Following the fantastic reception of the city’s first stylish Burmese restaurant, Club Rangoon, its owners at F&B group Common Abode have shifted gears to introduce yet another relatively unfamiliar culinary concept in the form of Nordic eatery Hjem. Tucked along Hollywood Road near Man Mo Temple, this homely, welcoming new restaurant serves up authentic Nordic flavours alongside healthy beverages that are perfect for stressed-out urbanites to pick up on the go.
Hjem, which means ‘home’ in Norwegian (and pronounced ‘yem’ in English), lies particularly close to the heart of the group’s co-founder, Elin Fu, who grew up in the Scandinavian country. She explains, “Hjem is a way of keeping home close to me wherever I may be. Food can be a very personal thing; taste can evoke certain memories and can be an instigator of new experiences. I wanted to share with guests the same comfort that I felt growing up with Nordic cuisine.”
In line with this vision, simple, farm-to-table offerings are the order of the day, typified by the selection of smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches with a base of robust rye bread and an array of toppings – quite literally Hjem’s bread and butter.
Our own tasting started with a trio of smørrebrød. Arctic Prawn Smørrebrød sees a heap of mayonnaise-coated prawns plucked from the region’s icy waters and placed on a bed of boiled eggs. Hearty yet refreshing, the inherent richness of this cold dish is deftly tempered with the addition of crunchy medallions of baby radish. Generous dollops of salmon roe, meanwhile, elevate the texture of each bite with a burst of flavour.
We then dove into the Herring Smørrebrød. A staple fish in northern European diets, the herrings here are not smoked, salted or pickled as one might expect, but marinated in a pungent mustard dressing. The epitome of a love-it-or-hate-it cold sandwich – some diners may be put off by the topping’s strong aroma – it nonetheless offers unique insight into the tastes of Scandinavia.
Rounding out our platter was the warm Pork Belly Smørrebrød. Here the slivers of perfectly cooked pork belly are reminiscent of Korean samgyupsal in their preparation, all fatty goodness. To cut through the oiliness, the meat is grounded by a bed of tangy pickled red cabbage, with the accompanying fresh slivers adding a delightful crunch to proceedings. A note for the uninitiated: the smørrebrød are hugely filling despite their diminutive size, and even just one of these open-faced creations will likely satiate your appetite.
If, however, you’ve yet to hit your limit, sampling a plate of Hjem’s Meatballs wouldn’t be amiss. The very definition of comfort food, the juicy meatballs are complemented by creamy mashed potato and umami-laden gravy. Once again, a balancing of flavours to avoid overpowering the taste buds is achieved: a spoonful of lingonberry sauce bequeaths each mouthful with a delightful tanginess that lingers long after the morsel slips down the throat.
Alongside these comforting culinary treats, no visit to Hjem would be complete without sampling the coffees and healthy drinks on offer. From Nordic teas to kombucha spritzes, there’s something to tempt every wellness-minded diner. A star turn here is Honey Golden Milk Latte, a caffeine-free concoction that has ground turmeric as its key ingredient. Creamy with just a touch of sweetness, it is the perfect tipple to beat the heat when served over ice. Sit back and feel that invigorating Nordic breeze.
(Text: Tenzing Thondup)