Taste the wilderness at unique fermentation restaurant
Fermented lamb, fermented cod, and fermented rose fish. These are just some of the distinctive ingredients you will find at Faroese restaurant Ræst, which opened in Tórshavn earlier this year. The restaurant is a bit of a novelty, because Ræst is probably the only restaurant in the world where almost everything on the menu is based on local fermented ingredients.
The Faroese have a long and proud tradition of fermentation, particularly when it comes to lamb and fish. The word ‘ræst’ is the term used for the natural process of decay that occurs in the cold climate, when the meat is dried slowly by the salty winds from the Atlantic Ocean and attacked by the natural yeast spores and bacteria in the air.
The head chef at Ræst is 27-year-old Kári Kristiansen, who trained at Faroese gourmet restaurant KOKS. While on a work placement at the two-star Atera in New York, Kristiansen received an offer to return home to the Faroe Islands and take up the position of Ræst’s first head chef.
“It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Kristiansen says. “I think Faroese ingredients are something very special and the fermented meat and fish in particular are something you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The interesting challenge for me is to develop new and exciting dishes based on traditional recipes.”
At Ræst he serves a seven-course dinner which takes guests on a fascinating journey through the Faroese world of fermentation. Fermented lamb sausages, fermented mutton shanks called skerpikjøt, and fermented cod and rose fish will often be encountered along the way. Although the fermented key ingredients are local, Kristiansen has no rules about using only Nordic or Faroese ingredients.
“For example, we serve the fermented rose fish with lime, chili, and coriander in an Asian-inspired soup, where the intense spices complement the strong flavor of the fermented fish,” the head chef says.
Kristiansen also uses the various fermentation techniques of other countries and cultures in his kitchen. For example, he serves the fermented lamb sausage with German-inspired sauerkraut, mustard cream sauce, and breadcrumbs, while he also often uses South Korean specialty kimchee, which is fermented Chinese cabbage or white cabbage with radishes, chili, and ginger.
With the fermentation process, you never know quite what you’re going to get. On the beverage side, things get wild and unpredictable again. Here the special dishes are paired with spontaneously fermented Belgian beers, sherries, and funky organic wines and ciders.
With such a different style of restaurant, there could be a concern that some guests may stay away for fear of not liking the food. However, it’s gone well so far, with tourists and locals alike among the curious visitors, as Kristiansen says.
“All Faroese people have grown up with fermented meat, but it’s exciting for them to try it in a different context and expression than the traditional dishes. Not all the tourists finish their food, but most are happy to have tried it. Often people come up after the meal and thank you for the experience, even if they weren’t all that keen about everything on the menu. They’ve had something they never tried before.”
Gongin 8, 100 Tórshavn
Text: Lars Roest-Madsen