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Noma
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Noma

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93 Strandgade1401 Copenhagen
Denmark
T+45 3296 3297

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MTWTFSS
Lunch              
Dinner              

Chef's personal info

Name: René Redzepi
Date of birth: 16-12-1977
Origin: Denmark
Experience:
Pierre André - Copenhagen El Bulli - Ferran Adria Kong Hans Kaelder The French Laundry 
 
Awards:
Best Restaurant in the World - Trip AdvisorInternational Chef of the year - Lo mejor de la Gastronomia
 
Books:
Noma - Time and Place in Nordic CuisineEnglish Phaidon Berlin
Noma Nordic CuisineEnglish Politicans Vorlag
 

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ALifeWorthEating.com -
Noma

Noma

“Eating with the terroir,” “earth to plate,” “fiercely local;” these lofty phrases which at one point had meaning are now often hollow tag lines used to pepper conversations. Frankly, I’m guilty too. It’s not easy to describe the appreciation invested in a food’s source.

But at the same time, an ingredient’s source should never supersede flavor. Just because hand-picked moss comes from the high hills of northern Hokkaido, or if tomatoes come picked this morning from a farm nearby, doesn’t mean they will necessarily taste good.

Unfortunately, there are few restaurants that combine an ingredient’s unique naturalness with an inventive cuisine that doesn’t take the spotlight away from nature. It’s usually a tradeoff. Noma has both. The unique flora and fauna found in Scandinavia provides a full spectrum of ingredients with which René Redzepi, chef of Noma Copenhagen, can paint into sophisticated flavor.

Noma, a play on the words “nordic” and “food” in Danish, is located seaside in a 250 year old industrial complex now converted into lofts and large open spaces.  The decor is minimalist nordic warmed by exposed wooden beams.  Though open and uncluttered, the small windows can at times make the lighting dim if not seated directly next to a window.

Service was exceptional from the very beginning, when I was greeted by name as being the last member of a party of four to arrive.  It could be because I was eating with a well-known Parisian restaurateur and two established food bloggers; though, glancing around the room revealed the restaurant’s unique ability to feel as if each table is the only table in the restaurant.  The staff in general was extremely proud of the food it served and genuinely wanted guests to feel at home and to enjoy the experience.  This was one of the warmest and most genuine lunch services I’ve ever experienced.  I felt at home throughout the entire meal.

Noma - Entrance to RestaurantNoma - Dining RoomNoma - Table in the Dining Room

Amuse bouche – savoury cookie; speck, blackcurrant.  These were crispy and salty with a hint of sweetness.  It was a nice accompiament to a glass of champagne.  These bite-sized portions served in a tin can.

Amuse bouche – rye bread, fava beans, chicken skin and smoked cheese.  This was also salty with hints of chicken stock and no detectable fat whatsoever.  Beans were added texture to the paste, like potato skin in pommes purées.  Smoked cheese gave depth and emphasized the saltiness.

Amuse bouche – smoked quail egg. For me this was more about the texture than flavor.  It was a lot of fun to eat.  The warm egg bursted in my mouth like a little explosion.  There was a stark contrast from white to yolk, this was cooked just enough to solidify the shell while keeping the inside fluid.  The flavor was rich and creamy, like an intensified egg yolk.

Noma - Amuse bouche - Savoury cookie; speck, blackcurrantNoma - Amuse bouche - Rye bread, fava beans, chicken skin and smoked cheeseNoma - Amuse bouche - Smoked quail egg

Amuse bouche – radish and turnip, soil and herbs. Cool concept.  A radish was buried in a ceramic pot full of edible “dirt.”  It literally felt like I was literally eating dirt as some parts of the soil were even hard to chew, like they contained little pebbles.  The imagery of this dish was very powerful, like stopping for a quick snack in a friend’s greenhouse.  The flavor was light and clean with a hint of burn as found in very fresh radishes.

Amuse bouche – toast, herbs, beurre noisette and vinegar. Gorgeous presentation; a lot like fresh snow fallen on a pile of greens.  There was a slight acidity on the vegetables from the vinegar as frequently seen in Nordic cuisine.  For me this was prettier than it tasted, but it did feel like talking a hungry walk through an herb garden.

Noma - Amuse bouche - Radish and turnip, soil and herbs, the plantNoma - Amuse bouche - Radish and turnip, soil and herbs, the rootsNoma - Amuse bouche - Toast, herbs, beurre noisette and vinegar, closeup

Squid and white currant; cream and dill. This was absolutely breathtaking both in flavor and presentation.  The highlight of the meal.  The squid was chewy but nothing like the pencil eraser texture some varieties of squid can develop.  This was a different type, translucent and snippy.  I’ve had similar squid before in Kozue (こずえ) and Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばしじろ) where it was referred to as Monga-ika (もんがいか).  I’m not sure what that’s called outside of Japan; but I’d like to hunt it down and buy some.  The chewy squid complemented very nicely with the pristine white currant.

Apple, walnut, walnut milk, marjoram.  This had a very subtle flavor and the thin slices of walnut and apple did not help in tasting the ingredients.  This dish was more about the texture than the taste, which was crispy and cold.

Shrimp and seaweed; rhubarb and herbs.  The pickled rhubarb was astringent and gave a tannic-sensation when combined with the raw shrimp, highlighting its sweetness and milky texture.  The fresh sea lettuce added a hint of bitterness resulting in an overall balanced and fresh dish.  I really liked this as it felt clean yet unconventional.

Noma - Squid and white currant; Cream and dillNoma - Apple, walnut, walnut milk, marjoramNoma - Shrimp and seaweed; Rhubarb and herbs

Sea urchin and grilled cucumber; Dill and cream.  To say that I enjoyed this dish is an understatement.  Big chunks of firm and cold sea urchin jumping out of of a frozen grilled cucumber granité.  The granité not only amplified the urchin’s sweet taste of the sea; but served functionally to keep the texture solid and dense.  The dill brought the whole dish closer to shore by adding a hint of the garden.

Tartar and wood sorrel; rromatic juniper and tarragon.  When I first saw this plate, I was immediately struck by the ordered chaos throughout the dish.  While the wood sorrel was disordered and densely packed, like a wild meadow,  it still remained confined to a rigid square.  The sorrel leaves sat atop a coarsely ground square of Danish beef tartar.  The clover-shaped leaves were large enough to serve as utensils for bite-sized portions of beef, so forks and knives were neither necessary nor given.  The sensation of eating this simple and pure dish with your fingers added another sense to the dish: touch.  This immersive experience powerfully evoked imagery of cows grazing on an open field.  The flavors of the dish were simple and unalloyed.  I wouldn’t call this  the best tasting dish of the meal; but I would certainly call it the most interesting.

Langoustine and seawater; parsley and rye.  A plump langoustine sat atop a warm basalt stone taken from a local field, not unlike a cold-blooded reptile basking in the sun.  The texture of the langoustine was firm and stringy, the flavors unaided by spicing.  This dish was also eaten without a fork and knife.  I liked the langoustine; but, would have preferred it to be slightly undercooked.

