Matbaren : Sweden, Stockholm

This is a story of a meal I didn't expect to have, a meal that despite being an afterthought on a recent trip to Stockholm became a highlight.  That meal was at Matbaren, one of star Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren's eating outposts.  Dahlgren is one of the Nordic cuisine movement's foremost proponents and a Swedish culinary media darling.

Matbaren is the casual, one-Michelin star version of sister Matsalen, the "fancy" sit-down half of the empire that is across the hall.  Even knowing this, the bar seating and the waitress's reccommendation to order one dish, then after finishing order another, etc etc came as a pleasant surprise. Being a San Sebastián pintxo-eating resident, that's how I love to dine.  So we started with a kale salad with ham and onions.

Moved on to beets from Rosendal with black sesame, Swedish goat cheese and brown butter.

Speaking of butter, the bread and butter was a highlight for me. I know I'm not supposed to get so sidetracked by simple accoutrements, but the sexy wooden spreader didn't help things.

Chef Mathias Dahlgren was recently voted #55 in San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and his Matsalen was only the second Swedish restaurant to hold two Michelin stars.

Then steamed pork buns, which I felt awkward ordering in Sweden, but the waitress reccommended them highly and they actually turned out to be one of the most delicious plates we had.

Then, the dish I was most excited about: fried swedish squid, ice plant, garlic and lemon. Because it's squid! And what is ice plant, anyway?  It was good, but not as good as I expected. The squid was, well, boring.  I don't even like to say that. And the accompanying sauce seemed watery.  *Sad face.* This was followed, however, by a flawlessly executed main, a perfect wintry dish.

Then a dessert, which is the most popular at the restaurant: baked wild chocolate from Bolivia with sour cream, toffee ice cream and nuts. Now THIS is a language I speak. Those flavor combos are VERY Marti. In fact, I may just create an ice-cream sandwich with chocolate cookies, sour cream ice cream, and a coating of nuts and toffee pieces and call it Matbaren.

All in all, a great spot, and as my friend who recommended it said, "On a good night, with the right company, it could be one the best meals ever."

Grand Hotel Stockholm,
Sodra Blasieholmshammnen 6,
Stockholm, Sweden.
+46 (0)8 679 35 84