Eating my way through Bergen and Oslo
Look no further for restaurant recommendations in Norway’s two biggest cities
About halfway through a recent visit to Norway, my husband, Tim, asked if there were any Norwegian foods I would like to try that we hadn’t yet encountered. Tim was making sure our vacation checked all my “must eat” boxes. I started to laugh. He looked at me, puzzled.
The last time I visited Norway, I was a broke college student, studying abroad in one of the world’s most expensive countries. My meals consisted of pølse (Norwegian hot dogs), deli meat and cheese, lompe (similar to lefse), and frozen kjøttkaker (meatballs).
While all filling, my Norwegian-inspired college meals were nothing to write home about. None of them compare to the fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients we found in restaurant after restaurant on our recent trip.
And while pølse and lompe are a must try on any visit to Norway, I laughed at Tim’s question, because in a few short days we had experienced more of Norway’s culinary greatness than I had during all five months I lived there 13 years prior.
Here is a snapshot of some of our favorite restaurants we dined in while traveling through Bergen and Oslo.
Our first meal in Norway was spent at Restaurant 1877, which is housed in an old slaughterhouse. All ingredients are from the immediate region. Offering five- and three-course tasting menus, Restaurant 1877 is for diners who enjoy the element of surprise. Just five words were printed on the menu—five broad clues that left us guessing in anticipation: shellfish, fish, meat, cheese, dessert. Our favorite bites came from the langoustine and ling, both caught just off the shores of Bergen. The meal finished with dravle, a traditional curd made from milk, sprinkled with brown cheese. We both enjoyed it—much to the surprise of the waiter and chef. They noted that only about 50 percent of their guests like the dish. This showed me that food in Norway is not just about pleasing one’s palate but also showcasing traditional food and techniques.
Learn more at www.restaurant1877.no.
The name of this restaurant says it all. Translated to “marrow and bone,” Marg & Bein is all about celebrating local meat. The atmosphere has a Seattle vibe: casual but still sophisticated, with a heavy focus on thoughtfully sourced ingredients. We split the bone marrow appetizer, which came garnished with pickled beets, cornichon, and parsley. Truth be told, Tim is not typically a fan of bone marrow, but we both wished we could lick the plate. My favorite dish of the entire vacation came later, when I ordered the oxtail cheeks on a bed of fresh greens and (more) pickled beets. The oxtail melted in my mouth and is something I’ll forever crave.
Learn more at www.marg-bein.no.
Head to Henrik Øl & Vinstove when you are ready for a drink. While they don’t serve food, they do serve beer—and a lot of it! With over 50 beers on tap from across the globe, this spot was perfect for us beer-loving Pacific Northwesterners. We posted up to the bar and felt like locals as we made friends with the bartender and our barmates.
Learn more at www.ve.no.
Sporting a big, open kitchen and large dining room, Sentralen Restaurant was the right place to grab a bite to eat on our first night in Oslo. With a frequently changing menu, Sentralen offers small, shareable plates. Our favorite dishes included the baked whole cauliflower with ramson and hazelnuts, and ceviche with green chili and kohlrabi. We ended the night with a sweet bite of churros with raspberry, carmel, and more brown cheese.
Learn more at www.sentralenrestaurant.no/english.
Kolonialen is a true neighborhood restaurant also specializing in shareable plates. The relaxed atmosphere makes you feel right at home. Tim enjoyed a can of sardines and we both loved the white asparagus with hollandaise and bacon. We rounded out the meal with two desserts. We couldn’t pick just one—they both sounded too interesting to pass up. First up was rhubarb with meringue and mascarpone. It was as satisfyingly delicious as it was beautiful. Then we tried white asparagus with truffle and buttermilk sorbet, an interesting combination. This savory dessert was definitely worth ordering, but not something we would likely order again.
Learn more at www.kolonialenbislett.no.
We celebrated Syttende Mai (Norway’s Constitution Day) at Restaurant Fjord with a special chef’s menu. As the name might allude, Restaurant Fjord honors the fish and seafood that call the regional waters of Norway home. With a menu full of mussels, salmon, cod, and even minke whale, this spot was made for seafood lovers. My favorite bite was the mussels with quail egg. Did I try the whale? I suppose it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that hunting and eating whale has been a tradition in Norway for centuries.
Learn more at restaurantfjord.no/english.
My biggest takeaway from our culinary excursion through Norway was seeing firsthand the great respect Norwegians have for their food. We witnessed this meal after meal. Norwegians go to great lengths to care for and honor the food they grow, nurture, catch, hunt, forage, cook and eat. Food is considered sustenance for the soul: you care for the food, and it cares for you.
Tove Tupper lives in Seattle with her husband. A former journalist, she loves to document her adventures in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. She studied abroad in Norway and Tanzania while attending Pacific Lutheran University. Tove now works in public education as a communications professional. See more of her travels on seattlebloggers.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 28, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.