Why noma deserves the rising third star!


For my noma lunch on 12 February I had requested no more than 5 or 6 dishes maximum. I was there with my mum and my baby brother. It’s amazing to experience dish after dish full of creativity, curiosity and delightness. But sometimes 10-14 courses is just too much, for me at least, and for this occasion, I felt that less would be more. I was right!

Carrots and terragon

We started out with the classic snacks I have commented here. Each of the pickled quail’s eggs were served in its own shell so each of us got the pleasure of lifting the lid off and sniff the smoke. The radishes were this time replaced by tiny baby carrots stuck into the tarragon ‘soil’. We got matching wine parings mastered magnificently by talented Ulf.

Crudité

Crudité of carrots, beet roots, cucumber, kohlrabi and a chicken stock

More Crudié

Incredibly beautiful!

The first course completely blew me away and left me gawking. This wasn’t like anything I’ve been served at noma before and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. If this was a painting in oil it would be a beautiful work of art, and I would have loved to have such colours decorating my walls. But this was food. Lovely and crispy thin cut carrots, beet roots, cucumber and kohlrabi pickled in vinegar. It was fresh and sour and balanced by the rich chicken sauce. What a marvelous way to start this meal.

Oysters and sago

Oysters from Limfjorden, cucumber, cream, sago and malt.

My plate presented three or four poached and full-flavoured oysters covered by paper-thin slices of cucumber. The sauce was made of cream, sago and malt. It was a strong visual effect to see the transparent sago sort of popping out when the sauce was ladled on to the heap and the white/black sauce sank down to the bottom. A whole new thing to me.

I love and love Limfjord’s oysters and this presentation was not only interesting in terms on appearance and texture but perfect also in taste, balance and quality. It was perfection.

Leeks

Glazed leeks, birch wine, squid and ink

These leeks are proof that very simple vegetables can form a delicious dish. The secret here lies in the combination of the various types of topping: yoghurt, hazel nuts, herbs puree ashes and rye bread and mixing them with the dark green, full-flavoured birch wine and squid sauce made one bite very complex in taste. The hazel nuts were sweet and resembled caramel which gave sweetness to the dish. Acidity was added by the yoghurt and character came from the ashes. It was a really refined serving.

These first three courses were overall so sharp and distinct and somehow more advanced than ever before. I was moved. I also completely regretted ordering only 5-6 courses, because it would mean that I was already half way through the meal and I certainly didn’t want it to end too soon.

Cheese and cabbage

Fresh cheese, unripe elderberries, cauliflower,
black cabbage, cress and watercress sauce

I’ve had many and various very good versions of the fresh cheese with vegetables and some kind of juice or sauce, but none of them had the focus like this one. I think it was the black cabbage’s strong and bitter flavour and the fact that its taste kicked the softness and creaminess of the cheese. In November ’08 the similar dish offered a buttery sauce and somehow it seemed too rich compared to this watercress sauce. The dish was perfect like this.

Burgundy

2002 Thierry et Pascale Matrot, Saint-Aubin 1er Cru,
Fleurs de Côteaux, Burgundy.
I loved it.

I certainly remember the crisis of the 1980′ies. At home we ate a lot of spaghetti with tomato sauce for dinner because it was cheap stuff. In 1986 the Danish government wanted to reduce private expenditure and wanted to turn the deficit on the balance of payments. This act of intervention got the nick name ‘kartoffelkuren’ (the potato diet) because it was introduced during the autumn holiday, which was when the children back in the old days used to get off from school to help the family digging up the last potatoes before the winter.

Potatoes and truffles

‘Kartoffelkur’ – Mashed potatoes and Gotland truffles, whey and smoked speck

Inspired by this event and the current economic recession, René had not only created a startling dish called ‘Kartoffelkur’ but also kicked the current desperate situation in an ironic way, so to say, and spoiled the mashed potatoes with a lump of truffle puree. Nothing like potatoes suit the taste of truffles and here the taste was pure and a bit restrained but lasting in the after-taste. The truffles, the soft and creamy texture, the savoury pork and the brilliant choice of dairy product made this a surprising dish. Spot-on!

Rib and roses

Short rib of beef and roses, cep, beets and malt

After the first 3-4 course primarily presenting vegetables, my carnivore-brother started to worry that he wouldn’t get a meat dish. The rib had been braised for 8-10 hours and was so tender that I didn’t really need a knife to cut it. The flavours were intense and as a whole the dish was very rich and very enjoyable.

I was full at this point but had a little room for a dessert, of course. After all 7 courses seemed adequate at this point and this because each dish had been stimulating and rewarding.

