Summer at Maaemo The Undisputed King of Restaurants in Norway

My 10th visit to Maaemo, the undisputed king of restaurants in Norway, was celebrated on August 1st, which happened to be the first day after a summer holiday for the staff. I ate at Maaemo five times last year, although one of those meals was the 7th-anniversary dinner with friends of Maaemo. By the looks of it, however, I won’t break that record in 2018. But one meal per year is the absolute minimum when we have such an amazing restaurant in our city! Maybe I can squeeze in two. In June, Maaemo was voted the 35th best restaurants in the world by the World’s 50 Best. That is quite an achievement for a country with only 5 million inhabitants.

Kombucha tea made with Norwegian grains
Kombucha tea made with Norwegian grains

Summer at Maaemo

I shared this wonderful meal together with some foodie friends that had flown in from Canada for a culinary tour of Scandinavia. On my advice, they had dined at Kontrast the night before. Early the next morning, they went to Ålesund to try out restaurant Bro by Ronny Kolvik. In fact, they were going to eat there three nights in a row! I also recommended a visit to Jacu Coffee Roastery, which is now open all days of the week (it was Fridays only when I was there last year). Following in my foodie-steps (see what I did there?), they also booked Fäviken Magasinet deep in the Swedish forests, before they ended their trip in Stockholm with some of my top restaurant recommendations.

Since this was a meal in company with new friends and first-time visitors of Maaemo, I wasn’t in a position to make a thorough dish by dish review. Which, believe it or not, takes quite a lot of effort, taking notes and being focused on the plates in front of you at all time. We enjoyed a great dinner, although not the best I’ve had a Maaemo, but at this high level you can’t raise the bar every time. Seasonality of ingredients play a big part, and I normally prefer the late autumn and winter season. Although, presentations are usually the most stunning when it’s summer at Maaemo. Colorful flowers on almost every dish, and the light from a late Scandinavian sunset that illuminates the room in a magical way.

Warm potato pancake with smoked mountain trout & fermented turnip
Warm potato pancake with smoked mountain trout & fermented turnip
Tartelette with Mahogany clams, seaweed & chicken skin
Tartelette with Mahogany clams, seaweed & chicken skin

New Dishes and Old Signatures With a Twist

My favorite bites were the brioche with lamb fat and bone marrow, the summer peas in fermented asparagus sauce, the king crab with nasturtium, and the new potatoes. In addition to an altered version of the signature oyster and mussel dish – now with caviar! Not to forget, my all-time Maaemo favorite, which never disappoints, namely the browned butter ice cream. Sweet dreams are made of that. On the weaker side, I found that the Mahogany clams disappeared amongst other flavors in the tartelette, the raw scallops were paired with too many bitter flavors, and the first king crab serving just didn’t blow me away.

Erlend Lehland, whom I know from his time at Territoriet wine bar, seemed to be busy with the chef’s table upstairs this evening, but welcomed us when we arrived and, later on, served a plate or two. We were mostly in the good hands of  Maaemo’s new head of wine (since last year), Jefferson Goldring, who is a great host that takes his time to explain each dish and wine with just the right amount of details. Besides them, I think almost every chef and waiter at work this day was by our table at least once during the course of the five hours the meal lasted. Quite a few new faces for me, but then it was almost a year since my last visit, so not a big surprise. It’s fun to see that Maaemo attracts chefs and waiters from all over the world. I just wish more of them decided to stay in Oslo when their time finished at Maaemo. We need more dedicated people to contribute and help build and shape our evermore-exciting food scene.

