Posted 17 August 2007 - 02:16 PM
Really struggled with the light as the evening went on, and ended up resorting to cameraphone! so apologies for quality of the pics .. will try and finish my notes soon ..
Someone else asked me which was my favourite meal of the ones so far, and it's so hard to pick one! My first visit in Sept 06 and I was absolutely floored and astounded by what I was experiencing .... so in terms of an emotional response - then it's that one but that may have been strongly affected by the fact that I didn't really have preconceptions. Since then, on each subsequent visit, I arrive expecting great things and can still leave impressed and excited - which is more of a feat perhaps?
Am really enjoying the fruits and veg in the spring / summer menus, but my impression (perhaps inaccurate) is that the seafood is particularly good in the colder months, and I really appreciate the ingenuity displayed during the dark months ... so pickled elderberries, different fruit vinegars, more root vegetables ... so no, don't really miss them since the other dishes are so good, and of course, perfectly reflect the season.
My own rather biased view is that you would eat well whenever you dined at noma, but think some of their most successful and distinctive dishes have been the musk ox tartare, the sheep milk mousse with sorrel granita, there was a king crab dish with leeks in hay ash ... and anything with the langoustines from the Faroe Islands is very very very good.
Hope that answers your question ...
Posted 20 August 2007 - 08:17 AM
thanks a lot for uploading your photos.
I'm very impressed by the number variations from the dishes I had.
With the exception of the raw shrimps and the blueberries with milk skin
the courses seemed to be different, even the rasberries with beetroot look
unlike the ones I had.
I will definately be back, hopefully rather sooner than later.
Posted 21 August 2007 - 08:25 AM
Goat-kid and „dust“ of thyme – Hazelnuts and mushroom
Both, the kid and the thyme almost melted on the tongue. The kid was cooked sous vide for 24 hours at 63 degrees celcius together with cream and gammeldansk – a Danish bitter. The crunch of the nuts and mushrooms was a good contrast to the softness of the meat.
Blueberries and milkskin – Pickled pine tree shoots and sweet bread
The childhood memories I have of milk skins are not among my favourites but this felt
very good when combined with the blueberry sorbet that laid underneath. This was the last dish of the menu but I had a go at one more dessert...
Thank you so much for the beautiful photos. I went to noma for dinner on 2 August and had what you had for lunch except the beer porridge. I was so carried away that I forgot to photograph the goat and the blueberries dishes, and am most delighted to see the pictures here. Thank you.
Wow, Yin. Great photos, too! Very enjoyable. Thanks.
cheers from Copenhagen,
Posted 27 August 2007 - 08:50 AM
have finally gathered some notes on what we had for dinner ... including insertion of my dodgy photos ... so for new readers, would suggest you refer to Neu's and Trine's pics where possible!
noma, 10 August 2007
Snacks with yogurt herb dip
- new addition to the snacks was a puffed tapioca sheet with sprinkling of vinegar, which seemed to have a faint marine flavour which was rather nice.
Smoked and pickled quails eggs
Fabulous. Popped whole into your mouth as instructed and you are rewarded with a warm runny yolk (one of life‘s greatest simple pleasures I think) but this richness is elevated by the haunting smokey notes and light tang from its pickling. Utterly delicious … more please.
Peas and celery
A lush and verdant celebration of summer - so sweet and delectable in its garden freshness - and very clean plates from all of us.
Oysters, cucumber and nasturtium leaves
Almost too pretty to eat, but the waiter was quite right - tasted too good not to eat it! Oyster gel in the centre, dots of oyster and parsley cream and refreshment from the cucumber curls, fruity sharpness from apple balsamic vinegar - a lovely combination of delicate flavours - and really rather nice indeed. And for me, an interesting contrast to the winter version I adored in December with apple snow ….
Raw shrimps and green gooseberries, Fresh cream and dill
Ah - another summer makeover for one of my favourite dishes from my September visit last year. The Swedish shrimps were excellent and just melted in my mouth, and the refreshing gooseberry granita provided a great balance of sweet, sharp, fruitiness and of course, temperature interest too.
Emma wasn’t able to have raw seafood, but you could hardly say she was missing out when she was served this …
Yep, those fabulous langoustines again. *sigh*
Shoots and malt, Potato puré
Sorry - couldn’t get a decent picture here … so hurrah for Neu's pics - but essentially the potato field from December (see earlier posts) had blossomed over the intervening months and was now a flourishing summer vegetable garden, complete with malt soil.
Razor clams, leeks and mustard flowers
Ah … think this is where we started to go off-piste from the main menu, and what a corker. The razor clams were incredibly tender and sweet tasting, so full marks for that - good allium notes from the leek … don’t seem to have a distinct taste memory of the mustard flowers and sauce, but overall impression was that this was one of the best dishes of the night. Well worth looking out for …
Warm lobster salad, Red current wine and beach herbs
No photo I’m afraid, … but I did manage to scribble down that we got 2 parts of the lobster, main body was roasted (and had a very very savoury taste on the outside - never got round to asking where that came from) and the tail was poached in butter … think I preferred the tail part.
Sweetbreads, hazlenuts and walnuts, “dust” of thyme
Any place that serves enormous wedges of sweetbreads will always make me very very happy.
Goat-kid, lovage cream, onions, elderberries
I couldn’t have anticipated from the plain-sounding description how good this dish was going to be … think I can see a pattern that many of the meat main courses I’ve been served have been cooked sous vide, but this was a champion dish amongst a high standard. I always saw the expression - “meat so tender you could spread it” - as one of those overblown metaphors; didn’t realise it could actually be true! And such divinely sweet and delicate flavours - its restraint was initially surprising until I was reminded it was kid rather than goat. Loved it. A LOT. And the bone marrow provided lovely richness but to be honest, it was all about the meat.
Raspberries and beet roots, Marinated rose hips
Pretty in pink, no? As ever, the sorbets and fruits were lovely, with a sweeter beet ice this time (and therefore much more enjoyable) and the marinated rose hips providing a intriguing sharpness. And the sparkling dessert wine (2006 Bricco Mondalino, Malvasiva di Casorzo d’Asti ‘Molignano’, Piemonte, Italy) was delicious with it … maybe that’s why I drank too much of it!!
Blueberries and milkskin, Pickled pine tree shoots and sweet bread
served with 2005 Nigl, Grüner Veltliner Eiswein, Kremstal, Austria
Think this is the 3rd time in as many visits that I've had milk skin at noma!! Much lighter than previous versions it seemed, and I could see how it added a new texture to the dish, but to be honest, the sorbet and berries were so good, it seemed a bit of a distraction for me. But I realise that makes me sounds unreasonably picky so I’ll shut up about that now. But fab accompanying wine again ..
And so we were done .... and retired to the bar for some good coffee and refreshing tea made from camomile and blueberry leaves. And a P4 of a beetroot flødebøll - eaten in two bites as instructed, and not because I’m greedy! We were discussing each other’s impressions at the end of the evening, and I’ve already spoken of Fredo’s enthusiasm above. Think what most impressed my friends was that everything over the long evening worked so well …
Was great to chat to the team at the end of the evening, and we were given a quick tour of the refitted kitchens and a beautiful private dining room upstairs. In fact, we probably kept René talking a little too long given that he had an early morning flight to Iceland to sort out some supply line issues, and it was the Faroe Islands last month - it’s certainly a busy life!
Was particularly interested to hear of a chef event at the beginning of September with 16 chefs including Alain Passard and Wylie Dufresne (and Heston Blumenthal and Sergio Herman I think?) coming to Copenhagen to cook a special meal, under the theme of “Looking North“. It’s exciting for them to host such an international event, and am so pleased that the level of recognition for their work continues to grow.
Personally, I intend to return and pay homage to them as often as they will tolerate me! Besides which, I was told this time that some guests have visited 40 - 50 times - so surely this is a new target for me, no? … we’ll see …
Posted 05 September 2007 - 03:31 AM
Posted 15 September 2007 - 10:55 AM
Very nice to see chefs looking to their own countries and heritage for inspiration. Seems like for most people fine dining has to mean French or Italian (and lately Spanish). I just ordered the Noma cookbook, should be interesting.
It's very good, although the translation into English reads as if it been done by a computer.
Fay Maschler reviewed Noma in the [London] Evening Standard on Wednesday - her verdict was that it was a bit "curate's egg" (doubtless pickled and smoked ) - can one of you computer-literate types be very kind and post a link to the review?
Posted 16 September 2007 - 02:07 AM
What am I missing?
I had another lovely evening at noma last night ... and will eventually posts pics and ramblings ... but don´t hold your breath!
Edited by YKL, 16 September 2007 - 02:08 AM.
Posted 16 September 2007 - 05:52 AM
I´m far from computer literate ... and in fact I´m wondering if I´m literate at all since the only Fay Maschler review for 12 Sept 07 I can find is this one below ... which references noma but is actually for a review of Texture in Portman Square?
What am I missing?
Looking at the hard-copy page with the Texture review, there is another piece Ms Maschler, titled "Been to...Copenhagen, which was wonderful". The relevant bit reads:
"Copenhagen has more Michelin-starred restaurants than the rest of Scandinavia's capitals put together, and some embrace molecular gastronomy. We might have gone to Geranium...or to Paustian...but Noma, rated as 15th best in the world by Restaurant magazine, is where I wanted to got.
Noma has two Michelin stars but, happily, a warm, relaxed bare-table, brick wall, pine floor environment within a converted 19th century warehouse beside the water in Christianhavn. Chef Rene Redzepi and his cohort Claus Meyer has [sic] set out to define Nordic cooking and forages for ingredients in Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland as well as Scandinavia.
They reckoned it was time that the gastronomic culture of the sunny Mediterranean and the inclination of serious star-chasing chefs to embrace French habits was challenged, a timely idea totally vindicated by Redzepi's inspired cooking.
A nine-course tasting menu delivered some extraordinary dishes which I won't ever forget, such as raw shrimps with ice-cold green gooseberry granita; curls of cool cucumber with nasturtium leaves, oyster jelly and crisp rye bread; vegetables served on a hot stone with malted grains described as "soil"; raw musk ox fillet with wood sorrel seemingly growing on top with fresh horseradish adding a surreptitious kick. The butter made with Icelandic skyr, a curdled milk product, served with intensely hot tiny rolls was also amazing.
We all agreed that by the time for dessert the cooking had gone off the boil, which may have explained the hideous milk skin wrapped around blueberries which broke through like a suppurating wound. Also our good time was in danger of being spoiled by the sommelier/maitre d' who demanded rapt attention for every one of his nmany utterances. "I'm doing this for you, not for me", he said more than once. Yes, but we are paying".
Posted 01 October 2007 - 01:07 PM
Returned to noma in mid September for my final visit this year and had a fabulous time again with some unbelievable hospitality and attention. So if egulleters would be kind enough to accept my disclaimer that I adore this place and the people, and are prepared to indulge my re-living of the memories, then a few thoughts and pics are below.
The seasonal menu hadn’t been updated since my August visit, but they still managed to provide half a dozen dishes which were new to me …
We started as ever with Snacks and a yoghurt and herb dip - including a tapioca sheet (the white one in the photo), chicken skin and wheaten porridge sheets. And then followed with the smoked and pickled quail’s egg that I enjoyed so much last time. Very cute
Milk skin, bleak roe, horseradish sorbet and ryebread crisps
Milk skin seems a big feature over my last few visits - must remember to ask about this next time … Anyway, the dish was light, refreshing and pretty well balanced - and very pretty looking. But I wouldn’t say amazing …. I know what this kitchen is capable of .. and this is just a warm up quite frankly. But I think they taught me the Danish for bleak roe - gets my vocabulary up to about 5 words I think! Anyway, two photos because the roe was hiding on the first one ..
