Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mixed bag at Tabibito

(Reviewed August 15th 2009) Tabibito means wanderer in Japanese, and symbolizes one that has been in one a pilgrimage to the Asian cuisine. Tabitito is also one of the newest Asian fusion restaurants in the Norwegian capital. I had one lunch here a while ago, and left very satisfied. I was convinced I would be in for a treat when booking a Saturday dinner, but I have to admit that I left a little disappointed.

Location: BBBB+

Tabibito is located in downtown Oslo, located by the Norwegian city hall, easily to get to, just a few minute's walk from Karl Johansgate and Nationaltheatret subway station.

Service: BBBBB

The staff at Tabibito provided brilliant service with a smile. That was not obvious at the start. We were given our menu, and we had to wait long to order. From that point all turned to the best. All the dishes (6 of them, in fact) were brought to our table without delay, and the waiters provided good information on each dish.

Interior & Atmosphere: BBBBB-

The interior is an eclectic mix of Japanese and Chinese elements, in red, white and beige shades. Here you are greeted by warriors from Qin Shi Huangdi's terracotta army, small urns with candles placed in zen inspired sand decorations.

Tabibito has an open, welcoming and very airy interior with enough space for the guests to relax in. We were comfortably seated by a delicately designed beige wooden table, I in a white designer chair, and my nephew in a soft leather sofa. The table was elegantly set in front of us, waiting for the dinner to commence.

The delicate tranquil atmosphere was interrupted by Chinese violin music that annoyed us at times, interfering with the peace provided by the interior.

Food: BBBB+

We chose a six course dinner priced at NOK 398 per person - a very low price when divided on so many dishes. The quality varied from dish to dis. The best was exquisitely made and on the other end of the scale was food dull as dishwater.

Fish cake coated in panko and sesame seeds: BBBB+

A very interesting small starter. The small fishcake had the most delicate mild taste.

Interesting contrast given by the mild tender fish and the crusty panko (Japanese bread crumbs) and sesame mix.

The cake was served with pickled vegetables and sweet chili. Good balance between sour, sweet and salt.

Thai soup with king crab: BBBBB

The second course was a bowl of Thai soup hotter than hell. This was most certainly one of the exquisite culinary experiences during our dinner.

In spite of being exceptionally pungent, due to the chili, the soup was perfectly balanced, by the citrus perfumes provided by the kaffir lime leaves, the sweetness of the galangal and coconut milk.

The bits of king crab was surprisingly in its shell, being hard to eat, at least with the aide of our chop sticks, so we had to ask for fork and knives - not very practical.

Prawns in tomato in a sesame oil and tomato sauce: BBBB+

The first of three main courses, all presented rather plainly on small white trays. This one had a small orchid as garnish.

The prawns was served in a tomato based sauce with a very pungent taste of sesame oil. Well balanced, but a little bit too much acid, lower on sweetness and salt.

Prawns and vegetables well prepared, not over cooked and with a good bite.

As you were to eat this dish with chopsticks, I found it rather strange that the cook had decided not to peel the shrimps. We had to peel them with sauce all over our sticky fingers, and we decided to continue to use western cutlery for this task.

Chicken with shitake: BBBB-

The second chicken had a name, but with or without any proper name, the kitchen with shitake was the least interesting dish we were served at Tabibito.

It was presented with the two other dishes in a small white china tray. It should certainly have been served in a more colourful dish.

We found small pale pieces of chicken served in a mild sauce with vegetables and shitake mushrooms rather uninteresting, good cconsistency, but sadly lacking in tastes, neither salty, sweet or sour aromas.

All in all a disappointing experience.

Duck served in a curry coconut sauce: BBBB+

The third main course was two pieces of duck served on vegetables immersed in a rich curry-coconut gravy. In my mind the best of the three dishes.

Duck prepared well done, and in spite of this, succulent. Great crunchy vegetables, sauce rich and smooth. The meat was a little too tough for my taste.

Good balanced seasoning, and quite mild, suitable for most pallets.

Tapioca in creamy coconut soup with mango and passion fruit sorbet: BBBBB-

The end of the meal was sweet, in more than sense of the word. We were served an exquisite dessert, a coconut flavoured soup with small tapioca nuggets with deliciously tropical fruit sorbet.

The small tapioca nuggets provided a delicious crunch as you sipped into the exquisitely flavoured soup, and the sorbet gave additional freshness to the soup.

Beverage: BBBB+

I always find it hard to choose drinks to Asian food. A good riesling may be excellent to sushi, but I always end up choosing a pint of beer. This dinner was not an exception. There were both Japanese Kirin Lager or Chinese Tsingtao available. I chose a pint of the local brew. The fresh slightly bitter drink is in my mind the best to such a meal.

Rating the Tabibito experience: BBBBB- (4,62 points)

High scores on location, interior and service, and NOK 398 for this meal is very favourable. Personally I found the six course to be a culinary roller coaster. It went from exquisite to mediocre. I would still recommend tabibito for an evening dinner. I would, however, composed my own dinner instead of choosing their menu.

Stortingsgaten 20, N-0161 Oslo
Phone: +47 22-62-42-02
E-mail: bord@tatbibito.no
Web: www.tabibito.no

Photo attribution:
From top:
(An officer in the terracotta army - Photo: Tor Svensson)
(BYOC Shanghai reusable chopsticks - Photo: Rjanag)
(Root of the galangal plant, used in Asian cooking and for medicinal uses - Photo: Ld31337)
(Close up of white sesame seeds - Photo: Sanjay ach)
(Fresh Lentinula edodes (shiitake) mushrooms - Photo: Eric Steinert)
(Curry in the spice-bazaar (egypitan) in Istanbul - Photo: Thomas Steiner)
(Pearl tapioca, before soaking - Photo: Una Smith)

No comments: