Sunday, July 31, 2016

Restaurant Frantzén Stockholm

If any of you have had any meals at restaurants bearing 2-star Michelin or more, except for the case of Japan, it's almost certain that the dining room would be quite large and rather opulent. I did not do thorough research about Frantzén that as my parents and I entered the restaurant, I found the dining room to be unexpectedly small (in particular, size-wise when compared to Geranium, in which we had dinner at on the previous night): including the kitchen, the total area was probably no more than 60 m2 while its capacity could cover approximately 20 diners. However given its reputation plus a word of 'encouragement' from our taxi driver that this place at Gamla stan had been the best restaurant in Stockholm, I approached this meal with confidence. Since there were 3 of us, we were seated at the dining table - the chairs were just nice and the round table was covered by crisp white linens, the usual standard of an elite restaurant. In addition to a few tables, there was a counter seated 6-7 guests directly facing the (open) kitchen where one could see chefs prepared the dishes live. Chef Björn Frantzén believes that there should be no or very minimal borders between the dining room and the kitchen. Thus, consistent to the philosophy, in Frantzen, all staffs (chefs, waiters and sommeliers) would wear the same uniforms. Some chefs would also serve and explain certain dishes to diners including doing the a la minute plating. This way, chef Frantzen and his team were able to directly monitor the progress of every group and cook the dishes accordingly at the right pace. 

Restaurant Frantzén offered one degustation menu only, so guests are not only welcome but also encouraged to share their dietary concerns when making the reservation; these would be re-confirmed before the meal started. There were options to pair the food with wine selection or juices. I chose neither and opted to drink 2 glasses of wine: a glass of fresh and crisp Sauvignon blanc from Loire valley as well as a glass of relatively young red Burgundy of Domaine de la Grand' cour. My father selected the juice pairing which the matching I thought was not as good as the one I had at Geranium. As far as the food's concerned, we had an exquisite meal taking place during the last day of the week, prior to the long Passover weekend break - in short, we're quite lucky secure the reservation. It was a full house affair; advance reservation is a must to have a meal here. Our tasting menu were ...

Deep fried potatoes served with sour cream and fish roes - A very good opening that highlighted texture contrasts. It combined crunchy and earthy fried potato with light cream and salty 'tobiko' 
Chawanmushi: Cauliflower, king crab and truffle - The egg custard was warm, tasty & silky. The sweet Norwegian crab added a new dimension, moreover, this dish was enhanced by an effective use of pungent black truffle. Nice! 
Seared live Scallop in "dashi" with finger lime and spruce tips - The Norwegian scallop, seared on one side only, was superb and perfectly cooked. It was pure, naturally tasty and sweet; accompanied by pine olive, aromatic spruce and sweet powder. Excellent! After that, we were given a small bowl of Japanese dashi: it's refreshing and made of the usual authentic ingredients such as seaweed, kelp etc. My parents really liked this dish

Deep fried Langoustine with dried rice and clarified butter mayonnaise - Another excellent food. The langoustine tail, sourced from West of Norway, was deep fried for a short time. This way, the big prawn still maintained its pleasant texture and allowed its delicious flavor to shine. Instead of regular sushi rice, Chef Frantzen used dried rice to make it 'crispier'. Since the langoustine was already flavorful, I believe it's best to apply only a small amount of butter mayo (flavored with a mixture of lemon and dried herbs) ... Unless you love this 'sauce' very much 
Oscietra Caviar "gold" with fermented yellow split peas, rendered bacon & smetana - The 'golden' caviar was from China but the quality was not inferior at all. I quite enjoyed this course though I found the fresh cream/smetana, bacon and peas were somewhat too rich and intense that they slightly dominated the caviar

Cod served with sprouted walnut, champignon de paris and whipped vin jaune - A fresh and refined piece of fish; the caramelized Cod loin was soft, light and clean in the palate. The sauce (made of fermented mushrooms, Jura wine and butter) complemented the sea creature nicely. The earthy champignon provided a contrast of the earth vs the sea. My father's favorite item of the night 
French toast "grande tradition" with black truffle and 100 year-old vinegar - It was ethereal ... A feast of all senses. The Umbria black truffles, served generously, gave the right amount of pungent smells as well as distinct flavor. Underneath the black diamonds was a french toast with onion, parmesan cream and a little bit of strong vinegar from Modena. I finished it in 2 bytes and also consumed another half of my mother's. One of my best dishes during this dinner 
Onion soup served with almonds and liquorice cream - A soft and creamy soup displaying several layers of goodness; delicious indeed and perhaps looked underrated   

