Denmark is a cute country #1: Ants and juice at NOMA

Nordic coconut (kohlrabi, inside kohlrabi juice, fennel straw, fresh herbs)

Behold! This will be the hugest post, this site has ever seen. And that’s good – because I was in Denmark and visited René Redzepi’s amazing restaurant Noma. Yes, the one that has been number one of the San Pellegrino list for years.

Denmark is a cute country: Everything is small, colorful and there seems to be a lot of marauding designers, who style every aspect of Danish life from A to Z. A country with style, so to say. As I landed in Copenhagen this time, there was a strike and the whole airport and train station smelled like vomit, which was not so well designed after all, but anyway. The reason for our visit (together with the lady and our great friends B&J) was NOMA !

After a thrilling reservation morning somewhere in June, we got a table for the beginning of September. We were very thrilled to see, if and how the concept of Nordic cuisine works out. And – even more – if it is tasty, of course 🙂

Noma is situated in Copenhagen’s harbor, in an area similar to the Speicherstadt in Hamburg. The area is still a building site, but I think it will be quite cool when it’s finished.

Outside
Outside

We were warmly welcomed (in perfect english), our coats and bags were taken. First impression: Very professional, very friendly – they even greeted out of the open kitchen. The interior is very open and light, the wooden ceiling and the fur on the seats (to warm the ladie’s back) give a nice „viking“ touch.

Inside
Inside

There is only one fixed menue, so it is not very hard to decide 🙂 They also asked for any food restrictions or dietary laws and are able to adapt to that. They offer wine pairings, which are due to import and taxes VERY expansive (and include a lot of well-known Austrian wines). We went for the juice pairing, which turned out to be extraordinary.

The waiters were very friendly and casual, they also had a girl from Austria 🙂 The food is sometimes served and explained by the cooks themselves, sometimes by the waiters. Sometimes these explanations were a bit too quick, sometimes their english was „interesting“ or it was too loud in the room to understand properly. But you can ask again, which was no problem at all. The menue has approx. 20 servings.

Many of them (11 in our case) are served as appetizers or snacks in the beginning. They serve them very quickly, so that you have sometimes 3 or 4 dishes on the table. As it seems, they do it on purpose – still it was a bit stressy in my view.

Here are the starters:

Nordic Olive (iced gooseberry, elderberryoil and lavender)
Nordic Olive (iced gooseberry, elderberryoil and lavender)
Nordic coconut (kohlrabi, inside kohlrabi juice, fennel straw, fresh herbs)
Nordic coconut (kohlrabi, inside kohlrabi juice, fennel straw, fresh herbs)

Both amazing – the gooseberry was cold, intense and fruity. Just perfect to open the senses for the things to come. In combination with the oil inside and the lavender it was very full on the tongue. the kohlrabi was for sure the best kohlrabi I will ever eat. With a thick, beautiful kohlrabi juice inside and the smell of the fennel straw it was very refreshing. The fresh herbs gave a green kick and added some spicyness to the dish.

The starters were paired with a juice of green apple, lemon thyme, lemon verbeine and clove. Sour and herbal, quite intense – but not so to my taste to be honest.

Peas, camomille, pine
Peas, camomille, pine
Pea flower, fresh hazelnuts and berries
Pea flower, fresh hazelnuts and berries

Two variations of peas: The fresh peas had on the bottom a cream of camomille. Together with the pine they tasted amazing – like a distant memory of a wood at the beginning of fall. It doesn’t look like it but there is a lot of work in this dish: The peas are taken out by hand, then the inner layer of the pod is removed and cleaned – that’s A LOT of work (we saw two poor guys doing it in the kitchen later…). The berries fitted great with the fresh almonds (wow!) and the pea flowers (so great, a tender idea of pea). Simple but great!

Spheres of black currant juice, inside pollen cream, outside pickled rose leaves
Spheres of black currant juice, inside pollen cream, outside pickled rose leaves
Moss (not Kate, the thing from the woods...), mushroom powder, crème fraiche
Moss (not Kate, the thing from the woods…), mushroom powder, crème fraiche

The spheres were a lot like pralinés and literally exploded in my mouth. Great taste, very flowerish – beautifully balanced between sweet and sour. The moss on the other hand was crunchy and fluffy, with an earthy note.

Pickled and smoked quail eggs
Pickled and smoked quail eggs
Savory cookie with goat cheese, stems of crocus and coriander
Savory cookie with goat cheese, stems of crocus and coriander
Grilled rye bread, lemon thyme and brown butter, grilled roses
Grilled rye bread, lemon thyme and brown butter, grilled roses

The quail eggs were just amazing – one of my favorites among the starters. Beside they beautiful color they had a great consistency, easy to hold in your hand but you felt they were about to burst every second. On the tongue they first felt firm and the exploded like a great chocolate praliné. Amazing egg taste with nice smoky notes. The cookie looked like a pimped host..actually the only starter I didn’t like since the crocus and coriander stems tasted very green and bitter. The grilled bread was a surprise, very pleasant taste – the burnt notes of the bread went great with the rose aroma.

