Björn Frantzén is a true gastronomy pioneer. He's one of the few people that has pushed the envelope when it comes to bringing the food-scene forward in Sweden. Previously he ran the establishment "Frantzén/Lindeberg" together with pastry chef Daniel Lindberg— but the two of them went separate ways a while ago, and now the restaurant is simply called "Restaurant Frantzén", clearly indicating that there's now one voice at the top.
Restaurant Frantzén is one of only two restaurants in Sweden with two michelin-stars, and we can't imagine a personality like Björn to feel "satisfied" with that as he always seems to be wanting to push everything forward, constantly changing, refining and improving. This excites us. To us, there's nothing more boring than a restaurant that lives on old traditions and makes you travel back in time when entering. We're excited with chefs looking ahead and being inventive. This is why we were very excited to finally visit one of Swedens best examples of modern gastronomy.
The restaurant is located in the "old town" of Stockholm. This is an historical (and intimate) setting, where the old is kept, and where several important buildings are housed. It feels almost strange to see a restaurant of this stature alongside gift-shops where Asian tourists wander around the tight streets in guided tours, but it's nonetheless a gorgeous setting being as close to the water and in an historical part of Stockholm.
The reception when entering the restaurant is fantastic. You're greeted by an old gentleman in a black tuxedo and high-hat. This is a great welcome (he obviously greets you by name), and it immediately gives a feeling that they've thought about the entire experience from start to finish.
The restaurant is very intimate. This is by far the "smallest" restaurant space we've dined in, but they've managed to make the most of it. There's a kitchen-counter where a few diners can interact with the chefs as the meal is being prepared. There's several round tables for larger groups, and a few smaller square tables situated near the walls and windows, and that's it.
The restaurant seems to try and both be "in style" and nod to the past through the decor. The tablecloths are white, the chairs are made out of dark wood, with black leather seats and arm-rests. Each table also has its own grasshopper-lamp. There's modern music playing in the speakers— and we can't get a feeling for if they're trying to be "cool" or traditional. Everything lands a bit in between.
Service starts quickly, and we're asked to simply chose our drinking options (there's a set menu only). As we're not in the mood for a lot of wine (there's two types of wine-pairings available), we ask sommelier Niklas Löfgren to chose a smaller selection of his favourites instead, and he's happy to help.
The first bite of Vichyssoise with truffles hits on all the right notes. It's crunchy and has great texture. The truffle taste is subtle but clearly noticeable. A very pleasant start. The next bite is a macaron with liver cream. We love macarons, and this one is perfectly executed. It's clear that the menu is defined from "bold and rich flavours"; nothing subtle and hard to notice— the flavours hits you with clear strengths.
The kitchen is lead by chef Jim Löfdahl which is at the same time chatting away with the customers at the kitchen-counter. The restaurants intimate size makes it easy to notice that he's still taking in what's happening in the room (and he gives us a few funny looks as we're taking our pictures :)
This is the first time we've ever been at a "destination restaurant" where the head chef wasn't present. Björn has a lot on his plate these days, opening up more restaurants/writing cook books/hosting tv-shows etc. On one hand we feel it depicts a bit that the captain has left the ship; but on the other hand, Jim and the entire Franatzén team are amazing craftsmen and is well capable of running the restaurant without Björns guidance (he's still much involved in the creation of the new dishes on the menu however). Good for Björn, and we're happy he can reap success from his hard work, but personally, we love to see the masterminds behind the stove, and not behind other projects.
The following courses of king crab cooked in beer, and raw lobster roe are less defined, but showcases great produce. The portions are small, but enough as a "tasting-vessel".
One of the more "talked-about" dishes from restaurant Franatzén is the horse-sushi. In Sweden it's still a bit "tabu" to eat horse; but the dish with dried lichens and raw foie gras taste really good. The dried lichens again gives the bite texture which is very important. The following creamed, roasted yellow onion dish with whipped goat's cream and liquorice showcases well the overall feeling of the bites; they're tasty and rich, both in flavour and in its content. This is both good and bad. Several of the dishes leaves us saying "very interesting, but I wouldn't want to eat more than this". We're all for tasting interesting combinations and flavours of food; but it would've been nice with a few more bites that we could (and wanted to) eat a bowl of.
