From violent flames and silent embers
Claim to fame: The ancient technique of cooking over an open fire.
Reason to go: The lobster, slow-cooked to lukewarm perfection in the chimney.
To look out for: Where there’s fire there’s smoke – you’ll be bringing it home in your clothes.
Some scientists claim that the evolution of humankind didn’t begin when we descended from the trees, as apes but rather, when we discovered how to light and manage a fire to cook our food; our brains grew as we consumed new and more powerful nutrients, released by the magical metamorphosis of flames. At Ekstedt, a Nordic homage to Asador Extebarri, old cooking techniques based on real fire, aka barbecue, have been recreated to bring back lost flavors. Sure, they can be messy and yes, you will be sending your smoldering birch wood-smelling clothes to the dry cleaner after a meal here. But trust us, it’s worth it, if nothing else for the hay-flamed sweetbreads with their mellow inside and blackened surface, their fine flavors elegantly supported by black garlic, sorrel and a very light sauerkraut.
It takes a skilled chef to cook over open flames, in smokers and wood-fired ovens, the food needs sensory finessing to counterbalance what can easily just become a mess of over-powering carbon residue and harsh smokiness. Luckily, the young chef Rodrigo Perez knows how to make his flames both whisper and roar. The blackened leek served with slightly sour vendace roe and a birch charcoal-smoked cream is a prime example. If the cooking technology here turns back to the very cradle of gastronomy, when Homo erectus seared things campfire-style, this is also true of the restaurant’s ingredients, all local and of course seasonal, just as a hunter-gatherer would have it. Gently smoked crayfish tails are topped with airy nut shavings and accompanied by veggies spiked on a little branch, their dill seed scent mimicking our classic crayfish boil, the dish is an almost religious tribute to the Swedish late summer season. There are many details to delight in: the house-churned butter with nostalgic notes of old-fashioned buttermilk, and of course the little sourdough bread, hot out of the oven. The ember-baked char with its crispy skin and the tiny blobs of smoked garlic cream accompanying a delicious cut of beef, sourced from a retired dairy cow. Most dishes are finger licking good, with the occasional exception; a starter of lukewarm, cold-smoked trout with a granita of seaweed and radish tastes like being forcibly French-kissed by a spiteful mermaid.
Turned in a sizzling cast iron pot, chopped roasted bone marrow is dressed in lemon, shallots, crisp-fried reindeer moss and a glossy egg with bleak roe. Its perfectly paired Oloroso sherry defies the marrow’s fattiness without clashing with the roe’s umami. Sommeliers from near and far should take a field trip to Ekstedt, not only for Maximilian Mellfors’ faultless and innovative wine choices, but also to truly understand presentation. Rather than bore us with the usual, endless vineyard trivia, Mellfors instead describes the wines’ characteristics and why they have been chosen.
Everything at Ekstedts cranked up high; the food and drink, the service, the ambience as well as the noise level. And although the interior design tries desperately to be rustic, details such as exclusive tiles, bronze shelving and leather chairs inspired by saddlery position it safely in the realm of urban chic.