Among our friends, Stockholm is something of a Valhalla: social welfare that’s off the charts; warm, welcoming locals; a hefty helping of expats to chat with; a mix of seasons; and buzzing entertainment/nightlife culture that sadly goes under the radar. Turns out, it’s got one more thing in the bag: Drool-worthy restaurants. If you’re baited by the setting, shops, and serene vibe, don’t ignore the masterful dining that shines in Sweden’s sophisticated capital city. If you need proof of this standout draw, just take a look at these five inspiring Stockholm restaurants.
Wood oven-fired pizza? Carpaccio and a glass of Soave? Yep; authentic Italian dining is not really a far-fetched concept in Stockholm, and Portofino proves it. We will say that Portofino takes some liberties (Moose Carpaccio is not really a thing in Trieste, but it sure is here), though nonetheless performs with aplomb. You’ll likely find us forever mired in pasta — obsessing over the Lamb Ravioli with a touch of Pecorino and basil, no doubt — though we’ve lately discovered the truffled spinach in the T-bone secondo. We know it’s not the centerpiece, but could easily eat several plates of the stuff. As reliable as it is delicious, Portofino does right by sweet-tooths and oenophiles with a Cognac-hugged Tiramisù and a wine list that would make Berlusconi blush.
Sushi Sho (Asian/Sushi)
Roll on, roll on they say at Sushi Sho. Okay, well they don’t say that but we do. As with any sushi destination worth its nori, we recommend sitting back and enjoying a chef-directed omakase experience. Actually, that’s about all you can do here as the restaurant only offers an omakase menu — and all guests are served the same course at the same time. Simplicity is the soundtrack to the choreographed menu creation behind the bar, where the head chef showcases octopus, tuna, mackerel, and myriad nigiri as suits his nightly fancy. Our advice: Let Sushi Sho happen to you; you’ll be glad you relinquished control for a night.
This one almost gets too much press, but we had to mention it because it’s that good. A two-starred gem in the heart of downtown, Frantzen is a culinary revelation amidst the buzz of Stockholm shopping and nightlife. Not dissimilar to our friends at Sushi Sho, the culinary team at Frantzen delivers only one menu: a fixed menu that will set you back roughly $370/person. We can’t tell you what you’ll experience — only that your meal will be an experience. For example, though, past meals have included dishes like Oysters with gooseberries; Horse Sushi; Fermented Rye Bread Soup; and Lamb Hot Pot. If you’re an adventurous diner, this is your spot.
At first blush, Portal is largely European in influence — what with the prominent beef, schnitzel, and quail. But the restaurant stands by its grounding ethos: Source the highest-quality ingredients possible that also honor the environment. That said, you may find yourself tucking into a plate of crispy egg, celeriac, and mushrooms; or spend a course on a Jerusalem artichoke with pickled onions. À la carte and prix-fixe options are available here, so you can shape your own feast or request a chef-guided tour of the menu. In either case, pay special attention to the preservation of each ingredient’s unique flavor and texture; that’s the hallmark of Chef Klas Lindberg.
Meatballs for the People (Grandma’s Meatballs)
Nobody can afford endless evenings of prix-fixe menus and omakase indulgences. Even if you could, would you want to? Eat with the people for once, and celebrate the majesty of the meatball. The sheer variety will blow IKEA out of the water: wild boar meatballs, veal meatballs, moose meatballs, ox meatballs. Take your pick (or pick a sampling platter) and pair your meaty orbs with Grandma’s tomato sauce, potato purée, and risotto. Also, bring friends — half of the experience here is laughing over the ox meat while ooooing and ahhhing at the gravy. (P.S.: Stay for the Carrot Cake. Do it.)
Bonus: Bistro Bestick (Pure Swedish Magic)
Modeled after the classic French bistro, this downtown spot gives you moderately-priced deliciousness without much fuss — which is why we (and the locals) love it. We often go just for dessert (the recently featured Almond Cake with orange foam is a bullseye) but you might be tempted by the Sooted Arctic Char with soy and chili, or the Venison Fillet. You can also get a three-course feast for a modest $60 — the perfect amount for celebrating Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or any day of the week.