Noma - Sea urchin and grilled cucumber; Dill and creamNoma - Tartar and wood sorrel; Aromatic juniper and tarragonNoma - Langoustine and seawater; Parsley and rye

Steamed spinach and tea; swedish cheese, elderberries and pickled rose hip.  This dish was prettier than it was flavorful.  The melange of ingredients didn’t seem to have much coherency and the flavors were unfocused.  Most distracting was the strong taste of earl grey.    The tea foam made the greens a bit soggy, like a salad that had been sitting around for awhile.

Local, wild mushroom (pied de boeuf/amador); skate sauce, nasturtium, elderberry capers.  Our waiter brought this dish out from the kitchen to get a glance at the sheer size of the mushroom before being plated.  One of the biggest I’d seen.  He brought this out in part to prevent the mushroom from dying out, but also for a small show, as the mushroom was continuously sauced in front of us.  The mushroom was full of water which diluted the flavor, leaving behind the strong sour and acidic taste of the elderberry capers.

Noma - Steamed spinach and tea; Swedish cheese, elderberries and pickled rose hipNoma - Local, wild mushroom (Pied de boeuf-Amador); Skate sauce, nasturtium, elderberry capers in panNoma - Local, wild mushroom (Pied de boeuf-Amador); Skate sauce, nasturtium, elderberry capers

Onions from Læsø; chick weed and onion bouillon.  This was a beautifully presented dish with a well thought out mix of playful textures.  Contrasting against the crispy sweet onions were gummy beads of tapioca.  The flavor was dominated by the light onion broth; but remained overall soft on the palate.  The pearl beads were really entertaining to chew, and broke up the monotony of what would be a normally crispy salad.

Salsify and milk skin; truffle from Gotland.  Another beautifully presented dish containing black truffles from northern Sweden.  The truffles were mild and really required my nose to get close to the plate to smell them.  The flowers were pretty; but didn’t taste very good.  I brushed them to the side of the plate.  The milk skin had a texture and flavor identical to yuba which was creamy and pliable but dull.  The truffles in theory should have carried this dish; but since they were not the most fragrant, the overall effect was of warm milk.  Not my favorite dish of the afternoon.

Noma - Onions from Læsø; Chick weed and onion bouillon_Noma - Onions from Læsø; Chick weed and onion bouillon , closeupNoma - Salsify and milk skin; Truffle from Gotland

Pickled vegetables and bone marrow; herbs and bouillon.  Very attractive presentation; a collection of greens and marrow sprouting out of the plate.  The pickled vegetables, however, were to strong and overpowering, adding an overall sour taste to the dish.  I also did not like eating lukewarm marrow with colder vegetables as there was too much of a contrast.  However, this light salad did manage to make the fatty marrow taste clean and delicate.

Sweetbread and bleek roe; Söl and sea salt.  This was outstanding.  Milky and sweet sweetbread resting in a briny and salty bleek roe broth.  The oceanic taste cut through the fattiness of the sweetbread which, aside from the texture, made it taste like something in-between meat and fish.  The roe, and what seemed like a hint of lemon, added a touch of acidity to an otherwise flat dish.

Lamb and horseradish; fresh salad and pickled ramson onion.  Another exceptional presentation screaming garden fresh.  The lamb however was quite firm surrounded by a very thick shell of fat which I separated from the meat before eating.

Noma - Pickled vegetables and bone marrow; Herbs and bouillonNoma - Sweetbread and bleek roe; Söl and sea salat_Noma - Lamb and horseradish; Fresh salads and pickled ramson onion

Carrots; buttermilk and anis.  This might have been the first time I’ve seen carrots used as the dominant flavor in a dessert.  It worked nicely, with the exception of the frozen buttermilk in the middle which was very cold without an easily detectible flavor.  I think that was the point as to let the carrots dominate; but something a bit stronger and more complimentary would have carried this dish further.

The snowman from Jukkasjärvi; cloudberries and wild thyme.  I didn’t particularly like this dessert.  It tasted like a snow cone of powder, just without the syrup.  The dish had the strong scent of thyme which was too intensely vegetal at this point in the meal.

Noma - Carrots; Buttermilk and anisNoma - Carrots; Buttermilk and anis, interiorNoma - The snowman from Jukkasjärvi; Cloudberries and wild thyme

Walnut powder and ice cream; Dried cream and dried berries.  This dessert was outstanding.  So much so, in fact, that the table unanimously asked for a second serving.  Our waiter laughed; then realized we were serious, happily returning with a repeat round.  Conceptually unique, this dessert had a mix of textures that gave me chills: crunchy, squeaky, slimy, creamy, and brittle.  The dried berries added a touch of astringency which complimented the walnut powder and ice cream.  Wow.

Noma - Walnut powder and ice cream; Dried cream and dried berriesNoma - WinesNoma - The Crew

I left this lunch with a deep and sincere appreciation for the sheer number of new vegetables and mushrooms I’d tried, as well as how chef Redzepi took a step back to let their natural flavors come through.  Most of the ingredients just aren’t accessible anywhere else.  The staff was full of smiles the entire meal, proud and extremely knowledgable of every ingredient on every plate. A handful of dishes were phenomenal, the rest require a bit more refinment to compete with the all-stars.  I would definitely go back, in fact I can’t wait to return; but, I think the restaurant needs a little more time to experiment and polish its massive ingredients list to better identify what works and what does not.

Noma humbly accedes to the need to continue research and experimentation.  After the meal, Chef Redzepi was kind enough to give us a tour of the research facility next door, the Nordic Food Lab, whose purpose is to document and catalog the flavors found in new Nordic ingredients they encounter for which there is not much information.  The food lab floats on a converted house boat with a full kitchen and a hotel-like setup designed to host foreign chefs so they can share their culinary experiences with Noma.

Noma is incredibly innovative and brave enough to experiment and take risks.  With time and patience, I have no doubt Noma can only perfect itself.

ALifeWorthEating.com -

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noma – 6 years, 2 meals, 1 day

noma – 6 years, 2 meals, 1 day

 

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 Prästost. 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, Søllerød 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 Søllerød 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 thirty-five smashing courses. It was a gesture unexpected, a gift undeserved.

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Noma, Copenhagen

Noma, Copenhagen

Noma

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, Mirazur 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.

Københavns - Strandgade Københavns - Strandgade 2 Københavns - Strandgade 3

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.

Noma 3 Noma 4

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.

Noma 5 Noma 6 Noma 7

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.

Noma - Spisesal Noma - Spisesal 2 Noma - Spisesal 3

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.

Noma - Spisesal 4 Noma - Tabel Noma - Spisesal 5

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.

Noma - Syltet og røget vagtelæg Noma - Syltet og røget vagtelæg 2 Noma - Syltet og røget vagtelæg 3

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.

