June 26, 2015

Restaurants Esperanto, Råkultur and Shibumi

The building that houses all three restaurants, once a theatre.
Last week I was invited to a tasting tour of the restaurants Esperanto, Råkultur and Shibumi. Three restaurants, one building and one owner! I have visited Esperanto a couple of times and it is one of Stockholm's top restaurants... so I was eager to see/try the other two. All three restaurants are located in the same building (a former theatre), on different floors, in the downtown area. From the Rival Hotel, it is a 10-12 minutes by taxi or a subway ride to Rådmansgatan (green line).
The community table in Esperanto's French Summer Salon.
Esperanto is the flagship restaurant in this trio and has earned multiple awards. Besides having a star in the Michelin Guide, it has also been named best restaurant in Stockholm for several years now in the White Guide and ranked as 98th best restaurant in the world this year by Restaurant Magazine (guides/lists). They generally offer a 6 or 10 course tasting menu. The cuisine is New Nordic with a twist... the twist being head chef Sayan Isaksson's passion for Japanese cuisine (more evident in the other 2 restaurants). Traditionally Japanese ingredients (shiitake, daikon, miso, dashi, etc.) can be found in various dishes, married beautifully to local produce. This summer, between June 27th and August 4th, they close the main dining room. Instead they will be open in their lounge, which they call their French Summer Salon. Here they can take up to 16 guests, all sitting at a communal table. The cuisine has more French influences and they offer an a la carte menu with medium sized dishes that are made to be combined (2 to 3 dishes are recommended).
Indoor dining room at Råkultur and...
Esperanto and their summer salon are found on the first floor... and on the ground floor you will find Råkultur, their Japanese restaurant. Råkultur means "raw culture" and is a play on words and a reference to the raw fish used in their sushi and sashimi. The quality and creativity is on point and I can report that many Stockholmers consider Råkultur to have the city's best sushi. They do not accept reservations at Råkultur, with the exception of their Chef's Table, only drop-in guests. During the summer months, they move the restaurant to their outdoor terrace when the weather permits. Because of this, the Chef's Table isn't available. The terrace, with bar, is definitely a very nice place to spend a summer evening...
...outdoor summer terrace.
Shibumi is the newest star in the Esperanto constellation and has already garnered very positive reviews. Located in the basement level, this is their take on a Japanese food bar (an Izakaya). They serve Japanese cuisine, often utilizing local produce, in small to medium sized dishes (perfect to sharing). The restaurant is a bit shrouded in mystery... no sign out front, no obvious entrance and not much information on their website. But this just adds to Shibumi's mystique. When I was there we got to try tempura corn and grilled asparagus with a miso bearnaise. Very good...
Shibumi, their Japanese food bar.

June 23, 2015

Swedenborgsgatan Street

And speaking of pedestrian streets in Stockholm... this is a good time to announce that the City of Stockholm has turned the street Swedenborgsgatan into a pedestrian street. They are doing a trial run this summer to see how it goes. Motor vehicles are only allowed between 6am to 11am.
The reason why I am even mentioning this is that the street is located a stone's throw from the Rival Hotel. The street connects the square Mariatorget, where the hotel is located, with the interior of the Södermalm island. Along the street you will find restaurants and cafés as well as a few boutiques. Also on Swedenborgsgatan are the subway station Mariatorget (red line) and the commuter train station Stockholm Södra. They have put out bright orange benches and added more trees. Hopefully this will be a permanent fixture in our neighborhood...
The square Mariatorget...

