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Like a Danish chicken pot pie

Scandinavian cuisine comes to Hillcrest

Danish rye break, baked in house, and loaded with seeds.
Danish rye break, baked in house, and loaded with seeds.

Over the past few years, Denmark has gained a reputation as being the happiest country in the world. And that might explain why there’s not an abundance of Danish restaurants here — happy people don’t tend to emigrate.

Place

Taste of Denmark

142 University Avenue, San Diego

However, thanks to one young married couple who wanted to see the world, and found San Diego to their liking, we do now have a Danish eatery in Hillcrest. Taste of Denmark isn’t huge, and at the moment the table service restaurant is only open for lunch, but its owners faithfully reproduce the food of their nation, which, they assure me, features plenty of gravy.

Chicken in a pastry puff, smothered in gravy. It tastes like a chicken pot pie.

I’ve eaten æbleskivers (the Danish pancake puffs made locally famous by the Danish-styled central California town of Solvang) but otherwise I have never knowingly eaten Danish food. So getting a look and taste of Danish cuisine proved a long overdo treat (and yes, æbleskivers are on the dessert menu).

Bringing the food of Denmark to Hillcrest

Beside desserts, the Taste of Denmark menu is broken down into light lunch and large meals. The former includes hot smoked salmon served with poached egg on a bed of spinach; the latter includes the official national dish of Denmark: pan fried pork belly, served with parsley gravy alongside potatoes and roasted beets.

Call me goldilocks, because I settled somewhere in the middle, in the Bigger Meals section, squeezed in between light and large fare. These dishes include a burger, and a ground beef sandwich served with brown gravy.

I might have jumped at the chance to uncover what comprises brown gravy, but my attention was drawn to the puff pastry tartlets, which are filled with chicken and white asparagus, and smothered in a savory white gravy. I may never have been to Denmark, but I’ve enjoyed this flavor profile before: anyone who’s ever loved chicken pot pie will get down with this dish.

However, I did enjoy a couple more uniquely Danish tastes thanks to the bread service, which included smooth, creamy, whipped goat cheese served with Triscuit wheat crackers. I was surprised by a serving of pickled red cabbage, which I’d assumed would resemble sauerkraut, but instead tasted sweet, helped in doing so by cranberries and allspice.

But I was most taken by the Danish rye bread. The bread, baked in-house, is packed with seeds — rye and sunflower, not caraway seeds, which are often found in Jewish rye recipes. The seeds add plenty of enjoyable, crunchy texture to the otherwise stiff rye bread. In fact, it almost appears more seed than bread, which doesn’t disappoint me one bit. In addition to the goat cheese spread, it comes with a serving of the house remoulade, which involved turmeric mayonnaise loaded with diced pickles.

The sour and eggy flavors of the remoulade probably lined up best with my expectations, which mostly comes from dining in Swedish restaurants. But not all Scandinavian cuisine are created equal, and I for one am stoked to better understand this now.

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Danish rye break, baked in house, and loaded with seeds.
Danish rye break, baked in house, and loaded with seeds.

Over the past few years, Denmark has gained a reputation as being the happiest country in the world. And that might explain why there’s not an abundance of Danish restaurants here — happy people don’t tend to emigrate.

Place

Taste of Denmark

142 University Avenue, San Diego

However, thanks to one young married couple who wanted to see the world, and found San Diego to their liking, we do now have a Danish eatery in Hillcrest. Taste of Denmark isn’t huge, and at the moment the table service restaurant is only open for lunch, but its owners faithfully reproduce the food of their nation, which, they assure me, features plenty of gravy.

Chicken in a pastry puff, smothered in gravy. It tastes like a chicken pot pie.

I’ve eaten æbleskivers (the Danish pancake puffs made locally famous by the Danish-styled central California town of Solvang) but otherwise I have never knowingly eaten Danish food. So getting a look and taste of Danish cuisine proved a long overdo treat (and yes, æbleskivers are on the dessert menu).

Bringing the food of Denmark to Hillcrest

Beside desserts, the Taste of Denmark menu is broken down into light lunch and large meals. The former includes hot smoked salmon served with poached egg on a bed of spinach; the latter includes the official national dish of Denmark: pan fried pork belly, served with parsley gravy alongside potatoes and roasted beets.

Call me goldilocks, because I settled somewhere in the middle, in the Bigger Meals section, squeezed in between light and large fare. These dishes include a burger, and a ground beef sandwich served with brown gravy.

I might have jumped at the chance to uncover what comprises brown gravy, but my attention was drawn to the puff pastry tartlets, which are filled with chicken and white asparagus, and smothered in a savory white gravy. I may never have been to Denmark, but I’ve enjoyed this flavor profile before: anyone who’s ever loved chicken pot pie will get down with this dish.

However, I did enjoy a couple more uniquely Danish tastes thanks to the bread service, which included smooth, creamy, whipped goat cheese served with Triscuit wheat crackers. I was surprised by a serving of pickled red cabbage, which I’d assumed would resemble sauerkraut, but instead tasted sweet, helped in doing so by cranberries and allspice.

But I was most taken by the Danish rye bread. The bread, baked in-house, is packed with seeds — rye and sunflower, not caraway seeds, which are often found in Jewish rye recipes. The seeds add plenty of enjoyable, crunchy texture to the otherwise stiff rye bread. In fact, it almost appears more seed than bread, which doesn’t disappoint me one bit. In addition to the goat cheese spread, it comes with a serving of the house remoulade, which involved turmeric mayonnaise loaded with diced pickles.

The sour and eggy flavors of the remoulade probably lined up best with my expectations, which mostly comes from dining in Swedish restaurants. But not all Scandinavian cuisine are created equal, and I for one am stoked to better understand this now.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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