Tag Archives: Denmark

“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

“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 3: THE LAST HALF OF THE MEAL

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 two installments of the series: (LINK TO PART 1)  (LINK TO PART 2).

This post covers the second half of our 18 (actually 20) course meal and wine pairing.

Course #10:

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2012 Coufe Chien, Domaine du Perron, Bugey – Savoie
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Mahogany Clam and Grains.
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Mahogany Clam and Grains.

Our wine for this and the next course is a 2012 Coufe Chien, Domaine du Perron, Bugey – Savoie, Chardonnay (LINK to the 2011) from the Rhone Valley. Young and high in acid with an aromatic nose and hints of citrus, it was a perfect accompaniment to the Mahogany Clam.

The single clam was mounted on a bowl of wet stones (which we were advised not to eat). The uncooked clam meat was sitting in a marinade with a dusting of samfire (LINK) around the top of the shell. The dish was to eaten with a wooden fork. It was delicious – I could have eaten the rest of the dozen, but alas, it was not to be.

Next:

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Monkfish Liver on Toast.
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Monkfish Liver on Toast.

This course, Monkfish liver, cooked then chilled and served very cold on toast, sitting atop a folded napkin. This was a particularly succulent dish, with a great texture and flavor. The Coufe Chien was a beautiful match for this dish. Eaten with fingers.

Next:

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White Asparagus, Goosefoot, and Barley.
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2014 Cuvée Alexandria, Domaine Matassa, Calce – Cote Catalan

Our next wine, a 2014 Cuvée Alexandria, Domaine Matassa, Calce – Cote Catalan (LINK – click on Cuvée Alexandria), is described as a “raw wine,” made from a grape called Muscat d’Alexandria. You won’t find much about this wine, from the Catalan hills in extreme southwest France, online, and I doubt that you will be finding this wine in your local wine shop. The wine is unfiltered, very young and is very raw. I would describe it as bitter and a bit sour. Not for sipping. It reminded me of the must right after fermentation, while the wine is still in the fermentation vessel.

It was served with only one dish, a white asparagus, goosefoot (LINK), and barley plate, this one eaten with utensils. The asparagus was amazing – tender and delicious, the goosefoot and barley added notes of green sour and some texture. And, I was surprised to see that there was some justification for the wine pairing. The Cuvée Alexandria was a decent match, adding to the sour notes of the dish (you would have to like sour), and extending the flavors through a long finish. Intriguing.

For the next course, a new wine:

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The Glasses Accumulate.
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2013 “Aragonite” Julien Guillot, Cruzille – Macon
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Vegetable Flower.

The new wine, a 2013 “Aragonite” Julien Guillot, Cruzille – Macon (LINK)Burgundian Chardonnay, was a return to wine-normalcy for me. Fragrant, well-structured, and clean, the wine drank very well.

The first of two pairings with this wine was called vegetable flower. As you can see, it was nasturtium flowers in a vegetable broth. Delicious and delicate, the wine did not overpower this dish.

Then:

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Lobster and Nasturtium.
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Lobster and Nasturtium.

Lobster and nasturtium was next. A North Sea lobster tail served with nasturtium leaves attached. Paired with the Julien Guillot Chardonnay, it was one of the highlights of the meal.

Now, we enter into a bit more unusual territory:

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2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia.
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2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia. Back Label in English!

2015-07-22 14.21.34The next wine, a 2013 Chinuri, Iago’s Wine, Chardakhi – Georgia (LINK)was most unusual. Unfiltered, young, sour. Even more so than the Cuvée Alexandria mentioned earlier. This wine was almost unpleasant – there was wine in the mix somewhere, it was just hard to find.

The first pairing was a dried fruit “leather” shaped into a leaf with a number of other items on it, including some garlic and grasshopper flour. It had the consistency but not the flavor of licorice and was very good.

Next:

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Bone Marrow with Flower Soup and Nasturtium Leaves.
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Bone Marrow with Flower Soup and Nasturtium Leaves.

Then, a dish not on our printed menu – beef bone marrow with a “soup” of flowers, and nasturtium leaves. This dish was the only one served that might have called for a red wine, but the Chardonnay did it’s job of pairing pretty well.

At this point, we were visited by the Sommelier, Yukiyasu Kaneko of Japan.

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Noma Sommelier, Yukiyasu Kaneko of Japan.

He answered our questions (I had a longer chat with him later) and explained his theory of using younger wines to compliment Noma’s unique cuisine.