Noma - Rugbrød, kyllingeskind, stenbiderrogn og rygeost Noma - Rugbrød, kyllingeskind, stenbiderrogn og rygeost 2

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.

Noma - Radiser, jord og urteemulsion Noma - Radiser, jord og urteemulsion 2 Noma - Radiser

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.

Noma - Toast, vilde urter, pighvarrogn og eddike Noma - Toast, vilde urter, pighvarrogn og eddike 2

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.

Noma - Brød og Smør Noma - Brød Noma - Brød 2

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.

Noma - Blæksprutte og grønne jordbær; Fløde og dild

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 rested 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.

Noma - Rå rejer og tang; Rabarber og urter

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.

Noma - Tatar og skovsyre; Aromatisk enebær og estragonemulsion

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.

Noma - Tatar og skovsyre; Aromatisk enebær og estragonemulsion 2

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.

Noma - Knivmusling og peberrodssne; Persille og dild Noma - Knivmusling og peberrodssne; Persille og dild 2 Noma - Knivmusling og peberrodssne; Persille og dild 3

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.

Noma - Friskost og akselbær skud Noma - Friskost og akselbær skud; Brøndkarse 2 Noma - Friskost og akselbær skud; Brøndkarse 3

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.

Noma - Jomfruhummer og söl; Persille og havvand 2 Noma - Jomfruhummer og söl; Persille og havvand 2

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 tiny, tense fibres that encircled the plump body snap as the meat was bitten into. The mineral emulsion and briny söl became almost afterthoughts.

Noma - Asparges og skovmærke; Skud af bregne, humle og dunhammer

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.

Noma - Aske og porrer; Blåmuslinger og kongekrabbe Noma - Aske og porrer; Blåmuslinger og kongekrabbe 2 Noma - Aske og porrer; Blåmuslinger og kongekrabbe 3

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.

Noma - Pighvar og vegetabilsk stilke; Syltede hyldeblomst Noma - Pighvar og vegetabilsk stilke; Syltede hyldeblomst 2 Noma - Pighvar og vegetabilsk stilke; Syltede hyldeblomst 3

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.

Noma - Råstegt hummer og salat root; hybenrose og ribs vin Noma - Råstegt hummer og salat root; hybenrose og ribs vin 3

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 an splendid bridge between the lovely shellfish and fruity-tart red currant wine. The coral was concentrated and the lettuce, succulent and snappy.

Noma - Læsøløg; Løgkarse og ramsløg

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.

Noma - Marv og syltede grøntsager; Krydderurter og bouillon Noma - Marv og syltede grøntsager; Krydderurter og bouillon 3

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.

Noma - Puukko kniv

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.

Noma - Moskusokse og mælkeskind; Spæde hvidløg og ramsløg Noma - Moskusokse og mælkeskind; Spæde hvidløg og ramsløg 2

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.

Noma - Birkesaft og birkesirup; Sødskærm og honning Noma - Birkesaft og birkesirup; Sødskærm og honning 2 Noma - Birkesaft og birkesirup; Sødskærm og honning 3

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.

Noma - Rødbede og skovmærke; Creme fraiche og syltet hybenrose Noma - Rødbede og skovmærke; Creme fraiche og syltet hybenrose 3 Noma - Rødbede og skovmærke; Creme fraiche og syltet hybenrose 2

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.

Noma - Valnødde pulver og is; Tørret fløde og tørrede bær Noma - Valnødde pulver og is; Tørret fløde og tørrede bær 2

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.

Noma - Flødebolle og kaffe Noma - Flødebolle
Courtesy of www.verygoodfood.dk © 

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 (for 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…

Noma - 2005 Coteaux Champenois Blanc de Blancs, Jacques Lassaigne, MontgueuxNoma - 2006 Domaine de l'Ecu Guy Bossard Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Expression de GneissNoma - 2004 Riesling Kastelberg Grand Cru, Domain GresserNoma - NV Champagne Brut ‘Reflet d´Antan’, Bereche et Fils, LudesNoma - NV Champagne Brut Blanc de Noirs ‘Inflorescence’ (2005), Céderic Bouchard, Celles-sur-Ource

Noma - 2005 Coteaux Champenois Blanc de Blancs, Jacques Lassaigne, MontgueuxNoma - NV Champagne Brut Nature ‘Dis, Vin Secret’ 2003, Françoise Bedel, Crouttes-sur-Marne, Valle de la MarneNoma - 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, Guiseppe Maria Sesti, ToscanaNoma - 2007 Riesling Auslese ‘Madonna’, TrossenNoma - NV Champagne Rosé Demi-Sec (2005), Beaufort, Ambonnay, Valle de la Marne

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.

Noma - Spisesal 7

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 truely 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…

Noma - Kokkene

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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Foodsnobblog.wordpress.com -

Chuckeats.com - Chuckeats.com
Eating with the earth

Eating with the earth

Once upon a time, before all of the fancy food blogs, I stumbled upon verygoodfood and one of Trine’s many lunches at noma. It was just a one-star Michelin restaurant then but Trine’s captivating posts made it quite clear that this restaurant was worth more. With each successive post, noma bubbled further up my “to do” list. The timing never worked but I was fortunate enough to eat Redzepi’s food at Manresa last year – an experience that only solidified the need to travel to Denmark. This year’s early Summer vacation was Copenhagen or bust and I was quite fortunate to have Trine as my host1 for this special noma lunch.


Smoked quail egg

 

Noma’s star has risen quite high over the past two years with its naturalistic take on fine dining. The restaurant’s influence has spread rapidly – mixing El Bulli’s modern, and under-appreciated democratic, principles with Michel Bras’s “one with nature” approach. Redzepi has taken the L’Arpege “I’ll grow my own vegetables” philosophy a few steps further by sending out on a team of foragers to comb the Nordic countrysides for ingredients.2 It is a model that will prove influential but not necessarily imitated – there aren’t many (populated) places on Earth that can still yield an abundance of wild and foraged ingredients (though I suspect what populated areas might yield would surprise me.)

Question: Can you just give us a flavour of the type of ingredients you are using?

Rene Redzepi: …. We have a landmass here with only about 25 million people living in it, so there’s a lot of wilderness and it’s virtually untouched. There are a lot of wild plants – 50 to 60 common wild herbs, flowers and leaves, and about 60 types of wild berries – so we try to experiment with using them.

from: http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2008/05/08/320700/an-interview-with-nomas-ren-redzepi-chef-conference-2008.html

Not only is anything edible a potential ingredient, an ingredient’s ingredients are also fair game – oils, saps, leaves, and flowers. It is this exploration into largely overlooked by-products, flavors, and textures that link restaurants like noma, Manresa, The Sportsman, and Ubuntu together into conceptual cousins.3 This naturalist approach can be challenging to our notions of both “food”and “fine dining.” Industrial food production has limited the concept of edible food to a handful of plants, meats, and liquids while fancy restaurants have focused on a small subset of “luxury” ingredients. The dishes and ingredients served at noma will find limited overlap with either; but the skill employed to learn, coax, and balance such flavors in these restaurants is unquestionably haute.

