I don’t know about you, but at the age of 24 I was at the bottom of the journalism ladder, slowly clambering up the rungs with one hand whilst making endless cups of tea with the other. Enthusiastic but naive, I most definitely was not brave or confident enough to set up my own business. So my hat goes off to Martin Paaske Christensen who four years ago did just that when he took over the premises of Fiasco. Assuming the role of both owner and head chef, he has since transformed what was a tired Italian on Gammel Kongevej into a relaxed and reliable local favourite that happens to serve very good food.
You may well have cycled past Fiasco without even noticing it. The signage on the awnings is very subtle – you enter through a side door and, until a few weeks ago, it was hiding shyly behind a jungle of window plants. These, as well as the white tablecloths and prim place settings, have been removed in a recent attempt to erase some of the formality of the restaurant.
“After a trip to Barcelona I’ve decided to create a bit more of a casual atmosphere and encourage more informal eating and drinking around the bar,” explains Christensen. Swing now plays on the stereo, couples huddle at the long metallic bar, nicotine fiends nip in and out of the very pretty outdoor seating area, and occasional hoots of laughter from the 40 or so guests reverberate off the light-grey panelled walls, tiled tables and rustic wooden floor. It’s really nice. Not super stylish, but cosy and laid-back – just as you’d hope with a neighbourhood restaurant.
The menu too has been tweaked in tune with this more casual attitude. “I’d just die if I was doing the set Italian menu starting with Tomato and mozzarella and ending with a soggy Tiramisu,” says Christensen. Instead he offers a succession of small dishes that we are encouraged to share. The first of our antipasti is a low-carb twist on Bruschetta with deliciously ripe tomatoes and Parmesan served on flat bread. Next Arancini filled with perfectly cooked risotto rice and salt cod. Finally a really tasty Putarelle or chicory salad mixed with anchovies, olive oil and lemon juice.
Next come the more substantial secondi, starting with Veal tartar with a creamy Karl Johan sauce, followed by a Fried egg served with shavings of truffle and chestnut. Think of a posh egg muffin, although sadly the egg overpowered the dish’s more subtle components.
The influences here are interesting. While classically-trained, Christensen spent three years running a restaurant in Filicudi, one of eight teeny islands that make up the Aeolian archipelago to the northeast of Sicily. Sicilian dishes therefore feature heavily on the menu. Many of these have been influenced by the island’s stream of invaders – salt cod from the Vikings for example. Yet Christensen has also made some Danish introductions of his own. So a lightly-spiced couscous dish is spliced up with skagensrejer, small Danish prawns boiled in seawater. Fregula – a grain similar to couscous but made from semolina dough – comes drenched in a really rich mussel sauce with crunchy cabbage. And the main course of pork, which is so tender that it falls from the fork, is accompanied by a delicious Jerusalem artichoke mash peppered with crunchy snippets of parsley stalk.
In contrast to the complex heritage of the food, the wine is purely Italian. “We’re really trying to include some grapes from the more unusual regions as well as the classics,” says sommelier Magnus, who at 21 is further proof that youth is no barrier to knowledge. Order a bottle or they will happily suggest a glass for each course. We particularly liked the Franciacorta brut from Lombardi and a deep, warming Lagrein from the Alto Adige region. Oh, and the huge glass of Fasoli Gino Pieve Vecchia that accompanied our final dish of delicate Panna Cotta topped with a refreshing mandarin granita.
Fiasco is good value for money. It brims with youthful enthusiasm, and with its new carefree attitude it provides a great neighbourhood restaurant as opposed to a formal dining experience that is struggling to compete with the capital’s numerous Michelin stars. The only thing I wonder is why Christensen stuck with the old name? Our evening was as far from a Fiasco as can be.
Gl Kongevej 176, Frederiksberg
Open: Tue-Sat 17:30-24:00,
closed Sun & Mon
Top Dish: Pork & artichoke mash
Price Range: Antipasti 45kr, secondi 95kr, mains 125kr