Bread and skyr butter and spiced pig fat arrived next - no pic, since there’s so many upthread but since it was Chris’s first visit, was good and interesting to see how much he enjoyed it. And with assistance from a helpful waitress, we finally learnt to distinguish between the spelt and Manitoba rolls, which was a perfect excuse to eat more of the bread - just to check that we understood …..
Raw mackerel, gooseberry cloud, fennel juice and walnuts
Ah - the milk skin is completely forgotten with this little bit of magic .. well, liquid nitrogen anyway! A delicious dish - fab fish, fantastically cold and refreshing and I loved the whole combination of marine, aniseed and fruit flavours. This is the kind of dish I love at noma …. now we were getting serious ..
Tartar and wood sorrel, Creamed tarragon and juniper
Quite simply, this should never come off the menu. Meaty, herby, perfectly balanced, texture, richness, a mouth tingling combination of flavours. As Chris said, you simply don’t want the dish to end.
Shoots and malt, Potato purée
A welcome repeat from my last visit and the vegetables were impeccably cooked this time - and despite their protestations and apologies at the start about repetition, was definitely worth having a second time! .
Squid, oyster cream, potato skin and nasturtium leaves
Hmmm … the light is fading quite badly by this point, but I wanted to try and give you a sense of this new dish (only created that morning … I think), and the squid was sooooo good, incredibly tender and the squid bouillon was a knock out. So a decent dish, and the great thing is … I have a sneaking suspicion that this dish will be polished and refined over the next few weeks to become something quite superlative. Worth looking out for …
Skate wing and mussel liquor, Cauliflower in different textures
No pic I’m afraid but my notes remind me that the skate was poached in butter, and that alongside the fish and intensely flavoured mussel foam, there was piquant elderberry capers and lovage cream which were all very good. But perhaps the most surprising element on the plate was the hay ash which I was really looking forward to after swooning over the king crab dish on my first visit … was expecting another unami assault on my taste buds so was a bit surprised to not get that. Hmmm … not sure what happened there ?
Warm lobster salad, Red current wine and beach herbs
Well, the light might have been fading but the kitchen were really starting to hit their stride now. I had this in August, and thought it was good then, but this was absolutely superb this evening. The black lobster was utterly utterly delicious and can‘t think of when I have ever had a better bite of lobster meat. We were all grinning broadly as they cleared our plates.
Sweetbread, cauliflower cream, elderberry vinaigrette
I love sweetbreads and this was rich and satisfying with great balancing from the delicious elderberry vinaigrette and tang from onion and garden sorrel. C and I loved this, and was one of the best courses of the night for me.
Grilled Duck breast, chanterelles, blackberries, chickweed, lemon verbena and brown butter sauce
It is so damn frustrating that I can’t provide a decent photo of this …. Possibly the most beautiful looking plate of food from the whole evening, You could see that every ingredient had been placed with pride and care, and yet avoiding the appearance of excessive contrivance. So let’s see - polished, beautiful and yet so natural - seems a pretty good representation of Denmark and Scandinavia!! And it was delicious - skin so crisp it was like duck crackling - which is always a good thing. Admittedly my duck was perfectly cooked, but M’s was a mite overcooked - which was a shame - and reduced the textural pleasure - fortunately the flavour made up for it.
Raspberries and beet roots, Marinated rose hips
A repeat from August (and an update from June if I check my notes …) and it seems to be improving each time! Really really enjoyed this - even M who doesn’t really like beetroot loved the combination of raspberries + beetroot + meringue + rosehip. The accompanying dessert wine was marvellous - a Brachetto … think it was Anthos Matteo Correggia and was seductive enough for M to purchase a case on return to the UK! Very very good.
“Øllebrød” and skyr sorbet, Rye and milk
Ok - this is a dish that a few people have raved about to me … but it was my first time for trying this … so was very much looking forward to trying this “beer porridge”. and it was soooo worth the wait - absolutely delicious. Taste wise, it was strongly reminiscent of Christmas pudding with its fruity spiciness or in fact the excellent bread pudding I enjoyed at St John recently … with rich creamy goodness from the milk siphon and sorbet. Actually, thinking of how bread pudding is made, maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising …
I so want to eat this again … and again … in fact, even bought some rye bread at the airport to attempt it at home. (not that it’s happened yet …. Eventually)
And so we were done food wise. Some very very good dishes, and impressive how they maintain such a consistent standard in the absence of René Redzepi - an testament to how skilled the kitchen and front of house are. The tartare, lobster, mackerel and øllebrød were the standouts for me … would quite happily eat those on each visit!
Sadly I can’t fit in any more visits this year, but have plans to return in the Spring season. It will be a long dark winter without more nordisk mad to sustain me …. But I can force myself to be patient when I know such glorious magic and delightful people await me on my return …. Roll on 2008!
Posted 16 January 2008 - 05:02 PM
This was the best meal I have ever had and not just because of the food the service is fantastic as well.
Highlights of my meal - Langoustine with oyster/parsley mayo, served on a hot rock. The sorrel granite and sheep milk mousse. Then Salsify with milkskin and truffle puree from Gotland.
Rene is truly gifted in his cuisine. Texture and the clarity of the produce take all the dishes to a different level.
I have eaten in at least 12 3 star restaurants and this just beats them all.
Will be back as soon as possible, hopefully for the summer menus.
Posted 22 April 2008 - 09:11 AM
Posted 24 August 2008 - 09:08 AM
I was lucky enough to return to Copenhagen for some more Nordic delights and had a fantastic time again. This thread already shows my infatuation with this restaurant, and on the basis of this latest visit, it seems they’re going from strength to strength.
A few photos below - was playing with a new camera but even so, the photos are less flattering than I would have hoped - but hopefully they give an idea of what we enjoyed.
Eaten and enjoyed with our champagne aperitif (although I failed to note which champagne we each chose). So we had the smoked and pickled quail‘s eggs (have I mentioned I like these?), followed by radishes with a yoghurt and herb dip and malt soil which probably won the prize for prettiest presentation. But my favourite was the updated version of the chicken skin and ryebread sandwich filled with cream cheese and vegetables although the crisp bread with turbot roe and herbs and vinegar taste was pretty good too.
Greenland shrimps, dill oil, cream and white currant granita
A superb opening - the shrimps were sweeter and richer then ever, and the granita provided a wonderful fruity zing. I’ve tried different variants of this dish through the seasons and this was as wonderful as I hoped. Utterly glorious and as we cleaned our plates, the only disappointment was that we couldn’t eat it all over again.
Danish squid, pickled kohlrabi, beach herbs, parsley cream
A new benchmark in squid for me - so tender it practically melted in my mouth and yet full of flavour. The seafood has always been a highlight of my noma visits but even by those high standards, this was something special.
Mackerel and grilled cucumber, Dill and nasturtium leaves - with horseradish snow
Did I say the squid was a new benchmark? Well this mackerel was quite possibly even better - velveteen texture and deliciously rich but the genius component was the grilled cucumber which combined smokey char with a cooling effect. Fabulous bite from the nasturtium leaves too, and the horseradish snow accentuated the freshness and purity of the dish. Excellent.
By this time we’d moved onto the first wine of the evening - 2006 Grüner Veltliner ’Spiegel’
Fred Loimer, Kamptal - very very nice - probably too nice since I seemed to drink most of my glass!
Søren’s vegetables, Fresh cheese, brown butter sauce, leek flowers and green gooseberries
Wonderful - it’s the first time I’ve tried their fresh cheese and I sincerely hope it’s not the last because it was utterly lovely - so delicate and elegant; and the pairing with the vegetables made it even more successful than the vegetable field for me.
Favabeans and smoked marrow, Seaweed and verbena sauce
Ah … no pic from me I’m afraid, was flummoxed by the low light. And it’s a shame because it was a very striking presentation with the fava beans and marrow hiding under a veil of Norwegian seaweed. But taste wise was less successful than the other dishes that night - all the individual components were good but for me, the dish lacked cohesion and was somehow less than the sum of its parts for me. So no special love for the dish as there had been for the seafood - perhaps a work in progress? Never mind, what next?
Firstly some new wine - 2006 ‘La Lune (Anjou) Magnum, Ferme de la Sansonniere (Mark Angeli), from the Loire valley - think this might have been the biodynamic one .. which set us up very nicely for …
Turbot, celeriac, chickweed
Ah - a real treat - a new dish made from the turbot skirt (?) which had been salted before being lightly cooked, served with celeriac baked in hay, chickweed and other herbs and a runny yolk of golden yumminess. And it was delightful - richness from the egg, delectable fish and beautifully balanced and composed. Very very good indeed.
Lobster in “red nuances“
A more poetic description from the menu rather than my scribbled notes of lobster with lots of red stuff (!) - specifically it was black lobster with beetroot - raw and glazed - red onion and red cabbage, hiprose (sic), redcurrants and lobster sauce. Best part was the lobster tail .. But my pics were so terrible that I can’t bear to post them.
Lamb breast and cauliflower stems, sorrel and watercress
The hunting knives are out - must be the main course! A nice dish to follow, lamb which had been poached for 24 hours before being glazed - resulting in lamb crackling (yum!) - and as noted above - a decent layer of fat for extra flavour. Served with 2000 Pic Saint Loup ‘Grand Cuvée’, Domaine de L’Hortus, Coteaux du Languedoc
Yoghurt parfait, peas, celery, Spanish chervil, pea shoots, vinaigrette, yoghurt whey and mint oil
First dessert of the evening - fresh and green and very successful as a palate cleanser with the sweetness of the peas being particularly remarkable. Served with a 2007 Moscato d´Asti ‘Bricco Quaglia´’, La Spinetta, Piemonte which was delicious.
Fresh blueberries, Pine and thyme
Specifically blueberry sorbet I think with pine granita and berries and thyme flowers. Very good.
Blackberry sorbet, milk granita, beetroot sorbet and jelly
Final dessert of the evening - and one I enjoyed very much - although it probably helps that I like beetroot a lot! Think we had a different dessert wine for this - but not sure what it was.
And so we were finally done. Well, apart from tea / coffee and a flødebolle each … and then some drinks after in the bar which gave us a chance to meet some of the kitchen team afterwards which was great fun, J and a pleasure to meet more of the enthusiastic team whose hard work makes me so blissfully happy each time.
I know I’m incredibly fortunate to get these kind of experiences at noma when I visit, and each time it happens, I can’t quite believe my luck. It’s a lovely thing to go somewhere knowing that you’ll eat well and get to spend some time with super-friendly folk and then still find yourself staggered by what they deliver for you. The withdrawal symptoms are already kicking in, and I find myself hankering for my next visit …. it can’t come soon enough.
Posted 27 August 2008 - 09:24 AM
I take it that you get so many snacks and extra courses because you're a regular diner there, or is that the current menu? Either way, it looks pretty amazing. I'm particularly looking forward to the shrimp and the squid - hope they do them.
Do you always get the wine menu there, or are there any wines particularly at the more modest end of their list that you'd recommend? I'm debating which to go for, and could go for the wine menu, but would also be keen to save some funds to be able to splash out elsewhere during our weekend in Copenhagen.
Are there any bars near to Noma for drinks afterwards that anyone would recommend?
I'll endeavour to report on my experiences next week.... can't wait to get there!
