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Successful takeover puts capelin and warrior shrimps on the menu

Marine researchers took over the famous Bergen restaurant Lysverket for one evening. On the menu, marine delicacies of the future sprinkled with research.

“Or at any rate we took over the menu. The chef’s knife and garnish tongs remained safely in the hands of the chefs”, explains the man behind the idea, marine scientist and food nerd Arne Duinker.

Together with head chef Christopher Haatuft, a team of food-loving marine scientists selected raw ingredients from the sea that are either unknown to most people, or not normally eaten for other reasons.

Strange bivalves and bycatches, potent sea cucumbers, capelin from research catches, ikejime saithe and warrior shrimps all featured on the highly unusual menu served at Lysverket.

The previous time the researchers trooped into the kitchen of Lysverket, they brought a bag of mesopelagic fish that few if any people had ever tasted before.

"An unadventurous seafood nation"

“We keep talking about discovering the foods of the future. We wanted to show the people of Bergen that there are already plenty of new, sustainable food types out there”, says Duinker.

He feels that for being one of the world’s leading seafood nations, Norwegians are unadventurous in their attitude towards seafood.

“Norwegians need to open their eyes to all of the fantastic things swimming around and growing just below the quayside”, says Duinker, who personally likes to sample everything he encounters in the watery element.

See our opinion piece in Norwegian: – Hva med tare til fredagstacoen? [Anyone for a kelp taco?]

“So far, the only thing I’d strongly recommend against eating is a rabbit fish.”

The Institute of Marine Research also does food

Havforskingsinstituttet jobbar med mat langs fleire spor: Nye oppdrettsartar, skjel, nye fiskeri, utnytting av råstoff og kva som er sunt og trygt. 

The Institute of Marine Research’s work involves looking at food in a variety of ways: at new species for aquaculture, at molluscs, at new fisheries, at how to exploit resources and at what is healthy and safe to eat.

“The emergence of a new Norwegian food culture may help us to become more self-sufficient, and give our seafood industry more strings to its bow”, explains Duinker.

We also work on food security, on ensuring there’s enough food for everyone. Sissel Rogne, the Director of the IMR, also acted as a fish sommelier for the night, and she highlights this as one of the important reasons for organising the event.

“In 2016, 815 million people in the world were chronically undernourished. That’s one of the many reasons we’re so interested in both discovering and rediscovering sources of food”, says Rogne.

Reinventing Norwegian food culture

The guests who attended the event were served food by scientists who were very happy to share their knowledge about the raw ingredients and their origins — as well as the odd old wives’ tale.

There is a suspiciously big overlap between the researchers’ interests and the latest trends in culinary philosophy.

“What would we eat if we had to invent a food culture from scratch, using what is available to us?

That’s the concept behind neo-Nordic cuisine”, explains Lysverket’s head chef Christopher Haatuft.

He is credited with coining the phrase “neo-fjordic cuisine” as a Norwegian answer to “neo-Nordic cuisine”.

May lead to a culinary partnership

Lysverket is one of the most respected restaurants in Bergen.

Not everyone may be able to splash out on a fine dining tasting menu on a Thursday evening out. But Haatuft also offered more affordable a la carte dishes and bar snacks, with a bit of research thrown in.

“The tasting menu was where we really wanted to demonstrate that it’s possible to make sought-after delicacies from unsought-after or unknown raw ingredients”, concludes Haatuft.

Perhaps this collaboration will lead to something more.