Exploring the outer limits
Claim to fame: Purist New Nordic food, pushing boundaries beyond the founding fathers’ work.
Reason to go: When Delicious simply isn’t good enough anymore.
To look out for: The Bergmanesque mood that occasionally hits the kitchen.
From the outside Volt doesn’t make a big fuss, at first glance it could easily be mistaken for an ordinary neighborhood restaurant. But make no mistake: this is a temple. Nowhere else in Stockholm, perhaps all of Scandinavia, will you find the New Nordic religion practiced with such fundamentalist zeal, stretching the dogma beyond the teachings of its founding demi-gods. The canon is taken to extremes in sourcing, preparation, flavor range as well as in aesthetics, resulting in dishes that are simultaneously pure and complex, and quite often outright stunning. Just take the four carrots in varying sizes that open the menu, aggressively monastic were it not for the marigold petals they’re rolled in. Slow-baked to rubbery chewiness that gradually releases all the root’s inherent aromas against a foundation of shy, slightly bitter sweetness, with dried sea buckthorn adding acidity and a streak of untamed wilderness. It’s a call to prayer. If nature can give us this, God is indeed great.
Making the most of scarcity is the key to Nordic cooking, new and old. Stark restraint is also a key to its esthetics. Both principles are honored here. A singular, seemingly dirty but actually singed chard leaf covers charred beans and a paste of algae and oysters, packed with intense mineral-metallic flavors, this is the holy grail of greens. And of course it’s monochromatic, just like the carrots and most servings here. This carbonized creation is followed by austere white: fennel, salted lard and flaked almond, all white! It’s not easy to spot what’s what, especially as it’s presented on a white plate. But again a miracle, flavors and textures combined with equal degree of unorthodox interplay and shock factor. This is not the place to go for happy food, rather it’s a sanctum for worshiping a sacred meal. It’s food for reflection, often quite intellectual, occasionally going to dark depths, as if Ingmar Bergman was working in the kitchen instead of Peter Andersson and Fredrik Johnson. Green strawberries, devoid of any ingratiating sweetness, have almost qualified as the chefs’ signature veggies, they may hide along with sweetbreads under a stack of crispy kale. Roasted and pureed potatoes served in an umami-saturated, fermented mushroom broth get necessary piquancy from sour pills of goat whey cheese and pickled spruce shoot. The deep woods of northern Sweden contribute with many interesting flavor choices. This is in fact the place for passionate hobby biologists; ask which herb you’ve just been served and the staff will present you with a little homemade herbarium in which local plants have been carefully pressed, dried and documented. It goes without saying that wines are also all natural here, head sommelier Johan Bengtsson will convey the essence of them without getting lost in technicalities. A slightly chalky, gunpowder-smokey sauvignon blanc compliments a beautifully glassy, baked hake with lemon, browned butter and a compote of green tomato. Considering the complexity of food, the service is quite to the point and no-nonsense, though it is delivered with considerable warmth.
In spite of its incredible appearance and challenging acidity the sculptured sour milk with pickled elderflowers won’t go down in history as the most delectable dessert you’ve had, but the cake you get with your coffee will. A little buttery, freshly baked sponge cake is hardly revolutionary, but to bring a partly challenging meal to a halt through something this cute and cuddly actually exhibits a certain renegade quality.