Our family of five had the most wonderful experience at Under Restaurant. I had heard about this crazy, underwater restaurant opening in the spring from the VisitNorway website and in January booked the early seating on May 16th.
If you are worried that the underwater setting, where fish give you the eyeball during your meal, is a gimmick and the food is an afterthought, don't be. While the seating space is elegantly spare, (and, of course, focused on that fabulous window), the main event is the food.
The seventeen course tasting menu presented was highly local, inventive, and included a few traditional Norwegian standards that had been deliciously reimagined such as a taste of fish pudding in a hollowed out roasted onion with cream sauce and burnt onion oil and glazed campfire bread on a stick. Our waiter enhanced the experience by sharing memories of his grandmother's fish pudding and roasting bread in summer. The menu included seafood usually wasted such as one made from the throat meat of ling cod and other dishes were finished with locally foraged beach greens. One memorable dessert was a sugar kelp roll up with a sweet cream filling.
May is a tricky month to serve fresh local ingredients and the meal included preserved items to good effect; some of which had been laid up by the chef three years ago. Wish we lived closer to sample the seasonal changes to the menu.
Being a party of five we were seated in the back which turned out to be wonderful luck as we could see the final prep by the chef and anticipate the dishes from their aroma. The scent of the langoustine being caramelized was heavenly. And the window in the front is tall enough we enjoyed the view over the heads of the front tables. Chef generously presented two of the courses and answered questions. The calmness of the kitchen at this early stage of the restaurant's history was remarkable and surely due to his leadership.
We did not try the wine pairing opting instead for the juice pairing for two of us and a bottle of good Spanish white for the rest; chosen with the help of the engaging sommelier. To totally experience the depth of the restaurant the juice pairing is necessary. The juices are created in-house to complement the food and are spot on. All were unique and used fresh items such as elderflower, spruce tips, and honey as well as tinctures that had been prepared in advance. From food, drink, and evocative presentations to an incredible staff that took such care of us this is a great concept, executed perfectly.
Dinner took 4 1/2 hours and ran 3000 NOK a person with our bottle of wine and two juice pairings. Seatings are staggered and we had the first one at 18:00; allowing us to linger at the big window a bit before being seated. Hire a driver or stay at the hotel across the bay as Under is more than an hour away from Kristiansand, over moose frequented roads, and driving back detracted from the mellow mood we found ourselves in after. The 1000 NOK per person reservation fee was credited to our final bill.
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