Five Star Rating: Freya’s Nordic cuisine dazzles like the Northern Lights | meal


Tiffany Taylor had no experience cooking Scandinavian food before she was asked to become Executive Chef at Freya Nordic Kitchen.

“My background is more in the Mediterranean-French traditions, and at first glance this seemed like as alien a cuisine as I could imagine,” Taylor said. “But the more I started researching and learning about the kitchen, I was really surprised at how familiar it seemed to me.

“I’m one of those people who loves to collect and read these homemade cookbooks that used to be published by churches and organizations,” she said. “And I discovered that basically the same ideas — of homey, comforting foods made from simple, well-prepared ingredients — that I found in those Church cookbooks can be found here in Scandinavian cuisine.”

Or to sum it up in one word: hygge.

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Hygge (pronounced HUE-guh) is a Danish word that has no simple counterpart in English. Simply put – and we quote from the definition on the back of the Freya Takeaway menu – it is “a feeling of intense well-being evoked by a place or experience that exudes warmth, charm and comfort”.

Dining at Freya Nordic Kitchen offers just that, with a focused yet imaginative menu that takes cues from Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish food traditions, in surroundings filled with light woods and soft green upholstery, arranged with the kind of tasteful rigor are IKEA can only dream of.

The restaurant is the latest concept from the Justin Thompson Restaurant Group and was conceived in part to bring something completely new and different to the Tulsa dining landscape.

By that standard alone, Freya is a resounding success. You won’t find moose on the menu at any other restaurant in town, let alone a demi-glace made with cloudberries, which are only found north of the Arctic Circle.

“We seek to honor these culinary traditions, often centuries old, and bring them to Tulsa in a thoughtful and sustainable way,” Taylor said. “We import a lot of ingredients from overseas, but we also do everything we can in-house, like smoking, salting and pickling.”

That sustainability concept extends to the physical restaurant itself, Taylor said, noting that the restaurant’s tabletops are made from recycled paper.

Of course, “different” doesn’t necessarily mean “good”. However, in what we have sampled at Freya Nordic Kitchen, ‘different’ means ‘extraordinary’.

Consider the elk ($42), which comes as two large chops on a stack of root vegetable ribbons and roasted radishes, with a white sauce of goat’s cheese, skyr (an Icelandic style of yogurt), and herbs, which are then drizzled with the cloudberry demi -Ice cream.

The meat itself isn’t wild (Taylor said the chops come from animals at least 3 years old), with a firm, lean texture that’s neither tough nor dry (we had it cooked to the recommended Medium Rare). The sharp spiciness of the cheese and yoghurt sauce, cut with the vineyard sweetness of the cloudberries, emphasized the natural flavor of the meat.

The lightly cooked ribbons added a crunch, and the roasting of the radishes eased the peppery bite and brought out their sweetness.

Not surprisingly, the restaurant’s most popular dish is its Swedish Meatballs ($23), served with homemade egg noodles, a hearty cream sauce, cranberry relish, and asparagus. The meatballs themselves had an almost creamy texture, and the cranberry relish was a really tart contrast to all that richness.

We started the meal with Skagen or Shrimp Toast ($15), four thin triangles of rye toast, generously topped with poached, chopped shrimp, dollops of golden caviar, and a touch of pickled lemon dressing that brought out the clean flavor and natural sweetness of the shrimp . Simple and addicting.

Crawfish bisque ($7 to $9) was a surprise on the menu, as these crustaceans are usually associated with swampier climes. But Taylor said the crawfish are very popular in Scandinavian countries, especially as part of Midsomer celebrations. The sponge cake is rich and almost caramel brown, topped with spirals of dill, oil and a few crawfish tails. Taylor said every part of the crawfish was used in making the biscuit, which perhaps accounts for its intriguingly salty taste.

We also met up with a friend for lunch, starting with what is perhaps the other famous Nordic contribution to world cuisine after Swedish meatballs, the Smorgasbord ($25) which included an array of pickles, a hunk of Danish Bleu cheese, a pile of Graved Lax, Slices of Gjetost and a pot of Danish liver pate, along with thin slices of buttered sourdough and rye bread, some horseradish mustard and a dill cream.

I usually avoid liver, but the smooth buttery pie had a remarkably similar flavor to the rich bleu cheese. Gjetost is a Norwegian cheese with an almost fudge-like texture and a slightly assertive taste. And the graved lax – thin slices of salmon cured in beet juice and a liqueur called aquavit, which produces an almost candy-like taste – I could eat a ton of. (A vegetarian option is available.)

For starters, we opted for the barley and smoked salmon salad ($17) and a choice of smørrebrød ($11 for two, $13 for three), which are open-faced Danish sandwiches. We went with the Graved Lax with Cream Cheese and Pickled Red Onions and the Smoked Salmon with Herb Boursin Cheese and Shaved Onions. The sandwiches came with roasted parsley potatoes or a beet and apple slaw; We opted for the potatoes, which were crispy on the outside giving way to a creamy inside.

Too often, when it comes to smoked salmon, you are given a choice of flavors – smoke or salmon – but in both preparations, the two flavors were perfectly balanced.

We also tried the blueberry pudding tart ($8) for dessert, which is topped with pickled blueberries that were a zesty surprise amidst the sweetness.

Freya also has full bar service offering craft cocktails and mocktails along with a selection of wines and beers.

Freya is Taylor’s first restaurant job in Tulsa in a while. She previously worked at Thompson’s Juniper restaurant for nine years before moving to Las Vegas for a while. When she returned to Tulsa about five years ago, she started her own private cooking/catering business.

“I was tired of working alone — I missed the camaraderie in the kitchen,” she said. “I went up to Justin and asked if he could have a seat for me, and he said, ‘Well, actually…’ and showed me the preliminary menu for Freya and asked if I’d be interested.”

Taylor said a new menu is being prepared for the fall and is expected to be released in late October.

“About 80 percent of the menu will be different as we start to delve more into braised dishes,” she said. “And the dishes that will remain on the menu will receive some adjustments to reflect the season.

“We’re also trying to get even more traditional ingredients,” Taylor said. “I would like to be able to serve reindeer for the holidays.”


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