This was a weekday lunch that Trine at verygoodfood was gracious enough to set up. She is (obviously) a frequent visitor to noma so she is quite friendly with the staff. This meal lasted six hours, enough time for the sunny weather to turn into a dramatic downpour. The lighting was great for picture-taking but note-taking was turned off – not every dish will have a detailed description. To say it was one of the greatest restaurant experiences would be an understatement – the staff at noma are very proud of what they are doing – and that enthusiasm and dedication might be the ultimate secret ingredient in the food.


Rye bread, chicken skin, lump fish roe and smoked cheese


Radish, soil and herbs

An introduction to the philosophy of the restaurant – eat nature, all of it – the “soil”, root, stems, & greens. With one dish, the restaurant’s vision and philosophy is simply stated.


Toast, herbs, turbot roe and vinegar


Squid and green strawberry, cream and dill

The squid, surprisingly tender for being raw, was cut into small cubes and drizzled with the cream. This was a delicate pairing that showcased the power of a simple herb, while the sweet cream luxuriously seeped into each bite. The acidity of the green strawberry, a flavor profile Redzepi must be particularly fond of, served as a foil but its strength was a challenge to my sense of balance. The elegance of the squid/cream/dill pairing was among the hallmarks of this trip.


Bread with lard


Shrimp, seaweed, rhubarb, and herbs

A tempered version of the squid dish – the Danish shrimp were sweeter and the rhubarb less abrasive – the ingredients sang together in harmony – herbaceous, acidic, and sweet. If you look closely, you can see the outline of a small shrimp under the seaweed, just behind the first cube of rhubarb.


Tartar and wood sorrel, juniper, tarragon

The iconic noma dish – a masterful balance of flavors. The wood sorrel, with its lemony brightness, is a perfect foil for the beef. Interestingly, this was served at the end of the Manresa dinner when a 48-day aged ox was used. This beef had a far milder taste, as it probably was not aged as long. Eating the dish with one’s hand, while a simple and common practice, helps further connect one with the food and the environment. This recipe is quite the hit in Denmark as I had a larger version for lunch the next day – at a different restaurant.


Razor clams and parsley, dill and mussel juice, horseradish snow

Aka the giant slug stuck in the sewage pipe. The clams, like the squid and shrimp before it, were of extraordinary quality but this dish employed a few molecular gastronomy techniques I dislike – unnatural agar agar textures and snow. The texture of the parsley jelly was a bit too congealed and disrupted the clam’s texture. The snow was too cold and obstructed the full taste of the clam. The clam in the mussel juice, with some horseradish incorporated sans snow, would have been an excellent continuation of the seafood motif – the concept was strong and its presentation resonated with the natural influences of the restaurant.


Fresh cheese, Axel berry shoots, watercress

The axel berry shoots exemplifies the noma ‘everything should be considered as an ingredient’ approach and the rewards that come from such risks. What probably does not even make it to most kitchens was one of the most amazing things I have tasted in my life. The leaves, when bitten, secreted an almond-like oil that covered the mouth, much like olive oil. It was a sensational effect that unfortunately over-shadowed my concern for the rest of the dish.



Langostine and söl

As good as many dishes were, this langostine, a perfect specimen if there ever was one, stole the noma show. Barely cooked, plump and sweet, born and bred just for me, this langostine could only be eaten by itself – it was too perfect. The presentation was equally beautiful, harkening back to more primitive times. (One is supposed to pick up the langostine with one’s fingers and wipe it across the stone and into the oyster sauce.)


Asparagus and woodruff, Shoots of fiddlehead, hops and bull rush

A great egg, from a chicken eating whatever they please, particularly during Spring, has many herb-like undertones. The greens in this dish, by themselves, were quite strong and high strung but the herbaceous egg yolk calmed and unified them. This is one of those “you can eat that?” dishes, resembling a forest floor more than haute cuisine.


Ashes and leeks, Mussels and king crab


Turbot and vegetable stems, pickled elderflower berries


Lobster and saladroot, hip rose and currant wine


Marrow and pickled vegetables

A nice respite from the never-ending food parade – a great way to cleanse the palate and pep up. The marrow obviously provided counterpoint, although there were some quite large pieces hiding in there. I have become addicted to pickled vegetables since my Kyoto visit and this dish makes me wonder how wonderful noma might be during the Winter.


Musk ox and milk skin, new young garlic and ramson onion


Birch juice and birch syrup, spanish chervil and honey


Beet and garden sorrel, crème fraiche and pickled hip roses


Walnut powder and ice cream, dried cream and dried berries

It is a restaurant that can be enjoyed with a single visit but it will, assuming Redzepi continues his development, reward the frequent visitor even more as the seasons speak. Different seasons are sure to bring a wide variety of tastes – it is a cuisine connected directly to the whims, fancies, and randomness of the Earth. Then consider that winter will bring a variety of preservation techniques (smoked, dried, pickled.) It is a restaurant whose excitement is hard to contain – from the enthusiastic staff and their obvious delight and commitment to the restaurant’s ideals to the endless possibilities with the philosophy they’ve chosen. It may require one to re-calibrate their conception of fine dining but the potential exists for the meal to change paradigms around those same concepts.

The totality of Redzepi’s cuisine could be ten years down the line as he fully exploits the bounty of his land. When one considers the diversity of ingredients to choose from, and explore over time, the sheer potential for range and nuance of flavor is staggering. And considering that it is already highly influential within its own region,4 the potential for the region’s restaurants to deliver innovative cuisine over many years makes Denmark a food destination whose stock may only rise. Spain revolutionized fine dining but its innovations can be applied anywhere; whereas, the unique ingredients that noma cooks with can only be found in Denmark.

I would like to go back – tomorrow.

- chuck

1 – One of the great benefits to running a cult fine dining blog includes making friends with fellow bloggers.

2 – This could very well be Marc Veyrat from the pictures I’ve seen but, having never eaten there, I am not certain.

3 – Yes, there are certainly others but I do not know if I’ve eaten at them.

4 – It is a classic case of Schumpeter’s creative destructionism – rather than improving on the status quo, completely reinvent the market. Here, Rene Redzepi eschewed olive oil, heavy cream-based dishes, and foie gras for local foraged products; and turned his philosophy into a source of regional pride. Creative economics students with an interest in food could write a very interesting case study, or thesis, on noma. There could also be an interesting project in exploring the Nordic food cluster using Michael Porter’s theories on clusters – get some funding and report!

Chuckeats.com - Chuckeats.com

Time.com - By Lisa Abend / Copenhagen
Time Magazine

Time Magazine

The man who runs the best restaurant in the world cannot afford his own home. He lives in an airy and light rented apartment in the old part of Copenhagen and cycles to work, pedaling through the streets with his 4-year-old daughter tucked cozily in his bike cart as he tries to get her to school on time. After dropping her off, he stops at a nearby coffee bar to down an espresso and a yogurt that will be his sole meal until his restaurant's staff dinner.

