold in Norway, they could’ve picked up a rock from outside on the street.
Nyr is a tart type of cream cheese served nearly frozen upon some tiny orange beads of roe. It was tasty, clean, and icy. In fact, I got a bit of a brain freeze from the dramatic chilled bite.
Salsify Pickled in Juniper
We didn’t eat the Juniper, it was a sort of smoked infusion and was amazing. See those two white sticks emerging, that was the bite. I seriously wanted 30 more of those. But, I guess its learning to savor each bite rather than killing yourself with too much.
Smoked cheese with Chicken Skin and Watercress
Since the restaurant carefully picks its sources, my boyfriend decided to go non-veg this evening. He was rather nervous about it, but the bites were so small, I hardly say that he was “cheating.” My dish was served without the bits of chicken skin. This also had a smokey flavor and a texture like a whipped cream cheese, but the smoothness of silk on the tongue.
Biodynamic Beets with Sloeberry
What’s sloeberry, you say? A lot of berries are completely foreign to my palette. This
dish bite in and of itself mystified me. It was very simple and small, perhaps they use one beet for the entire restaurant at these bites. The sloeberry is a bit tart and astringent and is often to make sloe jin, which is an infusion of vodka, gin, and sugars, etc. You can see the sloe berry slice from this picture, it was a tiny slice that sat directly above the small cylindrical shape of beet. Flavorful indeed.
Urchin from Roderick Sloan
Roderick Sloan is this hardcore Scotsman who hand dives for these puppies. He supplies Noma with a lot of them. I’ve had Urchin before somewhere at some sushi restaurant. I vaguely remember the experience, perhaps it was a bit too salty or pungent or something. This, however was absolutely fabulous, smooth and fresh.
Rømmegrøt with brown butter and cured reindeer heart
Rømmegrøt is a Norwegian porridge and not for the faint of heart. Well, not for those at least who are looking to lose weight. The porridge is traditionally made from sour cream, whole milk, wheat flour, butter, salt and even sometimes sugar. I’m thankful this bite was small, but was it ever full of buttery richness. Mine was served with mushrooms on top, while my boyfriend being the all-adventurous one, tried it with the cured reindeer heart. They both looked absolutely identical, which causes me to wonder how they could tell them apart, but they did taste different. His obviously had a meat texture and the cured reindeer added a depth and smokiness to the dish. I made fun of him for eating one of Santa’s reindeer.
A taste of Chicken Liver with chanterelle
I was profoundly impressed with the presentation of each item. It was so earthy and organic. We could’ve eaten the dried chanterelle surrounding the dish if we’d wanted, but a) they removed the dish too quickly and b) it might’ve tasted quite bitter. Come to think of it, all dishes were removed very rapidly after they were eaten.
Mine was without the chicken liver. I can’t remember how exactly the waiter explained that this item was produced, but it had a gel sort of effect with the flavor of chanterelle. Not to cheapen the item, but I find things are best compared when related to another similar experience. As a child, I always loved the sweet & sour sauce with wontons from Chinese restaurants. This tasted very much the same…probably $30 more.
Cucumber and horseradish and an emulsion of Roasted Shrimps with a sauce of Grilled Cucumber and Parsley
That is a long title for such a simple dish. I really enjoyed the flavors in this item. The shrimp pieces seemed hardly detectable, but the cucumber and parsley sauce made this over the top with flavor. It was clean, sharp and unique.
Oyster emulsion with Blue Mussel Gel and a sauce of Blue Mussels and Dill
This dish has been served at Maaemo since the beginning. It was absolutely exquisite. I’m not a fan of mussels usually, but this is creamy, rich and amazing. I’ll leave this review for the Nordic Nibbler, who has visited Maaemo multiple times (and takes much better food shots and writing transcripts than I).
And our final appetizer…
Curly Kale with caramelized onion juice, cauliflower and smoked cream sauce
I love anything that’s been caramelized or reduced to some rich balsamic looking glaze. I have fetish for things that should be sour or pungent and end up sweet. I also have grown a deep fondness for weird, astringent tasting vegetables, such as kale. This dish was pleasant to finish on with the appetizer courses. There was such a fine balance between sweet and savory here, always leaving with a rich sort of buttery aftertaste.
Part 2 of our dinner coming soon!!
I’d also like to top this post off by saying that my boyfriend is an absolute sweetheart. My boyfriend spoils me, even when he probably shouldn’t; even when I don’t deserve it.