Trossen

2007  Rita & Rudolf Trossen, Riesling spätlese ‘Von der Lay’, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Trossen’s bottle labels are so pretty. The wine was full of complexity and fruit and it comprised a brilliant acidity as well which balanced the sweetness. This wine gave sweetness to the not so sweet dessert and did it marvelously without overwhelming it. The low alcohol of 8% gave a light and refreshing feeling to it.

Snowman from Lammefjorden

Snowman from Lammefjorden

It seems a tradition that the noma dessert is not very sweet and this wasn’t either. A refreshing dessert was just what I needed. I love sea buckthorn for its bitterness and sour; the snowman’s head was full of it. His tummy was stuffed with carrot sorbet and the bottom part of him was made of meringue. What a great sense of humour and a fun way to complete this lunch.

Take a look again at the photos of this lunch. The strongest impression was how well the meal was composed and executed. It seemed a beautiful and perfectly orchestrated symphony. Each dish was completely unique in presentation, scent and in taste and I was forced to pay attention to comprehend all the details and nuances.

You know, I was asked last year to take a 6 months break to see how the kitchen would evolve. The break should have been for 9 months. This lunch was such a surprise and different in many ways. It was more daring, even though this might sound ridiculous because noma’s style is already innovative and unique.

My point is that despite the fact that the world has already rewarded René Redzepi and noma for their style, innovation and uniqueness, René and his team still strive to do better. In my view it’s admirable to be able to create dishes that even after 14 visits still surprise a regular customer. René’s signature is more personal, more distinct and more confident than ever before. This is the reason why I feel it is right to rate noma a rising three-star level. We’ll know tomorrow whether the Guide agrees.

Bravo, and thanks to you all!

33 Responses to “Why noma deserves the rising third star!”


  • Thorsten, thank you so much for posting this comment. I’m delighted to hear you had such a good experience of both Noma and Copenhagen! :-)

  • After 22 dished I tend to forget the details, although still remember the excellent and outstanding moments of this EXPERIENCE. Compliment to all staff at Noma!
    It was just an experience, not just fine dining!

    Thanks for you great photo’s that remind me of our dinner last Friday at Noma. My mom (83) was delighted, so were 3 of my children age 15 to 24.
    Hope we will manage another booking soon.
    By the way, also Copenhagen impressed us; so beautiful, very friendly and relaxed people. Can’t wait to go back!
    Thorsten

  • Thank you Herin Hentry! Of course, I’m delighted that you want to make a citation to it. :-)

  • Hi, I fell in love with Noma… We live in Sydney and my husband was talking alot about Noma.. I have started a new blog for him and his fantasies. Can I make a citation to this post from my post and link to it???

    I have posted mine.. Please, let me know if you have any obligations..
    Link is

    http://hisfantasies.blogspot.com/

    Thanks,
    Herin

  • That’s so sweet of you, hungry hedonist! Thank you. :-) I really like your style of writing and your sense of humour.
    No, Coi sounds like a gross disappointment. How sad.I actually experienced one of Patterson’s creations at Cook it Raw! http://verygoodfood.dk/2009/06/04/cook-it-raw/

  • Trine – I’ve never commented on your site before. So before I get to my actual comment let me just say that reading your site is very, very enjoyable. I need to devote an afternoon one of these days to read all your archives.

    Anyway, I very recently had a meal that left me feeling confused, underwhelmed, and perhaps a bit angry. I am sure you know Daniel Patterson and his advocacy of the new food movement (“carrots are the new caviar”) well. When I went to his restaurant for his tasting menu, what I expected were courses something along the lines of Noma’s crudite of carrots you tasted. Instead, we had courses like minimally handled carrots roasted on hay. There was not the level of personal expression or refined technique that Patterson spoke about. They were regrettably soulless carrots, not any different from roasted carrots relegated as a side for a main course. I feel I did not get the true essence of this philosophy – and I look forward to trying Noma (hopefully soon). Appreciate the post.

  • Ah, I had a feeling that’s what it would be – although I’ve never seen that specific brand/model, I’m guessing it’s pretty much the same as the mandolines I can find here in the US, like:

    http://www.webstaurantstore.com/heavy-duty-stainless-steel-bron-mandoline/589TLM4238.html

    And I guess the vegetables are easy to curl without breaking if they’re thin enough…? I was afraid they were doing some kind of spiral cut.

    Thanks Henrik! And Trine, enjoy dim sum and your brother’s birthday. :D

  • yep. Going to bro’s birthday

  • up early this morning!!!

