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In my opinion, Bare Restaurant is the top Michelin-star candidate in Bergen at the moment. People have talked about Lysverket and chef Christopher Haatuft for years, while Bare Restaurant and chef Fred Owe Tofting has been largely overlooked in comparison. Previous economic problems and a looming bankruptcy may be a part of the explanation. Bare Restaurant used to be located in Hotel Norge before the hotel decided to close for renovations. Today, you find Bare Retaurant on the third floor of the venerable Bergen Børs Hotel. Here, you can choose between a twelve-course (NOK 1250) or six-course (NOK 795) tasting menu based on local and seasonal produce. Keywords are New Nordic, creative, modern, and original food. Old cooking traditions meet some of the best seafood from the region. The meal feels luxurious without the use of any typical luxury products like caviar or truffle. Sustainability and animal welfare are highly prioritized in the kitchen’s selection of ingredients.
Looking for more great spots for food and drinks in Norway’s second capital? Check out my foodie map of Bergen.
Starting in the Bare Bar Lounge
My dinner at Bare started in their bar lounge, seated on white stools along a lit-up marble counter. It’s a unique room, where you’re surrounded by mirrored tile walls and with chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling. The bartender is quirky and not the kind of guy you start a conversation with, but he definitely knows his craft. A raspberry fizz was right up my alley – not too sweet, with nice acidity and freshness. I loved several of the snacks the kitchen brought out. Crispy chicken skin with chicken liver and lovage cream and a kohlrabi samosa filled with a scallop emulsion sparked memories of Copenhagen. A miniature lompe (potato pancake) with brown butter emulsion was topped with cured and shaved duck heart and cress. I just wish it was slightly bigger so that the pancake didn’t feel so dry. A small bowl contained a cold soup made from Hvasser asparagus with porcini oil and edible flower petals. It was creamy and elegant, with pure and fresh flavors.
Continuing Inside Bare Restaurant
I was shown to my table in the main dining hall which is just next door. Large arched windows let in natural light into a high-ceiling room with white-painted walls, which, combined, makes everything seem even bigger and more spacious. Round wooden tables and chairs equipped with sheep fur to keep one’s back warm and comfortable even in the most unforgiving Bergen weather. Delicious warm sourdough arrived at the table to make the wait for the first course just a little easier. The butter, made in-house on sour cream from Røros, was satisfyingly creamy and perfectly salty. The first dish was a cold-smoked haddock, accompanied by a sorrel emulsion, pickled kohlrabi, and a sauce of kohlrabi and horseradish. Chef Tofting refuses to use anything but wild-caught fish and is dependent on whatever is available from the market each day. While that is admirable, this was, unfortunately, my least favorite bite of the evening. I’m not sure cold-smoking does haddock any favor as a cooking technique. At least, I found this too fishy with a floury texture that was not pleasant. I could not finish it.
After that first disappointment, however, came what was perhaps my favorite dish of the meal. A savory sandkake can best be described as a Norwegian almond cookie – usually very sweet and traditionally served around Christmas. It had a cream of caramelized onions inside and was topped with cuts of fenalår (salted and cured leg of lamb) and pickled onions. This is a signature dish at Bare Restaurant, which changes with the seasons. The sweetness, acidity, and creaminess of the dish, balanced by salt, fat, and umami flavors, worked exceptionally well.
“Bare Restaurant is the most obvious candidate for me as Bergen’s first Michelin-starred restaurant.”
Langoustine Tail & Pork Rib Lollipop
I realize that I may have dined in too many great Nordic high-end restaurants when I say that the langoustine tail at Bare Restaurant was surprisingly small. It just looked a little puny on the plate, I guess. The good news, however, is that it was locally caught with a lobster trap just outside Algrøy, west of Sotra – and most importantly, delicious. Pan-fried and glazed with all the good stuff that can be extracted from the langoustine shell and head, topped with crispy rye, and laying in a sauce from baked leeks with more grilled leeks on the side. The rye crispbread, with langoustine roe cream, langoustine gel, and leek ash on the side was rather forgettable.