June 21, 2015

The Shopping Street Drottninggatan

Drottninggatan, post summer rain storm.
One of Stockholm's most popular streets is Drottninggatan ("Queen street"). This pedestrian street is located in the downtown area of Stockholm, running north to south for almost 2 kilometers. There are many shops and boutiques along this street... though I would say that, with a few exceptions, there are no real unique stores. Most of them are the type that can be found in any Swedish shopping center. H&M, Zara, JC, Stadium, Body Shop, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Besides shopping, it is also a nice street to stroll on and a good way to cross quickly through the city on foot.
Entrance to Centralbadet
There are some key points of interest on or near this street. On the northern end of Drottninggatan you will find the historic spa Centralbadet, with pool, gym, sauna and beauty treatments. Walking south, you cross another popular thoroughfare called Kungsgatan ("king street") which bisects the downtown area west to east. Here, just one block to the east, you will find the square Hötorget. There you have an outdoor fruit, vegetable and flower market Mondays through Saturdays and a flea market on Sundays. There is a also an indoor food market here called Hötorgshallen as well as Konserthuset, home of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and where Nobel Prize ceremony is held every year.
Hötorget square with market and Konserthuset
Continuing south on Drottninggatan, the next point of interest is the Åhléns City department store. This is a popular store and a good place to shop for anything from fashion to interior design to books and movies. Åhlens is located on the intersection of Drottninggatan and Klarabergsgatan. Immediately after you cross Klarabergsgatan you come to the next point of interest... the square Sergelstorg. The sunken square is an iconic Stockholm landmark. In fact, the diagonal checkered design of the tiles is a bit symbolic of the city. On this square you will find Kulturhuset ("house of culture"), Stadsteatern ("city theatre"), the main tourist information center as well as the entrance to main subway hub T-Centralen.
Åhlens department store
Sergels Torg with Kulturhuset to the right.
Drottninggatan continues south a few more blocks, ending at the bridge Riksbron which connects the downtown area with Gamla Stan (old town). But between Riksbron and Gamla Stan, the street takes you first through Riksdagshuset, which is the home of the Swedish Parliament.
The bridge Riksbron crossing over to Riksdagshuset and...
Still feel like walking? What many people don't know is that Drottninggatan is just one of three pedestrian streets, connected to each other, crossing most of central Stockholm. In Gamla Stan, Drottninggatan turns into Västerlånggatan which bisects the old city and ends at Slussen. After crossing over to the island of Södermalm at Slussen, the pedestrian street continues on Götgatan ending at the large square Medborgarplatsen. And Götgatan is only a few blocks from the Rival Hotel!
...Västerlånggatan in Gamla Stan, which connects to...
...Götgatan on Södermalm.

June 19, 2015

Restaurant Brasseriet

Royal Opera House...
A rainy Midsummer's Eve... good time to get caught up on some blog writing. If you are here now, click here for information regarding the Midsummer weekend.
...with entrance to Brasseriet on the waterfront side.
Last Monday I ate lunch with a Concierge colleague and we dined at newly opened Brasseriet. Brasseriet is part of a group of restaurant & bars found in the Royal Opera House (Kungliga Operan). The other two are Strömterrassen ("river terrace") and Guldterrassen ("gold terrace"). These two are located on the second floor of the opera house, through the main entrance, with great views of the palace and parliament building. But back to Brasseriet. This restaurant is located on the ground floor with separate entrance from the Gamla Stan side of the opera house. These should not be confused with the group of bars & restaurants located on the backside of the opera house (all very good as well), including Bakfickan, Michelin star Operakällaren and the nightclub Café Opera. One building, lots of food & entertainment!
Asparagus with parmesan and wheatberry.
Brasseriet was once the location of a smaller café, now renovated and transformed into an intimate restaurant. The locale is gorgeous, with beautiful, intricate pillars and stucco decorated ceilings. It is not a large restaurant, but they do have a small outdoor terrace at the entrance when the weather is nice. In the evenings you have great views of the lit up palace across the water.
Pork belly with cauliflower and beans
The cuisine is classic, though not traditional, Swedish. By that I mean they use classic Swedish produce, but not traditional Swedish dishes. The menu is made up of medium sized dishes. They recommend 2 to 3 dishes per person, depending on how hungry you are. During lunch they also have a dish of the day as well as weekly fish and vegetarian dishes. This is what we opted for... I took the green asparagus with parmesan and my colleague had the pork belly with cauliflower and beans. Very good!
Old world ambiance.
The Royal Opera House is located on the square Gustav Adolfs Torg, in the downtown area (just across the water from the old town- Gamla Stan). It is about a 30 minute walk from the Rival Hotel or a 5-6 minute taxi ride. The closest subway station is Kungsträdgården (blue line). Click here for a collection of my restaurant reviews...
Sign at opera entrance with information about their restaurants.

June 12, 2015

Royal Wedding this Saturday!

