NOMA was awarded the Best Restaurant in the World 2010-2012 and 2014 (currently #2 in 2019), two Michelin stars, and its chef and creator Rene Redzepi almost single handedly has changed the face of Nordic cuisine and started the local foraged ingredient trend in restaurants across the world. He relentlessly innovates and invests both money and time in discovering the possibilities of the ingredients he uses and the frontier of new ingredients yet to be discovered and incorporated into gastronomy. But beyond that, what inspires me most about Rene is his passion for discovery and the philosophy of knowledge over profit that he cultivates within his team, who then one by one go back into the world and spark new discovery wherever they go.
The new NOMA is built along a thin peninsula connected to similar peninsulas by bridges on the outskirts of the Christiania community. The grounds are actually a bit narrower than I had expected with water on one side and a large hill on the other. The main building is a long thin structure a bit further in with a couple of long greenhouses closer to the road. You are greeted at the roadside and lead into the first greenhouse to wait for your time to enter which is coordinated. The greenhouse has a variety of beds under grow lights, roots drying from the ceiling, a collection of jars reminiscent of a mad scientist’s lab labeled with white stickers with organs and octopi and fermentations presumably aging but equal parts show. At the far end are wooden benches covered in wool hides and you’re handed an herbal tea while you wait. I shazaamed the music and it was pleasingly music created to help plants grow. How perfect.
[Note: You’re not allowed to walk around the restaurant grounds and there’s no bar to wait at so don’t show up early. You’re expected to show up on time as the experience is timed somewhat.]
When your time comes you’re lead out the back door and onto a concrete walk that goes the length of the property to the back dining room. They’ve made a fire near the door and you get to pass the waterway as you stroll but you really don’t get to see the grounds other than that. You’re met at the door and shown to your table. The ceilings are high and the interior is decorated with natural accents like dockwood and seashells. The general ambiance is dim and romantic with a single accent light pointed at the middle of each table.
As you walk to your table you’re led past the main assembly kitchen which is open and situated in the center of the room. All of the cooks stop and greet you, say hi and welcome you, and generally lavish attention on you as you arrive. Members of the kitchen would come to present and describe each course. We had several people serving and describing the wine. And occasionally someone would stop by just for hospitality and ask us questions and engage us with conversation. Everyone was very passionate and engaging and seemed comfortable and happy to be there. You could tell that inviting you into the cooking was part of the experience. And honestly getting a few moments with these talented people was one of the highlights of the meal. Half way through the meal, the Sous Chef, Luke Kolpin, came out to talk with us because he was from Seattle and he was very kind and chatted with us for a bit.
You’re served water in ceramic cups with warm towels. The main discussion is whether you’re having the wine pairing (which we both chose) and the courses started coming shortly after.
Real fresh scallop
A scallop kept alive until just before serving. Cleaned and served in the shell with a bit of the scallop roe. You pull the shell apart and use the top as a spoon to separate the scallop and to eat. Clean, delicious, almost creamy in taste and texture.
Sweet shrimp and sweet cream
Fresh dutch shrimp with roe and cream. The shrimp were so creamy they tasted like the cream.
Best part of the mussel
Mussels served two ways. The first one had slivers of almonds and the second had foraged seaweed and sauce underneath. The seaweed had this unusual flavor that’s hard to describe but I like that one the best.
Seaweed from our foragers
This one had a crunchy base like a tostada and on top was foraged seaweed and sliced quince. Katy really liked this one.
Lumpfish roe and cured eggyolk
This one had roe on top of cured eggyolk with a creamy sauce and thin crunchy slices of broccoli stem.
Sea lettuce ravioli
The sea lettuce was a little crunchy.
Melt-on-the-tongue red shrimp
For this dish they boiled stock, collected the skin that formed on top, and then deep fried it with partially dried shrimp. It melted in your mouth. A little flavor bomb.
Salad of sea urchin and pumpkin
Creamy sea urchin row with a layer of sliced almonds and quince.
