Around the World – Oaxen Krog**- Stockholm, Sweden (March 2017)

I ended my 3-day venture in high-end Nordic cuisine at the communal table of Oaxen Krog** in the Djurgården district of Stockholm.

About the Restaurant
Oaxen Krog has an interesting history. Since 1994 the owners Magnus Ek and Agneta Green ran a seasonal fine-dining restaurant on Oaxen, one of the southern islands in the Stockholm archipelago. The concept for Oaxen came as a response to the imported and exotic food that seemed the standard back then. Instead, head-chef Magnus Ek wanted to focus on local food and flavours inspired by the incredible produce he was seeing from farmers and producers in the area.

The Skärgårdskrogen Oaxen restaurant was just open May to September and around Christmas time, yet managed to end up in the The World’s Top 50 Best Restaurants: it debuted in 2006 at #48 and worked its way up to #32 in 2010.

After 15 years in their remote location, Magnus and Agneta decided to ‘move to town’ to a newly erected building in Djurgården, next to the wooden bridge that connects to the Backholmen island. Its new start and 1,5-year-long closure, caused the loss of it place in the World’s Top 50 Best Restaurant, but the level of cooking wasn’t any less still unparalleled. After reopening in 2013, Oaxen Krog got two Michelin stars within 16 months: its first Michelin star in 2014 and the second in 2015. Their närhet principle still holds true: the cooking of Oaxen Krog is very nature-orientated with a lot of produce form their own farm and sourcing best local and regional produce in line with their own values – selected based on origin, sustainability and a humane animal keeping.

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The restaurant, designed by architects Mats Fahlander and Agneta Pettersson, was modelled like the old boathouses that are scattered along Stockholm. It is divided in 2 sections: Oaxen Krog for fine dining and Oaxen Slip, the Nordic bistro for a more casual dining experience. The restaurant has a wonderful view on Kvarnholmen and comes with a beautiful interior design: modern, minimalist, abundant use of wood, very light in Oaxen Slip and more dark tones in Oaxen Krog, but both have a really nice relaxed vibe.
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The restaurant has wonderful views of Kvarnholmen

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We started off in the lounge at the back of the restaurant with a drink and with some slices of paper-thin pork belly just melting on your tongue. When everybody for the communal table had arrived, we were moved to our table and had a round of introductions: a German couple in town for an art fair, a MBA student from near Boston on a one week exchange program, and 2 brothers from San Francisco who own a restaurant and – as chef and sommelier – were looking for first-hand exploration of the Nordic cuisine.

About the menu
There is little to choose from. Oaxen Krog has a 6-course or 10-course tasting menu (SEK 1.800-2.100 / € 187-220) and the wine pairing is SEK 1.200-1.400/ € 125-147. Juices are quite a thing in the Nordics and at Oaxen such a juice pairing will set you back SEK 500-600 / € 52-62.

I chose the 10-course tasting menu with excellent wine pairings, but started with a glass of exceptional Initial Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne by Jacques Selosse (SEK 390 / EUR 41; very expensive, but so worth it…) as an accompaniment for the 8 appetizers that were served in rapid-fire succession.

Then it was time to start our 10 courses:

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#1: 3-year-old Oaxen ham & Sanda Egg with Broth of Black Skilleby Garlic, Fermented Cep Mushrooms and Hazelnuts
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#2: Fermented and Pickled Vegetables from the Oaxen Farm, Verdance Roe from Kalix in Smoked Ox Marrow Sauce (paired with a very good German Rheingau riesling: a 2008 Georg Breuer Berg Roseneck)
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#3: Raw Shrimp and Beef, Cap of Aged Entrecôte and Sorrel
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The entrecôte was first seared/smoked on one side using a sizzling hot stone placed on aromatic herbs and twigs
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#4: Kohlrabi and Browned Smen, Ramsons and Pickled Green Peas
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#5: Smoked Scallop and Oyster Emulsion, Unripe Currants, Mushrooms and Wild Leaves (paired with a 2006 Domaine de Bellivière Calligramme, a dry and powerful 100% Chenin based white wine from the Jasnières appellation in the Loire region in France)
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In the meantime, we also were served some delicious breads with freshly churned butter. Especially this sweet, dark and sticky rye bread that was baked in a cast iron pan and covered with sea salt flaked was heavenly. Photo credit goes out to Escape Eat Explore as our bread was gone before I had the chance to a pic…
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#6: Skrei Baked in Kelp with Cream of Grilled Parsley and Unripe Plums with Seaweed from the West Coast
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#7: Mallard with Forest Capers and Fennel Seeds, Oak Moss and Calf Cheese seasoned with Green Juniper
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The mallard was accompanied by this excellent 16-year-old “red table wine”…
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#8: Garlic Glazed Linderöd Pork, Crispy Black Cabbage from the Oaxen Farm and Roasted Almonds
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A pre-dessert which was a play on the actual first dessert course that would follow shortly after. I recall it being a bread bon-bon covered with a wild cherry glaze and covered with sweet cicely
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#9: Wild Cherries with Bread Miso, Toasted Spelt and Sweet Cicely
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#10: Roasted Carrot Sorbet with Brown Butter and Hay Infused Cream…
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…served with Carrot Cake bites

I concluded with an espresso (SEK 50 / € 5,20) which came with a box of 9 homemade chocolates to eat/take home. I was quite stuffed, so Chantal also had the chance to also have a tasting of the incredible favour combinations that Oaxen Krog come up with. The truth is that I really had to make up to Chantal for having these fine dining experiences by myself… 😉

Magnus Ek, through modern cooking techniques, refines local and regional products into innovative dishes. In short: expect unique ingredients, wild herbs, pure and intense flavours.

There were plenty of moments that the table fell silent, surprised, taking in and savouring new flavours, just nodding in agreement to the others. I liked this communal table concept much more than I anticipated. Accompanied with great food and wines, there were lots of laughs, stories and memories shared between these strangers collectively undergoing the Oaxen Krog experience and having a doubtlessly memorable night.

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