Posted 19 November 2010 - 01:06 PM
Posted 05 December 2010 - 04:44 PM
eG Foodblog: Cooking with Panda
Posted 16 January 2011 - 04:35 AM
Apart from all the rave reviews, I'd like to know if some have had less great meals there (regarding the food)?
Posted 01 February 2011 - 10:35 AM
I finally got around to finishing the story of my noma experience, and you could definitely say I am enthusiastic about it. The pictures (and video), for anybody not wishing to read, are all HERE, but hopefully you'll check out the story first...
Love, like an American supermarket, is a fascinating and scary thing. To walk its aisles is to struggle to distinguish what you want from what you need. To fully understand its intricacies is to know too much. In a frustratingly beautiful way, its true nature can seem inscrutable.
Danish supermarkets aren’t much easier so far. This is the fifth one we’ve been to in Copenhagen tonight. My girlfriend and I have just eaten lunch — two days in a row — at noma, the restaurant some rank above every other one on the planet, and she is agonizing over which gummy candies to have for dinner. It turns out that she is to gelatin and sugar what Robert Parker is to wine or Roger Ebert to movies, a connoisseur of the highest ilk, an unequivocal arbiter of quality.
I poke fun, but it’s actually quite fetching. I’ve always had a thing for Sour Patch Kids, so the match was meant to be.
I also think she and I were meant to experience noma together. It’s been probably three years since René Redzepi popped up on my radar, thanks in no small part to a girl named Trine and a guy named David. But back then I couldn’t have pointed to Denmark on a world map. A neophyte in the world of fine dining, I was stupid and near-sighted.
Fast-forward to a year ago and we were at el Bulli, eating hare brains and sea anemone while our friends and family gorged themselves on turkey to celebrate the most gluttonous American holiday. To this day I don’t have a clue how I snagged that reservation, but it set the bar awfully high for our future dates.
So, too, did the live fjord shrimp we were served the first day at noma. My girlfriend shuddered and looked away in disgust, a sure sign that the date was going well. Otherwise she’d have shuddered, got up, and left.
But there were many reasons to stay — thirty-five of them, including all the different snacks surrounding both twelve-course menus. I regret that I’ll only be able to tell you about the most compelling of them.
Fruit leathers made with a crazy sour Scandinavian berry called sea-buckthorn made me think of my four-year-old niece. As a baby she would ask me for “froo yeh-yers” every time she came over, and I’d gladly comply. That’s love, too, isn’t it? We devoured these in her honor.
Redzepi taught us about æbleskiver (“apple slices”) when he brought two over. Traditionally these balls of dough are pan-fried in cast-iron molds and eaten as a sweet snack in Denmark around Christmastime. But did I know of takoyaki, he asked? Noma’s are savory like that – with tiny smoked-and-pickled fish from Finland called muikko swimming through the center – but interestingly the Danish treat predates the Japanese version altogether.
Deep-fried reindeer moss was easily the most obscure of the snacks. But with a sprinkle of porcini powder and a careful dip in crème frâiche, it was enticing, even familiar. Within the walls of noma, esoterica seemed to dissolve.
It’s all so open and comfortable, the dialogue here between diner and chef. It is, to my mind at least, just about perfect. Redzepi and his clan of sous chefs deliver and explain the food. They’ve foraged for much of it, studied and then rewritten its history, and poured themselves into its preparation. It’s written all over their faces — they believe in what they serve.
The first day — when Redzepi was not in the kitchen but instead in noma’s houseboat/research lab — brought a more protein-centric progression, and a smattering of noma classics. Day two held more flora than fauna, more restraint, and, for me, more intrigue.
It was on day one that a razor clam wearing a sleeve of parsley gel got rained and then snowed on by clarified mussel juices and a frozen fluff of buttermilk and horseradish. The snow melted on my tongue and left a sour, lingering heat in its wake. Combined with the masked mollusk, its effect was to push the reset button on my taste buds.
