Noma and the Surprise


Can you bear another noma post?

Mum and me like to meet for a mother-daughter day once or twice a year, and for our date set to 13 March 2008 I had decided that I would invite my mum to noma for lunch. Not the biggest surprise, I know, but anyway. My first revisit to noma was actually with my baby brother and my mum, where she tried the small menu. The day’s agenda was therefore to spoil my mum, as she really deserved it. I knew that it would be possible at noma. What I didn’t realise though, was that the lunch would turn out much more different from what I expected and from what I had planned.

Grey skies covered Copenhagen, sadly. It was raining several kinds of domestic animals and my mum hadn’t thought of bringing an umbrella, so the two of us clung on to mine and a rough storm made it hard even to hold the umbrella and not to let it slip out of my hands and fly away with the inside out.

Bread Crust

Bread crust to dip in Jerusalem artichokes cream with dried cod roes

A very nice and delicate first snack, where the sweetness of the Jerusalem artichokes cream matched the salty granules.

After the sightseeing and on our way to the restaurant my mum told me that my dad had suggested to join the lunch, but that he couldn’t be there until an hour later, and so she thought it was a bad idea and had told him not to come.

Smoked and pickled quails egg

Snack of Smoked and pickled quails egg

Anyway, after the tour that was more like an autumn day than spring, we arrived wet and messy to noma and was welcomed by Pontus, the sommelier and one of the owners of the establishment.

Radish and eggs (?) cream

Radishes with a cream of… something

It was great to eat fresh, new, crunchy and lovely radishes and to be reminded of the forth coming spring.

Lump fish roes sandwiches

Lump fish roes sandwiches

These little sandwiches were a whole new thing to me. The taste was creamy and slightly salty from the lump fish roes and the paper-thin bread slices. I enjoyed the popping and crunchy feeling of this mini packed lunch.

We got seated and my mum marvelled at all the snacks we were spoilt with and that I have described above. We were also offered birch wine. In the early spring the birch trees absorb a lot of water and the birch wine is quite simply the juice extract from the tree. Danish water contains a very high amount of chalk. I don’t usually think about it, until I sense the water from other sources that’s much softer. The birch wine had such a soft feeling to it and drinking it was a like the feeling of velour. I wasn’t able to taste any flavour with it at all.

Löjrom, cucumber and grain sticks

Amuse of Löjrom, cucumber and grain sticks

I didn’t mind at all that this was the second roe experience, because I love fish roes when they are of the high quality that noma provides. In this amuse the flavour of the little balls were subdued by the white cream. The cucumber added some acidity, which gave the dish more character and balance.

Anyway, back to the story. We had just taken our first bite of this course and then all of a sudden my dad entered the restaurant! Oh my goodness!

The background story is that I have wished to bring him to noma for a very long time, but there hasn’t been a good occasion yet. He’s not able to join for lunch on weekdays (or so I thought) and my weekends have been packed. I therefore didn’t think of offering him to accompany us.

My dad is very food savy (he’s in the fine food business), quality-conscious, and EXTREMELY critical about almost anything and especially about food. He also enjoys to state his opinions without considering what other people may think of it. But he is always honest, and I actually admire him for that.

I had speculated about brining him to noma, and the risk for me would be if he would not appreciate or comprehend the Nordic ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ that noma serves and is the founder of, in my opinion. I was willing to take that risk though – I would invite him when I would feel that the right moment had come. So, was this the right moment then?

Rene had planned a set menu for me and my mum and hadn’t budget for my dad also. My table was booked and confirmed for two people and that a third person should join us wasn’t at all what I had planned – and certainly not my dad, the master critic!

Now there I was, and in between my parents and felt like a teenager again, grumping over their behaviour and feeling embarrassed, because he jumped in just like that and without providing noma (or me) with an opportunity to be prepared. I like to be on top of things and feeling in control, so I guess that my grumpiness was more about that, and it really tells you a lot more about me than my parents. Of course the staff was surprised too, but they handled it totally professionally.