Next, came a fun dish called kjærlighet på pinne, which is the great Norwegian word for lollipop that translates to love on a stick. Except, there was no sweet chocolate or candy sugar at the tip of this one, but rather a braised rillette of Mangalitsa pork stuck onto the animal’s own rib bone. On the side was a piece of pork crackling and a dip made from blackcurrants and crème fraîche. Fun, creative and tasty! If it’s not already, I would suggest keeping this dish as a signature at Bare.
Local Wild Catch & the Old Milk Cow Jaffa
One of the pros of a tasting menu is that you get to taste so many different dishes (duh). Normally, you would probably choose between a vegetarian main course, fish, or meat. At Bare Restaurant, you get a taste of them all. First, hake caught in the northern part of Hordaland county was companied by nasturtium, radishes, and burnt carrots, with a mushroom and butter sauce with truffle seaweed. A very fine dish, although the fish could have had a minute less on the heat. It was accompanied by a light and juicy red wine on the Gamay grape. Next was a bouillon made from celeriac, pickled celeriac, sour cream with celeriac, and a yeast oil. It paired well with the cider Edel from Åkre Gård in Hardanger.
Finally, it was time for a bite of Jaffa. That’s the name of the 12-year-old milk cow that chef Tofting had gotten hold of. For many years, thanks to the supermarkets’ demand for cheap meat, dairy cows weren’t used for prime cuts of beef. Instead, their meat often ended up as minced meat or other low-grade industrial food. The fact is, that cows who have lived longer, worked more, and eaten better, produce more flavorful meat. Jaffa lived long and ate well. She wandered happily about and fed on grass. On the plate, her fat-marbled meat was coupled with green asparagus from Hvasser, ramson flowers, a paste made from cress, potatoes and browned butter, and a beef glaze with parsley vinegar and toasted buckwheat. I got some parts of the entrecôte and some sirloin. There were delicious fatty parts, and others a bit too chewy, but the overall flavor was intense and wonderful.
Bergen’s Top Michelin Star Candidate
A meal that ends with many desserts is a good meal. At Bare Restaurant, they serve you one palate cleanser, one cheese dish, two desserts, and four petits fours – each one honoring local produce and traditions. Shaped like a moon, laying on a serving rock from Odd Standard, was a sorbet made from the fresh cheese Nýr with apple and lemon verbena gel, and a dusting of chamomile. A refreshing palate cleanser that marked the transition into sweets.
I love when chefs turn the cheese serving into an actual dish and not just slap cheese on a plate with some jam on the side. On top of a butter-toasted brioche, was a cream of the award-winning washed rind cheese Holtefjell XO, a gel of pine shoot pickle juice, shaved cheese, and pickled pine shoots. Unfortunately, the dish was lacking salt, and I couldn’t help to think that it would have been better drizzled with some browned butter – but then again, what isn’t better with browned butter?
Ice cream made from rowan-tree shoots is not something you see often. Pieces of rhubarb had been marinated in syrup from the same shoots and red oxalis was used for decorations. These little red leaves are overused, in my opinion, but they do add some nice acidity sometimes. It was a great dessert with mild summery flavors.
Balance is important in a dish, but so is a balance between dishes in a meal. The following dessert was the complete opposite of the first one. A richer ice cream made from milk infused with waffles was topped with waffle crumbles and cloudberry syrup. On the side was a single waffle heart with cloudberry jam and brown cheese. Cloudberries are distinctly Nordic and brown cheese is almost only found in Norway. We also have a great waffle tradition and it warms my heart to see all these elements put to such great use in a tasting menu. I just wish they would ask if you wanted more waffles …
I’m not gonna go into details about the petits fours, but I do love that they use the local word kaffisnop on the menu – coffee candy. I also giggled at their renaming of a classic cinnamon roll to Brioche de Bergen. Even though I think the team has a way to go still with the service and tableside presentations, Bare Restaurant is the most obvious candidate for me as Bergen’s first Michelin-starred restaurant.
What’s your opinion on Bare Restaurant? I’d love to hear if you have dined here.
This was part of a sponsored trip by Visit Bergen. The sponsor had no influence on the content of this article. I received no monetary payment.