Tapas have been trendy for a long time. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good. An evening at Delicatessen is like visiting a friend you’ve forgotten.
A summer party with work, a relative’s commitment, an aunt’s 50th birthday party. Raise your hand to those who haven’t served Spanish small dishes at a communal table in recent years.
This may explain why choosing tapas isn’t a cool and exciting experience when you’re the first to treat an all-nighter to a restaurant. Potato omelette and meatballs in tomato sauce? No, we prefer pintxos or Japanese izakaya.
Delicatessen does not allow itself to be affected by such trend changes. It’s been 23 years since they opened their first restaurant at the bottom of Grünerløkka, and apart from Fredrikstad and Bodø, the tapas empire operates in equally high gear with three locations in Oslo. And why shouldn’t they.
The old and pleasant restaurant premises, good atmosphere, friendly service and small dishes of high culinary quality will fill the tables no matter how cool the neighborhood restaurant is.
In many ways, it’s like stepping into a time machine at the delicatessen majorstoun. The cozy corner spot at Vibes Gate is warm and inviting, with a large, blue-gray bar along one wall, wooden floors, pews and square tables in light wood. Afternoon light pours in through tall windows facing the street, and the yellow walls are often decorated with handwritten menu boards.
Well – and annoying
Black-clad waiters maneuver the narrow passageways between tables, apparently unconcerned about dropping any of the tapas bowls they carry on their shoulders.
The annoying thing is the same as before. Best of all, all meals are served at the same time. The result is crowded tables and cold meals. We whined about this when the branch opened ten years ago in Oslo West, and we’re doing it again this year. The restaurant recommends three to four cans per meal. Person, we took them at their word, and now every available table surface is filled with bowls big and small.
The classic grilled chèvre with beetroot is sure to be a hit. Serrano ham should be, but very dry and tasteless. However, manchego cheese with truffles does! A beautiful combination of flavors.
Wild prawns with garlic and tarragon mayonnaise also have longevity on the tapas menu, eaten while still hot and painful to peel. Mayonnaise is pretty bland, better to dip them in the delicious aioli we ordered.
Aside from the shrimp, ham and cheese, the portions are complex, small well-packaged plates.
Here’s tenderloin with parsnip puree and roasted tapioca root (lovely, juicy meat). Tomato salad with pickled red onions and hummus with parsnips (slightly bland tomatoes, but the side dish gives off nice Middle Eastern vibes). Grilled chèvre with salt-roasted beetroot (this time with raspberry dressing, last time we had hazelnut kernels) and seasonal grilled lamb shank with tomato sauce (wonderfully spiced and grilled tender meat).
And the staff is excellent. If she wasn’t here on our first visit in 2012, we’re sure she served us when we were here a few years back. She is motivated, quick and professional – albeit somewhat business-wise. This evening she is joined by a newly recruited Spanish gentleman. What he lacks in style, he makes up for in charm.
As the evening darkens, the tables around us fill up. The waiters don’t know whether they are busy or there is a queue in the kitchen, suddenly the food is too late. Well, a chocolate fondant should be baked fresh, but it takes ten minutes in the oven – not 30.
But let the dirt go, it’s nice to sit here and people watch and drink, like seeing a friend you’ve forgotten.
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