NOMA | Rene Redzepi chef | Natural wine | Copenhagen

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Review
 
NOMA HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
Copenhagen
Location: 55.677769,12.596265
Open: Lunch Tue - Sat, dinner Tue - Sat
Price: Expensive
Score (/20): 19

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +45 3296 3297
Address: Strandgade, 93
Copenhagen, 1401
Country: Denmark

NOMA in Copenhagen is an exciting restaurant where chef Rene Redzepi turns out innovative and delicious food in relaxed surroundings.
We went to NOMA with high expectations and some qualms because high expectations are a bubble that’s just so easy to burst.
We have had both good and bad experiences at high end restaurants around the world. Usually the bad experiences arise when the chef insists on displaying mastery of technique at the expense of flavour and 'deliciousness' or when the restaurant has reached its 'used-by' date and they don’t know it.
So, we walked in to NOMA and the feeling was good. No absent chef syndrome here. Rene Redzepi greeted us at the door and ensured we were shown to our lovely table overlooking the city beyond. We were about to enjoy 5 hours of dining pleasure encompassing some 22 dishes.
But we would like to start in reverse order. Before we describe the many dishes that we enjoyed we would like to summarise some of the factors which lead to dining at NOMA being such an enjoyable experience for us.
First, the service is without attitude and is very knowledgeable. This is partly because the chef who cooks the dish usually serves it and explains the components of the dish. We found this approach to be particularly useful as there were so many ingredients that we didn't know. The engagement between chefs and customers add an exciting dimension to the dining experience here.
Next we noticed a single-minded devotion to deliciousness - nothing got in the way of this simple precept. The ingredients that were chosen were all of the highest quality. Nothing was put on the plate if it wasn’t perfect. Flavour was what was at the forefront. The much-hyped foraged produce is stunning and is integral to the dishes.
A major factor in our enjoyment of the food was the essential savouriness of the food - no sweetness on the savoury dishes except natural sweetness from vegetables such as carrots. Even desserts were partly savoury. In so many restaurants these days, gratuitous sweetness pops its unwanted head up in every dish. Here there was none of that - and what a relief it was!
Wines were carefully matched to the dishes. Our advice if you are going to dine at NOMA is to let them do the matching for you. It is difficult to know the flavours of the dishes you will be served and therefore impossible to match the wine and food. They do a great job so let them. When we were there it was a matching of wines from Champagne - we were worried that it wouldn’t work but it did - in fact many of the matches were simply awesome.
Technology is used but is subservient to the main game of producing delicious food.
This is real cooking, real flavour and a real food experience that transcends most other dining experiences we have had.
Lunch commenced with six snacks served very rapidly. As soon as one was finished the next one arrived. This is perfect when you are heading in to a meal with many, many courses. If each course does not arrive promptly your body starts to convince your brain that you have had enough to eat. If you keep eating, however, the brain is consumed with the tastes and textures being processed and does not pay too much attention to the quantity of food you are ingesting.
 
     
 

The first snack was sea buckthorn leather with petals of rose hip pickled in apple vinegar.

Sea buckthorn leather

NOMA Sea buckthorn leather

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Next, we were presented with a charming European 'biscuit tin' (or for those from the US a tin cookie jar) with two small savoury cookies inside. The thin biscuit incorporated speck to provide a savoury element and then layers of sorrel, dried and powdered blackcurrant and then a topping of fresh pine fronds.

Blackcurrant cookie

NOMA Blackcurrant cookie

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Next a large eggshell was brought to the table and we were advised that inside were some smoked quail eggs that needed to be eaten whole. When we lifted the top section of the large egg shaped container two small quail eggs were revealed sitting on a bed of smoking hay. The eggs were still very soft inside so the advice was good.

Smoked quail eggs

NOMA Smoked quail eggs

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Then came one of the classic NOMA signature dishes of a flower pot with radishes planted in hazelnut soil. You scoop up the soil and an emulsion that lies below the soil to taste the deliciousness of the whole. You eat the radishes leaves and all - so fresh and perfect.

Radishes planted in soil

NOMA Radishes planted in soil

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Then came one of the most ethereal food experiences we have ever had. This dish was a will-'o-the-wisp - it was there one minute and gone the next but the flavours lingered and the sheer perfection of the dish will stay with us for a long time. On the bottom was some incredibly thin herb toast - just thick enough to allow you to pick up the morsel but thin so that it dissolved instantly on eating. Then some vinegar powder, an emulsion of smoked cod roe and then topped with a duck stock film created by drying out the skin that forms on the top of a rich stock. The flavour in this element was amazing. The whole dish was a study in lightness and flavour - it captured exactly what we crave in food - restraint, technical excellence, flavour, lightness - and above all deliciousness. Technical wizardry is for nought if the end result doesn't taste wonderful - this did!

