Bifångst, Gothenburg 2015
In order to experience a true "tasting menu" at a restaurant, we previously had to travel away from our home town of Gothenburg (as the traveling foodies we aspire to be). When we visited Hoze, we were treated to several smaller courses in the style of "omakase"— and we told ourselves "it would be great to simply have a myriad of these courses as a tasting menu". Lo and behold; our dreams became reality when Hoze himself got the opportunity to be the creative master behind the "pocket" restaurant (a restaurant within another restaurant) Bifångst at Fiskekrogen.
When we heard that José were behind the concept and menu creation, we threw ourselves at the opportunity to try it out during its launch.
We had previously never visited the restaurant "Fiskekrogen" as the concept felt a bit "dated" and lacked a modern touch. Fast forward until now; when we visit the restaurant, it's all brand new with a comforting and vibrant look and feel. There's a good balance between "old" and "new" from the clear indications of when the restaurants were established (Fiskekrogen 1972 & Bifångst 2015).
In the middle of the large dining room is a bar (and plating station for the restaurant Bifångst). Bifångst occupies the tables at the back of the restaurant (furthest away from the windows). The setup makes a lot of sense, and the restaurant has made good use of its floor-space. We're seated in the bar-seats overlooking the preparation of the dishes (which is similar to the way food is prepared at Hoze).
The concept of Bifångst is to serve new nordic cuisine with a touch of Japan and the mediterranean. There's no a ‘la carte, only two tasting menus (with different number of dishes).
The restaurant has been open for only a short period of time (and previously only to "get up to speed"). This is clearly evident, as everything feels "new and fresh", even for the chefs and servers themselves. Lars Ahlström which is the owner of the entire establishment wanders around in the dining room and takes time to talk to all the guests. It's clear that he's very proud of what's been achieved here (and what's to come).
Our serving consists of 18 dishes (previously unheard of in Gothenburg, which is why we're so excited!). Today there's however been some problems with suppliers/and equipment, and José and his team needs to come up with replacements "on-the-spot", which makes it not surprising that we're seeing a rather stressed brigade of cooks on this night.
We start off with an "amuse bite" of savoy, smoked sour cream & caviar. Straight off, we know what we're in for; all the deliciousness from the sea, combined with texture, creaminess and taste (and the true guiding style from José is extremely evident).
As we're seated next to the cooking stove where the last preparations to the dishes are prepared in front of us, an aroma of sizzling butter from a pan of brioche bread hits our noses. We immediately appreciate the added sensation of seeing and smelling the preparations, and we know we're in for a ride.
When the brioche is finished in the pan, it's lined with a sauce of pickled shallots and a generous piece of Klåva herring; finished off with carrots and black pepper. This perfectly stacked goodness is a real "wow-moment". The pickled shallots has a "barbecue-sauce"-feel to it, and it balances each bite out perfectly.
Next up is an oyster that tastes almost as a drink (with the added absinth). Extremely fresh produce. Even the less "oyster-savvy" of the two of us appreciate this serving.
The bites and presentations brings us a bit back to Frantzén and the delicious small bites presented at the start of that meal.
Out of the presented "Canapés" we're thrilled with the creaminess of the Scallop in potato paper. It's lovely together with the truffle butter and yuzu salt. The dish with sea urchin however isn't as well balanced, as the sea urchin "overpowers" the dish a bit (even though we love sea urchin), and we're lacking a bit of texture.
Next up is "Appetizers", and the crustacean langoustine is a well-balanced dish. Together with the langoustine ash, the smoky flavor of the ash isn't overpowering (which is easy to do) but instead enhances the flavor in a great way.
The shiitake mushroom together with the egg cream lacks a bit of texture, and it's all a bit too "mushy". We're also big truffle fans (at least one of us), but the truffle doesn't really taste that much— maybe not the best of season for it. Egg & truffle is otherwise a great combination!
The bread serving at Bifångst is a real hit. Crisp bread with almost burned butter (yumm!)
The signature dish (representing Hoze) strikes on all the right notes. Crab, Onion cream (and of course Dill!)
It's an impressive array of dishes presented, but we're always curious what'll come next. We can start to see sort of a pattern to how the dishes are constructed, so maybe it would've been fun with something "completely different" thrown into the mix— but it's such a great formula; so we're very happy to keep digesting everything that's created in this fashion.
It's a bit charming being part of a "soft opening" of a restaurant. The chefs hasn't really become a "well-oiled-machine" yet, and some ingredients are forgotten when the dishes are presented to us. Also the dishes themselves sometimes feel like they could need a little further tweaking to get them just right. Sometimes we miss a bit of extra salt and sometimes a bit of extra crunch. This is however totally understandable at this stage. The chefs have come up with new innovative dishes since they opened, and with just some further refinements and trimming it'll surely be nailed just right.
The fact that we're sitting right next to the chef preparing the food opens up to some conversations regarding the dishes. However, today the chef feels a bit "stressed" and we don't want to be disturbing with questions. Cooking "live" while talking to guests is something that obviously will improve with time, it's however an ambitious and fun setup!
Finally time for the "main courses". The first one being a "risotto", but not in a traditional sense (of course), but it has all the components— and it's deliciously creamy (and with really nice crunch).
The next dish is one that lives up to the restaurant name of "bi-catch". Cod parfait, cod cheek & tongue. Why would anyone not use these parts of the fish? Great bites.
The meat-dish is perhaps the low-point of the evening. Even if we love salicornia the dish feels a bit "so-so" and not so intriguing. The venture into "meat"-territory didn't really pay off. After so much from the sea, the meat-dish could've packed a lot more punch.
The "deserts" takes a while to get started (there's a problematic foam-gun in the picture amongst other things). We're impressed that the pace of all the dishes has been really consistent up until this point.
The first dish consists of rich dark chocolate nibbles on top of quark and beet coulis and beet purée, which delivers. The beet coulis/purée is deliciously creamy (and tasty) and the chocolate nibbles gives great crunch.
The second desert is definitively not the prettiest one to take a photo of— but the yeast ice cream is an interesting concept and has a very pleasing taste— which goes great together with the honey.
After this impressive array of dishes, we've sadly come to the end. As the journey started with the smell of sizzling butter and brioche; the night is closed with french toast sizzling in the pan. This is paired with a great coffee from Per Nordby.
We take our last bites of the french toast, together with the condensed milk, sugar and cinnamon— a great pairing with the coffee.
All in all, this has been an ambitious night food-wise (the amount of prep-work that's needed to execute a menu like this in a timely fashion...wow). Every ingredient from the sea that we love has been utilized here. Even as we ate more and more, we were still intrigued of what would come in front of us next. The progression was great, and it kept us excited. As stated before though, some of the dishes could still be refined a few extra times and some of them lacked a little extra touch— but there's no question in our minds that if someone asked "where to eat in Gothenburg" our answer would be at Bifångst; great produce (and range of produce), in an innovative way— in a great environment!
The entire experience will however be improved once all the chefs gets a little more "assertive". Chef Gonzalo were so humble and friendly, it almost felt like he was more "thankful" than "proud" to be the one in charge (a typical Swedish trait though). But feeling like you're in "guiding hands" is one that alleviates an experience like this. During the night, we truly felt it was José’s hands, but executed by someone else. This must be the "challenge", going from Hoze, where José is in full charge, from preparation, to execution, to delivery— here instead someone else is. The team at Bifångst sure seems up to the challenge though— and this has all the potential to be a true "destination restaurant", which should be experienced!