H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip and Miss Sofia Hellqvist
 Photo: Mattias Edwall, The Royal Court, Sweden
This Saturday, June 13th, the wedding between HRH Prince Carl Philip of Sweden and Miss Sofia Hellqvist will take place in Stockholm. He is one of the King's three children and the final one to get married. His older sister, the Crown Princess, got married back in 2010 and his younger sister got married 2 years ago. In other words, Stockholm is getting pretty used to holding royal weddings!
The Royal Chapel, The Royal Palace
Photo: Alexis Daflos, The Royal Court
If you are visiting this weekend, here are some tips on how to take part in the festivities. The wedding itself will take place in the Royal Chapel at the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan and will start at 4:30pm. After the ceremony, the newlyweds will travel around the downtown area in the horse drawn carriage. This is expected to start at 5:30pm and take approximately 25 minutes. Click here for the parade route. It is expected to be glorious weather and there should be a lot of people lining the streets to wish the new royal couple well. If you want to see them, the best places will be by the Palace along the waterfront, at Slottsbacken or Nybroplan in the city. Unfortunately, these will also be the most crowded. For less of a crowd, take a spot on a street along the parade route. When the couple return to the Palace after the parade, there will be a 21 gun salute fired from Skeppsholmen. That evening there will be a party at the Palace for invited guests and will feature some of Sweden's top pop stars like Avicii and Icona Pop. If you are not invited, don't worry... the wedding, parade and festivities will be shown on Swedish TV all day starting at 3pm. Click here for The Local's guide to the wedding.
Norrbro, part of the parade route. Good place to stand?
Not interested at all in the royal wedding? Then just keep in mind that there will be some traffic problems. Not only during the parade itself, but also on Friday evening and most of Saturday as dignataries and visiting royalty are escorted to and fro through the city. Another good thing to know is that parts of the Royal Palace will be closed in the days before and after the wedding and will be completely closed on Saturday. Avoid bus sightseeing tours and go for the boat tours instead. Here you will find a calendar of all events and festivals going on this summer.

June 5, 2015

A Taste of Stockholm festival and the Swedish National Holiday

One of my favorite Stockholm festivals is going on this week: A Taste of Stockholm (Smaka På Stockholm in Swedish). The festival started yesterday (June 4th) and runs through Sunday (June 7th). This is an annual, popular restaurant/food festival and this year the festival is actually celebrating its 24th birthday. The festival is held in the Kungsträdgården park in central Stockholm. Within the festival you will find around 30 different restaurants and food trucks, representing a wide variety of cuisines... from Swedish to Vietmanese to Peruvian. Besides the restaurants, you also have a food market (salutorg) as well as beer/wine tents. Free admission.
There is also plenty of entertainment at the festival. They have live music performances on the main stage all day and evening... jazz, gospel, rock, opera and pop. Something for everyone! Besides music, there will also be cooking demonstrations as well as chef duels on the main stage. We are proud to say that the Rival Hotel's head chef, Håkan Carlsson, will be one of the dueling chefs on Friday evening (5pm). Click here for the schedule (Google Translate button in the top right hand corner). The festival is open every day between 11am and 11:30pm (closes at 10pm on Sunday) so it is a great place to stop by for lunch or dinner... or perhaps just a drink and snack, listen to some music and do some people watching?
The Swedish flag flying at Skansen www.skansen.se
This Saturday, June 6th, is the Swedish National Holiday. It is actually a minor holiday in the Swedish calendar... not as big of a celebration as the Fourth of July in the US, Bastille Day in France or Syttende Mai in Norway. Smaller shops might be closed and liquor stores definitely will be closed. Otherwise all museums and sightseeing tours are open/run as normal. If you do want to get a bit of the Swedish tradition with this day, head to Skansen, which is located on Djurgården. There will be concerts, flag waving and folk dancing going on throughout the day and in the evening the King & Queen will be arriving (procession from the Royal Palace) after which there will be speeches, a flag ceremony, performances and live music. Another good place to visit on this day is the Royal Palace, which will have free admission today as well as some special events. Prince Carl Philip will be at the changing of the guards at 12:15... probably one of his last appearances as a single man before getting married next week.
Arriving in Stockholm later this summer? Click here for a calendar of festivals and events, and click here for the ultimate summer guide.