noma, Copenhagen 2
July 5, 2011
On June 8, 2011, Linda and I returned to noma for lunch. Since our meal there three years before, noma has been elevated to “The World’s Best Restaurant” in the only guide which dares to make such ratings annually. Reservations at noma are very hard to get.
The welcome at the door after our walk through Christianshavn was warm, by chef René Rezepi and many of his colleagues. We were seated at a table by the windows overlooking the harbor. We ordered glasses of Chartogne-Taillet Champagne.
Our table had large bullrush, or cattail, shoots in place on the plates. A dish of yoghurt topped with a hazelnut praline was put on our table. We were instructed to eat a few bites of the tender bullrush core with the dip. They were crunchy and good.
You can see the bullrushes at the table of the couple who had just arrived. The ice bin on the left has each table’s water bottle; its wine if any; wine for the pairings and bottles of vegetable and fruit juices for noma‘s popular, non-alcoholic, home-made juice pairings. One report says they were: sea buckthorn, lingonberry, pine, elderflower, pear-verbena, beet, cucumber, and carrot.
The next dish, served on a bed of moss, was quickly deep-fried reindeer lichen, a fungus which is an important food for reindeer on the tundra. It was seasoned with powder of cèpes, or porcini mushrooms. It was delicate and had to be eaten with one’s fingers.
On top of a plate of mussel half-shells were two shells which seemed whole. We were told to take off the top of the shell and eat all the rest. The bottom of the shell was really a squid ink cracker.
The garnishes inside with the mussel meat enhanced its briny flavor.
Sea-buckthorn berry leather with carrot juice; pickled hip rose petals.
The chewy film brought out the flavor of the local sea-buckthorn berries. (This is flowering season for hip roses and noma has teams out harvesting them. But they will be pickled and served during the entire year. Ours on top of the “leather” were from last year.)
Spring onion: the deep-fried roots are stuffed with seaweed butter. One only eats a couple of bites of the onion.
Cookies made from smoked lard and freeze dried black currents, topped with a spruce sprig.
A sandwich with chicken skin on the bottom, cheese with lumpfish roe in the middle and thin rye bread on top.
Excellent. The lumpfish roe is the slightly dominant flavor.
We pushed the radishes through the “soil” in which each was buried. The “soil” is a mix of ground hazelnuts, malt and beer that had been heated and dried for about six hours. Below it is an herb-flavoured sheep’s milk yogurt.
Freshly smoked apple-vinegar-pickled quail eggs.
Lifting the top of the ceramic egg releases the fragrant smoke of the hay which has been flavoring the eggs. They are to be eaten quickly in one gulp as the yolks are still quite liquid.
Duck skin on top; fresh herbs flavoured with an emulsion of smoked cod roe and vinegar in the middle and thin wavy toast underneath.
Duck skin is made by skimming the surface of duck stock and drying it. It adds substance to what otherwise might be a too delicate dish.
The chef served us his version of traditional Danish beignets, usually flavored with apple. These have a pickled cucumber filling. They are decorated with a small, smoked, Finnish fish. (It is cut in half inside; you don’t have to eat it in one gulp.)
The “snack” portion of the meal had ended and we were about to start on the main dishes. Bread, lard with apple aquavit and goats butter with salt were put on the table.
The sourdough bread made with Swedish flour is baked twice daily at noma and is still warm in its blanket.
At the suggestion of the sommelier, we ordered a bottle of Valmur Chablis.
Sliced rounds of unripe green strawberries and cooked lettuce roots, sorrel juice underneath.
This was tart, but set one up for the slight sweetness of the next course.
Norwegian scallops sliced thinly and dried overnight; four grains underneath; squid ink and mussel juice sauce on the bottom.
The concentrated scallop flavor was excellent. The grains added a vegetable touch to their richness.
Veal tartare, horseradish, wood sorrel, juniper powder, tarragon smear.
The flavorings were just right. Everything in the dish was hand-chopped and so we were told that it must be eaten by hand, including a bit of everything in each mouthful. In the back you can see the extra black napkins supplied for this course and the next.
Norwegian langoustine, from cold water and so large and tasty; served on a warm rock and eaten with our fingers; the dabs are like a mayonnaise using raw oyster emulsion instead of egg yolk.
It was so good I took small bites and used all the “mayonnaise.”
White asparagus cooked with spruce boughs to get the flavor from their oils; small spruce shoots; a sauce of puréed barbecued green asparagus mixed into a liquid spinach purée base.
The spruce shoots were tender and good.
A pike-perch from a freshwater lake in Southern Sweden, wrapped in a cabbage leaf and very quickly grilled. Aerated emulsion of a reduction of the fish bones on top. Verbena swirls.
Veal sweetbreads, peas underneath; nasturtium leaves with stems, pea shoots, “Spanish chervil”, grilled garlic stems.
The peas and pea shoots were full of spring flavor as were the stems of the nasturtium leaves. (For some unknown reason, sweet cicely, a Danish herb, is also known as “Spanish chervil;” you can see the leaves in the upper left and on the right edge of the sweetbreads.)
An iced disk of “Spanish chervil” with a rhubarb sauce.
This had a slightly tangy, icy palate-cleansing quality. The stoneware serving dishes at noma are lovely and appropriately understated. This was one of the best.
Berry mousse, yoghurt, sweetened with carrot juice instead of sugar, dried carrots, dried berries, fennel leaves.
A dark chocolate potato chip with fennel seeds.
Milk chocolate covered bonbons of yoghurt and egg white.
The meal was everything for which we had been hoping and expecting. It adhered strictly to the chef’s philosophies. Everything was local, meaning Scandinavian. (Well, perhaps not the chocolate or coffee.) If an ingredient wasn’t seasonal, it had been picked fresh and pickled or preserved in the traditional Danish way to get through the winter. The cooking techniques were widely varied, frequently original and suited to the products. The flavors came through beautifully.
The welcome and service were extraordinary. We particularly appreciated the discussions we had with the Number Two Chef at noma, American Matthew Orlando.
The pace was just right. As we left, we were looking forward to our return for dinner the following evening.
noma‘s website: http://www.noma.dk/main.php?lang=en
To read my blogpost on our meal at noma in 2008 click this: https://epicures.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/noma-copenhagen/
To read a detailed account of chef Redzepi’s career, as well as Food Snob’s meals at noma in 2009, click this: http://foodsnobblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/noma-copenhagen/
To read my blogpost on our dinner at noma the following evening click here.