Noma- What it’s Like to Eat at One of the Best Restaurants in the World.
Copenhagen in recent years has become one of the world’s hottest food destinations. New Nordic cuisine, with its emphasis on fresh Scandinavian flavors, simplicity and eating seasonally was catapulted into the world’s culinary spotlight by pioneering chef Rene Redzepi and his groundbreaking restaurant Noma. Currently located in a renovated warehouse along the waterfront in the Christanhaven neighborhood, Noma has earned two Michelin stars and the title of the World’s Best Restaurant 4 times since 2010 (the title went to Spain’s El Cellar de Can Roca in 2013 and again in 2015). With over 100,000 reservation requests per month and two seatings a day getting a table at this lauded 45-seat restaurant requires a great deal of luck. As it turns out fate was on our side and on a sunny June afternoon Steve and I found ourselves waiting at Noma’s unassuming entrance wondering about the culinary experience that awaited us inside.
Our journey to Noma started 3 months prior. We consider ourselves equal opportunity eaters and are just as likely to seek out the best hot dog stand as chase Michelin stars. However Steve had a 40th birthday to celebrate and we booked our trip to Copenhagen with hopes of eating at Noma. Reservations for an entire month typically open the on first Monday at 10am CET 3 months before, this date can be found on Noma’s home page http://noma.dk/ . This is how I found myself awake at 4am on the first Monday in March, furiously hitting refresh trying to score a coveted reservation (the Noma’s team was in Japan at this time and not accepting phone reservations) without success. A little defeated we made reservations at several other of Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred eateries(a 40th birthday does call for some indulgence after all). A week before our trip I was perusing the Chowhound boards, looking for where to find Copenhagen’s best danishes (which in Denmark interestingly are known as wienerbrød, or Vienna bread), when I spotted a post looking for two people to join them at Noma so they could keep their reservation. A couple of emails and a bit of faith in our new friends Samantha and David (who turned out to be a fun Canadian couple living in Stockholm) and Noma was back on the table.
The dining space at Noma was simultaneously modern and rustic, with exposed bleached beams and plenty of natural light streaming through the windows. Rather than being stiff and formal as one might expect from a restaurant of this caliber,service was refreshingly relaxed. In addition to showcasing Scandinavian flavors Noma also embodies the Danish sense of hygge, or creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.
The 18 dishes that graced the table over the next three hours reflected the ingredients and flavors I saw in the markets and restaurants across Copenhagen and experienced at an in-home cooking class the day before. Adoration for herbs, flowers and vegetables; a respect for the seafood, pork and dairy that sustained Scandinavia and a reverence for the smoke and vinegar that preserved food for generations past. Every dish was simultaneously inventive yet unfussy, forward thinking and straight-forward. Whether discovering the complexities of foraged greens(both from the land and the sea), contemplating the fact that the mahogany clam in front of you is over 150 years old (apparently they aren’t suitable to eat until they are over 100, I’m not sure who figured that out), or ending the meal with chocolate covered moss; these are dishes that can change the way you think of food.
Young cheese and new garlic
Salt roasted new Danish potato
Grilled onion with onion preserves
Sweet shrimp wrapped in ramson leaves
Crispy cabbage with rose puree
Mahogany clam with fermented grains White asparagus, black currant leaves and barley
Langostine with nasturtium