Grilled leeks with crazy inside stuff
Grilled leeks with crazy inside stuff
Eble skiewer (no apples, but greens, parsley on top and inside)
Eble skiewer (no apples, but greens, parsley on top and inside)

The last two starters were also my favorites: The grilled leeks were SIMPLY AMAZING. The inside was very tender, with a savory cream at the bottom that gave the leek a lot of body. The balls were just great, I could have eaten a whole pan of them – crunchy on the outside, tender and fluffy on the inside with beautiful greens, that tasted soooo fresh. An amazing beginning!

Then we started with the main courses. First we were served bread and butter:

Bread, virgin butter (butter milk inside) and lard with onion and pig skin on top
Bread, virgin butter (butter milk inside) and lard with onion and pig skin on top

There is only one choice of bread, which is very nice though and freshly made two times a day with flour from Sweden. It is served still warm from the oven and went perfectly with the very light butter. The lard was great, but maybe a bit too heavy for the dishes served (all vegetables). They brought new bread whenever we were finished (and we ate a lot of bread…). So off we go with the first main course:

Everything that's in season (butter milk and parsley-oil-soup, berries, fennel, camomile)
Everything that’s in season (butter milk and parsley-oil-soup, berries, fennel, camomile)

This was the only dish I actually didn’t like, because for me it lacked composition: The concept was to serve basically everything that’s in season. The outcome was a thin soup with sweet, sour and vegetal elements in it. The ingredients were first class, but they didn’t play together. It was paired with a celeriac-seaweed juice, which was not so my thing too.

Raviolo of raw sweet water shrimps, soup of rhubarb and yeast
Raviolo of raw sweet water shrimps, soup of rhubarb and yeast

The second main was great again. These „raviolos“ were made of a bitterish leave, that had some raw Skagen shrimps inside. The shrimps were AMAZING – very fresh and clean taste, perfect temperature, with a consistency of glassy gelee. The soup was intense with a vegetal-sour touch from the rhubarb and a nice contrast to the heavenly light shrimps. Here the seaweed juice fitted much better.

Grilled onions, danish (!) ants, fermented pear
Grilled onions, danish (!) ants, fermented pear

„Ants are the lemon of the north“ – so we were told later on. Here we were presented lightly charred onions that were seasoned with ants (you actually could see only their legs). The ants gave the onions a very sour accent, the fermented pear a distant fruity note. It was paired with a apple and pine juice that tasted like a liquid honey from the woods. This bosky sweetness was a great addition to the vegetal and rather sour notes of the dish.

Dried and grilled beetroot, salted plum, gooseberry, fennel brew
Dried and grilled beetroot, salted plum, gooseberry, fennel brew

A very sophisticated dish: The beetroots were grilled for 3 hours and turned every 10 minutes until they were leathery on the outside and immensely juicy on the inside. It was amazing – biting into them was like getting the idea of all beetroots in this world on your tongue. Amazing! Toghether with the fennel brew and the fruits it was even better, having salty and green notes in the dish too. This one was paired with a rhubarb juice that added a certain freshness to the dish.

Cauliflower fried with pine in butter, whey with pine oil, cream with horseraddish
Cauliflower fried with pine in butter, whey with pine oil, cream with horseraddish

One of my absolute favorites: The cauliflower was perfectly fried and had an intense taste, having a distant memory to a day in the woods. The cream added some freshness. But the real star here was the juice pairing: Butter milk with toasted almond brought out the best in the cauliflower. It intensified and completed the taste so much – just amazing.

Bleak roe, oil of roasted seaweed, egg yolk potatoes glaced with a paste of fermented barley
Bleak roe, oil of roasted seaweed, egg yolk potatos glaced with a paste of fermented barley

That one was not so my thing: The potatoes were really (!!) hard and placed in a lot of oil. The roe was good and harmonized nicely with the seaweed oil – but together they were extremely fat. The combination made sense but the texture contrast between oil-roe-potato was too extreme for my taste. Also the pairing with cucumber and yoghurt whey was not so my thing.

Turbot, chicken of the wood mushrooms, turnip, grilled leek, herbs
Turbot, chicken of the wood mushrooms, turnip, grilled leek, herbs

The last main course was nice: Like a turbot who got lost in a wood… The fish was perfectly prepared, the subtle and green aromas of the greens was a beautiful addition to the clean taste of the meat. The mushrooms gave some earthy and intense notes. Altogether a great dish. It came with a juice of herbs from the woods and anise, that intensified the green notes nicely.

