There is really only one restaurant in Ålesund, Norway that gets much of any sense of reviews on the Internet, at least in English. Sjøbua is a seafood shop located at the end of a small street, and it is THE seafood restaurant in Ålesund. The windows of the dining room open up onto the harbor with some pretty phenomenal views and the food is absolutely top notch. The fact that we actually managed to have a meal there was actually quite a surprise. And it was completely worth it – maybe even worth going out of your way to find.
We tried to dine there on our first night in Ålesund but we were led astray by the review from Frommer’s that suggests they are open on Saturday nights. They are not. And we spent the next five nights camping out in the fjords. It turns out that there was cell phone coverage out there but I didn’t bring mine and I certainly had no desire to interrupt the kayaking with trying to get dinner reservations. So we gambled and simply asked at the front desk of the hotel when we returned to civilization on Friday evening. “I’m very sorry sir, they do not have any tables available. Perhaps you would enjoy dining at the Indian restaurant just up on the corner.” That is the same Indian place that we had dined at the previous Saturday when we found Sjøbua to be closed so that wasn’t going to happen.
We gambled, and we won. We walked in to the restaurant shortly after 7pm and announced ourselves as a walk-in couple and pretty much begged for a table. There was a nice bar area that I would have attempted to dine in had things not worked out but that proved unnecessary in the end. It turns out that there was a 6:30pm reservation for two that never showed. And it was now ours!
The food was delicious. Simply off the charts phenomenal. I can attribute some of that to the fact that we’d been dining off of camping stoves the previous five nights, but those meals were actually pretty good (we have made one of them a regular staple at home now) so it can’t have just been that. The food was actually really that good.
We shared an appetizer and had an entree each. We shied away from the (crazy expensive even for Scandinavia) lobster appetizer and had something a bit more pedestrian, though quite delicious and quite local. It was mussels in a relatively traditional preparation and they were delicious, though not necessarily unique.
The coup de grace of the evening, however, came when the entrees were served. Getting the right amount of sauce to cover an entree is always a challenge. It always seems that you get not enough or the meat is swimming in sauce. Neither is a good way to dine. Sjøbua had quite the appropriate solution to that problem. Our meals were served and then, about 30 seconds later, the waiter showed back up at the table with a small bowl containing extra of the sauce. For one of us that meant more actual sauce, and for the other, a small bowl brimming with perfectly prepared thick cut bacon diced into quarter inch cubes, crispy and delicious.
Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t just the bacon that made the dish. The Salt Cod Gratinee (it sounds better in the native Norwegian) was phenomenal all on its own. But the addition of a side of bacon to top it off served as the proverbial icing on the cake. Except it was bacon on fish smothered in a creamy sauce. And extra bacon at that. Truly top notch at every turn.
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