Eating Norwegian

Welcome to Oslo, the land of pølse, pizza, and … sushi!

Jonathan Sushi

Photo: Nate Axvig
The Axvig family enjoyed a delicious sushi spread at Jonathan Sushi in Oslo’s Vinderen neighborhood.

Denver, Colo.

Our family was lucky enough to live in the Norwegian capital for over a year in 2016-17. One of the most exciting parts of relocating to Oslo was eating like a Norwegian! 

First off, no, lutefisk is not a part of the modern Norwegian diet. You very rarely see it on a menu, and it is only favored around Christmas. Your typical Norwegian still brings their matpakke for lunch at work or school, and it usually contains an open-faced sandwich and an orange. Pizza, pølse (hot dogs), and burgers are also popular, and every Friday night is reserved for tacos. Fredagstaco—taco Friday—is a real thing, and while the authenticity of the actual tacos may not be 100%, the Norwegian enthusiasm for them is full throttle.

Our biggest surprise when it came to food was the prevalence, popularity, and quality of sushi. Oslo may be 5,222 miles from Tokyo, but the Japanese-themed restaurants around the Nordic city churn out amazing raw-fish entrees. When one really thinks about it, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The waters that surround Norway produce some of the best seafood in the world. Norwegian salmon, langoustines, and cod are mainstays on the world’s menus. It is well documented that within the last 20 years, the popularity of salmon sushi within Japan is a direct result of Norwegian imports. In fact, according to the Norwegian government, around 50% of Norwegian salmon currently consumed throughout the world is eaten raw.

It should be noted that sushi isn’t simply limited to high-end restaurants. All the major grocers throughout the city—Coop, Rema 1000, Meny—carry cute little matpakke-like sushi for carryout. They are handy, popular, and extremely tasty. You can even come across a flat of raw salmon at the neighborhood gas stations, and while the rule is never to eat “gas station sushi” in Norway, you will be pleasantly surprised.

While travel to Oslo in the short term is unlikely, once you do visit, I have a few suggestions to experience the very best of sushi in Norway. Jonathan Sushi can be found in the basement food court of the Steen & Strom department store, as well as in several neighborhoods in the metro area. We had a Jonathan’s around the block from our apartment in Vinderen, and we visited it quite often. It is incredibly good, with a reasonable (for Oslo) price point. Nabo, across the street from the Colosseum movie theater in the Majorstuen neighborhood is also excellent and a preferred pre-movie meal. 

The crown jewel of sushi in Oslo is Alex Sushi in the Solli plass neighborhood, just south of Frogner. This is high-end dining with the price tag to go with it, but if you are celebrating a special occasion or you simply want to see the best that Oslo sushi has to offer. You won’t be disappointed. 

Salmon nigiri (known simply as laks in Norway) is a must for your order sheet, along with the Ebi shrimp. Tuna maguro can be found on menus, but the quality isn’t as good, since the tuna comes from far-off waters. However, that could be changing, as bluefin tuna makes a comeback in the Northern Atlantic. If that type of tuna can recover its population, sushi lovers in Norway will rejoice!

This article originally appeared in the June 26, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.