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#1 Food Snob

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 01:07 AM

Hello,
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.



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#2 Nancy S.

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 02:19 AM

Thanks for writing this. I love reading about Noma. I had dinner there last summer. It was one that I will not forgot -- the eggs, the bread, the crab in ashes . . . I only wish that Copenhagen were a bit closer to New York so that I could dine there regularly.

#3 Food Snob

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 08:20 PM

QUOTE(Nancy S. @ Sep 22 2009, 03:19 AM) View Post
Thanks for writing this. I love reading about Noma. I had dinner there last summer. It was one that I will not forgot -- the eggs, the bread, the crab in ashes . . . I only wish that Copenhagen were a bit closer to New York so that I could dine there regularly.


Thank you, Nancy.
I wish it were closer too. Like in my garden!
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#4 Food Snob

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 03:04 AM

Hello,
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.
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#5 Sneakeater

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 02:43 PM

Self-parody?

What about the pigeons?
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#6 Rail Paul

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 02:14 AM

TWO tables of no-show customers irritated Mr Redzepi and his staff.

The picture linked to this tweet shows the staff offering a middle finger salute to the offenders.

Via Eater

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#7 Peter Creasey

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 02:47 AM

TWO tables of no-show customers irritated Mr Redzepi and his staff. The picture linked to this tweet shows the staff offering a middle finger salute to the offenders.


Paul, they just seriously diminished their formerly high standing image.
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#8 Nancy S.

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 03:01 PM

TWO tables of no-show customers irritated Mr Redzepi and his staff. The picture linked to this tweet shows the staff offering a middle finger salute to the offenders.


Paul, they just seriously diminished their formerly high standing image.

Of course not honoring a reservation at noma is without justification, I also think that photo is inexcusable (especially for a public forum such as twitter). I too am disappointed with Redzepi and his colleagues.

#9 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 03:55 PM

Ohmigod Won't someone think of the children.

Posted Image
Why not mayo?

#10 Suzanne F

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 04:58 PM

TWO tables of no-show customers irritated Mr Redzepi and his staff.

The picture linked to this tweet shows the staff offering a middle finger salute to the offenders.

Via Eater

Gone already (the tweet)

I don't want to seem obsessed with this, but . . . -- Sneakeater, August 13, 2014

 

notorious stickler -- NY Times
deeply annoying and nitpicking -- Molly O'Neill, One Big Table


#11 Orik

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 05:17 PM

The internet remembers:

http://newyork.grubs...-customers.html
I never said that

#12 Food Snob

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 04:40 PM

it's a non-event...
Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

#13 SLBunge

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 05:12 PM

I think it's irreverent and funny. The rock-star chefs who cook rock-star food will sometimes act like rock-stars.
Suffocating under a pile of cheese curds.

#14 Rail Paul

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 05:41 PM

I'm impressed that the restaurant is so reliably filled that they don't need to maintain a wait-list.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#15 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 05:41 PM

I think it's irreverent and funny. The rock-star chefs who cook rock-star food will sometimes act like rock-stars.

well how dare you. Don't you realize what obscene gestures can do to impressionable eaters? Have you no sense of propriety.
Why not mayo?