In love with… Noma

Dinner, September 14, 2007
Noma is not the name of my new girlfriend (I’m married :o)…
Noma is not the name of my new domestic animal…
Noma is not the name of my new Japanese car…
Noma is just the name of a fantastic restaurant in Copenhagen where I had a dinner last Friday.
For the first time, I’ll write a review in English, not that I’ve suddenly decided to add complexity in my review exercise (it’s already difficult enough to express things in French), but simply in homage to the great Noma team led by its chef Rene Redzepi.Restaurant Noma (No for Nordic, Ma for Mad = “food” in Danish) has been ranked this year 15th best restaurant of the world. Not a guarantee of great experience but looking to the restaurant philosophy described on their website and thanks to the contribution of several blogs (let me mention again Trine for the remarkable work she’s doing on her blog) I was highly confident that I would enjoy a great moment there… the question being : will it be a breathtaking experience that you can only live a couple of times in a life or will it be just another very good dinner in a 2 Michelin stars restaurant ?

I was therefore really excited, but without too high expectations (lessons learnt…), when I entered the restaurant around 8 pm after a short taxi drive from the city centre. The restaurant is located in a warehouse, in front of the water, with a view on the city and more particularly on Nyhavn, small harbour nested near the city centre.

When you enter the place, you feel immediately like being transported out of time : candle lights, darkness, natural wood almost everywhere, animal furs on seats and in front of you, the kitchen, modern, semi-opened on the restaurant, you see the chef and his team preparing the dishes.


We were suggested to have an aperitif in the small lounge next to the bar. After a first glass of champagne (Blanc de Blanc, Agrapart) and first appetizers (natural crispy chips revealing unexpected but very good tastes), the chef itself came to us bringing the second appetizer : a smoked quail egg : intense, great texture, tasty.


While doing this, he announced us he had prepared a specific “surprise” menu for us … we were of course pleased – I guess we can even say “excited” – by this nice announcement.


After this second appetizer, we moved to our round table, placed in the centre of the dining room, with a nice view on the kitchen and we felt ready to start this tasting menu !

Oyster jelly and cucumber, Nasturtion and ryebread
Wine : Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Granite Magnum, Domaine L’Ecu (Guy Brossard), 2005


It was not only visually beautiful, it was perfect in mouth as well. Fresh opening dish for this menu, the oyster jelly is perfectly balanced (not too strong but present enough). We liked it.

Raw shrimps and green gooseberries, Fresh cream and dill
Wine : Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Granite Magnum, Domaine L’Ecu (Guy Brossard), 2005


High quality products, it works well. The texture of the gooseberries is interesting (lightly frozen) and brings a nice contrast with the shrimps. At the end, this dish will appear to be the most “common” one to me, the one that surprised me the less.

Tartar and wood sorrel, Creamed tarragon and juniper
Wine : Riesling “Klaus”, Weingut Prager, Wachau, 2005


Now we are entering in another world, another dimension…
This dish is just fantastic. The quality of the tartar is exceptional, the wood sorrel brings a vegetal touch in perfect adequacy with the tartar, the tarragon cream and juniper crispy powder. On top of that : no fork, no knive, you eat it with your fingers ! A top experience, the more you eat this dish, the best it is… you almost hope it never ends…

Shoots and malt, Potato puree
Wine : Sylvaner “Nature”, Julien Meyer, Alsace, 2005



With this dish, we were almost knocked out ! On a warm basalt stone, they are serving vegetables and soil (crispy roasted and crushed seeds) : a small piece of nature in a plate. The vegetables are tasty, perfectly cooked, supported by a smooth potato puree and well completed by this “natural soil”. Just amazing…

King crab and mussel stok, ashes and leek
Wine : Wiesseburgunder Spatlese trocken, Schlos Sommerhausen, Franken, 2005


Wow. I thought I had eaten king crab before…. I need to talk to my fisherman again.
Probably one of my favourite course of the dinner. The leeks are ashed and are fitting perfectly well with the king crab. The mussel emulsion brings sweetness and a light creamy taste. It looks so easy when you see it in you plate, but the quality of each product, the perfectly cooking of each element are making of this dish something close to perfection.

