Potetkjelleren – We’re eating in a cave. It’s one of a pair (at least, that I can see from the entrance) that form the majority of this restaurant, and the troll-sized staircases and low ceilings near the walls have to be precarious for the staff…though all of them seem awfully young and energetic, so maybe it’s OK. Is there anyone who works here that’s over 25? I’m not convinced.
This is a restaurant not afraid to take a few risks, though it’s not a wacky, fusiony adventurer either. Mostly, the risks pay off. We start with a delicious watermelon gazpacho (not the first thing one thinks of while visiting Bergen, to be sure), followed by flawless scallops set, somewhat inventively, over an intense mushroom risotto. Scallops and truffles I’ve had,, many times, but the intensity and concentrated umami of this risotto is a rather striking, and yet successful, counterpoint to the scallops. And another contrapuntal accent: some sort of toasted nut dusts the plate, adding a textural contrast to the chew of the scallops and the creamy lushness (with a bite) of the risotto.
There’s a straightforward bresaola with salad and more nuts that’s fine but mostly indifferent. Then, on two plates, cusk (which has a Patagonian toothfish-like texture, fibrous but tender) with an absolutely terrific potato cake, and true wild duck of an intensity I can only recall from my hunting childhood (“watch for bullets,” our waitress warns, and in fact there is one tiny bit of shot in the second-to-last piece), offset by the acidic bite of a fruit-enhanced meat sauce, with dueling purées of ginger and pumpkin. A selection of Norwegian cheeses is indifferent (apparently, the Norwegian skill with butter doesn’t necessarily translate to more developed forms of dairy), though the accompanying fig bread is quite impressive. Despite an attempt to demur, I’m gifted with a free dessert of fruit-enhanced whipped cream and something I can only describe as a ball of hot fudge.
It’s a fine meal, albeit at about a 50% premium over what it would be in its most expensive Stateside incarnation. But that’s no surprise.
The wine list is lengthy and clever, and given sufficient funds (or indifference to same) would be a wonderland. Forced to choose between a mediocre young Alsatian riesling at about a 900% markup over full U.S. retail and an 18-year-old white Rioja for just a few dollars more…well, there’s no choice, really. (9/08)
Copyright © Thor Iverson