Well, well, well – after 7 main courses and 1 whole bread per person we were still hungry and craved for the desserts. That’s a bit the downside in this minimalistic and product-oriented, seasonal kitchen: It’s VERY low carb. If you don’t go for bread, you will leave hungry. On the other hand it’s nice not to roll out of the restaurant after such an extensive meal. However – tataaaa, here come the sweets:

Ice cream sandwich (black currant iced/fermented/cooked/compote, pine, green juniper ice cream
Ice cream sandwich (black currant iced/fermented/cooked/compote, pine, green juniper ice cream
Sorrel leaves with ant paste in between
Sorrel leaves with ant paste in between

This was served by the patissière who made it and gave us a tour afterwards. Amazing presentation, very sophisticated production and really fun to eat. The „sandwich“ was soooo cold and very tasty, fresh berries in many forms. And there again: ANTS. Between the sorrel leaves was a cream of ants, the bitter/sour sidekick was a nice addition to the sandwich. This dessert was paired with an amazing broth of quince which tasted like diving right into a qunice. As they explained to us later, it takes one cook 35 minutes to make a batch of this broth for 1 day, since it has to be cooked very light and then blended with a huge number of ingredients – a lot of work, but the outcome is really worth it. It’s just amazing how you wouldn’t guess, how much work goes into every single detail of the menue.

Mashed potatoes (sweetend with their skins), mousse of plum pip, plum puree
Mashed potatoes (sweetend with their skins), mousse of plum pip, plum puree

REAL ART: This doesn’t look like much, but was shere perfection. I still remember the taste and texture on my tongue, when I close my eyes. You went with your spoon right through it, picking up from all of the three purees. Perfect. The potatoe mash was sweet and thick, the mousse of plum pips tasted a lot like marzipan and the plum puree was intense and mellow. Did I say it was perfect ? Yes. Later in the kitchen we saw the poor guy who extracted the small seeds from the plum pips. He has to crush the pips gently with a hammer and to pick out the little white seeds then. 100g of them is just enough for 1 day. Crazy effort…

Iced malt caramel, yoghurt with jam, salt with elderflower
Iced malt caramel, yoghurt with jam, salt with elderflower
Danish (seaweed, barley glace)
Danish (seaweed, barley glace)

This was tasty AND fun! The iced caramel bread was like frozen toffee and with the jam/yoghurt on top and some salt – just perfect. And quite refreshing. Then a classic danish pastry with a certain twist was served: It had seaweed inside (didn’t come through much) and a barley glace…nice.

Fried pig skin with chocolate and fruits
Fried pig skin with chocolate and fruits

And there it is, the light conclusion of an extensive meal: Fried pig skin 🙂 In this case with chocolate and fruits. Tasted funny, salty and sweet and fruity – a bit too much for me though.

It is very likeable that they try to give everybody a tour of the kitchen. We didn’t expect much of it to be honest – but we were really surprised. The patissière Andrea who made the ice-cream sandwiches gave us a tour of 40 minutes (!), explaining a lot about the ingredients, the preparation and showing us EVERY single kitchen they got. This was amazing and looking back it makes up a great deal of my Noma-experience to have had this tour. It also helps to understand what’s behind meals, that look simple – how much effort and thinking.

Service kitchen
Service kitchen

Above is the service kitchen, where 15-20 people work. Upstairs they got another kitchen, which also prepares the food for the private dining room with 25 people working there. They got people from 22 nations, among the staff are also 8 gardeners cultivating and collecting plants. They also got a seperate kitchen for experimenting, where they try new recipies and ideas. Before a dish comes actually into the restaurant’s menue, they try it approx. 70 times to refine it and to check the logistics. The staff also does projects on Saturdays, where every cook and employee brings his/her ideas for recipies and presents it to the team. So they always look for new ideas. In the experimental kitchen we also met Mr. Redzepi, who was so nice to take a photo with us:

Mr. Redzepi and us
Mr. Redzepi and us

Wow…what shall I say: NOMA is AN EXPERIENCE. If you have the possibility to visit the place, go for it. It’s absolutely amazing. The dishes are very sophisticated, most of them are rather silent and work with complex combinations of aromas. Some may not work out for you/me. They take regional and seasonal extremely serious: That meant no meat for us, a lot of green vegetables – and of course ants instead of lemons. We left full of enthousiasm, but still with a little room for some pølse (stay tuned for this one). We spent 5 hours at noma, enjoying every single minute. For a visit you should calculate 200€ for the food, 50€ for the juice pairing (once again: this was better than any wine pairing, I’ve ever had) and an optional 10-15€ for water, coffee or tea per person.

Timon
Timon
Spracharbeiter. Kommunikator. Sprecher. Trainer. Historiker. Leidenschaftlicher Koch. Foodie.