After the dive into traditional Faroese gastronomy on our first day on the islands, and after some amazing sight seeing in (and in the fells above) Kirkeby, a hairy drive to Saksun and back, it was time the following evening to visit restaurant KOKS. This was the main event for the entire trip, and I was super excited. I didn’t quite know what to expect, though. I was hoping for sea urchins of course 🙂
View from KOKS
We were seated at the table with a marvellous view to Tórshavn and the island Nólsoy. All the tables have this view.
The menu Our Roots is presented on an iPad
Chef Poul Andrias Ziska in action
Bulles de Comtoir#3 NV, Charles Dufour, Champagne
We had bubbles to start the array of appetizers, a delicious and mineral champagne from Charles Dufour.
The first appetizer was a lukewarm juice made from the mussel juice and dill oil. It was slightly salty and had a delicate and at the same time deep taste of, well, mussel and dill. It served as a palate cleanser and to drink it from the shell really made me focus on the food as the shell was very light and I did not want to spill. Almost like a zen moment.
Sea urchins, pickled parsley stems and chervil
Then followed the Faroese sea urchin. Yay! The texture was soft and a little moist, the flavours were many and complex. Mild and delicate sea and salt, umami, pureness, light sweetness, and at the same time very deep and lasting on the palate. A little crunch and acidity came from the pickled parsley. So this was the moment of truth. Could the famous Faroese sea urchin, the creature on which my entire trip had been based, live up to its reputation? Oh yes, indeed it could. It was heavenly, and the best sea urchin I have ever tried. So delicate and yet so distinct. I’ve tried sea urchins in Denmark, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and in the US. But this one topped them all, even the Japanese ones.
Next was a chip made from 35 layers of cod skin, stacked, pressed and sliced across the layers and then finally fried. A beautiful, very light and perfectly crisp and slightly salty mouthful.
Then came in such a beautiful shell filled with a delicious little queen scallop cut into three pieces, scallop juice and a little butter. It was pure and full of fresh and delicate shell fish flavours and a slight note of sweetness. The clean essence of scallop.
Then followed the claw of brown crab served with radish and dill and with a dill cream at the bottom. The radish was mild in taste and served to give the dish some crunch, and the dill gave some accent to it. This was pure crab taste overload, excellent and so delicious. I could eat this every single day.
Next up was salted lamb’s heart with pickled elderberries and put on a pillow of moss. I loved the lamb’s heart’s texture which was really leathery but tender at the same time. As to the taste of it, well, it was not my favourite thing, a special lightly bitter taste, that I am not used to.
After the lamb followed a pickled beetroot with frozen angelica shoots and pickled hip rose. It was a fresh, perfumed and aromatic cleanser to clear out the lamb notes. Very good.
Time to revisit some of the local produce we’ve tried the day before in Skerpi
. A cream of fermented sheep tallow put on a small cheese biscuit and topped with grated frozen fermented tallow. The tallow had fermented for 20-25 days, then cooked and frozen. The taste of this little bite came in two tempi, first there was a cheese biscuit taste and then faded in the mild and delicate sheep tallow. The match of flavours was good as the cheese in the biscuit was powerful enough to control the woolly flavour from the tallow. To my surprise I kind of liked it.
In Skerpi we tried the raw, unadulterated taste of melted, fermented sheep tallow, and it is really powerful and overwhelming. In this appetiser, Ziska managed to balance this flavour bomb into something edible, without covering up its nuances. That’s cooking skills.
The final appetiser was again a mouth cleanser to reboot the palate. A rhubarb gel was put in between two nasturtium leaves. It was quite strong with bitter, peppery and acidic notes. And look at those beautiful droplets on top of the leaves.
What a way to start the dinner. So many exclusive products among the amuse bouches. It felt like a whole mini-meal in itself and the crescendo was fantastically composed, starting with the soft shell fish and growing into the local flavours of the lamb and the tallow to be suddenly stopped in its tracks by the rhubarb. Wow. And we were just getting started.
To drink we chose the wine pairings as I was curious to see what wines the talented and very kind sommerlier Karin Visth would select for the food. Also because I wasn’t really familiar with KOKS’ cuisine yet.
Grüner Veltliner, Federspiel 2011, Nikolaihof, Wachau
A crisp and lightly perfumed Grüner Veltliner with great acidity to balance the aromatics of the wine.
Cod and herbs
Freshly caught cod served raw with cucumber, mimulus leaves on top and a herbs cream next to it made from nasturtium, parsley, and chervil. The flavour of the cod was fresh, lightly salted and with sea notes to it. The rich herbs cream was delicious too and never overdosed the delicate cod fish. The acidity of the Grüner Veltliner had a nice cleansing effect and matched well with the herbal notes.
Chablis Saint Pierre 2012, Rénard, Bourgogne
A delicious Chablis, high on mineral and acidity and adequately powerful to follow the previous wine.
Mahogany Clam with Haddock
The second course was haddock caught by the oldest line dogger in Tórshavn. It was served with slices of mahogany clam on top and new ground elder shoots. The quality of the haddock was superb, it was perfectly juicy and had a mild and delicate flavour. I’m not super excited about mahogany clams, to me they are a bit chewy and the taste a bit subtle. But they worked well with the fish to give it a more firm texture.
