After spending many years in Michelin starred restaurants you might start to think that you are becoming a seasoned authority. You might even become snobbish and think it’s almost impossible to amaze you. But then suddenly it happens like a bolt from blue. Well it wasn’t totally unexpected. We were visiting restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. It was as rainy as you expect Copenhagen to be. René Redzepi is the man who brought this restaurant to the absolute summit of the world as the ambassador of the ‘New Nordic Food’ movement. This movement aims the exposure and value of Nordic food and the Nordic food culture.
The restaurant is positioned in an old warehouse. The inside looks massive with big wooden tables without linen! The bare stony walls and heavily built beams create a bit of a chill impression. But we are in Scandinavia and maybe it is appropriate here. After the overwhelming amuses we were now completely focussed on the food. The first amuse sets a good example of the surprising kitchen of Noma. Living shrimps in a preserving jar were caught a few hours ago in a fjord near Copenhagen. After a photo session and a moment of doubt we experience strange tickling feeling in our mouth and you feel the shell between your molars. Then when you stop being distracted by the weird sensation they give a very pleasant taste. A creamy, a bit sweat and crispy because of the shell. Delicious! What a start! The parade of amuses continuous with a quail egg, which is smoked on hay. A flowerpot filled with tarragon cream in which radish was ‘planted’. Followed by a crisp with herb cream and a piece of dried chicken fat. All 7 amuses were exiting and of high quality.
We go for the 12-course menu, which eventually become 14 courses. For the first time it was no selection of wines pairing the menu, but a selection of juices that matched very well. The first course was Sea urchin powder with salty local plants and raw shrimps from Greenland. The frozen plate did not disturb the great taste of these beautiful products. It allows you to taste the purity. The shrimps are softer then you can imagine. The sea urchin powder and the local plants strengthen the rest of the dish. Another astonishing dish is the Danish interpretation of the classical steak tartar. They use 48 days aged ox meat and used a knife to cut it in little strokes. A soft emulsion of tarragon and local herbs accompany the meat. This course is mend to be eaten by hands. Soon you start to get comfortable with this tradition and it makes you feel a bit primitive (in a good way). There was a good balance between the tarragon and the beastly taste of the ox meat. An extraordinary steak tartar!
All plates are a lust for the eye. They are all original and so much fresh energy is send out by each dish. In most restaurants the chef de cuisine is the star of the restaurant. Here all 25 chefs are equally attributing to the restaurant by serving and explaining each dish. The traditional difference between the kitchen brigade and dining room brigade not present. On one hand it adds something when a chef brings you a plate. But we cannot help missing a maitre who looks over you wellbeing. The visual highlight of the day was a crudités of beetroot, carrot, rutabaga and cucumber. A heavy font accompanies the vegetables. Not only a visual highlight but also very tasty. The main course is ox cheek with salty pear and chicory. A nice piece of meat and go’s well with the pear but the magic is gone.
Although Noma has the newest kitchen equipment, they don’t cook very much. Most dishes are raw or near raw. When all the chefs are serving the courses at the tables, it is not possible to cook as much as other restaurants with a dining room brigade. We cannot deny that we have the impression that most of the dishes were not prepared ‘a la minute’ and just had to be served. For the main course some real cooking was required and that was seen in the result. The deserts are cold and the wonderful illusion of chef Redzepi returns. The first desert is cream made of cheep milk with granite of wood sorrel. Beautiful acid tones and deep flavours give it complexity. With the last two deserts with carrot and apple they finish with style.
It is four a clock and the brigade kindly us to finish our visit in another room. The brigade wants to prepare for the diner. A bit remarkable request considering that we flew al the way to Copenhagen that morning. We arrived as soon as possible (12.00 hours) and are not able to finish our lunch in the restaurant. It seems that there is no endless hospitality.
In conclusion we can say that Noma is a special restaurant, which makes experienced eaters feel like a child with many visual highlights and surprising flavours. El Bulli gives the same experience, but feels more professional and ‘mature’. Maybe it is because they already have 30 years of experience. Noma gives the impression that they are not yet fully grown.
Quail egg smoked on hay.
Radish with tarrengo cream
Dried chicken fat with herbes
Fish though dough
Fresh raw shrimps with sea urchin and local salty herbs
dried slices of scallops with grain
Ox steak tartare with herbes and tarragon cream
Langoustine on a rock with oyster and sea weed powder.
Oyster with local plants/herbs
Crudités of beetroot, carrot, rutabaga and cucumber with strong fond.
Sheep cheese desert
Creamy carrot ice
Packing of the caramels