Maaemo Gets Three Michelin Stars! Chef Esben Holmboe Bang Makes History Again

There’s a real gem of a restaurant in Oslo that truly puts Norway on the culinary map of the world. That is Maaemo. In 2012, Maaemo made history by becoming the first-ever Nordic restaurant to get listed directly in the Michelin guide with two stars. This year, chef Esben Holmboe Bang made history again by becoming the first Nordic chef to get three Michelin stars. I had heard rumors about ten confirmed visits to Maaemo by the inspectors, and two more unconfirmed. Several visits included the guide’s editor Rebecca Burr, and at least one featured the Michelin international director Michael Ellis himself. That meant, as a minimum, that Maaemo had been seriously considered for a third star. Today the rumors were confirmed at the Michelin launch ceremony at Hotel D’Angleterre in Copenhagen, where Maaemo, along with Copenhagen restaurant Geranium, got three stars. Congrats to chef Esben Holmboe Bang and his team, and congrats to Oslo!

The entrance to Maaemo, Norway's only three Michelin-starred restaurant.
The entrance to Maaemo, Norway’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant.

The First Nordic Three Michelin-Starred Restaurant

What is happening in the kitchen of Maaemo, across the steel bridge from Barcode, behind those glass walls, is so incredibly unique and impressive. I’ve had the pleasure of eating dinner here three times now. The first experience was in the main restaurant room downstairs in January 2013, the second was at the chef’s table upstairs in March 2015, and the final meal was lunch in mid-February 2016 (see pictures from that meal in this article below). Maaemo has evolved drastically over the years. In 2013, they called it a ten-course menu, but we had a total of 24 servings. In 2015, the menu featured 28 dishes, where each one was more spectacular than the previous version. For my third visit, the number of dishes had actually been reduced to 21, but the flavors were more focused than ever. Maaemo is not just about presenting food as art on your plate. This restaurant also introduces you to the most important flavors of the Norwegian food culture and landscape.

View from Maaemo towards Barcode.
View from Maaemo towards Barcode.
Chef Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo – here seen working despite a broken leg!
Chef Esben Holmboe Bang of Maaemo – here seen working despite a broken leg!

Lunch at Maaemo’s Chef’s Table (February 2016)

On the 13th of February this year, just days before the Michelin ceremony, I joined a Saturday lunch reservation at the chef’s table. The table featured Julie from Julies Matblogg, Linn from the wine blog Vinstudinen, and Lars from Lars Spiser (check out his report from this meal).

The chef’s table is a marbled table on the second floor, which seats an absolute maximum of six people. It gives you a unique view of the kitchen with the chefs working, as long as you accept that the restaurant may test new dishes on you. Anyone can book it. You just need to know about it, ask for it, and be a bit flexible on the dates. I was actually surprised to see Esben in the kitchen this day because he broke his leg only four weeks ago. But there he was, with a wooden cane for support and a metal rod inside his leg. If that’s not an example of a hard-working, dedicated chef, then I don’t know one.

Our lunch would not have been as great without the exceptional service we received from the 22-year-old assistant restaurant manager Benjamin Ausland. He’s been mentioned in the media several times as being the only Norwegian at Maaemo, and he still is. At the moment, he replaced the role of Pontus Dahlström, who was our waiter and sommelier at the chef’s table last time. First and foremost, however, he was our host, and so was Benjamin this time.

Please enjoy some pictures from that meal below and/or watch the video I made above.

