With this being the first food post of my blog, I want to tell you my number 1 restaurant experience to date. I loved my experience at Noma because it wasn’t just about the food (it was tasty of course); it was about how the restaurant was run.
Aside from learning how much creativity was valued from their innovation food lab, we also toured around a very warm and cosy dining area for the staff where they would have “family style dinner” before. The staff dinner would be cooked by their interns, of different nationalities, in order for the staff to continue to be inspired every day – how cool is that! Behind the perfectly orchestrated meal for us, I saw a team with shared passion but different talents, mutual respect, and deliberate efforts of continued learning. Humility and passion are what keep the top the top!
So here goes my encounter with Noma:
6 months ago I found out the date for the reopening of booking system of Copenhagen’s Noma and being a food frantic, I set various alarms to remind myself of the date. Before the system officially started, I diligently loaded up a few screens to refresh the booking page, only to find myself at shocking number 1472 in the queue the moment I got through! Fast forward 6 months, I’m in freezing Copenhagen but standing in front of this World’s Best Restaurant, I was so excited I almost wanted to do a little dance at their door while half a dozen of the staff already stood by the door to offer a warm welcome.
The first impression I had was how unpretentious the restaurant was! How pleasant it is to have a team of kitchen staff eager and friendly to help you get comfortable before they showcase their masterpiece dishes.
First we started with the appetising pickled cherries and flowers which have been preserved for 18 months. We also opted for the juice pairing, just to get our palettes refreshed and ready for the coming 17 courses. The spring water was extracted from birchwood in the nearby Copenhagen forests in the early morning, and carried a sweet aftertaste.
Dehydrated plum crisp with dried roses petals and anise. More spices and tart preserved plants to start the meal off.
The homemade sourdough with virgin butter, which is a lighter more fluffy predecessor of typical butter.
The first sprouts of spring roasted on their own BBQ grill on top of dried scallop sauce
Homemade cows milk cheese, light like custard milk, with verbena oil, first shoot garlic garnish and sorrel leaves. Even with my garlic allergy, I couldn’t help clean off the last drops of the garlicky oil with the bread!
Onion with fermented hazelnut paste, lemon thyme. Quite contrary to conventional use of these vegetables, which usually are seasoning or garnishes, they form one of the longest standing dishes on Noma’s menu. The combination is surprisingly fresh, without losing each ingredient’s distinctive flavour.
Danish shrimps wrapped in ramson leaf, with pickled radish in broth of yeast and rhubarb oil. This tasted a little Asian to me, reminded me of Japanese radish and Shanghainese river shrimps.
Danish squid with broccoli stems and scallop sauce. Again a rather odd but decent combination of ingredients. I was more impressed by the ice bowl though! Yes, the WHOLE bowl was ice!
Langoustine with wood ants. I heard about the use of ants in Noma’s dishes and thought it was so gimmick to show off their creativity. I was proven wrong – true reason was it is difficult to grow citrus food with Denmark’s weather and so to add acidity to the dish, locally sourced wood ants are used instead. And to my surprise it wasn’t the ants that stressed me out, it was the langoustine! I was told it was only killed a minute before serving. It was a rather barbaric eating process – the langoustine’s claw jerked and kicked my hand :S
Smoked monkfish liver frozen then sliced, on top of sourdough toast. Another classic on the menu for some time. I love how the thin and crisp slice texture cuts through the usual richness of monkfish liver, less of that excessive “fishiness” that some people do not enjoy.
Lumpfish and fish roe dressed in caramelised milk taco wrap. This was my favourite dish out of all. The wrap tastes just slightly burnt to accentuate the caramel taste and the mild sweetness of cooked milk pairs well with the fish inside. I wouldn’t mind having tacos every day if all tacos are like this haha
Butternut squash cooked with seaweed oil, roasted kelp in fermented barley wheat sauce. When I got to this point I start to think what’s the secret behind fermenting every sauce? Chefs out there, care to share?
Egg yolk with potatoes with sauce of excursion (like watercress). Like Spanish breakfast minus the chorizo.
Black garlic leaf with hazelnut and thyme. Maybe the only time when I don’t mind getting an allergy from garlic. So good.
Another favourite of the night was the marrow with a lettuce wrap and vinegary sauce. The sauce and lettuce was a refreshing contrast to the richness of the marrow so you don’t feel bloated after the whole marrow.
Now finally onto desserts. On the left is bitters ice-cream with hazelnut crunch base. Melts in your mouth, light as snow. Beautiful. Apparently was a new creation by one of the Italian chefs who just joined. Simple looking but innovative taste. On the right is vegetables from the garden roasted on the barbecue till crisp then sprayed with chocolate. Never thought veg and mushrooms could go well with chocolate. And zoom in on that broccoli! The chocolate coating was so light and so precise you could still see the little flowery buds on the top of the broccoli!
In one line, I thought the meal was extraordinary and it was worth flying 9000 miles for! Next time I come back I want to come in another season to be sure to try the different locally produced ingredients!
Address: Strandgade 93, 1401 København K, Denmark
Tel: +45 32 96 32 97
Hours: 12pm – 12am, Tue – Sun
Price: HKD 2,000 – 3,000
Best for: Foodies who like to be surprised and inspired
Favourite dish: Lumpfish and fish roe taco wrap, but then everything else was good actually!