There are chefs who can fill seats based on reputation alone – lead actors whose legion admirers eagerly attend every opening.
In Stockholm, that describes Mathias Dahlgren, a founder of the New Nordic Food Manifesto and a Bocuse d’Or winner who has earned a cumulative four Michelin stars at three restaurants to date.
His new restaurant, Rutabaga, which opened in February, has garnered particular interest not only for its location – in the space occupied for a decade by his two-starred dining room, Matsalen, which he closed last December – but also for its concept, to which its unusual name nods: 100 per cent vegetarian.
“After 10 years, I feel like it’s time for me to do something new,” says Dahlgren, seated in the renovated dining room, now a bright, welcoming space with cream-coloured walls and sunlight streaming through large windows.
The formality of Matsalen – tasting menus and tablecloths – has been stripped away and replaced by a more casual style, with blond-wood tables and plates meant for sharing. The menu is lacto-ovo-vegetarian – some dairy products and eggs but no meat, fish or seafood.
“Today you don’t have to be vegetarian to eat vegetarian food,” Dahlgren says. “You can eat vegetarian food just because you think it’s good. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with politics or with morals or with sustainability.”
But, he adds, “If it’s good for your health or the environment, then that’s like a bonus.”
On a bustling, fully booked Friday evening recently, a meal began with from-the-garden cocktails, including a refreshing concoction of celery, cucumber, lime, gin and dried-lime syrup, at an intimate table with side-by-side seating.
A half-dozen sharing plates followed, among them a bright “ceviche” of avocado and jalapeño, grilled asparagus with romesco sauce, and pillowy gnudi in brown butter with crisp bits of kale and a generous shaving of summer truffles that lacked for nothing.
There were flavours from around the world, but Dahlgren’s creed – “the natural cuisine”, which relies on what’s regional and seasonal – was consistently applied.
Even desserts incorporate greens, like scoops of olive oil sorbet with thin slices of radish and preserved cucumber on a bed of cucumber-and-mint granita.
The restaurant’s name comes from the native Swedish root vegetable also known as “swede”. But Rutabaga’s dedication to produce is less about forsaking meat than it is part of a natural evolution toward flexitarian, or occasional vegetarian, eating.
“I love to eat a good piece of meat or fish or seafood,” Dahlgren says. “But I don’t necessarily have to eat it every day.”
And at home, there’s always his French bulldog, who is named Bacon. “So not everything in my life is vegetarian.”
NEED TO KNOW
- Rutabaga Blasieholmshamnen 6. Tel: +46 8679 3584. Dinner for two, without drinks or tip, is about 1300 Swedish kronor ($200).