Eating with my eyes; Part II – A mind expanding evening at Noma

For three consecutive years, Noma, a small restaurant housed in an old warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been named the best in the world by Restaurant magazine. It is safe to say that right now it, and its head chef and co-owner, Rene Redzepi are at the centre of the culinary universe. A few days ago, I was lucky enough to be able to dine there, and to say it was amazing really doesn’t do the place justice. It was simply out of this world. Much like the Osteria Francescana, about which I have previously written, artistry and beautiful presentation are crucial at Noma, and I want to talk a little about this, as well as my general experience of the restaurant.

Potato and duck liver (apologies for the quality of the photo)

In total, there were 22 different courses in the evening, and I obviously don’t have enough words to write about all of them in detail, but I’ll try and convey a general sense of what we ate. The first 10 or so courses were a series of small bites, all to be eaten with our fingers and shared around the table, which was delightful, and proved to be a real talking point amongst my party, made up of myself, my parents and my good friend Rory. Highlights of this finger food included; Crispy pork skin and black currant, potato and duck liver, and radish, soil and grass, which was brought to the table in a plant pot, and genuinely looked like a potted plant, until we were told that the soil et al was edible!

Crispy pork skin and black currant

Perhaps the most exciting and simultaneously scary part of the finger food though was the live shrimp, which has been a controversial dish at Noma. Four supposedly stunned shrimp are brought to the table alongside a beurre noisette dip and you just tuck in. It was actually quite nice, and nowhere near as scary as I’d anticipated.

On top of our appetisers, we were served 8 main courses, and 2 puddings, all of which were deeply rooted in the philosophy of Noma: the idea that food should give the diner a feeling of ‘time and place’ before they eat. That the food should be both seasonal and locally sourced. At Noma, if it isn’t from Scandinavia and it isn’t in season, it isn’t on the menu. The presentation of the food tended to be earthy, and was far less grand than at the Osteria Francescana. For instance, an oyster dish at Noma was served on a plate covered in glazed pebbles, clearly attempting to replicate a pebble beach, which I found to be an interesting touch.

Oyster from Limfjorden with Gooseberry and buttermilk

What I enjoyed about the presentation of the vast majority of dishes, is that they were without unnecessary embellishment, they looked almost as though they were like nature intended them. This was most true of the ‘Cauliflower and pine with cream and horseradish’, which was presented with two branches of pine, there only to emphasise that this dish was very much rooted in nature.

Cauliflower and pine with Cream and horseradish
The oyster once again, this time sans shell!

There were very few precise swirls and dots of sauce, with a nice spoonful or even a dollop favoured. This rustication of the presentation, in my eyes at least, reflects the restaurant’s creed, and helps to showcase the ingredients, without placing too much emphasis on style, as some modern restaurants can do. Instead the dishes, even down to the tableware they were served on, were made to look earthy and rustic, whilst still retaining a great degree of refinement, which I believe is a huge credit to the chef. All in all, my trip to Noma was as eye opening as it was delicious, and if you can get a table, I’d thoroughly recommend making a trip to Copenhagen.

 

Cauliflower again, shrubbery removed.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on Noma, please go to my personal blog at http://custardandjelly.wordpress.com/

Noma is co-owned by head chef Rene Redzepi and business partner Claus Meyer in Copenhagen, Denmark. Visit www.noma.dk for more information.

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