The girls occupied one side of the Chef's table.
The girls occupied one side of the Chef’s table.
Charles Heidsieck Champagne kicked off our meal.
Charles Heidsieck Champagne kicked off our meal.
Assistant restaurant manager Benjamin Ausland.
Assistant restaurant manager Benjamin Ausland.
Pickled red onion filled with yogurt, dusted with roses.
Pickled red onion filled with yogurt, dusted with roses.
Crispy chicken skin biscuit, langoustine claw and brain, a thin film of mead with elderflowers on top.
Crispy chicken skin biscuit, langoustine claw and brain, a thin film of mead with elderflowers on top.
A bite you don't forget. One of my favorite servings of this meal.
A bite you don’t forget. One of my favorite servings of this meal.
A warm biscuit with flavors of mushrooms and fried chicken wings.
A warm biscuit with flavors of mushrooms and fried chicken wings.
Underneath the red sorrel is a rich, sticky, sweet cream of caramelized Jerusalem artichokes, cooked with buckwheat, chamomile & ramsons.
Underneath the red sorrel is a rich, sticky, sweet cream of caramelized Jerusalem artichokes, cooked with buckwheat, chamomile & ramsons.
To scoop up the cream, we got these crispy skins of Jerusalem artichoke.
To scoop up the cream, we got these crispy skins of Jerusalem artichoke.
Cornets filled with caramelized yeast and smoked "løyrom" – vendace roe.
Cornets filled with caramelized yeast and smoked “løyrom” – vendace roe.
Fermented mountain trout, grilled leek and a garum (fermented fish sauce) of summer mackerel.
Fermented mountain trout, grilled leek and a garum (fermented fish sauce) of summer mackerel.
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.
These huge fresh scallops were brought to our table before the kitchen prepared them for us.
These huge fresh scallops were brought to our table before the kitchen prepared them for us.
A signature Maaemo dish that's always on the menu.
A signature Maaemo dish that’s always on the menu.
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.
Scallops from Frøya marinated in fermented tea (kombucha), smoked cream underneath, white currants and heather.
Scallops from Frøya marinated in fermented tea (kombucha), smoked cream underneath, white currants and heather.
Scallops from Frøya grilled in their own shell, winter apples, and celeriac.
Scallops from Frøya grilled in their own shell, winter apples, and celeriac.
From the chef's table, we could watch the langoustines being fried in hearty amounts of butter.
From the chef’s table, we could watch the langoustines being fried in hearty amounts of butter.
Esben had decided to skip the fancy presentation with dry ice (which creates a fog effect) since so many other restaurants do that now.
Esben had decided to skip the fancy presentation with dry ice (which creates a fog effect) since so many other restaurants do that now.
The signature dish at Maaemo of langoustine from Midsund, cold-pressed rapeseed oil, and pickled spruce
The signature dish at Maaemo of langoustine from Midsund, cold-pressed rapeseed oil, and pickled spruce
Potato pancakes replaces the bread serving!
Potato pancakes replaces the bread serving!
On the left is a ridiculously tasty butter with "pinnekjøtt" (salted sheep) aroma. On the left is fat from happy pigs.
On the left is a ridiculously tasty butter with “pinnekjøtt” (salted sheep) aroma. On the left is fat from happy pigs.
Spread some love on that potato bread.
Spread some love on that potato bread.
Maaemo's Irish sous chef, Halaigh Whelan-McManus, came out to showcase the turbot.
Maaemo’s Irish sous chef, Halaigh Whelan-McManus, came out to showcase the turbot.
Sauces are often applied tableside at Maaemo.
Sauces are often applied tableside at Maaemo.
Sea buckthorn juice!
Sea buckthorn juice!
Wild turbot cooked with the bones with aromatics, winter cabbage, grilled leek, and fermented garlic sauce.
Wild turbot cooked with the bones with aromatics, winter cabbage, grilled leek, and fermented garlic sauce.
Another signature dish! Sour cream porridge with smoked, shaved reindeer heart, butter, and plum vinegar
Another signature dish! Sour cream porridge with smoked, shaved reindeer heart, butter, and plum vinegar
Arbois Fleur de Savagnin, Domaine de la Tournelle, 2012, Jura, France.
Arbois Fleur de Savagnin, Domaine de la Tournelle, 2012, Jura, France.
Charred onions and quail egg cooked in bone marrow, pieces of aged "fenalår" (salted, dried and cured leg of lamb) and an onion vinaigrette with lemon thyme.
Charred onions and quail egg cooked in bone marrow, pieces of aged “fenalår” (salted, dried and cured leg of lamb) and an onion vinaigrette with lemon thyme.
The main dish!
The main dish!
Reindeer filet braised with juniper, served with reindeer lichen, truffle and lingonberries.
Reindeer filet braised with juniper, served with reindeer lichen, truffle and lingonberries.
Frozen blue cheese with pickled black trumpet mushrooms.
Frozen blue cheese with pickled black trumpet mushrooms.
A brand new dessert for the Chef's table to test! Grilled winter pears from Hardanger, Maaemo's own autumn honey and flavors from last season.
A brand new dessert for the Chef’s table to test! Grilled winter pears from Hardanger, Maaemo’s own autumn honey and flavors from last season.
Benedicte & Stephane Tissot, Macvin du Jura Blanc, France.
Benedicte & Stephane Tissot, Macvin du Jura Blanc, France.
A final signature dish. Brown butter ice cream, coffee, and hazelnuts, topped with more butter from Røros.
A final signature dish. Brown butter ice cream, coffee, and hazelnuts, topped with more butter from Røros.
The liquid waffle on a gel flavored with herbs from Bøverdalen. Another classic at Maaemo.
The liquid waffle on a gel flavored with herbs from Bøverdalen. Another classic at Maaemo.
Brown cheese tart.
Brown cheese tart.
For many international guests, this will be their first meeting with Norwegian brown cheese.
For many international guests, this will be their first meeting with Norwegian brown cheese.

Do you plan to eat at Maaemo in the future? Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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