| Strandgade 93, Copenhagen | http://www.noma.dk | ingested 8th June ’09 |
There are only a small handful of restaurants in the world which are regarded as true temples of gastronomy. In debates amongst foodies on this topic, Ferran Adria’s El Bulli in Barcelona and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in the Napa Valley are bound to be in the mix. Noma’s head chef, Rene Redzepi previously trained at both these institutions. Hence if one follows the recent buzz in the Michelin-starred world around Redzepi, all roads lead to a rustic, converted warehouse-loft alongside the serene waterways of Copenhagen’s regenerated Christianshavn District. Redzepi is already considered by many to be the rising star of the fine dining scene, and its no wonder – Noma has already claimed 2 Michelin stars since its launch in 2003, with a 3rd tipped to be on its way.
Noma’s lofty Main Dining Area
Noma’s combination of organic produce sourced from the surrounding Nordic locale coupled with Redzepi’s ingenious culinary alchemy is redefining Scandinavian cuisine beyond the stereotypical gravalax, smorrebrod and IkeaMeatballs. Don’t expect to find foie gras, truffles or the usual poshnosh on the menu. Instead, prepare yourself for ingredients hand-picked from the meadows, forests and wilderness of Denmark’s great outdoors. Birch sap, razor clams, beach flowers, bone marrow and wild ramson leaves are just a taster of the truly unique produce on showcase here at Noma.
Appetizers (Clockwise from Top Left): Duck Egg smoke with tea-leaves and wild grass, Radish with Cocoa-Creme fraiche “soil”, Beach Flowers on Biscotti, Prawn Cerviche with pickled beets and seaweed
In the name of gastronomic research, Jo and myself both had the 7 course taster menu (mine as you would expect included the paired flight of 7 biodynamic champagnes and sweet wines). Even before the first course was served, we were soon spoilt by Noma’s trademark innovative appetizers. Duck-egg smoked over a bed of wild grass and tea-leaves was served in a spotted, dinosaur-egg shaped ceramic case. The delicate taste from the tea-flavoured smoke was a perfect match for the richness of the warm, runny yolk. Two miniature flower-pots were served next – Radish plants in a Cocoa granule-Crème fraiche “soil” we were told. After being assured by the waiting staff that everything from the radish leaves to the soil was edible, we pulled the root vegetable from the soil in the glee, unsure what to expect. I can’t say I’m usually fan of radish, but its sharp, crunchy acidity provided a great contrast to the delicate sweetness of the creamy cocoa granules. The barrage of wonders continued – Beach flowers served on light, airy biscotti pastry and Shrimp Cerviche with pickled beets and seaweed were a wild meadow and sea-side on a plate respectively.
First 3 courses – (1): Razor Clams | Parsley Jelly | Frozen Horseradish Powder | Mussel Broth; (2): Caramelized chicken borth and leeks | Ashes and Hazelnut Jelly; (3) Asparagus and woodruff | Shoots of fiddlehead, hops and bull rush | 63-degree poached egg
I could rave on and on about the superlatives and genius of the 7 courses which followed, but 2 stood out in particular (I’ll let the photography do the talking for the rest). Razor clams, wrapped in parsley jelly, served with frozen horseradish powder and mussel juice was the first and arguably best course of the evening. The amalgamation of textures, temperatures and flavours as the clam, mussel broth and frozen horseradish power came together was mind-blowingly good. The other stand-out dish was the penultimate dessert course – a silver-grey meringue sandwiching a creamy sorbet, both made from the sap and juices from the birch tree. I never imagined I would ever have the pleasure of eating a tree in this lifetime, but the sorbet and meringue pairing simply melted away in the mouth leaving behind the mild, pure essence of birch juice – a delicate cross between nectar and lemon.
Main Courses – (4): Bone Marrow and Picked Vegetables | Herbs and Bouillon; (5): Pork Fillet and Wild Ramson leaves | Grilled Cucumber
Dessert Courses – (5): Birch Sap Meringue and Sorbet | Spanish Chervril | Honey; (6): Beet and Garden Sorrel | Creme fraiche and pickled hip roses
The accompanying champagnes and wines harmonized well with the dishes, but were perhaps overshadowed by the sheer complexity and brilliance of the food. One particular glass of bubbly was the star of the show – Bouchard’s “Inflorescence” (2005) could stand next to the mighty Dom Perignon and not feel out of place. The young, bespectacled sommelier (no doubt a result of his many years studying his PhD in the art of winebrewing) explained that the champagne’s delicate fizz was a result of its pressurization at the bottling stage which was a third of the standard brut.
On the whole, service throughout the night was pleasant and attentive. I particularly loved how each course was introduced by the sous chef charged with preparing that particular dish. They showed great attention to detail about the origin of the produce and the passion and care for the dish they nurtured from prep all the way to service really shone through.
Redzepi has truly done Nordic Cuisine proud. His bold and inventive style has taken food to new heights never achieved by this modest region. Who needs a holiday in the great outdoors – you get all of this on a plate (and more) at Noma.