There is something truly primal about noma’s beef tartare. Cut by hand, it is eaten with the hands. We dragged the bright red meat through juniper powder and a tarragon emulsion. Wood sorrel and horseradish punctuated with a pop.
Succulent Danish langoustines washed up on huge stones in front of us. Dotted around them, an emulsion of raw oysters, seawater, and parsley, like mayonnaise on a mean streak. Again using our fingers we dabbed the crustaceans in the sauce and then through powdered söl, an Icelandic seaweed.
These last two were paired with pine juice a.k.a. liquid Christmas tree. We had the juice pairing both days at noma, and enjoyed it immensely. The progressions were different but the lineup the same: sea buckthorn, lingonberry, pine, elderflower, pear-verbena, beet, cucumber, and carrot, all made in-house and, it goes without saying, with local ingredients.
The opening move on day two was raw squid with crispy rye bread, white currant granité, and dill oil. The texture of the squid was not to be believed — firm but yielding, scraped perfectly smooth and diced into uniform little cubes — a testament to both the freshness of the product and the meticulousness of those who prepared it. Each mouthful of this dish played out a most exciting crescendo and decrescendo — sour and herbal for an instant, but fading off smoothly with the touch of cream at the base of the plate. I was enraptured.
From there, subtle flavors seesawed with more assertive ones — shaved fresh chestnut with bleak roe and thyme, slowly caramelized cauliflower with spruce and horseradish whipped cream. These both reflected a graceful balance which belied the list of ingredients.
So did the pickles, which, of course, weren’t just pickles. They were a kaleidoscope of ten different vegetables, each prepared in a different brine. Smoked bone marrow and an unctuous pork sauce provided garnish for the vegetables, not vice versa.
Desserts are the domain of Rosio Sanchez, and they’re so seamlessly integrated into the noma ethos that it’s hard to believe she’s been there for just over one year. Her pine “parfait”, as they called it (I called it a half-frozen sponge with personality), might not have worked anyplace but here. Beer and bread, as wonderful as they both may be individually, may not have snuggled into the same bowl together with such amazing results. And an edible snowman probably would have seemed downright silly had it not been for the blizzard blanketing the city twenty four hours a day since our arrival.
In trying to tell you everything about noma I have told you nothing. I neglected to mention the edible branches hidden in our table’s plant arrangement, the fabulous sourdough bread, or the fact that I now have a not-insignificant fondness for elderberry “capers” (i.e. the pickled unripe berries). But the truth is that no amount of detail can do justice to the comprehensive effect that noma had on me. It would be futile for me to exalt just one dish or one meal, impossible to explain why if I don’t get involved with a place like this at some point in my career, I will have considered it a failure. I can only say that noma is the best restaurant I have yet been to by a margin so great as to be immeasurable.
In the end I can only say I loved it, and thank goodness, my girlfriend loved her gummy candies.
Posted 08 March 2011 - 10:05 AM
"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"
Posted 08 March 2011 - 12:22 PM
In anticipation of a 50th birthday trip here next year, I thought I would check on what the protocol for getting a table here is. Is it interminable ringing on exactly 2 months and 23 days 5 hours 4 minutes and 23 seconds prior to when you want to be sitting down at your table, or is it still possible to book in a relaxed manner here. I presume if they are the best restaurant in the world again this year that will make it a bit harder. As my birthday is next January I hope that it will be somewhat easier as we will be braving the cold and potential (guaranteed?) snow.
I just booked online - had no trouble at all, just timed it right and got a saturday night no trouble
Posted 24 August 2011 - 03:40 AM
Disconcertingly good start to the evening - the MD arrives and explains how the evening will unfold then slowly moves the table flowers to the centre saying that the we should to start with something from the arrangement. The trick of course is to unnerve and delight in equal measures. Are they really serious about us eating the display (upper left)? Yes they are - hidden amongst the flowers are a couple of "twigs" that are actually bread doused in pollen - a creamy dip appears to accompany them. So we're off on a 25 course extravaganza starting with some 12 starters over the next 45 min period. Photos were taken on an iPhone – first time I’ve captured a meal in this way – apologies for the sometimes rubbishy shots. Also, I didn’t take notes so some of the detail escapes me.
