KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 — When I first visited Norway, I was taken aback not only by its natural beauty — all those meandering fjords and majestic mountains — but also by its food.
The lands and sea offer up the freshest and best ingredients, exemplified by dishes such as smørbrød (open sandwiches), gravlax (cured salmon), reinsdyrsteik (reindeer roast) and krumkake (rolled crêpes filled with whipped cream).
These Norwegian delicacies seem to be but a distant memory now, at least till my next flight to Oslo. Or perhaps not. For one month only, till May 31, Nutmeg Café in Bangsar is offering a special Norwegian menu wittily named Nor-May.
Chef and co-owner William Chong got the idea for the new menu during a trip to Norway last year. He recalls, “The midnight sun is spectacular and Norwegian scenery is mesmerising. Like Heaven on Earth. If you have fallen in love before, then you will know what I felt in Norway. So Nor-May is about trying to relive the experience and sharing it with our customers.”
In selecting dishes for the extensive menu (with over 10 items), Chong consulted with some of his Scandinavian customers and friends. He says, “We are told that nothing is as Norwegian as kjøttkaker or meatballs. Many recipes use a combination of beef and pork. Since Nutmeg has no pork, we have recreated this dish using a combination of beef, lamb and chicken — introducing a desirable complexity in the flavour.”
Nutmeg’s kjøttkaker med brun saus comes with roast potatoes, peas and brown sauce. A very Norwegian preserve made from lingonberries add a touch of tartness to these meatballs. Another classic Norwegian dish is fårikål, a rich stew of layered braised lamb and cabbage with plenty of black pepper.
Sometimes substitutions are necessary, due to availability of ingredients. Such is the case with vilt med stekt kastanjepuré. Chong explains, “No menu would be complete without reindeer. Fortunately — or unfortunately — we could not source reindeer and so have opted for venison instead. This is paired with a roasted chestnut purée for sweetness and a punchy red cabbage chutney.”
Given the ever-changing F&B landscape, introducing limited-time special menus such as Nor-May is a way to remind diners of Nutmeg’s philosophy to make as many of the ingredients used in-house where possible.
By making their own bread, sausages, salt beef, gravlax and even the baked beans, Chong and his team have quality control over the flavours.
He says, “Two months ago, Nutmeg embarked on our ‘Signature Series’ monthly promotions. The aim is to challenge us to use one signature ingredient a month in creative ways and to highlight its uniqueness to our customers.”
In February, waffles were the order of the day while eggs were a hit last month. May, with its Norwegian direction, amply showcases Nutmeg’s excellent house-cured gravlax. Here, instead of serving it raw, the gravlax is baked.
Chong says, “Nutmeg has been making its own gravlax from the time we started business five years ago. We have three flavours: our original lemon mustard, cold smoked and beetroot & lemongrass. All our Scandinavian customers tell us it tastes just like what they get at home. So why not celebrate it?”
Diners may sample this different style of preparation in ovnsbakt Norsk gravlaks, their oven-baked lemon mustard gravlax, Japanese cucumbers, boiled potatoes and herb lemon butter sauce. For more of a juniper flavour, try their gravlaks på Norsk fjellbrød, which is served with Norwegian mountain bread.
For desserts, Nutmeg is doing their own version of kvæfjordkaka, a rich Norwegian cake. Layers of egg yolk based sponge cake sandwiches whipped cream custard, topped with meringue and almonds. Three flavours will be available: the original vanilla custard, chocolate custard and caramel custard.
The inspiration for this came from a private baking lesson Chong received in Norway. He says, “The highlight of my trip to Norway was to be introduced to Ms Synnove Olsen. She is noted to bake the best kvæfjordkaka, also known as Verdens Beste Kake (‘the world’s best cake’).”
Chong appears to be having fun coming up with new ideas and ingredients to feature. Such ebullience in the kitchen promises just as much fun for the diners’ tastebuds: “a gastronomic journey through the fjords” without needing to fly, a taste of Norway right here in KL.
UGF-28A, Bangsar Village II, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Opens daily from 9:30am to 10pm