Food & Drink
Oslo rides the Latino wave
When Aftenposten reported on the newly opened Taco Republica restaurant in 2013, they described how busy it was, with a waiting list to get a table. Since then, more Latin American restaurants have opened their doors in Oslo. “Latin American food has become very trendy,” says restaurateur Rodrigo Belda, co-owner of the Latin Restaurant Aymara in Vika, Oslo.
“This huge interest in Latin American food is largely down to the Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio,” Belda tells Scandinaviantraveler.com.
Acurio studied in France and when he returned he brought with him new ideas and techniques. In 1994 he opened his first restaurant in the fashionable Miraflores district of Lima and he helped to develop cocina novoandino, the new Andean cuisine.
Belda himself has spent time studying in Lima. Suitably inspired, Belda’s staff experiment with Latin American food at Aymara.
“We make Latin American food from Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. Our name is borrowed from the Aymara people who live in the Andes mountain range that runs through all of these countries. And this is also where the ingredients and dishes originate from. We have fish and shellfish dishes from Peru and Chile, and meat dishes like you will find in Argentina, as well as corn and sweet potato, for example. But we add new elements and we use many different techniques, such as pickling and fermentation.”
He gives Anticucho Tartar as an example. Anticucho is ox hearts, which are usually served grilled in Peru. But at Aymara in Oslo, they make ox heart tartare and serve it with a sauce seasoned with chili-peppered aji panca and puffed quinoa.
“We also borrow elements from Japanese cuisine, which is a natural development, given the large Japanese population in Peru.”
When Taco República opened in Torggata in central Oslo in 2013, there were some Tex-Mex restaurants in Oslo, but no authentic Mexican places. Chef Henrik J. Henriksen had lived in Mexico as a child, and it was there that he learned to take pleasure in food – and it was also where he realized that he wanted to be a chef. He and partner Niklas Granlund decided to create an authentic taquería, where the tacos are freshly made every day from corn, not wheat flour. So on the menu you will find small tacos filled with pork, chicken, and ox tongue. Then there’s the ceviche with tostados, totopos, and guacamole. And of course some fiery drinks.
“To begin with, we were not prepared to compromise, and we refused to serve sour cream. But we have softened up a bit,” says Granlund.
“What is special about our restaurant is that we make everything ourselves from scratch. Nothing is pre-prepared at all. Our philosophy is to use local organic food. We import the corn flour ourselves, and it is completely gluten-free and GMO-free by the way, but everything else is local wherever possible. The cheese we use, for example, is from Norwegian cheesemaker Den blinde ku.”
Granlund’s favorite is the Volcán de bistec.
“It’s almost like a hamburger, but with the bread replaced with crispy tortillas. The melted cheese runs over, a bit like the lava from a volcano, hence the name,” says Granlund.
In Badstugata, right next to the recently updated Torggata, lies Piscoteket, which is also Peruvian. This restaurant serves classic Peruvian dishes, which are partly based on Norwegian ingredients. All with very modern presentation.
“We serve dishes such as ceviche using Norwegian seafood, including cod, pollock, salmon, and scallops, with authentic Peruvian flavors,” says Gaute Drevdal, one of the brains behind Piscoteket. “But we also have classics such as aji de gallina, which is chicken cooked in yellow chili, and lomo saltado (beef) served with caramelized bananas and soy sauce.”
“Food and restaurant trends come and go in waves,” says Drevdal.
“For some time now there has been a strong focus on Scandinavian cuisine, with its clean flavors and simple combinations. Now the pendulum has swung towards Peruvian and Mexican food with its more complex flavors.”
But Peruvian food is also interesting in its own right.
“Peruvian food is all about fusion. It is where Latin American food meets both old European and Asian traditions. Which is perhaps why Peruvian cuisine is gaining in popularity all over the world right now.”
When Paleet opened its doors again after a long period of refurbishment, Oslo gained a new Latin American addition: Taquería.
“Taqueria means strong food, strong colors, and strong drinks!” says the restaurant’s owner, Tim Kirstein. “Expect a rebellious, un-Norwegian attitude, and a fiery atmosphere. Taqueria serves contemporary Mexican street food with influences from all over the world. On the menu you will find such delights as sweet potato gratin with honey, cinnamon, and plantain chips, as well as gorgeous chocolate chili cake with mango sorbet and, of course, a huge selection of tacos offering exciting taste combinations.”
Inspiration comes not just from Mexico, but also from global cities like New York. But Taqueria still retains a strong focus on its drinks.
“The drinks are our religion. We create contemporary flavor combinations, based on mezcal and tequila.”
Karl Johans gate 39
Tekst: Inga Ragnhild Holst
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Published: May 20, 2017