FOOD ROAD TRIP: LOKK IN OSLO NORWAY
Yes, I'm in Oslo and it's 72! That's right, I'm in spitting distance of the Arctic Circle and it's actually warmer here than in San Francisco. Plus, the sun doesn't set until 11pm. Even then, it's still like a little speck on the horizon so it is not like dark, dark. Sort of a perpetual twilight when the sun hits the horizon. Anyway, I'm trekking through Scandinavia for a couple weeks and decided to try and be a little adventurous with the food I'll be eating. It's our first day here and after doing some research I settled on a place called Lokk (I'll let you Google translate their page). It seemed funky and interesting enough and it was only a short walk from the hotel--SCORE!
It's on a side street off the main drag and walking it reminded me of many places in San Francisco--lots of metal table and chairs and reclaimed type wood things on the wall. They have a very abbreviated menu that changes pretty regularly. It consists of a soup, a salad, 2 mains, a dessert and a bunch wine and beers. Or you can go the prix fixe route and get soup, main and dessert for 399 Norwegian Krone--that's about $50 a per person. So not only are restaurants like SF, so are prices. In fact, everything in Norway is pricey--even a 20oz bottle Coke Zero will run about $3--ugh the dollar really sucks in some places. But we are on vacation so F-it, we are going all in.
They did start us with some nice rosemary bread with a soy honey butter and a red wine butter. The bread was nice and spongy with a great soft center and light flavor of rosemary with a sprinkle of salt. The butters were on the whipped side and to be honest I couldn't really taste the flavor of either. Seems they took it a little easy on the additions when they problem should have piled them on. They came across as plain unsalted butter. At least the bread was good.
The motto of this place is "In Soup We Trust", seemed kind of odd as they only really do one soup a day but we'll go with it in the first course. A corn soup with dill, chili oil, roasted red peppers, pumpkin seeds, cracked salt and roasted tiger prawns. First bite of this was fishy, though I'm not sure why. Though after I comfortably swirled all the flavors in here together it lost that taste and became a lovely bright, sweet consomme with a small chili kick. The prawns was cooked perfectly and the chunks were quite large. Even the dill, which seems odd added a nice fragrant profile to this warming bowl. In the end, what seemed like a mismatch of ingredients ended up working quite well together.
They had two entrees on this evening so we got one of each. Here is the salted and cured lamb with steamed purple potatoes on top of a banana celery puree with cilantro and notes of chili oil. Hmmm...interesting is how I'm gonna put this dish. The lamb is almost like a jerky, though surprisingly it didn't taste too salty. Evidently this a traditional Norwegian way of serving lamb though normally it's done around Christmas time--our server said they wanted to try it out in the summer because they liked it. It's definitely something that either hits your palate or it doesn't. I don't think there is much in between here. I was okay with a few bites, but after a couple more it just became almost gamy tasting to me. The banana celery puree was also, um, unique. We were told it was a sweetness to offset some of the saltiness in the meat and I'm not sure I was on board with the taste. Plus I wasn't really getting any heat from the chili oil. I'm guessing they didn't but enough pepper flakes in it when making it so the bite wasn't coming out. The SO sort of liked the dish, me not so much. You definitely need to be a fan of cured meat to get into this.
Our other entree consisted of monkfish, quinoa, roasted fennel, candied carrots, ginger, salsa fresca and copious amounts of butter. This one I really liked, and not just because of the butter (okay, it did help). The fish was perfectly cooked, tender and flaky. The quinoa was also nicely done and very hearty. The ginger was a perfect compliment to the carrots and even the fennel, which I'm not normally a fan of, somehow wasn't as bitter as it can sometimes be. Overall, a well executed and tasty dish that both the SO and I gave thumbs up to.
Dessert turned out to be, ugh, sorbet--and if you read me regularly you know how I feel about these things. It was a strawberry and a vanilla sorbet on top of a peanut crumble with strawberry rhubarb compote, chocolate bits, mint and brown cheese shavings. Yeah, I thought I heard him wrong the first time but, no, that is actual cheese you see. It tastes a lot like cheddar and adds a salty component to the dish. The strawberry was very tart and tangy in contrast to the sweetness of the vanilla. And while the compote was nice, it felt a little like overkill for the dish. The nut crumble added a good crunch texture too. I think the only thing this was missing was some fresh cream and then it could have been a variation on a sundae or something. Me, I was just like, it's sorbet, it's fine. So we will go with what the SO thought about the dish--the vanilla was better than the strawberry but for the most part, very good. There you have it.
I think that's the thing about traveling for me, it gives me an opportunity to just relax and just say yes to trying different things. Lokk was the right kind of place for us to try on our first night to get us in the adventurous spirit. We didn't go all the way--they had a salad with pan fried whale meat, but we decided to save that for another day. Still, the chef here seems to be throwing a lot of things at the plate, including some of his favorites, with varying degrees of success. Trying not to think about the cost I will say for the most part I did enjoy most of what we had here. While I couldn't see eating here regularly, I would suggest it for a special night out, or you know, a vacation trip. It's got a fun, funky vibe and a very friendly staff and chef who will explain the dishes in detail and tell you why they put all these things together. Kind of like dinner and a show, Norwegian style.
Oslo Norway 0181
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because we all do.