Moss comes next dusted with mushroom powder (upper middle) - can't remember if it was deep fried, liquid nitro’d or merely dehydrated as I was still a little giddy from actually "being here". I recall from foodsnob’s blog that it took him a couple of courses to calm down – I know how he feels. Anyway, whilst staring and caressing the delicate moss a couple of lovely nasturtiums arrived with their stamens replaced by snails – delicious (upper right). On a plate of muscle shells were two unopened muscles (lower left) - discard the top but eat the rest we were told - the bottom shell was edible and made of biscuit/pastry coloured with squid ink. big grin.
Sea buckthorn leather arrived with some pickled rose petals (lower middle) – delicious, delicate and perfumed. In fact, that’s one the key characteristics of Noma’s food – predominance of aromatic, herby and perfumed notes instead of more traditional meaty and savoury smells and flavours. The juice was set with pectin rather than some other mol-gast chemical but surprisingly the rose petals had been pickled for a year – I am amazed they stayed in one piece rather than become a sludgy mess. The leeks bases and roots were deep fried with a little black butter (of what I can't remember) - very enjoyable and fun (lower right)
Savoury speck cookies with blackcurrant and vinegar powder were served in a fun retro tin (upper left). The chicken skin with rye bread and smoked cheese was incredibly moreish (upper middle). Next up was the unnerving plant pot of carrot and radish in edible soil (upper right). Beneath the soil crust was strikingly bright green sauce - satisfyingly sharp and a good contrast to the veg. Ham tartlets (lower left) were next followed with apple buns threaded with smoked fish (lower middle). Poor photo (lower middle) above of a rather beautiful dish – tart apple ball at the centre played against the saltiness of the fish. The last of the starters was layers of a creation made from duck skin and herbs (lower right) - a wow finish.
It’s certainly worth noting that during all of this the dishes were served by the chefs themselves – some 15 or so that night. Incredibly generous with their time whilst describing the dishes and answering questions and never once did I get the feeling that they were anxious to get back to the hectic kitchen – somewhat surprising given the enormity of the evening’s endeavours. The other thing I noticed was the sheer harmony of the group – everyone working together as a single team. It was also pure theatre particularly when the 8-table was being served – the huddle in the kitchen to ensure the dishes are plated perfectly (visible through glass wall) plus a mass of chefs arriving in unison to serve the food. One chef talked about previous restaurants where the separation of kitchen and front of house lead to both sides essentially hating each other. He said that it will be almost impossible to go back to the more traditional environment.
The bread arrived wrapped in its lovely fabric cradle accompanied with lard infused with kirsch (fab) and goats butter (less good). The bread is made 3 times each day to ensure its freshness. I overheard one guest asking if they could buy some to take home. Of course, the downfall of any tasting menu is the bread as it fills you up and more so when it’s this good. I struggled a lot with that bit. It was only at this point that the MD came and spoke of menus of which there are two: 7 courses and 12 courses. How could we not choose 12? Good he said - we've organised a special menu avoiding eggs for you - this was very thoughtful as I mentioned my dislike of egg as I when confirming the reservation.
First up was gooseberry and green strawberries (upper middle). Essence of summer packed into one little dish – wow. Crab came with two jelly's (upper right) – one was made from mustard leaf unfortunately the other escapes me – it was soo delicious. The razor clam wrapped in parsley sheet/gel came with horseradish ice and dill sauce (lower left). One of the standout dishes amongst a lot of other stand out dishes. Dried scallops with beech nut, watercress and grains was very interesting (lower middle). It provided one of the contrasting textures of the evening in that the grains were presented in little mounds almost risotto-like but the grains left nut hard. The dried scallops were quite fragrant but slightly overpowered by the herbs. I think that’s squid ink in the middle. Loved it.
