Photo: Ben Esteves
Fjord Tours Articles / 24 Jul 2019

Oslo for Foodies

Today «New nordic cuisine» is a well integrated term in the culinary world. It hasn’t always been like this, and Norway has been viewed as somewhat of a culinary backwater. This, despite the fact that only France has racked up more wins in the «chefs’ world championship», the Bocuse d’Or competition!

Oslo has been the engine in increasing the status of Norwegian food culture. As we'll return to in our «Inspiration» section, many other cities in Norway can claim a high restaurant standard with the coveted Michelin recognition adorning a few of these. In Oslo four restaurants have stars, with Maaemo as the flagship with a full three star rating.

Oslo Restaurants

Oslo has a lot more to offer than traditional food, pizzerias and kebab kiosks - although there’s plenty to choose from in said categories! Our foray into Oslo’s over and underbelly starts at the very top, with the Michelin starred restaurants.

Photo: Tukka Koski

Michelin starred:

Maeemo

is the first Norwegian restaurant to be awarded 3 stars, and it is alongside NOMA in Copenhagen (chef Esben H. Bang began his career here) a leading light when it comes to Nordic food. The restaurant got off to a real flying start, in 2010, when it got a two star rating in its very first year of existence. The focus is 100% on local, organic produce and on testing the limits of creativity using what can be harvested from the Norwegian nature.

Galt

was founded by 4 young veterans of Oslo restaurants, lead by Swedish chef Björn Svensson. They have managed the feat of creating an informal dining experience of Michelin quality. Don’t expect white table cloths, but do expect top quality produce creatively handled to bring out the most powerful flavors that they contain. Although similar in style to Maemo, Galt is «looser» without any comprises being made on quality.

Kontrast

has a modern, minimalist look and feel to it in keeping with the «new nordic» aesthetic. The least expensive of the Michelin alternatives, but perfectly capable of delivering surprising and creative dishes based on traditional and less traditional Norwegian produce. Also comparable to Galt in having a relaxed atmosphere.

Statholdergaarden

is now the «grand old man» of Oslo dining. In 2019 the restaurant celebrates 25 years, 21 of which it has held a Michelin star housed in the same building, which originates from 1640. Here you can expect white table cloths! 25 years ago the finer restaurants in Oslo were, by and large, under French influence, and Statholdergaarden still carries the torch, to some extent, without becoming outdated. Head-chef, former Bocuse d'Or winner, Bent Stiansen, has been at the helm since the start.

Up and Coming Restaurants

Omakase

It makes a lot of sense that Norwegians have embraced the sushi tradition with the access to great quality, fresh seafood on their doorstep. Omakase’s chef is, in fact, a world champion sushi chef, Vladimir Pak - gold medalist in the 2017 «World Sushi Cup». He mixes the finest of Norwegian ingredients with Tokyo cuisine for a truly inventive take on the sushi tradition.

Katla

The top Oslo restaurants have lately attracted a lot of Scandinavian talent, Swedish and Danish chefs. In the case of Katla the chef is Icelandic, Atli Mar Yngvason. As befitting a place led by someone who grew on a volcanic rock, Katla (named after a volcano) serves up food prepared on open flame and lava rocks. This technique is a staple of Asian and Latin-American cooking and the menu reflects this mix of local produce and more «southern» cooking styles.

Rest

is a restaurant based on discarded produce, and the name could be translated as «leftover». This, however, doesn’t mean that it is a «low cost» dining experience, neither in quality nor in price. The concept is, taking odd looking produce that normally wouldn’t make it to a restaurant table, and create gourmet meals from these. This also entails using parts of the animal that normally is not taken advantage of in a restaurant, like the belly-fat from cod! The result, however, is truly pleasing for the eye as well as the palate. 

Photo: Benjamin A. Ward/VisitNorway.com

Foodie on a Budget

You don’t need to break the bank to eat well in Oslo. Ok, so nothing really comes cheap in Oslo, but relatively speaking it is possible to enjoy good food that doesn’t devour your holiday budget in one sitting. The following three restaurants are options that we feel offer especially good quality for the cost. Keep in mind, though, that these aren’t cheap options, but places that are for the gourmand who is not planning to spend more on food than on the trip and hotel combined.

Smalhans

is located at St.Hanshaugen and is a genuine «neighborhood restaurant», and they like to keep it simple. Whereas the other restaurants on our list can tend to be «artsy», this is not the focus here! Despite the name «Smalhans» ( meaning «poverty») they go for an abundance of taste, that for some can be a bit overpowering, but for most is just what the palate craves.

Arakataka

has for almost 20 years been the alternative in Oslo for «budget gourmet-dining». Naturally, they have changed with the times, but never lost the ability to deliver high-quality food at a reasonable price. The Mediterranean influence hasn’t been lost either, but they have embraced the current trends, serving more local produce, and mixing in more nordic tradition on their menu.

Palace Grill

is another «oldtimer» on the Oslo scene. Their improvised and loose attitude has never changed, neither has the consistency of the quality. They always make an extra effort to do something creative that surprises the guest without compromising on the balance of the tastes. The succeed much more often than they fail!

Photo: Mathallen

Oslo Food Tour

There are other ways of getting to know the local food besides the traditional restaurant experience.  Street food, and similar, is a topic for another day, but for the cost conscious gourmand  «The taste of Oslo food tour»  is a very affordable way to get to know traditional Norwegian food as you, on a tour of traditional Oslo restaurants as well as the modern food market, Mathallen, get to taste classic Norwegian produce, seafood, cured meats, cheese and liquor and more.

If planning a gourmet-stay, check out our hotels in Oslo.