Kødbyens Fiskebar – Another Great Dane

Kødbyens Fiskebar
Flæsketorvet 100
1711 Copenhagen
Denmark
Website
Map
Online Reservations

  • Menu: starters 75-155 Danish kroner, medium-sized courses 90-150 kroner, larger courses (mostly fish) 210-235 kroner – my meal, with 3 glasses of wine included, came to approximately £80 / $130
  • For the full set of photos from this meal, please visit my Flickr page

A wonderful seafood restaurant in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district. Service is warm & knowledgeable without being pretentious. Food is well-balanced, clean & engaging. And please, please have the sea-buckthorn dessert if it’s on the menu. Not the cheapest place for sure, but worth the price based on my single visit.

Feeling fishy in the meatpacking district

Where do you eat the night before you’re having lunch at the best restaurant in the world? That was the question.

After asking some trusted sources, the answer (or answers) seemed to be pretty straightforward. I should either go to Ralæ, a recently-opened venture by an ex-noma chef quite definitely trying not to copy noma’s formula; Geranium, although some felt it didn’t yet live up to the hype surrounding it (and this was even before their chef won this year’s Bocuse d’Or); The Paul, which was meant to be fun; or Søllerød Kro, a classic restaurant that was a little bit out of town and a lot expensive. Unfortunately, the first and third were shut, and the second and fourth were a bit too formal and expensive, plus one was out of town.

Instead, I was directed to a rather new restaurant in Copenhagen’s ‘meatpacking’ (‘kødbyens’) neighborhood, which has also received its fair share of positive press since opening in June 2009. Enter Kødbyens Fiskebar, the casual yet stylized seafood-centric restaurant whose kitchen is also – lo and behold – run by (yet) an(other) ex-noma chef.

Does this look like the façade of one of Copenhagen’s best restaurants?

It was within a 15-minute walk of my hotel, though it seemed a bit longer than this due to the well below-freezing mid-January temperature. If you don’t look closely, you might miss the restaurant completely, as the façade looks like some low-rise concrete monstrosity with a large blue sign that says something other than the restaurant’s name. Thank goodness for Google streetview and the free WiFi offered at my hotel.

The rough-hewn exterior belies the slick design inside

When I walked in, the bar stood immediately before me, and there were a number of staff members ready and waiting to greet me. Unfortunately, I had a slightly embarrassing thing to say. I told them that I had a reservation…for one. They asked me for my name, which I gave, and they all suddenly proclaimed in unison, “Oh, you’re [INSERT REAL NAME HERE]!!!” I almost burst out laughing as they were all smiling and it was a possibly a bit ridiculous to have booked…but hey, you never know with popular restaurants, right? The guy who appeared to be the main waiter asked if I had heard about them in Canada (where they apparently thought I was from for some unknown reason) and I explained to him that a friend from the US had been recently and really enjoyed it, etc.

I thought that my friends @mathildecuisine and @dewilded might join me later for dessert as they were arriving that evening, so he gave me a table for four people, which meant I had plenty of space for all of the food I intended to order. 🙂

In case you want to eat the fishes while they swim (not the other way around)

As the name indicates, the order of the day is mostly piscatorial, and one if the main design features of the place is a ginormous fish tank around which you can sit on stools if you so wish.

Maybe ‘2009’ will be featured in a future Prince song, so that I can say I was eating fish like it was…

I had a great view of the fish tank and the main bar, and proceeded to plunge myself into studying the menu. The same waiter noticed my studious concentration and came by to explain each dish to me in full (in English), which was much appreciated.

From sea-food to sea-buckthorn

I had a look through the wine list and immediately noticed that there was a Danish white wine on the list. Yes, a Danish wine. I asked if it was any good, and the waiter rambled off some long story (okay, it wasn’t that long), which I now cannot recall, and won me over to trying it.

2009 Arwen, Lilleø Vin (Sydhavsøerne, Denmark)

Good thing too. The wine was wonderfully refreshing, and was composed of Sauvignon Blanc as well as another (I want to say local) grape. Perhaps wishfully thinking, my tasting notes reveal that it had “a slight saline taste, perhaps from the sea” – though I doubt some people would agree with that rationale for the slightly salty taste. Anyway, I really enjoyed it.

