Review: Arakataka Matbaren Oslo's Most Affordable Gourmet Food

The food bar (Matbaren) at Arakataka is the best addition to the restaurant scene in Oslo since the opening of Pjoltergeist! This is consistently among my top recommendations to people who want dining suggestions in Oslo at the moment. At Arakataka, you have two options: Either book a table in the restaurant or drop by and hope to find a free seat in the food bar instead. The latter is my preferred choice. I even find the menu more exciting here than in the restaurant most of the time. Perhaps because it tempts me with exclusive, gourmet ingredients like truffle, langoustine, and foie gras. The incredible thing is that it costs next to nothing as well –the dishes on the menu are typically NOK 35-100. Top-quality and reasonable prices? Yes, please!

Looking for more great spots for food and drinks in Norway’s capital? Check out our city map of Oslo!

Duck liver mousse on butter fried brioche with cranberry jam and cress.
Duck liver mousse on butter fried brioche with cranberry jam and cress.

Oslo’s Most Affordable Gourmet Food

There is no such thing as a free lunch, but Arakataka gets close. I guess they must be making money on people drinking wine and beer, just like bars in America did over 100 years ago to entice drinking customers, which later was the source of the famous expression. I am exaggerating a bit, of course. The portions are smaller in the food bar, but very generous at the same time. Look at the amount of duck liver we got for NOK 90, and check the size of those langoustines for NOK 100 apiece – and that is top-quality Norwegian crustacean. From Wednesday to Saturday you can eat until 00.30 in the night and drink till 02.00. In other words, the food bar at Arakataka offers a great alternative to most of the trash food you normally have to accept at this hour. Mondays and Tuesdays the bar is closed, and on Sundays, it closes at 21.00. I hope that changes soon.

I already mentioned my excitement for the food bar in my post on Arakataka back in August. At that time I didn’t know about the bar concept before we arrived, and we had already booked a regular table in the restaurant. I am sure my table companion, Linn, can confirm that I was a bit distracted by the whole idea of a food bar within a restaurant. I remember I ran back and forth and looked at the other menu. Obviously, I wanted to experience that one too! The great thing about the bar, though, is that it’s drop-in only. That means first come, first serve, and usually, there’s a seat or two spare. Because of that, I have returned many times since then. The last time I was there I bumped into my foodie friend Lars. You can read his story (in Norwegian) on the food blog Lars Spiser.

Table decorations at Arakataka.
Table decorations at Arakataka.
Fermented celeriac bread with sour cream, "løyrom" and cress.
Fermented celeriac bread with sour cream, “løyrom” and cress.
View from the food bar.
View from the food bar.

Simple and Delicious Comfort Food

At Matbaren, Arakataka’s chefs make comfort food. It’s all about simple dishes with very few ingredients. Classic elements like oysters are there, of course. Each and every one of the dishes are affordable, but never at the expense of high quality. The fermented celeriac bread with løyrom deserves a special mention. This dish is packed with flavor and so unique in its crispy, buttery consistency. We asked the head chef, Ronny Kolvik, about it. He told us, as I expected, that the recipe was inspired by the famous fermented potato bread at restaurant Amass. I can still remember that bread from when I had it at Amass in the summer of 2014. It was the best part of the entire meal, and I was hoping for more bread every time I finished it. Ronny’s version is possibly even better. I shall return to Amass shortly and find out.

I once brought a friend to the food bar late at night. It was past midnight and we had the option of eating a shitty kebab at Torshov or take a taxi to Arakataka – an easy choice if you ask me! We sat in the bar, drank water, sobered up, and placed the last order of the night. One of the dishes was langoustine. My friend was tired and didn’t speak much at this point, but when he tasted the langoustine with butter, something in his brain snapped. For a moment he woke up, and uttered: my goodness, this is so tasty! I can still remember the rich flavor myself. We practically licked our plates clean. Thank you, Arakataka, for creating Matbaren!

A whole langoustine for 100 NOK!
A whole langoustine for 100 NOK!
Langoustines with tarragon butter and celeriac bread.
Langoustines with tarragon butter and celeriac bread.
Truffle chips with aioli.
Truffle chips with aioli.
Scallops and yuzu.
Scallops and yuzu.
Taco of lamb in tortillas made of turnip.
Taco of lamb in tortillas made of turnip.
Dry age pork, truffle, and watercress.
Dry age pork, truffle, and watercress.
Sunflower seed ice cream on Belgian waffle with crunch and caramel.
Sunflower seed ice cream on Belgian waffle with crunch and caramel.

Have you not been to the food bar at Arakataka yet? Why are you still reading this? Go there now!

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Anders Husa

Anders Husa and Kaitlin Orr are food & travel bloggers and creative content creators. From their base in Copenhagen, they operate the largest and most influential restaurant-focused travel blog in Scandinavia.

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