Giving three stars a whole new meaning
Claim to fame: Three “chefs of the year” excelling in fun, affordable dining.
Reason to go: Iconic signature dishes and creative takes on Swedish classics.
To look out for: The clever fake truffle, “a fiver a shaving”.
Well, here’s a novel concept: if the flavors of a dish don’t linger on your taste buds for at least ten minutes, the whole thing has to be recreated. Not many preparations fall short of the ten minute-rule when the threesome at Lilla Ego (Tiny Ego) gets its groove on. The chefs are all winners of the Swedish Chef of the Year Competition; Tom Sjöstedt (2008), Daniel Räms (2013) and Jimmie Eriksson (2016.) Award-winning signature dishes and reinvented Swedish classics exhibit deceptively pure flavors that evolve into great complexity, they’re often cocky and occasionally spiced with pranks. In other words, there’s no shortage of self-confidence here. It would seem that the restaurant’s name is a bit of a misnomer, perhaps it should be rechristened Big Ego? Either way, these guys aren’t too concerned with labelling themselves, since launching three years ago they haven’t even bothered putting up a sign. There are two ways of getting your foot in the door here, either plan way in advance and secure a table in the perpetually booked dining room or line up patiently with all the other optimists hoping to snag one of the open seats in the bar.
The audacious modus operandi here is based on endearing impudence, forgoing traditional menus, décor and service and thus giving a (respectful) middle finger to fine dining. The cramped restaurant is furnished with random finds, the menu is a pile of turkey-scratchings, hand-scrawled on notepads that are nonchalantly tacked to the wall, next to the half-open kitchen. This is possibly the closest you’ll ever get to a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Stockholm. Yet there is an uncompromising dedication to coaxing maximum amounts of flavors and textures out of carefully sourced ingredients. Seafood bisque comes with a grilled, utterly juicy lobster tail, it’s garnished with smoked almonds, tabasco-pickled avocado and grated frozen lobster butter, far from cheap, it’s still a steal considering what you’re getting. Encouraging you to play with your food, the crisp blini-sized potato pancakes are presented in a cast iron skillet, with lemon cream and a piping bag of bleak roe for you to go all Jackson Pollock on the dish; this arty riff on the Swedish classic a sure-fire favorite. When in season, there are truffles galore, the real stuff from the island of Gotland, lately one of Europe’s biggest suppliers of Bourgogne truffle. The chefs pile generous shavings of it over their miraculous primeur egg; boiled to 60°C perfection before being panko fried, its velvety interior magically still intact, it’s displayed on a smooth truffle-cream bed, accompanied by tarragon-pickled red endive, crispy chicken thigh, wood sorrel and raw mushrooms. When not in season, the kitchen offers its legendary fake truffle, a compound butter with mushrooms and nuts, rolled in black trumpets, almost as pungent as the real thing. The standout dessert has been on the menu since Lilla Ego’s inception, it’s one that keeps the diners coming back again and again: baked vanilla cream with salt-roasted macadamia nuts and goat cheese, a masterful balance of hot and cold, sweet and savory, crispy and soft.
During its short lifespan, this little restaurant has become a veritable breeding ground for new master chefs. In the 2016 edition of the Chef of The Year Competition an unparalleled three out eight contenders came from Lilla Ego. There will most likely soon be more than three champion toques in this kitchen.