Loaf of Sourdough Bread

Soon thereafter a pretty large loaf of sourdough bread was lopped down before me, along with an upside down cone of organic Danish butter with buttermilk. As with most of the bread I sampled in Copenhagen on this trip, it was excellent…as was the butter, once it had a chance to get warm and soften up a little bit. 8/10.

On my friend’s recommendation, I decided to stick mostly with the small plates, which turned out to be a good plan, especially as I was now definitely dining solo given Mathilde and David’s flight was delayed.

Small Plate 1: Oysters from Limfjorden (Danish Specialty, Size #1)

First to arrive was a plate of three Danish oysters. Readers of the blog will know that I am not the world’s greatest expert on bivalve molluscs, but expert or not, these were friggin’ huge. To my untrained tongue, they were truly excellent: meaty and only slightly tasting of the sea, served with a great punchy vinaigrette. I would have had three more if my next plates didn’t arrive just as I was finishing, to use the parlance of our times. The aforementioned Danish wine was excellent with the oysters too, by the way. 9/10.

Small Plate 2: Razor Clams from the North Sea, Fennel & Herb Cream, Green Salad

The next two plates arrived simultaneously, and I opted to tackle the razor clams first. Although a simple and visually appealing dish, I wasn’t quite certain of the best way to go about eating it. I managed, though, and thought the clams themselves were very good. The herb cream – which seemed to contain tarragon and garlic – was an interesting flavour to pair with these slivery discs, but I felt that it dominated the clams and wasn’t wholly balanced, even though there were only small dabs of the cream. The standout component of this plate for me was the salad, which had the most amazing dressing that was sweet but acidic and spicy too. Overall this dish was good but not my favourite of the evening. 6/10.

Small Plate 3: Sikrom from the North Atlantic (Roe from Bleak), Red Onions, Sour Cream

Last of my small plates was a beautifully presented little bowl of bleak row that was matched with fairly traditional Scandinavian accompaniments of onions and sour cream – with a few pea shoots and chives thrown in for good measure. I decided to taste these together on their own before spreading it on the crisp breads, which had been provided in a cute little metal bucket on the side. The roe itself was excellent, and the other ingredients worked harmoniously with its saltiness, providing sharpness, herbaceousness and creaminess.

Crispy Breads & Bleak Roe

I enjoyed the three thin ‘breads’ both on their own and with a bit of the roe. There was a razor-thin slice of fried ciabatta, as well as a delightfully light potato crisp which was well salted (this was my favourite – basically a posh potato chip) and a normal Danish flatbread with tons of different seeds stuck to the top. 7/10 for the dish as a whole.

As a side-note, I had ordered a second glass of wine  (2009 Picpoul de Pinet, Croix Gratiot, Coteaux de Languedoc), which I really didn’t like very much and didn’t seem to go too well with the clams despite the suggestion from one of the waitresses.

Main Plate: Cod Roe (Kattegat) Seared & Smoked with Pickled Winter Greens & Brown Butter

For my one medium-sized plate, I went for the cod roe. And I was glad I did, because it was a total triumph. The roe itself had been smoked and seared perfectly. Served alongside the golden phallice were pickled vegetables of all sorts – carrots, celery, kohlrabi, plus many others that didn’t start with ‘c’ or ‘k’ – and all tied together with a rich but deftly portioned brown butter sauce. There were also a few dabs of buttery mashed potatoes and some fresh cress to finish it off. The dish as a whole had a great variety of textures and was an amazing combination of sweet, salty and smoky. It was one of the best things I ate in Copenhagen during my short stay. 9/10.

Dessert: Sea-buckthorn as Grainté and Gel, Crème with Tonka Nut & White Chocolate

I was head-over-heels in love with my orange and yellow dessert too. It consisted of frozen and shaved sea-buckthorn (or ‘havtorn’ in Danish), lemon cream, tonka bean and white chocolate, as well as little gel capsules of sea-buckthorn and a few green leaves placed delicately beside each disc of jelly. The icy texture of the grainté melted into the truly luscious cream and the chewy gel reiterated the somewhat bracing acidity that accompanies the bittersweet berry. The heat, which I believe emanated from the tonka, was also a nice surprise. This was one of my favorite desserts in a long time and, even though it was a very generous portion, I really could have had another bowl. 10/10.