  • Of course, Henrik! Thanks!
    Silly me, why didn’t I think of that!? :-)

    Yum yum, looking forward to Dim Sum! :P

  • It is called a “mandolinjern”
    http://www.hamonoya.dk/microplane_rivejern_specialprodukter_34000.htm
    Thanks for your note on your blog, dim sum is open by the time you are here, so dumplings will be on the menu!
    Henrik

  • To me it looks like a vegetable peeler, but I’ll ask next time I get there! ;-)

  • I’m trying to figure out how the folks at noma cut the vegetables for the crudité. Paring knife? Vegetable peeler? Something else entirely? My knife skills are pretty poor, so I probably wouldn’t be able to execute the technique cleanly even if I knew, but still, I MUST KNOW. :D

  • Hi Trine,

    Funny you should mention Geranium. My dad was so exited about Søllerød that he – in between complimenting the food – said:

    ‘We should do this more often! I wanna go again, all four of us. Were could we go? How about that Kofoed guy in Kongens Have? My treat.’

    So I asked if he meant Geranium, and he raised his arms and said ‘Yes, lets do that in april’ and gave up a big smile. Not as big as mine though…. :-)

    It’s gonna be my second time there – can’t wait to see how my old man reacts…

    And looking forward to hearing about you trip to – that Kofoed guy…

    Cheers
    Rasmus

  • Thomas,

    Hehe, I wish you a great time at noma on Saturday! Say hello to everyone for me please. :D

    Yep, these pics were shot in RAW. If you don’t have Photoshop or wonn’t be using it fully, then the Lightroom will be the perfect tool you need. Well, says Klaus.

    On a side note, I can NOT wait to tell you about my most recent visit to Jan’s place! ;-) (Hint: something about the wine).
    He he.

    JC,
    I really wish I knew someone in the art or gallery business, bacause then I would talk them into making an exebition with your stunning photos – here in CPH of course and have them pay for your trip! ;-)
    Thanks for the advice. I have posted e link to this comment on the Camera Comments pane. You’re the king of RAW food photos! Thanks for setting the standards and for being inspiration!

    Hej Rasmus!
    Thanks a whole lot for finding me and your sweet words! I look forward to picking up the paper tomorrow, thanks for the tip. :-)
    Your reviews make me envious for your writing in Danish. What a fantastic read of taking your dad to Søllerød! (I plan on taking mine to Geranium, have you been there yet?).

    Cheers all

  • Hi Trine,

    Found you blog last week and have been reading ever since – fantastic site, I absolutely love it – and it made me wanna start my own :-) (My bank is gonna be mad..)

    Your Noma visits a much appreciated by us who havn’t been there yet. Gotta go soon – before the snowman melts…

    Anyway, just wanted to tell you to pick up a copy of Politikens iByen tomorrow – there is a story on that Copenhagen should have recieved even more Michelinstars than we did.

    Well, three stars to you blog – keep up the exellent work.

    Cheers
    Rasmus

  • JC – great info…thank you so much.

    Best,

    /Thomas

  • I know the question was directed for Trine, but I also work in RAW, and here’s what I know:

    If you have Photoshop, you can download the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in (ACR) from Adobe’s website (if you don’t have CS4, make sure the one you download is compatible with your version of PS). The RAW converter made by your camera company should work better, but then you have to pay for it.

    Working in RAW adds a few steps to your workflow, but it offers more control and finer adjustments. Here’s a page that explains the difference between working in 8-bit (JPEG) versus 16-bit (most likely your camera is shooting 12-bit or 14-bit RAW, but the info still applies – the point is more bits is better). Shooting in RAW instead of JPEG also means no compression (or, at worst, lossless compression) is applied to the image, so you’re much less likely to see pixellation in skies, for example. Of course, the file sizes are larger, but they’re smaller than if you shot in TIFF. Shooting in RAW also slows down your camera’s burst mode a bit.

    The biggest advantage to shooting RAW, IMHO, is that it is easier to correct for poor exposure and white balance settings. Especially with the latter, because the camera’s white balance setting is stored in the RAW file header, and not applied directly (and therefore permanently) to the data. In other words, if you don’t mind the extra post-processing work, you can almost ignore adjusting white balance while shooting and leave it on Auto, and just set it on your computer later, if you forget or are rushed for time, or if you’re lazy like me. ;)

    These adjustments and more take place within ACR. After you’ve made the adjustments, you can import the file into Photoshop proper and do the rest of your “usual” workflow (if you want to export the image to JPEG to put on the Web or whatever).

