Act I: Setting the Scene
In literature, the first act is traditionally where all the major characters of the story, the world they live in, and their central conflict are introduced. The writer has the freedom to create any setting and reality that they so wish; the logic and reasoning of the story have yet to be defined, and anything is possible.
Founder and head chef Heidi Bjerkan creates her own fantasy world of taste through the main characters in the first act: the veggies and the ocean.
Upon arrival, we are whisked up to the second floor to enjoy the first servings accompanied by champagne. This is where the evening begins.
The first few dishes serve as a briny prologue; pickled baby carrots from Skjølberg Søndre, fresh rutabaga, and pickled kohlrabi. The carrots were pickled 5 months earlier in a traditional Norwegian brine, bringing a silky smooth texture to the tiny root vegetables.
Our server for the first act is the dairy farmer Jon Fredrik from Fannremsgården, about 40 minutes out of town. Jon Fredrik, the butter king, is the main producer of dairy products for Credo. His butter and sour cream alone will give you reason enough to return to dine at Credo’s tables.
Our journey continues north toward the Norwegian seashore in our next servings: mussels nestled in a creamy mushroom tart; razor clams with crispy yeast and an apple pureé; and sea urchins swimming in a seabuckthorn foam.
From the seashores we continue by water inland, where we are served local ørret – trout – with Fannremgården’s own sour cream on a traditional wheat biscuit. The technique of curing fish has been the main method of conservation over the last several hundred years in Norway, and is displayed at Credo at its most beautifully-executed. The smooth texture of the fish has a melting, buttery quality, contrasting nicely with the dry crunch of the Christmas cookie underneath.
For our last dish in the cafe area, we are served oysters, “from the ocean,” as Jon Fredrik told us with a laugh when we asked about provenance. The creamy essence of the salty bivalves stick to the roof of your mouth as impressions of a windy, cloudy sea swim over your tongue and glom onto your cheeks. Each oceanic dish provides a different essence of the sea, from the crystalline blue waters of sweet razor clam, to the murky, stormy anger of the oysters.
Act II: Confronted By Nature
The second act is by far the longest, encompassing more than half of the evening. At this point, Chef Bjerkan has built a solid frame for her narrative. But she’s still nearly 15 dishes from the end.
The overarching narrative of the evening is riddled with subplots – minor stories layered underneath the main story; tales of dairy farmers, meat producers, and vegetable farmers that come together to create the magic of Credo.
We are taken downstairs to the main dining room for the rest of the meal. The champagne we have been sipping shifts to a beer from Faune, which, until recently, was the most northern brewery in the world. It has a calming, peppercornish flavor, soft like a warm blanket on a frosty February evening.
The original Credo had a splendid run for 19 years as a leader in the New Nordic movement, even serving as an inspiration for the likes of Noma, until just last year, when Bjerkan shuttered the establishment to make way for self-reinvention. The new Credo brings together the dominating culinary mentalities of the moment – locally sourcing ingredients, cooking according to the season, and favoring sustainability – to complete Bjerkan’s artistic vision.
One of Credo’s signature dishes, potato bread with spreads of pork neck, butter and sour cream, greets us as we embark on our second act. The dish is a familiar anecdote, anchoring the meal into our former memories of evenings at Credo.
Then we head briefly back to the ocean, where we are served several Norwegian delicacies, the first being rakfisk (trout sprinkled with salt and fermented in water for up to a year) accompanied by bread crumbs and beet roots. The breadcrumbs added a contemporary crunch to such a traditional dish.
Up next, two variations of Norway’s most common fish: cod. A filet of cod with a jacket of fried cod skin and drizzle of parsley sauce has images of cold, Arctic fisheries swimming in our minds. Then a dish that tastes nothing like fish at all: cod roe with dill sauce. The flavor was more akin to that of an excellently-prepared hot dog, or pølse (if you didn’t know, Scandinavians LOVE their hot dogs).
Two more dishes finish off our maritime adventures: a plump, sweet, and juicy pan-fried langoustine skewered onto a fork, and another version of the same crustacean, this time with its own meat and celery root blended into a dense sponge-like confection. The taste draws audible admiration from all three of us, as it floats somewhere between mashed potatoes, a meat broth that has been simmering for days, and the quite particular taste of the head juices of a small animal. We scoop out bites of the doughy treat with our bare hands, adding an animalistic moment to our fine dining experience.
And now it’s time to move into the dark depths of the Norwegian forests. We begin with a dish of fresh cheese beneath a cherry and pine sauce, with pieces of shaved reindeer heart and tongue floating in the mix. The dish is reminiscent of a damp, mossy forest floor, and has Eyolf dreaming of hunting trips past.
Then things get even more gamey; beef tartar swimming in a bone marrow sauce and presented in a hollow half of bone, only to be upstaged by a bowl of chicken skins swimming in a mushroom broth, a dish so intensely animalistic that the smell of a warm-blooded animal sits heavily on the back of our tongues for several minutes after the course has passed.
Following, we are greeted by another Credo signature dish: blood pudding. Fluffy, rich mousse is sandwiched between between crunchy layers of blood and crackers. Tart lingonberries are spread across the top to add a spark to the rich, creamy dish.
Our final foray into the forest is a dry-aged tenderloin in a bell pepper sauce; Addison couldn’t avoid the overwhelming taste of Texas and her years there in the southwestern-leaning dish.
Act III: Resolution
The closing act presents the final confrontation of the story: has Credo managed to pull off its magnum opus with its own reinvention?
We are served a palate cleansing raspberry granita, made from homemade raspberry soda, kombucha sauce, and a dusting of pop rocks, sending our minds careening forward to the sunny summer days ahead.
The final dish is a fresh milk ice cream under a salty caramel drizzle, plated with a crispy, crunchy, brown crumble that happens to be made from søl, a type of Norwegian seaweed. The course is emblematic of the magic of Credo: utilizing familiar flavors and surprising ingredients to tell a story, specifically that of the land it calls home.
We are so thankful to have our special restaurant back in action, and can’t wait to see what Heidi and her team attempt next.
Until next time, Credo. Ha det!