Brioche with lamb fat, bone marrow and deep-fried sage
Brioche with lamb fat, bone marrow and deep-fried sage
Maaemo's head chef Halaigh Whelan-McManus
Maaemo’s head chef Halaigh Whelan-McManus
Emulsion of oysters from Bømlo, sauce of mussels and dill & caviar
Emulsion of oysters from Bømlo, sauce of mussels and dill & caviar
A Maaemo signature dish – now with caviar
A Maaemo signature dish – now with caviar
Scallops from Steigen, served raw, with blackcurrant leaves and white currants
Scallops from Steigen, served raw, with blackcurrant leaves and white currants
Jana Čechová putting the final touches to the first scallops dish
Jana Čechová putting the final touches to the first scallops dish
Scallops from Teigen, cooked, with celeriac & gooseberries
Scallops from Teigen, cooked, with celeriac & gooseberries
Smoked mackerel from the Oslo fjord, flowers, and horseradish
Smoked mackerel from the Oslo fjord, flowers, and horseradish
Summer peas, fermented white asparagus & jasmine
Summer peas, fermented white asparagus & jasmin
Maaemo's head of wine – Jefferson Goldring
Maaemo’s head of wine – Jefferson Goldring
King crab from Finnmark steamed with lemon verbena & smoked scallops roe
King crab from Finnmark steamed with lemon verbena & smoked scallops roe
2014 Le Grand Blanc, Henri Milan, Provence, France
2014 Le Grand Blanc, Henri Milan, Provence, France
King crab from Finnmark, fried in butter, with nasturtium & honey
King crab from Finnmark, fried in butter, with nasturtium & honey
Tableside action and the Maaemo staff knows how to slow it down for photos
Tableside action and the Maaemo staff knows how to slow it down for photos
Sour cream porridge, reindeer heart & aged plum vinegar
Sour cream porridge, reindeer heart & aged plum vinegar
Maaemo waiter Erlend Lehland
Maaemo waiter Erlend Lehland
Another Maaemo signature dish I'm happy to have every time
Another Maaemo signature dish I’m happy to have every time
Time for Krug Champagne – Grand Cuvée 166éme Édition
Time for Krug Champagne – Grand Cuvée 166éme Édition
New potatoes, cheese from Hitra, veal tongue & garlic
New potatoes, cheese from Hitra, veal tongue & garlic
Norwegian strawberries, roses, rhubarb root & wood sorrel
Norwegian strawberries, roses, rhubarb root & wood sorrel
Norwegian strawberries, elderflower & grilled cream
Norwegian strawberries, elderflower & grilled cream
Beautiful and delicious new dish at Maaemo
Beautiful and delicious new dish at Maaemo
Browned butter from Røros – Maaemo signature
Browned butter from Røros – Maaemo signature
Warm waffles from buckwheat-koji fried in dry-aged wagyu fat from Anni's Pølsemakeri, brown cheese & forest berries
Warm waffles from buckwheat-koji fried in dry-aged wagyu fat from Anni’s Pølsemakeri, brown cheese & forest berries

What’s your favorite season at Maaemo? Please share yout thoughts in a comment below.

4 comments

  • I visited Maaemo in early march and it is by far the best restaurant experience of my life. Sweetness of seafood complimented with acidity of preserves combined with fatty and comforting flavours of winter.
    Tops fall at Fäviken and summer at 108!

  • Somehow I enjoyed ** Maaemo in 2013 more than *** in 2016. While there were a few high caliber restaurants in between that might have affected that (and the somewhat strange ending in 2016, service wise), I found the *** overly polished. The reindeer heart in 2013 was finely diced, giving off umami blasts that kept going. The newer version has grated reindeer heart, making the whole dish more uniform and polished. From a chef’s perspective, polishing off whatever sticks out in the total flavor profile makes perfect sense, but it eliminates some magical and inspirational bits and bobs. There was a dish featuring a form of marzipan in 2013 that I think was taken off the menu fairly quickly, but it was weird and wonderful. Today’s Maaemo is a fascinating and impressive machine of brilliant cuisine and service, but I prefer the previous iteration where the creativity was so present on the plate and service was less formal and practiced. The langoustine is among the very best dishes I have ever had. Finally, chef Bang and his journey with Maaemo is absolutely awe inspiring.

    • Thanks for sharing your impression! Personally, I found the 2015-2018 version of Maaemo more exciting than 2013, with a peak during two meals in 2017. A place I’ll always return to again and again …

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