Smoked cod roe wafer

NOMA Smoked cod roe wafer

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Next came a visually stunning snack in the form of a savoury doughnut Aebleskivers with a small fish poked through it. Inside was a ball of lightly pickled cucumber rather than the more traditional apple (aeble) and the doughnut was sprinkled with a topping of vinegar powder to counteract the natural sweetness of the dough.

Fish doughnut

NOMA Fish doughnut

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And that was it - for snacks!

As a sign of how beautifully light and delicious the food so far had been we decided to by-pass the seven course degustation and instead opt for the full 12 course extravaganza matched, today, with champagnes.

Now bread was brought to the table. Wrapped in a special felt covering was a loaf of bread made from an ancient Scandinavian grain. It was soft inside but with an incredible crunchy crust. Served with it was a bowl of 'virgin' butter (butter made before the buttermilk has been extracted and some pure pork fat topped with finely chopped pork scratchings.

Virgin butter and pork fat

NOMA Virgin butter and fat

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NOMA bread loaf

NOMA Bread

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And then to the meal!

The first dish saw three slices of marinated beets presented. Two were very black from being marinated in onion ash reduced in oil. The dish was finished with sorrel, rapeseed oil and three little orbs of dried malt bread to provide texture.

Marinated beets

NOMA Marinated beets

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Next was a scallop dish with a difference. The scallops had been dried at 80 degrees to develop caramelised and even roasted nuances (there were some hints of the Chinese conpoy here). The slices of scallop were placed over small mounds of four different biodynamic grains that were brought together with watercress puree. These were sitting on an inky black sauce made from squid and seaweed. Some toasted hazelnuts provided additional texture.

Dried scallops and grains

NOMA Dried scallops and grains

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Next came the famous beef tartar dish. Diced beef (the dices are more the size of an Ethiopian kitfo than the minced texture of a European tartar) is hidden beneath a cloak of wood sorrel and tiny onion rings on a plate dusted with juniper powder and dabbed with tarragon emulsion. You pick up some of the beef and sorrel in your hand and drag it through the powder and the emulsion before savouring its delicious flavour. This dish displayed perfect seasoning and perfect balance.

Beef tartar (close up)

NOMA Beef tartar

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Beef tartar (full view)

NOMA Beef tartar

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Plates were replaced by a large rock to present a dish of Danish langoustine with dots of oyster emulsion (NOMA often uses proteins to emulsify oils) sprinkles of crushed rye bread and a power made from Icelandic seaweed. As with the tartar, we picked up the langoustine and dragged it through the other components to season the protein. The langoustine was cooked to just set and the richness of the flesh was a nice foil to the other seasonings.

Langoustine on a rock

NOMA Langoustine on a rock

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A large, lidded cast-iron dish was then placed in front of us. When the lid was removed, a sliced oyster was sitting in its shell on top of pebbles studded with delicate seaweed. The oysters was topped with shaved horseradish and fish roe (caviar pearls), tiny piquant capers and sea herbs.

Oyster in a pot

NOMA Oyster in a pot

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Oyster sans lid

NOMA Oyster sans lid

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Danish potatoes were then presented in a number of ways in the one dish. A creamed potato puree sat in the bottom of the dish studded in this puree were some dense tiny whole potatoes and scattered around were some incredibly small and delicate potato chips and some scrumptious sorrel stems. This was matched to a wine that was new to us - a white wine made from the Pinot Noir grape in the Champagne region.

Potatoes of various textures

NOMA Potatoes of various textures

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We accompanied this celebration of potatoes with a most extraordinary wine! We knew about the red and white still wines of the Coteaux Champenoise, but when we were playfully offered a taste of a still white wine from Champagne and asked for the grape variety we were both wrong! This was not a Chardonnay but a white wine vinified from Pinot Noir by the domaine Andre Beaufort. This Grand Cru beauty from Ambonnay was one of the highlights of a day of very good wines. Vinified naturally this wine was also bottled without the additional of sulphur leading to its extraordinary purity and liveliness on the palate.

Andre Beaufort Coteaux Champenoise Ambonnay Blanc

NOMA Andr?eaufort Coteaux Champenoise Ambonnay Blanc

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The vegetable theme continued with a carefully cooked dense dark purple carrot which had been basted with butter for almost an hour was served strewn with wild and garden sorrel leaves and more of the delicious sorrel stems on a black sauce made from Swedish summer truffles and rapeseed oil. This dish demonstrated how important the process of growing and selecting produce is for a restaurant such as NOMA. It was a combination of the quality of the ingredients and the care and skill with the cooking that made this dish so special.