Okay, that was a digression.

Crudité

Crudité

Is this really eatable? I am asking because the beauty of it is so evident that it hardly looks like food. What I mean is, it doesn’t get any better for me, when a dish is pleasuring my eye the minute before I get to entertain my palate. Very thin cut and crunchy vegetables and a poached egg in the middle. I liked the taste of this dish a lot, but comparing it to the other courses I got that day, this was the least interesting for me, taste-wise that is.

Vegetables field from Lammefjorden

“Vegetable field” from Lammefjorden

This one, however, is one of my favourites dishes of all time. The mashed potatoes underneath made it gentle, and the malt crumble added salt and a bit of character to the pure taste of the lovely and softly cooked vegetables and herbs like new beautiful rucola flowers. I loved the look of it, which seemed to me a wonderful landscape with hills and valleys I could easily dig into.

Enjoying this dish my dad suddenly said: “Normally art is decorating the walls…” Can you imagine how good that made me feel? He liked it, he was impressed. And I felt happy.

Ramson onion and onions from Læsø, onion-cress and onion bouillon

Ramson onion and onions from Læsø, onion-cress and onion bouillon

Another wonderful and new invention of René’s brilliant mind and also one of the highlights that day. An onion bouillon in the centre of the plate with a creamy texture that resembled melted cheese, but without the taste. There was a nip of sweetness to it also. Small and fresh Læsø onions added spice and a crispy texture to it and gave balance to the sweet- and creamy-ness. The small, brown enjoyable balls are grains, but I forgot to note which kind.

At this point we asked for a glass of white wine and Pontus brought us a 2006 Riesling Nahe Spätlese trocken ‘Winninger Uhlen’ which was fantastic. It was intense as nectar, flowery, fruity, acidic, and sophisticated on both the nose and palate. But what I enjoyed the most about the wine was to see how much my parents liked it and was surprised by its excellence.

Sweetbread

Sweetbread, cauliflower, seaweed and rose hips

I do like sweetbread a lot. It’s a bit odd that I do, because I’m not too fond of fatty meat and especially not where I need to dissect the fat – because the fat is too jelly-like and gives me nausea.

This piece of sweetbread was quite big, but it was delicious and not too much. The cauliflower purée macerated the delicate meat flavour and bridged the seaweed and the astoundingly flavoured rose hips. I mean, think of a summer day as you pass by a beautiful rose bush in full bloom that emits a refined feminine perfume. Well, that was what this subtle and little leaf smelled and tasted like. The rose hips just took the dish to another level.

Six years old pork, truffles and herbs

Pork and wood sorrel, ramson onion and truffle emulsion

A six years old pig, how about that? The colour is more like that of veal and the taste was like nothing I would ever had guessed of being pork. It was great. I regret not taking note of what my mum thought of this dish and how my truffle-crazed dad liked the truffle emulsion. He got a different dish by the way, for as René said: ‘We didn’t gather any herbs for you today’.

I know that this review is very positive. So to state two things I was less impressed by then it was the champagne and the 1999 Chateauneuf-du-Pape which I think was Le Vieux Donjon (Lucien), but I’m not sure. The red lacked personality and expression. It was either fizzling out or didn’t get time enough to evolve.

Toasted Jerusalem artichokes and sea buckthorn

Toasted jerusalem artichokes and seabuck-thorn, malt and vinegar

This new dish presented a stunning harmonie of the Jerusalem artichokes (hidden) and the seabuck-thorn. The acidity like sprinted in my mouth and changed the taste of the Jerusalem artichokes. and the white meringue and the malt-brown ones lightly crunched and sparkles with the orange granité. Wonderful.

Dried berries and dried cream, walnuts and dust of walnuts

Dried berries and dried cream, walnuts and dust of walnuts

Yummy. I know this dish looks like it will give you the same dry feeling in your mouth as if you had eaten 10 biscuits with no tea or any kind of liquid. I can assure you, it was not at all like that. The taste of the walnuts was refined and delicate and the dried berries and the berries ice-cream were pure in taste.