Warm lobster salad, red current wine and beach herbs
Wine : Anjou “La Lune”, Marc Angeli, Loire, 2005


Well, at this stage we had no words to express our feelings as the sequence of dishes we received was so amazing. And we have to agree that this lobster dish is reaching the same quality level than the previous courses. Flavours exploding in your palate, the quantity of each ingredient is perfectly measured, this is a very well balanced course, again should I say.

Sweetbreads and dust of thyme, hazelnuts and mushrooms
Wine : Gevrey-Chambertin, Charlopin Parizot, Bourgogne, 2003


I’m not fan of sweetbreads but I must admit these were very good. The dust of thyme is interesting as it brings another texture feeling in the palate. Not too strong and enhancing the whole dish savours.

Musk ox and chanterelles, browned butter and black berries
Wine : Saumur Champigny “Les Poyeux”, Clos Rogeard, Loire, 2003


I thought I was arrived to the end of my surprises, not really.
The meat cooking is here perfect and of course tasty as you unfortunately can’t find easily at your own butchery. But the biggest surprise of this dish was the wine pairing…: a Saumur Champigny … so strong, so rich, perfectly fitting the meat and chanterelles… I thought the wine would have been too light after the Charlopin on the previous dish, but no, absolutely not… what a pairing !

Selection of Nordic cheese (no picture)
Wine : Clivi Galea, Ferdinando Zanuzzo, Friuli, 1997

As for the rest of the menu, we were presenting specific Danish products… and these cheeses were kinda cheese you love or hate. I’m in the middle (as often :o) : I really enjoyed most of them while a few were really too strong (was a little bit shocked when my Danish friend said he was eating such cheese for the breakfast !! … that’s maybe one of the biggest difference between Denmark and France / Belgium :o)))

Raspberries and beet roots, marinated rose hips
Wine : Anthos Matteo Corregia, Piemonte

Nice first dessert, fruity, light, fresh, exactly what we could expect as first dessert after such tasting session. And again, what a wine : this Italian sweet red wine was absolutely fabulous.

“Ollebrod” and skysorbet, rye and milk
Wine : Coteaux du Layon (couldn’t get the references as it changed from the wine menu)

No picture here (completely forgot it) for this typical Danish dessert. I must admit this one was too much for me. Intense, heavy, you must be used to it I guess, or at least prepared and have eaten less than I did tonight … (now, I’m the only who couldn’t finish this dessert, should I need some training on dessert ? :o)

5 hours later, we reached the end of this dinner and I must say it has been for me a wonderful experience. I’ll not come back on the food : best products, perfect cooking method, wonderful visual in each plate, clever pairing. There is a little of Michel Bras at Noma : focused on local products with a unique goal to bring them to the light, in a creative and personal way.

Now, I would like to outline a couple of things I’ve found fantastic at Noma :

– Atmosphere : even it’s a little bit noisy, I enjoyed so much the place. They wanna make you feel you are in Denmark… typical (but designed) furniture, wood everywhere, darkness, candles, and more then anything else the view on the kitchen. It’s a relaxed place, you feel almost like at home (a pity I don’t have the same kitchen and cook …:o). With my friends, we enjoyed a wonderful time together (thanks to them again !)

– Service : Top service (don’t expect a 5*Palace service, expect a professional but human one). What a generosity, so talented ! They are transmitting to you the pleasure they have to serve you, to be the link between the chef and yourself. And when it’s not someone from the service team that serves you a dish, it is the chef itself or one of its cooks… They were so excited to bring the dish at our table and explained us each ingredient… I loved it.

– Wine : the sommelier is a key people of this spectacular scene. With a great sense of humor (private joke : cheese, not tee…), he takes a real pleasure to describe each wine. The wine menu itself was of a very good level, probably better than the average for such menu in such tasting session in similar restaurants. Amongst the wines we got, some wonders : Riesling Klaus, Sylvaner Nature, Gevrey Charlopin, Anjou Angeli, Anthos,…

At the end, I have to say it has been probably one of my 3 or 4 best dinner ever, maybe even my best one with the Fat Duck. And now I enter into the more personal part of my review, the one totally subjective :

I love Noma because it’s a “human” restaurant, contacts between people are natural, direct, simple here… it’s a small heaven out of time, where I’ve felt serenity and happiness.

