Lunch at Noma
Arrival Time: 12:00pm
First impressions are so incredibly important. The first impressions when dining at Noma do not disappoint. We were warmly (something much appreciated seeing as how cold it was outside) greeted outside the restaurant's door by one of our servers. He pulled open the door and led us inside. Once in the restaurant, we were met by several members of the waitstaff and a couple of cooks. They asked to take our coats and we made our way to the table.
Beautiful wooded chairs were dressed with rustic furs and the stunning bare tabletop needed no tablecloth.
Dishes at the restaurant are brought out by both the servers and the cooks alike. Each dish is briefly explained. All the guests feel like a VIP when a cook or chef serves them one of their courses. What a brilliant idea!
Leather of Sea Buckthorn and Carrot. Pickled Hip Roses. Sea Salt.
This was a perfect start to the meal. The leathers were meant to be pinched in the middle between your two fingers and eaten in one bite. So delicate, they just melted away in your mouth. The buckthorn juice is quite acidic and left a juicy and refreshed sensation in your mouth. Hip Rose petals added a lovely floral note and the sea salt balanced it all out. Excellent palate cleanser.
Our next course arrived in the form of rustic cookie tin, sat down in the middle of the table. The server does not open the tin. It is left for the diners to discover it's secret. This is a great opportunity to talk about the serving pieces utilized at the restaurant. Many of the courses are not served on plates. Not only does it add a very unique and interesting touch to the meal, but it just makes sense in a very real and heartfelt way. If a friend were to make a batch of cookies for you, there's a very good chance they would be handed to you in a cookie tin. This is all part of the experience.
Savory Cookie. Sorrel, Speck, and Black Currant Powder. Young Pine.
Another perfectly balanced bite. The butter in the cookie and the fatty speck are a perfect counterpart to the acidic powder and sorrel. The tender pine on top was a very cool touch, just slightly sour and sweet.
Sandwich of Crisp Chicken Skin, Rye Bread, Smoky Danish Cheese and Lumpfish Roe.
It's important to note here that the first seven courses of the meal arrive without silverware. They are meant to be picked up with the fingers and popped into your mouth. Fingerfood. At the world's best restaurant. Love it. This fact wasn't a mere coincidence. The first few courses are meant to ease the diner and bring them to a state of relaxation and cosiness. After all, when is one more comfortable than snacking on their favorite fingerfoods at home?
Local Danish Radishes, Malt Soil, Foamed Herb Emulsion
This is a dish to remember. The sensation of pulling a radish from the soil in a pot and popping it right in your mouth is very strange. The herb emulsion is made by blending many herbs (often the scraps from what is picked for garnish) with yogurt and an acidic component. It's charged in an iSi canister for several hours and then foamed into the bottom of the clay pot. Then, a faux soil made of malt flour, beer, butter, and hazelnuts is sprinkled on top. The radishes are sprayed with a light mist of water and sprinkled with sea salt, then plunged into the soil and emulsion. The guest is instructed to pull the radish from the soil and use the herb emulsion beneath as a dip. Really a surreal experience.
Smoked and Pickled Quails Egg
This is a lesson in minimalism. Many chefs are taking to this trend, but few pull it off. The idea is to present a small course. One or two bites of food at the most. But it must be very simple. No more than two components maybe. Because it is so simple, it must be pulled off perfectly, or the concept loses it's effect. These quail eggs were pulled off perfectly. They arrived in a porceline recreation of an egg and when the top was pulled, whisps of smoke swirled from the orbs. Nestled in a bed of hay, they are perfectly soft boiled. They have been warmed gently just moments before in a brine with a circulator. When you pick it up, you wince because you feel as though you might crush the egg between your fingers. Upon biting down, the eggs burst in your mouth like caviar, light smoke, sour brine, and rich egg yolk fill your mouth. Smoky, salty, sour, sweet rich egg yolk, great texture, surprising presentation. Perfect.
