Ad for the Norwegian Seafood Council
I‘m currently in the Basque country in the North of Spain, shuttling between San Sebastian and Bilbao, on a trip together with the Norwegian Seafood Council. We are here to take part in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants award show in Bilbao tonight. You can watch the live event here from 8.45 PM local time. Personally, I have my hopes up for the pride of Norway, Maaemo, to finally enter the top 50 list.
Traveling together with us are some of Norway’s finest seafood producers. In their luggage combined, were hundreds of fresh oysters, scallops, mahogany clams, prawns, king crabs, as well as stockfish and wet salted cod transported all the way from the cold Norwegian waters. On Sunday, we attended the Wild Seafood party in San Sebastian, hosted by the Swedish food magazine Fool, where some of the world’s best chefs cooked with Norwegian seafood.
The World’s Best Female Chef (2016) – Dominique Crenn
Dominique Crenn was present at the Wild Seafood party in San Sebastian, cooking with Norwegian king crab, langoustine, and mahogany clams. At Crenn’s San Francisco restaurant, the two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn, she cooks almost exclusively with seafood. That means she’s used to tracking down the best local seafood suppliers in her area.
– I’ve worked with king crab from Alaska before – the Norwegian quality is great, she tells me when I meet her in the kitchen before the event.
Crenn is perhaps best known for starring in the Netflix series Chef’s Table (season 2, episode 3), being the first female chef to get two Michelin-stars in the US, and for being voted the world’s best female chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurant group back in 2016.
At the Wild Seafood party, Crenn cooked a wonderful dish with Norwegian king crab. She paired it with sour, fermented cabbage, a smoked crème fraîche, and mustard seeds. Her team had also prepared crispy toast topped with pickled seaweed, and an escabeche made with mahogany clams – the marine mollusk that can get up to 500 years old.
– I love the primitive approach of Scandinavian cooking, like the fish that is drying for months, she told me.
Crenn’s absolute masterpiece of a dish at this event, however, was a small tartelette filled with butter-poached Norwegian langoustine. On the top, was a flower made from apricot and plum that had been soaked in brown-butter for that heavenly, nutty, caramelized flavor. It’s one of the best pieces of food I’ve had this year – perhaps even an all-time high dish.
Rodrigo Belda from Norwegian Shores Shucked Open Fresh Oysters
The Norwegian restaurateur Rodrigo Belda was present at the Wild Seafood event. Belda co-owns five restaurants in Oslo – Publiko (Nordic bistro), Aymara (Peruvian restaurant), and the Spanish tapas bar concept Delicatessen located in three Oslo neighborhoods. This day, though, he represented his latest start-up – Norwegian Shores. A company founded in 2017 that has two live-storage facilities of wild oysters in Norway, from where they deliver the freshest natural oysters to the market.
The clean and cold waters surrounding Norway are ideal for shellfish, clams, and mollusks, and known for producing some of the best seafood in the world. You can taste that in the firm texture of the meat, and the sweet mineral flavor of Belda’s oysters. The oysters grow wild at their own pace before they are harvested and put in large storage tanks filled with natural seawater that is pumped up from the deep (where the temperatures are constantly low) and cleaned with UV filtration.
Heidi Bjerkan’s Magic Touch to Norwegian Seafood
Acclaimed Norwegian chef Heidi Bjerkan brought parts of her team from restaurant Credo in Trondheim and did some proper magic to Norwegian seafood. Bjerkan is no stranger to seafood, with a menu heavily focused on fish and shellfish throughout the year. At the Wild Seafood party, team Credo made three different dishes using raw shrimps from Lyngen Reker, stockfish from Halvors Fisk, and brown crab.
Food Meets Arts was one of the discussion topics at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant event this year. Heidi’s dish of raw shrimps wrapped in a turnip taco with colorful flowers, pickled gooseberries, and horseradish cream falls into the category of food that almost looks too pretty to devour (didn’t stop me). The raw shrimps have a more fatty mouthfeel than cooked prawns, but are still packed with flavor and juiciness. Lyngen Reker was also on the seafood menu of Noma 2.0.
The stockfish from Halvors was lightly poached in browned butter from Fannremsgården and served on a potato pancake made from Kvike almond potatoes. Topped with a sea truffle emulsion and edible flowers. I think I’m biased when it comes to anything browned butter, though. Either there’s something about that flavor that weakens my judgment, or this was ridiculously rewarding and scrumptious. I’m leaning towards the latter.
Lastly, a crunchy croustade filled with lightly smoked brown crab and topped with fresh herbs and preserved red currants. Crunchy, soft, salty, sweet, and full of umami. Everything you want in a bite. I’m usually not a big fan of event food, but this was just another league of tasty. I told Heidi that she, easily, could put these dishes directly on her menu at Credo. In fact, I hope she does so I can taste them again.
Chef Pablo Vicari From Elkano Grilled Norwegian Seafood to Perfection
The one-Michelin-starred and, perhaps, world’s best seafood restaurant Elkano, was represented at the Wild Seafood party and head chef Pablo Vicari got to play around with Norwegian seafood. At Elkano, they are famous for grilling turbot, lobster, and hake to perfection. This afternoon, they applied their skills to Norwegian king crab from Norway King Crab, wet salted cod from Rørvik Fisk, and Norwegian king scallops. The result was nothing short of spectacular. Chef Vicari appeared to do very little to the products apart from applying heat, but of course, he knows exactly what he’s doing to get the most flavor and juiciness out of every piece of meat.
The wet salted cod (different salting technique than regular salted cod or clipfish) was simply paired with a peeled and poached Spanish tomato. Sweet and salty flavors in a perfect harmony. Top quality cod that needed almost no work from the grillmaster. Even simpler, the Norwegian king scallops barely touched the grill before they were served with their own roe. Finally, Norwegian king crab, grilled and served blazing hot. The soft meat was overloaded with natural sweetness and bursting with flavor.
The supplier, Svein Ruud from Norway King Crab, was present to watch the master chef in action. Ruud is famous for having built a shellfish hotel at Norway’s airport Gardermoen, where he keeps Norwegian king crabs, scallops, and other shellfish in large water tanks before he ships them all over the world. Restaurants like Noma in Copenhagen, Maaemo in Oslo, and Inua in Japan order his products and get them delivered the same day or as quickly as it takes to fly to the destination.
Vicari’s food impressed me so much, that I instantly decided to book a table for lunch at his restaurant the next day. It was a true pleasure to experience the cooking of this seafood and grill master. I can’t wait to share my story from Elkano with you.
What’s your favorite product from the sea? Please share in a comment below.
This is paid promotion by the Norwegian Seafood Council (Norges Sjømatråd).