Earlier this year, during the roasting NYC summer, I was sitting at home on the computer, window unit on full-blast, clicking from one food site to the next, when I got the thought: I need to eat at Noma. So I checked out their website, and the next window of reservations was set to open in a about a week. I kept my eye on the calendar and set my alarm on the eve of availability to make sure to be out of bed and on the computer at 4 AM, in time to secure a spot for Rocky and me. During the thought process I figured as long as I was crossing the pond, why not make stops in Barcelona, Valencia, Denia, and San Sebastian, in addition to Copenhagen; and why not throw in some two-a-days at a few of the world’s most exciting restaurants.
Fast forward to mid-September. After a great morning run through Copenhagen, I arrived(with Rocky) for lunch at Noma, the first round of the two-a-day(to see the second round, click here).
The dining room was abundant with vibrant sunlight, and the staff seemed the most genuinely hospitable and welcoming group of smiling faces I’ve come across. We were told that the kitchen prepared two different menus for us for lunch and dinner and were asked if that was okay. Of course that sounded great, so we got started.
Malt flatbread and juniper. Among the flowers in the white vase on our table were unleavened bread ‘sticks’ with moss. We were told to rustle them out of the arrangement and run them through a little dish of creme fraiche. They were crisp with a good bitterness.
Moss and cep. Reindeer moss from Northern Sweden, fried, and sprinkled with dried cep powder. Also meant to pass through the creme fraiche. Delicious.
Crispy pork skin and black currant. Like a michelin-starred version of a fruit roll-up over a pork rind. Great sweet/savory and crispy/chewy contrasts.
Blue mussel and celery. Roasted blue mussels with mussel emulsion on an edible faux shell colored with squid ink. Nice sea flavor.
Cheese cookie, rocket and stems. Swedish cheese cookie with rocket puree and stems. These little treats had great savory/vegetal balance.
Potato and duck liver. Fried potato strings with duck liver mousse sprinkled with black trumpet mushroom powder.
Dried carrot and sorrel. Birchwood smoked dehydrated carrot on a bed of hay ash, which vikings used commonly as a spice. We were instructed to roll the carrots in the ash and drag them through the sorrel puree. Amazing. When I returned to NYC two weeks later, I couldn’t stop thinking about this compilation of flavor.
Caramelized milk and cod liver. Smoked cod liver on milk crisps with dehydrated seaweed. Good, clean liver taste softened with milk flavor.
Grilled corn. Beautiful young corn. A little sweet, a little tart, good snap, with nice char. They were perfect. Rocky wants me emphasize: THEY WERE PERFECT. Everything corn should be.
Pickled and smoked quails egg. Presented in a cloud of smoke, I liked the idea of the warm, smooth, pickled and smoked eggs more than I actually liked tangible manifestation. This was the singular part of the meal that I wasn’t crazy about.
Radish, soil and grass. Carrots and radishes with stems and leaves still attached to the roots in a pot with hazelnut based edible ‘dirt’ bound with herbed yogurt. The tang of the yogurt with the savory crunch of the soil was phenomenal with the roots and spread over the leaves. With a tub of this and a big spoon, I would be a happy guy.
Sorrel leaf and cricket paste. I love leaves. Especially sorrel with it’s citrus-like acidity. These leaves were perfect. I’m not sure what the cricket contributed flavor-wise, but the nasturtium ice elevated the bright acid of the snack, and beet emulsion added a slight sweetness.
Bread service. Sourdough with Swedish grains. Served with brilliant Swedish virgin butter, tart and bright, and pork fat with fried potato and onion.
Cooked fava beans and beach herbs. Lightly cooked fava beans, cooked just to the right tenderness. Wood sorrel, portulak(purslane), and some other leaves. And a gentle buttermilk dressing. Very clean and pure vegetal flavors.
Berries and cucumber. Grilled baby cucumber. Swedish berries. Herbs. Chamomile, lemon thyme, and dry verbena broth. An interesting combination. Eating this felt kind of like walking through the forest.
Brown crab, Egg yolk and herbs. Crab, yolk, crab roe, and beach greens finished with an aged Icelandic seaweed broth. The rich yolk was nice to balance the salinity and add body. Great seashore flavors.
Langoustine and söl, Sea and rye. Oyster and parsley emulsion with rye bread crumbs and söl(Icelandic algae) powder played as condiments to a beautifully(barely) cooked, plump, sweet, lightly fibrous langoustine atop a warm stone. Amazing. A true pleasure to eat.
Cauliflower and pine, Cream and horseradish. A broad slice of cauliflower, caramelized on one side with butter and pine, then steamed. Yogurt whey with pine gave a nice cooling effect. A little horseradish gave a little energy lift.
Salsify and truffle, Bread and milk. Roasted salsify wrapped in milk skin, with a bread salad, over Swedish truffle puree.
The hen and the egg. A DIY fried egg. First, the mise en place of leaves, herbs, petals, oil, seasoned butter, and a timer arrived. Then came a hot skillet with an egg on the side. We were told to crack the egg into the skillet. Then given a sequence of additions to follow as the timer counted down. After seeing a few other diners do this first, I didn’t want to do it, but it actually was a lot of fun.
Turbot and bitter greens, Celeriac and mushroom. A meaty fillet of turbot with fresh hazelnuts and bitter greens, dried mushroom-dried berry-juniper wood sauce, and fantastic caramelized celery root. An outstandingly creative combination of flavors to round out the savories of round one.
Blueberries and ants. An ‘ice cream sandwich’ which we were told had 17 elements, but to focus on the blueberry. Alongside nasturtium leaves with blueberry compote and ant paste(made of large, aggressive ants). Both were bright and herbaceous, a little sweet, and a little tart.
Gammel Dansk. Milk ice cream flavored with Gammel Dansk, an herb and spice Danish bitter liquor. Sorrel sauce, sorrel leaves, milk crisps. A refreshing, almost invigorating, dessert. Very impressive.
Caramel yeast fudge. Thornberry jam, Icelandic sour cream, elderflower, salt. Presented frozen, these had a really nice chew, with a subtle, rewarding intensity of flavor.
Whey meringue. Covered in a light chocolate shell, with some type of crunchy biscuit in the bottom.
Chocolate potato crisp. Bitter chocolate coated potato chip with fennel seeds.
Some wines we were served:
After dinner, we took a tour of the kitchen, the outdoor storage, the upstairs PDR, the staff dining room, the prep kitchen, the office, the indoor herb garden, etc. Along way we met Food Snob(who now works in administration at Noma and plays a big part in putting on the MAD Symposium), and chatted with Chef Redzepi, who after discussing past, present, and future dining ventures said ‘You guys are fucking crazy!’ which we considered a great compliment. He also gave us suggestions of where to drink and what to see during our stay in Copenhagen. When we got back to our table we were asked if we ‘want to just settle up tonight’ so, yeah, I had a running tab at Noma. We were extended an invitation to join in on their staff meal, which I was on the verge of doing, but it would have left us without much down time to accomplish a few things we wanted to do between meals. So we just planned to see them again in a few hours for round two(which can be seen here).
Date of visit: September 13th, 2012
Noma. Strandgade 93. Copenhagen, Denmark. +45 3296 3297. http://noma.dk/