Let me tell you a story of outstanding service. It happened at restaurant Re-Naa in Stavanger. The drama involves a delayed flight, an incredible desire to satisfy guests, and an entire staff of chefs working overtime. Some facts first: in 2016 Re-Naa became the first restaurant in Norway, outside the capital of Oslo, to receive a Michelin star in the French guide. That honor was given to the fine dining restaurant run by the couple Torill and Sven Erik Renaa. Renaa: Matbaren – a casual bistro – is found in the same white wooden building. Also, just across the streets inside Sølvberget, the cultural center of Stavanger, there’s a café and pizza place called Renaa: Xpress.
Much was at stake this night. We had invited my parents to celebrate their wedding anniversary as well as both of their birthdays. The next day we were meeting a friend that we flew into Stavanger all the way from Switzerland, just to show her the amazing Norwegian Edo Style Sushi at Sabi Omakase. Our plane was scheduled to depart at 6 PM and arrive at Sola airport in due time to catch our 9 PM reservation. However, we hadn’t even arrived at the gate at Gardermoen airport before a message ticked in that our flight was delayed 1,5 hours. The first thing I did was to e-mail the restaurant about a possible delay.
– No problem! was the reply from restaurant Re-Naa.
– We are looking forward to welcoming you.
I always let restaurants know if I am delayed, even if it’s only 15 minutes. That’s the only polite thing to do, and I don’t want to lose my table, of course. Without a doubt, you should always message a restaurant as soon as you decide to cancel on a reservation – for whatever reason. Imagine how much preparations small restaurants do before a night. They purchase and prepare high-quality ingredients, and exclusive eateries often have a very limited amount of seats to make a revenue from. One table short can tip the scales.
In the end, our flight was more than 3,5 hours delayed. At this point, I was certain our evening was ruined, and messaged the restaurant to let them know we probably wouldn’t make it before their kitchen closed. Their reply surprised me:
– Come as soon as you can, and we’ll make the best of it. Our kitchen is open as long as we have guests.
Wow! Our parents picked us up at the airport and we headed straight to Stavanger city, making sure to park as close to Re-Naa as possible. Since none of us had been to the fine dining restaurant before, we asked a guy who worked in the casual Matbaren about directions.
– Ah, it’s you guys, we’ve heard about the incident, please follow me.
Head chef Sven Erik Renaa was awaiting us in the gateways to restaurant Re-Naa with a big smile. He showed us to the patio, where the first snacks were served. We said how grateful we were that they would still have us at this hour. It was almost 11 PM now.
– Please, serve us whatever there is time for, we know we are horribly late, I told him.
– We’ll figure something out, Renaa replied.
His wife Torill came out to greet our table. It was she whom I had communicated with. What an amazing passion this restaurateur couple has! They offered us only smiles and laughter the entire evening – and food. Great food!
The original menu including all petits fours has 24 courses. Sven Erik skipped one single dish of wild salmon, and combined the lamb in two servings into one serving. A total of 22 dishes were placed in front of us from arrival 11 PM until departure 1.30 AM the next morning. At one point my dad was wondering what the large crowd of chefs was doing in the kitchen, only to realize they were all working for us, as there were no other diners left in the room. Every bite we got was a small display of local and seasonal produce, with beautiful presentation and great flavor. It was a demonstration of power for Stavanger as an up-and-coming destination for food travelers. In fact, the rumors must already have started to spread. The next evening my good friends at Cityfoodsters, Jason Wang and Grace Chen, visited Stavanger and Re-Naa as part of their foodie trip in Europe. They came from San Francisco …
It’s hard to pick a favorite from this meal. I liked every dish from the small tomatoes from Brimse farm with squid, to the chocolate quail egg with yuzu filling by the end. Potato waffles with duck liver stands out, as well as the mackerel with lemon cream, which worked surprisingly well. Both the cod and lamb dishes were superb main courses. The slow-cooked red beets brought my memory straight back to Amass and Kadeau in Copenhagen with their latest trend of dehydrated and re-hydrated vegetables. The Egg is probably the most perfect fake egg-dish I’ve ever experienced. Perfect, velvety pannacotta with a sour and sweet core of sea buckthorn gel. A buttery brioche on the side. Lastly, we got an ice cream on a stick, just like at Noma Australia!
We ended where we started – on the patio. It was past 1 AM and time for coffee and snacks. The Odd Standard tree arrived! Only one restaurant in each city is allowed to purchase the most unique pieces from this artist duo. In Oslo, it’s restaurant Kontrast and in Bergen it’s Lysverket. Now I know that restaurant Re-Naa in Stavanger was chosen as well. It had been the most exceptional evening at this one Michelin starred restaurant. The service was three stars. Someone recently asked me what makes a good meal? I said passion. Torill and Sven Erik Renaa have bucketloads of that.
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