Beef tartare (lower right). Well, what can I say - it’s clearly one of the signature dishes but, being honest, it was good rather than great. Surprisingly, it was a little on the dry side. My reckoning is that it’s been on the menu for a long time and has reached a certain level of perfection making it untouchable. But maybe the inventiveness, fragrance and sparkle of the other newer dishes have sort of left it behind.
A couple of excellent vegetable dishes came next. A piece of cauliflower roasted on one side for 25 min served with herby sauce (upper left) - I really liked the apparent simplicity of the dish (have since tried this technique at home - anything but simple). Really wish I’d taken notes at this stage. But next were some onions (upper middle) - wow. Roasted on a barby until black then sous vide for 19min. Served with (I think) smoked butter sauce it was simply wonderful. Fresh water pike perch (upper right) wrapped in cabbage and barbecued came with different cabbages, stalks and a verbena sauce – loved it (that’s my finger mark on the plate - made before the photo was taken). This was followed by sweetbreads, tiny girolles and foraged greens (bottom left). This was the only dish of the evening not to my liking - beautifully made and the veal sweetbreads was delicious but the foraged greens, accompanying sauces and (raw?) mushrooms just didn’t work for me. My partner loved it 'though. When clearing the plates the waiter was more than a little concerned and offered an alternative dish. Although I refused it was v sweet of them.
Desserts could easily have fitted into the starters side of a meal rather than end due to use of herbs and vegetables. To me this was great as often in restaurants I have regretted not ordering another starter instead of a dessert. Elderflower panna cotta with cucumber ice and dill oil came first (lower middle). Fresh and zingy. Next was hay infused parfait (lower right) - interesting but not a particularly pronounced flavourful.
Last was a dessert of carrots, raw and poached, with liquid nitro'd cream/foam (left). I thought it would sink me but it was unbelievably light and moreish. A couple of sweeties came next - potato chip covered in chocolate (middle) was fun and caramel (right) made from smoked marrow served in the bone hit the spot.
Very big thank you to Sam Miller (ex-Le Champignon Sauvage). He ran the kitchen that night and must have been dropping with fatigue but still found time and energy to shown us around kitchen & upstairs spaces.
Everyone was charming and friendly and made you very welcome. Indeed it felt like you arrived as a stranger but left as a friend. Not an easy trick to pull off. A very special place indeed.
Edited by tony h, 24 August 2011 - 03:42 AM.
Posted 30 August 2011 - 10:58 AM
Posted 10 November 2011 - 07:28 AM
The evening before our booking we walked out to Noma to get the lie of the land and check how long it would take to get there – we didn’t want to be late the following evening. It’s not exactly in the centre or hub of town. The final ¼ mile across a rough, dark car park could give you worries, but all was OK. Just a 30 min walk from our hotel.
Thursday evening – we arrived about 20 minutes early, around 6.40 pm, and it was almost like being greeted as lost friends. Surrounded by maitre-d, chefs and others our coats were swiftly taken away and we were shown to a table – large enough for 4 – and sat in such a position we could see the comings and goings throughout the restaurant. The first buzz came when I told Pip who had taken her coat off for her – René himself.
Soon after we sat down the charming maitre-d introduced himself and there was a check on any dietary issues. We indicated that there were things that either of us don’t usually like eg I don’t like horseradish, but that we had already decided not to declare any as ‘off limits’ for us. And with that we were invited to partake of the first taster course – already on the table for us (I have pictures of most of the tasters, just one or two missing, and all the main meal except for the main meat course, though apologies that one or two are not as clear as I would like). That of course was the infamous flower posy with the edible branches in the display. This was swiftly followed by the deep fried moss – tony h above couldn’t recall whether this was fried or nitroed or other. I checked, it is deep fried. And it just dissolved away. Somewhere early we were also asked about an aperitif – various on offer, verbally described, and we plumped for – Pip, a delicious glass of white wine, and myself a bottle of their own-brew beer, around 2000 litres a year brewed.
