Sunday, March 28, 2010

Vognmand Nilsen - Oslo

We went to see the Tannhäuser by Wagner in Oslo opera house a few weeks ago. As it were to last for 4-5 hours we had to eat before it started. I had booked a table at 4 PM at Vognmand Nilsen, as I had dined there only two days before. At its best it was one of the best experiences the last 12 months, but I found the whole experience a little uneven.

Location: BBBB

Vognmand Nilsen is located by Teaterplassen, a square in a newly built area in downtown Oslo. Here you have new and old houses in an old east end area undergoing a total transformation.

It is easy accessible by tram, bus or subway. Taking the latter, enter any eastbound line and leave at Grønland subway station. The restaurant is a five minute walk away. Direction - see map on the bottom of this review.

Service: BBBBB

You rarely meet a place where service is so good as at Vognmand Nilsen. Wednesday 10th as well as Friday 12th we had waiters doing their utmost to make our stay worthwhile.

I would especially commend an English speaking waiter serving us efficiently with grace knowledge and wit. This evening my sister and I asked to share a three course dinner, as we both wanted only a bite. The staff at the kitchen served us half a serving on plates, delicately arranging our food on elegant white china.

The waiter serving us Friday 12th did an equally good job, with less wit. We were very pleased by the service provided for us at Vognmand Nilsen.

Interior & Atmosphere: BBBB

The interior at Vognmand Nilsen may be conceived as Scandinavian minimalist, very hip and trendy, indeed. Coffee Latte and dark wood providing the main colour to the interior, interruptesd by brightly red and orange details.

It is a part of a general trend in restaurant interiors, a little impersonal in my mind . It is a little dark and bare, and it does not provide the intimate cozy background for the great food served at Vognmand Nilsen.

Food: BBBB+

We chose a three course dinner priced at NOK 295 (€37). In addition to these three courses we were served a small amuse gueule - a scallop carpaccio in a soy and coriander seed reduction. Delicious!!

We were also served good bread during our meal, with whipped cream mixed with herbs and garlic. An intriguing unusual combination of ingredients.

March 10th: Mussels in curry, cauliflower pannacotta, green beans and mussel foam: BBBB

One half serving for me and my sister, 3 rinsed mussels, one half cylindric piece of snow white pannacotta, beans and frothy foam delicately presented on a clean white plate.

Good texture, mussels and beans providing a good bite. Deliciously smooth pannacotta.

A little low on balance and taste. Had expected more curry taste and the pannacotta was bland. More salt would have raised the tasting experience considerably.

March 12th: Braised cod with risotto, green peas and pomegranate: BBBB+

Full serving. One square, lightly brown piece of lightly salted cod piled on top of risotto and green peas. Kernels of pomegranate arranged around the fish, glittering like small rubies.

Good texture. Fish firm, and flaky. Interesting crunch from the pomegranate kernels.

A little low in sodium, but good taste all in all. Would never thought of serving pomegranate with such a dish, but it works well, as it provides a gentle sweetness as contrast to the other flavours.

March 10th & 12th: Pheasant roulade with prunes and rosemary, creamed Brussels sprout, bacon, butter steamed radishes and fig sauce: BBBBB-

This was really the "piece de resistance" for the evening, and one of the best dishes I've had this year. One pheasant breast divided and two, folded over dark brown prunes served on a long, rectangular white piece of china.

Great texture. Pheasant breast slightly pink, succulent and very tender. Cauliflower cooked to perfection, and crunchy radishes were basking in salt golden butter.

Heavenly contrasting tastes. The sweet slightly bitter prunes worked wonderful with the slightly salted breast and the light perfumes from the rosemary. More sweetness from the fig reduction. It all worked well with the perfectly seasoned bacon, Brussels sprouts and radishes.

March 10th & 12th: Assorted cheese platter: BBBB+

We were served one slice of Morbier cheese, one Gorgonzola and a Brie, with sweet company of sultanas, apricots. We were offered two slices of bread, one brown, neutral and another - sweetened with dried fruits.

Cheeses were served temperated to room temperature. A good range of tastes and texture from deliciously creamy to soft.

Personally I found that the combination sweet fruits and sweet bread were too much. It would certainly have excluded a Sauternes, Vin Santo or Vendange Tardive wine, as it would have pushed sweetness over the top.

Wine: BBBB+

You may order a wine menu to accompany your food, but we ordered one glass of cava, and one Spanish wine made from grenache, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo grapes.

During our small talk with our waiter March 10th we were offered free samples of a Spanish wine made from tempranillo grapes matured in a steel barrel. The waiter promised us a rich, full bodied wine experience, without the oak character.

The cava was delicious, served in tall glasses narrow at the rim. Delicious fruit character, with fresh bubbles.

The blend was good, but lacked the richness of a wine made from 100% tempranillo.

The wine matured in steel barrels, convinced me that I love the character oak caskets bring to the wine. It was good, but it lacked the body of a traditionally produced Spanish wine.

Rating the Vognmand Nilsen experience: BBBB+ (4,40 points)

Recommended! Definitely one of the better restaurant experiences I've had in Oslo lately. Recommend their fixed menus of 3, 4 or 5 dishes. Many tastes. Quality of food a little uneven, due to lack of seasoning or balance of flavours. Great service from professional waiters, and a few surprises were presented during our meal.

Vognmand Nilsen
Rubina Ranasgt 3, Oslo.
Reservation: Lee Gibson phone: +47 22 05 92 00

See location of Vognmand Nilsen on this map

Vis Oslo on Enjoy Food & Travel - from A-Z i et større kart

Photos from top:
- Interior: Company website
- Mussels at Trouville fish market: Flickr upload bot
- Pomegranate Seeds taken by w:User:Pschemp
- Pheasant Fowling. Showing how to catch Pheasants. Facsimile of a Miniature in the Manuscript of the Livre du Roy Modus. Fourteenth Century.
- Tempranillo grapes ripening: MickStephenson

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