By Debbie Rogers: Walking into the Enigma dining room just three months after our first visit, when we had gone to experience Vanguard by Quique Dacosta, you could forgive us for thinking we were in a completely different space. The dining room, once stark and plain, was now decorated with dark panels covered with images of the beautiful Northern Lights. The dining tables were adorned in a mixture of Nordic flowers and dried moss whilst outside on the terrace, the Nordic theme continued with a DJ at his console playing the Beatles and other tracks at the backdrop of a vibrant and somewhat mesmerising Northern Lights beaming on the large screen.
Enigma is now in its second act and a new chef and his team are in town. Just a few days prior to dinner, I had the honour of interviewing Björn Frantzén from the Frantzén Group. Frantzén is listed at No 31 at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and the Enigma and the Frantzén team have been working closely together for the last three months planning a Nordic takeover of Enigma.
Journey of a Nordic Chef ∼ The Concept of Enigma’s Second Act
The menu was carefully curated to showcase some of the favourite dishes on the menu in Frantzén, with a few minor adjustments in terms of availability of ingredients or seasonality. We were served the ‘Full Story1 or the complete tasting menu comprising of twelve courses. Service was swift and attentive, staff were incredibly informative – each dish was explained in terms of the ingredients and some of the techniques that had been used to create them. As the courses rolled, we continued to be served dishes that were both visually impressive as well as innovative and tasted good. The focus of each course was often one ingredient, which would then be lifted up with the addition of a few carefully chosen other ingredients. Each dish had been carefully thought through and the presentation was impeccable, with clever techniques capturing and intensifying the ingredients for flavours.
It was the first time that most of us at our table had experienced Nordic cuisine in the real sense. Probably with this in mind, the team presented us with a menu that is in the form of an informative booklet with illustrations of each dish by Björn Frantzén himself that also told us the story about each dish, while explaining about some of the key Nordic ingredients used. Apparently, Bjorn Frantzén explains his concept of any dish to his team through illustrations. I love to read a menu prior to dining and to know the story behind each dish, so this was a perfect accompaniment to our meal. It would be interesting to mention here, that in the first chapter of Enigma, a lot of drama element came via the confidentiality of the menu – and in fact, there hadn’t been any menu in the traditional sense of the word!
The highlight for me was the Apple and Lingonberry Macaron with foie gras and chervil – the lingonberries had been dried and served as a fine powder dusting on top of the apple macaron. Lingonberry is probably one of the only Nordic ingredients familiar to me, and it surprised me that they could be served can be served in such a delicate way. Interestingly, another macaron twist signed off our meal – thus reflecting the complete circle of life!
Other personal favourites included White Moss “sushi” with deer, frozen bird’s liver, burnt hay and chantarelles. The moss, like most of the ingredients used, had been imported from Sweden and added an unusual element to the dish. This was probably the first time that I’ve eaten moss and a quick scan of the menu booklet explained that moss was a nutritious ingredient although not so commonly in use now.
I adore scallops, and the Scallop served in its own shell with a liqueur, dried roe, fir tree, finger lime and “dashi” tasted sublime and I longed for more! The scallops had been hand dived from the cold Nordic seas and simply begged to be slurped directly from the shell with a bit of an extra pouring of dashi’ or the stock at the end. The menu booklet told us the story about the fir tree and the many uses of fir tree products, its resins, barks, twigs, flours etc. For this dish in particular, the leaves had been ground down to a fine powder.
The most visually appealing dish, was the “Hot-pot” which consisted of lamb served with cabbage, roasted cauliflower bouillon and truffles. Although it wasn’t my favourite dish, as I don’t like mixing textures, it looked stunning and caused quite a stir at the table. It was hard to believe that such an intensity and a complexity could be arrived by using the humble cabbage as the main focus ingredient!
Coming to the Desserts, I loved the Cloudberry and Thyme Macaron with wild berries as I also saw it being made in the kitchen earlier. The macarons were delicate and crispy with a slight chew, and the intensely flavoured cloudberry filling was delightful. The second dessert – Smoked Ice Cream, roasted nuts, tar syrup and salted fudge with cloves left us with mixed views. The tar syrup had a strong and pungent flavour quite similar to licorice and required an acquired liking for the taste but the presentation was gorgeous.
There’s a lot to learn and love about Nordic cuisine. The use of ingredients are interesting and unique, many of them being completely new to me. The flavours vary from being delicate to intense and focuses on freshness of the produce. Frantzén Group is famous for using seasonal local produce, and this showed through the menu and we were introduced not only to the highlights of Nordic ingredients but also the four seasons!
Behind Closed Doors with Enigma
FoodeMag got exclusive #BehindClosedDoors access to the team from Palazzo Versace as they worked on the preparation for their Second Act at the Enigma – Journey of a Nordic Chef with Björn Frantzén, which launched on 20th April 2016 and will continue until 30th June, 2016. Our exclusive story covers a pre-launch trip with Jean Benoit (Assistant Manager, Enigma) and Chef Yunus (Executive Chef of Enigma) on a 5 day trip to Stockholm to meet the team at Frantzén, to start planning for the launch through to behind the scenes coverage on launch day and beyond. I also got a peep into the kitchen as Björn Frantzén and the Enigma team prepared for our media preview dinner later that evening. Read more in our website.