By now René Redzepi, the chef at Noma, could have TV deals and restaurants...

 

Time.com - By Lisa Abend / Copenhagen

VeryGoodFood.dk - Trine
Noma - One more Time

Noma - One more Time

Time for a new noma post! Today 2nd of August is my birthday so why not celebrate with a few words and photos from my latest visit to noma? :-)

Long before noma was rewarded the best restaurant in the world, I ensured a table for four people on Saturday evening June 19th at 1900 hours. A couple of my friends hadn’t been to noma before, and I therefore asked the restaurant in advance to prepare a menu for us comprising a mixture of some of the wonderful classic dishes combined with new dishes from the evening menu. Month of June seems to be a wonderful time to visit noma because, just like last year, Champagne is the theme of the entire wine menu – and who can imagine anything better than lots of lovely champagne with noma’s sparkling dishes?

The nibbles offered something old and something new. You know, there is something really playful and joyful about all these appetizers. A part from being tasty, surprising and challenging they are also a bit childish. Well some of them are, at least.


Sea-buckthorn ‘leather’ with pickled rose hip petals

The very first snack was like a shock to my taste buds. The highly acidic sea-buckthorn “leather” really awakened my appetite and there was a nice and intense perfumed aroma to it from the rose hips. I liked it.

Savoury cookies with speck and blackcurrants

I’ve had these cookies a few times now and they always have a smiling affect on me because of the perfect way they are being brought to the table. Note all the empty shells insinuating that someone came before you.

Imagine all the fun René and the guys in the kitchen must have had when they got the idea of serving LIVE Fjord shrimp? As these shrimp were served on the rocks, they didn’t kick and wriggle as much as the first time I tried this at the Cook it Raw! event. They came alive between your fingers, though – just to suddenly stop kicking when you chewed them, of course.

Then followed the radishes with the tarragon soil and…

Toasted rye bread sandwich with chicken skin, smoked cheese and fava bean cream

Champagne ‘Les Clos’ 
Laherte
 Chavot, Coteaux Sud d’Epernay


Pickled, smoked quail’s egg


Toast with cod roe, wild herbs and vinegar powder


and finally… the batter balls with sardines

My friends seemed really taken by surprise by all these snacks. I was worried, though, if this culinary prologue maybe was a bit too much?

NV Champagne Brut Blanc de Blanc
 Pascal Doquet
 Vertus, Côte de blanc

Raw shrimp with sea urchin snow

First real course was the raw shrimp with sea urchin snow, and the dish resembled a walk on the beach. The stones had literally been frozen onto the plate. I was amazed at the true and pure taste of the sea urchin which was completely intact comparing with how I remember the taste of the fresh sea urchin.

Dried scallops and watercress
 biodynamic cereals

The dish of dried scallops and watercress
 biodynamic cereals was an interesting thing. In fact I very much enjoyed the rich flavours. I also found that the dried scallops were an exciting way to serve them and the flavours appeared clean and harmonious to me.

Next up were the dishes of the classic tartar and the Faroe Island langoustine. After that followed yet another new invention.

NV Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc
 Jaques Lassaigne
 Montgueux

Tartar and wood sorrel
, aromatic juniper and tarragon


Langoustine and seawater, 
parsley and rye

NV Champagne Brut Blanc de Noirs 
Inflorescence (Cédric Bouchard)
 Celels-sour-Ource, Aube

Oyster and the ocean

On Facebook I had seen photos of this course and I wondered how I would enjoy it. It appeared to be completely different to what I had expected – I wouldn’t need to dig into the pot at all. The pot’s function was simply to prominently present the fabulous oyster and to create an image of the ocean to mind-set me before my tongue would experience the saltiness, meatiness, popping tapioca seeds, pickled elderberry capers, herbs and flowers.

White and green asparagus
, pine

From the ocean we moved back to the beach again – very often you find pine trees along the beach in Denmark and this is exactly what this next dish reminded me of. The asparagus was full of taste and juicy and the pine not too dominating in taste. Very nice scent.

André Beaufort Abonnay Blanc, Champagne

Milk skin and potatoes

When sous-chef Victor presented the following course he stressed the word “milk skin”. This was a hint to me as I specifically had requested something comprising milk skin. I guess I’m a bit childish too. A few years ago there was a lot of fuzz around the fact of noma serving milk skin which is something most people combine with something unpleasant. I wanted my friends to try the milk skin for themselves.

The combination of the baby root potatoes, the potato crisps and the milk skin was very delighting, mild and delicately presented the best characteristics of milk and potatoes.

Carrot from Lammefjorden with garden of beach and stems of sorrel, truffle (Gotland) sauce, rapseed oil

Then next up was a slowly baked (or cooked?) carrot from Lammefjorden. It was quite remarkable how intense and rich the carrot flavour was. If I were a vegetarian I could probably consider this dish a main course. The garnish of the stems and the truffle had a balancing affect on the rich taste of the carrot.

I really don’t fancy toy food or food presented in a way as it’s an entertainment just to amuse rather than give gastronomical pleasure. I’m pretty conservative in this respect and prefer that the food is perfection when it’s placed before me. I don’t want to take part in the preparation of it.

So, when the server introduced the Hen and the Egg I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it.

2006 Champagne Extra Brut ‘Les vignes d’Autrefois’
Laherte
Chavot, Coteaux Sud d’Epernay


The recipe was to break the egg over the 250 degrees Celsius hot pan and to fry it in rapeseed oil. Then we were told to add herbs butter and sautéed the spinach, the ramson and the lovage leaves in the melted butter.

The hen and the egg

Finally we sprinkled with potato crisps and sorrel sauce. An there you go – the most delicious fried egg I’ve ever had. noma had won me over and I had to let all of my skepticism go away. The egg was so deliciously full of taste and I was surprised (and proud?) that I myself had (almost) created such a perfect dish. Great thing.

The egg course must have really kicked me sideways, because I completely forgot to photograph the excellent main course of
Ox cheek and endive
, pickled pear and verbena, sorry to say, and with which we drank:

David Léclapart, Trépail Rouge, Coteaux Champenois Rouge

NV Champagne Demi-Sec
 Vincent Couche
 Bulles de Miel, Aube

We were blessed with three desserts of which I had particularly requested the first one for my friends.

Glazed sheep’s milk mousse and sorrel granité

I love this dessert as much as the first time I got it. It’s the perfect sweet and fresh thing.

NV Champagne Demi-Sec
 André Beaufort
Ambonnay, Valle de la Marne

“Gammel dansk” milk and wood sorrel


Jerusalem artichoke, apple, malt cookie and marjoram

Both new desserts were really smashing. Although there was a bit of a savoury thing about them there was still enough sweetness to please my palate and at the same time they were fresh.