2009 Riesling Auslese, Domtalhof (Rheingessen)

The sweet Riesling I ordered went very well with the desert, and actually mirrored it perfectly – luscious sweetness kept in check by a steely acidity.

Ruggedly chic…magnifique

The thing I liked overall about this restaurant was that the formula seemed to have been thoughtfully calibrated to make the diner’s experience just right. It has an unassuming façade; a rustic yet stylish interior design; a menu that is simple, focused and straightforward; helpful and friendly service; and well executed, clean, exciting food.

I immediately felt at home, and was welcomed warmly. While there was one brief lapse in service – when I sat with an empty wine glass for more than a little while – it was soon rectified by another waitress who spotted the situation. Everyone I interacted with was knowledgeable and eager (but not too eager) to explain something as and when I showed interest. While they do take their enterprise seriously, they do not take themselves too seriously. They know what they’re doing and they’re good at it – nothing more, nothing less.

I wish more restaurants could be like this. Too often, very good food is accompanied by an annoyingly cutesy, smug and/or a condescending attitude (did you read my review of ko?). And all too often, so is not very good food. I think the Danes have a good model going: they know what they do well, are proud to offer it to you and let you enjoy it…and they know how to do this without showing off. That’s what I experienced on my trip at least.

Suffice to say, if you are in Copenhagen, whether you have the good fortune of going to noma or not, please try out Fiskebar – it was a gem of a find for me, and I hope it will stay that way for you.

Rating

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Food: 8/10

Wine: I only looked at the by-the-glass list, which had a red and white house wine at 50 kroner per glass, plus 4 whites, 3 reds, and 2 sweet wines priced between 70 – 120 kroner per glass. The producers were well-chosen but the prices did seem expensive…maybe this is just the Copenhagen factor, though.

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have dined at Kødbyens Fiskebar once, and it was for dinner*

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Malabar – The Indian Meal that Tasted of Nothing

Malabar
17 Uxbridge Street
London W8 7TQ
Website
Map
Reservations: +44 (0)20 7727 8800

Starters at £3.65-11.25; Mains at £7.35-13.60, Sides at £4.50, Desserts at £3.50, Sunday Lunch Buffet at £10.50

If you fancy going to an Indian restaurant that has fairly nice decor, a good buzz on a weekend night, a menu that reads well & food that tastes of absolutely nothing, then Malabar is your place. I sincerely hope the Flavor Gods can bestow their blessings upon Malabar’s kitchen in the near future, otherwise I fear they will go out of business. If they don’t, it simply means their clientele couldn’t give a toss as to what they eat, but are more interested in how many Cobras or glasses of wine they can down before going out for the evening.

We needed a curry in a hurry

It was January, we were back from France. There we were, for some unbeknownst and unforgivable reason, watching the worst series so far of Gordon Ramsay’s F Word. The only good thing about the particular episode was the food emanating from the mind and hands of Aktar Islam, the Head Chef of Lasan, one of the ‘local’ Indian restaurants that had been nominated by viewers as ‘the best local Indian restaurant’ in the country. I had to admit, the guy’s food had some flare and, if it tasted even close to as good as it looked, it must have been pretty amazing. He certainly seemed intent on pushing Indian cuisine beyond the normal confines of the UK restaurant scene. To make a long story short, this guy was getting us in the mood for a good curry, so we decided we would have an Indian meal the next night, which happened to be a Friday.

Lasan, the Birmingham-based Indian restaurant led by Chef Aktar Islam, that won the F Word’s best restaurant in 2009, had gotten us in the mood for some good Indian food

So we went through the list of good Indian places that we could go. But we didn’t want anything fancy (so places like Zaika, Tamarind, Benares, etc. were out), and we didn’t want to go too far from home. After quite an in-depth Google rampage, I thought I had done the unthinkable and uncovered one of London’s hidden gems. It had no blogger reviews on Urbanspoon, but lots of great comments in an array of less noted diner forums alluding to the fact that this was a ‘hidden neighborhood jewel’ of a restaurant in Notting Hill which mostly only locals frequented and that they had some rather unusual dishes when compared to traditional curry houses. After perusing their menu online through their rather annoying site (why have two sites instead of one?), I felt quite confident when making our reservation that we just may be onto a winner. If only life could be so simple…

How to make food that tastes of nothing

We had actually walked by this restaurant a few times on strolls through Notting Hill over the past few years, so knew where it was and that it looked the part looking from the outside in. It certainly continued to look the part as we entered that Friday night and were led from the ground floor dining room to the downstairs one, where we were given a table along the back wall, which had bench seating on the wall side of the table and chairs on the other. The place was decorated simply but tastefully in a modern slightly-nicer-than-IKEA way. It also had a good buzz, with large tables of friends downing Cobras (okay, so maybe this wasn’t going to be as refined as I thought it might be, but it could still be good), and generally appearing to have a good time.

