The Chef
Jesper Koch, Denmark

27th of January 2023



After visiting Syttende in 2019, before it received its first Michelin star, we predicted that it would rise to the occasion and even was a contender for two stars with its concept of ambition, fun, and local produce. Tables for two are in short demand, and it has been difficult to get a booking. When we finally succeeded, we were excited to revisit. The bigger the disappointment when we realized that the restaurant had left out fun from its original concept.

The concept is what it is: Situated on the 17th floor of Alsik in Sønderborg, the name Syttende came naturally, and therefore you get 17 courses. Maybe it would help if they didn’t adamantly cling on to that policy. We went from excitement to disappointment.

1st course – Elevator snack

Scallions and mustard

Access only by invitation, you might say. When you book a table at Syttende, you have to report to the hotel reception, from where you are picked up by a waiter, who escorts you to the lifts, where you get an amouse bouche while you ascend. Fun gimmick, however, often interrupted by stops at other floors, where the waiter discretely tries to fend off other hotel guests. Therefore, it loses its wow factor. The scallions and mustard were presented as a small, crisp pie, and it tasted surprisingly sweet.

The waiter asked if it was our first visit, and we replied. After that, every single employee visible in the restaurant (apart from the chef and other kitchen staff) approached our table with a smile and a “Welcome back”. It seemed rather pretentious, especially when we kept being introduced to new staff members two hours into the evening. We had visited ONCE three years ago, we were not regulars.

 2nd course

Celeriac and roe
Éric Taillet, Sur Le Grand (for 2nd to 7th course)

We were presented with a selection of champagnes, and we picked “the chef’s choice”. It was delicate and light, with a hint of apple and elderflower. It was made of 90 % Meunier, and it fitted the first six courses consisting of a variation of snacks perfectly.

The celeriac was presented several ways: as a roll, in a consommé, and as a mousse. The roe floated in the consommé, and it was a fresh and delicious starter.

This was presented in a bowl with the waiters pouring the liquid, and this turned out to be the unvoluntary theme of the evening: Floating islands of food in deep plates or bowls with some sort of sauce or liquid surrounding it.

The presentation was flawless, all be it very automatic and school play-like with no hint of personality behind the professionalism of the waiters. We had already told them that this was our hobby, but nothing came back. Nobody asked how it tasted, what we thought about it, etc., and when we tried to interact with the waiters, there already was a professional deflectiveness, which made it very impersonal. From the beginning, it was clear that we were paying customers, not guests.

3rd course

Fat sour milk (ymer) and horseradish

Presented as a mousse with small leaves of meadow sorrel. The combination of horseradish infused into the sour milk worked as it should, and gradually you got the hint of the strong horseradish combined with the meadow sorrel.

From the beginning, all the presentations were spiced up with pseudo name dropping. Proud of their local produce, as much as possible derives from local farms, dairies, etc., but it soon just sounded ridiculous, because they didn’t add anything to the name: “This is from the locals John and Janice nearby.” Honestly, when they don’t tell you why they picked John and Janice’s produce, you stop caring after also hearing about Jack, Hans, Jens, Søren, etc. without any further explanation. Why are their produce special compared to others? Especially when you don’t know the local area and the special features of geology influencing the produce remain a secret kept away from you.

4th course

Leaf beet and eel (without eel)

We had asked them to leave the eel, since we both dislike it, and it has rarely been successfully prepared. The dish was presented with habanero oil in cream from Arla Unika, topped with caviar. Floating island no. 2, and again the waiters would pour the liquid separately. So far, everything was fine, and the habanero oil strengthened the fatness of the cream and gave it a hint of spice and freshness.

5th course

Shiitake and pepper

Presented as a mouthful of pie made on malt flour topped with shiitake mushroom mousse with strong notes of pepper. A good highlight of umami, and well-balanced amount of saltiness. The shiitake gave a hint of shellfish, which they should do, and still, the champagne suited all dishes perfectly.

6th course

Cauliflower and butter

Grilled cauliflower in a lake of vinaigrette with browned butter. The vinaigrette was too strong and overshadowed the browned butter with strong notes of vinegar.


