SETTING [RATING: 4/5]
Taking up prime position on the corner where the streets of Upper Station and Tai Ping Shan meet, Frantzén’s Kitchen adds to the junction a warm, what we can only describe as a “hygge,” sort of glow. The interior is everything you’d expect of any sleek Scandinavian import, with flashes of copper mingling with warm wood and panels of grey.
Seating is separated into intimate tables hugging the walls and the, of course, highly-coveted kitchen bar area, where you can witness the magic unfold in front of you. And magic it is, in the serene manner only the Scandinavians are adept, a calm that is so refreshing from the usual chaos of a kitchen.
FOOD [RATING: 4/5]
Björn Frantzén decided to leave his first international venture in the capable hands of his head chef Jim Löfdahl, promising to bring Hong Kong contemporary Nordic flavours with subtle Asian influences, the latter a notion that ordinarily revolts me, but am pleased to report, is kept to a minimum here.
The Asian touches are indeed understated and the menu is divided into “Snacks”, “Dishes” and “Desserts.” We kicked off the evening with the apple and lingonberry macaron, stacked high and piped with an airy foie gras parfait. The apple disc adds a delightfully sticky crunch, as the rest of the components melt away in your mouth.
The “French Toast” was another hit, with the aged balsamic vinegar cutting through the richness of the cheese and lifting the earthiness of the truffles. The poached oyster “63.4C” and “Swedish sushi” on the other hand, were less memorable. The former featured a cooked oyster that shrivelled to the size of half a thumb, and took on the texture of a tasteless cooked mussel. A fresh, saline and crunchy oyster would have counterbalanced the heaviness of the goat’s cream sauce more.
The sushi was flavourless and unidentifiable on the palate; each component was bland and all one could “taste” was the crunch of the crispy white moss itself, and how there was fallow deer somewhere in there escaped me completely.
The “Dishes” or main courses spelt the beginning of a turnaround; the sashimi of Norwegian salmon showcased a generous hit of dill and briny pops of trout roe that brought us firmly back to Nordic waters and enhanced the rich omegas of the salmon, which itself was fresh yet pronounced in flavour. Another vibrant dish was the green asparagus bathing in fermented white asparagus juice and studded with flowers, pistachios, lemon verbena and pine shoots; it was almost too pretty to dig into, but we gleefully did. The dish retained the freshness of summer and virtue of a raw green dish, whilst still warm and inviting during the colder months. The asparagus is crunchy and the fermented sauce added a dose of personality.
Moving on, we were recommended two red meat dishes. The lamb tartare was lighter than expected, served on a lavender yoghurt and under a bed of crispy onions and aubergine crisp. The smoked aubergine purée sounded promising, but lacked any discernible smokiness, whilst the brown butter did nothing but add a peculiar wet smear on the otherwise pristine plate. The Swedish Dairy Cow had a fascinating scroll of ingredients that took longer for them to explain than us to wolf down. Slices of ruby red beef mingled in a heap with shards of mushroom and truffle, and were succulent once dipped in the truffle ponzu; a real marriage of international elements. Three desserts are on offer, and we chose the Syltkakor; brown butter shortbread with Nordic berries, which is exactly what it says on the tin, being chewy and impeccable with a cup of coffee. The smoked ice cream wrapped in tar syrup and bathed in salted fudge was more unique, with the nuts and bitter cacao nibs bringing great texture to the smooth ice cream and sticky sauce.
WINE [RATING: 4.5/5]
The wine list boasts some exciting offerings and we implore you to make full use of the extremely experienced sommelier there who provided us with some stellar pairings, keeping our curiosities stirring all night long. Wines come from smaller, artisanal winemakers are preferred and there are also some funky natural wines that all heighten the flavours pouring out the kitchen. For non-wine drinkers, there are some crisp ciders, beers and spirits from Sweden on offer.
SERVICE [RATING: 4.5/5]
Staff are informed, attentive and obliging, though we personally felt interrupted mid-conversation a few too many times.
PRICE [RATING: 4/5]
A meal for two, veering on a more modest scale, and a glass of wine each will come to about HK$2,100, which is acceptable considering the location, backstory of this restaurant and provenance of its ingredients.
Address:G/F, 11 Upper Station Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Opening Hours: Tue - Sat: 5:30pm - 12:00am | Dinner Hours: Tue - Sat: 5:30pm - 12:00am
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Private Room: N/A
Accept Credit Card: Yes
Smoking Area: No
Image captions (from left to right):
1. The interior of Frantzén’s Kitchen
2. Apple and lingonberry macaron
3. “French Toast”
4. Poached oyster “63.4C”
5. Sashimi of Norwegian salmon
6. Björn Frantzén and Jim Löfdahl
Original article written by Melissa Lim for Hong Kong Tatler