It was by sheer coincidence that my friend S. sent me a blog review on Noma after I got my plane ticket to Copenhagen. After I read the review, I knew it had to be on our itinerary. I made a reservation about 2 months prior to the trip, and when JL decided to join the trip, I made the change and they were really accomodating. For a restaurant which is ranked #3 on the San Pelligrino's Top Restaurants in the World, the online reservation process was easy-peasy.
Noma is located inside the North Atlantic House by the waterfront and looks out towards the Royal Playhouse of Copenhagen and Nyhavn. The interior exudes a rustic and calm vibe. As soon as we arrived, we were seated promptly, I was a little surprised to see that the restaurant was not completely filled.
Once we settled down, they brought out the first amuse-bouche, a savoury cookie (bottom) with speck (middle) and blackcurrent powder and pine (top). The sourness of the blackcurrent powder was a nice contrast to the savoury cookie & speck. The pine, however, was relatively tasteless. The cookie was quite crumbly and crispy, I rated this 6 out of 10.
The next amuse-bouche was the crispy chicken skin (bottom) with cheese & lumpfish roe (middle) and rye bread (top). This was really appetizing, I was really wow-ed by the paper thin chicken skin as well as the paper thin rye bread top. I'm sure a lot of science went into creating those two elements, I guess this is the brilliance behind the concept of molecular gastronomy. I liked this a lot, it was a 9 out of 10 for me.
Next up is a Noma signature-creation, it's a pot of fresh raddish with soil, and not just any soil but edible soil. This was really fun and eye-opening. We ate the raddish whole. As for the soil (it looked 100% believable as real soil), it was made of dark beer & walnut. To make the texture more interesting, the "soil" was made in two batches, one with butter which made the texture softer and clumpier; and one harder, which I assumed was dehydrated-rehydrated in some complicated process. The green mousse was made from herb & cream. Taste wise this was a 7 out of 10, novelty factor wise, this was a 10 out of 10.
The next thing they gave us was a crispy toast, cod emulsion with herb & vinagrette powder. The toast was really tasty, it had the texture of a cookie and the herb was really fresh and subtle. It was also so darn pretty. This to me was an 8 out of 10.
After the amuse-bouche, they brought us freshly baked sourdough bread with flower from Sweden (not sure what flower but at this point I think my feet was no longer touching the ground, and my brain ceased to function as my belly took over), with goat's milk butter, and lard with aquavit and pork crackling. The bread was really delicious, and I particularly liked the goat's milk butter. They also brought us the menu. I was really excited to finally see what was on the menu. It consisted of 3 choices - 4 courses, 7 courses or 12 courses. We went with the conversative 4 courses because we didn't want to over-eat and ruin the experience (sudden flashback to dinner at Per Se in 2005, when towards the end I was so full I almost needed a stretcher to get me out of the restaurant).
...and just because they could, after we ordered, they brought us another "teaser", they described it as beetroots and mulled fried bread with salt. The beetroots were thinly sliced, and covered in some sort of black chalky sauce which I couldn't figure out what it was and forgot to ask. This was overall quite tasty, and visually appealing, the colors from the beetroots & sauce created a cool abstract painting on the plate. I thought this was a 7 out of 10.
The first lunch course was the razor clam with parsley jelly with "snow" in natural (razor clam) juice and dill oil. The "snow" was a tribute to the weather and it was made with buttermilk and horse raddish. The razor clam was so fresh, and the dill jelly was subtle and complimented the clam really well. The "snow" was the mind-blowing part of the dish for me, it was like one of those liquid nitrogen thing, which was frozen but melted really quickly in your mouth. The horse raddish gave it a wasabi-eque kick, really really well done. We all loved this, and to me this was a definitely a 10 (maybe 15) out of 10.
The second dish was caramelized onion with juice from early grapes (from the isle of Lilleø) with tapioca and lemon thyme leaves. The cook who brought out the plate (a young Californian guy) pointed out that the grapes were early harvest grapes that they pressed and aged for a few months, they liked the taste and incorporated it into this dish. There were so many competing flavors in this plate that I didn't really think it worked that well, at least for my friends and me. The onion was really strong, and grapes juice was sour, and the lemon thyme was pungeant. I thought it was just way to "busy". I guess just like science experiments, some are succesful and some aren't, this one to me wasn't bad, but wasn't great. I gave it a 5 out of 10.
The next course came with a viking knife wrapped in beautiful leather. My friend BK instantly felt guilty because she is a full-time vegetarian but goes on breaks when she travels, which I am utterly thankful for. We had ox cheek, the green vegetables on the front of the plate was cabbage folded into wafer with cabbage compote inside. The middle part was poached cabbage with rose hip, pickled cardamon, lingonberry, and capers on stems. It was a really beautiful-looking dish, bursting with colors. I liked how they balanced the dish with very light flavors, and the ox cheek was really tender and soft. I never knew poached vegetables could be so tasty. This was a 9 out of 10 for me.
For dessert, we got walnut ice cream with walnut & blackberry powder. This dessert was a tribute to the wintry & snowy weather. It looked plain and boring but the ice cream was quite delicious, the hint of sour blackberry powder really brought out the walnut flavor. This was an 8 out of 10 for me.
Feeling extremely greedy, I decided to order one more dessert. I asked the staff what I should order and without blinking he suggested the Øllebrød with skyr ice cream, foam and rye bread crumbs. He also explained that Øllebrød is a traditional Danish porridge, usually served for breakfast, it's made from rye bread (usually leftovers or stale bread) soaked in beer & sugar. Øllebrød is one of those dishes that every Danish family knows, and has their own little versions. The Øllebrød was a little sour, the skyr (Icelandic cultured dairy product, similar to strained yogurt. although technically it is a very soft cheese) was a little sweet. This to me was really the perfect way to end the meal. I gave this a 10 out of 10.
I have to also mention that the service was exceptional, they were attentive but relaxed, and most of the food was brought out by one of the cooks and they explained the dishes really well and answered all my questions patiently. I was told that there were about 15 people working in the kitchen, and I am sure the are more during dinners & busy nights. For me, this was a relatively reasonable meal considering the ranking of the restaurant and also it being in Copenhagen (where a sandwich costs USD20). My lunch at Noma was not only enjoyable, but was also educational. I came back reminiscing how understated, unpretentious yet elegant everything was. At times I think some chefs are trying to be food-magicians but came out looking so passé, my experience at Noma was nothing but interesting & invigorating, especially since I am completely unfamiliar with Scandanavian cuisine. I hope Noma keeps pushing the envelops because they are definitely on the right track.
As we sauntered out of there after 3 hours of really enjoyable lunch, we couldn't give a damn that it was all foggy and the weather was disgusting. Our tummy was happy and that's all we needed.
11 months ago