My first visit to Bass Oslo was last year, on the 17th of May – Norway’s national day. Despite being a busy day, and the opening week of the restaurant, we enjoyed a very good meal there. A few months later, we returned to Bass again, this time to celebrate that I had sold my apartment. Seated at the bar, our meal didn’t quite measure up to the previous one, unfortunately. More than a year would pass before we revisited. This time, on a summery July day with our good friends Kristin Alsvik and Aleksander “Rossen” Rossavik. With most restaurants in Oslo being closed for the summer, it was packed at Thorvald Meyers gate 26 C.
Relaxed Neighborhood Wine Bar
I like the relaxed neighborhood atmosphere at Bass. In fact, with its extensive wine list, the place reminds me more of a wine bar where you can enjoy good food than a full-scale restaurant. Bass is a popular eatery, though, and I would advise booking a table if you plan on going. What I love the most about Bass is that you can easily order the whole menu, even as a party of two, and thus get a taste of everything. We were four people this evening and decided to order two of each item on the list, except the eel, whale, and chicken. Of course, we also had an oyster each, since Kristin, who was in charge of ordering wines, had kicked off the meal with bubbles. Specifically, Longitude Blanc De Blancs from Larmandier-Bernier.
Something Great & Something Forgettable
Of all the dishes we ordered, I most enjoyed the chicken nuggets, Tzar tartare, cabbage with katsobushi (another sort of Bonito flake), and both desserts. They were all very simple, but well-balanced and with good flavors. Atli’s Karaage chicken at Pjoltergeist is just slightly more addictive, but that’s a huge compliment. On the other hand, I did not fancy the smoked eel with pickled cucumber and papadum bread as much. Both the taste and presentation was off. Whale with endives and mango was also rather forgettable. The rösti potatoes should have been a big hit around the table, but failed to impress me and others with its soft texture. Both main courses, beef with daikon, and wolf fish with bell pepper sauce, were decent, but neither stick to your memory for a very long time. Luckily, we ended the meal with two splendid desserts that left us craving for more. That’s always a good sign.
The Wine List at Bass is Even Better Than the Food
The wine list at Bass is a good mix of conventional and natural wines, with a lot of my favorite producers represented, like Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot, Egon Müller, Patrick Desplats, Anne & Jean-François Ganevat, La Sorga, Gut Oggau, Phillipe Bornard, and Jean Foillard. Based on what I could tell from the wine list, the mark-up for most bottles is roughly double of retail prices at the Norwegian Wine Monopoly. Slightly more for the cheaper wines, and a bit less for some of the more expensive vintages. That’s really good, considering many restaurants will multiply the price three times, and even four or five times. I need to go here more often to drink wine primarily, and just have some snacks in the bar, because the wine list is even better than the food.
Remarkably High Rating in the White Guide
Bass Oslo has managed to get a remarkably high rating in the White Guide with a whopping 22nd place in Norway. That’s above Renaa Matbaren, Fru K, BA53, Vaaghals, Smalhans, Feinschmecker, Kolonialen Bislett, Le Benjamin, Bon Lío, and Fisketorget in Stavanger, just to mention a few. I am happy for their success, but in my experience, it doesn’t quite add up when you compare these eateries against each other. Not because I don’t like Bass, but their cooking is very plain compared to many of the competitors. I’ve also discussed it with other friends in the food industry, who agree. It makes you wonder how the guide actually rates restaurants. Rumor has it, these scores are based on just one person’s review per year. If that’s true, how do they ensure that the person who ranked Bass in Oslo has the experience to say that it’s better, than say, the individual who evaluated Renaa Matbaren in Stavanger and rated that one lower? That’s a discussion which I won’t dedicate more space for here, but it touches on the big problem of listing restaurants. If you wanna chip in with your opinion, feel free to use the comments below.