Satio tempestas (homage Lars feddeck and Jan anderson) - A signature dish of Frantzen and probably the only one that appears all year long but the content was very seasonal (changes weekly or sometimes even daily) supplied by the local forest and the restaurant's two gardens. This time, there were 46 ingredients and some of them: Deep fried artichokes, red beet, poached pumpkin, orange/yellow carrot, pickled apple, roasted onion, raw nasturtium, pickled dill etc. For the 'dressings', I could taste a combination for fresh cream and herbs sauce. These things created magnificent interplay of color, textures, flavor and temperatures. As its name suggest, it was a dish that brought satisfaction in our palates based on seasonal vegetables served. Every byte was different and it's tasty
Grilled bread - An iconic bread of the restaurant, made from 14-year old sourdough. The bread was good, but even better was to pair it together with the smoked brown butter emulsion - stunning! The best bread during our Euro trip this year and I nearly consumed half of it. Had Frantzén served it at the beginning, I would've overeaten this bread and possibly less enjoyed the tasting menu

Duck with caramelized lemon, liver, cinnamon and dates - A well executed duck (from Loire valley); the meat was quite delicate and tasty. The liver was creamy and rich. The lemon, cinnamon and dates balance the flavorful duck. A decent one ...
Swedish beef served with fermented pumpkin, rowan berry capers and carrot "hot sauce" - This second meat dish was even better. The 5-year old local beef was perfectly cooked in medium rare resulting in a tender, juicy and scrumptious piece of meat. The sauce gave some interesting variation but not very critical to the overall enjoyment as the beef was simply delicious! 

Smoked ice cream with roasted nuts, tar syrup and salted fudge with cloves - This dessert was quite good except it was a bit too sweet/rich to my liking (especially the toffee 'sauce'). Ice cream + chocolate with something crunchy & sweet after any main course were usually enjoyable
Frozen yuzu with mandarin 'confit', green tea meringue and sea buckthorn oil - Beautiful presentation. Inside was a soft sponge cake in contrast to the crisp 'white pikes' outside. It's good to finally have a refreshing and more acidic stuff to bring down the previous dish's sweetness
Bento box with "fika" - Lots of sweets. I settled with: bitter chocolate with berry ganache, toffee with hazelnut (gold), ginger marmalade, almond chocolate, goat cheese fudge and buckwheat canele. It should be nice to savor these with a cup of (strong) coffee. There were also freshly baked sugar coated madeleines; they were warm, well executed and good

The hospitality at Restaurant Frantzén was impeccable. Staffs took pride in what they're doing and they all seemed to be happy serving the customers. As they were dressed in the same way, you're welcome to talk to everyone and they generally were very knowledgeable and professional. Our main lady maitre d' could not be friendlier and more helpful during the whole evening. She's unpretentious and able to address all of our questions and concerns as well as adapted her style to make sure we're very comfortable and had a great time. She said it's normal these days to have guests visiting Frantzen from around the globe and the establishment took enormous pride for it. That's why it was extremely important that every guest would be satisfied at the end of the meal. I wish I had remember her name to give some recognition of great service rendered.

Frantzén team delivered the most immaculate service among the top restaurants we visited during our Euro trip this year. Besides the service, ultimately, the main star had to be the food. Björn Frantzén masterfully served us an array of delicious dishes one after another. He 'easily' blended French technique with Japanese influence and used fresh & high quality ingredients, mainly sourced locally and from Scandinavia area. Freshness was not merely a cheap talk here; Chef Frantzén's open kitchen concept made it possible to prepare & cook everything closely to his guests. Therefore, the short distance and time from the chefs' hands to the guests' mouth would make the dishes be consumed optimally. It was common to observe some life seafood to be slaughtered on the spot. Another aspect of Frantzen's expertise was flavor combinations. Sometimes, the ingredients mentioned in the description might not be immediately obvious because they often generated subtle taste or gave some depth to the main ingredients' flavor. Given the head chef's adventurous nature and intelligence, it's unlikely that diners would be bored to have a meal here even for a repeated visit. I don't know when, but I really hope this will not be my only meal at Frantzén. Next time, I can expect to enjoy the tasting menu at a much better and comfortable dining room. Here are the picture of the dishes: Frantzen Mar '16

Food: 96 pts

Service: 96 pts

Overall: 96/100

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