So, was this a good day for my dad to discover noma? Yes, indeed. Both for the food and the great service from Kim, Jonas and Pontus.

Please forgive me for repeating myself, but I have to say this… again: Noma is sharp. The picturesque and pretty images which comprise only a few ingredients in a very transparent way and it still interesting and balanced in taste. The beautiful simplicity. That’s remarkable and that’s why I am so hopelessly in love with noma.

Thank you, guys! I can’t wait till my next visit.

36 Responses to “Noma and the Surprise”


  • Cool Neil! Thanks so much for the link. Hehe, an interesting read. I have still to try Alberto K.

    It’s also absolutely fantastic to get some feedback about what’s interesting for you to hear as the reader. Very valuable to me! I have considered this in my new soon to be published Pierre Gagnaire review. ;-)

    JC, thank you for your elaborations! :-)

  • Yesterday’s New York Times carried this article on what is happening in the Copenhagen kitchens – I thought you all might like it: http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/travel/04Choice.html?pagewanted=1

    Neil

  • I think some of the photos turned out well, but as daylight rapidly disappeared, the photos became less good. I forgot to use flash on a couple of photos (like the pork/asparagus/quail’s egg dish :( ), and I didn’t know how to control the flash power (I was borrowing a friend’s DSLR, because my camera kinda sucks, and forgot to look that up in the manual). I’ll be posting those photos and the noma photos soon.

    About atmosphere…I’m from Los Angeles, where it is rare to find a restaurant that isn’t so noisy that conversation can be difficult. Kiin Kiin was definitely very relaxed, but the noise level was still low compared to what I’m used to. noma felt just a bit more formal, but a little quieter (we were there for lunch, so the room wasn’t quite full). The service was also more formal, more polished and precise, but always warm and friendly, and never intimidating. Kiin Kiin, service-wise, was almost like being invited into someone’s home (I mean that in a good way), not quite as effortlessly professional as noma. Honestly, I have nothing to complain about with either place.

  • Thanks, JC. Btw, Henrik said you had a large camera with you at Kiin Kiin – did you get some good photos?

    Looking forward to hearing about your trip to Noma. One thing I would appreciate to hear more of in reports of visits to all these great restaurants is some comment on the atmosphere. For example, Kiin was very relaxed, lots of talking and people enjoying themselves. MR was almost hushed – a very different feel to the place. I’d be interested to hear how Noma was in your opinion.

    Neil

  • Neil, I must say that I loved the foie gras. It battles for second place with the fjordshrimp, perhaps having a slight edge because of the choking caused by the garlic dust. ;) The tamarind and lychee concoction was very sweet, but for me it gave a brightness to the dish which complemented the richness of the foie gras (although, by itself I thought the foie gras was heavenly). I think the sweetness did dominate the dish, so the balance between the two could have been just a little better, but I didn´t find it so overwhelming. If the sweetness had been more delicate, then there is the risk that the foie gras might overpower it, and considering the theme of the restaurant, I think it´s a little bit better to err on the side of the Asian ingredients. ;)

    BTW, noma was even better – best meal of my life so far. More later…

  • Wow, Neil, thank you so much for your very thorough write up! It means a lot to me that you take the time to post your view of your Kiin Kiin experience at very good food. :-D

    Really, Thanks!
    Trine

    PS. I’ll write my thoughts too, soon.

  • Thanks for the review JC/Neil. I’m going to Kiin Kiin next week and I’m very much looking forward to it as it sounds like quite an experience!

  • So, what of Kiin Kiin?

    Firstly, I really did not have a mental picture of what to expect from this restaurant. Thai is one of my very favourite cuisines but I was intrigued to know how Kiin Kiin would make it fit into a formula that The Guide would recognise. I needn’t have worried!

    From the wonderful decor of the downstairs lounge where we enjoyed champagne (rose), snacks (the lotus root chips were a stunning surprise) and the amuse and where we first met Henrik and started to get a glimpse of the passion that is going into this place until we left several hours later, nothing let us down (well, maybe the foie gras but more of that later).

