Lisa Elmqvist, Stockholm 08-2012

As with most places lucky enough to be build upon water, Scandinavia is well known for quality seafood. What seems to be unique is the local ways the seafood is prepared and presented.

Scandinavian seafood dishes seem to make use of tiny little prawns, generally served boiled and chilled, occasionally chopped. Something unique seems to be toast skagen - these little creatures made into a seafood salad and eaten with toast.

Lisa Elmqvist is a known place within a market that combines skills as a fishmonger, a takeaway of chilled seafood, a nice casual bar seated area, and more formal sitting area which allow a few daily hot food options. Being Scandanavia, sometimes looking at the menu makes the price a bit difficult to swallow - but that's what it takes to eat well and known if the reputation is deserved.

I tried the reknowned Toast Skagen SEK135 (mixed shrimps, dill & mayonnaise served on toast, garnished with trout roe) and an additional dish to make a more educated opinion on the place - Avocado Alexandra SEK142 (mix of smoked salmon, shrimps, honey, dijon mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise & basil on avocado).

The seafood quality is excellent. The smoked salmon had an unexpected creamy texture that I haven't come across before, and a lighter smokiness than some of the usual heavily flavoured versions. Both the salmon and shrimp versions of the seafood salad were good too and everyone likes a little caviar to give the dishes extra flavour and texture.

The price is the only consideration you'll need as food in Scandanvia is expensive, and Lisa Elmqvist is probably at the higher end of those places additionally. At least you know the seafood is fresh and quality.

Next time I would order quite happily either of the same dishes. Of both dishes, I probably preferred the Avocado Alexandra, but the Skagen is certainly something you'll struggle to find in other regions of the world. Gravlax is also a specialty of the region I would consider for next time.

Bakfickan, Stockholm 08-2012

I can't say that I recall having specifically Swedish meatballs previously. Even though every Ikea in the world probably serves them, the name never appealed to me. Don't get me wrong; I've always enjoyed the "typical" Italian meatballs usually drenched in delicious pasta sauce and so wondered how different a Swedish version could be.

Given that Scandinavia is extraordinarily expensive especially on food matters, picking only one well respected meatball place in Stockholm was a necessary decision. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there isn't much information out there comparing many nor stating one as the clear city leader. Bakfickan did receive a few very favourable reviews from a travel magazine, tripadvisor and another random internet source and so my decision was made.

Let me start off by simply saying the Kottbullar meatballs SEK165 at Bakfickan are remarkably good. Each bite left me awestruck as to my underestimation of this simple Swedish treat. The difference lies in the taste and particularly the texture - the ridiculously soft and creamy smooth meat gave rise to a light flavour but not the heavy beef I expected from meatballs. I can only imagine the meat mince is ground incredibly finely until it is transformed into a ball of meatball paste.

Bakfickan served it with lingonberry jam (adding sweetness), pickled cucumber (adding tanginess) and mashed potato (adding weight and starch) to bring out a balanced flavoured mouthfull each time.

The complimentary bread was also great and added another texture to the mix, as well as a nice snack in anticipation.

What else can I say? I'm sold on the meatballs.

Next time I would order meatballs, meatballs, meatballs. If stomach space persists, I'd suggest trying the other prevalent local dishes such as roe or crayfish toast or the prawn salad and hope Bakfickan have a nice take on them.