Juleaften, the evening before Christmas, is a big deal in Norway. Traditionally, the family gathers around the table to enjoy julemat (Christmas food)—but lately, more and more Norwegians opt to go out instead. If you feel like treating yourself to a nice julebord (Christmas table) during the holidays, this guide will definitely come in handy. We scoured Norway’s best restaurants to find the ones that really deliver an exceptional experience (whether they have a special julemeny or not). Don’t waste any time booking your table, these seats will be filling up soon.
One of the imaginative dishes at Renaa | Courtesy of Renaa
RENAA is an intimate experience: there are only 21 seats, and each guest is served the chef’s tasting menu (that you can choose to pair with wine). Sven Erik Renaa’s focus is getting the best products from the sea, fjords, land, forests, and mountains—after all this region of Norway is nothing if not fertile and generous. Expect imaginative platings and fresh, Nordic flavors in a cozy environment.
Restaurant 1877 in Bergen has no traditional a la carte menu: here you can opt for the whole five-course evening menu (that always includes seafood, fish, meat, cheese, and a dessert) or the three-course half-evening menu (where you can choose whichever of the five courses you want). The chefs completely change the menu every six weeks to make the most of the local, seasonal produce available. For the holidays, they’re also giving the opportunity to buy a gift card for your foodie friends who would like to dine here.
Svalbard mushroom soup and smoked cheese foam | Courtesy of Huset
Huset is one of these places where both the journey and the destination matter. Open since 1951 at the settlement of Longyearbyen, on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Huset draws inspiration from the rugged landscape to create critically acclaimed Nordic flavors and pair them with superb wines from their extensive collection. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can expect some dancing as well: Huset has its own nightclub, as well as a hotel and a conference room, so you can stay here for a while. For the holidays, they’re doing a Christmas buffet with gløgg on December 16 and a tasting menu for New Years.
A completely authentic sushi experience outside side of Japan? Sounds like a tall order, but Stavanger’s Sabi Omakase has been making waves since last year, when they got their first Michelin star. Serving strictly Edomae-style sushi, accredited sushi chef Roger Asakil Joya uses local produce (like reindeer) to create an intimate dining menu for 20 guests: all the food is prepared by him, and every seat is at the chef’s table. Time to plan your next trip to Stavanger.
Smoked langoustine with gooseberries, nuts and langoustine vinaigrette | Courtesy of Restaurant À L’aise
À L’aise opened this year in Oslo, near Frognerparken, and is quickly becoming one of 2017’s favorites. In their lavish hall, you will enjoy French cuisine with a Danish know-how. Of course, you will have to dress up to savor their langoustine paired with Dom Perignon or their white chocolate dome with edible flowers—but it is only fitting since it’s the holidays and all.
A dish at Colonialen | Courtesy of Colonialen restaurant
Artistically presented, fresh and healthy dishes, and innovative food and wine pairings really come into their own in the special six- and nine-course tasting menus of the restaurant that has taken the city of Bergen by storm. If you’re feeling less extravagant though, Colonialen also has a more economical, weekly rotating menu with two or three different dishes each day.
Folk og Fe, one of Trondheim’s culinary jewels, is all about traditional Nordic food with a contemporary twist. Rustic and unpretentious, they’re offering a scalable tasting menu for the holidays (based on how hungry you are) that you can combine with wine or beer—this is Trondheim, after all.
Fyr Bistronomi & Bar | Courtesy of Fyr Bistronomi & Bar
Another one of Oslo’s latest gems in Majorstua, Fyr manages to balance grilling things to perfection and offering a refreshingly Nordic twist on bistro dishes that are at the same time elaborate and authentic. If you have to choose one dish (although their menu, Full Fyr, is excellent and paired with wine and cocktails), make it their langoustine, served simply with bread and infused butter.
A dish at To Rom og Kjøkken | Courtesy of To Rom og Kjøkken
Another cozy place with great, hearty food in Trondheim that deserves your attention, To Rom og Kjøkken serves meaty dishes in a to-die-for red wine sauce, accompanied by a truffle potato puree that will make you feel like it’s Christmas in your mouth. But this place is also a wine bar, so make sure to make a lot of toasts.
Let’s be real: There’s no way you will be able to find a table for Christmas at Maaemo, Norway’s only three-starred Michelin restaurant. Not when on any normal day there’s usually a three-month waiting list to savor Esben Holmboe Bang’s superb, seasonal tasting menu. But we just had to include it in this list, if only for you to bookmark it and book a table for Christmas 2018. The waiting will be worth it.