Bokbacka is a new restaurant in Oslo with Michelin star potential. The place opened without a warning or much fuzz this autumn. At least I didn’t read anyhing about it until I saw some pictures from the opening night. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical, since the first photos I saw was of “the tree”. Bokbacka appeared to have copied other restaurants like El Cellar de Can Roca in Spain and Noma in Denmark. Then again, copying is a common source of innovation and who am I to say where they got the inspiration from? The restaurant Alchemist in Copenhagen have their version too. The more I read about Bobacka I understood I had to check it out. Especially considering the nicely priced menu, much in line with restaurants like Kontrast and Pjoltergeist.
After spending too much money on restaurants in October, I had no immediate plans to visit Bokbacka. My colleague and food journalist Merethe Hommelsgård convinced me, though. Of course, she was right, this place was too interesting to put on hold and the prices were quite acceptable. We booked a table at 21.00 in the bar, but due to some miscommunication with the restaurant it was moved to 17.00. Thus, when we showed up four hours late – we had no table. Luckily, the maître d’ was able to seat us at a corner table. Unfortunately the lighting was really bad for pictures there, hence the low quality in this feature.
I did not get a photo of the first snack, which I believe was a warm broth of pork knuckle. We were offered an apéritif, which we accepted, and got recommended the sparkling wine Ridgeview from Sussex, England. An excellent choice, which I was previosuly served by Knut-Espen Misje at restaurant Tango in Stavanger. The menu lay in front of us on the table in a small envelope. A six-course “omakase” menu, with the option of three extra dishes. Omakase means “trust the chef”, but all dishes were written on the card. In either case, we ordered the full menu (NOK 775,-) with two of the extra dishes and the drink pairings (NOK 795,-). In the end our sommelier and host of the night, Alexander Jones, treated us with the third bonus serving as well to complete the menu.
Bokbacka describe themselves as a Nordic izakaya. Izakaya is Japanese and means an informal place to drink and dine. This isn’t the kind of place I would risk just dropping by, but the style is certainly Nordic here! Local, organic ingredients like Norwegian octopus, brown crab and langoustine, and in-season produce such as duck, Jerusalem artichoke and pumpkin. In fact, no place in Oslo has ever made me feel so much that I am in Copenhagen. The atmosphere in the room, the service from our great host Alex and the general vibe of the place took me straight back to my favorite city in Scandinavia. Maybe I was tricked by the fact that Alex is Danish… In either case, I loved it.
I like that a lot of the action happens at your table. Sauces are poured on your plate, there’s a 200 degrees C warm rock of Himalaya salt used to cook the langoustine and a lot of action going on with cooking torches! As a guest you get a better insight to how your food is prepared and even a bonus show! Not unlike how they do it at restaurants such as Maaemo, Ylajali, Kadeau & Geranium. To further enhance your dining experience, Bokbacka has built a coffee shop within the restaurant. Once the desserts are consumed you are invited to follow your waiter to the inner-most room of the venue. Here they have set up couches and small coffee tables, and there’s a small counter with an espresso machine. We asked for a hand-brewed Kalita, and Alex joined us at the table to make it. A very personal experience at a restaurant!
Swedish Simon Weinberg is head chef with experience from several Michelin star restaurants like Noma and Bagatelle. He was the guy who made the famous burgers at Bagatelle’s sister restaurant Lille B. I miss Lille B so much in Oslo, so it’s good to know it’s almost back! Although, the lunch option was the best, and I doubt Bokbacka will open for lunch. Danish Alexander Jones is restaurant manager and head sommelier. He participated in the Norwegian sommelier championship this year, but was beaten by Simon Zimmermann, which I’ve written about earlier.
The art on the wall and most of the plates are from the ceramics artist Anne Udnes, who also supplies Maaemo, Ylajali and two other Michelin restaurants. Bokbacka is a good example of Nordic restaurants being so much more than just a place you eat. They are becoming art exhibitions with Scandinavian architecture, furniture, woodwork, paintings and ceramics. In addtion to the artful plating of the food, and the spectacular serving at the table by chefs and waiters.
The launch of the Michelin guide this year was a joke for the Nordic countries, especially for Norway and Finland. No new stars to either countries. In fact, we are losing a star with Ylajali closing now. Hopefully 2016 will bring new cities and new restaurants to the guide. In the meantime, the White Guide delivers much better recommendations. Bokbacka didn’t make it into the White guide this year, but only because they opened too late I think. If I were to name the top Michelin star candidates in Oslo I would say Bokbacka and Kontrast are the two most likely.
Which are your top picks for Michelin stars in Oslo?