Posted 27 August 2008 - 02:17 PM
and re: the menu, apart from the 7-course menu, there's also a nassaaq 12 course menu available, but you're right - they're kind enough to tailor the menu for me each time so probably best to seek guidance from them?
wine - since I know nothing about wine, I tend to leave it in the capable hands of Pontus - and let him know whether I want just a few different glasses or the full menu - depends on my mood ... and alcohol capacity for the evening!
can't offer any advice re: local bars - but am sure some other readers who are far more local to CPH can offer feedback!
am sure you'll have a great time - look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Posted 09 November 2008 - 05:20 AM
a few notes from another cheeky visit a few weeks ago for a belated birthday celebration. Anyone who has read this thread will already be aware of my bias and all too frequent visits, so with thanks in advance for everyone's patience - a few pics and words below:
Smoked quail egg
Ryebread, chicken skin, lobster roe and smoked cheese
Radishes, soil and herbs
Toast, herbs and vinegar
- All as pleasing as ever with the savoury chicken skin and rye bread sandwich taken to new levels with the lobster roe - Yum indeed
Chestnut and rye, bleak roe and walnut
Paper thin slices of nuts with a scattering of herbs and rye bread shards, but the star of the show was the fantastic bleak roe sauce with its popping eggs. Light and delicate, and tickling the tongue - a pleasure to look at and eat.
Squid and white currants, cream and chlorophyll
Ah - another return - think this was introduced as squid and kohlrabi last time and the herbs drew much comment The squid had excellent flavour but parts of it were less tender than previous renditions - at least on my plate - god, I‘m picky aren’t I? amazing they let me through the doors ..
Razor clam and horseradish “snow”, parsley and dill
Fast becoming a noma classic, and deservedly so. So striking in presentation, but pure and clean in flavour, incredibly tender razor clam … I don’t think I am ever going to tire of this dish.
Grilled cucumber and fresh cheese, browned butter and chicken stock
Hurrah - the cheese was back .. *sigh* so lightly set that it was almost a pity to disrupt its fragility and delicate form.
Salsify and milk skin and truffles
think they have finally converted me to milk skin with this dish - the creamy silken texture that slipped down so easily was a great foil to the truffle paste and vegetables.
Fava beans and marrow bone, seaweed and verbena
ah - a reworked version of the dish that didn't take off last time for us. For me, the runny egg yolk was a great improvement since the richness was a much better balance for the lemon verbena sauce with the seaweed providng a lovely iodine seasoning. But although more enjoyable than the last time - still not quite a classic in my book … hmmm ... what am I looking for? not sure, I just know it doesn't excite me in the way the other dishes do ... but that's what happens when everything else is so good, the ones that don't click stand out.
Onions from Læsø and blueberries
Very pretty looking dish*, and an unexpectedly successful combination … a good dish for me, but a much bigger hit around the table
* and if my photos had worked, you would see this. Sorry.
Turbot skirt and pickled ramson onion, radishes and herbs
But I loved this dish very much very much. Maybe it was nostalgia for the fish and pickled daikon radishes dishes I ate as a child, but the dish was so comforting, and cleansing and enjoyable. I was smiling quite a lot by this point.
Lobster in “red nuances”
Delicious. And beautiful.
Veal tongue and celeriac, veal breast and garden sorrel
Don’t make the same mistake as I by thinking that the nest of crispy fibres is some sort of fried celeriac. Oh no, that’s the veal breast, painstakingly hand shredded fibre by fibre to create this cloud of fantastic flavour and a real “wow” moment as you realise the hours of work that went into creating this. Delicious.
Ah - this was at our request as a couple of the party love cheese and they don't usually feature on our menus. I must apologise in advance for not being able to fully read the hand written notes but I think they were 3 year old Svenko (??), Langli Stout, Sønderjusu Blå. All delicious, all ridiculously rich which is why I passed off half of my portion to the others ….
And so to desserts and I should say that all through the evening, the staff were gleefully telling us that they had some brand new desserts for us to try, and their excitement was very infectious. As I’ve said before, their enthusiasm and pride is an integral part of what makes my noma experiences so special
Overripe pear and whey, malt and woodruff
And doesn’t this look like a Danish winter wonderland? We joked that all it needed was a Lego figure skiing down the hillside to complete the scene, and the young chef confessed that the thought had occurred to them in the kitchen. Good to see a sense of humour and fun - I want to smile and laugh during my meals as well as savouring delicious food. And this *was* delicious, but hey, I love pears and the malt oil was a lovely flavour note to add some earthiness.
And so to the finale …
Truffle from Gotland and “kvark”
Are you slack jawed as you read this? that was certainly my reaction when this appeared - truffles for dessert for crying out loud - and for me, a stunning representation of a volcanic scorched earth. Soft meringue and truffle mousse I think, with slices of truffle as well … but to be honest, I am not clear on the precise details!!! I was too busy being impressed and delighted to play close attention.
Like the Jerusalem artichoke icecream I adored in April, I loved the combination of an familiar flavour in an unexpected setting, just enough sweetness to place it in the dessert field, but without masking the truffle muskiness. An bold and brilliant dish, and I loved it. Other reactions round the table were more mixed, was too rich for a couple of people (damn us and our cheese greed - that didn’t help!) - especially after the gazillion courses we’d eaten beforehand. I think it’s now been introduced onto the main menu, and the feedback is mixed - clearly a marmite dish.
And so we were done - full, slightly inebriated* and very very happy - again, some excellent food, fabulous people and a great evening’s entertainment. Am so very grateful to all those who worked so hard for us and looked after us so well. With such joys to discover on each visit, is it any wonder that I have already made plans for another visit?
Posted 13 November 2008 - 09:13 AM
Posted 10 February 2009 - 03:13 PM
Ah yes - my noma obsessions goes on with another quick visit here a couple of weeks ago - pics and a few thoughts given below:
The smoked quail’s egg and ryebread and chicken skin snacks were as delicious as ever - don‘t think I will ever tire of eating these. The summer radishes has become the sweetest winter carrots in a pot of edible soil but the crimped toast with herbs and vinegar were still present and still delicious - although don’t inhale at the wrong moment when eating the toast - else you’ll have a coughing fit for 10 minutes like I did!
Cucumber, frozen dill and frozen cream
A new dish, and yet so familiar in its blend of flavours and textures - cool, creamy and refreshing. Loved it - and it occurred to me that this would be a terrific opener to a summer meal as well as a winter one. And then it occurred to me that I love most openings to my noma meals because they herald several hours of fantastic company and fabulous food. I am very lucky indeed.
Razor clams and parsley, dill and mussel juice
One of my favourite classics. The clam was particularly sweet and tender tonight - another winner.
Cauliflower and elderberry capers, fresh cheese and brown butter sauce
Utterly utterly delicious - probably one of the best three dishes of the night for me and we greedily sopped up the brown butter sauce with more bread! Actually two cheeses here - a melted Swedish cheese on top of the fresh cheese - which added a lovely gentle nutty flavour to the whole dish, and the capers provided just the right acid spike to the richness of the dish.
Langoustine and söl, parsley and seawater
I have been lucky enough to enjoy langoustines on a number of visits and hence there was much glee from me as this arrived - a monster specimen from Norway - as fat as two fingers and insanely rich in flavour and perfectly cooked.
Radishes from Lammefjorden and moss, seaweed and egg yolk
Another revision of this seaweed dish - and the new guest star was the Icelandic moss, and we were told that they just discovered or learnt of 600 (I think … failed to scribble notes) edible kinds of moss - in fact - the subject of René’s presentation in Italy that weekend - so we were intrigued to see how it would taste. Well, the answer is incredibly bitter - not unpleasant to me but certainly a wake-up call to some underused taste buds. And with the seaweed and egg yolk and radishes, the dish had the potential to be perfectly balanced, exciting and revelatory. And K certainly enjoyed it. But it didn’t hit such giddy heights for me - never quite managed to compose a sublime forkful to get the nirvana effect that I believe they were aiming for.
Hmmm … re-reading this, it sounds harsher than I intended. I didn’t hate it, just wasn’t as cohesive for me as the other dishes, and I found more to admire than enjoy. Ironically, I wonder if perhaps the moss was the unwelcome element for me.
Pike perch and vegetable stems, ransom capers and butter sauce
This was a unexpected delight - my guess would have been that Pike could be possibly a little muddy and flat in flavour but I was completely wrong because this was so sweet in taste, and so delicate in texture. Fantastic cooking - one of the best dishes of the night.
Ashes and leeks, mussels and king crab
Ah .. Almost as if they read my mind since this was one of the dishes that made me swoon on my first ever visit, and have been yearning for a repeat ever since. And god it was worth the wait. Even if it was 2.5 years in coming.
Potatoes from Lammefjorden, whey and smoked speck
Thanks to photoshop, the pics aren’t too bad. So we have potato puree, with some truffle puree and a sheet of speck on top with whey foam / sauce - served at the table (?). Very very nice, but exceedingly rich. In fact - I must confess that the heavy and powerful combination of truffle and speck floored me a little and I’m not sure I finished my plate.
Short rib of beef and roses, beets and malt
My scribbles remind me that we have apples from Lilleø and malt puffs on the plate. A good dish - again very very rich (well, what did I expect, visiting in Winter!) and I suspect I was still feeling overwhelmed by the truffles and speck because I was starting to struggle. Thank goodness we were able to take a break because I had seen glimpses of what was to come and wanted to be able to fully appreciate the desserts.
Snowman from Lammefjorden
And look what we got! :D made us laugh a lot! We were advised to cut straight through the snowman (dread to think how long they took constructing this!) to show the carrot sorbet dipped in yoghurt and apple vinegar meringue, accompanied by sea buckthorn puree and yoghurt snow. And it was very very good … and convinced me even more that the desserts seem to be getting steadily more impressive and creative. Good to see their confidence growing so that they can really let rip with the ideas.
Walnut powder and ice cream, dried cream and dried berries
Best dessert of the night, and for me, one of the top three dishes of the night. I’d had this on a previous occasion and thought it was pleasant but on this night, it was knockout.
Barley and kisses, milk and aquavit
Oooh - more food - they know how to make me happy! They asked if I’d had this before, and digging back through my photos, seemed that I did. But this worked so much better on this visit - maybe it was the liquorice that added that extra note which lifted the whole dish. Or that the cranberries were particularly sweet or the crisp bread particularly buttery but it was delicious and we scraped our bowls clean.
So - another terrific meal and I remain a fervent admirer of the talent and enthusiasm and general fabulousness of the people and the restaurant. But surely you wouldn’t expect me to say anything else? For me - still one of my favourite places on Earth, and am already looking forward to a return.
Posted 23 February 2009 - 04:28 PM
Man I am excited!!!
I just checked the menu for this week and it pretty much overlaps with YKL's last post, many thanks for this report!
Can't wait until Thursday
Posted 10 March 2009 - 04:57 AM
The experience started with 5 amuse-bouches so delicious one could only dream of what to expect next!
YKL pictured the starters in his 18August report (thanks again for your great pictures and reports!!). The 5th starter was the Danish squid dish with pickled kohlrabi, beach herbs, parsley cream. One word:extraordinary…the squid consitency was just fabulous, melting in your mouth.
