Review: Maaemo (2015) A Dinner at the Chef's Table

Currently, Maaemo is the only two Michelin-starred restaurant in Oslo and Norway. It is also the only Nordic restaurant to have been awarded two stars directly upon entering the Michelin guide. Maaemo was ranked no. 79 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants–list last year. We’re looking forward to seeing where they rank once the 2015 list is revealed on June 1st. The Danish head chef Esben Holmboe Bang leads the kitchen, while his co-founder and sommelier, Pontus Dahlström, originally from Finland, leads the front of house team. We were lucky enough to have Dahlström almost entirely to ourselves this evening since we were seated upstairs at the chef’s table, or in the test kitchen as they also call it. From this table on the second floor, you overlook the kitchen with all the chefs hard at work, and you also have a panoramic view of the Barcode buildings of Bjørvika.

Update: This restaurant has since been awarded three Michelin stars. Read the news story here.

Looking for more great spots for food and drinks in Norway’s capital? Check out our city map of Oslo!

Pontus Dahlström is Maaemo's restaurant manager.
Pontus Dahlström is Maaemo’s restaurant manager.

Locally Sourced And Organic Food

A Michelin-starred restaurant is usually not where we dine on a regular Thursday after work. This kind of luxury is reserved for vacations or special occasions. However, we realized that by following this logic we would maybe never get to test the best restaurants in our own hometown. Thus, when our friend André Blomberg-Nygård asked if we wanted to join for a small snack at his favorite neighborhood shack, Maaemo, we decided to accept. Pontus Dahlström welcomed us as we entered. We were late and André had already waited for us 15 minutes upstairs. That’s not the worst place to wait, though, so he wasn’t too upset.

All of the ingredients at Maaemo are organic, and most of the produce is sourced within a 100 km radius of Oslo. Esben explained that the menu is a reflection of the Norwegian nature, and they even go into the forest themselves to forage wild plants and flowers. The wine is organic as well, and some of it is biodynamic, but Pontus doesn’t choose strictly natural wines as we’ve experienced at restaurants like Noma and Relæ in Copenhagen.

Wild duck cured for 9 months.
Wild duck cured for 9 months.
Me and André Blomberg-Nygård.
Me and André Blomberg-Nygård.
Head chef Esben Holmboe Bang came out to plate some dishes.
Head chef Esben Holmboe Bang came out to plate some dishes.

The Personal Service at a Two Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Esben stood on the right side of the kitchen, looking almost like a conductor of an orchestra. He had complete control. Pontus, on the other hand, was busy being the perfect host for the guests at his table. Esben was equally welcoming, of course, whenever he came out to put the finishing touches on a dish, but Pontus felt almost like he was part of our table this evening. This feeling of having your waiter and sommelier so up close and personal is something we’ve only ever experienced once before, and that was at Noma in Copenhagen. We’re beginning to see a pattern at these two-star restaurants!

Coffee is taken just as serious as any other beverage at Maaemo. We love that! The coffee of choice was Tim Wendelboe Finca Tamana and the brewing method was the very traditional way of boiling coffee in a coffee pot. Pontus made sure to remove the bitter layer of foam that forms on the top before he served it. The result? The best restaurant coffee we’ve had to date.

If you want to read another review from this place I can recommend this story (in Norwegian) from my foodie friend Lars.

