One of my dining companions, who is Danish, often laments about the lack of depth of cuisine from the Nordic countries here in Los Angeles. Thus, it was fortunate for me (and unfortunate for my friend, as he was out of town) that I had an opportunity to try the refined cooking of Chef Christer Larssen at his Melrose Avenue restaurant, Alta Nordic Kitchen. Chef Larssen had previously helmed the kitchen at the famed Aquavit in Manhattan, and is quite accomplished in his own right.
Alta occupies the space previously used by Chef Perfecto Rocher and his Spanish kitchen, smoke.oil.salt.
Sudwerk Pilsner… A brew from up north (Davis, to be precise). A true pilsner in taste. I liked it.
Perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most on the menu at Alta is their toasts. Since I was by myself, I only ordered 3 of them…
Danish rye bread… All the breads here are made in-house by Chef Larssen and his son. This Danish rye was phenomenal, as was the toasted herb bread.
Gravlax: Marinated Atlantic salmon, coarse mustard sauce, dill… Just the right amount of fattiness and smoke on the fish, and there’s nothing like that mustard sauce in L.A. right now.
Skagen (shrimp): Greenland shrimp, crème fraîche, whitefish roe, dill… We have become enamored with large prawn and shrimp in our day-to-day experience. Perhaps it is time to re-acquaint our taste buds with the equally delightful flavors of our oft-ignored friends, the small shrimps!
Sill & Gubbröra (herring & anchovy egg salad): With Matjes herring filet, sour cream, chives, egg salad with anchovy, to be served on toasted Danish rye bread. This was my favorite. Very strong tastes, but definitely working in harmony. Delicious!
I also the “hacked” the herring & egg salad by putting it on with the toasted herb bread instead - Still awesome.
Next up: Some classics of the Nordic repertoire: Meatballs (served with pickled cucumbers and lingonberry sauce) and mushrooms…
Köttbullar (meatballs): Swedish meatballs of beef & pork, mushroom gravy, lingonberries, pickled cucumber salad & potato puree… Definitely not your Ikea meatballs. These meatballs were far tastier, “meatier” and just plain more flavorful. And the accoutrements all “made sense” all of a sudden when taken in one big bite with the meatballs. I inhaled these things.
Svamp (mushrooms): Sauteed cultivated mushrooms, shallots, toasted walnuts, Parmesan cheese… This side dish reminded me very much of the wild “borovik” mushroom preparation, which was a highlight of my trip to Russia a few years back. Earthy, with the texture and taste of walnuts as counterpoint - Excellent.
Ingefärspäron: Poached ginger pear, vanilla ice cream, almonds chocolate sauce… Gentle and delicately sweet, this accompanied really well with a coffee.
And just because we’re FTCers…
The whole dinner I enjoyed at Alta Nordic Kitchen was satisfying and very educational (well, educational for me, at least). Definitely try the toasts. They are special.
And now, the bad news… If you are interested in trying the elevated Nordic cooking of Chef Christer Larssen at Alta Nordic Kitchen, you’d best hurry, because the restaurant will be shuttering just before the end of this month. Chef Larssen admits he is already looking for space to keep Alta going - perhaps more west than its current Melrose home.
Alta Nordic Kitchen
7274 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046