Mystery surrounds CBD restaurant Norsk Dor, a unique Scandinavian venture from a team that has up until now been best known for their work behind small bar Uncle Ming’s. If it wasn’t for the modest signage and menu standing outside on Pitt Street, it’d be difficult to discern what the street level entrance actually leads to. The large stainless steel door and dreary staircase leading down to a inauspiciously dim corridor may seem like a waypoint to yet another Gentlemen’s Club (the strip is populated with them), but the creepy howling and sounds of nature that follow you down the stairs should be enough to let you know that you’re about to embark on something much different to a world of flashy lights, dodgy business deals, and scantily clad women.
Follow the corridor and turn right at the drawing of a deer head to find yet another large door – this is the official entrance to the wondrous clandestine restaurant and bar. Inside is gobsmackingly beautiful, a serene image of elegance marked by warm yellow glow emanating from hanging Edison bulbs which illuiminate the welcoming tables and booths that line the unpolished walls. Exceedingly comfortable kangaroo pelts are thrown over some of the wooden chairs while a vertical garden creeps up to the ceiling. The big, wide bar faces diners with shelves of colourful bottles while nearby rows hold a series of kitchen preserves.
It’s one of the most impressive interiors of a new venue Sydney has seen in a long time, right up there with the likes of Restaurant Hubert and Kittyhawk, representing a move away from gaudy theatrics and overdone themes; this is moody and elegant, an effective whisk away from the CBD and into a world that’s been crafted specifically to suit the modern take on Nordic cuisine.
Since opening, the kitchen team, led by Head Chef Damien Domenico, have narrowed the menu and made it more approachable with a focus on doing a few things but doing them well. The best way to experience this is through the new set menu which is around $60-$68pp.
Working your way through the wines here seems like a fine idea, but you’d be equally rewarded if you pay attention to the beers. There’s locally brewed Mead on the menu (brewed in Seven Hills by Breakaway Brewing), a sweet honeyed beverage that goes down incredibly well with just about anything on the menu. Inquire a bit further and you’ll also find a beautiful Nutmeg & Orange Infused Wheat Beer along with a small but quality-focused selection that ranges from light, sweet beers, to strong, thick ones. Or you can always go for the cocktails, of which there are plenty on offer. Signatures like the Tanqueray n10 ($22) (with vermouth and dill) and Akavit ($22) (the traditional Scandinavian spirit with its strength balanced against Tanqueray, mint, and citrus) are worthy starters, while the end of a feast calls for the Dark Chocolate ($22) (with cherry, black currant, raspberry, and yolk) – one of the best dessert cocktails I’ve had in a long time.
Norsk Dor’s kitchen team regularly switch up the menu in response to changing produce. On my visit the set started with several Local Oysters served with an icy, sweet cider sorbet, and a plate of Smoked Cheddar and cherry chutney. Already it’s clear that Norsk Dor know best to let the various ingredients speak for themselves, valuing modesty and flavour so you’re palate can experience simple, strong textures and tastes. The cheese is smooth, not heavily smoked but still bringing enough depth to pervade even through that sweet, rich cherry chutney, a clear winner if I had to pick between the two, though the oysters were hard to fault, especially with that delicate, fruity sorbet.
The next pair of starters moved things up with a King Prawn Skagen served with rye, dill, and crème fraîche, and a modestly sized Pork Belly with fennel and smoked grape. The prawns here are large and deliciously creamy, soaking in that light crème fraîche and providing you with a lot of juicy meat. The softness of the prawn meat is mirrored in the pork belly as well, tender with a fresh fruity flavour smoked into it from the grape
By this point you’d want the thickness that comes with a side of Wagyu bone marrow and rye ($15) to help balance against the softer, sweeter plates. The bone marrow is rich and fatty, serving just as well on its own as opposed to spread onto the mini dark rye loaf. If it gets too much for you, balance it out with the dill, pickled onions and chopped up pickles. Whatever you do, just make sure you save the glass of chilled Akvavit that comes with it. When all the marrow is out, pour the Akvavit into the bone (a bit at a time as it drips out easily) to really wash all the flavour and cut through that oily fattiness with a palate cleansing punch.
The final pair before the mains is a robust salad of Goat’s Cheese, Beetroot, and Honey and a simple Charred Ocean Trout served with peas and asparagus. These ones hold back on flavour (save for the strong, creamy goat’s cheese) and focus more on texture, interesting but ultimately falling behind the palate-pleasing dishes that came before. The superior of the two here is the simple trout dish, fleshy and only lightly charred to carry across that natural oily taste.
Mains are pricey, well sized considering six (seven if you made the wise choice and got the Bone Marrow) dishes came before it but modest enough to keep the focus on the main ingredient. There’s the Beef ($59) with artichoke and lavander, and the apparently smallish Mushroom Tart ($60) with Danish fetta and cress, but my guest and I leaned closer to the Venison ($68) and Salmon ($65).
The vension dish was served three ways in previous weeks, but with a slight refresh to the menu it seems the plate is more focused. Carrots, sweet onion, and blueberry play supporting roles here, but little can take away from the large, thick cut of vension loin that tastes like its been lightly seared and is incredibly soft on the inside. Though, the best of the mains is without a doubt the Salmon, which comes served as a rich, slightly spicy bouillabaisse with scallop, kingfish, and saffron broth. It’s packed full of fishy flavour like a well-made fiskesuppe but much richer, thanks to the saffron which ensures you’ll be spooning up every drop of this soup until there’s nothing left. The only improvement could have been some rye bread to mop up the liquid.
Of course, all the above dishes could see some slight twists and turns on any subsequent visits depending on availability and seasonality of produce, but one thing I sure hope remains identical on my next visit is the single dessert that was on the menu. It’s a Kladdkaka ($12) a dense, sticky Swedish chocolate cake structured with some ice cream and toffee on top with mixed berries scattered on the plate. The texture is similar to that of a brownie, a very addictive couple of mouthfuls that is best paired with the aforementioned dessert cocktail.
Address: b2/70 Pitt St, Sydney
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm + 5pm-10pm; Sat 5pm-10pm (bar and bar menu until 12am Mon-Sat)