I love the autumn. The colourful trees in bright yellow and powerful red coats, the blue water peeping out between the naked branches at the far end of my garden, the brown leaf on the lawn of my cottage. The autumn is my favourite season, the scents so earthy of moist decay, the red squirrel collecting acorns for its winter storeroom at the feet of the old oak in middle of the garden, the mild damp smell of nuts and mushrooms. Cold mornings, regretting not wearing my gloves cycling to work; to be greeted by the most stunning sun rises colouring the sky decorated with clouds. That is something. After my splendid evening at noma in early August, I was floating. But after a fortnight, withdrawals set in. I was feeling love-sick and had to do something about it. I was ill and I needed medication.
For years I’ve been hearing about these wonderful and famous restaurants always abroad and too far away to really explore them. Then, all of a sudden there is a star in my own back garden. Lucky me. Thank you Yin, for reminding me!
To experience noma’s magical cuisine made of the products I see when I go for a walk on the beach on the North coast of Zealand or in the woods – that’s so inspiring. The fact the Danish herbs can take part in such a stunning dining adventure is amazing, and in a way it makes me proud.
Anyway, although I tried to stay away from noma’s website, on 18th of August I couldn’t resist any longer and booked my table for a lunch about two months later. Really wanted to go sooner but couldn’t fit it into my busy schedule.
Noma in the Autumn. I have experienced noma in the spring and summer, and I now wanted to see what the fruits of the fall would bring me.
Tuesday, 9th of October was the day, my day. On my way to the restaurant I couldn’t help myself smiling. I felt like a little child at Christmas’ eve so full of sparkling expectations and impatience. Then seeing the high flagpoles of noma’s neighbouring North Atlantic House made me so glad. Noticing the tiny noma door sign further away made my heart jump once and speed up a bit. I was so excited that I could barely open the door to restaurant, partly because it’s very heavy, but also because I knew that at the very instant of entering, the much appreciated and happily looking forward to it would end immediately.
With a glass of the good N.V. Agrapart champagne of grapes from nine different parcels and the usual snack of herbs dip, skin and groats crisps, I was ready to go.
Smoked and pickled quail’s egg
Like at my August visit, I got the delicious pickled and smoked quail’s egg, but this day it arrived in a dotted eggshell designed especially for noma, and it fitting nicely the warm colours and nature-sentiment of the place. For some reason the funny softness and moistness of the sticky egg combined with the smoke reminded me of the Italian Scamorza cheese. Again this little egg was very enjoyable and perfectly salted.
The clear and fresh appetizer of Löjrom with milk skin, iced horseradish, herbs, rye bread crisps spiced up with apple vinegar and oil from cold pressed rapes made a fantastic starter. When taking a bit of everything I got this divinity in my mouth, the cool and pronounced horseradish and the sweet milk and salty roes. I did not at all sense the skinniness of it. It was all pleasure and I felt good about being finally back at my favourite place in Copenhagen.
King crabs and ashed leeks
The wonderful King crabs. How can I describe this? Well, it was delicious in a gentle way. It was like a lover’s passionate touch on the cheek, the little gesture that tells you everything. This was everything. The tasty poached crab meat side by side with the leeks was a very good match, and the black ashes broke the total roseate, idyllic picture of it and added a bit of character. The smell of the toasted bread crumbs still warm and comprising salt suited nicely the sea fruits of crab and the mussel emulsion, which I think the white sauce was at the bottom. A lovely dish.
Mackerel and dried gooseberries, walnuts and anise
Warning! Turn down the sound on your machine before you watch the video. Unfortunately this clip is the only visual image I have of the dish, as I was so seduced by the dancing smoke swirling mysteriously over the fish that I forgot to photograph it.
Anyway, raw mackerel of highest quality with a fennel and dill soup spiced with walnuts, anise and nitrogen cooled gooseberries. I don’t think that I have ever gotten such delicious mackerel fish before, and the green soup was very fresh in taste. It was a very good course and a nice and surprising experience, but somehow it lacked something, and I’m not sure what – sweetness perhaps.
Mushroom and birch wine bouillon, egg yolk and chickweed
The look of this dish very much presented the tastiness of it. The mushrooms were of different textures, all very earthy and full in taste. The flavour of the birch wine bouillon somewhat resembled that of malt, but the soup had a lighter feeling to it. The egg yolk in the middle of the plate was softly poached, to keep it from messing up the nice look of the soup. The yolk added substance, the cracker added salt and the fresh herbs provided perspective. I’m a huge mushroom fan and this course was great – back on track.
