Saturday, 22 September 2012

One of the best in the world

A review without pictures, this time, of Franzen-Lindeberg. A truly amazing place with food like I have never experienced.

I was very excited to get a table at this small unassuming restaurant with zero decor and the counter and kitchen in full view. The doorman came out to greet me and asked me if I was "Lee Orloff". Clearly "they knew I was coming".

For the first time since it opened, a mere 4 years ago, Franzen-Lindeberg appears on the San Pellegrino's Best in the World list. It is number 20, which, for a first timer is not bad at all. I was expecting to have my socks blown off and they were.

What a shame and what a tragedy! When I left my hotel, I decided to take an elegant bag and when I got there, realized I had left my phone and camera back at my room. So this is one review without photos. The New Yorker does it, and often the New York Times does too. So do all the Zagat Guides, so please bear with me. It is worth it.

On my table, in full view of the kitchen, was a box with a raw loaf of bread. My trusty server told me that it was resting for its final proof and would be taken to the kitchen to be baked for me.

The restaurant has two tiny rooms and a counter with four seats for a total of 19 places only. It has two Michelin stars and is one of the most creative restaurants and pleasant experiences I have had.. The welcoming staff was just perfect in terms of friendliness level and their interest in what they were serving. The passion is clear yet understated and the two chefs behind the counter look very happy to be doing what they are doing.

I was presented with a list of the foods I was going to have and they were all very strange. An example that doesn't sound at all appetizing is (on the dessert plate) dried pig's blood with cream of pig's blood, blackberries and bitter chocolate, which turned out to be a chocolate crisp with blackberries and very good! I was afraid to try it and so tried it first thing.

As far as the wines go, I couldn't order the entire wine pairing menu because they would have served 8 wines and I would not have been able to stay awake through all that. I had the welcome aperitif (an Austrian wine: 2011 Weitenberg, Gruner Veltiner Wachau) which was on the house, and two more glasses of wine as needed (another from Austria and a very strong sherry-like wine from France). The wines went well with the food but were not remarkable in and of themselves.

The chefs use ingredients from their garden: Ice tea made from 32-kinds of tomatoes, thyme, lemon, verbena, cucumber and Swedish melon--a light entry into the main meal. Before roasting my beautiful langoustine, they brought it to me live so that I could see how large it was. It was prepared raw under melting fat (culatello in Italy), with marinated fennel, celery leaves, fennel, dill and served with a reduced celery cream flavored with herring, carrot, celery oil and the essence from freshly pressed apples. Who thinks of these combinations? They all worked and as you can see, were all strangely interesting.

I loved the moment in the meal when the server came to my table with my loaf of bread: warm and sliced. The server returned with a bowl of cream and a whisk and proceeded to whip the butter I would use. Such a wonderful touch of whimsy without being pretentious or precious like many of these molecular places can be.

The main course was lamb: Two servings of lamb from our own breed. It is first coal flamed and then served as a tartar in lamb jus flavored with cumin and sheep's yogurt perfumed with lavendar. A second part is roasted and garnished with anchovy paste, crunchy bread crumbs, roasted onions, roasted garlic and rosemary. This was a spectacular dish and very dramatic since the grilling was done with a blow torch tableside.

Here are some of the most appetizing dishes: from earlier in the meal: scallop in shell, sliced and garnished with truffle cream. The second part is dashi in the shell with scallop tartare. Another favorite: Vichysoise with truffle (actually ribbons of potato crisp with truffle powder).

I can go on and on and list the ingredients used, but it is not necessary. Desserts were lovely as were the fish and meat dishes I was presented with: each like a little gift to be opened, discovered and savored. In fact everything was a gift. It is a shame that I don't have pictures but it just rests with your imagination and to, without delay, go to Stockholm (a lovely city) and see for yourself. You can make a reservation on line without a problem and they will be happy to greet you.

As with everything in Stockholm, the prices are quite incredibly expensive. So it makes the entire experience surreal. Take a metro to get there and you will pay $5 or more one-way!! But for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I would say it is worth it. I want to go back and this time, with my camera.