Sunday, May 31, 2009

After Work Drinks with the Girls

I have to admit, I've been doing this a lot lately. And we always seem to end up at the same place - Champagneria in Frogner. Any place in Oslo has to be good to warrant a repeat performance due to the extraordinarily high prices. This place is so good and it warranted 2 trips in one week. So far, I have been there 3 times and I have not been disappointed.

I am told that this small bar and tapas restaurant has made a complete turnaround from the year before. The drinks were acceptable but I hear the food was not terribly good. None of that is reflected now. After fighting down a lawsuit calling for the change of their name (they don't serve much real champagne) they turned their menu and ingredients around. Today, they have a large bar menu of various types of red and white wines, sparkling wines and champagne, old fashioned and new fashioned cocktails. Their food is made from high quality ingredients and is well executed.

In the times that I have been, I have tried several of their drinks. The first time, we all split a bottle of Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. It was a bit dry, crisp and was lovely with our food. The next time I went, it was after a long day at work so I treated myself to a Dry Martini. It was good, though not great. This last time I went, I had a Whiskey Sour, and it was sour! Sadly, I tasted little of the whiskey. I am intrigued by their list of old fashioned cocktails such as the Sidecar, Old Fashioned, and Gimlet. I am not certain they are made in the same way as the states since I've never had those cocktails before but I am definitely curious to try them.

So my review of the drinks is fairly lukewarm and you're probably wondering why I bother to go back so often. I go back for the food. The tapas they have aren't traditional Spanish tapas, but more of a collection of small plates to be shared in the style and fashion of tapas. They are extraordinary. My favorite, by far, is the cooked chevré. It is a generous round of goat cheese that I think is sandwiched between 2 very thing slices of bread, or bread crumbs, and lightly pan fried resulting in a creamy cheese with what looks like a thin crust on both sides. The final result is then drizzled with a generous amount of good honey. It is nothing short of delicious. If only I could get my hands on that recipe....but then again, I don't need additional incentive to cook more goat cheese at home. Another favorite is their lamb filet. They use Norwegian lamb and cut thin slices, season it, and lightly pan saute the lamb until it is just medium. They serve it with a red wine reduction, though in my humble opinion, the lamb is good enough to stand alone. It was tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned. Another staple at our drinking table is their bread and aioli. Though the seasoning of the aioli changes each time we go, their bread is always lovely (and helps to soak up the booze). Their menu also features some traditional Spanish tapas: slices of manchego cheese, marinated olives, chorizo, patatas bravas and tortilla. I am excited to try them all. The quality of the dishes now show no trace of the past problems they have experienced with their food service.

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