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Norway's best restaurant is being praised by America's premier lifestyle icon. Join Chef Esben Holmboe Bang on his search for the raw materials - including insects and flowers - which have secured Maaemo three stars in the Michelin Guide.

Published: 16 February 2018

“One of the meals of a lifetime”. “Exquisite preparation”. 

Thus describes lifestyle legend Martha Stewart her visit to Norway's only restaurant with three stars in the prestigious Michelin Guide, Maaemo, which is centrally located at Bjørvika in Oslo.

Stewart is not the only distinguished guest who has expressed joy over the flavours that Maaemo chef Esben Holmboe Bang and his team conjure up in the kitchen. 

At the end of last year, the "Castle" actress, Molly Quinn, and her boyfriend, television producer Elan Gale ("The Bachelor"), were guests at the restaurant. 

“To say the meal was divine would be an understatement," Gale wrote on Instagram after the visit while also promising to come back again soon.

Maaemo has in recent years been securely ranked among the world's best restaurants with its innovative techniques, awareness of Nordic traditions, and proximity to the raw materials being among the things that lift it to the upper echelon of culinary art. 

Now, the Danish chef, Esben Holmboe Bang, is taking us even further into his culinary secrets.

Ants and roses on the menu

In a new episode of the YouTube series, Table Tales, where various restaurants in Oslo are showcased, Holmboe Bang is the featured chef. He gives the surrounding area in and around the Norwegian capital much of the credit for the restaurant's success.   

“The thing about Oslo is that there is so much progress - all the time. And when you combine that with the closeness to nature, it's the perfect place to run a restaurant.” 

The key is making use of ingredients that are the very definition of the term "short-travelled”.  

“Luckily, we live in a city that is so close to nature that we can have a relationship with our own produce. We can find it and feel it with our own hands.”

This philosophy involves some very creative choices when the raw materials are being picked out and collected. At Maaemo there are multiple items in the dishes that are likely to be perceived as exotic for the average restaurant guest. 

In the Table Tales video, we get to come along with Holmboe Bang when he takes the tram up to the Ekeberg Sculpture park to pick Norway's six-legged answer to lemons. 

“The thing about Norwegian ingredients is that we don't have lemons here. But we do have the ants, which have a lot of the same qualities.” 

Another interesting ingredient is rose petals, which the chef can finds at the urban farm at Losæter. 

“We actually have a strawberry dessert right now where we do grilled rose petals", he explains.

See how Maaemo presents the menu, which is constantly changing, on their website:

A star and an Ambassador

Esben Holmboe Bang is definitely a culinary star in Norway. But the Dane is also humble and generous enough to regularly give praise to colleagues in the industry, whether its coffee by Tim Wendelboe, drinks at Kniven Bar or tacos at Taco Republica. 

Speaking of stars: The elusive Michelin stars are awarded annually in the Nordic countries at the end of February. Maaemo snagged two stars already in its first year, in 2012, and were able to keep all three stars the last two years. Whether the restaurant will manage to keep their three stars for the third year in a row, remains to be seen. 

Holmboe Bang's future plans remain unchanged if one is to believe the interview he did with H Fusion Media Group just before Christmas: 

“Keep doing what we do. Get better every day.”

The other Norwegian restaurants that will defend their Michelin star are Kontrast and Statholdergaarden in Oslo, as well as Sabi Omakase and Re-Naa in Stavanger.

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