Smalahove at the best and oldest Engebret cafe in Oslo

Engebret café is the oldest in Oslo dating from 1857 and with former patrons like Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Grieg, and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson from Norway. It sits directly north of Akershus Castle Fortress in two buildings that have been joined together to form this establishment. Located beside the old Christiania Theatre it was therefore a popular destination for writers and artists. This year it was where my wife DianeCA took me for a Birthday surprise date and we gladly take you along (of course I had my Cannon G11 and Nokia X6 at hand to capture this adventure) – so let’s start with the facade which has been preserved as an architectural landmark (click pics to bigify & enjoy):
Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #1 Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #2

The ambiance here is wonderful as the restaurant has retained its 19th century interior with an old-fashioned atmosphere and excellent food, served in a former bohemian literati haunt. Here is a peek from my birthday date: the entrée and our table:
Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #3 Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #4

Traditional Norwegian seafood and game dishes:
During lunch, a tempting selection of open-faced sandwiches is available. The elaborate dinner menu features special and traditional Norwegian seafood as well as game dishes. Since its now late autumn (after the hunting season) and closer to Christmas, some very special Norwegian cuisine is available – as I have described in previous posts: Ribbe, Reindeer, Pinnekjøtt, Salmon, Lutefisk, Rakfisk etc., but even more at Engebret – and here we are at the crucial point – the reason my beloved wife invited me here: To let me try (out of many different cuisine from around the world I’ve already tried) a really special Norwegian one. I’ll get back to that in a minute as I’d like to share our dinner step by step – first the table setting:
Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #5 by RennyBA Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #6 by RennyBA
Left: Fancy menu and silver – Right: Condiments (mustard, bacon bits, honey, flatbread and lefse)

The appetizer – Rakfisk:
Made from trout or sometimes char, it’s salted and fermented for two to three months, then eaten without cooking. The first record of the term “rakfisk” dates back to 1348, but the history of this food is probably even older. Traditionally it’s served sliced or as a fillet on flatbread or lefse with almond potatoes. Some also use raw onion, sour cream, mustard-sauce, a mild form of mustard with dill. This is food where Norwegians often drinks aquavit & beer and Engebret café served it this way:
Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #9 by RennyBA
Two pieces of fish, flatbread, lefse, onion and creme freche.

My birthday surprise – Smalahove (Lamb head):
Made from a sheep’s head, the skin and fleece of the head is burned off over an open flame and the brain removed. The head is then salted, sometimes smoked, and dried. To prepare it for the dinner it is then boiled for about 3 hours and served with mashed rutabaga and potatoes. It is considered by some to be unappealing or even repulsive, so it’s mostly enjoyed by enthusiasts or served to tourists and braver visitors. My regular readers know I belong to the first category:
Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #7 by RennyBA Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #11 by RennyBA
Left: Smalahove dish – Right: Birthday boy digging in

As soon as you overcome the grotesque look – either by chemical displacement (aquavit and beer is a natural choice) or by sheer will – the meat is very tender and tastes really good. Part of the reason why Norwegians eat it, is our tradition of using all of the resources from the animal. The head is usually a leftover product, but in old ages when there was lack of food it was necessary not to waste anything. Today the head is an expensive delicacy. So without bragging too much of Norwegian food, I would say it’s a world class exotic delicacy – or at least exotic.

Dessert – A soft & sweet landing: Caramel Pudding:
After the taste of smoked and salted meat, another traditional Christmas dessert is recommended – especially the one from Engebret: Caramel pudding:
Smalahove at Engebret cafe in Oslo #10 by RennyBA
I prefer coffee & cognac with it and since it was my day, I had Rémy Martin XO Spécial!

So this was my beloved Wife Diane’s surprise date for my birthday this year. To me it made one of my food dreams come true and it exceeded my expectations – my very first smalahove and I can tell you: it won’t be the last one! Thanks also to Engebret café and their staff for excellent service – go visit their web page for more information!

Let me take this opportunity to thank everyone for the many birthday greetings I have received on my Facebook wall and in Blogsphere; Especially TorAa and Comedy Plus who even posted greetings on their blogs. The Christmas season is starting soon, and we will be travelling a bit in the next few weeks as well. So those who enjoy my travels and food posts will likely have something to look forward to