Champagning it all the way through the menu was just lovely and really my kind of thing. The bottles were all quite different and it was nice to compare each of them. The parring with the food was also clever.

After a good cup of coffee and the new invention of the smoked bone marrow fudge with bone and everything it was the end of my 21th visit to noma. What an excellent one!

Thank you dearly René, Victor, James and all of you!

VeryGoodFood.dk - Trine

VeryGoodFood.dk - Trine
CPH Crawl 4/6 : Noma

CPH Crawl 4/6 : Noma

So, we arrived to the fourth restaurant visit this evening. Not that I was really hungry anymore, but I was still very excited and curious about what the second half of the crawl would bring us.

The agreement with Lau, restaurant manager, was that we would be sitting in he lounge. This explains the quality of these photos. The light was a challenge.

I could hardly wait for the food, when I first sat down. What would René be serving us?

Sea buckthorn

We first got a snack kinda thing of sea buckthorn rubber. The texture was a bit chewy like chewing gum, only edible. I liked the taste of it, not too bitter or sour, but it wasn’t something that I could eat a whole lot of.

I wanted to challenge the guys and had asked Lau to serve the wine blind. It was a test. I wanted to learned how my companions would describe a Danish wine, what grape they thought it would be, and what origin they would compare it to. Lau was serving them 2008 Arwen, named after René daughter, born the same year.

Arwen is made from the grapes Solaris (an early matured white wine grape), Sauvignon Blanc, Silvaner and Riesling. The guys guessed Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc and guessed Germany, not Denmark.

Cod milt, cucumber (I think), dill oil and herbs

The first dish was clearly inspired by René Redzepi’s trip to Japan where cod milt is a delicacy. It’s the first time I try cod milt, or cod sperm to be frank. (I will spare you for all the jokes the boys made and couldn’t stop making them laugh). To me it looked like brain, because of the winding intestine-like appearance. It is the rosa-coloured thing in the middle of the plate. The texture was soft and almost liquid, very creamy. It didn’t comprise much taste, though sea water with some creaminess to it was most dominant. Above all it reminded me of the first time I tried oysters. I wasn’t sure how I liked it. I don’t think, however, that I will be as fond of cod milt as I am of oysters.

Cod liver

The second serving was cod liver. The texture of it was very fragile and fatty, and the taste was quite fishy. A bit too much, I thought. The berries added some acidity and flavour-wise the dish was balanced.

Was I disappointed? Not really. I mean, with so many noma visits in my dining history I’m not sure yet another musk ox tartar or a langoustine on a stone would make this visit memorable. I was surprised and that’s a very important factor. The fact that I didn’t appreciate the food much was secondary to me.

We still had two more restaurants to go and needed to hurry up. But when I called the cap he was having a break. OK. Two taxis therefore took us back to the city centre and to MR.

Thank you Lau, René and every one for a great experience!

VeryGoodFood.dk - Trine

VeryGoodFood.dk - Trine
Gastros on Tour, Heston Blumentahl and the Most Decadent Day of my Life

Gastros on Tour, Heston Blumentahl and the Most Decadent Day of my Life

I have saved this post a few months. There are two reasons. Firstly, I’ve had a great many and lovely meals that I wanted to write about. Also, last time I dined at noma, René suggested me to take some time off. He would like to see how much they would develop over six months or so. Therefore, I wouldn’t be able to post on noma for some time and thus kept this a little while.

Laurent and I are again sync-posting, and this is Laurent’s revision of our noma dinner. First time we met was in Paris – lunching at extraordinary Pierre Gagnaire – and sync-posted our reviews.

Now, imagine Laurent flying off to Copenhagen to show his good friend and GOT member, Guillaume, the fabulous new Danish cuisine? Well, they did that on 21st of May.

Laurent wanted to try Geranium and The Paul and to re-visit noma. I booked the tables. Noma was for dinner and the other two were lunch. I desired to share the Geranium lunch with Laurent and Guillaume and then to join them for dinner at noma. The most decadent thing I ever did. Laurent was ambitious as always.

I went straight from work to Geranium, and walking towards the restaurant Laurent rang me to inform  that he expected that he and Guillaume would be there on time: 13:45. Precisely. So, when I arrived they were seated already.

Geranium was fabulous. Guillaume and Laurent entertained me with stories of how great cooks they both are at home and of the amazing Paco Jet machine, with which they experiment and which sounded like a mysterious thing to me. Eventually, I think they got tired of explaining me about it’s functionality and thus talked Søren and Rasmus into taking me to the kitchen and showing me theirs.

Thank you, Søren and Rasmus for a great lunch. The wine was lovely, and the food was at least as good as my first and second time, if not a bit more sharp and more distinct!

So, after a maximum two hours’ break, noma was next.

Smokesd and pickled quail’s egg

Radishes and Terragon

6:30 pm and we arrive at the restaurant which was already half full at the time. Lau was there, greeted us and escorted us to our table. Lau IS a gentleman as well as a sweetie; he was pulling out the chair for me to get me seated. While making myself comfortable, I realised that Mr. HESTON BLUMENTHAL, founder of The Fat Duck, was dining at the table across from mine and facing my direction! Oh my goodness! Wow! What an incredible thing to be dining at noma AND to meet one of the biggest rock stars from the foodie world.

NV. Marguet Père e& Fils, Brut Rosé

Bread crunch with herb cream, herb emulsion and vinegar dust

I pinched myself to ensure this wasn’t just another of my noma dreams. Yes, I do dream of noma – a bit embarrassed to say.

René had prepared the dinner for us all, and all but two dishes were known to me.

Razor clams and horseradish ”snow”, parsley and dill
2006 Domaine Févre,
Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, Burgundy

Tartar and wood sorrel
Creamed tarragon and juniper

2004 Selbach- Oster, Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Fresh cheese and shoots of Axel berries
Pine tree shoots and white asparagus

This dish was new. I had a similar one in April. Actually this looks like a combination of the asparagus grilled and with smoked marrow, rucola flowers and chick weed and the cow’s milk cheese with birch shoots and celery. This version of asparagus and fresh cheese seemed more harmonious and I liked the aromatic pine tree shoots.

Langoustines and ‘søl’ which is Icelandic seaweed
Oysters and rye
2006 Loimer, Riesling Steinmassl, Kamptal

I love the design of Loimer’s bottle lables. I loved the langoustines. They were the highlight of the evening.

