“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 4: BACKSTAGE AT NOMA AND SOME COMMENTARY

Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that has been voted “The Best Restaurant in the World” (LINK) over and over, was the site of a recent visit by Dorianne, two friends, and me recently. Here are the links to the first three installments of the series: (LINK TO PART 1) (LINK TO PART 2) (LINK TO PART 3).

This post, the final installment in the series, covers the post-meal tour of the facilities at Noma (LINK) and contains some commentary.

After our meal (see parts 2 & 3 of this series), it was good to stand up. We had been sitting for about two and one-half hours in a very intensive activity – eating new things, drinking new wines, talking about the meal and doing our own internal processing without stopping. When I stood up, I realized two things – I had been sitting quite a while and I had a lot to drink. Wine with 20 courses . . .  you do the math.

So I went to the restroom and then joined our party in the preparation kitchen, which is adjacent to and visible from the dining room. The tour, being guided by a young woman who is a chef at Noma (she said that she started as an intern a few years back. She is in her early 20’s, and YES, she knows – or says she knows – what an advantage that is for her). I did not get this young woman’s name, but I am sure that I will be seeing her face in a future foodie magazine as a star chef someplace.

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Assembling the Forest Flavors and Chocolate Desserts.
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North Sea Lobsters all in a Row.
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Presentation Kitchen Activity.
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Getting the Egg Liqueur Ready.

This first kitchen is where things are prepared to be served at the table and where some of the cooking is done.

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Our Young Chef Tour Guide Showing us Around.

Then we went out back of the restaurant to the Laboratory.

That’s right. The LABORATORY.

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The Laboratory Facility.
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Various Plants, Molds, etc., Being Tested for Various Qualities. All Very Mysterious.
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Testing How Certain Berries Age.

Here they try things out – there are all kinds of experiments going on to test various ingredients and what happens to them over time in various marinades, and under various conditions, etc. A very interesting part of the operation.

Upstairs, a private dining room that seats up to twenty. You can rent the room for a lot of money (like thousands of Euros) and then PAY FULL PRICE for your Noma meal!

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The Private Dining Room on the Second Floor.

The Book Shelves of Noma.

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Action in the hallway: Ironing uniforms.

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The Prep Kitchen – where the action is.

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Cutting Frozen Bones for the Bone Marrow Dish.
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Reindeer Moss.
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The Prep Kitchen Staff – Keep in Mind that Noma Seats 45 or so.

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The Staff Room – where cooking, exploring recipe ideas, relaxing, changing clothes, etc. happens. There is a smaller kitchen, an herb garden, and lots of things stored – mushrooms, etc. Here you really get a sense of the Noma Culture, which is think is the glue that makes Noma what it is – one of the best restaurants in the world. You can see that the people who work here have accepted an ethos that they have had a hand in co-creating. René Redzepi, Owner and Founder and Chef de Cuisine is Daniel Giusti were not on the premises that day. They have brought a powerful culture of creativity, innovation, sustainability and success that seems to permeate the staff in a very good way. To work at Noma is to believe in this ethos, even if your intention is to get some experience and move on. While you are there, you are a true believer. Here is a link a partial list of Noma Alumni (LINK).

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The Kitchen in the Staff Room.
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The Kitchen Garden in the Staff Room.
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Our Group has Lots of Questions for our Guide.

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The lounge – near the entry, where you can have a drink before or after, or, I imagine, in lieu of, dinner.

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The Lounge at Noma.
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The Wine Storage in the Lounge.

So ends our tour of Noma.  On to some commentary.

Overall, this wonderful experience. While I did not like everything that I was served (probably not possible), I will say that the experience of the food was overall very enjoyable, both in tasting the dishes and in experiencing the creativity.

We were served 20 courses. My main negative about Noma is that the courses came out too quickly.

We had 20 in that time and it was too much too quickly. This is food that you want to savor – to talk about the amazing combinations of ingredients with your table mates, to take some photos (but of course!), and to taste the wine served and to experience the pairing of food and wine; then to reflect privately for a moment or two and then to share with your fellow diners your impressions and experience.

This takes time. But the next course is here!

I don’t think that this is a minor quibble. I like to savor. I don’t like to feel like they need to move me out to get the next seating in (which was not the case, as the next seating was for dinner). So please, Noma, a bit more time. I am not in a hurry when I am spending this kind of money for this kind of experience. I am sure that all of this has been figured out over time, but for me, it was not optimal in regard to truly enjoying the meal at leisure.

I read the other day of a restaurant opening in Barcelona that will serve 50 courses in two and one-half hours. I doubt I’ll be going there.

The wines at Noma were, let me say, unique (LINK TO LIST AS PDF). I have written about each and posted photos of the labels, but you probably won’t be able to find most of them – maybe one or two. I spoke with Sommelier Yukiyasu Kaneko about his choices. He said that he preferred to use only European wines, and that included a wine from Georgia in the former Soviet Union. He also clearly has a preference for young wines to accompany the fauna heavy Noma menu. All of the wines were whites. I found that the pairings worked well with one or two exceptions, and in those cases the wines were either sour or so very young as to have only rough edges, which I guess was intentional, but I did not agree with those choices.

Note that there is a lounge at Noma, where you can come for a drink or some wine before or after dinner, although you get quite a bit of wine with the paring meals – I recommend a taxi or a designated driver. We walked, and got a bit lost on the way back to our apartment.

How much did it cost? The wine pairing meal was 3100 DKK or about $450 per person. the juice pairing was 2500 DKK or about $367. Expensive, I know. It was Dorianne and my 10th Wedding Anniversary gift to one another, so a very special occasion.

Will I go again? Not sure that I need to, but if the opportunity presents itself – I will strongly consider it. I’d like to see what they do next. Have you been to Noma? Your comments are appreciated.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard

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