One can think of several essential things to do when traveling to Stockholm. Visiting the ABBA Museum is quite mandatory to allow yourself to reconnect with your inner dancing queen/king. So is taking a look at some of Stockholm’s finest design stores, in which can lead to several impulsive yet inspired purchases. Don’t forget to stop by ACNE Studios’ flagship store in Normalmstorg as well for their crafty collection of denims. Quick trivia: this particular store used to be the bank where the term Stockholm Syndrome was coined during a bank robbery in 1973. While they all sound like a good time, we hopped on a plane to Stockholm for one reason only, and that’s to visit Restaurant Frantzén.
Some can summarize Restaurant Frantzén with the accolades it has received: 2 Michelin Stars for 4 years in a row, #23 best restaurant in the world in Restaurant Magazine (they reached #12 last year), so on as so forth. Yes they are cool titles to have and they might just be publicity stunts, but we had other reasons on why we were so fixated with this profound restaurant. We were always fascinated with the rise of “modern Scandinavian cuisine” that’s invading the culinary world like a storm, mostly because of the rise to stardom of Restaurant NOMA in Copenhagen (currently occupying the #1 spot in the world).
A majority of Scandinavian restaurants’ ingredients are sourced locally and their cooking techniques are focused on respecting and showing off the quality of the ingredients by not masking them with various manipulative flavors or procedures. A lot of the dishes we tried at Frantzén even only had 5 or fewer ingredients on the plate as they want the ingredients to speak for themselves. It reminded us of the Japanese’s philosophy of cooking where ingredients always comes first above everything else, something that Mr. Frantzén admitted to be true.
The restaurant is located in the mazy neighborhood of Gamla stan, Stockholm’s old city district that’s hauntingly beautiful. It’s a labyrinth of fascinating architecture and brick road mosaic. I’m sure adults can and will get lost in these streets, but luckily Restaurant Frantzén resides in the area as a place for refuge, although don’t expect to be offered a seat right away. This 24 seater restaurant is typically fully booked on most days, hence the safest bet is to book a month before when the reservation line just opens up. But not to worry, it’s an effort that will reap hefty dividends. (Helpful tip: if possible book for the Kitchen Table where you’ll be seated at a bar across the kitchen, giving you front row seats to the action and a personalized attention from the Chef himself.)
The Frantzén experience began right before we enter their front doors. A dapper elderly gentleman, decorated with a bowtie and bowler hat, greeted us by our reservation name as we approached him. He even pronounced our reservation name quite accurately, a feat that most foreigners usually fail to accomplish. This guy deserves a beer and a cigarette for waiting in the cold the whole night and pronouncing our name correctly.
Restaurant Frantzén itself is owned and lead by Björn Frantzén, a former football player who later trained as a chef in some of the world’s most renowned restaurants, most notably Pascal Barbot’s 3 Michelin Star culinary temple L’Arpege in Paris. Mr. Frantzén is a tall, passionate and charming Swede who leads the kitchen with radiating charisma and a huge admirer for The Cure. There were a lot to like from this guy.
Our meal commenced with several small bites, starting with his take on a ‘Vichyssoisse’ (a French Potato and Leek Soup), but instead of a soup he piled a rectangular batch of crispy Potato Strings that was topped with a rich Leek Cream and a sinful amount of Croatian grated Black Truffles. We took the first bite of the night and our hearts immediately sank. It was a simple bite of crispiness, creaminess and the beautiful earthy aromas of the Truffles, but sometimes something so simple can be so complicatedly good. After putting everything in our mouths we all stared at each other, producing the sound of silence and praised The Lord for this blessed moment.
Next up was an unassuming piece of Macaron with a Chicken and Duck Liver Créme in the middle. Everything just dissolved sensationally inside your mouth as it lets out the creamy flavors of the Livers. We were never big fans of Macarons, but our appreciation for them just exponentially increased.
Here’s something that had a bit of Japanese influence to it: a Horse ‘Sushi’ on Dried Lichens and topped with a generous amount of Shaved Frozen Foie Gras. It might be a bastardized version of Sushi, but a damn good one nonetheless. The Horse meat was surprisingly tender and without any gamey smell. The Dried Lichens added a crispy texture and salty taste to the whole bite, while the Foie Gras was just the icing on the cake, one that we wish we can have more of.
