Image 1: Hmmm, the meal had a superb cauliflower with pork belly, a beautiful scallop main course, and a superb apple dessert; on the other hand the clam had no taste and the caviar was completely wasted on the beetroot course, but overall nothing disastrous. However, it definitely was not a memorable meal! Just a good meal in a nice hotel; I think you can find that in many places around the world.

Image 2: Mathias Dahlgren established his first restaurant, Matsalen, back in 2007. Set on the ground floor of the Grand Hotel, the restaurant achieved its first star within just a year of inception and the second star swiftly in the subsequent year.

Image 3: iPads were placed on the table for each individual as menus! They had a choice of "Natural Cuisine" or the "Seasonal - Truffle & Mushroom" which sounded very tempting, but since we came here to experience Mathias' original cuisine rather than Swedish truffles, we opted for the "Natural Cuisine"!

Image 4:
A pleasant dining room with tables spaciously apart ensuring privacy for each group.

Image 5: And a collection of onions with vinaigrette cream also to share although it wasn't a practical dish to share especially with the sauce and various components involved.

Image 6: The first amuse bouche which shortly arrived was a bowl to share consisting of deep fried seaweed, squid, cod, and smoked haddock croquette.

Image 7: Our server then decorated our table for the next course to foreshadow a seafood amuse bouche ahead.

Image 8: Slices of lobster, squid, and grilled cucumber stacked on each other over a bed of tapioca, dressed with a vinaigrette and salmon roe. A light starter with a good mix of textures.

Image 9: Before the first course was a bread course, a variety of bread. No kidding, it was a course and they did expect us to finish before serving the first course!

Image 10: And it came with five types of spread: his childhood "food memory" of bread butter & fennel; a stripe of herb cheese with cress; a small quenelle of Norwegian brown cheese; a matchstick of soured goat cheese; and a paste of handmade butter.

Image 11: An interesting course and it came with a butter knife. We later learnt from Mathias that traditionally Swedes have bread before their meal, rather than with the meal. Regardless, if I was the chef, why would I want to fill up my guests with bread before an 8-course meal?! Strange!

Image 12:
A very thoughtful chopstick-looking cutlery matching our first course - Scandinavian sashimi

Image 13: … comprised of cod, scallop, salmon, langoustine, oyster with soya tapioca and pickled ginger. Good quality ingredients with a horseradish emulsion on the side providing a slight sensation on the tongue. A good start!

Image 14: Blanketed under mussel foam were leek, oysters, and clams. The foam didn't do much on the palate; the leek was ordinary; the oyster was average; and I never had clams so tasteless as these!

Image 15: This was probably the highlight of the meal. A square shaped paper thin smoked pork belly as the base, garnished with leaves and pork scratching. Unfortunately, I didn't sense any smokiness, but it was the braised cabbage hidden underneath which amazed me - powerful flavour with a good amount of sweetness. This course came with a consommé of daikon and lovage.

Image 16: Salt baked beetroot and smoked ox marrow crowned with a generous portion of osetra caviar with fresh cream and chives. The beetroot was very enjoyable, soft and sweet, but that was it. I couldn't sense the marrow, nor the caviar, as both the flavour and texture got swallowed up by the thick cream! What a shame and waste of great ingredients!

Image 17: Before the meat course, an Egg & Truffle was served. Choux pastry as the base filled with salty gruyère cheese and layered on top were spinach and shaved truffles.

Image 18: These were Swedish truffles from Gotland, same species as Bordeaux summer truffles, but much inferior in my opinion.

Image 19: Now for some game meat, black grouse and fried peppers. The meat was beautifully and precisely cooked with a pink centre; the sauce was packed with flavours and that's why…

Image 20: … this course came with steamed levain bread allowing us to soak up every drop of the sauce! Delicious!

Image 21:
Before the main… our server brought us a cup with a white tablet.

Image 22: She then poured in an infusion of rosemary and the tablet expanded. The result was not something edible, but rather a warm towel for us to refresh our hands before the main course. Although we've seen this a few times in the past, it still was fun to watch!

Image 23: In a square box was vegetable field composed of herbs and vegetables resting on a bed of pea purée. Just a small appetizer before the main.

Image 24: One choice of the main was a seared jumbo scallop guarded by grilled cauliflower on the four corners. The scallop was carefully cooked with a soft and moist centre, matched exceptionally well with the citrus like acidity from the head of dill cream. A very successful course!

Image 25: In comparison, the alternative option of roe deer and leeks accompanied with beet, cress, and red pepper cream, was a poor choice.

Image 26: Once we finished with the "field", they came back and placed on top of the box a hot granite tile which was our main course!

Image 27: Although an unusual pre-dessert - sweetness from the peach, saltiness from sea salt, and a hint of bitterness from drops of olive oil, it provided a smooth transition from savoury to sweet!

Image 28: Hidden under a leaning pair of apple crisps was vanilla ice cream on a pile of roasted flaxseed accompanied by a wedge of Åkerö apple, a Swedish variety. The apple had a slight spiciness that combined nicely with vanilla ice cream; and with the fun textural contrast from the flaxseed, this was an incredible dessert! Though the Natural Menu was below our expectation, at least it finished on a high note!

Image 29: To end our meal, a small variation of chocolates for our tea - ganache, sponge cake, and a warm and airy mousse served in a cup. That was the meal! Though it was a totally different dining scene back in 1997 when Mathias took home the Bocuse d'Or Gold, I still expected much more from this champion, especially after my recent meal at Geranium!

Image 30: At the entrance is a lounge area with copies of Mathias' cookbook. Behind the golden screen, on the right is Matbaren, the Food Bar; on the left is Matsalen, the Dining Room.

Image 31: Chef: Mathias Dahlgren
Natural: SEK 1650 (8-course)
Closed for Saturday lunch and on Sunday.

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