Buttered Toast, Cod Roe Emulsion, Foraged Herbs, Vinegar Powder, Duck Skin
You could never imagine the work that goes into this dish. Two cooks each morning prepare the toast by thinly slicing ciabatta on a slicer and cutting it into perfect rectangles. They butter the toast, and with long rods of foil mold them into these waves you see here. Another cook makes the cod roe emulsion by lightly smoking poached cod roe and blending it smooth with rapeseed oil. During service, there are at least 2-3 cooks just putting these toast together, sometimes more. The toasts are neatly dotted with roes of the emulsion and then 11 different types of herbs are individually stood up one by one in the dots. When the herbs completely cover the dots, it ends up looking like a little forest. The toasts are dusted with a vinegar powder and sent out. VIPs receive something called a "duck skin" which is a pretty cool technique. Pork stock and duck fat are allowed to sit until a skin forms on the top of the stock. These skins are peeled off and crisped on the plancha before being laid carefully on the herbs.
Aebleskive, Pickled Cucumber, Moico
These things are really cool. Another VIP only treat. These light fluffy Danish pastry are very traditional in Denmark, but on a sweet level. Usually they are filled with a sweet jam and dusted in powdered sugar. Ours are made savory. They are created in a special concave pan just for this purpose. The batter is piped in and with a tooth pick, the cake is slowly turned until it begins to form a sphere. Just before the final bit of hole closes up, a pickled sphere of cucumber is popped in. When done, they are dusted with vinegar powder and a whole moico (small smoked and cured fish) is stuck in either side. Pretty whimsical presentation. Don't worry those of you faint at heart - the fish is delicious. It's all the same texture much like an anchovy. I don't know how many of you readers follow international cuisine, but this dish reminds be of El Bulli's course with a whole dried fish wrapped in cotton candy. I feel like I would have enjoyed this more.
Freshly Baked Wheat Bread, Goats Butter from Sweden and Sea Salt, Pork Fat and Cracklings
Another incredible presentation. You unwrap the bundle to find your warm and crackling bread awaiting you. The goats butter was wonderful - really reminiscent of that fruity acidic tone you get from goats cheese. Of course the pork fat was out of this world. Nicely seasoned with little bits of crispy pork skin on top. Every cooks dream.
Razor Clam, Parsley Gel, Horseradish Snow, Mussel Stock and Dill Oil
Take note of the colors and arrangement of this dish. They're swapped later on. This one's a Noma classic - it's been on the menu since the restaurant's inception. Really made me appreciate those hours I spent shucking razor clams. This dish was sooooo light and refreshing. A beautiful taste of the sea. It was served cold cold cold! The raw razor clam was sweet against the horseradish snow and briny mussel stock that was poured tableside. The dill oil made dark green bubbles in the stock that reminded me of those colored oil toys everyone has on their desk. This was also our first dish on a plate - all their plates are handmade by the way. No two is alike in size or texture.
Beets and Sorrel, Malt Flatbread
The beets used for this dish have been wrapped in a salt dough with hay and baked until fork tender. When the beets are cracked and pulled from the dough they fill the room with this incredible earthy aroma. The beets are sliced thinly. When ordered, they are brushed with onion ash (literally shallots that have been burnt to a complete crisp and ground), and reduced beet juice. The malt puffs are pretty cool. The dough is made and rolled out like a pasta. When deep fried, they puff. Lastly a sauce of sorrel juice and rapeseed oil is spooned around the plate. In a world filled with beet salads, a perfectly cooked beet is hard to find. Found them here! The onion ash added a nice bitter note to the sweet beets and the texture between the three components was delightful.
Dried Scallops, Biodynamic Grains, Watercress, Beech Nuts, Squid Ink Sauce
This dish, in short, was a textural masterpiece. The dried scallops were delicious - what a fun and new way to present a a beautiful sea creature. They're sliced frozen on a mandoline then dried in a dehydrator overnight. The drying brings forth much more of the salt in the scallops, but they still retain their natural sweetness. Several types of biodynamic grains have been coated in a watercress sauce - they have the consistency of nicely cooked barley. Toasted beech nuts are tiny but pack a real punch. These things are shelled and de-membraned by hand ( I can taste the toil!) Lastly the velvety squid ink sauce tied the entire dish together.
