noma, Copenhagen

August 29, 2008

Noma ‘s reputation has reached epic proportions in the food press. England’s Restaurant Magazine rates it the tenth best restaurant in the world writing: “The regeneration of lost Nordic traditions, cutting edge techniques and assiduous sourcing of native Scandinavian ingredients are the defining hallmarks of Copenhagen’s noma”. The chef, René Redzepi, has been called the Nordic Ferran Adriá. He has, in fact, worked at El Bulli and at The French Laundry. Noma is the only Michelin two-star restaurant in Copenhagen; there are nine with one star. So, of course, Linda and I were expecting a lot when we went for dinner on August 26, 2008.  

The big dining room in a restored old warehouse was almost full when we arrived at 7:30.

We were taken to a nice table with a view across the water towards old Copenhagen.

We asked about Champagne and a wine carrier with four different bottles was brought. We ordered glasses of two of them. The menus and wine list arrived. There is a basic menu, our choice, with seven courses at DKr 900. There is also a smaller menu with four of those courses (which is also the lunch menu) or a twelve course extravaganza at DKr 1,200 and a three course menu of noma’s “specialties” at DKr 745.

We did not choose the offered wine pairings, but ordered a bottle of 2005 François Villard “De Poncins” Condrieu. We enjoy quite a lot of Condrieu and found this one to be exceptional because of the touch of acidity which worked well with the normal fruitiness of the viognier which can yield a flabby wine. We also ordered a bottle of 1997 Trinchero Barbera d´Asti ´Vigna del Noce.’ It took a while to open up, but then was pleasant.  

Then the appetizers started to arrive:
The first was a peeled soft-boiled quail egg served in a big porcelain egg filled with smoke.  Nice flavor.


The second appetizer was four radishes served with a lot of “soil,” which was really granulated barley malt on a vegetable sauce.

Third was bread crisps covered with vinegar powder which had a lovely flavor as it melted in your mouth. (I don’t remember what the yellow blobs were.)

The fourth appetizer was two delicious lightly pickled ribbons of kohlrabi on a green gel with scattered herbs and potato crisps. I have read that noma has five foragers who roam the Nordic coutries gathering herbs.

The bread basket arrived next with two kinds of warm, muffin-shaped bread. One was made from spelt, the most important variety of wheat in Europe from the Bronze Age to medieval times. There was also butter mixed with something else white and pork fat mixed with pistachios.

  Then the seven courses of the menu began:

Makrel og grillet agurk Dild og blomsterkarse.
Mackerel and grilled cucumber Dill and nasturtium leaves

We were told that this is the high season for mackerel; this was served fresh and raw. I was surprised at how subtle it was as I consider mackerel to be a strong flavor fish. There are several variations on cucumber in the dish, including the lightly pickled small one at the top of the photo.



Sørens grøntsager og stikkelsbær Frisk ost og have portulak
Søren’s vegetables Fresh cheese and garden purslane

They told us that they make their own fresh cheese for this dish every day. I guess they had to specify “garden” purslane so we would not have an image of a forager gathering it from between rocks on the Faroe Islands. That is a buttery chicken stock on the bottom.


Hestebønner og æggeblomme Tang og jernurt
Favabeans and poached egg Seaweed and verbena

For a restaurant that emphasizes seasonality and freshness, I was surprised to find big, boiled late season fava beans. The Nordics should leave them to the Mediterraneans as they do olives, tomatoes etc. But we are fava bean snobs as we grow our own at our house on the côte d’azur, harvesting them very small in March and April and eating them raw.


Hummer i “røde nuancer”
Lobster in “red nuances”

Sorry about the fuzzy photo. It may have resulted from my frustration that we had a very long wait for this course. Beforehand everything had arrived at a good pace. Anyway, nice red chunks of lobster were served with ribbons of beetroot and red berries. I didn’t understand the combination.


Moskus og glaserede rødbeder Æble og røget marv
Musk ox and verbena Milk skin and small beets

Trine had told us that noma had just won first prize for main courses at the Copenhagen Food Week contest. This was the dish that won, so we asked that it be substitued for the regular meat course on the menu which was
Lammebryst og blomkål Havesyre og brøndkarse; Lamb breast and cauliflower stems, Sorrel and watercress. Our waiter agreed, I think out of surprise that we knew about the prize, but at a supplement. I am glad they did, as the dish was superb. The filet of Greenland musk ox had a good meaty flavor. The beets went better with it than they had with the lobster. Milk skin was described to us as the part you usually throw away; its slight tartness went well with the slight sweetness of the ox and beets. What really sent the dish up to the top were the sensational smoked marrow drops. (You can see one tucked underneath in the center of the photo and a couple above it.) 



Bladselleri og valle Mynte og skvalderkål
Celery and whey Water mint and ground elder

This was a refreshing course, profiting from the flavor of the greens.


Friske blåbær Gran og timian
Fresh blueberries Pine and thyme 

This was okay, but it is surprising that in a kitchen that is so inventive the dessert was not more imaginative.

The service was efficient, informative and friendly on the part of many different young waiters. The meal had been fascinating. It was too bad that our expectations were so high, as that made even this very good meal seem somewhat disappointing. But anyone interested in food should try to get to noma. I am sure that its philosophies of food will expand more and more in Scandinavia and beyond. They obviously had at our fine meal at MR the evening before. We were told that the celebrity Spanish chefs have been coming to Copenhagen. We are glad that we have been too.




2 Responses to “noma, Copenhagen”

  1. Blair Says:

    This restaurant looks amazing. To me, this is why you travel. There is a 0% chance this could be recreated anywhere but it current locale.

  2. anotherheader Says:

    You are exactly right–Noma is an excellent meal somehow made disappointing by the high expectations set with being number three on the list of the World’s Best Restaurants.

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