A few minutes before we got the haddock and clam course, Poul Andrias had showed us the live langoustines pulled from the water an hour before service. Meanwhile it had been killed and the chefs had removed the shell from the tail and given it a good amount of salt. Raw langoustine doesn’t offer as much taste as when cooked – but this one was mild and delicate and almost melted on the tongue. Again it was refreshingly nice with the acidity of the Chablis to cleanse the palate.
La Mailloche 2011, Tissot, Jura
To serve a Jura wine with its characteristically nutty and lightly oxidised notes was a bold choice for cooked langoustine. Great wine.
The heavy scent of burnt pine infused the room when the lid of the bowl was removed. I just loved the combination of the pine with the supers-tasty and super-delicious, sweet, gorgeous Faroese langoustine and the Tissot Jura wine. What Sommelier Visth had of course known was that you needed something quite powerful in the glass to cut through the smokiness of the pine, and the Tissot was capable of doing that. Magnificent. What’s not to love here? I could live from this stuff.
Sherry Manzanilla La Gitana, Hildago, Andalusia
Where to go from oxidised Jura? Well, Manzanilla Sherry of course.
Ham and roots
The sherry accompanied cooked smoked Danish ham dried on Faroe Islands
which had been cooked again into a gelatine, sprinkled with the same Danish cheese we had the day before in the Skerpi
. It was topped with kohlrabi choppered in from a little island to the south (with only one family of eight living on it). I think the brown dots were some popped seeds – they were crunchy.
Local wheat beer from Thórshavn. Very good.
Bread and Ræstkød
Once again we got fermented sheep but this time ræstkød (“rest meat”), which has only fermented for 2-3 months after slaughter during the months of October/ November last year. So, while the skerpi meat is dry and dense, ræstkød has been stopped mid process and is very soft. We got homemade sourdough bread with crispy crust and Faroese butter with the ræst sheep to make sandwiches. As you can imagine the woolly, intense, deep and fermented flavours were quite intens. I’m glad I got to try it, but it will not be my favourite thing. A bit to woolly for my (picky) taste. But I do see the lure of it. I can understand why people growing up with food like this fall in love with it for life. It’s like nothing else out there.
Lemon verbena and thyme
Lemon verbena in cooked apples with lemon thyme on topped. Such a sweet, fresh and aromatic juice to clear out the ræst flavours. Like candy.
Coudoulete de Beaucastel 2012, Famille Perrin, Cotes du Rhône
I really enjoyed this medium-bodied Rhône wine with its juicy blueberry and liquorice notes, and its light acidity. Perfect for the delicate lamb and the herbal notes with the potatoes.
Lamb and potatoes
The final savoury course, or main course if you will, was lamb. These pieces of fresh, salted lamb is probably the most delicious lamb I have ever had. Served traditionally with potatoes and topped with less traditional dried seaweed, sorrel, and flakes of dried leeks. This was really complex in taste, with hint of mint. The dried seaweed came in a little bowl on the side for us to sprinkle ourselves. It had some truffle note to the taste. Indeed a wonderful serving.
Chenin Blanc 2011, Baumard, Coteaux du Layon, Loire
A sweet wine without overdoing it and with fresh acidity to it as well.
Apple and Jerusalem Artichokes
We got one dessert to conclude the meal, which was just perfect for me. After a long meal with plentiful taste impressions, I didn’t need a long bombardment of sweets. The rich taste of the Jerusalem artichokes ice-cream paired well with the fresh apple purée and the grated coffee bean sprinkled on top gave an extra dimension although the coffee wasn’t local of course.
It was too dark to photograph the two sweets that came with the coffee, which by the way was served in the cool upstairs wine cellar. The sweets were Gódarád – a kind of crisp waffle, literally meaning good advice (and related to the Danish Gode Råd) and a meringue snowball with something inside, that I no longer recall what was.
What a wonderful dinner it was. Great wines ingeniously paired to the food. Very good pace – not too fast, not too slow. Above all, to me KOKS’ cuisine is pure and totally honest. It’s about presenting the amazing quality of what the Faroese nature produces, and at the same time it’s such a contrast to the rough conditions of the beautiful atlantic islands. Like glimpsing into the soft, delicate soul of a rough, almost brutal creature.
KOKS has managed to sieve and condense the nature and culture of the Faroe Islands into an evening of wonderful flavours, freshness and purity. It’s The Faroe Islands on a plate, but it isn’t dogmatic, it isn’t weird or conceptually local for the sake of local – it’s just honest and wonderful on its own terms.
In a globalised world, you sometimes need to change to preserve. That is to me the essence of what KOKS founder and former chef Leif Sørensen said in that speech at MAD2
back in 2012, and that heritage is more than proudly carried on by Paul Andrias Ziska and his amazing staff at KOKS.
It was one of those meals that in my memories merges totally and beautifully with its context. The islands themselves, the friendly people we met, and the beautiful nature experiences I had in the days before and after eating at KOKS. I cannot wait to go back sometime again.