    When you’re done, there are one or two extra steps. First, you have to set the image to 8-bit to be able to save it as a JPEG. The possible second step is converting the color space, if you are not working in sRGB. Here’s a page that explains color spaces. It’s a little Nikon-centric, but the info is useful. You can skip to the bottom if you don’t care to know the technical details. Basically, it seems to say sRGB is fine if you only wish to put your photos on the Web. For other purposes, use ProPhotoRGB, as it is a wider and therefore superior color space. However, don’t put ProPhotoRGB images on the Web – the colors will display incorrectly, and everything will look green.

    That’s what it’s like working with RAW files in Photoshop. I don’t have Lightroom yet, so I don’t know what that workflow is like. It’s probably better, unless you need PS’s advanced features, like Layers.

  • Trine,

    You are hard to keep up with – 14 times @ Noma ;-).

    The snowman looks funky – really funny.

    Once again – great pictures. You are doing then in RAW now, right? I have a feeling how it works, but I don’t have a RAW-converter (yet), can you explain…is it really easy??

    I hope to update both camera and software somewhat in near future and I will have dinner @ Noma on Saturday – so watch out…I am right behind you.

    He he.
    ;-)

    /Thomas

  • JC – You survived this time around. Perhaps you should try and book lunch the date when the 2010 Guide will be released ;-)

    Neil – My pleasure! :-)

    Joel – You’re welcome and I totally agree that it’s the last few months that really show a change.

    Robus – Thank you. It sure was one of the highlights. Problem is, though, that they all were just about equally good.

    Michael – Thanks very much. I too was surprised when I first time heard that they really do have truffles in Sweden. One more thing to be jealous at about Sweden ;-).

  • Trine,
    Lovely review, as usual. I agree with Neil about how a third star would not have been a good thing for noma. Are they really Gotland truffles? I was just served “Tennessee truffles” so I’ll believe anything, but it is a bit chilly up there.
    Bests,
    Michael

  • Hey Trine, great to see photos of some of the dishes we ate in February – and some new ones! If the ‘potato diet’ tastes as good as that did then it can’t be a bad thing!

  • Herman and Kokkeriet get new stars. Otherwise no changes.

    /Neil

  • The dishes have really progressed in just a few months. I love the creative playful embracing of the economical conservative times. Its a step up in creativity and innovation from when I was cooking there in October. Thank you for the great pics Trine!

  • Great to see photographs of three of the dishes I had last week. Especially the Snowman because I really couldn’t remember the details of it – things had got a little hazy by that stage of the meal! Actually it wasn’t to my taste but deserts seldom are.

    You’re right about the ox rib – it was extremely rich. I, too, loved the oysters with sago – I thought it was an outstanding dish.

    Not sure about the third star – rising or not. My hunch says not but that may not be a bad thing as I’m not convinced third stars are necessarily a sensible ambition from a business point of view. Three stars normally implies a level of service and thus a correspondingly high number of staff that results in extremely high costs which have to be passed on to the customer – something the market is not really up for right now.

    I guess we’ll find out soon enough – Politiken says tomorrow (Monday). Amazon sent me a mail last week to say the guide is released on the 18th (Thursday).

    Thanks for the wonderful photos, Trine. Thanks to you I now almost have a complete set of the Nassaaq menu I had last week!

    /Neil

  • No, no, no! What is René thinking? This isn’t good…

    …because if he keeps this up, I’m going to have to risk financial jeopardy to eat there again. ;)

  • Hey guys, this is absolutely overwhelming! Thank you!

    Food Snob – You should! I almost did. Thank you :-)

    Henrik – So sweet of you. What can I say lunches are the best.

    Josh – thanks it was fantastic.

    IFS – I SO look forward to your prose. And thanks for a great evening the other night!

    YKL – You are welcome and yep we keep the fingers and toes crossed! Will write soon – going to the UK ;)

    Fiona Beckett – Thanks very much for your comment and yes, you must go back :D

  • Amazing meal. I’m so jealous. He really seems to have moved on in leaps and bounds since I went there a couple of years ago – and he was a star then. Shall have to go back

  • The crudite look incredible! :D

    and yes – fingers crossed they get good news this week.

    Thanks again for the report Trine

  • Great post Trine – I will write up my first noma experience soon… Can’t comment on the progress but the rising third is in order… Will read in more detail after I have written mine;-)

  • Yeah Looks fantastic.

  • Wow, wow, wow…..

    I’m speachless! Been at Noma for Dinner once, and will definately go for lunch as soon as posible!

    Trine – Great article as usual!

    /Henrik ;)

  • I want to weep.
    Bravo!

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