Squid and seaweed butter
One of the best courses of the night. Tender strips of squid with a rich brown butter cooked down with seaweed. They left extra sauce to pour on. The sauce was fantastic.
Black pepper turbot steak
A play on classic beef pepper steak. A square of turbot fillet with a sauce and black pepper. The fish was firm, you needed to cut it with a knife. It came with a little bowl of potent horseradish liquid.
Roasted cod roe
Cod fish roe sacks roasted and then sliced on top of fermented bulger with an umami mushroom sauce.
Sea snail and winter greens
A little salad of sliced sea snails and a variety of greens and crunchy bits.
Sea snail with dried summer tomatoes
This next bit came out shortly after the snail salad was served. It was two small dried tomatoes on a shell skewer with some broth.
King crab feast:
This was the main course and they divided it into three components that came one at a time.
Barbecued leg and collar
The crab leg came first. A leg segment cooked, sliced, and opened to make it easy, and a piece of the collar that was just roasted and served attached to the shell. They also included a QR code that if you scanned it would show you where your crab was caught, it’s weight, and other details about that particular crab.
Lion’s mane mushroom
Shortly after the crab they delivered a skewer of roasted lion’s mane mushroom. This was very dense.
And then finally a bowl full of seaweed with a broth on the bottom. You drank the broth through the seaweed and it flavored the broth. (but you didn’t eat the seaweed).
Dessert of wild, dried autumn berries
A ring of strongly flavored dried berries around a light custard.
Sea star with cardamom
This was a caramel shaped like a starfish and dusted with cardamom. It’s the only course without any fish element in it.
Cod skin cooked with white chocolate
And finally a crispy cod skin painted with white chocolate on one side and dappled with freeze dried berries. The crisp of the berries matched the crisp of the skin.
The end of the meal
Normally at this point they ask if you want a cab and lead you out when it arrives. But we had heard that in the back there was a lounge and we should be sure to check it out. It wasn’t offered to us initially but I inquired and after confirming there was room we were offered a table with another local couple who were already there and were celebrating a birthday. They were very gracious and offered a bite of his birthday cake they had made for him. (I should have mentioned it was my birthday). I really loved getting their perspective on the city and travelling.
The lounge is just past the first kitchen and faces the water, chunky marble blocks as coffee tables and a few wooden tables with chairs. White brick with natural wood. The drink selection was modest but yummy: three cocktails, beer, and wine.
A tour behind the scenes
When the birthday couple left they offered to take us all on a tour. I think it was a small perk for his birthday. We opted to stay a bit longer. But when we left I asked if we could get the tour now and they found someone to show us around. It was great! We first got a walk-through of the main kitchen that was attached to the dining room which was primarily assembly and met a few cooks. But then we got to go a bit further back and see the second kitchen where much of the cooking was done. Then on to the staff eating area where they do family meal. We saw the fresh seafood tanks and test kitchens.
Eventually we passed by the fermentation lab which was busy with activity. I asked our guide if all of the fermentation had moved into this space or if they still had the fermentation barge like they used to and he said, “I don’t know, let’s ask the chef.” So he pulls us inside and waves over Chef David Zilber, the head fermentation chef and co-author of the recent NOMA book on fermentation. This was unexpected and I was a bit star struck. I’m a huge fan of his and had recently attended his talk about the book with Rene. I probably should have asked for a picture but I always feel awkward interrupting people. But it was nice to meet him in person and have a quick chat about fermentation.
We were then whisked away to our cab and our evening at NOMA came to a close.
2018 Himmel auf Erden Noma – Christian Tschida – Illmitz
2017 Lefs Meurgers des Dents Chien – Dominique Derain – Saint Aubin
2017 Riesling Grand Cru Muenchberg – Patrick Meyer – Nothalten
2018 Tsolikouri – John Wurdeman – Imereti
2017 Ishi No Kanbase – Mami Wakabayashi – Shimane
2018 Bianco Frizzante – Podere Magia – Reggio Emilia
Porta #4 – Zsolt Sütú – Strekov
2015 Troubadour – Gabriele & Regis Dansault – Montlouis-sur-Loire