On a backstreet from Odenplan, one of Stockholm’s absolutely best restaurants is located. Lilla Ego. It is really hard to compare this restaurant to that many others, this place certainly has its own vibe as well as direction of the food. When entering this quite small restaurant, you feel like you are about to walk straight into the kitchen. And that sort of encapsulates the atmosphere of the restaurant, it is like being at the chefs home, eating an intimate, and first and foremost, a personal dinner. Because is it something that characterizes Lilla Ego, it has to be that personal feeling – in everything from the warm, friendly and relaxed service to the careful attention to the details in the well thought out dishes. What can I say but big congratulations to everyone living in Vasastan, you have the best neighborhood restaurant one could wish for.
First probably the most important note if you actually want to get one of the highly sought after tables, be prepared to make your reservations well in advance. The restaurant is more or less fully booked for the coming three months, which coincidently is how long in advance you are able to book. But there is another option as well, there are eight vacant seats available for drop-in at the bar from 17,00 and the whole evening ahead. But think of them as getting concert tickets, don’t expect to be able to drop in at 17,00 and find eight empty seats. But I still recommend giving it a shot, you never know when it is your lucky day. And increase your odds by coming at a later time, most evenings it is possible to get bar seats at 21-21,30.
you never know when it is your lucky day
Ok, so over to the restaurant itself. Daniel Räms and Tom Sjöstedt are the chefs behind this unpretentious and casual restaurant. But in the sense that unpretentious describes the dining area and the venue, casual (but attentive) more describes the service. The food however is just brilliant in every way. So clean and well balanced flavors, so nice plating and just a great food experience in every sense. Expect flavor bombs in every dish. Order everything. Enjoy the full length of your time at the table.
Daniel Räms and Tom Sjöstedt both have won the Swedish Chef of the year award, so that is the chef credentials that they know how to cook good food. But more telling of their work is that more or less all chefs working at Lilla Ego goes quite far in that competition, in 2015 three of the chefs from Lilla Ego came to the semifinal and one went through to the final. In 2016 there were still three chefs in the semifinal, but all went through to the final where one of them, Jimmie Eriksson, won the chef of the year 2016.
It feels so much more personal than many other restaurants
Daniel Räms and Tom Sjöstedt started the restaurant in 2013, and they opened by themselves without external investors which is increasingly difficult as well as rare. They actually built (well, almost at least) the place by themselves and kept down the cost by for instance doing the paint work and buying a lot of the interior second hand. But that all ads up to a place that feels so much more personal than many other restaurants, the raw brick walls, white tiles, simple wooden tables and white wooden chairs all capture the essence of the restaurant brilliantly.
The menu is not really extensive, about five starters and as many mains, focused on the Swedish flavors that are in season. A couple tonight’s specials ae written casually with a black marker on a flip chart paper above the bar. The food might sound uncomplicated when you read the menu, e.g. pork tartare with beets and berries, but when it ends up on the table it is hard to anticipate how it will look. The plating is just artistic and could easily fit into a fine dining restaurant, and in all fairness this restaurant is fine dining (in terms of the food and how well it is executed). It is just not priced as one. And it is not set out to be one either. Don’t get me wrong, it will still set you back a bit – just not as much as if you go to one of the Michelin starred restaurants and get a food experience which is quite close to this.
The flavor layers in the dishes are often just brilliant
The food puts a lot of the vegetables in focus, and often they are packed with flavors. The flavor layers in the dishes are often just brilliant. Quite a lot of effort goes into developing the dishes at Lilla Ego, and that certainly can be noticed in the dishes. So even though the menu changes constantly – a lot of the dishes remain the same on paper, but are continuously refined which makes it fun to come back and order a dish that you had at your last visit just to find out that it is even better the second time. I think the food is nothing sheer of brilliant. The dishes are so well thought out, packed with flavors and just perfectly executed. On the contrary to most other restaurants, the main protein is often not the first thing you see on a plate; often the vegetables are the main part of the visual. And sometimes you almost need to deconstruct the dishes to figure out all the different components that are hiding below the vegetables on top. The dishes are truly full of surprises in every aspect. And especially your taste buds will be constantly surprised.
This is the ultimate neighborhood restaurant
The ambition with Lilla Ego was to create the perfect neighborhood restaurant where the food and produce are the main focus and the atmosphere is relaxing and welcoming. It is almost starting to become a cliché to have a relaxed atmosphere, but Lilla Ego manages to really balance it. But the true star is the food. It is just brilliant. This is the ultimate neighborhood restaurant, so they have certainly executed on their vision and I would just love if a similar place opened up in my neighborhood. Or an easier solution might be to just move to Västmannagatan.