World Chefs: Two-star Maaemo shakes up Norwegian cuisine

Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:39pm EDT
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By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - In an unfashionable part of Oslo, head chef Esben Holmboe Bang’s minimalist creations are stirring up food culture in a country where, a generation ago, the height of fine dining was boiled cod and potatoes.

At Maaemo, a restaurant squeezed between the city's bus terminal and railway station, Bang uses exclusively local ingredients to rustle up the likes of langoustines with spruce, mackerel with wild garlic, and butter ice cream with brown butter caramel,

Maaemo - old Finnish for All That Lives - received two Michelin stars 15 months after opening in 2010, in its first mention, and ranks 79th in the top 100 of the world's best restaurants, according to Restaurant Magazine.

It is a standard-bearer for a quiet revolution in Norway, a poor country turned rich partly thanks to its oil wealth where, in the 1970s, Italian restaurants used to serve pizza with a side order of potatoes to reassure diners that, if they didn’t like the main dish, they would still have something to eat.

Bang, a 32-year-old Dane sporting a large tattoo of the ravens of the Norse God Odin on his left arm, spoke to Reuters at his restaurant while staff prepped for the evening sitting.

Q: What are you trying to achieve with Maaemo?

A: We wanted very much to open a Norwegian restaurant that reflects where we are and in doing so create a more progressive cuisine compared to the other restaurants that were there when we opened. They used Norwegian produce, but it was always cooked in a French way and mixed with French ingredients.   Continued...

Chef Esben Holmboe Bang (R) works in the kitchen of his restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Gwladys Fouche