The main courses and the accompanying wines were:
Seaurchin ovaries from Limfjoden and malt
Fresh cream and pickled cucumber
2006 Muscadet Sévre et Maine ‘Expression de Gneiss’
Domaine de l´ Ecu (Guy Bossard Loire
Cauliflower and elderberry capers
Fresh cheese and brown butter sauce
Radishes from Lammefjorden
2007 Bourgogne Aligoté
Catherine & Dominique Derain Saint-Aubin
Sea weed and egg yolk
NV (1999) Champage Brut Nature ’Entre Ciel et Terre’
Francoise Bedel Crouttes-sur-Marne
Mashed potatoes and truffle
Whey and smoked speck
2005 Blaufränkisch ‘Lutzmanns Burger’
Short rib of beef and roses
Beets and malt
2003 Bourgueil ‘Les Perrières’
Catherine & Pierre Breton Loire
Snowman from Lammefjorden
2006 Riesling spätlese ‘Von der Lay’
Rita & Rudolf Trossen Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Truffles from Gotland and Kvark
“Branches” and Meringue
Domaine Marcel Deiss Alsace
I think most of the dishes have been discussed in an excellent manner by YKL and his pictures are beautiful copared to my blurry attemts therefore I would like to only comment on the bits I feel they need some more commenting and advise you to look at YKL's pictures to get an Idea of what it looks like.
First the sea-urchins: It was announced as oysters on the internet menu, so I was surprised when they served sea-urchins instead. I haven’t had the dish with oysters, but I can not imagine a better fit than the sea-urchin! Its creamy rosy taste combined just perfect with the very light and frozen cream and the slightly acidic cucumber…a real treat to your palates. The wine was in my opinion another highlight of the evening…very minerally, almost salty, a perfect companion to sea food (I could imagine that it fits even better to the oysters)!
Second the seaweed dish with Icelandic moss:
I was really curious about the moss so I started off with trying a bit of the moss on its own…that was bitter! BUT combined with the yolk and especially the seaweed-cream beneath the seaweed balanced this bitterness into something lifting this dish to real culinary heights! I think this slight challenge for my palates made the difference to me! Fabulous!!
All the other dishes were real treats as well and I really could not find anything to complain about! The wine menu fit the dishes perfectly by underlining the dishes flavour, but never drowning it! I did not note down the nose and taste of every wine since I was sure I could remember (bad mistake), but after a champagne to the amuse-bouches seven glasses of wine, a glass of Cognac to the more than delicious coffee (I normally only drink espresso, but I would consider drinking coffee on a regular basis if I could have the NOMA stuff) and a glass of whiskey at the bar my memory turned into one big mess off happiness and sense of delight!
I hope there will be a next visit soon and I promise that I will note down all my thoughts before I go to the bar
Posted 06 April 2009 - 12:59 AM
"When René Redzepi opened noma five years ago people thought he was crazy - radically concentrating on only Scandinavian products in a modernized way was a big step especially in Denmark where people had not been into fine dining that much. Before noma fine dining (at Kong Hans for example) was a domaine of French haute cuisine in Copenhagen restricted to the wealthier.
So how did noma develop to its current state? Backed by Claus Meyer noma did have the patience and the endurance to steadily grow and advance towards a spearhead of the new Scandinavian cuisine. From the beginning René and Claus made use of their network to bring chefs to Copenhagen so that European chefs could experience their work. As part of the international avantgarde community they could create the necessary buzz to attract more and more advanced diners and chefs to noma.
Simultaneously, also the Danish discovered noma and got attracted to it - maybe it just appealed to the Scandinavian soul and pressed the right buttons with its unique mix of modern design and Scandinavian authenticity. Proud to be Scandinavian without showing off.
This brings me to my central point: noma is unique as it is an incorporation of the Scandinavian soul - it is modern where needed, natural and pure, rustic at times - everything with a very modest, relaxed and unpretentious undertone. To "judge" noma one cannot simply report on the individual dishes - to be fair not all of them are outstanding in the categories of the usual Guides. No, the food simply touches your soul and some dishes are just wonderful in both purity and taste. So, in the end one should not apply the usual categories when talking about the noma experience - the overall experience is so unique and trend-setting that one simply has to go and experience this.
As a natural complement to this almost the whole white brigade come out in the course of the dinner and serves their "babies" with pride, respect for the product and knowledge while explaining the dish in length if you want. This kind of completes the picture as you can see and feel the passion and seriousness about what they do. Moreover, the atmosphere in the front part of the kitchen you can see from the dining room is always relaxed and the cooks act like in an organised harmonious choreography. But it is still somehow vibrant and full of creative energy - amazing.
When we had a quick chat with René and Daniel Texter (in charge of the wonderful desserts) René said that this is a difficult time of year as most winter products are not available anymore and the spring products are not there yet - so we should come back soon to see the other seasons or faces of noma... And we will be back for sure..."
The full review with picture on High-End Food - enjoy!
Posted 04 May 2009 - 10:41 AM
anybody know where I can get the noma book?
I got my (English translation, just about) copy at Books for Cooks in London W11 - www.booksforcooks.com - their webiste says they deliver anywhere in the world.
Posted 21 September 2009 - 06:05 PM
this are my thought on my meal here last June.
Please click here for full commentary and photography: HERE
Noma = Nordisk + Mad = Nordic + Food. A simple name reveals a simple aim.
There is a movement (for lack of a better term) in gastronomy towards a cuisine that is, above all, natural, but also generally fiercely local, seasonal and with a focus on superior ingredients. It is a style that was enabled by institutions such as Bras, l’Arpège and Mugaritz and is now embodied by the likes of Ubuntu, el Poblet and noma. These ‘New Naturals’ are unique restaurants offering a special insight into the terroir they occupy.
It is the last of those, noma, which concerns this account and its story begins with Claus Meyer. Little known outside of Scandinavia, Meyer is Denmark’s most famous foodie. First television chef, now restaurateur, business man and farmer, this venture is his vision.
For more than two centuries, the Grønlandske Handels Plads in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn quarter was a busy centre for trade with Iceland, the Faeroe Islands and Greenland. Hence, it was common for immigrants from these lands to take their very first footsteps upon Danish soil here; thus it was considered, at the turn of this century, a fitting site for what would become Nordatlantens Brygge – North Atlantic House – a shared address for these northerly neighbours. To accommodate this grandiose project, one of the harbour’s most impressive structures was selected – the five-story, seven-thousand metre-squared former warehouse that resides at the end of the Strandgade.
It was the wish of those masterminds behind this undertaking that it ought also to encompass a gourmet restaurant that showed off the culinary wares of these nations. Henrik Pedersen, the well-respected chef at Babette, was offered the chance to make this happen. However he, although interested and having already drafted in Claus Meyer to assist him, had to pull out over his concerns about running two restaurants simultaneously. Meyer, on the other hand, with Pederson’s blessing, remained very much involved – the attraction for him ‘had much more to do with the possibility of generating…a compellingly stringent and beautiful culinary concept, which the world had never seen before.’
As Pedersen’s replacement, Meyer approached Paul Cunningham. The Englishman was more than curious, but had already agreed to open a new restaurant in the Tivoli Gardens – a deal he was unable to free himself from. In his stead, he recommended two others. One was Bo Bech, who had just ended his partnership with Jan Hurtigkarl. The other was René Redzepi.
Redzepi, at that time, was sous chef at Kong Hans (1*) in Copenhagen and had spent several years working in the finest kitchens overseas, but, in truth, had sort of strayed into a career as a chef. Half-Danish, half-Macedonian, he spent his childhood between the two countries, often spending months at a time with his father’s family in the Balkans. There he lived the more bucolic life: ‘if we wanted a chicken my uncle had to slaughter it. If we wanted milk my aunt had to milk the cow.’ Although unappreciative of the experience as a child – ‘I was very embarrassed about it’ – now he values those times. Although, it was not this intimate connection with food that inspired him to cook; at school, undecided on what career to pursue, he enrolled in cookery college because his best friend had done so. Nevertheless after just two days there, during a cooking competition, he sensed a ‘sudden feeling that this was exactly what I wanted to do.’
Upon graduating, he joined Pierre André (1*) in the Danish capital, where he spent four years studying classical French cuisine. This inspired him to make the move, in 1998, to France and the Pourcel brothers’ Jardin des Sens (3*) in Montpellier. Disappointed to find ‘a lot of shouting in the kitchen. A lot of aggression,’ he left soon enough. However, before he did that, he visited a restaurant just over the Franco-Catalan border that he had heard great things about; it was in Rosas, it was el Bulli. ‘I was blown away. It wasn't the specific dishes that did it. It was the sense of freedom. Up to that point I had assumed all grand cooking had to be French.’ He soon returned, but this time to cook; in fact, he was so eager, he worked the 1999 season unpaid. Redzepi spent the subsequent year in miscellaneous consulting positions prior to a summer spell in 2001 at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, in California. After this, he was back in Copenhagen working under Thomas Rode Andersen at Kong Hans, which is where Meyer found him two years later.
Seemingly keener than Bech, it also quickly became apparent to Meyer that Redzepi’s and his own ambitions were similarly aligned; he therefore offered him the role and a partnership in the business. However, the chef had a condition; he wanted to have an old friend from école hôtelière days – Mads Refslund – join them as a partner and his sous. Meyer acquiesced.
The team’s first task was a four-week fact-finding expedition through the North Atlantic; they were seeking new ingredients and new methods native to the Nordic region that they could take back to noma. Their trip was fruitful – treasures they unearthed included huge, forty-five-year-old horse mussels in the Faeroe Islands; biodynamic pearl barley, arctic char and rye bread steamed underground in Iceland; and, in Greenland, six-year-old shrimp, small and fatty capelin and crowberries. Furthermore, it left an immense impression on Redzepi: ‘Here, where we are, nature is as it wants to be and I began thinking about how to reflect that nature, express it on the plate.’ Once home, they opened noma in November 2003.
‘They called us the stinking whale,’ the chef remembers. ‘Everybody thought Scandinavian cuisine was a joke when we started.’ Coupled with the tremendous difficulty realised importing all the incredible products they had uncovered, the restaurant faced a challenging initiation. But Redzepi was undeterred and less than ten months later had even organised a special symposium to which the region’s leading chefs were invited. At this event, the New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto – a set of ten commandments specially scripted by the chefs – was penned and a quiet gastronomic revolution engineered.
Soon people paid heed. Supply lines were secured. Success followed. In 2005, noma was awarded its first Michelin star and, having been bestowed an espoir the next year, subsequently won its second in 2007. Now Redzepi has a network of producers three times as strong as the average Danish restaurant whilst also employing five foragers to scout the area for new produce. Additionally, the chef was further recognised with his appointment as ambassador for the New Nordic Food program by the Nordic Council of Ministers and also his selection as the president of Denmark’s Bocuse d’Or team.
Noma’s address could not be more apt: the restaurant reclaiming Nordic cuisine sits on an island of reclaimed land. In the early seventeenth century, Christianhavn was created as a merchant town that provided protection to Copenhagen proper. With its canals and tall, bright, multicoloured buildings (and today its bicycles too), the town built by Dutch architects was modelled on the Dutch capital. One hundred years on, this was where the Royal Greenland Trade Enterprise could be found; the focal point for shipping and commerce between Denmark and her former colonies of Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Greenland as well as Finnmark. Another hundred years later and these same streets were those favoured by Kierkegaard on his long walks – and he certainly liked to walk.
Nowadays, the old warehouses that line the waterfront have been refurbished. This includes the afore-mentioned culture and arts centre, Nordatlantens Brygge which, once housing salted herring, whale blubber and skins, spelt and dry fish, is now home to the Icelandic embassy and permanent representations for Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, along with noma of course.
The rough-hewn, mottled gray brick building with pitched red-tile roof and narrow, sandy yellow stucco skirting was constructed in 1766 by master-builder J.C. Conradi. It is a formidable, but beautiful frame for the restaurant. Noma’s entrance itself is discreet and distinguished only by a pair of upright pikes in front of the door, carrying caged gas candles, and the noma name stencilled in three-dimensional, lower-case letters to one side of it.
