This summer I went to Tuscany and Florence and I enjoyed the food, wine and scenery there (check out the trip report on http://gardkarlsen.com/florence_italy_travelogue.htm ). When we got home the annual food festival had started in Stavanger and I was thrilled to see that there was a new stand called Restaurant Nero there. I asked them where they were located and the daily manager Cato Ødemark had to admit that they had not opened yet but they would soon. And finally in the beginning of October 2007 the new restaurant opened in the same place where the good restaurant Cartellet once was located.
As I’m a sucker for good food and a sucker for Italian food it didn’t take long before I got to try out this restaurant. So in the middle of October I was ready to check it out and I came there a bit early and I got a tour of the place by Cato Ødemark himself. I was the first one there and it did take long before I got a Kir Royale to start with and freshly made grissini…still warm from the oven it was delicious :-) The restaurant is not that big and I think we are only talking about 40-50 seats at the moment. Cato says that even without any advertising, people still seem to be finding the way to the restaurant so they are satisfied with the opening weeks.
I never did get to try Cartellet so I’m not sure how it looked back then but Cato explained that they had kept the original layout and the facilities looks quite stylish with a combination of brick walls, old rock foundation, red tiles on the floor, stylish art and last but not least….some funky looking furniture made in Italy of course. Inside the restaurant there is also a small cooler and the idea is to sell Italian products like pecorino, sausages etc but according to Cato they have just been to busy to prioritize this part so far.
This dinner was a company dinner and it didn’t take long before the rest of the guest arrived and we decided to go for a 4 course menu. But we all got to order aperitifs to start with and we also got a plate of snacks…grissini wrapped in parma ham, olives from Puglia, aged parmesan cheese, Italian sausages etc. When we sat down at the table we got a complimentary snack/starter and the most interesting thing on the plate was the panna cotta with mashed cauliflower and fried onion. I thought that panna cotta was only used for dessert :-) Other things on the plate were the classic mozzarella and tomato, prune in parma ham and shrimp.
We got another complimentary snack after this and it was a small soup. It was good but I’m actually not sure which kind of soup it was. It was just a little bit; just enough really as we were going through lots of food.
The first primi was salmon in two different ways served with fennel and citrus fruits. Again it was a pretty exciting combination. I don’t think I have been served salmon this way before but it was both refreshing and delicious. The next primi was the classical risotto alla Milanese…risotto with saffron. The risotto was as it should be and this is one of my favourites. On the side we got parmesan cheese and once again I have to admit that I have never had that before. It was weird to eat the cold ice cream and still taste the distinctive taste of parmesan cheese. It worked very well with the risotto and it is fun to see that Nero tried to re-invent the different classical dishes :-)
We were seated in the “chambre séparée” (I think that what it is called when you are separated from the rest of the restaurant) and as there is room for about 14 in there we had some space to ourselves and we had a direct view to the stylish blue lights in the wine “cellar”. The wine selection seemed to be a bit limited at the moment but according to Cato they are still working on installing the cooling system in the wine cellar and after that they will fill it up with good Italian wine :-)
Before we got the main meal of the evening we got a crushed ice and apple “sorbet” to freshen up the pallet. Our main dish this evening was a tenderloin I think served with fois gras and polenta. The combination of the meat and the fois gras was great and the polenta was piping hot so it was clearly fresh out of the oven. The fois gras it always interesting....it is great in smaller portions. I’m sorry to say that I can’t really give details about the wine selection this evening as we just asked the waiter to recommend new wines for each course. It is a pretty international staff at Nero: Cato is Norwegian, his partner Sebastien is from Italy, our waitress was from Poland etc. Our waitress seemed to be a bit nervous by the way and she was having a bit of trouble opening some of the wines, she seemed a bit nervous when introducing the meals etc. But all in all she did a good job.
To round of the evening we had a chocolate fondant with rosemary ice cream on the side if I’m not mistaken. The taste was great but I would have enjoyed having the muffin even softer in the middle. And together with the dessert we had a delicious sweet red wine.
We had a lovely evening at Nero this night and I certainly hope to go there again soon. The food was delicious; we got great service, the wine good etc. The restaurant is stylish and it seems to be a nice place both for a business dinner and for a romantic date.
The meal cost us about 1000 Norwegian kroner (about 185$) per person including aperitifs, a 4 course meal (with various complimentary snacks in between), wine…so actually the price was not bad compared to other fancy places in town. If you like Italian food and you want to try it with a “twist” this seems to be the place to go. If you do go there send my regards to Cato and Sebastien :-)
Check out the restaurant homepage http://www.restaurant-nero.no/ for more information. The restaurant is located in the “basement” of Victoria hotel in the middle of Stavanger so it should be easy to find.
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