King crab and mussel stock
Ashes and leek
2006 Gresser, Brandhof, Pinot Gris, Alsace

Onions from Læsø and chick weed
Onion bouillon and thyme oil

2006 Denis Jeandeau, Viré-Clessé, Burgundy

Turbot and water cress
Cowslip and ramson onion

2004 Damien Laureau, Savenniéres Les Genets, Loire

NV Pascal Doquet, Blanc de Blanc Champagne, Le Mesnil sur Oger

Salsify and milk skin
Rape seed oil and truffle from Gotland

1988 J. B. Becker, Wallufer Walkenberg, Riesling Spätlese, Rheingau

Sweetbreads and seaweed
Stems of vegetables and fresh currant wine

Musk ox and beets
Pickled elderberries and bone marrow
2001 Domaine de la Grange des Peres, Grange des Peres, Languedoc

Laurent surprised me with this Grange des Peres who is a legendary wine maker, and the white ones especially are hard to get hold of. The red is a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. I didn’t know about this wine but Guillaume and Laurent told me about it during the Geranium lunch. Noma had originally planned for another red wine, Italian I believe, for the ox dish, but had swapped it with the  Grange des Peres on Laurent’s request. Wonderfully balanced with lots of fruit and tannins and a long, powerful yet elegant finish.

Garden sorrel and glazed sheep milk yoghurt
Anise and rape seed oil
2003 Chateau Richard, Cuvée Noble, Saussignac

Dried berries and dried cream
Walnuts and dust of walnuts
2006 Nigl, Grüner Veltliner Eiswein

While we were eating the second dessert, I saw Heston Blumenthal walk into the kitchen with René to meet the staff. Lucky ones, I thought.

Then, suddenly I heard René’s voice: ” So, you guys”. And, when I looked up, I saw Heston Blumenthal with René at our table. (Oh my goodness!). But Heston was extremely kind and sweet and talked for a few minutes with us about the food – we had had the same menu – and about the Fat Duck. Of course. Which we’re all big fans off.

Mr. Heston Blumenthal

It was fantastic and the greatest moment in my short foodie (business) life.

Rhubarb and wood ruff
Yoghurt and beet roots

After the last dessert we moved on to coffee, flødeboller and drinks in the lounge and chattered with Lau and René until very late.

Food wise this dinner at noma is the best and most distinct meal I have ever had there. All dishes but two were known to me and I think that the work in progress and the fine tuning of them is the reason behind it. The fact of Heston’s presence there that evening may also have affected my judgement, naturally. Thank you guys, you’ve surpassed yourself again!

In and out in 24 hours. Four Michelin stars and three meals later I got an SMS from Laurent at the CPH airport texting how content and happy he was and being just about to board the plane back to Paris.

VeryGoodFood.dk - Trine

Eater.com - Amy McKeever
Noma's New Head Chef Dan Giusti on Taking Risks and Creating a Team

Noma's New Head Chef Dan Giusti on Taking Risks and Creating a Team

dan-giusti-noma-1000.jpg 
[Photo: Noma]

Shortly after Matt Orlando announced he was stepping down from the head chef position at René Redzepi's Noma to open his own restaurant, the chef revealed his successor in the world's top-ranked kitchen: a fellow American, Dan Giusti. It was only a year and a half ago that Giusti left his comfortable executive chef position at Washington, DC's 1789 with only the hope of a job offer from Noma. Upon arrival, Giusti worked his way up from chef de partie to head chef in record time. Here now, Giusti — who refers all questions related to Noma's recent norovirus outbreak to the restaurant's website — discusses how he got a job that so many chefs covet and the big risk that was worth it all.

How's the new job going? How are you settling in?
It's good. As you can imagine, it's definitely an interesting job to take over. It was quite an honor, and I feel quite fortunate to have the opportunity to have the position that I do. I can definitely say it's going quite well in the sense that we have a very good team of people, and I have a lot of support here. Without that, it would definitely be an extremely difficult job. But I'm very fortunate.

You left DC for Noma about a year and a half ago without even a guarantee of a job and now you're the head chef. That's pretty remarkable.
To be honest with you, of course, I didn't really foresee this. I was at 1789 and, as you know, it's a relatively conservative restaurant and I learned a lot there. Not just cooking, but management and understanding how a restaurant works. It had run its course and I wanted to try something new. I had been gifted the Noma book, ironically by my former boss there. It spurred my interest to come check it out, so I came here for a couple weeks with the intention hopefully of coming back. It kind of blew my expectations away. I was amazed by what I saw, and I really did want to come back.

Unfortunately at the time there was no job available and the visa thing was definitely an issue. It was quite difficult to — especially for Americans — to get working visas here. But with all said, I returned here without a job and without any kind of visa or anything like that. I wasn't even really allowed to come here because I didn't really have any paperwork. But I was able to figure that out really quickly. I was able to get a visa. And a job did come available for the chef de partie within weeks of being here. So it all really fell together.

Did you have a back-up plan?
No, to be honest with you, I didn't. I think in my whole lifetime and still to this day, I've been kind of a wary person in the sense that I always like to know what the next step is and have everything planned out. But I think everybody maybe has that kind of feeling once in their life where it really is a gut feeling. For me, it was that. The 1789 gig was a good one, and I really enjoyed being there. Also I lived there with my girlfriend. She had her career there. We were doing well for ourselves, but there was something that we were just kind of lacking. I said, "You know what? Let's just do it."

It was a very nervous time when we got here. There was definitely a moment where it could have been, we arrived here, spent all the money to come here, and it could have just fell flat. It's definitely the biggest chance I've ever taken in my life, that's for sure. It wasn't only a risk for myself, but my girlfriend had to kind of put her career on hold in a lot of ways as well. But we were quite lucky.

And it seems to me too that most people would chafe at the idea of going down in rank in their job, even if it's at the world's top-ranked restaurant. Matt Orlando told my colleague he even knew you were more than that at the time you got hired for that job. Was that tough for your ego or were you just psyched to have a job?
Of course. Being at 1789 and being in DC, you know you're not in contact with a large quantity of people that are really at the top of their game. I don't want to say my skill sets had fallen down, but I definitely knew that when I came here it was going to be hard to compete with a lot of these guys. And it's not like when I was at 1789 as the head chef I was running around, running a station and doing this. I was doing a lot of administrative duties.

So when I first arrived here, it was a tough blow to my ego because I was at the very, very bottom getting yelled at by people that were six or seven years younger than me. But with that said, maybe justifiably so because I was a bit rusty. That's what you get. I won't lie. Within a few months, maybe less than that, I was up to speed and I knew where I stood and I could hold my own. Then you start to naturally gain the respect of your peers and the people around you. It's not about having a title. I could have been given a title, but if people didn't genuinely respect me, it would really make my job difficult. So yeah, it was a blow to the ego, but everybody needs that. I definitely needed it, and it's really done good things for me.

And Matt said he was also secretly grooming you for the job. Did you suspect that at the time?
Not at all, to be honest with you. I did know when I arrived here that at some point he was leaving. I knew it would probably be during my time I would spend here. But there had been at least three or four chefs working at the restaurant that in my eyes could have easily been the next candidate for that job. For whatever reason he decided to do what he did. I still have tremendous respect for those other chefs. Some of those chefs have since left to do their own thing. They're quite successful in their own right. But I didn't have any idea. I knew there was an opportunity maybe early in to be a sous chef. But I never imagined this.

