Esperanto Restaurant, Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden *****

Q: What is it? A: One of the most anonymous top-restaurants in Stockholm. One Michelin star. One super-star sushi chef. One helluva dining experience.

Two of the chefs. The star chef to the right.

The man on the right is Sayan Isaksson, a celebrity in the sushi world. In 2009 he won silver in the world’s most prestigious sushi competition; Seven Sushi Samurai.

Hint of fall? Looks like it!

A favourite: A hint of fall through butternut squash.

Aaah... Nebraska striploin ftw!

The climax: A Nebraska striploin on dehydrated Yukon gold, which means that the Yukon potato will look just like a fine, yellow powder, (you can just barely see it underneath the meat).

Holy smoke, it's dessert time!

Time for dessert. Dry ice create the smoke effect. Sorbet, berries and a clever use of Texturas take care of the rest.

It’s quite a performance…
It is located in a former theatre on a quiet street in central Stockholm, (Swedish punk legends Ebba Grön took it to the stage here in 1978). It opened in late 2005. It got its Michelin star in early 2007. It is French meets Japanese meets molecular cooking. It is experimental without the guests having to be guinea pigs. It is a performance, nothing less. It is very good. Make sure that you reserve at least four hours for the meal and your evening will be a very enjoyable one.

Still, I’m concerned about Esperanto.
They are the true definition of the word understatement until the food arrive on the table. Then they are scoring points with almost everything they do during the evening. The service is as impeccable and well manicured that you should expect. It may be a sound strategy to let the food do the talking, but I can’t but wonder is it really good for business? The Michelin star and the fact that Esperanto have been raking in numerous other awards may do most of the publicity work, but in my book, out of Stockholm’s six Michelin-starred restaurants they are by far the most anonymous.

What about that eight-course menu, then?
The amuse-bouches are not sending shock waves through your system. They are merely little hints of what will come. First out is the Frozen oyster yoghurt with aspic of broiled squid. Not bone-shaking. But when the Hint of fall through butternut squash arrives, it’s quite evident that this set menu has been carefully orchestrated to a create maximum drama. There’s no shortage of special effects – the turbot is served along with fennel smoke, delivering an extra dimension to the raw shrimp and scallop. There will be a parade of langoustines, foie gras and chicken skin during the build-up to the Nebraska striploin on dehydrated Yukon gold, (a potato). The grande finale, which may convince even hardened skeptics of molecular cooking to surrender, is the Jardin Oriental, served on top of dry ice for that funky smoke effect.

Should I go there?
Of course you should. I’ll gladly trade half a dozen other mediocre dinners for a meal ticket to Esperanto. OK, I may leave more amused after a meal at Frantzén/Lindeberg and I may be more impressed by the culinary simplicity of Mathias Dahlgren, but Esperanto manages to balance on a very fine edge, with the team in the kitchen managing to play it out in a subtle and refined way. Yes, different tastes are involved in spectacular collisions. Yes, my dinner at the Esperanto was worth every single hard-earned, heavily taxed Swedish krona. Yes, it is a five-star experience.

Opening hours: Wednesday through Saturday 7.00 PM to 1.00 AM.


Restaurang Esperanto
Kungstensgatan 2
114 25 Stockholm
Sweden

+46-8-696-2323

Hard to get a table here?
In the same building, Sayan Isaksson has put his mark on two other restaurants:

Råkultur – for years, this has been a stronghold on the Stockholm sushi scene. Superb sushi. A surprisingly sensible price tag. Service has sometimes been wobbly, but with time they have gotten their shit together. Apart from their chef’s table, tables at this restaurant are drop-in only.

Shibumi – the latest addition to Sayan’s miniature empire is an izakaya. And yes, drinks are fabulous but the main reason to go here is the food. Executive chef at Shibumi is Saori Ichihara, she’s only 25 y o at the time of writing, but… whohoo… Shibumi owes a lot of its success to her!

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