We're at this point very happy for the fresh and light wine-suggestions by Niklas which brings a refreshing taste to the palette amongst the "heavy and rich" flavours from the dishes.
All the dishes are presented on custom-created plates from Calle Forsberg, and Peter Lindqvist. The glassware is from Zalto, apart from the Orrefors water glasses ("got to have something Swedish" as Niklas puts it).
One of the low-points of the meal is the "bread"-serving which isn't really bread at all. Instead it's a small cup of sour rye soup with acidulated milk & smoked bacon fat. According to the servers, usually bread "fills you up unnecessarily" during the meal, and this soup is a way to combat this. We're feeling rather disappointed by this. The soup tastes like smelted crisp bread (or in Swedish "knäckebröd"). This to us isn't equivalent to a fresh bread serving. Even though it's an interesting concept, it would need some sort of texture element to bring it an extra dimension.
Next up is the highlight of the night. Amazing scollops from Norway. Specially flewn in for the restaurant. With a healthy amount of truffles they taste absolutely amazing. The scallops can't be of better quality, or cooked better than these. This is a "wow-moment" for us. There's also some amazing dashi-broth to soak up all the flavours from the scallop-shell. A terrific idea. The dish is perfectly plated and perfectly executed.
Following this highlight is the dish the restaurant pounds itself the loudest on the chest for. The "Satio Tempestas" which is basically a symphony of the best available vegetables right now; and not just a few, a lot! You're presented a pamphlet describing the idea behind the dish and also all the 41 vegetables used. We love the fact that the restaurant takes pride in this dish and wants to showcase the idea behind it. To go with the dish is smelted churned butter which gives the servers a chance to give another great element to the overall experience of the meal. The butter is churned by hand, and then smelted on a hot stone in front of you. The server then plates the butter onto the dish, adding another layer on top of the already gorgeous dish. It's hard to take in all the different vegetables on the plate, and the mere idea behind it feels greater than the actual taste. You try to taste something of everything, but it's so much to take in that it gets impossible in the end. We feel sorry for the people having to do the prep-job for this creation, but wow, this is a great crescendo of the evening.
The desert-courses follow the same path that many restaurants do with a true "chef" at the helm, which showcases basically savoury-dishes made into desert-courses (as we've seen before at for e.g. Saison in San Francisco). The tastes are rich and creamy and follows great suite to the overall story of the meal. The dried egg yolk is very interesting and it's almost a surprise to see such "delicate" flans on top of it (as all other elements have been rather "heavy-handled").
The deserts are ended with a "bento-box" with Swedish "fika". The term Swedish "fika" we find a bit strange though; as this certainly isn't "fika" we've experienced before ;) This is basically candy that packs a punch in flavour. We love the box it's presented in, a great way to end the meal with a small bang. The box is brought to the table by one of the sous-chefs, which is great as it opens up to some conversations regarding the meal.
During the meal, there's several interactions with the servers in regards to plating and build-up for the dishes, but we find the conversations a bit robotic and not very wholehearted. We try to engage as much as we can by asking questions, but are generally given short and precise answers, they don't really feel like being as social as we appreciate (instead the servers are standing in one corner of the room talking amongst themselves, waiting for their next task to be carried out— we would love to see some more engagement from the entire team here).
All in all though— this is a meal that truly pushes the boundaries on taste and meal compositions. There's no denying each course has gone through a heavy series of testing and experimentation to bring them to this stage. This isn't a restaurant where the chef hand picks the produce at the local market and composes a new menu every day, these are battle-tested dishes that somewhat leaves out the "spontaneity", but instead favours something that has been thought about for a long time. Some dishes feel a bit too "overworked" because of this— but they're still very interesting.
The meal build-up is great and real care has been given to each interaction by the servers, and there's several "wow"-moments during the meal (both in presentation and also in produce quality and taste). We leave the experience very happy, this has been a great evening.