    I do understand JCs comments regarding the amuse. Certainly spring rolls are rarely special but the cucumber and chilli jelly absolutely made the fish cakes and the satay was rich and satisfying. It certainly got our curiosity awakened as to what we would find when we got upstairs!

    The first ‘course’ of dimsum, soup and prawns was a very neat trick to get us engaged with the food. With no utensils on the table apart from silver chopsticks for the dimsum, we were encouraged to drink the soup straight from the bowl and use fingers for the prawn. The dishes complimented each other wonderfully, mainly because of the contrast in textures – soft dimsum, crunchy prawns with their shells and the fiery liquid of the soup.

    By now we had met Henrik and JC is right – he loves to talk about his vision for this restaurant. And we loved to talk to him, too. So that was ok! But I do hope he can recognise when people want to talk and when they don’t!

    Stand out dishes in subsequent courses were the red curry, served in an Ole Hvidt coffee cup with a lychee(?) foam on top making it appear as a cappucino; Thai salad with octopus except the traditional coriander had been replaced with watercress for the Nordic twist. We also enjoyed the salt / sweet contrast of the guinea fowl and Tom Ka dishes.

    JC – the asparagus dish was all about the pork! It was heavily smoked pork which had been flash fried and was delicious with the asparagus and the quail’s egg.

    I greedily ordered the roasted foie gras as an extra course. And I have to say I did not understand it at all. Served in a relatively large bowl, the foie gras was covered by what I can only describe as a ‘pudding’ of very sweet tamarind concoction. Nothing wrong with it at all but it was far too sweet for me and the foie gras was ‘lost’. I’d be very interested to hear JC’s opinion on it. Trine, did you try it?

    Perhaps you will have picked up by now that all the dishes took Thai cusine and added a Nordic twist and I thought it was done with great imagination, whilst respecting the original Thai and it was also done with great humour.

    This also extended to the decor – lots of Thai furniture and decoration, but also lots of Nordic classics such as the Ole Hvidt I mentioned before. I thought it worked well but K. wasn’t so sure. And when a serving arrived at the table in Royal Copenhagen porcelain, I had to agree with her that this was too much – until Henrik explained the joke to us that Royal Copenhagen have now ‘offshored’ all their production to Thailand, he is simply bringing it back along with some local food to go with it. This was one of several little touches that we made us laugh – the iced deserts were served on a frozen cobblestone – we were a cobblestone’s throw from the ungdomshus riots!

    Has anybody worked out what was on the final spoons that crackled and exploded in the mouth just like the ‘spacedust’ sweets we had when we were kids?!

    I thought all the wines were excellent (I had the red, JC!). Given that Henrik was a sommelier, so they should be. I’d have to say that they are not of the same quality as, say, MR where we dined recently but they were poured very generously and, given the price, they were excellent value.

    Henrik claims they never went looking for the Star. And I’m inclined to believe him because he has got away with a couple of things that I’s sure he wouldn’t have tried if he had been waiting for The Guide to show up. For instance, the stemless glasses (Riedel before anybody gets too sniffy about it!).

    Service was excellent but also very relaxed giving the restaurant a very informal feel. People were enjoying themselves – no whispering here! The only thing I would change about the service would be the way that wine is brought to the table. I like to see the bottle, watch it being poured and perhaps ask a question or two sometimes. I felt that having glasses that had already been poured being brought to the table took something away from the experience. I’m sure Henrik has his reasons for it – he has so obviously put a lot of thought into every detail – but I didn’t ask.

    So, keywords for me – passion, fun, quality.

    A truly memorable evening – although the generous wine pourings mean my memory of the deserts is hazy! We’ll be back for sure.

    Neil

  • No way, Neil? Are you serious? Ooops. Hehe. Thanks for telling me.

    Am very excited about hearing in details what you thought of Kiin Kiin! :-P

  • Thanks, Trine. I’ll do just that once I get my thoughts straight. Suffice to say we had a wonderful evening at Kiin Kiin last night.