The decor was plain, minimal, modern & there was certainly a buzz about the place

We had a look through the menu, and it read very well. There were lots of dishes that sounded appetizing and tempting, and a number of dishes I had not seen on other Indian menus elsewhere in London. Despite Mrs. LF’s dietary situation (as you will know from recent posts, she didn’t have appetite for anything very ambitious given her stage of pregnancy), I insisted that I would order at least one of the more interesting dishes which I had read were good from other diner reviews.

The menu read well, with many Indian options we hadn’t seen before, and the carafe of water was pretty

The waiter brought us a carafe of water, which was presented in a nice aqua colored glass vessel and I perused the small but adequately thought-out wine list and chose a glass of the house wine (Hazy View, Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa at £4 per 125ml glass), which I figured would mesh well with the flavors of the Indian food. Decorative silver plates were laid down on the table and the waiters seemed to be kind, efficient and professional.

Starter 1: Chilli Bhutta – sweet corn kernels mixed with fresh green chillies & green pepper

Our first starter sounded like it might be a bit different as I had never personally had corn with chillies. Unfortunately, it didn’t excite our palates at all. In a nutshell, this dish could be described as someone taking a tin of sweet corn, emptying it onto a little silver platter, chopping up a few slices of green peppers, and throwing in a few green chillies. Yeah, it tasted like plain old sweet corn that a college student had tried to dress up by chucking some green stuff in. Nothing totally clashed, but nothing was working together either, and it just tasted boring if slightly weird. Strike one. 3/10.

Starter 2: Devilled Kaleja – charcoal grilled chicken livers, marinated in yoghurt, mustard oil & paprika

As John Torode or Gregg Wallace might say, “So, from sweet corn to devilled liver.” Yeah, I had gone with something a bit more ambitious. My starter of devilled chicken liver arrived on a huge black hot plate, lying on a bed of onions. The portion size was ginormous…I mean this literally could have been a main course. Possibly this is because the starters were meant to be shared family-style, but the waiters never warned us of this.

In any case, I was eager to try what was meant to be one of the kitchen’s specialties, but my excitement was sorely misplaced. As I bit into the relatively soft meat, I searched for the words to describe the taste. It did taste faintly of chicken liver, just. I could tell there were some spices thrown in, but none of them came through clearly. Basically, it was a lot of a something that had the tender texture of liver, the faint taste of liver and not much else, stuck on top of some not very flavorful or well-cooked onions. In a word: muted. I don’t know why, but I have this horrible habit of trying to finish everything on my plate (even when it tastes as boring and bland as this did), and Mrs. LF eventually succeeded in getting me to stop about two-thirds of the way through. What a waste of a dish. Again it didn’t taste ‘bad’, per se, but tasted of very little. 3/10.

Main Course 1: Harra Murg – chicken prepared with fresh lime, green chillies, coriander & green tomatoes // Main Course 2: Murg Makhni – barbecued chicken slow cooked with butter, cream & kasuri methi // Side Dish: Kaddu – spiced pumpkin & fresh herbs

Surely we would do better with the main courses. I had ordered the Murg Makhni, which sounded like it would be a succulently barbecued chicken soaking in a rich butter sauce. What emerged was chicken that had no hint of being barbecued, but was rather dry and severely lacking in flavor, a sauce that was more tasteless than any I’ve had from the many local curry houses I’ve lived near throughout my nearly ten years in London. Yes, I was getting the distinct feeling that everything we were going to be served at this meal was going to taste of nothing. 2/10.

I was certain that Mrs. LF’s chicken main, which was meant to have ‘fresh lime, green chillies, coriander and green tomatoes’, would have to have at least some kick of flavor. No. Once again, it was dressed nicely but was completely devoid of character and flavor. It didn’t taste ‘bad’, but it also didn’t taste ‘good’. It just tasted of an Indian dish whose soul had been sucked out by the flavor devil and banished to hell where it would never be tasted again by a living soul (perhaps this was why my liver dish’s moniker included ‘devilled’? It certainly wasn’t spicy or hot). 2/10.