I love Noma because you feel the kitchen breathing. Quietly seated at your table, you feel they are giving the very best of themselves. I perceived it as they were risking their life on each dish coming out of the kitchen. I felt touched by such involvement… really.

I love Noma because the restaurant and the chef are fully assuming what they do. They don’t try to copy with the risk to give pale imitations. They’ve chosen to build their restaurant on Nordic food and they are precisely famous for that.

I love Noma for the exceptional dishes delivered. It’s pure. It’s one of the most personal and honest cuisine I’ve met.

How to end such review ? … maybe by answering the question already mentioned above : “Will it be a breathtaking experience that you can only live a couple of times in a life or will it be just another very good dinner in a 2 Michelin stars restaurant ?”…

I guess I have the answer now.

Laurent V

8 commentaires

  1. What a most beautiful review, Laurent. Thank you – also for writing it in English!🙂 Happy to hear that you liked (loved) it.

    Ps. Please don’t expect that I’ll do the same (write in your blog language) when I eventually will dine in your areas😉

  2. On peut écrire en français quand-même?

    C’est beau, c’est excitant, c’est encore une revue de Noma qui est surexcitante.

    Ce qui est frappant, à lire cette critique et les autres, c’est le sens que toute l’innovation, la technique chez Noma est basée sur une gourmandise sublimée et bien comprise — c’est peut-être une des chose qui contribue à rendre l’expérience si « humaine »? Ca semble nouveau et sophistiqué, technique et maîtrisé, mais accessible, réjouissant, et comme tu dis, sans la volonté d’imiter qui que ce soit. Juste faire un formidable repas avec des produits locaux. Je ne sais même plus si c’est toi ou le restaurant qu’il faut que j’applaudisse.

    Il y a une chose sur laquelle je ne te crois pas: quand tu dis que tu es arrivé dans le restaurant pas trop excité. Tu as lu les mêmes CR que moi. C’est pas possible. Je ne te crois pas.

  3. Merci ami Julot.

    A vrai dire , excité je l’étais un peu (je l’avoue….), par contre, bel et bien profil bas côté attentes, un CR récent écrit par Allan, un gastronome danois très présent sur le site de Trine, avait tempéré mes ardeurs… je n’en ai que profité d’avantage au final je pense.

    Voilà donc une adresse où un retour s’impose, tôt ou tard…

    Laurent

  4. A beautifully written piece and lovely photos – thank you for sharing Laurent.

  5. Waouh ! et dire qu’on parle tant de la cuisine espagnole… à lire vos comptes rendus, il semblerait bien que le nord de l’Europe ait bien des leçons à donner!
    Je trouve des similitudes entre la cuisine de Noma et celle de WD 50 à New York, ont ils oeuvrés ensemble ?
    Toujours est il que je suis ébloui, merci de nous faire partager ces moments.

  6. Merci pour votre commentaire !

    Concernant un éventuel lien avec WD 50 à NY – que je ne connais malheureusement pas : pas à ma connaissance . Le chef René Redzepi a ouvert Noma en 2002 après un passé chez El Bulli, au Jardin des Sens et French Laundry.

    Concernant la cuisine nordique, et le Danemark plus particulièrement, je vais poster prochainement une review de Paustian (dîné le lendemain de Noma) tandis que d’autres tables semblent à visiter absolument : Geranium, MR, Formel B… tout cela rien qu’à Copenhague…

  7. Le rapport est peut etre El Bulli.
    Vous pouvez trouver des photos de WD 50 sur http://www.flickr.com
    Mais la comparaison s’arrete là car la cuisine de Noma semble avoir une véritable dimension, un peu comme celle de Michel Bras ou de Pascal Barbot (l’Aastrance).
    J’ai hate de lire vos autres reviews.

  8. En effet, il y’a un peu de Bras dans la conception culinaire et l’expression du terroir avec cependant une mise en valeur des produits et saveurs encore plus prononcée je trouve chez Noma… Idem concernant la dimension humaine : plus intéressante et concrète chez Noma… maintenant tout cela reste très subjectif bien entendu.

    J’ai consulté les photos de WD50… superbes ! Voilà une adresse à retenir en cas de voyage outre-atlantique !

    Prochains posts prévus : Paustian (DK) et la suite des étapes GoT (Sa Qua Na, Decoret, La Grenouillère,…)


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