I count myself amazingly fortunate to dine at the places that I do. When my sister asked if I wanted to return to Noma, of course I said, even if it meant flying overseas to Copenhagen for a weekend break. Last year, Noma had been voted on San Pellegrino’s Top 50 as number 3 only to move up to number one this year.
I have no idea how long it took but we did manage to get a booking for a leisurely Saturday lunch in October. Since they focus on seasonal produce, this journey was a great test to compare how different or similar the dining experiences.
If our first dish was anything to go by, the entire meal was going to be something completely different. Our first dish, Nasturtiums and Snails brought in a flower vase brought edible flowers for us to eat with the small snail. Already deshelled, the snail provided a soft, slightly chewy texture to contrast with the fresh flavours of the flower both providing very subtle hints to the overall dish.
Our next dish arrived on their standard gray plate made up of Sea Buckthorn Leather and Pickled Hip Roses. It reminded me very much of those flavoured fruit strips you might have eaten as a child, slightly chewy, slightly sweet with the hint of sourness provided by the pickling.
Up next was a savory cookie served with blackcurrant paste, “speck” and a spring of pine”. The cookie had salt instead of sugar that served to intensify the Danish cured pork fat sitting on top. I expected the spring to be excessively chewy but surprised me at its softness – much more like a herb than a plant.
Here’s a closer view of the dish:
Next was a dish I remember from last time, and looking at a number of blogs seems to be a signature Noma “classic” whose filling changes depending on the seasons. Served once again on their gray plate, this dish is crispy rye bread, crispy chicken skin filled with a light paste. You end up with some interesting textures in the mouth with each bite and the skin and filling adds saltiness to enhance the strongly flavoured ingredients.
Our next dish was new to me, made with very simple ingredients and lots of technique they presented Fried leek with garlic. Only the very bottom of the leek had been fried so you had the mellow earthy tones with your first bite with the rest of the leek providing a natural handle for the dish. I’m guessing their garlic was precooked and rolled into a small ball since its flavour tasted so mellow.
Another Noma signature dish arrived in its extravagant shell, pickled and smoked quail egg. It’s still amazing to see the egg open and get the whiff of smoke wafting off the hay and its flavours impacted on the tiny, perfectly cooked eggs.
For me, the next dish, radish and carrot with soil and herbs tasted better for me. Firstly I knew much more how to eat the dish, using the vegetable to better scoop up the yogurt base and catch more of that tantalising crunchy roasted malt “dirt”. Secondly I think the carrot added another dimension of slight sweetness to the overall dish.
A real heart-winner this dish including its presentation and flavours.
Our next dish, aebleskiver, Danish pancakes with a sardine was intriguing upon first glance. Seeing those tiny fish encased in, what looked like, a small donut first looked amusing and then seemed a bit of a strange combination. Just like all the things here at Noma, it definitely worked as well with the sardine not being overpoweringly salty or fishy.
Our next snack was a sandwich that seemed very close to our previous rye bread/chicken skin dish. This blog describes the dish in much better detail than I can, though I certainly enjoyed every single little bite.
By now, all of the dishes that arrived were all the appetisers that had our outstanding meal off to a good start. Then the bread arrived, this time served with butter and pork fat. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the pork fat since its flavour was too strong for my liking and perhaps just not quite accustomed to smearing it on my bread.
The bread, on the other hand, I couldn’t stop eating. The sourdough bread arrived in tiny blanket to keep its warmth and with its perfect crunchy crust kept us going back for just “a bit more”. Thankfully other dishes soon arrived that distracted me from gorging too much on the bread.
Next up came Roasted lettuce blended with blanched, flaked almonds. I didn’t think lettuce had that much flavour and so they surprised me by how intense the lettuce flavour tasted when roasted and blended down into such a richly green concentrate. The light almonds added a slightly different dimension and much welcome change in texture to this this.
Looking at our next dish, Dried Scallops, Watercress with Biodynamic Cereals and Hazel Nut looked very impressive though I couldn’t help think that that dried scallops looked much more like uncooked prawn crackers than anything else. Drying the scallops intensified their flavours which went well with the other elements to the dish without being excessively overpowering.
Our chefs made a slight mistake bringing the next dish, The Oyster and the Sea out before we’d finished our next dish. I hadn’t appreciated how much effort it took to time this dish, so when it did arrive I better understood they probably had to make our dishes from scratch again. For this dish, the chefs theatrically arrive at the same time, surrounding the table before they descend with a small, heated pot that they uncover at the table to the sight of wilting seaweeds and a fresh oyster half steamed from the fresh sea scents on top.
Next came a dish showcasing onions of many different textures. On the menu it listed this dish as ‘Læsø’ onion, onion cress and thyme + tapioca + onion broth.
Our next dish got us involved in cooking in and was a really fun experience involving very simply but interesting ingredients. We started off with Hay Oil, some herbs and a small pat of herbed butter.
They then brought a Heated plate to the table.
This dish, labelled, The Hen and the Egg had us frying our own eggs for exactly one and a half minutes. Our chef squirted on the hay oil to each of our plates, letting it heat up. We then cracked our egg, letting it fry, before adding the thyme butter with lovage and spinach to wilt slightly. The chef returned a little later to finish the dish throwing herbs, flowers and little potato strands before leaving us to enjoy our own creations. Note that no one was hurt in this cooking process.
Transitioning into our final course for the tasting menu, we had Deer and Wild Thyme, Red Beets and Red Fruit. Accompanied by a rather oversized traditional-looking knife, the deer was so soft we didn’t really need it after all.
Our first dessert course started with Hay and Chamomile Ice with Sorrel and Wild Herbs . It worked really surprisingly well and tasted much better than it looks on the plate.
Our final dessert, “Gammel Dansk”, Ice Cream, Milk and Woodsorrel provided a light way to finish off the tasting menu. If you’ve ever tried the terrible Gammel Dansk (Danes have much fun serving it to foreigners), I was surprised to have its strong flavour infused rather modestly into the ice cream. The light, white milk wafers that you see also ended up being very light and added that lovely crispy dimension.
Finishing the meal, with our peppermint tea, we started on the petite fours that followed – definitely worthwhile getting.
First our waiters arrived with some interesting packages and tins.
Inside laid their justifiably famous bone marrow caramel. It’s a strange caramel that has a strong meat flavour and even served in the rounded bone. Not for the faint hearted and wasn’t exactly everyone’s favourite. I really enjoyed this dish though.
Next up was a bitter chocolate covered potato chip sprinkled with fennel seeds. The fennel provided a savoury contrast to the chocolate and the potato chip adding the crunchy dimension.
We finished off the petite fours with the classic Danish Marshmallow coated in chocolate and sat on a small biscuit base. Fortunately not as big as the ones you see around town since they tend to be excessively sweet.
For my second visit to this restaurant, Noma continued to impress. The waiters, who I think also act as chefs finishing off the various dishes buzzed around and helped make us feel really welcome. In fact, when they found out when we were Australian, they went out of their way to make sure every Aussie chef came to say hello (and there were quite a few).
The fire alarm went off just before the end of our meal and so we rushed outside like any good person. Almost immediately, a staff member arrived with a plate full of champagne flutes, ensuring that we were as comfortable as we could be on the windy dock. The waiters and chefs continually chatted to us as we stood around outside waiting for the firemen to make sure the building was safe for us to return (fortunately it was). For me, this is just yet another reason Noma rates so highly for service and its reputation.
Found at: Strandgade 93, Copenhagen, Denmark