From Maaemo to Max Burgers, here are must-try restaurants in Oslo that span from iconic institutions to local farmers showcasing Norway as nature’s great frontier.
Since 2016, curious foodies have decided put Oslo on the map. After gratifying, nature-influenced meals in Copenhagen and Stockholm, they were craving to further delectable discoveries throughout the rest of Scandinavia. Much of this surge was also invigorated by Maaemo’s highly coveted three Michelin stars, as well as the rise of small local farmers paving the way for a healthier path to grow produce while respecting Norway’s wondrous nature. Rather than mass production or industrialized farming methods, these agriculturalists are turning back the clock to the traditions and the science of le terroir. When it comes to restaurants in Oslo, quality is key.
A night at Maaemo might be a bucket list item, but the city offers an appetizing range of bistronomies, traditional cuisines infused by avant-garde twists. Without breaking the bank, diners can taste artistic local meals prepared with premium ingredients grown by farms located not too far away. This list is a combined recommendations by hoteliers, locals and myself. Be sure to try brown cheese, fermented and smoked starters, buttermilk and sour cream, reindeer meat, last but not least, herring and salmon.
1. Maaemo – ultimate Michelin experience
Dronning Eufemias gate 23, 0194 Oslo, Norway
The most sought-after fine dining experience in Oslo is certainly Maaemo, where organic and biodynamic techniques are presented in sheer zen. Chef Espen Holmboe Bang’s mission to educate diners through Norway’s wild produce is delivered in a dark and moody interior space. Sour cream porridge with reindeer heart, butter, and plum vinegar is a contemporary transformation upon harsh winters in the Arctic. Meanwhile, crispy sweetbreads with onion and wild garlic is a tender reminder that Norway’s nature is rich and deeply appreciated. As one of the first restaurants to receive three Michelin stars in Scandinavia, Maaemo proves to be an unforgettable experience.
Kontrast’s 10-course menu is tastefully deserving of its one Michelin star. Its minimalist rigor represents the best in Scandinavian design while serving as a modern background to a flow of dishes that expose tastebuds from acidity to sweetness. Smoked Porkbelly from Korsvold Farm features roasted cauliflower puree and charred cabbage with Volzhenka caviar, Kraftkar from Tingvollost lifts oxidized sunflower seed with birch sap from Vik in Saltdalen. Kontrast also enforces reduced waste efforts in addition to partnering with local farmers.
Stallen exudes a small yet charming atmosphere mainly induced by an open kitchen set in a former stable seating no more than twenty people. No horses though, Stallen is another refined dining experience for a deep dive into Nordic nature since the restaurant collaborates solely with a handful of farmers and fishermen within the country. Rakfisk, or fermented trout, is a beautiful example of braiding tradition and the environment. The set menu (1,495 NOK) details 16 – 20 servings of a seasonally adaptive menu, while drink pairing (1,495 NOK) is also available with an excellent sommelier.
If a table at Maaemo isn’t available, then Arakataka is an affordable option for fresh Nordic cuisine featuring a memorable cabbage terrine with caramelized cream sauce, pickled gooseberries and truffles. The plates are small, therefore it’s recommended to order a few then end with a luscious dessert. Arakataka has been around for two decades, and remains to be one of the most beloved restaurants in Oslo by serving gourmet cuisine via a gorgeous open kitchen. A rarity in Norway, Arakataka opens late into the night. Busy and cozy.
Evidently, Oslo isn’t oblivious to the natural wine movement bourgeoning across the globe. Brutus is situated behind the Oslo city jail, a mysterious setting for a delicious hermitage of smoked and fermented plates. Flatkokur, or Icelandic flatbread, is not to be missed. Fans of fish roe will be mind blown by the enormity of lumpfish eggs accompanied by cheese and cress. Craving for even more fresh and raw? The whale tartare with poached egg is a creative blend of culture plus nature. The wine selection here is an obvious choice, but a Norwegian apple cider is also a nice way to commence the meal.
Modern twists on paper lanterns and origami lamps complete the Asian-inspired setting at Happolati, located at a former National Hospital established in 1872. Two set menus feature Norway’s fresh seafood delivered with Japanese techniques and rich flavors. Oysters covered with tempura, pork rinds paired with kimchi are just a few favorites in an all-star lineup of Norway’s oceanic landscape. Most of the recommended restaurants in Oslo serve Norwegian cuisine, hence Happolati is an excellent switch for a different cultural base.
Sentralen will make vegetarians incredibly satiated with its menu dominated by an array of fresh legumes. The building’s owner, Savings Bank Foundation DNB, conducted a massive makeover to the restaurant’s edifice, remodeling an old bank into a cultural center. Sentralen is also another Norwegian restaurant collaborating solely with sustainable suppliers. Break open the king crab for a juicy bite, while pairing it with a fine glass of natural wine from an excellent selection of biodynamic and organic bottles. The ambiance is casual, making shareable plates even more delightful.
Recommended by locals, W.B. Samson Bakery serves up the best cinnamon buns in the city. Its history goes back to 1894 when Wilhelm Bismark Samson opened his first bakery at Egertorget, where pastries were sold for 2-3 cents. Today, the popular chain is run by the fourth and fifth generation of bakers continuing the family business. There are several locations throughout Oslo, but grab a few to try a sweet array of traditional pastries. The one in Grünerløkka serves pizza, wine and beer in the evenings.
Gamle rådhus is one of the oldest buildings in Oslo, protected by Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage. Built in 1641, Gamle rådhus was the first town hall in the city. Today, it’s a Norwegian restaurant serving quintessential dishes, including: lutefisk (air-dried whitefish, pickled in lye) and reindeer. The interior’s amber and dark wood color-palette brings to mind Norway’s royal history. It parallels the restaurant’s mission to chronicle King Christian IV’s vision in a classical way. Tourists may overtake the dining scene, but Gamle rådhus is one of the most historical restaurants in Oslo – a throwback experience after a few hours of strolling through Old Town.
Either you have millions of dollars to spend or merely a few bucks, a trip in Scandinavia wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Max Burgers. Founded in Sweden as the country’s first hamburger chain, Max is the only franchise to outcompete McDonald’s in the region. Since burgers are made-to-order, the wait might take longer than other fast food restaurants. Its climate-positive menu is an added draw, Max’s burgers have 110% of their climate emissions offset. In addition to planting trees that absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, Max goes further to capture the carbon dioxide equivalent of another 10% of their emissions to help reduce the overall levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This means, your late-night grub actually helps fight climate change.