The interior is quintessential Nordic. Created by Signe Bindslev Henriksen, the space marries old-world charm with clean, uncluttered modernism. ‘I knew that this was the place, it had such a warmth about it with its wooden beams. I was sick of luxurious, palatial restaurants,’ tells Redzepi. Indeed, woods dominate. Floorboards of Pomeranian pine; ancient and limed pillars supporting rugged exposed timbers; with grainy, smoked oak tables, seats and serving stations, together form a warm counterweight to the seriousness of the cracking white-washed brickwork walls. Floor-to-ceiling, arched windows set in arched recesses, encircle the space allowing in plenty of sunlight and imparting impressive views out over Københavns Havn. Well-sized tables are well-spaced and surrounded by spindly, sixties-styled Scandinavian chairs; most unusually and authentically, each bears a fluffy, white sheepskin. Extravagant excess is eschewed; naked tables are topped sparingly with Royal Copenhagen china, Spiegelau stemware, wild Danish flowers and a thick-cut candle. Away from the dining area, besides the doorway, stands the more contemporary, stainless steel kitchen which, although behind paned glass, is nonetheless easily accessible by eye.
Amuse Bouche 1: Syltet og røget vagtelæg. An oversized brown and tan-speckled porcelain egg was placed at the table. Instructed to consume the contents within just ten seconds of opening the container, one lifts the lid. At once, an aromatic cloud of smoke sluggishly floated up and away, revealing a single, little quail’s egg nestled upon straw bedding. Eaten entire, the small, pale amber ovule, pickled in apple vinegar before smoked over apple wood, quickly burst to imbue the whole mouth with its warm, unctuous yolk whose mild smokiness was tinged with fruity tartness.
Amuse Bouche 2: Rugbrød, kyllingeskind, stenbiderrogn og rygeost. Smørrebrød, the traditional Danish open sandwich, was turned on its head, literally: the ritual rugbrød base became the topping with chicken skin the bottom and hay-smoked cheese blended with dill and lumpfish roe in betwixt the two. Once again, the appearance of this amuse was superb with the matted gold folds of skin and russet gleam of the toasted rye interrupted by bright white cheese interspersed with pinkish rose pearls of roe that mimicked the grains of the bread above it. The smoky, salty, sweet savours of the filling balanced excellently whilst its creaminess, punctuated by the poppy eggs, contrasted against the grainy, brittle rye and super-crispy skin. This last element was the highlight here – deliciously rich, it was a reminder of [my] childhood when one does not needs not think twice about devouring such wicked items like the fatty crust of a roast chicken. Although instantly familiar, like this the skin also tasted brand new. And although a little naughty, it was of course very nice.
Amuse Bouche 3: Radiser, jord og urteemulsion. Planted upon the table, a terracotta garden pot came filled with dark soil from which sprouted large, vibrant leaves. With cutlery withheld, one is informed that everything within is edible. Holding onto one of the leafy tops, a radish was easily extracted, exposing, as it came out, brilliant green cream beneath the earth that still clung to the root. Peppery and almost sweet, these snappy radishes were from Lammefjord and belonged to Søren Wiuff. The foamy herb emulsion that they had been buried in was composed of sour sheep’s yoghurt flavoured with tarragon, chives and chervil; it was an addictive match with the crunchy malt, beer and hazelnut crumble that covered it.
Amuse Bouche 4: Toast, vilde urter, pighvarrogn og eddike. An undulating layer of crisp bread was sprinkled with vinegar powder and dotted with turbot roe cream; each of these spots was pierced with precisely placed wild herbs and their flowers. This little cracker was a lesson in contradiction: delicate and surprisingly light, the flavours it offered were surprisingly strong. The first bite of the wavy wafer unleashed a small mist of vinegar dust that filled the air about the mouth. It was also extremely tart, although not unpleasantly so, before being quickly assuaged by the faintly buttery roe – a Finnish speciality – and herbal, flowery plants that had been freshly foraged.
Brødet: Spelt og Manitoba. A square-shaped felt pouch was brought to the table; its leather ribbons were unravelled. Inside its cloth-lined belly sat two sorts of bread. Both were baked onsite and both were piping hot (as they remained for some time). One was Manitoba sourdough which, made with hard, highly refined wheat, was crunchy and dense. The other, spelt, had nice crust and fluffy middle. Alongside these, a platelet of organic Danish butter was served. Whipped through with skyr – a cheese from the fermented milk of Icelandic cows, a breed traceable to the time of the Vikings – this had great lightness and soft tang.
Entrée 1: Blæksprutte og grønne jordbær; Fløde og dild. Almost translucent, ivory ingot of raw squid, deftly diced into identical, little squares, its contrary corners crowned with a couple of green strawberry slices standing upright against each other whilst a small mound of their granita rests on another, was topped with dill and toasted rye kernels; the shellfish sat in fresh cream laced with dark green dill oil. A picturesque plate already, it also suggested something of Scandinavian springtime: the rolling landscape; the green breaking through snow white; the snow itself…Furthermore, to most interesting effect, this recipe indulged the Danish love of berries and cream. Combining seafood and dairy is uncommon, but the cream worked delightfully well with the tender Danish west coast squid. The milky former enriched the latter whilst unripe strawberries added an exact acidity and the uplifting oil, subtle herbiness.
Entrée 2: Rå rejer og tang; Rabarber og urter. A thin, bright blanket of sea lettuce, beset with beach herbs, cubes of pickled rhubarb and drizzled with the fruit’s juice, concealed underneath small uncooked shrimp from Smögen. Considered Sweden’s finest, these delicately sweet specimens melted in the mouth, their savour countered by the springy, subtly sour rhubarb and barely bitter algae. The surprise was strandsennep or beach mustard, whose blades and blossoms, collected by the chefs from along the seashore, had definite peppery heat.
Entrée 3: Tatar og skovsyre; Aromatisk enebær og estragonemulsion. Tartar of Danish beef, arranged in a neat rectangle and besprinkled with toasted rye breadcrumbs and grated horseradish under wood sorrel and rings of onion, left a trail of ground juniper in its wake; a matching belt of vibrant tarragon emulsion shadowed the beef and its hoofprints. To be consumed without cutlery, one uses the heart-like leaves of wood sorrel to clasp the just-chopped meat, smear it through the tarragon then swab it in specks of juniper.
The initial pleasure came from the presentation. Vivid and colourful, there was also simplicity, freshness and purity on the plate. Roughly cut yet trimly set tartar; cluttered though carefully fixed sorrel; coarse, but deliberate sprinkles and daubs presented rustic precision. Additionally, the leaf-topped tartare over the green row immediately evoked a dynamic image of the animal itself grazing across the field.
The beef, mild yet clean and flavoursome, was enlivened by the lemony spark of the sorrel, spicy horseradish and warmth of the mustard oil from Gotland. Aniseed tarragon and stimulating, woody juniper were both distinct and balanced delicately well; whilst the rye added crunch.
This course considered all the senses, pleasing more than simply the palate and provoking sensations both amusing and intellectual. Eating with one’s hands makes this instantly more than just another dish. Foremost, it is fun; a challenge to social convention and expectation too. However, on a deeper level, it also connects the diner to the food – the textures manifest no longer only in the mouth-feel, but on the tips of one’s fingers; or through the lemon scent that stains their hands, for instance. Moreover, there is the romantic vision roused; one realises and appreciates that this is how our ancestors – and/or how the Vikings – long ago once ate. Raw food with bare hands.
Entrée 4: Knivmusling og peberrodssne; Persille og dild. Myrtle cylinder of parsley jelly, concealing local razor clam, came laid across the bowl, leading from its centre to its cusp; a deep, loose line of horseradish snow skirted its length. Tableside, juice from the clam, mingled with mustard-dill stock, was poured. The plating here was very interesting, in particular, the inescapable likeness to a sewage pipe – razor clams are actually an invasive species in the region, thus this suggestion of waste or undesirability could have been a nod to that fact. The tenderness and sweetness of the clam exceeded expectation whilst the parsley wrapper was pepper cool with slightly gelatinous texture. The icy blend of buttermilk and horseradish (once a common companion to raw shellfish), although cold, was unexpectedly potent with an agreeably creamy consistency. The cool effluent was intense and crisp.
Entrée 5: Friskost og friskblomster; Brøndkarse. Over a bed of fresh cheese, a richly-coloured array of just-picked flowers, interspersed with croutons, was showered; a sauce of watercress and parsley lay in attractive swirls to one side. Both the cheese had been made and the wild blossoms gathered by the chefs themselves that same day. The ethereal, buttermilk-based cheese worked well to showcase the springy assortment of rocket, parsley, nasturtium, mustard and more florae. The watercress, at first dulcet, become stronger and spicier as its savour lingered while the parsley proffered a grassier note.
Entrée 6: Jomfruhummer og söl; Persille og havvand. A warm basalt stone, plucked from a Gotland potato field, was presented. A single, surprisingly sizeable langoustine from Læsø lay on it. Randomly placed, bright green beads about the rock were composed of oyster and parsley emulsion and crowned with rye crumbs; grated Icelandic dulse – söl – left sandy magenta streaks across the surface. It was as if the sea had washed up its most prized prawn upon a stone on the seashore; the roasted seaweed dust and barnacle-like outgrowths redolent of the sea itself aided and abetted the analogy. Once again one uses their hands to enjoy the shellfish, which barely cooked, was scrumptious; luscious, fat and so sweet. It was even possible to feel the little fibres that encircled the plump body snap as the meat was bitten into. The mineral emulsion and briny söl became almost afterthoughts.
Entrée 7: Asparges og skovmærke; Humle og dunhammer. Søren’s white asparagus, chopped to varying lengths then set laid or standing, surrounded sous vide wild duck egg; over all these, fiddlehead ferns, hops and bulrush were strewn and rough rings of woodruff sauce were drizzled. The Lammefjord greens again amazed with the al dente asparagus juicy and tasty, its flavour accentuated by the woodruff and bulrush, to give the dish a surprisingly sweet nature. However, the richness of the unctuous egg had taming effect and proved an excellent balance as did the crisp and subtly bitter hop shoots. Additionally, bulrush and fiddlehead fern – here found as fronds that had been diligently detached from the unfurled, scroll-like head – both share an innate affinity with asparagus which reinforced the vegetable’s distinct essence.
Entrée 8: Aske og porrer; Blåmuslinger og kongekrabbe. Alternating cylindrical couples of jet black and scarlet-swathed white occupied the centre of the plate. Frothy mussel emulsion was spooned out, almost completely covering these, before golden toasted breadcrumbs were shaken overtop. The two tubes were in fact leek stems rolled in hay ash and poached Norwegian king crab thigh-meat. The latter, so succulent with lovely brininess, seemed almost liquid-filled, whilst the former were startlingly delicious. Using ash as a spice is an ancient Nordic tradition mainly applied to herring and it imparted a complex, intense caustic savour like edible smoky soot; the dark coating then quickly dissolved on the tongue, releasing the leek’s mellow flavour. This was a totally new taste sensation. The mussel sauce was strong and acted as salty seasoning whilst the brittle breadcrumbs bestowed crunch.
Plat Principal 1: Pighvar og vegetabilsk stilke; Syltede hyldeblomst. Tranche of roasted North Sea turbot, its skin appetising dark amber and laden with unripe elderberry, caper and shallot garni, was teamed with stems of watercress and leek, all scattered with sprigs of strandtrehage and strandsennep; celeriac purée and a thin sauce made from capers completed the recipe. The turbot’s breeding season lasts from April to August, during which time, the fish stores more fat in preparation for procreation. A side-effect of this it that its meat is even more mouth-watering than normal and this specimen was indeed rich and toothsome with some of that elusive, excellent melting fattiness to it. The berry and caper garnish brought a pleasingly acidic burst whilst the crackly, moist stems had contrary sweet touch. Beach herbs, with their latent heat and citrus, were also welcomed.