The wine I had was a German 2005 Spätburgunder, I forgot the producer, sorry. The nose was fresh and fruity and had hints of kerosine and the taste was cool and a little bit closed at the beginning. After a while it offered warm pepper and a lot of fruit to the palate, I loved the clear Pinot Noir taste of it. The after-taste was shortish, but after some time in the glass more fruit evolved and the kerosine disappeared. Lau (head waiter I think) had suggested a fruity wine for the bouillon and I couldn’t agree more – this fruit bomb was a brilliant match and extended the whole experience. Bravo!
Ox-tails and verbena, apples and Jerusalem artichokes
I’ve had ox-tails many times before and especially as a kid. My mum would cook the tail cut in big and smaller pieces, and I ate it holding the bone between my thumb and index finger, sucking the tender meat and sometimes almost choking on the jelly-like ox fat. Although my mum is a great cook, this noma ox-tails were at least a hundred times better. White paper thin apple slices alternated by thick bites of Jerusalem artichokes, and next to them a boneless meat heap full of pure ox taste. The meat was covered by a delicate apples jelly, an intense and rich ox stock accompanied it and green verbena leaves were sprinkled about. The scent of the dish was heavenly, sweet and flowery. The verbena is a very particular herb, very perfumed and with such impression of flavours. It’s sweet like apples, and aromatic like garden balm with acidic notes.
The brilliance of the this main course also lied in the pairing of the Jerusalem artichokes and the ox meat with the apples and verbena herb. The sweetness was controlled by the sour. If anything was ever perfect, it has to be this dish, so cleverly imagined, a valley of paradisiac beauty. The highlight.
With a 2000 Henri Bonneau, Chateneuf du Pape it couldn’t be more delightful. The wine is entirely (?) composed by Grenache grapes, soft as silk, and fruity with a very delicious palate. It was full flavoured and had a very, very long after-taste. A great wine to go with the wonderful ox-tails.
Skyr sorbet, elderflower mousse, macaroons and wood sorrel
The next dish wasn’t either part of the menu, and what a sweet surprise it was. The beautiful and pink look of it was underlining the femininity of noma’s cuisine. The taste of it was so marvellous that I felt totally bashful. I still remember the lovely flavour of the sweet and perfumed elderflower mousse, which was balanced with the fruity citrus-flavoured skyr sorbet and the fresh sorrel. It was a perfect dessert to my taste and wondered if I could get my local ice-cream shop to fabricate such a fantastic sorbet.
Goat cheese and tarragon, blackberry segments
The main dessert looked kinda funny. It consisted of goat cheese ice-cream pointing directly at me, and rolled in frozen blackberry granules. Tarragon dust supported it as well as a blackberry juice. The flavours were perfectly balancing each other and really the strengths of the dish, a very interesting concept, but not really sweet. Mixing all the ingredients made the taste very good, although I don’t fancy goat cheese that much. I wondered whether some molecular prescription has instructed that tarragon eliminates the woollen goat milk’s annotations, because it truly hid the goat-ish taste of it. And I was happy that the white dust was so generously dozed. I imagine that to a goat cheese lover the dessert would have been heavenly.
The sweetness which wasn’t pronounced in this dessert was surely found in the wine. A 2005 Domaine Richard Leroy, Noëls de Montbenault, Coteaux du Layon Faye D’Anjou, France with a delightful golden colour and a sweet palate but with body too, making it very enjoyable. It added an extra dimension to the course – I mean frequently the wine is a food support, but here it had it’s own identity and that was remarkably nice and unique about it.
A cup of coffee
You know that I have a sweet tooth, and I’m specially keen on flødeboller. Oh, how much I had hoped for it to re-join the coffee. It was absolutely delicious and with a very fresh-made mousse, which is the key to a good flødebolle. Note the stone under the pink beetroot amuse: It was very cold and prevented the chocolate from immediately starting to melt. In fact, it was just like it had spent all day long in the fridge just waiting for me. Yum yum!
I was lunching alone on this occasion, completely enjoying everything about it; watching the view of the room, and I admit, the other guests in the room to see how they were liking it. I just loved being there, and the peace of it entirely on my own, being back, tasting the wonderful food, feeling surprised and seduced once again.
I must mention again the picturesque beauty of each dish, which were presented before me. I always enjoy the food more when all my senses are being stimulated.
I had a wonderful time not least because of the hospitality of the staff, who totally spoilt me. Laurent speaks of serenity and the fact that it seemed like they were risking their life on each dish coming out of the kitchen. He is right! And I’d like to add that it’s the way that every single person working there is passionate about the place, cherish it, they care – otherwise they wouldn’t be there.
Going back to noma is for me like coming home, the service friendly but still adequately distinct, the atmosphere cosy but still elegant. I love the staff’s humour and wit.
Serenity, pureness and honesty. Big words I know. Well not too big for what noma is capable of.
Thank you, Rene.
And thank you, Lau.
I’m still in love! Very much.
Ps. Already booked again for next month. Couldn’t help it.