July 19, 2011
Relæ created a lot of interest in the Copenhagen dining scene when it was opened last year by two alumni of noma. Linda and I went for dinner on June 11, 2011.
The chef, Christian Puglisi, was born in Messina (Italy) in 1982; he arrived in Denmark in 1989. After cooking school, he worked at several major restaurants: Taillevent, El Bulli and as a sous chef at noma for over two years. His colleague is Kim Rossen, born in 1974 in Greve, Denmark. He trained as a cook and waiter in Denmark; then worked around the world including Australia, Bermuda, Barcelona and London, before returning to Denmark. He is in charge of the dining room and wine.
Relæ is similar to the new gastrobistros which have sprung up so successfully in Paris in the last few years with creative, interesting cuisine at affordable prices. A four-course menu, with a vegetarian option, is the only offering, although one can supplement with the snack or cheese of the day, as we did.
While some principles are similar to noma‘s, the cuisine at Relæ is quite different. Puglisi says:
“I love the Nordic kitchen but I am not dogmatic in the way I cook. I am an Italian immigrant and not using olive oil, lemons and tomatoes would be like turning my back to my cultural heritage.”
The street on which Relæ is located has been described as:
“Jægersborggade – a small street filled with treasures – is a vibrant hub attracting artists, creatives, music lovers and people from all over. Nestled between Assistens Kirkegaard and Nørrebro Park, Jægersborggade is focused on development, innovation and sustainability. A real sense of community is felt here with monthly ‘Late Night Hunting’ events, summer Farmers Market and their big street festival held twice every year. With specialty stores filled with unique designs, clothing, food, wine, and curiosities, a visit to Jægersborggade will no doubt inspire and surprise.”
What this description omits is the active drug dealing that I could watch with interest through the window behind our table throughout our meal.
The plain wooden tables have been specially built for Relæ. They have a drawer which pulls out to the right of each diner. It contains the menu, tableware for the whole meal and a napkin. This aids in Relæ‘s philosophy of minimizing all costs which do not relate directly to food and its preparation. The server in the striped shirt is refilling the drawer at the table we have just left. Each table is used twice each evening.
There is a bar by the front door where one can eat.
We ordered glasses of Benoît Courault “Le Petit Chemin” a lightly sparkling bio chenin blanc from Anjou.
We started with the optional snack,
asparges med brød og parmesan
asparagus with bread and parmesan
Big raw asparagus stalks had been rolled in warm parmesan and then toasted breadcrumbs. It was finger food. Nice start.
Fresh bread and olive oil arrived.
We ordered a bottle of 2004 Derain “La Plante Chassey” Mercurey, bio, 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Beurrot (an ancient Burgundy varietal.)
Unusual and interesting.
There is a choice between a regular four-course menu and a “Green” one. The regular menu started with
hvide asparges og ansjoser
white asparagus and anchovies
Rounds of asparagus covered a whole stalk. The dabs were an anchovy mayonnaise, which was a nice match with the asparagus.
nye kartofler, lune bær og rucola
new potatoes, warm berries and rocket salad
The new potatoes did not have as much flavor as I would have hoped. They were sprinkled with seaweed powder. We had become quite tired of green strawberries, which seemed to be in every Copenhagen menu this week. The potatoes were not sweet enough to need their tartness. A disappointing dish.
øko gris, salat og umoden frugt
organic pork, salad and unripe fruit
The rounds were pickled unripe peaches. I enjoyed them and thought that they were a nice counterpoint to the succulent pork, but Linda didn’t appreciate them. The vegetable was a braised heart of romaine lettuce which worked well with the pork.
We still had wine left and so asked for the additional cheese course
It was an exceptionally good aged pecorino.
The dessert was
rabarbergrød, mandel og moscatel
rhubarb compote, almond and moscatel
This was good, better than most of the other rhubarb desserts we had in the last month.
The chef came by and asked us to try a dessert he was developing to replace the rhubarb, which was almost out of season. It was an herb ice cream, in which tarragon was the dominant flavor, napped with a frothy lemon sabayon garnished with crunchy toast pieces.
The flavors and textures were nicely balanced and we told the chef that it was very good and a big improvement over the rhubarb.
We are glad we went to Relæ. We had been overeating during our week in Copenhagen and this was an interesting, reasonably-sized meal. I wish it had not been at the end of the week, as it would have been a better intermezzo. Except for the potato course, everything was well conceived and executed. The number of ingredients in each dish was nicely restrained. I am sure that Relæ will continue to develop in its own way and that its founders will enjoy their success.