People ask me from time to time: “What is the best restaurant in Oslo for good meat?” A few alternatives come to mind, like Trancher who specialize in entrecôte excellence, or Vaaghals with their wide selection of dry age meat. One candidate stands out, though, as a place that not only serves meat, but lives meat. St. Lars in Bislett has a meaty attitude and a big-ass grill. If they had a song it would be “All about the beef.” If they got a child they would name it Chuck. If they were knighted the title would be Sir Loin. Catch my drift? Last year, we ate an excellent suckling pig at St. Lars before Christmas, but I heard rumors that head chef Daniel Lindstrøm had been working hard this year to perfect the crackling – the crispy, caramelized skin.
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The Horse Tartare & Côte de Bœuf
People think they need to starve themselves before a big meal, but that’s wrong. You need to eat before a big meal. The belly needs to expand. That’s why we started with a round of horse tartare and côte de bœuf. St. Lars‘ tartare is quite unique. The horse meat is packed with pickled beets and wood sorrel before it is shaped like a puck. Instead of regular egg yolk, you get quail egg yolk. As for the côte de bœuf, the fat melts in your mouth and the Maillard crust is exceptionally crunchy due to the 900°C of the coal-fired grill. The béarnaise sauce leaves you craving for more and you’ll probably end up licking every drop, even if you run out of the delectable garlic skin and potato fries.
In Search of the Perfect Crackling
What is the ideal pork crackling? And more importantly, how do you achieve the result? The suckling pig was already awesome last year, so it was hard to imagine how it could get any better. This year, chef Daniel explains, he placed the suckling pig in a salt brine together with brown sugar and vanilla from Madagascar. Afterward, the piglet got a sous-vide bath for 12 hours at 67°C, before it was cooked in the oven at 120 degrees C for one hour. In the next step, the temperature was increased to 185°C and the door left open to let out all the steam. Lastly, the poor pig was glazed with honey and lemon and cooked for another 35 minutes at 210°C.
The result? A perfect crackling. The skin is like caramel. It makes delightful sounds when you break it, just like those insane Peking ducks you’ve probably seen on Instagram. I’ve never eaten pork skin as delicious as this. The sides were potatoes with parmesan, salt-baked red beets, an apple sauce and a sauce on cognac, pork broth and brown butter.
The Story of the Rooster and the Executioner
The guys at St. Lars are not nice people. You don’t want to mess with these thugs. Don’t do stuff like stealing their stuffed rooster and put it up for display in your wine bar. Most likely, you’re gonna end up with a live rooster being slaughtered in your bar in front of shocked customers, and they’ll cut the head of the rooster with a pair of scissors, put it on a jar and make coq au vin of the rest. I am not saying that’s what St. Lars co-owner Andreas Viestad and his restaurant manager Niclas Wallin did, but the general manager at Territoriet wine bar did recently resign to start working in the safe zone of Maaemo. Coincidence?
Did you try the suckling pig at St. Lars and how many people did you share it with? Please let me know in a comment.