Unfortunately I was unhappy with the quality of the photographs I got from my lunch, so your imagination will have to do (or you need to go yourself).
Maaemo (Translated from Old Norse as ‘Mother Earth’) is probably the most unique food experience I have ever had. Just going to get that out there straight away. Even in all of the research, keeping up with what was going on, nothing quite prepared me for just what dining at Maaemo
After winning it’s third Michelin star two years ago, Chef Esben Holmboe Bang’s focus on Maaemo being an experience is unlike anywhere else. The Fat Duck might offer you whimsical, even take your imagination on a wonderful journey, Maaemo offers you Norway. It won’t dazzle you with molecular wizardry, but it will dazzle you in a way you’re not entirely expecting.
Everyone on Maaemo’s eight tables is given the set menu, an (almost) ever changing selection of 20 dishes of varying sizes designed to perfectly describe the harmony of the amazing Norwegian terroir and produce with the refined simplicity of chef Esben’s food. On with the journey!
I chose to go with the wine pairing with my lunch, I know nothing about wine, so when dining alone I usually go with recommendations (Except for sparkling on arrival, today I just felt like it, quite unlike me)
We start the food off with a selection of very quick snacks. I love this to start a meal, the idea of getting a sense of what the kitchen is trying to do very early on. A warm broth of roasted duck bones with cherry vinegar is the perfect start, full of flavour and a great balance, plus it’s so apt for the weather of the day! (Snow and -2 degrees!)
My next snacks arrive rapidly, caramelised jerusalem artichoke with blood and lemon thyme. Cornet with smoked vendace roe. “Lompe” with fermented trout and horseradish. Raw razor clam with white currant and heather. Grilled mahogany clam with fermented kohlrabi. Emulsion of raw oysters, warm sauce of mussels and dill. It seems a little overwhelming writing about them now, but this food speaks to me. The flavours are probably a bit unfamiliar to most people but that is what makes it so special. The techniques and precision of each small bite is without fault, bringing a genuine sense of understanding of what Norway has to offer.
We move from the snacks to some more substantial plates now, beginning with two courses of langoustine. This is a hallmark of Maaemo, taking one central protein and spreading it out, so that nothing is wasted. First up here is a cold course, with a cold gel of pickled crown dill, with the claws cooked from fermented grains, brain and cream infused with roasted langoustine shells. I love this type of food. The contrasting flavours, temperatures and texture here is on full display, and a finishing of the dish tableside never hurts!
Next up is the langoustine tail, this time served with pine and a caramel made from langoustine garum. This particular garum was made using the innards of the langoustine, which are then salted and to left to drag out the moisture. This liquid then is garum, and the choice to add a caramel is genius. Perfectly sweet and salty, plus the freshness of the pine, makes this a pleasure to eat.
I move from langoustine to cod now, this time served with whey and parsley root. A hint of horseradish takes this dish to another level, again, with all of it’s balances in place. Too bad there wasn’t more!
After all of these snacks and seafood dishes, it was time for some bread and butter! Not just any, mind you. Maaemo mill their own flour daily, and, of course, produce their own butter. A simple thing, bread, but one of life’s great joys.
A small course of pickled biodynamic (What else?) onions, with fragrant rhubarb root and aquavit cane out quickly, bringing back to me my memories of hating pickled onions as a child, but, as I’ve grown older, loving them as an essential item. The addition of aquavit, a spirit made from a variety of spices, but always cararway and dill just added another layer, I’ll be trying this at home one day! I also happen to love rhubarb, so it’s addition here was most certainly a welcome one for me.
Probably the most traditional Norwegian dish (And I say that with much hesitation), we have a take on rømmegrøt, a traditional porridge made with very sour cream, milk butter and salt. It is usually served with cured meats, as this was. Smoked reindeer heart with salted butter and plum vinegar round it out. This was probably my favourite dish. Not just because it was a bit strange, nor because it took a traditional dish to a new height, but because the dish takes something great, and only adds more great flavours too it. The salted butter, and the plum vinegar only enhance the flavours of the rømmegrøt, which are wonderfully plentiful to begin with. I cannot say enough good things
A small snack follows, the reindeer fat with fried sourdough and preserves. Only a single bite, but is it a big one! So much going on, the fried bread adds texture, the fat of the reindeer adds richness and the preserve (Of course, made in house) has a sweetness cutting through everything. An ingenious way to use a product usually destined for waste.
My final reindeer course (As well as the final savoury dish) was the reindeer loin, with lingonberries, spruce and marrow from the reindeer bones. Some chefs really understand game meat. Chef Esben is certainly one of them. A perfectly sous vide cooked piece of reindeer, with a covering of spruce and some perfectly picked micro herbs, with a beautiful sauce and a combined mix of the lingonberries and marrow. I love bone marrow and the richness it adds to almost anything, so as soon as I heard it mentioned I knew this was meant to be. A fitting end to a wonderful section of my meal.
I should note here that I was taken upstairs to see the kitchen and meet the team, which is something very special to me. I had a great experience seeing the operation, and I was rewarded with a wonderful photo with the whole team. Thanks you to everyone!
After returning to my table, I was presented with a cheese course. All who know me know of my love for cheese! This particular blue was made in Northern Norway, by a lady holding a Ph. D in cheese, specifically the moulds used in cheese production. I realised right then what I had been missing in my life. The cheese here was frozen and shaved to a very very fine powder, and served with pickled black trumpet mushrooms. A new discovery in the way to eat cheese!
A small pot of smoked juniper and fermented blackcurrants was a play on thr senses, some burning juniper adding a thoughtful smell element, but it was really all about the next dish.
On the menu since Maaemo opened, their brown butter ice cream with molasses and roasted hazelnuts has certainly earned it’s keep. Finished table side (As most dishes have been) this one is a real star. Not a sweet dish by any means, but just enough to know that it’s dessert. Some extra brown butter drizzled over the ice cream adds a little ‘crack’ which is great. The hazelnuts and the molasses is a classic combination, so all in all, I can see why it’s a favourite!
Lastly, to finish with my coffee (Sourced by the restaurant and roasted specifically for Maaemo) I am served a plate of beef fat waffles, with preserved berries, brown cheese and whipped rømme (The sour cream from earlier on). I was given a portion for two, and try as I might, I was unable to finish them. They were exceptional waffles though!
And so ends a meal that will likely change the way I think about food forever more. Everything was flawless, the floor staff were more than accommodating, they knew the food inside and out, everything was explained, and any questions I had were instantly answered. This was, as all three star restaurants are, an experience. An experience of the lofty heights Norwegian cuisine can reach, by a chef and team more than willing to accompany them.
Upon leaving I was presented with an A4 folder, containing my menu and the wine pairings, along with an art book containing sketches of various figures of Norse mythology. A wonderful parting gift!
(This blog was contributed by the Two Bears’ good friend – who is also a chef – Alex)
Flavour: ★★★★★✔ (can I go higher?)
Service: ★★★★★✔ (can I go higher?)
Value: N/A as everyone has a set menu
Atmosphere: ★★★★★✔ (can I go higher?)
Address: Schweigaardsgt. 15b 0191 Oslo, Norway
Tip! Maaemo is only open Wednesday to Saturday for dinner, with lunches Friday and Saturday. There are also only 8 tables. This is definitely one to secure a booking for.