Next:

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2014 Grains de Folie, Bruno Rochard, Coteaux du Layon – Loire.
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The Cheese Course – Not Sure of the Ingredients beyond a Creamy Cow’s Cheese.

The next wine, a 2014 Grains de Folie, Bruno Rochard, Coteaux du Layon – Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc (LINK – Related) comes from a region known for sweet wines. This wine, was a bit on the sweet side of dry. It was light, refreshing, and a nice pairing for the cheese course (also not on the written menu). The pairing worked well. The cheese was light and creamy, in a vegetable broth. Very good.

Now, on to Desserts:

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Berries and Greens Soaked in Vinegar for One Year.
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Forest Flavors – Deep Fried Reindeer Moss Dipped in Chocolate.
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Creme and Dipping Sauce.
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Egg Liqueur.
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Espresso to Finish.

Desserts were a flurry of items, pickled and sweet, with egg liqueur and espresso. The berries and greens soaked in vinegar for one year were very good – each retained much of its original flavor, but the textures were very unusual. The forest greens dipped in chocolate were a combination of tart, sour and sweet – the creme dipping sauce could tip it to the sweet side if you preferred, plus there were some more conventional chocolates on the plate. The egg liqueur was very smooth, much thinner than eggnog, and refreshing.

I should point out that Dorianne has allergies to beef and cow dairy, and the Noma staff made every effort to accommodate her in this regard, substituting ingredients, etc. You let them know 30 days in advance of your reservation about any allergies.

Wow. What a meal! The 18 courses turned out to be 20. We were well-fed, entertained, amazed, and, actually, ready for more. In the next and final installment of this series, I will let you know about the tour that you are offered of the Noma Complex and what you learn about the unique Noma Culture.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard

“THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD:” COPENHAGEN’S NOMA – PART 2: THE FIRST HALF OF THE MEAL

The food at Noma changes, sometimes daily. It is based on the seasons, on what has been foraged that morning, on what the chefs are trying to do, and, I am sure, on other factors that I know nothing about. Everything that we had was unique and clearly well thought out. I did not like everything, but I did not hate anything served. There was quite a bit of “sour” taste on the menu, and some on the wine list. There were some dishes that were interesting but not memorable. And there were some that soared. Those experiences were different for each of us at our table for four – Dorianne, me, and friends Ginger and Patricia. Three of us opted for the wine paring, Ginger opted for the juice pairing – a different juice blend comes at the same time that new wines are introduced. She raved about the juices, and we all tasted some and they were very, very good.

The presentations were unique, generally attractive and appealing, and mostly, delicious. There were lots of flowers, some rocks, mushrooms, moss, leaves, dough, lobster, bone marrow, berries, and many things that I had never seen on a plate before.

The restaurant is very nicely appointed, but not flashy at all. Rough-hewn wood, lots of gray colored fabrics and surfaces; you might say that the dining room is understated, as you might expect in Denmark.

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The Dining Room with the Wine and Juice Cooler.

The tables are simply set. There is a clear effort to have guests feel welcome and to make the experience as unpretentious as possible. Staff are friendly, direct, and relatively informal. They do what they do very well, are always in motion, but have time for any query or request.

THE MEAL

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Turnip and Unripe Strawberry Marinated in Aquavit with chamomile and other berries. Served on Ice.
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The First Wine – Not on the Menu – A Champagne.
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The Bread Bowl.

The first three courses are not considered a part of the pairing dinner. We were served a Champagne for all of these courses, a dufour par charles champagne “les instantanes”, which I could not find in an internet search (found the producer, but not this wine). Suffice to say that it was very well made, light and crisp, and you likely will only get it at Noma. The first item served to us was a small bowl of ice topped with turnip and unripe strawberry marinated in Aquavit. There are obviously other things sitting on top of the slice of turnip and the strawberry, berries, flowers and such – there are always other things on the dishes that are not described on the menu, but are described by the server. The server, by the way, will be either one of the wait staff or someone from the kitchen who worked on the dish being served.

This dish, eaten with the fingers, was very tart (Aquavit and unripe things) and the Champagne was a wonderful match, giving a sense of ripeness, but not too much. I was thinking that they know what they are doing. Smiles, oohs and aahs, and photo taking all around the table (I stopped the server to photograph each wine bottle as it was served – they were wonderfully patient). A very good start.

The bread, served in a felt basket, made from native Oland wheat and accompanied by both butter and rapeseed oil was delicious. The basket was refilled at least twice during the meal.