Plat Principal 2: Råstegt hummer og salat root; hybenrose og ribs vin. Sautéed Danish blue lobster, blanketed with red currant wine and sat atop lobster jus, was buried amidst roots of salad, shoots of wild beach pea, their little purple flowers and rosehip petals; a streak of lobster coral accompanied. The dish, decorated with different shades of splendid red and lush green, was simply beautiful – and it tasted just as good too. The lissom lobster, very nicely-timed, had juicy, supple flesh and was full of natural sweetness. The tangy rosehip, reinforced by the nearly sugary beach pea, was a splendid bridge between the lovely shellfish and fruity-tart red currant wine. The coral was concentrated and the lettuce, succulent and snappy.
Entremet 1: Læsøløg; Løgkarse og ramsløg. Læsø’s renown is not limited to its langoustines; this time, its onions took centre-stage. Onion compote, carpeted over with prast ost and encircled with onion slices – half of which were soaked in beer, the other half pickled – was peppered with chive flowers, chickweed, ramson stalks and onion cress; tableside, onion bouillon with thyme and tapioca was served. This preparation was both an ode to onions and its relations whilst the beer-cheese-onion combination insinuated classic pub snack (cheese and onion crisps with a pint of beer). The compote had relish; its savoury, slightly strong skin of a Swedish mature cheese skin akin to cheddar, a natural companion; whilst the warm, pungent, pearly bouillon was fairly intense and gently melted the prast ost, becoming syrupy as it did so. Ramson and chive contributed hints of garlic and the two sets of onion were both crisp, with one rather malty and the other salty-sharp.
Entremet 2: Marv og syltede grøntsager; Krydderurter og bouillon. Crudités of various vegetables, pickled in six varieties of vinegar, were arranged in curls and bouquets studded and bestrewn with such herbs as mustard, rocket, leek flowers and pea shoots as well as small rounds of poached bone marrow, all mizzled with a little oxtail stock. Although amounting to only a small cluster upon the plate, this course abounded with colour, vivacity and curiosity. Each bite was fresh, crunchy and subtly tart, but each was different too thanks to the mixture of marinades. The vibrant clutch, dense and solid, also invited one to delve in and thus dig up peppery blossoms or anise leaves that they had not yet already discovered. Shimmering, soft slices of marrow also hiding amongst these tendered some richness whilst the bouillon beneath was deep and delectable. There was a deft balance between sweet and sour here, which also worked to cleanse the palate after the previous onions.
A leather-bound, reindeer horn-handled puukko knife, handmade in Lapland, was placed upon the table. Rustic yet carefully crafted, even the noma knife has become somewhat iconic.
Plat Principal 3: Moskusokse og mælkeskind; Spæde hvidløg og ramsløg. From Greenland’s west coast, a mahogany haunch of musk ox, resting in gamboge jus suffused with ramson, was teamed with alabaster folds of milk skin and grilled baby garlic and cucumber whilst dressed with capers and mini, mauve garlic flowers. The meaty fillet was well-marbled, tender and flavoursome. Its sticky, concentrated sauce was delightful, the ramson linking nicely with the young garlic. The milky skin, literally the skimmed off coating that forms on the surface when cooking milk, was reminiscent of yuba and slightly tart-sweet; this was interesting both texturally and taste wise.
Dessert 1: Birkesaft og birkesirup; Sødskærm og honning. Broken birch slates of meringue, overlaying birch sorbet and jelly made from mead and honey, were embedded with bright, baby sprigs of Spanish chervil. This was instantly resonant: the coarse-cut meringues, matching the gray plate, impersonated the stony earth; the sorbet resembled the sap and roots; whilst the herbs were little saplings breaking through and growing forth. The sorbet was mildly sugary and clean; jelly of mellifluous wine and honey collected from a beehive only a few miles away, was stronger; whilst the Spanish chervil like liquorice. The meringues, made using the water in which birch bark had been bathed, were excellent – light, grainy and not at all cloying.
Dessert 2: Rødbede og skovsyre; Creme fraiche og syltet hybenrose. A circle sat in the dish’s centre, split into two halves. On one side, there were compact maroon crystals of beet and pickled hip rose granité; on the other, pastel green sorrel mousse was crowned with pale hip rose tuile topped with the grated fruit. Crispy, crunchy and smooth; sweet, sharp and earthy – this was more complex than its simple appearance suggested. The subtle savours were also very well poised.
Dessert 3: Valnødde pulver og is; Tørret fløde og tørrede bær. Walnut ice cream came covered in three crude strips of cream powder, walnut dust and dried blackberries. This was another dessert that seemed more straightforward than it really was. Tasting the three toppings together proved extremely astringent, quickly absorbing away all the moisture from the mouth and leaving just fruity-sour essence before the soft, moussy walnut ice cream quickly supplied gentle succour. Building on the natural relation between walnuts and blackberries, this worked to delicious effect.
Petit Fours: Flødebolle med rødbedeskum. Chocolate covered marshmallow treats can be found across Europe in varying national guises, but their widely acknowledged origin is Denmark (and it remains the largest producer of these today – apparently, the average Dane eats fifty a year). Petit fours entailed this traditional dainty, with a twist. Served on a cold stone, as the flødebolle began to melt as soon as it was touched, thin, fine quality chocolate case and malt cracker base bordered fluffy, mild and yummy, pink beetroot mousse.
Alongside this menu, Ulf served a champagne-heavy flight of wines...
I have been very lucky in my dining life so far – not only have I rarely been on the receiving end of substandard service, but I have been subjected to some of the kindest imaginable. Bearing that in mind, the treatment on offer here is some of the very finest that I have seen. I really was impressed by the quality of care and genuine consideration conveyed by all those at noma.
Interestingly, Redzepi encourages his chefs to serve and explain many of the dishes themselves. Not only is this a pleasantly unexpected twist, but it also undeniably adds another layer of openness and intimacy to the restaurant experience. Additionally, given that many in the kitchen are actually British – ‘they are battle-hardened. They are good, strong. Ready for anything,’ Redzepi says – speaking with them was interesting and entertaining.
It was fascinating to watch the front-of-house staff at work. One would expect the introduction of chefs into the dining room to complicate, possibly even disrupt them. But not so. Instead, it was continuously calm and co-ordinated with servers gracefully and confidently wending their way between tables and chairs. They were always relaxed and always made time for the guest. I conversed with many over the course of the meal and all were very affable, engaging and thoughtful – having spoken to Kim, Ulf and Laura most, I single them out especially. Together, they are led by Lau – simply the consummate maître d'hôtel – who is earnestness, charm and niceness personified. Everyone seemed to really enjoy what they were doing and it showed in the little details. For instance, it was a delight to note that not only did the staff smile at diners, but they smiled at each other too. There is a warmth and avidity shared by all – and it is contagious.
Over lunch I was also able to meet and talk a little with René Redzepi. His boyish mien and unassuming nature automatically engendered rapport and admiration. The more we spoke, the more I was overwhelmed by his generous and good spirit. Clearly impassioned and clearly relishing his work, I was certainly stirred by his enthusiasm.
The meal itself was just stunning. The amuses were arguably the most engaging I have ever been served – satisfying taste, intellect and emotion individually and collectively. From the courses that followed, it is difficult to select either my favourites or those I liked least. If pushed, I would pick rå rejer og tang; rabarber og urter and friskost og friskblomster; brøndkarse as two that were less memorable than the rest, but again, these were only relatively weaker courses rather than flawed or weak in themselves. Those that I found the most appetising included blæksprutte og grønne jordbær, the classic tatar og skovsyre, asparges og skovmærke (the best asparagus-egg dish I have ever eaten), aske og porrer, råstegt hummer og salat root and from the excellent desserts, valnødde pulver og is.
The first four offerings from the kitchen were delicious and revealing. Starting with the vagtelæg, presented in its Matryoshka-esque ceramic casket that played the shell to the already peeled quail egg, so much was shown with a single, bite-size morsel. Simple yet intelligent and delectable, there was also an element of intrigue, mystery and maybe even magic from the swirling, steaming smoke which, whilst adding animation, almost convinces the diner that the egg is still cooking. Furthermore, essentially Nordic – these eggs are regularly consumed here; pickling and smoking are both basic Scandinavian preparation methods; and apples, staples of the diet – this was a fitting opener. The second course was nostalgic, indulgent and my favourite. Once again, working with (stereo)typically regional ingredients, this was a witty reinvention of something common and customary. Different characteristics of the cooking became evident with the next treat, radiser, jord og urteemulsion. Here, the highest quality raw materials were showcased in amusing, whimsical fashion. The presentation, original, clever but mostly convincing, created a sense of adventure and implied a return to nature; the playfulness patent here may have been nurtured whilst Redzepi worked under his most influential mentor, Adrià. In addition, as it so happens, this particular recipe has also been inspirational to other talented chefs, such as David Kinch and Heston Blumenthal. Amuses ended on a delicate note with another item just as reminiscent of the outdoors – a curvy cracker carrying what seemed frost-kissed wild herbs, but which were actually dusted in malty vinegar.
The tatar og skovsyre: aromatisk enebær og estragonemulsion has become somewhat of a noma signature. It is understandable why. As Redzepi tells it, ‘when [we] first opened, this dish almost seemed a provocation. The Copenhagen restaurant scene really was dominated by these old, fussy French places. And then along comes this restaurant where they want you to eat raw beef with your hands like you're some Viking.’ The effect of this course is two-fold – it relaxes those unaccustomed to fine dining, whilst teasing amusing those that are. And it does this brilliantly: one really cannot help but laugh whilst feeding themselves finger-fuls of tartar. The dramatic aesthetic, gamesome expression and sensory satisfaction have all already been alluded to earlier, but there is also an inescapable awareness that one is eating something distinctly Nordic. The locally-sourced ingredients, all of ancient regional relevance – juniper and tarragon being both especially bonded to the territory – served naturally with minor manipulation, suggest a specific place as well as a specific time. This was a rare transcendental dish.
The issue of aesthetic previously touched upon is of special importance. Whether from the rich colours, the minimalist arrangement of elements evocative with imagery and meaning or the eloquent use of empty space on the plate, there is something almost austere here – a noble austerity – that encapsulates the severity, but also the purity of the Nordic terroir. It is as if Redzepi, having tamed the savage, but strikingly beautiful North, has distilled it into his dishes.
Noma is inevitably exciting as it affords one the opportunity to discover unique ingredients such as strandtrehage, strandsennep and musk ox; and taste uncommon techniques like pickling, smoking and spicing with ash. It is an introduction to Nordic cuisine – a new cuisine to many. However, beyond the novelty, there is a fundamental superiority in the creativity and cooking. Not a single misstep in execution was manifest today with thoughtful dishes, cleverly designed and delivered with deliberate care.
But the adventure here does not end with trying new products or methods – one hallmark of noma’s cuisine is that each course is in itself an exploration. As one eats, they uncover different, dynamic and fresh flavours and textures. This is just one trait that characterises Redzepi’s distinctive cooking, though; to gain a good understanding of the others, one need only read that Manifesto he helped author. Some additional qualities that stood out from my lunch were the light saucing of plates, preference for raw foods, precise use of acidity and willingness to mingle modern and ancient cookery. Butter, cream, stocks and wine, standard in most sauces, were shunned in favour of beers, ales, fruit juices and homemade vinegars. The latter have become essential tools, also applied as seasoning (limiting the use of salt) and to produce that sweet and sour profile that is so very Nordic. Elderberries, unripe strawberries, capers and such are included to offer uplifting and bright acidic notes whilst the prevalence of raw ingredients only aids the natural and feral sense of style.
