Just a little snack…


Noma, Copenhagen, November 2010

Well we finally made it to Copenhagen (snowy!) and to the food mecca that is Nordisk Mad or as it is more commonly known… Noma!  Currently ranked as the best restaurant in the world by critics and other restauranteurs (check out  San Pellegrino’s The Worlds 50 Best Restaurants) -beating both Ferran Adria’s El Bulli and of course Heston’s Fat Duck to the coveted prize this year.  The brainchild of Rene Redzepi who is more a creator of natural foraged feasts rather than the molecular gastronomy practised by the disciples of Kurti, Herve and McGee (like Adria and Blumenthal); Redzepi at Noma has without doubt created a style of food that is both easily accessible, light on the palette but still a gastronomic adventure firmly rooted (sometimes literally!) in the nordic tradition. 

Over a 4 hour lunch this weekend in celebration of M’s birthday we appreciated the sumptuous interiors and salivated at and savoured the incredible food presented to us by the fabulously warm and friendly staff.  The twenty dishes (!) that our 7 course lunch comprised were each a poetic piece of precision fare as all the photos will show – however this post will focus solely on the first part of lunch – the errrr “snacks”.  

Noma, Reindeer Moss and Fruit Leather

Reindeer Moss & Fruit Leather

These snacks (their words not ours!) were brought out in swift succession, two by two – nine in all plus some bread.  All this before we were even offered a menu… not that there is a menu of course!   The first couple of dishes were eye openers and a true taste of things to come:

#1 Deepfried reindeer moss dusted with cep powder and served on a plate of twigs, stones and more moss; served with a yoghurt dip.  Wow! Let me tell you that I doubt that even Rudolph eats moss this good…

#2 Sea buckthorn fruit “leather” with pickled rose petals – a citrus and perfume explosion with just the right hint of chewiness!

Shallow fried and braised leek with garlic

Shallow fried and braised leek with garlic

Each dish was brought out by a different sous chef – all of varying nationalities; Danes, Brits, Aussies, Irish and Japanese – all of them young, enthusiastic and incredibly proud of what they do. 

This is a really nice touch and I think more restaurants should embrace the passion that exists within the kitchen to enhance the experience front of house.

#3 Shallow fried and braised leeks with garlic puree – beautifully presented and eaten in one bite; the different textures and flavour combinations complementing each other perfectly.

We chose an aperatif to accompany our snacks – but not a wine or a glass of champagne; no, we selected a glass of Danish cider from the north of the island and it was dry as a bone and absolutely delicious!

Now the tasty morsels were appearing at a great rate of knots and our tastebuds were jumping with delight – and much like the rest of the restaurant guests each dish had to be studied, photographed and properly appreciated both with eyes and nose before being sampled.  I guess the staff are more than used to it – as they took it all in their stride jokingly mocking but very understanding and helpful all at once.

Noma, Rye Sandwich

Rye Sandwich

#4 Rye bread and crispy chicken skin sandwich with smoked cream cheese

As you can see, they love serving their fare on various platters, vessels and flatware.  Two common themes were felt placemats and battered old biscuit tins, reinforcing the Nordic style and sense of expectation as the tins were opened – not ceremoniously, just casually – at the table to reveal the gorgeousness inside. 

Speck and blackcurrant cookies

Speck and blackcurrant cookies

#5 Speck and blackcurrant cookies with pine shoots – small, perfectly formed, rich and savoury with a stringent bite from the blackcurrant.

As the snow was falling outside the old warehouse where Noma is housed, opposite the famous tourist spot Nyhavn we were starting to wonder just how we were going to manage lunch proper – I mean we had been eating for 30 minutes already and had eaten plenty of wonderful dishes already and still they came…

Smoked quails eggs

Smoked quails eggs

11 snacks one of the sous chefs was saying… that meant another 6 to go; not that we were complaining! 

#6 Smoked quails eggs – Oh my, these were absolutely sensational! lightly smoked, poached eggs with oozing yolks and creamy whites served in the most beautiful carved egg on a bed of smoking hay. 

Even the hay was wrapped beautifully around the serving egg to make the perfect nest – and its that attention to the simplest of detail that sets Noma apart.

Carrots and Radishes with hazelnuts and malt
Carrots and Radishes with hazelnuts and malt
#7 Carrots and radishes with pea puree, hazelnut and malt – I’ve actually seen various versions of this dish on TV executed by both Rene and Heston – but I’d never eaten it until now and I must say it was a revelation. The hazelnut and malt “earth” works perfectly with the crunchy fresh veg and pea puree.  Great textures, fantastic taste!
At this stage we were beginning to wonder if we were ever going to get through the meal without exploding – remember at this stage we thought that we still had at 4 snacks remaining before lunch proper – but luckily (!?) it turned out that we “only” had 2 more snacks to come…
#8 Duck fat & salmon roe, dill and mayo sandwich, and #9 Doughnut with pickled cucumbers and whitebait.
Now, remember I was saying that Noma was more about foraged, local ingredients than  experimental cooking? 
Well I wasn’t lying, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t do incredibly technical works of genius utilising all the tricks and techniques from the more scientific end of the cooking spectrum.  The duck fat sandwich for example is created from skimming off rendered duck fat, letting it reduce down and dry into a skin and then it is lightly caramelised creating the most delicate but highly flavoured crisp that just melts into nothing when it hits the warmth of your palette.   However technical it might be,  it certainly doesnt feel like a science project when you eat any of the dishes – just perfect morsels of divine dining pleasure!
Note: let me apologise for the photography but we were almost overcome with excitement during this meal and believe me when I say it was so very easy to get carried away with enjoyment and so I am lucky that I even remembered to get photos of each dish let alone do anything fancy and creative with the compositions, and of course this wasn’t about photography – however much a feast for they eyes as well as the tastebuds this was!  
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One Response to Just a little snack…

  1. nj says:

    I’d be happy with just two or three of those dishes, they do look amazing.

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