Dishes kept coming thick and fast for the first hour or so, so fast that taking notes and photos got a bit haphazard, and were by no means complete. I also lost count of how many different chefs bought dishes to our table, all perfectly described, and each chef more than willing to talk longer with us – though I did believe that for one or two of them this was a bit outside their comfort zone.
Next up was a pork scratching unlike any we have ever had before – a light aeration of pork skin foam, as light as a feather, and topped with a blackcurrant leather.
Next, nasturtium flower with a snail centre, and then the plate of mussels with two edible mussels amongst them. By now we were feeling somewhat overwhelmed, and I know of at least 1 dish that I have no photo or notes of, I can just remember it as a mini tart with a green filling, served two in a tin.
And so to the live shrimp! I had already warned Pip that looking at recent reviews there was a possibility that this would be included. I was already up for it (though with some trepidation) but Pip took a little more persuading. But we both concluded that bite and crunch was the best formula – we didn’t relish the idea of it slipping down ‘live’ – but by this time one shrimp had already jumped out of the jar and onto the table. Ever being the gentleman I took this one, dipped it in the tangy butter dressing and in it went. Pip manned up and followed. Reflections – tasted the sauce more than any of shrimp.
3 more dishes shown – smoked lightly cooked quails egg in a false egg, on straw complete with smoke (which regretably the camera hasn’t caught), the yolk of which was as smooth as single cream.
Then radish and carrot in edible soil (more a flavoured, malty/gritty yoghurt) and a layered delight of ? with wood sorrel topping topped with dried duck gravy skin (I don’t think that was a mis-translation) – unfortunately I only caught a picture of this when we had eaten most of it.
Time then for a brief respite and an opportunity to consider how we were going forward ie 7 or 12 course menu, and what to drink. Remember we don’t see a written menu at any stage, they only do ‘menus’ and whilst they will enquire about any allergies etc essentially you are in for what they give you. So, this being a once in a lifetime chance for us, we were in for the 12. Also, not wanting to muddy the waters by any level of intoxication I went for the juice menu and we also had sparkling water. Having chosen we were told that we would be having 9 savories and 3 desserts, and my 7 juices would be for 2 or 1 course at a time, to be indicated when served. The juices were cucumber, sorrel, apple/pine, carrot, ligonberry, sea buckthorn and elderflower (cordial).
The bread arrived, described as soda bread, made several times a day as demand required it. This came with two pots, one of swedish ‘virgin’ butter, tart and quite unlike home butter, and a pot of kirsh flavoured pork fat, which was far more delicious than ‘pork fat’ might lead you to believe.
Dish 1 was ‘An Apple, which has fallen from the tree’. Essentially a small apple, segmented, cooked to a fluffy lightness, reassembled, coated (not sure what with) and served in a bowl with sorrel and oil sauce. Really, really refreshing.
Next up one of, for both of us, our real highlights of the meal – freeze dried dill and freeze dried cream, with raw sea urchin, and cucumber balls (the black bits) the cucumber having been balled & griddled & pickled & ???. This was absolutely stunning – a total taste of the sea, and really cold.
More sea food next – shore crab, with two jellies – one of seaweed and the other of horesradish – with a rape seed oil surround. Loved the main ingredients but found the oil a bit cloying.
Somewhere around this time in the meal we were visited by one of the chefs in mid-cooking, to show us the 12 month old carrot which was being cooked for around 90 mins in a stove top pan being basted all the time – this was to be served later.
Next was the Noma tartare classic. Well described elsewhere – beef, herbs, tarragon emulsion, … - what I hadn’t seen anywhere previously is that the beef is scraped off the joint not cut / diced. That is why it it served without cutlery, to be eaten with fingers.
A plate of caramelised onions next – cooked to a totally soft finish and with a butter emulsion.