A stack of fresh Swedish Lobster Tartare, Green Onions, Fish Roe, with a side of Oyster Brioche and Seaweed Butter. It tasted like an accentuated version of the ocean: fresh and unpolluted. Each bite was a wave of invigorating flavors washing over us, shuddering ourselves with a rare spectrum of pleasure.
This was one of the highlights of the night: a plate of Swedish Wagyu Tataki with beautiful shavings of Black Truffles, Truffle Salt and a brush of Brown Butter. Notice how there were only four ingredients on the plate and almost no form of cooking was implemented on the dish. The Chef advised us to use our fingers and get dirty. We proceeded by getting our fingers wet from the buttery Beef, almost erotically and causing the same amount of pleasure as the sentence sexually implies, especially after we took everything in and eat it. Inappropriate? It really was inappropriately good.
The meal proceeded with a petite bowl of Baked Bone Marrow with Fermented Mushroom Juice and Osciétra Caviar. The striking acidity from the Mushroom Juice balanced the inherent richness of the Bone Marrow really really well, finding the right amount of kick from both polarizing flavors. It was beautiful. If there was no such thing as bad health, we would eat 6 of these fuckers. It was a feisty one.
Grilled Scallop in its shell topped with a Goose Egg Sabayon, Grated Black Truffles and a life-changing Scallop Dashi. Mr. Frantzén explained that this was one of his signature dishes (although we kept thinking that if his previous non-signature dishes were that good, so how good can his signature dish be??). The plumpy Scallops were cooked really well, the Goose Egg Sabayon karate chopped our mouth with richness, the Truffles being the beautiful thing that they are, but the star of the dish was the Scallop Dashi which covered the whole mouth with a fragrant and rich Umami flavor that we’ve never experienced before. He then gave us another pot of Dashi if we needed more. Yes we needed more man, we need it more in our lives! Take away all the teas and coffees and give us this instead you selfish bastard!
His other signature dish was his version of Gargouillou; a combination of 49 types of vegetables from his private garden, all with differing flavors and textures, cooked and uncooked. It was completed with a light Herb Butter in the middle. Best of all was the hefty sprinkle of Fried Fish Scales that added some oily texture. It was possibly the best salad that we’ve ever had. How can a salad be this good? It’s a simple question with no simple answers.
Here’s a ‘Hot Pot’ of Lamb Tongues (2nd best thing on the bowl), Lamb Loin, Summer Truffles, Cabbage Paste, Crispy Nori, Roasted Cauliflower Bouillon (best thing on the bowl). We chugged the fucking rich Cauliflower Soup like a dehydrated plant in the desert. It was another sublime dish.
Dessert was a plate of Young Beetroots cooked in their own Juice with Liquorice, 100 year old Vinegar and Frozen Berry Creams. Everything on the plate had a purpose to create a fine balance between textures and flavors. The 100 year old vinegar added some subtle acidity to the dish and we’ve never really had Beetroots that were as sweet as this.
Our experience at Frantzén was on a whole other level of dining, one that few can surpass in our lives. And at this moment we completely identify with the words offered by The Cure, whose songs were heard inside the restaurant. “However far away, I will always love you”, “You, just like heaven.” You get the picture. Frantzén wasn’t just a cure for melancholy, but it was also an irreplaceable life experience.
After giving our sincerest thank yous and goodbyes to Björn and his staff, we stepped back outside into the quaint alleys of Gamla stan. It was 10pm but the sun was still slightly up but it offered no heat as the icy wind was blowing quite belligerently. After gathering our thoughts and putting our superhero capes back on, we looked at each other with faces of disbelief. “What the hell did we just eat”, one of us muttered. Whatever it was, we realized, it was definitely well worth the plane ride.
P.S. Do check out this marvelous video of Frantzén’s Tasting Menu (for those lucky few still able to open Vimeo, yeah we know you can, here’s a link: www.vimeo.com/65572877). It’s well composed and a hunger inducer. You’ve been warned.
Lilla Nygatan 21
111 28 Stockholm
Tel: 08 20 85 80
Words and photos by Duwi Satrio