Noma was not always a success; René Redzepi and his partners’ ambitions to create a restaurant solely focused on Nordic cuisine were at first ridiculed whilst the business model proved difficult to implement with sourcing from across the Northern Atlantic much more challenging than expected. In spite of everything though, they persevered, remained resolute in their aims and maintained a strict obedience to them whilst personally scouting out new produce and establishing stable supply lines across the region. Today, few would question how far they have come or what they have achieved.
Possibly forged during those times of struggle, there is a sense of purpose so strong and dedication to it so certain that it suffuses all that noma is. Consequently, one’s meal at noma is about more than only food. When someone first enters, they are immediately confronted by a décor that although contrary to what one might expect to find at a fine-dining restaurant, is incontestably in keeping with the Nordic ideology. This is then reinforced by the compelling details that are woven into one’s dining, such as the felt bread-holder or the hunting knife that arrives with the main course. However, it is really the people that make being here so special and truly an experience. The staff, as said already, are terrifically keen and interested, but there is the added interaction with the chefs too. Breaking down any imaginary boundaries between customer and kitchen, there is also something very emotive and effective about this approach. Chefs, as they proudly present them before the diner, describe their dishes with the natural affection that the maker has for what he has made – and rightly so. After all, what they are achieving with these is worthy indeed: with each plate, they are giving back Nordic cooking its identity.
The consequences of this are not only felt by noma’s guests, but are spread across Copenhagen. Once derided, now the restaurant is congratulated by critics and colleagues. It is a mutual fondness. There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie between the city’s chefs – not only are they genuine friends, routinely cooking for each other and organising charity events together, but they even share suppliers. When one discovers a new ingredient/source, he tells the rest; for example, Lammefjord has been referred to as noma’s garden yet everyone uses Søren’s vegetables. Noma may be Copenhagen’s catalyst and René Redzepi might have set the bar high, but others are rising to the challenge. This is not news per se yet the quality and consistency across restaurants is still (superbly) startling. Eating around the capital, this fraternity and impetus is truly tangible, inspirational and indeed infectious.
Parallels have been drawn between Copenhagen and San Sebastián, where in the seventies local chefs created nueva cocina vasca, a cuisine that was motivated by nouvelle cuisine, but remained solidly Basque in character. There too existed this same sense of solidarity and unity with chefs working together – traditional txokos were just one illustration of this in practice. However, recently, the spotlight has swung from Donostia onto other regions; principal amongst these being California and Copenhagen. Even Adrià has conceded that ‘if Spain was the new France in culinary terms, then Nordic must surely be the new Spain.’ This shift is exemplified by a movement from innovation-based cuisine to ingredient-based ones. And it is the latter of the two, which I believe, to surely be the more sustainable.
On a final note, for someone who lives in London (like I do), noma presents hope. Some of Britain’s chefs have already noticed what is happening across the North Sea – Stephen Harris claims that ‘René makes me feel like a total lightweight. He's in a different league’; Marcus Wareing describes his meal there as ‘brilliant’, saying it ‘captured Redzepi's country and his immediate surroundings perfectly’; Jason Atherton believes that ‘every now and then a chef comes along and makes a difference and René’s one of them.’ However, what is really exciting is the thought that eventually, the British chefs working in Copenhagen may decide to come home – after all, Great Britain’s climate and environment is not vastly different to Denmark’s and much of its natural flora and fauna have long been overlooked. Redzepi appears to feel the same way: ‘if the world is going to come to its senses, then we must all develop our own awareness and consciousness of our own terroir. This can happen everywhere, we all have our own resources. England is the same. If we can do it here, it can be done anywhere.’ Implementing the ideas they have learned abroad, these returning chefs might even ignite their own renaissance over here…
If my praise was not sufficiently purple, be left in no doubt, this was one of the greatest dining experiences I have been fortunate enough to enjoy. As I floated walked out of noma, I knew I had already been won over by the charming staff, René Redzepi’s delicious cooking and by the potential of Nordic cuisine.
René Redzepi is a magician without tricks. There are few others capable of producing dishes so powerful, poignant and so provocative that they are able to leave one at a loss for words (or at least unable to utter anything but a whimper or whispered wow).
Often, as the memories fade, meals are remembered only by a moment or two. My meal at noma was a meal made of such moments. The moment when the smoke drifted out of the speckled egg shell; the moment that I clumsily clutched my beef and smeared it across my plate; quickly followed by the moment I found myself hunched over my warm pebble, using both my hands to pull apart a huge langoustine. And more, until finally, the moment at lunch’s end when I noticed crumbs of malty-hazelnut earth still caught under my finger nails and giggled to myself – that…well, that was the moment I found my hygge.
Posted 17 May 2010 - 08:02 PM
These are some thoughts about the day I 'spent' at noma...
Please click here for full photography + commentary: HERE
This will be a one-off post, a special entry – special to me anyway – as it concerns a special day, a special experience in every sense. For that reason, I shall abandon all the little rules, conventions and obsessive compulsions that have come to order my work. That means less script, more feeling and, as can be read already, writing in the first person.
This is the story of a day spent at noma. One entire day at a restaurant to which I have returned many times, but of which I have written only once. My original lunch was an enlightening event that changed how I eat – how I live. Successive visits have been equally as influential and have, without doubt, included the greatest meals of my life. I have, however, felt unable to share them – although not for a lack of wanting to. I filled that first post with (what I believed was) the best I had, with all my facts, thoughts, with every impression, inspiration – with everything. 6,633 words of everything. Another sentence, an additional word I feared would merely be redundant, repetitive or worse, might blunt what went before. This may have been miserly, neglectful…égoïste even, but it was nonetheless completely true. True until the 16th of March 2010 that is.
That third Tuesday of March saw the release of Michelin’s Main Cities of Europe 2010 guide, relevant to Copenhagen and the rest of the Continent’s major cities. In anticipation of the announcement (although in fact after any excuse at all), I made two reservations for the same day – this day. It was a triply thrilling notion: lunch then dinner at my favourite restaurant plus an opportunity to eat at the world’s newest three-star…
The night before the big day was an anxious one, heavy with a similar nervous excitement to that which comes about each Christmas Eve. At the same time though, it was also bizarre to be even having those sorts of thoughts myself – as someone unconnected to noma – but then again, such is the contagious effect that Redzepi and his team have: they enthral, they charm, they make you feel as if you too are part of something more, part of something together.
The morning prior to the pronouncement was almost worse. And, as history would have it, it was also anticlimactic. Nothing for noma. This time. That meant an awkward entrance at the restaurant – mostly for me than for anyone else there. The staff, their composure immaculate, seemed utterly unaffected; I, on the other hand, was uncertain how to act and so just attempted to follow suit, ignoring the earlier news.
Soon enough I was seated, ready to start. I was – maybe even more so than ever – eager and intent, excited to see what untried dishes would be tasted today, curious as to how they would structure the two meals. But I was not left ignorant for long. Moments later, the chef came to the table to explain…
With a typical puff and characteristic caress of his boyish wisps, Redzepi revealed how the day would unfold – for table four at least. He had a theme devised...
…for lunch, every dish will be over three years old; for dinner, each would be less than three weeks old.
Save for an impulsive if less than eloquent, ‘cool, OK’, I was left at a loss for words. Speechless.
As I alluded to previously, this post will be full of fewer words than ones past. Instead, I prefer to let the photographs speak for themselves.
Please scroll slowly…
Lunch – Then – Only dishes created over three years ago...
Forret 1: Boghvede crepe med rygeost og löjrom. Buckwheat crepe with smoked cheese and bleak roe.
Forret 2: Kammuslinger, kogt porre og ‘tør mayonaise’. Scallop, cooked leek and ‘dry mayo’.
Forret 3: Kartoffelmos. Mashed potatoes.
Forret 4: Kongecrabbe og muslinger. King crab and mussel.
Forret 5: Blæksprutte og kartofler; mayonaise og brunet smør. Squid legs and potatoes; mayo and brown butter.
Hovedret 1: Søtunge og blomkål, honningkager og enebær. Brill and cauliflower; gingerbread and juniper.
Hovedret 2: Torsk; syltede svampe. Cod; pickled mushrooms.
Hovedret 3: Stegt terrine på kalvehaler og færøske jomfruhummer. Fried terrine of veal tail and Faeroese langoustine.
Hovedret 4: Farseret vagtel med løg i forskellige teksturer. Stuffed quail with onion textures.
Dessert 1: Fåremælk yoghurt med mynteolie og Granola müsli. Sheep’s milk yoghurt with mint oil and granola muesli.
Dessert 2: Geleret kærnemælk, malt og roeiscreme. Buttermilk jelly, malt and sugar beet syrup.
Dessert 3: Æble og hasselnød. Apple and hazelnut.
Dessert 4: Valnødde pulver og is. Walnut powder and ice cream.
Petit Fours: Flødebolle med yoghurt; chokolade kartoffelchip med fennikel. Yoghurt flødebolle; chocolate potato crisp with fennel.
Dinner – Now – Only dishes created in the last three weeks…
Snacks 1: Havtorn læder og syltede hyldeblomst. Seabuckthorn leather and pickled elderflower.
Snacks 2: Småkage med kogt kalvekød og solbær. Veal speck cookie with blackcurrant and sorrel.
Snacks 3: Rugbrød, kyllingeskind, stenbiderrogn og rygeost. Chicken skin sandwich with lumpfish roe.
Snacks 4: Syltet og røget vagtelæg. Pickled, smoked egg.
Snacks 5: Radiser, jord og urteemulsion. Radishes in a pot.
Snacks 6: Æbleskiver. Æbleskiver.
Snacks 7: Toast, vilde urter, torskrogn, eddike og andeskind. Vinegar dust toast.
Forret 1: Rødbeder; Havesyre og rapsolie. Beetroot, sorrel and rapeseed sauce.
Forret 2: Rejer og søpindsvi; Fløde og strandurter. Shrimps and sea urchin; cream and beach herbs.
Forret 3: Tørret kammusling og karse; Biodynamiske gryn og bog. Dried scallops and watercress; Biodynamic cereals and beech nut.
Forret 4: Unge grøntsager og torskelever; Løg bouillon. Søren Wiuff’s baby vegetables and cod liver; onion bouillon.
Forret 5: Østers grød; Muslingeskaller og søl. Oyster porridge; mussels and søl.
Hovedret 1: Blæksprutte og havesyre; Brombær og slåenbær med æggeblomme. Squid and sorrel; blackberry, sloeberry and egg yolk.
Hovedret 2: Årgangskartoffel og valle; Løvstikke og . Vintage potato and whey; Lovage and Prästost.
Hovedret 3: Ramsløg og hvidløg; Timian. Ramsons; thyme.
Hovedret 4: Spejlæg; Svenbo og Gotland trøffel. Fried egg; Svenbo and Gotland truffle.
Hovedret 5: Oksekæbe og julesalat; Syltet pære og jernurt. Ox cheek and endive; Pickled pear and verbena.
Dessert 1: Bladselleri og knoldselleri. Celery and celeriac.
Dessert 2: Mælk og Gammel Dansk is; Dild. Milk and bitters ice cream; dill.
Dessert 2: Jordskokke; Æble og malt. Jerusalem artichoke; apple and malt.
Petit Fours: Flødebolle med yoghurt; chokolade kartoffelchip med fennikel. Yoghurt flødebolle; chocolate potato crisp with fennel.