Then followed two dishes which stretched, for us, the envelope somewhat. Firstly a plate of cabbages and seaweed, with a fresh (24 hour old) cheese and a tasty ‘broth’. I quite liked this, though would have preferred the veg more al-dente rather than out & out chewy. Pip, not liking this one so much, gave half of hers to me.
Then the 12 month old fermented carrot. This was, to be fair, a bit of a stretch. To describe the carrot as an ‘acquired’ taste would be understating it. But in fact the bit we liked least was the truffle accompaniment – both the 2 thick slices and, especially, the truffle ‘sauce’ with a consistency of molten tar. But hey, one ‘dislike’ amongst a total of 27 courses!
Around this time we had also become aware of a burning smell through the restaurant, and we were soon to find out why when the ingredients and utensils for The Hen and the Egg arrived – a piping (280 degrees C) hot skillet on a bed of hay. Alongside a plate of herbs, butter… A dollop of oil was squirted into the skillet by the chef and we were instructed to crack the egg into the hot oil, having put our napkins into a protective position first! The timer was then started for 1 min and 20 secs. After that time we added the herb butter and the cabbage, lovage, and parsley and cooked in the oil/butter for 20 secs. Finish with chopped herbs and salt to taste and eaten with the potato curl.
That left just 1 ‘recognisable’ main to have – which I kick myself for not photographing as I haven’t seen a picture on any other site. This was a dish of hare – the finest of saddle/loin – in two pieces, with ragout of hare between, served with white walnuts, wild herbs - dandelion leaves, ground elder and the like, with a walnut milk sauce.
1st dessert was a tart ice cream served with wood sorrel and a snap of frozen aerated milk, as light as rice paper.
Next up was a pear dish – The pear part is a grilled pear half just visible beneath the wafer thin pickled (?) pear on top, alongside a nitroed frozen thyme foam and with a thyme oil sauce.
Then to finish a tart parfait with herbs and wood sorrel sauce and jelly. And the main meal was over.
We opted for coffee – we felt we deserved it. That bought a further 3 ‘sweets’ – a soft caramel made with bone marrow rather than butter – hence the serving in a slice of bone ; a potato crisp coated in chocolate with fennel seeds ; and, to us, a ‘walnut whip’ without the walnut.
Somewhere during the taster courses René visited our table and chatted. I took the opportunity to ask how the ‘foraging’ was conducted during the depths of winter. He told us that they already had 1500 Kg of food already set aside for the winter months – cured, dried, pickled, frozen, …. Also in the winter months there were still ingredients to be foraged if you knew where to look, and also they kicked in more sea and shell fish which was at its best during the winter.
Something else I was fascinated by and asked the maitre-d about was that there were clear examples of different dishes going to other tables, to an extent that I felt wasn’t explained by differences between the 7 and 12 course menu. We were told that the kitchen had around 32 ‘mains’ on the go on any given evening. This gave allowance for allergies, dislikes, religious or social preferences etc. Also, variety came about as dictated by the amount of any given product eg if that day there was only enough hare to serve 8 people then only 8 get hare, and something else is served to the other tables. The final variety came about by serving to people who have been before some dishes they didn’t have previously – they keep a record of what they serve to each diner so that it can be referred to for a subsequent visit!
Would we go again – if I had plenty of free money, yes. However, current circumstances tend to restrain our repeat visits – too many restaurants, too little time.
Would I recommend it – in a heartbeat.
Was it the best meal we have ever had - ?? Some others over the years come to mind eg Michel Guerard, Paul Bocuse (both in the late ‘70s), Fredy Giradet and the Troisgrois Brothers in the ‘80s and it was on a par with those as an experience, but possibly we both ‘enjoyed’ the more traditional meals more.
Final damage on the day – still waiting to see the converted credit card invoice, but I reckon, incl a 5%ish tip (apparently the norm for Denmark) and charge for credit card, around £480 for the two of us (but plus of course the air fare etc).
Edited by Airwaves, 10 November 2011 - 07:59 AM.
Posted 10 November 2011 - 07:35 PM
Posted 10 November 2011 - 10:39 PM