6 Scandinavian Dishes You Must Try at Plaj

December 8, 2014
by Carolyn Alburger

Coriander, cardamom, pickled fish, dumplings and Douglas fir may sound like the makings of a special holiday feast but they're on the menu all year long at Plaj (pronounced like "play"). Hidden away inside the Inn at the Opera hotel near City Hall, this two-year-old destination for Scandinavian food comes from Sweden-born chef Roberth Sundell and his wife Andrea. It's a festive time of year — with ribbons, bows and twinkling lights filling our city's trees and storefronts — so the Nordic flavors at Plaj seem even more appropriate. Here are six dishes you've got to try this winter.  

1) Headcheese

No gelatinized meat brick here. Sundell's delicate, loosely packed headcheese ($14) comes with pickled carrot ribbons, a light-handed horseradish cream and quince jam. This dish is also part of the five-course Julbord Scandinavian Christmas menu ($65) the restaurant will serve on December 14 and 21. Alternate bites with sips of the bar's housemade aquavit, a gin-like Scandanavian liquor with hints of coriander and caraway. 

2) Herring

Pile sweet chunks of pickled herring ($14) onto housemade rye crackers and make sure you get a little bit of browned butter, salmon roe, fresh dill and allspice-pickled onion into each bite. A glass of mineraly Muscat from Alsace compliments these flavors. 

3) Lobster

One of the most delicate dishes on the menu, lobster ($28) comes in a sudsy bisque broth with fresh dill, avocado and lumpfish caviar. This makes a great segway into the menu's heartier fare. 

4) Ox Cheek

A tender section of ox cheek ($25) sits over farro, frizzled onions and mustard greens. Little half-globes of green apple and a snowy pile of freshly grated horseradish reset your palate, making it very hard to put down the fork.    

5) Dumplings

Although the menu has a nice gnocchi dish, save that for Italian restaurants and try these oozy Swedish potato dumplings ($14). Salty lardon bits and an onion broth give each bite a powerful umami hit.  

6) Donuts

A Danish take on donuts, these abelskivers taste a bit like a fluffy pancake ball. Smears of salty butter and sugary cloudberry jam are a must on each bite.