As anyone who’s ever tasted the stuff knows, there’s sushi and then there is sushi. There’s the kind that’s impossible to swallow in one, two or even three bites, composed of a compact block of rice and tasteless toppings or fillings. And there’s the kind that surprises you and effortlessly melts in your mouth and leaves you smiling. The latter is the only one worth eating, but it also happens to be harder to find.
In Sweden, sushi and other Japanese food is often eaten at lunch – a quick ten bites or a yakiniku accompanied by some miso soup and a Coke – and the restaurants selling it range from the fantastic to the utterly terrible. Råkultur, the sister restaurant of fine dining mecca Esperanto, has long been flying the flag of gourmet Japanese cuisine, mostly featuring sushi but also offering other delicacies such as scallops, fish roe and grilled duck hearts. Aside from a few minor complaints, it has become a classic that still holds up.
The dining room, a former theatre entrance hall, gives a haphazard impression and feels, despite the dim lighting, somehow un-cozy. But with that out of the way, we can focus on the positive – it’s a restaurant you choose because of the food. The menu is a bit demanding, at least for those wanting to order quickly and who are not too well-versed in the art of Japanese cuisine, so it’s a good idea to ask the waiter for some guidance. Ours suggests letting the chefs put together a sample menu, featuring a bit of everything Råkultur has to offer.
It quickly becomes apparent that Råkultur’s sushi is of the good kind. We start with a tempura-fried soft shell crab temaki (65 kronor), a large cone-shaped piece of crisp nori filled with crab, avocado and rice – juicy and heavenly. After that it’s time for a veritable feast with sushi that’s light-years from the standard salmon, shrimp and cucumber bites mostly on offer at Stockholm’s sushi places. There are maki rolls with autumn mushrooms or grilled Korean beef and pear salad (80 and 85 kronor for a half roll), gunkan rolls (cylinder-formed sushi with fillings wrapped in a piece of nori) with raw scallops or bleak roe and poached quail egg (60 kronor for two pieces) and nigiri with duck breast teriyaki and foie gras or halibut (60 kronor for two pieces). Everything tastes wonderful and many dishes, such as the mushroom maki, are a delightful marriage of Sweden and Japan. To go along with the food, the restaurant offers great teas and Japanese Hitachino Nest beers.
It’s fair to say that desserts play a minor role at Råkultur. There are only two: a chocolate-licorice praline (15 kronor) and “Hibiki 12”, a ginger cake served with warm apple broth and frozen soya milk (60 kronor). None of the desserts are particularly memorable – if you’ve got room in your belly I’d recommend going for another temaki instead.
Kungstensgatan 2, www.rakultur.se