    Something funny happened as we left. I was standing talking to Henrik whilst I was reading the guestbook. The last entry was written by you so I said, ‘Oh, I see Trine has just been here. do you know her?’. To which Henrik replied, ‘Oh, do you mean the Noma girl?’. So that is how you are known within the Cph. good food circle!

    I’ll report back as soon as possible….

    Neil

  • Neil, looking forward to hearing about your experience! Feel free, please to report right here!

    JC, thank you so much for your Kiin Kiin feedback! No need to apologize. Kiin Kiin IS amazing. When I have time I will surely review my experience.
    :-)

  • Thanks for that, JC.

    Can’t wait for tonight now! Will report back!

    Neil

  • Don´t mean to hijack your blog, Trine! I just wanted to comment on Kiin Kiin briefly for Neil.

    The beginning street food-type snacks were inconsistent, or perhaps some things just are not to my taste (Chef Henrik gave explanations as to why certain items are the way they are, and I can´t fault him for those reasons, but they still are not to my taste – specific examples being the salty cashews and the chewy fishcake). Everything else ranged from very good to incredible. The best dishes were the asparagus and quail´s egg (I think there was pork in there too but my memory is fuzzy and I don´t have my notes with me ATM), foie gras, and fjordshrimp with garlic dust (don´t inhale when you eat them!). Also, for the final dish, go with the white wine – the red tasted very watery to me. Aside from that, I very much enjoyed all of the wines, very thoughtfully paired.

    We arrived at 6:30, a full 30 minutes before our reservation time, but they seated us anyway. They even gave us someone else´s table next to the window because we were taking photos. Henrik chatted with us a LOT the entire evening, telling us about “the business” and his inispiration for the restaurant, and all sorts of other things. We didn´t make it out of there until…2am! That´s right, 7.5 hours! And not once did they do anything make us feel like we should leave. We even had to ask for the check. Oh, and when my dessert melted because I was too busy chatting away, Henrik brought me a new one. This is service above and beyond anything I´ve ever encountered. All of that adds up to one incredible experience. I may have had better individual courses at other restaurants, and perhaps tasting menus that were more consistent, but taking everything into account, I would probably put my night at Kiin Kiin in my top 3 restaurant experiences.

    Of course, my dining companion was the best part. ;)

    Next week: let´s see how noma compares…

    (Sorry Trine, as usual my short writings are not very short. Undskyld!)

  • Hehe. Thanks. Is it okay that I feel flattered?
    Alright then, bibendum! Since this is this is my first request ever like that (wow!) I will do it tonight, so I’ll only be a short and without photos as they’re crappy and not good enough for my beautiful blog! (Only have tonight as I’m going to Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin tomorrow ;-) ).

  • I saw that you went to Madelaines. They just recieved 5 toques from Politiken.
    I would love to read about your experience there.
    http://ibyen.dk/restauranter/kokkehuer-dyrt/article493166.ece.

  • Great idea, Neil! Thanks!
    Hm. We might even have the same dishes. Will be interesting to exchange views! :-D

  • Good question, Trine. I guess the eGullet forums would be an appropriate place?

  • Zarah, you ALWAYS have such funny ways of saying things! I so enjoy your writing.

    I figured it would be something like that, but for some reason all I could think of was noma – and I couldn’t get that to fit. ;-) I need to focus!

    Ah, Neil, where could we possibly read about your (coming) experience?

  • *thump*

    Ooops, sorry, that was me, falling off my chair. Wow! Geez! Awesome! It looks amazingly fantastic! Your pictures are wonderful Trine – that vegetable field is to die for!

    *rips out hair for not having gone through her education soon enough to be able to eat at noma ALL the time…*

  • Oh – looking to hearing about Kiin Kiin, JC. I have a reservation a few days after yours!