The Kaddu, or pumpkin, side dish deserves special mention. It hadn’t been skinned competently and was taken from the hard part of the pumpkin near the edges, not the nice soft center bit. So it was rock hard and followed the pattern of the meal by having no seasoning whatsoever and tasting of bland, watered down pumpkin at best, and nothing at worst. Where were the ‘spice’ and ‘fresh herbs’ that the menu description had promised? 1/10.

Starches: Rice & Peshwari Naan

At a lot of Indian restaurants that suck, you can often say, “Well, at least the rice was good.” Uh-uh, not at Malabar. It was completely normal at best and lacking of any aroma or taste. 3/10. The Peshwari Naan, which I usually really enjoy (due to my rather sweet tooth), seemed to us to be like one of the naan breads you buy from the supermarket and warm up yourself. It was the worst I’ve ever had in a restaurant, with the bread being totally undercooked and the filling inside being way too pasty and thoroughly uninspiring. We tried to eat about half of it, but left most of the bread. 2/10.

The most flavorful part of the meal

Mrs. LF was quite anxious to leave at this point, and I really didn’t fancy tasting a dessert that looked like it would taste sweet, but in fact was just a mirage of a pudding, so we opted to get the hell out of there. Some bright little mints were brought to the table with our bill. They were the sugar-coated dry seeded spices that you often get at the end of an Indian meal. I shoved a handful in my mouth and smiled. By God, these actually tasted of something. Praise the Lord. I think I polished off the entire bowl in 30-seconds flat, I was so glad to have some serious flavor alive and kicking around in my mouth.

Paying something for nothing

Unfortunately, reality set in and I realized I was going to have to fork out £40+ for something that had seriously depressed us. We chalked it up to experience, thanked the waiters for looking after us (they had done a decent job, to be fair, it was the kitchen that had sorely let us down), and headed back to our car thoroughly unsatisfied and with an empty feeling in our stomachs.

The ugly truth: they were going to charge us for this

I couldn’t help but think of the monster in one of my favorite childhood films, The Neverending Story. It is called ‘The Nothing’ and it is devours everything in its path, eradicating any shred of creativity, joy or life. This force seems to have swept through the kitchen of Malabar. Maybe our meal that night had been the shell of the former restaurant, which has been in the same location since 1983, and may once have been somewhere good to eat. I mean, if it’s been around that long, it must have been good at some point(s), right?

What awaited us at Malabar was The Nothing, the most dreaded enemy in one of my favorite childhood movies, The Neverending Story, that devours every sentiment of creativity, enjoyment & life

We did have to cover our faces in our hands when we heard the posh English lady sitting next to us exclaiming loudly how ‘wonderful’ and ‘amazing’ her food tasted, so that she wouldn’t see our shock and awe. I simply can’t believe that her dishes, which looked very similar to ours (in fact, a few were the same), could have been much better. But the place did seem to be inexplicably packed with people who were definitely enjoying themselves.

I was more than appalled to learn a few weeks after our meal that Malabar holds a Bib Gourmand in the UK Michelin Guide. This does make me seriously question the judgement of Michelin as I can’t believe that even on its best night this kitchen could turn out anything that warrants that kind of accolade. At its height, I can only envisage Malabar’s food as bland and inoffensive, but certainly not something that stands out as the best food of its type to be had at a good price.

So, even if for some perverse reason, you fancy an Indian meal that is style over substance, still don’t go to Malabar, as there are many other pretenders to the throne that at least will give you some flavor. I mean, even places like Imli have some dishes that taste good and are vaguely satisfying. Malabar definitely needs a kick up its backside, and I hope its seemingly large client base can at least give it some constructive criticism, though I doubt this may happen as most of the people who we observed on this night seemed to be having a pretty good time.

Rating

Ambience: 5/10

Service: 6/10

Food: 2/10

Wine: very short, but a decent wine list for a neighborhood Indian restaurant

For more about my rating scale, click here.

*Note: I have dined at Malabar once (thank goodness), and it was for dinner.*

Malabar on Urbanspoon