Lightly frozen fresh cheese (Nýr) from Grøndalen Farm, with salted and smoked wild salmon eggs.
Lightly frozen fresh cheese (Nýr) from Grøndalen Farm, with salted and smoked wild salmon eggs.
Dried salsify pickled in juniper broth, drinkable cold pickled juniper broth.
Dried salsify pickled in juniper broth, drinkable cold pickled juniper broth.
Grilled young garlic from Hvaler with elderflower sour cream and summer preserves from last year. The cured wild duck in the background.
Grilled young garlic from Hvaler with elderflower sour cream and summer preserves from last year. The cured wild duck in the background.
View from our table towards the Maaemo kitchen.
View from our table towards the Maaemo kitchen.
Warm savory cookie made from dried chanterelles, pickled chanterelles, and dehydrated broth from roasted chicken bones.
Warm savory cookie made from dried chanterelles, pickled chanterelles, and dehydrated broth from roasted chicken bones.
Cornett with chicken liver and pickled pear from Hardanger.
Cornett with chicken liver and pickled pear from Hardanger.
Dehydrated dark beer and grains with wheat vinegar and salted egg yolk.
Dehydrated dark beer and grains with wheat vinegar and salted egg yolk.
Maaemo's head chef Esben Holmboe Bang at his station.
Maaemo’s head chef Esben Holmboe Bang at his station.
Emulsion of raw Norwegian oysters from Bømlo with a warm sauce made from mussels and dill.
Emulsion of raw Norwegian oysters from Bømlo with a warm sauce made from mussels and dill.
Mahogany clam from Nordskot with a dashi of Norwegian shiitake mushrooms and seaweed.
Mahogany clam from Nordskot with a dashi of Norwegian shiitake mushrooms and seaweed.
Cream of grilled chestnuts from last autumn and Finnish caviar.
Cream of grilled chestnuts from last autumn and Finnish caviar.
The famous langoustine serving, with pickled spruce and cold-pressed rapeseed oil poured over dry ice to create a vapor that smells of the Norwegian forest.
The famous langoustine serving, with pickled spruce and cold-pressed rapeseed oil poured over dry ice to create a vapor that smells of the Norwegian forest.
The signature dish – Norwegian langoustine.
The signature dish – Norwegian langoustine.
The scallops were presented at the table in their raw form, and the chef explained what they were about to do with them.
The scallops were presented at the table in their raw form, and the chef explained what they were about to do with them.
Scallops from Frøya grilled in the shell, fermented celeriac and a broth of celeriac, apple, and smoked butter
Scallops from Frøya grilled in the shell, fermented celeriac and a broth of celeriac, apple, and smoked butter
Celeriac cooked with preserved scallop roe. Probably the least interesting dish of the night.
Celeriac cooked with preserved scallop roe. Probably the least interesting dish of the night.
Sourdough bread of freshly milled wheat and emmer, served with butter churned until almost separated.
Sourdough bread of freshly milled wheat and emmer, served with butter churned until almost separated.
Esben wanted to take us back to his childhood with this dish of potatoes cooked with aromatics, “Norwegian gravy” and preserved rhubarb.
Esben wanted to take us back to his childhood with this dish of potatoes cooked with aromatics, “Norwegian gravy” and preserved rhubarb.
Dried beets glazed in birch sap, currant, and chamomile infusion with caramelized yeast.
Dried beets glazed in birch sap, currant, and chamomile infusion with caramelized yeast.
Dried beets glazed in birch sap, currant, and chamomile infusion with caramelized yeast.
Sour cream porridge with smoked, shaved reindeer heart, butter, and plum vinegar.
Charred onions and quail egg gently cooked in roasted bone marrow, with aged “fenalår” and onion vinaigrette.
Charred onions and quail egg gently cooked in roasted bone marrow, with aged “fenalår” and onion vinaigrette.
Salted sheep ribs (“pinnekjøtt) served with cabbage from Fokhol glazed with rendered lamb fat and vinegar.
Salted sheep ribs (“pinnekjøtt) served with cabbage from Fokhol glazed with rendered lamb fat and vinegar.
Frozen blue cheese with pickled black trumpet mushrooms.
Frozen blue cheese with pickled black trumpet mushrooms.
Cold horseradish with grilled cucumber and the first sorrel.
Cold horseradish with grilled cucumber and the first sorrel.
This dish was simply called “the smell of the blackcurrant bush”. Stunning presentation and flavors.
This dish was simply called “the smell of the blackcurrant bush”. Stunning presentation and flavors.
Brown butter ice cream with hazelnut crumble and molasses. This dish is worth the visit alone.
Brown butter ice cream with hazelnut crumble and molasses. This dish is worth the visit alone.
Tim Wendelboe, Finca Tamana, brewed in an old school coffee brewing kettle.
Tim Wendelboe, Finca Tamana, brewed in an old school coffee brewing kettle.
Brown cheese tart petit four.
Brown cheese tart petit four.
Liquid waffle with mountain tea made only from wild herbs found in Bøverdalen.
Liquid waffle with mountain tea made only from wild herbs found in Bøverdalen.
Traditional Norwegian pastries. Me and André racing to finish the donuts. “Krumkaker” on the right side.
Traditional Norwegian pastries. Me and André racing to finish the donuts. “Krumkaker” on the right side.
André believes this dish is very similar to the first one we had. He is right.
André believes this dish is very similar to the first one we had. He is right.
We finish where we started. This time it is a dessert, though. Lightly frozen fresh cheese (Nýr) from Grøndalen farm with sea buckthorn.
We finish where we started. This time it is a dessert, though. Lightly frozen fresh cheese (Nýr) from Grøndalen farm with sea buckthorn.
We opened the envelope we got from Maaemo the next morning.
We opened the envelope we got from Maaemo the next morning.
Inside we found beautiful pictures of Norwegian landscape and, of course, the full menu we ate.
Inside we found beautiful pictures of Norwegian landscape and, of course, the full menu we ate.
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