7th course

Jerusalem artichoke and finger lime

The Australian finger lime was one of the few ingredients that was not presented with a “This if from Henrik and Tine’s farm”. The hint of citrus worked well with the Jerusalem artichoke three ways: The grilled shell, the mousse made from the Jerusalem artichoke meat, and a swirl hardened from the mousse. However, you got almost the same effect as we had had with the 5th course with the shiitake, and at this point we started wondering whether they were unable to vary the presentation of something firm presented in a sea of liquid. The taste was excellent. Still nothing but polite disinterested replies on our attempt to interact with the staff – and it was not a busy night.

8th course

Kohl-rabi and trout roe

Luis A. Rodriguez Vazquez, Viña de Martin ‘Escolma’ Blanco, 2017, Galicia, Spain

The first proper starter reintroduced the floating islands; in the middle the kohl-rabi surrounded by trout roe, over which the waiter poured a kefir sauce. The mix between sweet and sour was perfect.

The wine was a mix of four Spanish grapes. It had notes of sourdough and petroleum with a sweet finish of burned brioche. It smelled dark but tasted light. It suited the kohl-rabi and the fat sauce. Still, nobody had asked whether everything was fine. The staff was professional without engagement.

9th course

Zucchini and hazelnut

Kabinett Felseneck, Schäfer-Fröhlich, Riesling, 2021, Nahe, Germany

The zucchini was a replacement for scallops, and it worked. Again, a deep bowl with a firm base and something liquid around it. The Riesling had notes of petroleum and apple and suited the course.

10th course

Potatoes and palm cabbage

Johannes Hirsch, Grüner Veltliner, Grub, 2019, Kamptal, Austria

Another floating island. The potatoes were scooped, however, a bit overdone, thus giving them a sad texture like granny’s overdone potatoes at a family Sunday roast. Now, we began to think that the floating island concept in deep plates had become too repetitive, and we wondered where the ambitions and the innovative presentations from our visit in 2019 had disappeared to. The chefs played it too safe.

With notes of white pepper, the wine opposed the potato and the cabbage as it should.

11th course

Bread and cremeaux

Jacky Blot, Brut Triple Zero, Chenin Blanc, NV, Loire, France

So far, the bread had been absent from the menu. The waiter presented it as the 11th course, with cottage cheese, cremeux made with egg, and oil with dill. The bread was supposedly based on beer, however, there was no particular smell or taste to the dark bread. We had each our favourites, one preferred the dill oil, the other cottage cheese, while the egg crème based on a traditional local dish called Sun Egg (solæg) had a slight note of egg without the spiciness in the traditional dish.

The sourdough was from a base from 1946, and they came in with a small box of the base. It was supposed to enhance the experience, but they removed it quickly. The taste of beer in the bread was totally absent, and the bread was uninteresting.

The wine was fine, but when you present beer-based bread, it would have been more suitable with a glass of local mead or beer.

12th course

Portobello and thyme
Hirsch Vineyards, Bohain Dillon, Pinot Noir 2020, Sonoma Coast, USA

A portobello mushroom was divided into six slices, and again, surrounded by liquid, this time a bouillon with thyme. Apart from being a mushroom with thyme, this course didn’t do anything extraordinary to our senses. Besides, at this point, we had already had shiitake and Jerusalem artichoke, which presented the umami experience much better than the portobello did.

The Pinot Noir only had a faint hint of its main grape. Notes of raspberries and wild berries and a vague liquorice did not suit the earthy mushroom, actually, it clashed and the wine became bitter.

Another theme of presentation was small boxes with ingredients which should complement the dish, for instance a lemon when you got something with citrus or lime. However, the boxes were removed less than two minutes after they were delivered, so if you were supposed to ensnare all senses, they failed. Presumably, the boxes were removed in order to be presented to other guests – recycling and all that. If they should have had the full effect, they should be left for the entire course.

