Some restaurant openings get more attention than others and Kolonialen is one of them. All the major newspapers seemed to fight about getting the first reviews out there, and there had already been several articles about the place before it even opened. The reason in this case is Pontus Dahlström, of course. The former owner and co-founder of Maaemo, who mysteriously disappeared from the now three-Michelin starred restaurant about a year ago. Rumors were out there about a possible conflict before the news hit that Pontus was suffering from a work-related burnout. Now, he’s ready to start up again, but with a more relaxed and informal concept located in Bislett in Oslo. They call it a neighborhood restaurant, but isn’t it more of a gastropub?
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The People Behind the Restaurant
We went to visit this new neighborhood restaurant on their fifth day after the doors opened on August 19th. I was not in town on opening day anyway, and besides it’s always nice to give a new place some time to settle in. Kolonialen is a co-project between Pontus Dahlström and the Trondheim-based restaurateur Michael Minervini. They have hired Australian Jay Boyle to run the kitchen. Jay has worked at both Maaemo and Kontrast previously, thus gathering some valuable experience for the task as head chef.
Pontus Dahlström Takes a New Role
Kolonialen will be open seven days a week, lunch and dinner. Oslo needs more places that are open Mondays and Sundays, so that’s a big plus. I could quickly tell that Pontus’ presence won’t be as important here as it was at Maaemo, where he was the main host of the restaurant. At our visit to Kolonialen he kept more in the background, and let the other guys take care of the guests. Our table was served by two different waiters, in addition to having Jay Boyle himself present some of the dishes.
Jay Boyle’s Cooking is Excellent
The food is what makes Kolonialen a place that I will return to. Jay Boyle’s cooking is excellent. From the first bite into the silky textures and rich flavors of the soft egg with pumpkin pasta and chanterelles to the sweet finish of lavender ice cream and chocolate crumble. My favorite dish was the raw scallops with snap peas, olive oil, and lardo. An exciting combination of ingredients that I haven’t seen together before. The milk-poached flounder was a runner up among the savory dishes. I enjoyed the broccoli too, but I did not quite share the astonishment I’ve seen from other food writers about that particular item on the menu.
A Gastropub More Than a Neighborhood Joint
To me, Kolonialen is more of a gastropub than a typical neighborhood restaurant. The techniques and presentation of the food has the touch of a Michelin-star chef lingering in the background. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that. We had less luck with other elements of the experience this evening. Both the white wines we ordered were served too warm, closer to 20 degrees C, and had to be cooled so long that we finished the food before we could enjoy the pairing. The coffee apparently took so long to make that it never appeared – except on the bill. That was taken care of, though, and hopefully, you can blame such errors on the opening week.
Did you visit Kolonialen yet, and what did you think? Please share in a comment.