Operakällaren (Stockholm; tel. 08/676-58-00)
Opposite the Royal Palace, this deluxe restaurant has long been the standard by which the competition is judged. Still going strong after all these years, it is deservedly the most famous restaurant in Sweden -- and the best. Its French-inspired cuisine with Swedish overtones is world-class.
Paul & Norbert (Stockholm; tel. 08/663-81-83)
With only eight tables on the fashionable Strandvägen, this exclusive and innovative restaurant is set in a patrician residence dating from 1873. It's the creation of German owner Norbert Lang. In winter, the Swedish game served here is without equal in the entire country -- just try the pigeon with Calvados sauce. And you can always count on something tempting and unusual; sautéed sweetbreads in nettle sauce, anyone?
Gripsholms Värdshus Restaurant (Mariefred; tel. 0159/347-50)
If you're seeking traditional Swedish food with French overtones, this is the best dining choice on the periphery of the capital. Local game dishes, including wild grouse, are featured in autumn, and marinated salmon with a mild mustard sauce is a year-round favorite. Tastings also can be arranged in the wine cellar.
Sjömagasinet (Gothenburg; tel. 031/775-59-20)
By far the most intriguing restaurant in town, this is one of the finest places to go for seafood on the west coast of Sweden. In the western suburb of Klippan, the converted 1775 warehouse serves an array of fresh fish whose flavor never diminishes, regardless of the sauce or preparation. The fish and shellfish pot-au-feu, with a chive-flavored crème fraîche, is worth the trek.
Årstiderna I Kockska Huset (Malmö; tel. 040/23-09-10)
In a North German-style building from 1523, the leading restaurant of Sweden's "third city" is a bastion of good eating -- its dishes are fresh, handled with skill, and served with flair. You'll be as impressed as we were by the exceedingly good cuisine, which attracts a crowd of prime ministers, artists, and theater people alike.
Gastro (Helsingborg; tel. 042/24-34-70)
The kitchens of Sweden and France come together at this restaurant that has emerged as the best in town. Lots of fresh fish, from the straits of Helsingborg and the Baltic, appear on the menu. Many Danes cross the strait for dinner here.
Kalmar Hamn Krog (Kalmar; tel. 0480/41-10-20)
Since it opened in 1988, this international restaurant has quickly moved to the front of the line. Hailed as the best in this historic port city, it prepares reasonably priced food with flair, using only market-fresh ingredients, deftly handled by the staff. The chefs borrow freely from the world's larders, using spices or ingredients from any country where their culinary imaginations wander.
Halltorps Gästgiveri (Borgholm; tel. 0485/850-00)
On the historic Baltic island of Öland, this dining room serving Swedish food takes you back to the good old days. You can feast on the dishes beloved by your great-grandparents -- provided they came from Sweden. Herbs and vegetables come from suppliers who grow them right on the island, and the local fishers bring in their catch of the day. The place is charming and a bit stylish, and it occupies one of the oldest manor houses on the island.
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