Tell me about when you got the head job offer.
My girlfriend had been working from home for the consulting company that she had been working with in DC. At one point, it must have been like seven, eight months in, she was really having a tough time with it. She wasn't meeting any people, of course, because she was working at home. I didn't really know what was going to happen. I was coming to the point where I needed some answers and I was looking for some advice, so I asked to sit down with Matt. I said, "Look Matt, things are real tough right now for my girlfriend. There's really no foreseeable option right now because she doesn't speak Danish." I was contemplating that at the end of a year of being here, I might have to leave.

The first thing he actually said was that the PR job here was coming up available. And then he proceeded to tell me also that he had now concrete plans to leave and it was going to be the upcoming December, that he was going to probably phase himself out and that he wanted me to take his place. Of course, when he told me that, that changed things a lot. It really kind of blew my mind. When I told my girlfriend that, she being the supportive one that she is, she knew we were going to stay here and she probably would want to take the [PR] job. So she did, and she is here working at the restaurant.

Of course, I took the job. At that point, there's no question in my mind that I was going to take that role. But a lot of feelings come through you at that point. I was actually still a chef de partie. I hadn't even been a sous chef yet. It was around that time they were going to make me a sous chef. So I was still chef de partie, I was still running a section and this is what I'm told. It's a hard thing to take because most of you is just amazed and overjoyed. What an amazing opportunity. And then me being the type of person I am, I just immediately went into thinking, "All right, I need to start figuring a lot of things out very quickly to make sure I'm prepared to do this job."

How did you?
Just trying to think of everything and asking as many questions as possible and writing things down. Matt, in total, had been here for many years. He had been here previously a long time ago and then he left and came back. He spent almost three years as the head chef. So he has a lot of history with this place. I, at that time, had been here about seven or eight months. I was just kind of understanding the cooking style. I was really getting a good grip on how things worked. So then to think that I needed to understand it to the extent that I could be a part of running it and making it work on a daily basis was really a daunting thing to think about. An exciting one, but a daunting thing as well.

It was just a matter of trial and error, and of course I'm still learning to this day. I can't say I know exactly how everything works now in the sense there are situations that arise that I still haven't dealt with. Like I said when we first got on the phone, I'm surrounded by an amazing group of people, whether it be René himself or all the other chefs who work here that really support me. If it wasn't for them, it really would be a challenging job. It's challenging in itself, but I wouldn't be able to do it.

What are you focusing on now?
Hiring people. Hiring the right people. It's not the easiest place to hire for in the sense that our staff is so international. When you hire somebody here it's usually a three or four month process. It's not like you just say, hey, you start tomorrow. With three or four chefs leaving who had been here for some time, you encounter problems with making sure you have enough experienced staff here and you have enough staff that you can trust. So my focus over the past few months has definitely been putting a team together that is very strong.

What are you focusing on next?
I wish I was moving onto the next thing. Putting together a strong team is not a quick thing. We have a great team in place already, but it's really just the development of it. As I am very new at my position, we have a lot of other people who also stepped up in other jobs as sous chefs. We hired new chef de parties. When you come and work here, there's definitely a learning curve. Outside of the food itself, the restaurant runs very differently than other restaurants do. We serve a lot of the food as chefs. So there is a lot for people to understand. And it is getting stronger and it's a nice thing to watch develop. When it comes down to it, the people are the most important part of the restaurant. You can't overlook that fact.

What we do here, the food and the ideas behind the food, are something really amazing. That's why I originally came here. But when you eat here you see the same thing. The guests bring a lot of the energy to the restaurants as well. But what makes the restaurant special, aside from the food itself, is just the energy and the aura amongst the people who work here and their passion for being a part of this. Part of a big team that is moving forward and trying new things.

Eater.com - Amy McKeever

TheNewYorkTimes.com - Julia Moskin
Noma Back on Top of ‘50 Best’ List

Noma Back on Top of ‘50 Best’ List

 

René Redzepi, center, the chef of Noma, which is No. 1 on this year's list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants.

Two restaurants traded places Monday at the top of a list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, an increasingly influential but somewhat arbitrary ranking published by Restaurant Magazine since 2003.

At the annual ceremony in London to announce the winners, Noma in Copenhagen, which was No. 2 on last year’s list, rose to No. 1, regaining the perch it held from 2010 to 2012. Last year’s victor, El Celler de Can Roca, in Catalonia, Spain, dropped to No. 2.

Seven American restaurants made the top 50, one fewer than last year. Eleven Madison Park, in New York City, moved up one notch to No. 4. Coi, in San Francisco, made the list for the first time, entering at No. 49.

Daniel, in New York, No. 29 last year, fell to No. 40. The chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants, which once hovered around the top 10, have been creeping down: for 2014, Per Se, in New York, is now at No. 30, and the French Laundry, in Yountville, Calif., is at No. 44.

Restaurants in Latin America and Thailand took many top spots. In Bangkok, Gaggan, a modernist Indian restaurant, is the highest-ranked new entry at No. 17; Nahm, headed by the Australian chef David Thompson, is No. 13.

Central, in Lima, which showcases the biodiversity of Peru, is the highest climber, from 50th place last year to 15th.

Restaurant Magazine, the list’s publisher, ramped up the suspense this year, posting photos of winning chefs to Twitter as they arrived at the Guildhall in London – but showing them only from the neck down. Security was also tightened after last year’s awards: the 2013 list was supplied to some news outlets under embargo, and leaked out before the announcements.

The original list has grown and sprouted new shoots: lists of 50 Best Restaurants in Asia, 50 Best Restaurants in South America, and – new for 2014 – 50 Best Pastry Chefs in the World. (Jordi Roca, of Celler de Can Roca, won that award.)

 

International brands like San Pellegrino, Veuve Cliquot and Diners Club sponsor individual awards (Best Woman Chef, Best in Africa) and are constantly mentioned by the presenters.

Chefs acknowledge that a numerical ranking of restaurants in the world is a flawed notion. They are judged by a long list of fellow chefs, food critics, and frequent diners who are well known to the world and each other, making objectivity and anonymity impossible. The algorithm that produces the rankings remains obscure.

But it’s undeniable that the drama and simplicity of the list have helped it make major inroads into a territory formerly owned by the Michelin Guides. Chefs and restaurateurs once went to extreme measures to upgrade their tablecloths, crystal and restrooms along with their food, believing that only luxurious restaurants could win the coveted Michelin three-star rating. The anonymous Michelin judges scattered their stars mainly on European restaurants, making it seem fusty and mysterious as the culinary world became more global, open and chatty, mainly through social media.

Last year’s winner, El Celler de Can Roca, was a dark horse, at least in the United States. Although the restaurant was well known to gastrotourists as a way station on the pilgrimage to the chef Ferran Adrià's El Bulli, in Catalonia, Spain, its profile was much lower than that of El Bulli, No. 1 from 2006 to 2009. It closed amid a blitz of publicity in 2011.

TheNewYorkTimes.com - Julia Moskin

 

The World's Best


Popular Chefs


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