Tartar, Wood Sorrel, Tarragon Emulsion, Juniper
This dish was such a joy to eat. Again, served with no silverware. A freshly scraped tartar was dotted with sea salt and horseradish before being piled high with foraged wood sorrel. Doesn't it look like a little bug just skittering across your plate? We were instructed to pinch the meat between our fingers with the sorrel and drag it first through the juniper and then the tarragon emulsion. Another fresh and innovative take on a classic. Eating this dish couldn't have been more fun. Felt like a kid again, playing with my food. Except there was no one there to yell at me...
Chestnuts and Bleak Roe. Walnuts and Cress Shoots.
This one is another plating nightmare. It takes a cook quite sometime to first shell and de-membrane all the chestnuts. They're then sliced raw on a mandoline. Another two or three cooks takes the slices and leans them upon each other one by one. When the dish is called for three or four more cooks gather around the table and begin to place the tiny cress shoots upside down by the crooks onto the shaved chestnuts. Very delicate work. If a wrong move is made the whole lot of them could go down. It is sauced table-side with a butter sauce of bleak roe. I never could have imagined enjoying raw chestnuts this much. Their slightly sweet with a little crunch and a little chew. Kinda like raw carrots. Worked beautifully with the warm (dare I say "popping") of the roe sauce.
Langoustine, Sauce of Parsley and Raw Oyster, Powdered Seaweed
This is another one of those exceptional presentation courses and an extremely dish. By far, in my top three for the afternoon. It was served on a large warm rock. Again, no silverware. The warm langoustine tail was picked up with your fingers and dragged through the powder and sauce. This folks, was the most perfectly cooked piece of shellfish I have ever put in my mouth. Soooo tender and sweet. It wasn't like lobster at all. Much fishier. Like shrimp maybe? The powders and sauce combined to create a pure sea flavor on your tongue.
Oyster and the Sea
This is one of the new dishes to make it to the menu at Noma. Out to our table were carried large blue Le Creuset pots. The lids were lifted at the table to reveal a beautiful sea scape and oyster in it's shell. The water in the bottom of the pot steamed with the rocks, shells, and seaweeds brought memories of the beach flooding back. Pulling aside the top shell, the guest finds a plump juicy oyster poached with a simple cream sauce. The garnishes are simple. Herbs, elderberry capers, and tapioca that's been steeped in apple vinegar. Another example of minimalism. Although the oyster was perfectly cooked, I must say that this dish fell a little short for me. Aside from the really cool presentation, it just wasn't a "wow" dish for me.
Salsify and Truffle Puree from Gotland, Milk Skin, Foraged Herbs
This one is also in my top three. Such a beautiful and tasty dish made from very humble ingredients (aside from the truffle). Speaking of the truffle - holy cow - you could literally smell this dish coming to the table. It was so fragrant. The color of the puree is made by adding a little squid ink. The salsify (you can't see them, they're under the milk skin) were so nicely seared. Golden brown and caramelized all the way around. They reminded me of really good platanos. Although I wasn't a big fan of the milk skins by themselves, they went really well with this dish. Like a warm blanket draped over the salsify, it added a great creamy undertone to the dish. The "herbs so fresh you wanted to call your mom and tell her about them" were spectacular.
Onions from Laesø, Onion Boullion
If there was ever an Ode to Onion this would be it. Pablo Neruda would have gladly written a lovely poem about this dish. This is another one that would totally fall flat if it wasn't perfectly balanced. It was of course. First a onion compote concocted from the finest shaved onions rested in the bottom of the bowl. A thin slice of Prasost cheese is laid on top and torched. It shrinks around the compote into a shrink wrapped bundle. Onion seeds are sprinkled on top. Next butter poached silver onion shells are placed along with small pickled pearl onion shells. The plate is garnished with poached ramson stems and flowers, then onion cress. Finally a aromatic broth of onions is spooned over all at the table. Like the best french onion soup I've ever had - and so much prettier!
Pickled Vegetables, Bone Marrow, Herbs, Boullion
If there's a dish that makes you audibly gasp when it comes to the table it's this one. So stinkin' beautiful and it tastes even better. This one is another plating beast. A cook spends most of his day pre-rolling these pickled vegetables. Each vegetable has been precisely sliced into a long rectangle and pickled in a different brine. Another cook spends the entire service just placing the pickled rings. Like everything, there's a right and a wrong way to do it. Finally, when it's called out. Another two or three cooks will gather around the plates and place the herbs. At the last moment, the warmed bone marrow is placed and it is brought out to the table where is is sauced. The pickled vegetables are delightfully fun to eat and couldn't pair better with the rich bone marrow. The herbs add such a nice touch of freshness to the dish. It was unanimous that it was much more fun to eat than it is to plate!
