Shibumi, Stockholm, Sweden ****
(CLOSED June 21, 2018)

Q: What is it? A: A modern take on Japanese izakaya food. And a pretty unexpected addition to the Stockholm restaurant rooster that I think will become a future classic.

Shibumi, izakaya restaurant, Stockholm, Sweden, appetizer
Life is a wooden box containing tartar of dry aged beef. You scoop it up with a prawn cracker. Genius. When I had this, I knew that it was about time to surrender to innovative cooking.

Shibumi, izakaya restaurant, Ostermalm, Stockholm, Sweden – tempura corn
So simple that it’s almost weird. And utterly, utterly delicious. Almost legendary after only a few months. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… (drumroll…) The Tempura Corn.

Razor clams with algae bread. Didn’t make the strongest impression of this particular evening but the texture was perfect and I bet that other chefs could sell a few close relatives to have it on their menu.

Shibumi, izakaya restaurant, Ostermalm, Stockholm, Sweden – dim sum
Gyoza iWagyu – which is fried dumplings with minced beef and black vinegar on the side. Not exactly lean cuisine, but who cares? iWagyu is the brand name for Swedish wagyu beef from Värmvik Säteri where the animals have US roots (Tajima off-springs).

Shibumi, izakaya restaurant, Ostermalm, Stockholm, Sweden – sliders
Sliders. They are on everybody’s menu these days. But these have been elevated to a new level through squeezing short ribs, kimchi and kewpie mayo between a brioche. They’re so addictive that it should be considered a crime to serve them. Alongside Danji’s bulgogi beef sliders the best I had this year.

Shibumi, izakaya restaurant, Ostermalm, Stockholm, Sweden – the sign
Not exactly a neon sign. Shibumi is by no means a secret club but it’s not exactly banging its own drum loudly. This is embedded into the sidewalk outside. If ever in doubt, you can enter through Råkultur (go to the left and use the stairs leading down to the basement).

Izakaya. That word again.
In Japan it means less formal place where you go to drink. According to myth, salarymen get wasted there. And maybe they will also eat just a little… Shibumi is not a place where you’ll get wasted, although the bartenders are very competent. This restaurant is the third brainchild of chef Sayan Isaksson and the restaurateur Alf Sollévi. You will also find it in the basement of the same building as Esperanto and Råkultur.

Like a secret spot, although it’s not.
One stone in the sidewalk has been replaced with a metal plate. Sometimes there’s a little paraffin candle outside. Sometimes not. Yes, it’s the unmarked door. Take the stairs down to the basement and you are entering a somewhat stylish restaurant (read: modern, not particularly cozy or homey) ; possibly the most optimal spot for a first date you’ll find in Stockholm. Following some good reviews, the 72 seats are fully booked more often than not and if you have to wait for a table, order a dry martini (served in a chilled oyster shell). In fact, Hampus Thunholm and his team of bartenders are highly skilled. The good part: It doesn’t feel like New York, nor is it a Tokyo clone. It feels like, well… Sayan.

Their strength: The food.
It’s honestly very, very hard to get disappointed at Shibumi. I’ve started the meal with different courses each time, but always included the tempura corn in my order. You should too. A vegetarian delight that is… a knockout. The gyoza comes with iWagyu beef so tender that it plays little games with your sensory system. I rarely sing little songs of a beef tartar but here there’s good reason to do so. I’ll let the picture captions do most of the talking in this review.

So why isn’t it a five?
I’ve been here four times since they opened in spring 2014. It has always been a pleasure, but Shibumi will have to step up their level of service a few notches. Sometimes I’ve been amazingly well taken care of. Sometimes it’s been wobbly. I can only imagine that the young staff has been taken by surprise by having a packed room every night. When they have ironed out the kinks, it will be a solid five. The food is that good already. Go here. Go here and enjoy.

Kungstensgatan 2
114 25 Stockholm


Opening hours:
Tuesdays to Saturdays, 18.00 – 01.00 (6 PM to 1 AM).

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