Purple carrot with summer truffles

NOMA Purple carrot with summer truffles

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Two cylinders of Norwegian crab had been poached for three minutes then served with two identically sized cylinders of jet-black hay-ashed leeks (harking back to a Viking cooking method). This time the accompanying sauce was emulsified with mussels and bread was used for texture.

Norwegian crab and ashed leek

NOMA Norwegian crab and ashed leek

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Next came a dish called Egg in Hay. A very hot metal dish was placed on the table along with a duck egg, fresh spinach, herb butter, Ramson onion leaves, fried potato curls along with fresh herbs and flowers.

Egg in hay: The side dishes

NOMA Egg in hay: The side dishes

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We were given very specific instructions on what to do and what not to do to cook our duck egg. This included placing a timer on the table to precisely check the cooking time.

Egg in hay: The timer

NOMA Egg in hay: The timer

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Rapeseed oil went into the pan then we cracked the egg in. A timer was immediately set and we were instructed to wait for exactly two minutes.

Egg in hay: The egg is cooked

NOMA Egg is cooked

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When the time was up we placed the butter in the pan and then the spinach and Ramson leaves. When these had wilted we scattered the herbs and broken pieces of the potato to complete the dish. This was a fun event turning us into chefs in the world's top restaurant!

Egg in hay: The egg is ready

NOMA Egg is ready

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A lethal looking hunting knife appeared for the next course which turned out to be one of the few pieces of pure protein served.

Hunting knife for summer deer

NOMA Hunting knife

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This dish saw a small puck of pink-cooked 'summer' deer served together with many of the wild-grown foods that it lived on. Tiny chanterelle mushrooms, chick weed, fiddlehead ferns, lettuce root, burnt wild asparagus and wild grape leaves were bound with a woodruff sauce and a mushroom bouillon made with cep oil. The dish looked spectacular and tasted wonderful. The hunting knife was a pleasant folly because the deer was so tender that it provided no resistance. Once again the freshness and quality of the ingredients and the harmony on the plate were important.

Summer deer with wild vegetables and herbs

NOMA Summer deer with wild vegetables and herbs

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A soft cloud of sheep's milk yoghurt mousse was accompanied by a lovely savoury sorrel granita and topped with a thin slice of nougatine studded with fennel seeds.

Sheep's milk yoghurt mouse with sorrel granita

NOMA Sheep's milk yoghurt mouse with sorrel granita

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Fresh Danish strawberries that have a very short season were plated with hay parfait and the dish was strewn with camomile flowers and pods along with elderflowers.

Danish fresh strawberries

NOMA Danish fresh strawberries

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A stunning carrot dessert followed. A carrot sorbet was coated in a light buttermilk foam and surrounded by slices of carrot treated in different ways.

Carrot ice cream accompanied by carrots

NOMA Carrot ice cream accompanied by carrots

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A Jerusalem artichoke ice cream was made from a puree of artichoke mixed with a milk ice cream. It was served with disks of compressed apple, apple sauce and some tiny coins of malt shortbread cookies. Intense marjoram leaves were strewn over the dish.

Artichoke ice cream, compressed apples and shortbread

NOMA Artichoke ice cream, compressed apples and shortbread

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It was the last dish in an intriguing and delightful meal, so we retired to relax over a green tea and to sample the mignardise that are invariably offered in restaurants throughout Europe. The tea was fantastic and the mignardise were a delight.

First came a Danish Fleurboller which is like a chocolate covered marshmallow.

Chocolate marshmallow

NOMA Chocolate marshmallow

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Then came a little parcel wrapped in brown paper.

Secret mignardise - wrapped!

NOMA Secret mignardise - wrapped

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On opening the parcel we were presented with two marrow bones. This was very curious. We were advised to extract the marrow bone with our finger. This turned out to be a rich caramel made with smoked marrow bone fat! A stunning flavour.

Secret mignardise - unwrapped!

NOMA Secret mignardise ? unwrapped

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Finally we enjoyed a potato chip dipped in chocolate. Now the meal was truly finished!

Potato chip dipped in chocolate

NOMA Potato chip dipped in chocolate

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During the course of this review, we hope to have conveyed just how impressed we were with everything about NOMA. We travel to lots of interesting places and visit many top restaurants, but this is a place set apart. We were just so impressed with the fact that the flavour on the plate is the most important thing here. Technology is used, foraged plants are used, transformational techniques are used, but it is always to provide a flavour on the plate that is exciting and profound.

 
     


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