Luscious comfort food at Gothenburg, Sweden’s Familjen

On a little, hidden curved side street in Gothenburg, Sweden’s Familjen — a true neighborhood hangout. When I’m traveling, I definitely like to find off the beaten track places where the residents eat. The sheer, glossy red acrylic marquee, outdoor seating, blonde wood and decorative accents announce a warm chic-ness. As I type, Gothenburg was just announced to be the 2013 World Food Summit!

Luscious comfort food at Gothenburg, Sweden's Familjen
Luscious comfort food at Gothenburg, Sweden’s Familjen
Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.
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Luscious comfort food at Gothenburg, Sweden's Familjen

Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

I was very glad to have been hosted to be able to try Familjen.

The restaurant is considered a brasserie, run by Björn Persson, who’s also in command of the Michelin-starred Kock & Vin, as well as Björn’s Bar. Dress is casual. Classic rock, modern Euro rock and jazz plays in the background. Looking around, I saw grown-ups on dates and large, friendly get-togethers. There’s subdued lighting, but with pin spots on the tables, so that you can read the menu, see your food — all in a relaxed, flattering way.

There are a couple of prix-fixe arrangements on the menu and that’s a great way to go. If you see some additional things that you don’t want to miss out on, they can be worked in at a nominal charge.

There was a super great bread course, with pâté of Swedish sausage, served in mason jar tipped with crispy fried onions. The crispy onions add texture to the spread and Americans will know that topping from their favorite holiday side dish, the green bean cassarole. Along with that is garlic butter, Swedish crisps and sourdough: all homemade! The garlic butter was served softened with sea salt flakes on top. The pâté is creamy with a hint of sweet spice but very mild. I taste pickling spices.

The servers all wear different plaid shirts, for a homey touch. I noticed that other restaurants in Gothenburg started copying this.

Familjen prides itself on its “meat cooked overnight”. What could be more indicative of comfort food? This night, the first course was fried summer chanterelles with baked rib meat and deep fried marrow served on hönökaka. It had local, seasonal chanterelles, green onions, lingonberries, goteborg bread made friends with slow-cooked rib meat. The sauce gives chanterelles themselves a meaty, almost game-like wild flavor, but they’re tender. The bread is like a savory shortcake, absorbing meat flavors, but not soggy. The fatty, tender rib meat is batter fried to keep in moistness It kind of works like micro encapsulated skin care, if you’re familiar with that concept. Onions keep tongue interested, providing a sharp counterpoint.

There are lots of silverware at table in collection, so it’s more like eating at home. Grab another fork or knife when you feel like it.

For a casual brasserie, the servers are quite knowledgeable about their foods and their wine collection.The wines are from Europe, South Africa, Chile and USA. Lots are available by the glass.

The next course that I selected was lamb from Åkatorp in Bitterna with roasted parsley roots, pickled summer beets, poached egg and anchovy butter. It was like a deconstructed lamb hash! It’s a gourmet take on comfort food. The sauce had red wine, butter and anchovy. The sauce definitely makes it a grown up lamb with more assertive flavors. It had perfectly cooked lamb, tender. The egg and butter add lots of richness. The juicy red beets and red wine add sweetness.

With dessert, I drank a Bourillon d’orleans vouvray: like grown up sweet lemonade, refreshing with a bit tang, won’t overpower desserts.

The dessert for this meal was Mazarin cake with warm rosehip consommé and arrack ice cream. Mazarin cake, according to About.com, is “a delicate shortbread crust provides the perfect contrast in texture to the dense, slightly sticky almond paste filling of this popular fika selection”. “Fika” is what they call their popular coffee break. Wiki describes arrack as, “Arrack is a distilled alcoholic drink typically produced in South Asia and Southeast Asia, made from either the fermented sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, grain (e.g. red rice) or fruit, depending upon the country of origin.” They further note that a popular beverage in Sweden based on arrack is “punsch,” often consumed during the winter month or drizzled on top of ice cream. The housemade ice cream had sweet cream flavors with cake, syrup and roasted almonds. The sweetness was of a subtle level, not overly so. You don’t find very sweet desserts in Sweden, it’s just not their thing.

The restaurant also has an inviting bar area.

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