13th course

Pumpkin and pheasant

Thibault Liger-Belair, Gamay, Champ de Cour, Moulin a Vent, 2019, Bourgogne, France

Now we entered the main courses. The butternut squash was fat and tasteless, and it was just an accessory to the pheasant; it didn’t really complement the protein. Somehow, this course seemed more of an idea than an integrated concept.

The wine was fine, more acidic than a Pinot Noir, but none of the red wines varied from each other. The chefs seem to have a predisposition for the easy-going wines, and none of them challenged the guest out of his comfort zone.

14th course

Chateaubriand and berries

Pio Cesare, Nebbialo, Barolo, 2018, Piemonte, Italy

What a shame. You get a perfectly prepared piece of chateaubriand (presented in a bowl surrounded by a sea of liquid, of course), and then you ruin it with a thick layer of pickled horseradish topped with another thick layer of black truffle. The course is further demolished with sour lingonberries in a sauce. Had they chosen either the horseradish or the black truffle, you would have had a perfect dish, but now you got a Kinder egg of conflicting tastes. The horseradish and truffle clashed in a way that left it almost uneatable, and the Barolo turned sour when combined with the food. Besides, it was almost impossible to eat, because it was presented in a deep bowl, and you were then supposed to fence your knife and fork into the deep in order to catch something. The worst dish we have had in a long time. This includes our own kitchen disasters.

15th course

Apple and Moscato

Groebe, Riesling, Aulerde, Auslese GK, 1998, Rheinhessen, Germany (for 15th and 16th course)

The Riesling ran a low 7 % of alcohol. It smelled wonderfully, but tasted like a sweet soft drink, doing no harm at this point of the evening.

The first dessert was a fresh apple sorbet in an apple soup (surprise – something liquid in a bowl) with pepper. The wine tasted weaker and got notes of peppermint, and it worked well.

16th course

Kefir and beer porridge

Beer porridge is a traditional Danish dish, and it should be rough, smelling of beer and rye bread. Some would serve it with whipped cream or milk (not skimmed milk, which is water lying about being milk), and it has been a part of the Danish farm workers’ diet for centuries. However, this had nothing to do with beer porridge. It was a firm liquid of salt caramel with a hint of rye, so revolting that it became an insult to both beer porridge and salt caramel. The kefir was a replacement for the whipped cream, but we never appreciated it. We drank the wine to remove the hideous taste of the last dessert.

17th course

The sweet goodbye

The last course could be served with coffee in the nearby sofa settings, but after the growing disappointment of various floating islands, meaningless local name droppings, and lack of interaction from the staff apart from the “Hello, and welcome back!”, we chose to remain seated and just get it over with. We got 10 different chocolates in a tower of plates, and some were better than others.

To conclude

As mentioned, each course was presented mechanically with mentioning of the people who had provided the produce but without a context, geological information about special circumstances about the land, the sun, etc. It gives just as much sense to say that the potatoes come from James and Joanna as you would like to know that they were peeled by the youngest chef, Brian.

The timing was flawless, but the presentation lacked imagination. 11 out of 17 dishes were presented as floating islands in round bowls, and soon there was no wow factor.

No personal interaction, no variation, and no response but polite disinterest when we tried to communicate about the food. At no point during the evening, we were asked about what we thought about the dishes, if everything was fine, or other things that might give them valuable feedback. At best, it is knowing that they do a good job. At worst, as it was, it is arrogant.

In the end we were presented with the menu and the wine menu. However, even though they assured us that they had, they had not changed the menu according to what we got instead of the shellfish, which is always a no-go due to allergies. Then we really don’t care that the chefs had signed the menu, that we also got a small bag of candy, a small glass of honey, and a small hardback book about the philosophy of the restaurant. Apparently, that philosophy excludes caring for your guests.

It was a dining situation, not a dining experience. This should have been the highlight of Danish Michelin restaurants. One star, yes, some have more, but just a few years ago, Syttende was a shooting star on the Danish culinary firmament. Now, they seem to have lost it. Yes, it is one star worth, but it is not worth a visit. Simply not value for money unless you count pretentiousness as a value.