    Neil

  • Hours, minutes, and seconds until Kiin Kiin. :D

  • Okay, I give up. What’s the numbers?
    If I type them in to Google Earth I get Springfield, so I think this isn’t what they mean.

  • Trine, both the orange and the white/maroon. They remind me somewhat of the beautiful Tibetan sand mandalas.

    213:55:17…

  • Good news, Laurent! Looking forward to both reports :-) So, perhaps the choice for our next place will be easy, huh?

    I know what you mean about the evening light, Yin. Had a fabulous evening last night. The perfect final of a beautiful Copenhagen spring day.

  • We would never refuse a post with such beautiful photos – thank you again Trine. Particularly since my own efforts are so poor (I really really struggle with the evening light) so it’s great to be able to refer people here!

    Already looking forward to your next report :D

  • The pleasure of this lunch was shared, dear Trine… :o)

    And my dinner with 6 other friends at Le Meurice wednesday was… fantastic. Really 3* value, percect service – the best i’ve met together with Le Cinq, top quality food, amazing wines… I’ll write my post very soon.

    Last news from the field here : Eric Briffard (from Les Elysees Vernet) should join Le Cinq and replace Philippe Legendre who has left the palace last week. With Julot, we know where our next lunch will take place :o)

    Cheers,
    Laurent

  • Probably you’ll have most of those dishes soon, eh? A pile of sand, Jesse – you mean the orange one?

    Hey Laurent – in DK we say ‘Tak For sidst’ It means: I had a great time when we met up last time. :-) Enjoy Le Maurice – and let me know how you like it!

    Thanks so much, Jesper, for your support. I really appreciate it. Did you know I read your blog sometimes?

    Hi Allan, yup they sort of try not to serve me the same dishes, which has been a challenge because I have been there quite often lately. Going again on Saturday – so an evening for once. That’ll be nice! :-D

    Hello Daniel, nice ‘to meet’ you and thanks for stopping by! I have dined at Operakälleren once, four years ago, and I was very impressed. I dined there before I went to experience the wonderful opera Tosca. It’s a great opera you have up there! ;-) How did you like Fat Duck’s desserts?

    Thanks, Lord Rodney! You know, many restaurants have copied this in one way or another, but no one can make it as DIVINE at noma! :-P

    Thanks guys!
    Trine

  • Fasinating! The “Vegetable field” from Lammefjorden dish really funny(in a good way)

  • Hello I really like your blog it´s wonderful. If you like desserts can you take a trip to my site. take care best regards Daniel From Stockholm Sweden

  • Hi Trine,

    There you go, a great post which finally is readable. Great mixture of something very personal, lovely pictures and another great review of a marvelous restaurant. I suppose I should pay it another visit :)

    Do you visit Noma that often that they produce a special selected menu for you or how should it be interpreted?

    - A

  • Can we bear another noma post? Are you kidding… :) Of course, we can! Even though you have, ehm…, a few noma post on your blog they just show the width in their talent. And for one who has only been there once, it’s great to experience other meals. Even if it’s only through the eye.

  • Hey Trine…

    full post now :o)… looks fantastic… as usual.

    this vegetables plates remains one of my favourite ever..;

    Desserts and even some other dishes are similar to what is served these days at In de Wulf … who’s inspired from who ? :o) Did i told you that Kobe, the chef @ In de Wulf, did the same with oyesters and around the sea theme ? just fantastic…

  • Ooh, I *heart* sweetbreads. :D And there’s something about the dessert looking like a pile of sand that I really like. It’s so surprising.

    The amuse and vegetable field fascinate me.

  • Aaaarrrgggghhhhhhrrr!!!! This wasn’t meant to be published yet!! :-) Sorry guys, but I have trouble getting around this upgraded version of WordPress. I will need to pull this out now but expect to post it for real later this evening.

    Trine

  • :o)

    Same here in Paris :o)… worldwide bug on verygoodfood :o)

  • Hi Trine,

    I’m not sure if something’s wrong with my computer, but I only see text prior to “The first snack”. I hope there’s more text to come!

    Kind regards,
    Allan

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