Pläj Scandinavian Restaurant and Bar

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Up until this point the only taste of Scandinavian food I had was Ikea and honestly, I'm a big fan of their meatball platter.  I was pretty intrigued when Pläj opened up in the city so I could experience more Scandinavian food.  In a city that seems like a new upscale pizza joint and nouvelle American spot (not that I'm complaining) opens up every week, it was nice to see another cuisine added to the mix.  That and I was curious to see how Ikea food compared to other sources of Scandinavian food.
Even though Pläj has only been open a little more than a week, the restaurant was bustling.
An "IPA", but in this case, Icelandic Pale Ale.   
The rye bread was presented in a little brown bag with a dish of butter topped with fennel powder.  The fennel powder offered a little licorice and nutty flavor to the bread.
Potato dumpling kumla, onion ragout, lingonberry, brown butter, and lardon.  The two large potato dumplings lacked much flavor by itself and needed to be eaten with the salty lardon (cubed pork fat) so the dumpling could absorb the savory flavors.  I noticed that many of these dishes seemed to be more of a modern take on this cuisine rather than traditional.  Also, the singular ingredients on the dish were very distinct.  
White asparagus, morel mushrooms, fennel confit, 63 degree egg, and hollandaise sauce, and fried sourdough.  I usually associate white asparagus with Spanish food so I was surprised to see the white spears on the menu.  Apparently white asparagus are a common item on Scandinavian seasonal menus, in this case it was served with a 63 degree poached egg and a dollap of hollandaise sauce.  Each of these components stood out more individually than together on the plate.  There was sweetness from the white asparagus, then tartness from the sourdough croutons all mixed with richness of the hollandaise sauce.  It was a well done dish, but not sure about rave worthy.  
I absolutely had to have Swedish meatballs in a restaurant setting so I can compare to my only Scandinavian experience, which somewhat sadly to say is the cafeteria at Ikea.  It was served almost similar to that of Ikea, which is nice to know Ikea wasn't serving fake Swedish food.  So its not exactly the 15 meatball plate at Ikea, but it is five much larger meatier meatballs served in a similar style with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce and gravy.  The meatballs here are hearty and soak up the gravy well.  The mashed potatoes are ultra creamy with a rich buttery flavor.  The lingonberry sauce was delicious here.  The taste of the berry sauce just oozed fresh fruity flavor.  One difference between this plate and Ikea's is the slices of pickled cucumbers, which gave a punchy tang to each bite.  So which is better - Ikea or Pläj?  Its hard to say because they are made differently and I have a special love for the prepackage Ikea meatballs. 
Porter braised ox cheek, roasted beet root, fried onions, horseradish.  The beef cheek was rich in flavor and tender, but not as tender as I've known beef cheek dishes to be.  The crayola colored beet root, while scarily bright for a food, was quite mild and starchy in taste.  Usually I shy away from horseradish because I find the taste to be too strong and overpowering, but I was in amazement with the fried onion topping that had hints of horseradish.  It was just enough horseradish to make your nose prickle up, but curious enough to take another spoonful.  I loved the surprising bits of spicy radish flavor.
I decided on just one dessert this evening and chose the cardamon creme brulee with lime-mint marinated strawberries, but the runner up, chocolate tarte with cloudberry sorbet, was a hard choice to pass up.  The lime-mint strawberries were fresh and sweet and reminded me of summer.  The cardamon creme brulee was good, but nothing special.

Address:                Pläj Scandinavian Restaurant & Bar
                               333 Fulton St.
                               San Francisco, CA
Type:                      Scandinavian

Popular chomps:    meatballs
                                braised ox cheek
                                potato dumpling
                                white asparagus and poached egg
                                cardamon creme brulee
                                chocolate tarte with cloudberry sorbet

Chomp worthy:       meatballs       

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