Pork and Endive, Pickled Pear and Lemon Verbena
This was our first and ONLY meat course! At any other restaurant I would have felt totally slighted, but here it felt just right. I have to say this this was probably one of the most surprising flavor combinations I've tasted since arriving at Noma. This dish is usually made with slow cooked beef cheeks. Never in a million years would I pair beef cheeks with lemon verbena and pickled pears. Never. But it works!! The lemon verbena sauce is made by blending a reduced lemon verbena juice with buerre blanc and spinach puree. The pears are tediously prepped by shaving them on a rotary mandoline and then cutting them into perfect squares. They are compressed with pear and lemon verbena juice. The tips of the endive have been cooked sous vide in an acidic butter sauce. The pork was meltingly tender although I really wish we would have gotten the beef (it's better). The dish and all it's components worked beautifully. I can't tell you how. It just did.
Celeriac and Celery
Not unlike our onion dish, this one is an ode to celery. Although it is technically a dessert, I gathered that it really stands better as a intermezzo. It was very refreshing and cleared our palates nicely. On the bottom rests a parfait made of celeriac. Compressed celeriac and celery are added. Then strips of raw celery. The plate is garnished with lemon balm, chervil stems, and young celery leaves. Finally topped with a celery granita. One of the strangest desserts I've ever eaten, but it was certainly beautiful and had a purpose for which it served.
Sheep's Milk Mousse, Sorrel and Fennel Seeds
Remember the razor clam dish in the beginning of the tasting? Rhythm is one of the main principals of art! The sheeps milk mousse was so very good. Light and fluffy and not too sweet. I could have eaten a whole bowl of it alone. Against the juicy and acidic sorrel granita it's creaminess was magnified. The crisp on top with fennel seeds was a great textural surprise. Rapeseed oil tied the dish together.
Carrot and Buttermilk
This was a cool one. A sphere of carrot sorbet (which is mind blowing by the way) is placed in the center of the plate. The sorbet is covered with a buttermilk foam. Four pieces of dehydrated liquorice cake are placed around it. Then carrots in four different stages of cooked-ness are placed. Raw carrots that have been thinly sliced, blanched carrots that have been coated in a reduced carrot syrup, and lastly semi-dehydrated carrots (they still have just a bit of chew to them). Finally, young carrot tops are arranged. This was another one of those surprisingly good desserts. The creamy buttermilk and carrot sorbet went very well together. The crunchy cake bits and varying degrees of cooked carrot made for a very cerebral dessert experience.
Walnut and Blackberries, Cream and Dust
This is by far my favorite dessert. It is a plate that I find strangely beautiful. So natural and abstract. No awkward scoop of ice cream, no superfluous garnishes or strangely shaped gels and cakes. Just things that taste good. On a plate. Period. The components include a walnut ice cream (soooooooooooooo good), walnut powder, blackberry powder. and a frozen milk foam. This another one of those textural experiences that I just have trouble describing. All the powders melt in your mouth and you're left with a smile. I don't know what else to say. I love. this. dessert.
Our last course. This is Øllebrød. A simple porridge made of rye bread and beer. It was served warm with a milk foam and Skyr (a fresh yogurt from Iceland) ice cream. Fittingly it came to us with a dark beer as its pairing. This was a tasty wrap up to the meal and reminded us that traditional food has a place in the fine dining scene if done correctly.
The meal was ended with Noma beers out front in the sun by the water.
End Time: 5:30pm
There's a very famous quote by Thomas Keller I'd like to share here: "When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about."
This meal did exactly what it set out to do. It made us all very happy. It was fulfilling on so many different levels. It was just on a basic level that it made us happy. It challenged us mentally and culinarily. It was refined, beautiful, emotional, and memorable. It was....an experience. There may not be a thing as perfect food, but the idea of this food - what we saw and tasted and experienced that afternoon was most definitely perfect.
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