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Mathias Dahlgren, Stockholm

September 28, 2010

Rated No.25 on the current list of S Pellegrini’s World’s Top 50 restaurants, Mathias Dahlgren is located immediately adjacent to the Grand Hotel, along the waterfront of Stockholm. I’d called three days prior for a lunch seating on 23 Sep 2010 at 1230h, to be told that only one seat was left, which was to be at the counter and which I took. I arrived much earlier at 10 minutes before noon, having wrapped up my business at Louis Vuitton, only to find it closed, for they’re open only from 1200-1400h. I killed some time at the Grand Hotel, but when I returned at 1210h, half the restaurant was already filled! The service staff is young, friendly and highly efficient (seemingly the norm at these top establishments nowadays), imparting a casual yet attentive atmosphere, and I was ushered to my seat at the counter. The place was decked out in red chairs with wooden tables, arranged for seating of two, four or six pax, with an open kitchen (separated from the dining area by just a sheet of glass) and a squarish-counter with seating along 3 lengths. I found myself being the only Asian there.

Each of us has a tray, on which was the one-page menu-cum-wine choices, as well as a small brown paper bag containing a few pieces of bread bark, onto which a round disc of butter was to be applied with an oversized wooden scoop. Instead of a fixed lunch menu, several ala carte choices are available, all priced between SEK150-250 (SGD29-49). After a quick discussion with the waiter within the counter, I opted for the fried duck, to be preceded by a platter of sashimi of salma salmon & reindeer with avocado, ginger, horseradish. Even though I’ve eaten more than my share of fine Japanese cuisine, this one certainly goes right to the very top of the list. I’ve not tasted salmon as fresh, tender and juicy as this, the nuances and subtleties beautifully brought out by the contrasting thin slices of reindeer and avocado that literally melts in your mouth. The serving portions were generous, and I took my time to savour this heavenly starter together with a glass of 2008 Dr Burklin-Wolf Weingut Wachenheimer Riesling trocken (SEK135 [SGD26]). This had a light golden, almost luminous quality, with an engaging nose of floral fragrance, light citrus and a dash of minerals. Balanced, revealing good depth of body and minerality on palate, very lightly scented with understated elegance and excellent purity. May not be that interesting on its own, but here is a classic pairing between food and wine that proved to be highly synergistic. Certainly a food wine, becoming broader and more intense as it warmed up, sharper in focus. Very lovely indeed.

The main course of fried wild duck (SEK225 [SGD44]), again a generous serving, was tender and yielding (I wouldn’t have known it was fried) with very natual flavours without being at all gamey, going perfectly well with a glass of 2008 Domaine Oliver Pithon Cuvee Lais Cote du Roussillon (SEK145 [SGD28])recommended by the waiter behind the counter, who’d felt that my initial choice of a 2005 Meo-Camuzet bourgogne rouge may not be entirely appropriate. He was absolutely spot-on. The wine, deeper in color with a raspberry tint, was undeniably fragrant with notes of red cherries and blueberries, medium-bodied and broad, displaying good density and minerality with substantial fat in the middle, ending in a long minty finish with just a touch of spice. Again, a perfect food wine that may not be quite as interesting on its own.

I concluded with a dessert of baked wild chocolate from Bolivia with sour cream, toffee ice-cream, nuts – the menu proudly proclaiming that 28,967 had been sold (and still counting) – quite heavenly, the toffee ice-cream being a particularly inspired choice. It was interesting to note that while the Swedes, generally friendly and highly approachable, clearly appreciate good food, they go about their lunch in a business-like manner and leave once they’re done (unlike the pretentious folks dining at Iggy’s who’d plant their asses there for three hours over lunch), such that a table could be turned over for a fresh seating within that two hours. I did likewise, paid up my bill of SEK905 (SGD176) and reluctantly left this restaurant that’s clearly deserving of its Michelin star.

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