The inclusion of both Scandinavian and Japanese cuisines at new Paddington eatery Sven-San isn’t as left of centre as it would first appear. Put aside the cliched, quintessential dishes – sushi from Japan, meatballs from Sweden – and similarities between the two countries emerge, as can be seen at Edition Coffee Roasters, which was the first to play with the two cuisines.
“Both countries are long in shape, and although Sweden isn’t an island, we’ve got sea on both sides,” says owner Michael Bengtsson. “The cuisines are regional, seasonal, and traditional recipes have developed in certain areas for specific reasons.”
Bengtsson has long had his eye on the enormous building at the top of Oxford Street. Twenty years ago, it was a restaurant called Oasis Zero, which Bengtsson calls one of the best, most progressive restaurants in Sydney at the time.
“As an aspiring chef, I came with my wife and I thought, ‘One day I’d like to have a restaurant here,’” he says. “I didn’t really need another business, but when the ‘for lease’ sign came up, I just couldn’t help myself.”
For Bengtsson, who also owns successful venues Vino e Cucina and Eat Thai, the concept is a long time coming.
“My first restaurant in Paddo was a kind of Scandi-Asian fusion that just did not take off at all,” says Bengtsson. “I don’t think Sydney was ready for it then. Now it’s more accepted, it’s more on trend.” At Sven-San, fusion isn’t the goal. “We’re trying to keep it separate – this is Japanese and this is Scandinavian – for now,” he says.
The gravlax is authentic: thin slices of salt-cured salmon are topped with cucumber and plenty of dill. The ikura (salmon roe) on top is a nod to Japanese cuisine, but it’s only used because the traditional Swedish bleak fish roe is impossible to source in Australia.
“The most fusion dish we have is the prawn gnocchi in brown kombu butter,” he says. “In Sweden we do a lot of dumplings similar to gnocchi.” The butter is infused with kombu, a kelp-like seaweed that adds an element of umami.
The vast space walks the line between Viking eating hall and Scandi minimalism. There are three spaces: the patio out front, a dining room by the kitchen and “the barn” out back. Indoors, ceilings are vaulted with exposed, thick wood beams and there are four fireplaces that make a good spot to sit with a glass of warm sake.
To cheers, either “skål” or “kanpai” will do.
495 Oxford Street, Paddington
(02) 9131 8454
Mon to Tue 6am–3pm
Wed to Fri 6am–3pm, 5.30pm–late