The service at noma is incredible. Since I have expressed many more thoughts more fully elsewhere, I will try to be brief here. The front-of-house staff are delightful and amiable, brilliantly attentive and expertly coordinated. Servers move in flawless synchronisation, still always smiling. They are led by Lau and Pontus – two gentlemen of whom I could not think more highly or ever praise enough. Furthermore, engaging with the youthful, exuberant chefs as they surrender the plates they have just put together with their own hands, enhances the entire event immeasurably and is an idea that has already been revolutionary – restaurants literally around the world now do likewise. To quote what I scribbled afore: ‘breaking down any imaginary boundaries between customer and kitchen, there is also something very emotive and effective about this approach. Chefs, as they proudly present them before the diner, describe their dishes with the natural affection that the maker has for what he has made – and rightly so. After all, what they are achieving with these is worthy indeed: with each, they are giving back Nordic cooking its identity.’
One of the numerous little details that made lunch great was how the kitchen and staff shared in the experience. Only René and Torsten had cooked these dishes before whilst no one but Lau and Pontus had served them. Thus, there was a tangible and manifest animation and enthusiasm from everyone as each course was created and delivered. This was coupled with the nostalgia and clear sentiment of those for whom it had been some time since they had last seen them. Emotional moments - as the source and significance of the recipes were explained tableside by noma’s nestors – littered this meal. It was truly touching.
This also happened to be my first dinner here and it never ceases to surprise how different the same restaurant can be during the day and at night. Dining seems a near impossible choice between the two. At lunch, there is the vitalising light that sweeps in through the many windows and washes the room with brightness and energy. Evening, meanwhile, has its own charisma. Sunshine is traded for candlelight, intensifying the intimacy and making the room rather romantic. The waxy illumination adds something indefinable yet snug and quintessentially – and there really is no other word for it – Scandinavian.
Both meals were beautiful.
I am almost too abashed to admit that during the day’s first couple of courses, I was so unstrung and skittish that I was nearly unable to enjoy the food properly. Maybe it was the adrenaline from earlier or the consequence surrounding the occasion, but I did have to take a pause ahead of the next plate. From that moment onwards though, it was easy…
Each serving was one of quality and creativity; of alluring aesthetic and ethereal appeal. A delicate crepe concealing smoked cheese started the meal. This was proceeded by the kartoffelmos, an amusing deconstruction of a traditional Danish dish, that was light-hearted and toothsome; its colourful assembly suggestive of some child’s plaything. Then, after a superbly poached piece of king crab paired with quail eggs and mussels in many forms, a sequence of four fantastic courses followed, commencing with the delicious blæksprutte og kartofler, an instantly recognisable noma classic. The tender squid tentacles, teamed with various textures of potato and enlivened with vinegar tapioca, were outstanding. The søtunge og blomkål that arrived with a small burning branch of aromatic juniper was one of – to my mind – most Nordic things I have ever tasted; the gingerbread’s spicy-sweet inclusion here, inspired. Next came the immensely satisfying slow-baked and tasty cod perked up with pickled mushrooms. Stegt terrine på kalvehaler was another stunner. The 2004 Årets Gericke winner comprised sweet, supple langoustines together with a rich morsel of veal tail, all seasoned nicely with mustard seeds and balanced with bitter endive.
Desserts too were excellent. They began with a lovely sheep’s milk yoghurt that played very will with minty oil and crunchy, subtly sweet breakfast muesli. Buttermilk pudding implanted with malt tuile wafers and surrounded by raisins imbued with aquavit and a drizzle of sugar beet syrup was sublime. Æble og hasselnød, painting-like in its design, was a delectable ending.
I did not know what to expect from these older dishes. I suppose that deep down, if pressed, I might confess to assuming that they might not live up to the exceptional standard of today’s ones. However, any such presumptions were proven foolish – and not surprisingly so. After all, these were the plates upon which noma made its name, earned two Michelin stars and forced its way into every aware eater’s consciousness.
Dinner picked up were lunch left off. The composition of snacks that one starts with has changed a little – evolved – since my initial visit and are still very much my favourite series of amuses anywhere. Subsequent to these, two of the traits that separate noma’s cuisine apart from that of the crowd’s were displayed with the rejer og søpindsvi foremost and then tørret kammusling og karse immediately after. The former, something simply stunning to receive, was evocative, intriguing and boasted raw shellfish combined with dairy. In fact, since tasting Redzepi’s blæksprutte og grønne jordbær; fløde og dild, I have been almost incapable of enjoying uncooked squid, oysters, mussels, etc without a similarly creamy complement. For me, this is one of the most genuinely intuitive of ingredient pairings – and, having first found it here, it is one I now inseparably associate with this kitchen. The dried scallops and watercress, alternatively, highlighted another asset altogether. Every time I have eaten at noma, entirely brand new taste profiles have been revealed to me. By this, I refer not to simply sampling the unusual, like a cloudberry, beach mustard or woodruff, for the first time – all unknown to me themselves yet with an essence essentially familiar (tart, pungent, sweet) – but something broader. Dishes show off a whole scale of flavours utterly unrecognisable – without frame of reference – and irritatingly difficult to articulate into text. More remarkably, Redzepi consistently creates such courses.
Lissom octopus legs, entwined amidst acidic sorrel stems and sat in swirls of sharp sloe and blackberry with rich egg yolk, left behind another lasting memory ahead of an amazing act of table theatre. A small wooden tray carrying Danish cheese, grater, goat’s milk butter, oil and felt-tip tattooed egg was placed before me. This odd arrival was eventually accompanied by a sizzling hot iron pan as well as a set of specific instructions: oil the plate; crack the egg; add the butter; shave the Svenbo. The splendid smells along with the hiss and sizzle of the cooking captivated and entertained the entire room. This was a frugal dish in a fine-dining setting – until the final flourish. When the egg was just about ready, the chef reappeared and ladled Gotland truffle purée around the finished plate. Delicious. And I had made it myself. The meal’s terrific rhythm continued with a real climax – oksekæbe og julesalat; syltet pære og jernurt. Since June, the main course has improved every single time I have been back and this was definitely the best yet. Ox cheek, tender and intense, rested under a canopy of pickled pear slivers that, alongside redcurrant wine-infused endive and lemony verbena sauce, cut the meat’s richness impeccably well.
At the risk of relentlessly repeating myself, desserts too were tremendous. This is another part of the carte that seems only to have become better during my time. A refreshing mix of celery and celeriac was succeeded by tantalising milk and bitters ice cream sprinkled with sharp lingonberries and dill. The final sweet may have maybe been even better. A scoop of Jerusalem artichoke ice cream, in a shallow pool of apple sauce punctuated by ink-like spots of malt oil, sat smothered with super-thin slices of the same fruit and studded with matching ebon discs made of malt oil – these biscuits being addictively good.
I cannot say which of today’s two meals I enjoyed more; it is too difficult a thing to decide. However, what I can comment on is how lunch and dinner differed; how the cuisine has changed – and how it has stayed the same.
The clearest distinction was that during lunch it was arguably possible to see some external influences on the cooking. Any such inspiration was very subtle and perhaps only observable as these older dishes were juxtaposed so directly against dinner’s newer ones. Those earliest plates featured, for example, more el Bulli-esque foams whilst the farseret vagtel smacked strongly of something classical - something more likely to be found on Kong Hans’ menu than noma’s. In contrast, the evening’s recipes seemed to have had any such residues removed – these were incomparable to anything that I had seen before. The kitchen had clearly and markedly improved and matured over the years. Although, of course, development over time is to be expected everywhere. What is so special here is the pace and the product of this progress – a cuisine supreme and singular.
Some of the most distinct dissimilarities were seen during desserts. Those at lunch were noticeably sweeter whilst crafted from a wider range of raw materials; the geleret kærnemælk, for instance, contained now-uncommon alcohol (aquavit-suffused raisins). Wary of satiating diners and keen to leave them feeling comfortable at the meal’s end – plus the chef’s personal preference and pursuit of something distinctive – afters have become seriously more savoury and almost strictly vegetable-based. Further observations may be less significant, but were nonetheless interesting. They included the occurrence of scallops, which I had not yet seen at noma; that portions, if not larger, were more substantial; and the incidence of some products at the restaurant’s start that continue to be employed today – the crispy potato ringlets, various fish roes and vinegar tapioca amongst these. As well as using some of the same signature components, some of the original style of plating has also still survives even after six years; examples being same-shaped smears and swirls; entire, intact stems; and upstanding vegetable cylinders.
Individuality and unbroken betterment at noma is undeniable, but it is not limited purely to this one restaurant. It is endemic to Copenhagen. Initially, it was indeed René Redzepi that drew me to Denmark, but what I have found whilst there is a dining scene unequalled by any other anywhere else. It is my favourite city to eat in. Sure enough, I do have my most regular tables – MR, Paustian v. Bo Bech, Sollerod Kro – but there exists here a whole host of ambitious places teeming with potential including the Paul, Kiin Kiin, Mielcke & Hurtigkarl and Herman to name but some. Not only is the standard so high, but the style at each so individual. And – just like noma – they are not standing still. In merely the last ten-or-so months, I myself have seen an evolution at many of them – Paustian v. Bo Bech and Sollerod Kro especially. I must also single out another place that has impressed me considerably: Restaurant AOC. Only opened last autumn, the huge strides made between my two meals – the foremost straight after its launch, the second six months later – are astonishing. Its momentum is simply immense and it is one of the city’s most exciting kitchens. Nor is it solely me who thinks thusly – it has already made headlines and been recognised by Michelin with a first star (coincidentally on this same day).
Recently, the results of the annual San Pellegrino World’s 50 best poll were announced in London. The next morning, the world awoke to realise that noma had become its best restaurant. It was a suspicion shared by many beforehand with Redzepi long-accepted as one of the most influential chefs cooking today. The consequences of what he has accomplished at the Grønlandske Handels Plads are overwhelming and can be sensed in kitchens and dining rooms worldwide. The tables have indeed turned: it is now his cuisine that inspires those of others. Nonetheless and although totally deserved, the attention that this latest acknowledgment has brought with it has still been incredible and, more so than any earlier, pervasive – ordinary people now know the name noma. And now that they know noma, it is my own hope that they will learn about all of Copenhagen as well…
noma changed my life. It changes it still. As I have explained, I owe those there for the introduction to Nordic cuisine, but my debt is decidedly deeper than that. In countless visits to the Danish capital, I have met many new people – people whose instant acceptance and warm affability have quickly compelled me to consider them friends. There are few places now that I am more comfortable – few places I miss more.
Although I do suffer a certain affection for it, I remain a relative newcomer to noma, having missed its first five years. Therefore, to be allowed a day like this and be given a glimpse of into the restaurant’s history was a most amazing thing and spectacular present. It was an experience I cannot compare to anything else – just like with René’s cooking, no reference points exist. I am sure that anyone for whom noma means anything will understand and appreciate the significance and relevance of these meals.
Finally, I must end with some mention of the enormous gratitude I feel towards René Redzepi. I exaggerate not when I write that he amazes me anew every time we meet and too few are those about which such a thing is true. He is the best man I know. And that’s enough about him.
An incredible tale of six years told in one day, in two meals, in smashing thirty-five courses. It was a gesture unexpected, a gift undeserved.
Edited by Food Snob, 17 May 2010 - 08:03 PM.
Posted 20 May 2010 - 05:13 PM
Thanks for the link - apparently I'm blind as a bat! Great report and pictures.
Pictures! - where are the pictures! I need to see!
I added the link at the start of the post...
Here it is: http://foodsnobblog....-2-meals-1-day/
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