Torshavn, Faroe Islands
One of the best parts of travelling is sampling the local cuisine. I had the fortunate opportunity to visit and spend a morning with Kari Kristiansen, head chef of Raest which open in May 2016. I asked Kari to describe the food at Raest, "Here at Ræst we cook traditional Faroese food with Faroese produce like dry aged fermented fish or lamb, with a modern twist inspired by other cultures, in a home made style." Raest which means, fermented is located in the historic district of Torshavn, right by the harbor. The restaurant is built inside a converted home, that has been designated a heritage site. The restaurant is decorated with old books and photographs depicting life int he Faroe Islands at different points in history. It's cozy and intimate, the tables are spaced enough apart that you don't feel you are intruding on your fellow diners conversations, but close enough you can have a peek at whats on their plates to help you make your decisions.
Kari learned his trade as an intern at Koks, the most famous fine dining restaurant in the Faroe Islands, which has followed the foraging-movement made famous by NOMA in Copenhagen. He was with them for 3 years, but at the same time attending culinary school in Aalborg & Copengahen. After completing his studies, he worked at Barbara Fish House located next door for 1 year, and then in New York for 3 months to stage for the Restaurant Atera. It wasn't long before he was offered the head chef position as Raest.
We joined Kari at 10 in the morning just as he was beginning his preparation for dinner service which would be at 6pm. Kari goes to market and talks to his suppliers, and his menus will often change depending on what he can procure that day. When we visited, Kari was deboning and cleaning Raestur Fiskur, which 6 week old - air dried fermented atlantic cod. Using the air to dry and preserve the meat is a very common practice - you can see many hjallur (drying) huts in small villages. The Faroese use this process to not only dry fish but also lamb and mutton.
Peter, Adrian, and I were able to come back another evening to sample the full menu that Kari prepared. We were attended to by our lovely server Rakul, who translated each dish in detail from the Faroe name into an English, explaining the ingredients, process, and humouring us by trying to teach us how to pronounce things properly. The food was great. While some of the flavours were quite distinctive, nothing is what I would call pungent. One or two items may be an acquired taste, but the majority of the items I think would be at home in any menu be it in London or Los Angeles. The Faroese lamb-intestine butter is something I would bottle up and smuggle in a heartbeat. We enjoyed our meal with a number of different beers that were handpicked by Kari to accompany the food. I would definately come back again!