Sabi Omakase just got its well-deserved first Michelin star! The Michelin Guide Nordic Countries 2017 was launched today at 10 AM at a press conference in Stockholm, and the very first announcement was the one Michelin star awarded to Stavanger. Sabi Omakase was my hottest star candidate when I made predictions earlier this week. Ever since my first visit to Omakase when they opened in 2015, I’ve been a huge fan of the unique and innovative restaurant concept that chef Roger Asakil Joya have created together with co-owners Njål Solland and Ask Bringeland.
Big congratulations to Roger and his team! Watch the movie and you will understand why Sabi Omakase got a Michelin star today.
Trained in Japan – Competes in Japan
Sabi Omakase is an uncompromising high-end restaurant with the authenticity of a Japanese Edo-style sushi-ya, interpreted through the use of the world’s best seafood from the cold waters of Norway. Chef Joya, originally from the Philippines, was first trained in the Western style of making sushi. Later, he went on to receive formal training in Japan in the original Edo-style from ancient Tokyo. Since then, he has reached tremendous achievements like ranking 4th in the Sushi World Championship twice – both in 2015 and 2016. The Michelin star is a further confirmation of his skills.
“It is incredibly rewarding for us because we have done this solely on the basis of an enormous passion for sushi.” – Njål Solland
Nine Guests Only
In Pedersgata in Stavanger, a small venue clad in wood paneling both outside and inside looks almost misplaced in between a larger building on the left and the original Sabi Sushi takeaway restaurant on the right, where the adventure began in 2011. Enter the dark room and find that there’s space for only 9 guests around a bar counter – lit up by four lamps. The head sommelier Karlo Gjurasek welcomes you in the door with a glass of yuzu sake. Shortly after, Roger arrives.
“I am overwhelmed by this recognition. This truly gives me motivation to develop Nordic edomae even further. I want to be an inspiration for others and promote the unique Norwegian seafood.” – Roger Asakil Joya
Preparation is Key!
You’re here either on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday as those are the only days Sabi Omakase is open. The rest of the week, Joya spends his time selecting and preparing the most exclusive and fresh produce he can get his hands on. Whenever he gets the opportunity he buys an entire tuna. They can weigh as much as 700 kilos. He guts and cleans the fish and utilize every single centimeter of this remarkable ocean beast.
Three Hours – 20 Dishes
During the next three to four hours, chef Roger will carefully assemble and finish about 20 dishes in front of you – most of them are one-bite pieces of nigiri sushi. The first dish, however, is a clear soup or broth to clean the palate and sharpen your appetite. I’ve had it with tofu and mussels, but the best version was the most recent one with cockles, seabelt, and finger lime. The latter ingredient is specially imported. I’ve never seen it in Norway before, but I loved it at the Noma Australia pop-up where it was first introduced to me.
A Master at Work
Watch Roger’s hands as he carefully prepares each piece of nigiri in front of you. It looks like a dance. Each movement so rehearsed. So precise. In Japanese culture, you are not considered a master of your trade until very late in life. The modest chef at Omakase probably views himself in those terms, but to me, he’s an artist in full blossom.
My Favorite Bite
The squid is one of my favorite bites. Joya slices each piece with a sharp knife that looks like a miniature Samurai sword. He proceeds by gently cutting multiple strips in each fillet to soften the surface, which allows it to wrap around the rice more easily, but also makes it more tender. A sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt, a squeeze of sudachi citrus and lime peel shavings. When you place the squid on your tongue you think it’s gonna melt, then you bite into the soft, yet firm texture. It feels fatty, almost creamy, but is immediately balanced by the salt and citrus. A heavenly mouthful.
Superb Ingredients in Every Piece
A dinner at Sabi Omakase is a series of these highlights. The scallops with yuzu gel, the flat oysters with ponzu, bonito flakes, and trout roe, or the langoustine with miso paste and physalis. Each new ingredient is of superb quality and chef Joya respects that. He merely helps the produce on its way and makes it shine. Balances and lifts the flavors. The tuna toro is the star of its own dish – and so are all the other sea creatures (although the toro is the superstar). I love how he uses local specialties like herring and brisling – stuff you won’t find many places served as sushi.
After the tuna toro, which is followed by toro of Aurora salmon (also a very unique serving!) comes the tamago. In my eyes, the weakest serving. I would love to see it more smooth and creamy and served luke-warm. However, I have no doubt that Roger will improve on that too, just like he has done with almost every other item on the menu. Since my first visit to Sabi Omakase and through a total of four spectacular meals here, the quality has only gone one way.
Exquisite Wine Pairings
Throughout the meal, Karlo (or Magda) keeps everybody’s glasses filled with fermented grape juice from some of the world’s top producer – de Sousa champagne and Egon Müller Riesling to name a few from our latest wine pairing. It’s rather obvious that the owners of Sabi Omakase are true wine lovers and that they want the best for their guests as well.
Both the light, appetizing soup at the start and the one that marks the transition over to red wines, now have more and better flavor. On my recent visit, the latter was a warm soy milk soup with king crab, quail egg, and enoki mushroom. So fulfilling!
Another all-time favorite for me is the Unagi eel. The Unagi sauce is like an umami-infused caramel glaze, brushed on the eels while they are still hot from the grill. Yet two more unique pieces of sushi remain – minke whale and reindeer tenderloin. Before the meal culminates a final time in the most delicious dessert of black sesame ice cream (it was white sesame on my latest visit – bring the black back please!)
Are you going to Sabi Omakase now that they got a star? Or have you already been there? Please share in a comment below.