Maki Restaurant in Ålesund, on the west coast of Norway, is situated in a historical jugend style building down by the seafront in the town’s centre. If you get a table by one of the windows, it may happen that you will experience seals playing in the sea outside, while you are being served the most freshest seafood to be found in the country.
Maki Restaurant is housed inside Hotel Brosundet which used to be a warehouse for fishermen more than 100 years ago. It was built after the big city fire in Ålesund in 1904, and was used to store clipfish (sun-dried cod) until 1980. Today it houses Hotel Brosundet, a member of “The historical hotels of Norway”, and the Maki Restaurant.
Maki is the love of Chef and restaurateur Ole Jonny Hjelmeseth, who came back to his hometown Fosnavåg and started the first Maki Restaurant in 2001. Before opening his restaurant, Hjelmeseth had been a steward at sea for several years, cooking for seamen on different vessels, but always experimenting with new fish species which where being caught by the sailors. Back on firm ground, for some years he served high quality seafood together with Bjørn Tore Furset, one of Norway’s most successful chefs, known for his numerous restaurants in Oslo, like Lofoten, Havsmak, Dyna Fyr and Ekebergrestauranten, as well as Argent in the new Opera House in the capital Oslo. Hjelmeseth also had a stay at Költzow Aker Brygge in Oslo.
But all the time away from home, Hjelmeseth knew that the best and most freshest fish and seafood could be caught around the locally famous island Runde just outside Ålesund. So he found his way back to his native area, wanting to make the most out of this opportunity. He built up a tight connection with various local fishermen, and in that way he got fresh fish and seafood delivered at the door every day.
Maki Restaurant in Ålesund opened in 2007 and like the first Maki in Fosnavåg was an immediate success. Hjelmeseth chose the name Maki in respect of the chefs working in Japanese kitchen. Like them, he wanted to make use of everything that was available, and at the same time always move foreward. In his team he has been choosing promising young local chefs, waiters and talents who would show their gratitude and proudness for getting the chance to work in a top restaurant. His Head Chef since the opening in Ålesund, Lars Petter Vikanes, was sent to Geneva to work and gain experience at Domaine de Châteauvieux. Vikanes also worked for Bjørn Tore Furset at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, and last winter had a short stay at Noma in Copenhagen.
The menu is focusing strongly on seafood. The set menu normally will vary from day to day, depending on what has been caught by the local fishermen, and very seldom you will find meat on the platters. But Hjelmeseth and his employees like to push and challenge the limits, so expect some real treats, like whale marinated in locally made beer or cod tongues (a favorite among Norwegians) with an Asian twist, wrapped in what seems to be a local newspaper. Fish species like halibut, monkfish and turbot are tenderised to get the maximum flavours, and when they succeed in the kitchen, the chefs deliver a symphony of tastes that play together in harmony like musicians in a big orchestra.
Maki Restaurant offers creativity, uniqueness and innovation – for instance when serving Patagonian toothfish with crushed Norwegian blueberries, meat marrow, chrysalis fruit and butter sauce. Combine that with the special atmosphere and quietness caused by the calm sea outside, Maki Restaurant will make you feel that you have found the perfect place for an eating experience out of the ordinary.
Written by Ulf