Coming In From The Cold

When tracking the world’s best destinations for gastronomic pleasures, Sweden tops the list. Who knew? Yes, this Northern European country in the Eastern region of the Scandinavian Peninsula is racking up points for more than just Swedish meatballs.

At the heart of Swedish cuisine is the successful pairing of classic dishes and modern tastes. Almost everywhere in the country, from candlelit bistros to high-end restaurants, dining is a celebration of traditional fare dressed in innovative flavors. And in the last decade, Sweden’s pioneering and inventive cuisine has placed it among the world’s top epicurean destinations.

Young, award-winning chefs, many of whom learned as apprentices in Europe and the U.S., have earned respectable reputations by experimenting with regional foods such as herring, salmon, game, mushrooms, and berries.

“Chefs learn in the French model,” says Hans Berén, head chef of Restaurant 28+, one of three restaurants in Sweden awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide. “We take influences from everywhere, but normally we try to work with foods from the region.”

For a taste, a journey to Gothenburg — Sweden’s second largest city — won’t disappoint. A peaceful harbor along the West Coast of Sweden, Gothenburg is more bohemian than bustling.

At Swea Hof, a stylishly decorated bar and restaurant located in the Elite Plaza hotel, appetizers include raw oysters topped with Bloody Mary granite and salmon alongside sweet mustard infused with coffee grounds.

One of Gothenburg’s gems, 28+ is at the forefront of Sweden’s restaurant scene. Starters include scallop soup as well as spring rolls with honey and sage vinaigrette. For a main course, pan-fried monkfish with wild mushrooms and crayfish butter sauce is paired with an Australian pinot noir.

In the regal capital of Stockholm, which is situated on an archipelago of 14 lakes, there are restaurants or cafés on almost every corner. At the Veranda restaurant in the opulent Grand Hotel, workers are busy preparing the yearly seafood smorgasbord in celebration of lobster season, which is celebrated from September to April. Here, house specialties are crayfish, lobster, and crab, likely caught that morning off coastal waters and served in creamy chowders or chilled.

At the famed Strand Hotel, the menu is a carefully chosen amalgam of flavors: mushroom soup, deer with honey-toasted parsnip and black berries, and crème brûlée with raspberry mousse.

Stockholm’s top-rated restaurant, Edsbacka Krog, is a 20-minute cab ride from the city center. Nestled in a forest of evergreens, this charming inn offers great ambiance: Flickering candles set off tables decorated in crisp linens and fresh-cut flowers. The menu, prepared daily by eight chefs, mixes all of Sweden’s regional specialties.

For the most succulent of dining experiences, Chef HÃ¥kan Thor recommends the tasting menu, which features an appetizer plate of crab terrine, wild duck and mustard on rye bread, and salt-and-pepper-marinated beef. This is followed by a second round of starters: filet of sole with dill and potato puree with crayfish sauce and lemon.

In between the first and second courses, the staff delivers healthy portions of Swedish flatbread with orange butter. Two main courses of salmon and