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Summer Cabbage Leaves and White Currants.
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The sauce being added to the Summer Cabbage for Patricia.

Next came summer cabbage with white currants and a white currant broth that was added at the table. This continued the tendency toward sour, unripened flavors. It could be classified as a soup, I suppose. Again, the Champagne was right there to extend and ripen the experience of the food.

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The First Shoots of the Season with Scallop Marinade.
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Dorianne Looks On as the Dish is Explained.

Next, course #3, the first shoots of the season with a scallop marinade, again with the Champagne. The plants were tiny and tender, some of them toasted, and after enjoying the presentation, you mix them all together in the thin layer of marinade and eat them in a few bites with your fingers. The rush of various flavors and the marinade tasting of the sea was delicious. After doing yeoman’s duty, it was time to part with the Champagne. Note: they do refill your glasses as often as you like.

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Now, the actual wine pairing begins! With Sake! A 2014 Daigo No Shizuku Terada Honke (LINK), to be exact, which would take us through the next three courses. Full-bodied with a soft and approachable taste; hints of citrus and a long finish.

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Sweet Peas and Sliced Kelp.
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Sweet Peas and Sliced Kelp – Close Up.

The first course of the pairing was sweet peas with sliced kelp. There was a cheese under the kelp – like a ricotta but not a ricotta; and nasturtiums in with the peas (we will see more nasturtiums), all in a sauce. Very tasty with a mixture of textures and flavors. The sake went well with this.

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Flower Tart.

One of the most picturesque dishes, the flower tart. Various petals over a vegetable spread and placed on something like a cracker. We ate it like a small slice of pizza. The sake was less successful here, as it was far more tart than the “tart,” so to speak. This experience reminded me of my childhood, sampling most of the flora in the neighborhood. This dish prompted a nice discussion of all of the things that we ate as children that were not from the home larder. A delicious and fun dish.

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New Danish Potato and Lavage.
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New Danish Potato and Lavage – Opened.

Next came new Danish potatoes wrapped in a lavage leaf, residing on a bed of two kinds of salt (it was recommended that we not eat the salt). This dish was intriguing. The potatoes, once revealed by opening the leaf, were to be eaten with a sharpened Elm twig (very Paleo). They were warm, soft, and, when touched to the salt, delicious! The leaf was also edible, but had absorbed too much salt to be enjoyable. The sake added a fullness to the experience and was a good pairing for this dish, and it completed its duty with this serving.

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Sweet Shrimps Wrapped in Nasturtium Leaves.
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2013 Strohmeier Weiss #6 – Tromen Liebe and Zeit, 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Austria.

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The next course was sweet shrimps wrapped in nasturtium leaves with a seafood broth. Very tasty – the shrimp and the leaves were a good mix of textures and flavor. The next wine was 2013 Strohmeier Weiss #6 – Tromen Liebe and Zeit, 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc from Austria (LINK). This is really a nice white wine. I have loved the whites (weiss) of Austria since visiting there in 2009. I am a particular fan of Grüner Veltliner, the wonderful white grape so popular there and now being grown in California. But I digress – the Strohmeier has the nice acidity that one expects from Austrian whites, plus, the Chardonnay gives it a fuller mouth feel. It was a great accompaniment to the shrimps in nasturtium. Of course, this could be my appreciation for a more familiar wine after the sake.

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Cabbage and Roses.
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Cabbage and Roses Uncovered.

Next came cabbage and roses; dried and candied cabbage leafs sandwiched around samphire (sea asparagus) and rose petals. The leaves were crunchy and the middle was soft and creamy. Eaten with your hands. The 2013 Strohmeier Weiss #6 accompanied this dish very well, giving a smoothness to the experience.

So that is the first half of the Noma dinner, nine courses with nine more to go; and five more wines (by the way, no red wines)! Those will be depicted and described in the next installment, Part 3.

Photos and text, Copyright 2015 by Jim Lockard

HEADING FOR EUROPE SOON

As I have noted before, Dorianne and I will soon be leaving for an extended period in Europe – mostly Spain and France, with some side trips to Portugal and/or Morocco on this leg, then back to the US for a bit to see our daughter graduate from Boston University, then back over to Switzerland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium (maybe) and Denmark. Here is a link to a NYTimes.com article about a couple who have retired and are using Airbnb.com – which we will be doing for most of our stays. Our trip will be more focused on wine, of course!

NYTimes Article  2013-05-21 11.49.03