Fine gastropub fare, ‘best in Skane’: Helsingborg, Sweden’s Bistro G [classic article]

Just walking to Helsingborg, Sweden’s Bistro G at night sparks the imagination. The coastal city still has a Medieval fortress in the town square, within walking distance along narrow winding, low-lit, Medieval streets. The city was first officially known to have a settlement on May 21, 1085.

Bistro G is actually a restaurant within a restaurant (Gastro) that prides itself in quick service and tempting small plates. The bistro part retains the copper and gas light look of the ancient streets outside. It’s the perfect place for friends or dates to meet for dinner. I was very happy to be hosted to experience it!

I started out with an interesting house cocktail, named after a kind of a local artisan produce outdoor market: “Fredriksdal”. It’s made with gin, lavender, rosemary and lemon. The bar menus are in Swedish, by the way, but through cognates and your server, you’ll get along fine. The cocktail itself is refreshing and good to open a savory dinner with. Perfect aperitif.

Presentation in a charming, but not fussy, way is very important at BistroG. For example, your utensils and Swedish bread crisps are in paper bakery bags.

First, I started out with a half portion — you can do that at BistroG! — of tartar of Limousine (a local type of beef) veal from Skåne, poached quail’s egg, variation of young beets, crispy bread and mustard cream. The veal is mild, but still has beefy qualities. The quail’s egg add a nice milder counterpoint than a chicken egg would: mild to mild. The creamy mustard also cuts some of the sharpness that straight mustard would have had, so as to not overpower the flavors.

Another treatment of veal one can have there is a traditional Swedish dish, “Wallenbergare,” a favorite style of preparation of one of the ancient Wallenberg family members, a still-prominent Swedish (and global) banking family. It’s kind of what we’d call a Salisbury steak, with eggs and cream mixed into the patty. Raoul Wallenberg was one of its most famous descendants — he saved many Jews during the Holocaust — and yet ironically, this dish is definitely not Kosher under the dictates of Exodus 34:26: “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (King James Bible, Cambridge Ed.)

We call it a “slider” — they sell a “mini hamburger” — but it’s all delicious: It’s made of American short-rib meat, pan-fried fois gras and Parmesan cheese. Does it sound like celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s Burger Royale, a sirloin burger stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffles? Yes, but BistroG’s burger is a steal-deal at 110 Swedish Kronur (about $16.50 when I was there), opposed to Boulud’s ridiculous $99.00. BistroG’s burger is charmingly presented in what kind of looks like a Chinese restaurant carry-out box. It’s very succulent and juicy! If we all agree to tuck a napkin into our shirts, we will bring about a trend making it less gauche and we can all spend less money on OxyClean, Shout, etc. Deal?

The chef caught a herring that day. That probably goes to show how teeming Sweden’s waters are with herring: chefs are very busy people and don’t have hours upon hours to sit around la-la-la, waiting for a fish. He served it, pickled style! I want to take the opportunity here to mention that Swedish herring is nothing like the jarred crap we have in the U.S. If all you’ve ever had was the smelly stuff — or perhaps your older relatives ate it, like mine — don’t give up the ship! Sweden’s fresh herring is mild and sweet. No, it’s not a whitefish flavor, but it has a sweet meatiness to it, quite tasty.

An artistically presented and well-balanced dessert is the infused pear, caramelized milk, chocolate ice cream, curd of pear and praline dessert. Incidentally, the Swedes take it down a notch from us in the US in terms of sweetness. They let the the natural flavors of ingredients amaze in a subtle way.

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