Esperanto has held on to its Michelin star for ten consecutive years. That says a lot about the consistent high quality one has come to expect from Chef Sayan Isaksson’s flagship restaurant in his small restaurant empire in the old Jarla Theatre. But on the other hand, it could also mean a very classic restaurant that is staying true to one style and not reinventing itself – that is far from the case with Esperanto. Constantly innovating and pushing Sayan Isaksson’s vision of the cross Nordic and Asian fusion thinking that is at the heart of Esperanto.
A night here is truly a show
Esperanto s situated on the third floor of the old Jarla Theater on the outskirts of Östermalm close to Vasastan. When the restaurants opened in this neighborhood ten years ago, not much was in the area in terms of food. But Sayan Isaksson pioneered the area, and now one can find a lot of good and upcoming restaurants in the area including Sayan Isaksson’s two other restaurants in the same building namely Shibumi and Imuoto. The restaurant is quite stripped in terms of the interior design, a hint of the Nordic and Japanese mixture in the cooking comes through in the dining area. It is light wood, with white linen and accessories that draws the thinking to Japan. In the far corner of the restaurant the small sushi bar Imuoto, also with one Michelin star, is located and separated from the dining area of Esperanto with a Japenese style divider screen. The only downside of the dining area is the lightning, it is a bit too bright to create a cozy and intimate atmosphere. And the service is also a bit in the stiff and impersonal side. It is impeccable, but just lacking a bit of the personal touch to elevate the experience. From the service point of view Esperanto is probably the closes thing to a classic fine dining experience you will come in Stockholm together with Operakällaren. At places such as Frantzén, Oaxen and other fine dining establishments, they have been able to find a better balance in-between being correct and being personal. But all in all, an old theatre is the perfect venue for the show that Espeanto is, it is a culinary performance in terms of presentation and sublime flavor combinations from Japan and the Nordics – and a night here is truly a show.
A culinary performance in terms of presentation and sublime flavor combinations
Born in Thailand, but raised in Sweden, head chef Sayan Isaksson uses global culinary influences, particularly from Japan and the Nordics, with local produce to create beautiful dishes. As the restaurant puts it: “Gastronomically, our tongue is universal”, hence the name Esperanto. In the open kitchen, the chefs work in orchestrated silence, focusing on produce primarily from the Nordics that have been well sourced to fit into the high ambition of the kitchen. But always with that addition of the Japanese cooking techniques and flavors.
It is about elevating the produce and not overpowering it
The dinner normally starts with a serving of amuse bouche, and it is not one or two. We’re talking about a massive number of small servings, often six or seven small items end up in front of you. And that is before the actual dinner starts. If you opt for the wine paring, a hint is to order a glass to drink already at the beginning, because the matching wines aren’t served until the array of amuse bouche have been served. Once the dinner serving starts, the flavors will go hand in hand with the amuse bouche. It is sublime flavor combinations, innovative in both texture and technique and beautifully presented. A dinner at Esperanto is a true experience for the eye, and the visuals are as much a part of the show as the flavors. Fermented garlic, konbu and chawanmushi are mixed with apple, beef from a milk cow and potato broth. And that chawanmushi is spectacular, and has become somewhat of a signature dish at Esperanto. It is a true play on fusion cooking, but where the lines have been mixed and match in the right way. It doesn’t seem forced or overworked as many other fusion kitchens, but on the other hand how would one describe dishes such as barley with truffles in a Japanese context? One thing is however in common for all the dishes, they are extremely high in technical performance, it is gob smacking sometimes to see the end results. The dishes are well balanced, but in all fairness lacking a bit of the high notes in terms of punches. The punches that are delivered are sublimely placed on your lips but equally tickle your taste buds. This is very much true to the Japanese style of cooking, where it is about elevating the produce and not overpowering it with spices, and that is truly a part of the cooking at Esperanto.
sublimely placed on your lips but equally tickle your taste buds
There are two menus to choose from, one six course and one nine course. The six-course menu is SEK 1450, and the ten-course option will set you back SEK1900, excluding drinks. The smaller six course menu is however only available on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and is a “quicker option for the weekdays” and during the weekend only the ten-course menu is served. Booking is available for 60 days in advance, and the website is the smoothest option. Another note on the plus side is that since appointing Sören Polonius as sommelier, the standard of the wines has increased quite a lot at Esperanto as well.
Elevating the Nordic produce in a true Japanese style
It is easy to understand why Esperanto has held on to their Michelin star for a decade, it is about the consistency in delivery, high technical level and a visualization of the dishes that is striking. But first and foremost, elevating the Nordic produce in a true Japanese style where the flavors are meant to come from the individual produce. It is refined, it is cooking at a very high level – and it is a true culinary show that still takes place in the old theater building.