The restaurant is attached the the Grand Hotel. Its entrance is very discreet with no sign but a small printed menu in a window. The first time we walked past we completely missed it. The menu was all in Swedish but, we figured it was worth taking a chance. Matbaren is a more casual experience than Matsalen and they don't book all of their tables so, it is easier to walk in without a reservation. We went at about 6:15, they open at 6:00 for dinner, it was still pretty empty so, we had no problem getting a seat. It picked up around 7:00 but still there were a few empty seats.
Matbaren has an electic feel with a mix of red wooden chair (some with Swedish blankets over the back in case the windows are open and you are chilly), white leather banquettes, benches covered in sheep skin and a big modern bar.
Each place setting has a wooden tray lined with a paper menu for a casual feel.. On top of that is a brown paper bag stamped with the date that is full of a flax and caraway crisp bread. Next to each setting is a piece of slate topped with soft Swedish butter and a wooden knife. The menu is not huge and changes often with what is available. It is divided into five sections; From Our Country, From Other Countries, From the Plant World, From the Pastry and Dairy Products and Cold Cuts. Two-thirds of the menu are beer, wine and distilled choices. Our server told us that they have people order one dish at a time and keep ordering until they are full. She also suggested starting with the cold dishes and move to the hot.
First Course - I had the sashimi of salam salmon and reindeer, avocado, ginger, horseradish and soy tapioca. So light and flavorful. The soy tapioca is interesting because it looks like caviar but tastes of soy. The reindeer was lightly seared and meltingly tender. The server told be this is because it is what they call reindeer veal or baby reindeer. Matt had the pressed pig head terrine, mushroom salad and mustard. What looks like cheese on top is actually mushrooms. Matt thought it had just the perfect amount of mustard as dressing.
Second Course - We both ordered from the plant section for this one. I had the beetroots, jerusalem artichokes, truffle, watercress, hazelnut and aged cheese. I was surprised to find the jerusalem artichokes roasted and pureed at the bottom of this dish. It was amazing and I plan on doing the same to serve with pasta at home. Matt had the white asparagus, morels, spring onion, egg 63°C, hollandaise sauce and fried bread. He loved this so much I was not even allowed a bite!
Third Course - I had the Matjes herring from Haugesund (Norway), whitefish roe, capers, potato, brown butter and an egg yolk. Only the potato is warm in this dish and you mix it up as soon as you get it to make the raw egg yolk, brown butter, roe and capers into a sauce. This was my first herring of the trip! The dish was the perfect blend of tastes, the brininess of the pickled herring, the salty roe, the richness of the egg yolk and butter and the creaminess of the potatoes. Matt had the Porter braised ox cheek, beetroot, fried onion and horseradish. He particularly like the horseradish with the ox.
Dessert - I had the most popular dessert on the menu, baked wild chocolate from Bolivia, sour cream, toffee ice cream and nuts. The sour cream with the toffee ice cream was a revelation! Matt's dessert was so clever, it looked like a soft boiled egg broken on the plate but it was actually bitter lemon cream, meringue, olive oil, honey and vanilla. A tangy, fresh dessert.
After these four courses and paired drinks we could barely move but, with our coffee came this bowl they called "candy." It contained a chocolate fudge which was like a cross between fudge and peanut brittle and little round lemon cakes. I didn't need any more food but, these couldn't be resisted. The servers even tried to convince us to have a second bowl of them!
Really an amazing night and a fun way to try different foods from around Scandinavia cooked in a modern way. I think choosing to eat at the bar instead of the dining room made for a much more relaxed way to enjoy fine dining. The bar was still quite expensive though, especially since we also both had 4 drinks and a coffee. A pretty basic one course dinner in Stockholm with one drink each can cost about $70 so you can imagine what this cost but, as Matt says, memories of amazing dinners are the souvenirs we bring back from our trips.
If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://agoodappetite.blogspot.com OR at http://agoodappetite.com then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at katbaro AT yahoo DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author unless otherwise noted. © 2007-2011 Kathy Lewinski