Amass, Copenhagen 2014
Chef Matt Orlando sure has an impressive CV. Having worked at The Fat Duck, Per Se and being head chef of Noma... When he decided to open his own restaurant "Amass", we were surely intrigued.
The restaurant is beautifully located next to the Copenhagen shore (but a bit outside the city center making it a short "trek" to get there). Matt and his team has totally renovated an old shipyard-brick-building and merged the old with the new in an urban and contemporary way— it simply looks stunning.
Surrounding the building is a big garden where much of the produce is grown (the restaurant prides itself from utilising much of its own produce, and thinking about its waste).
As we arrive (a bit early) there's a lot of people enjoying the great day out in the Amass garden. Inside the restaurant the servers are setting up the tables and talking amongst each other. We walk in and ask if it's possible to have a beer-- and the response is: "of course you should have beer— do you need glasses?". Amass has a collaboration together with "gypsy-brewery" Mikkeller, which has crafted three "Amass-beers", and we're handed the IPA-version. This already feels like we've arrived at a big "house-party" instead of a restaurant, and we love this!
We walk outside to the garden and enjoy our beers together with the socialising crowd (which isn't scheduled to eat at Amass, but to simply enjoy the space). We see chefs grilling bread at one end of the restaurant. The communal feeling is evident from the start.
During the summer, Amass serves "Amass fried chicken" during lunch. It's possible to get a small box with fried chicken and condiments. People have described this as "the best fried chicken available", and we ask if it's possible to have some. We're told jokingly: "sadly not— maybe after dinner?".
The interior of Amass has been crafted together with Jacob Gubi and designer Sofie Brünner. The space is open-planned with a "loft-like" feeling, perfectly matching the bricks & concrete with touches of wood/steel and a very striking graffiti-wall. Funky hip-hop tunes are blasting through the speakers. This is an urban and cool interior in a great setting.
Our server is very "bubbly" and is the kind of person we simply would want to sit next to us at our table instead. He instills an aura of "I hope you'll have a great time tonight". As we marvel over the cool interior and the communal, almost party-like vibe of the restaurant we're reminded by a loud "yes chef!" from the open kitchen that we're also here to eat.
We're served "papadum"-like bread with a bowl of potatoes, vinegar and marigold. The vinegar is very distinct and we love this start of the meal. Next up is a small bite of glazed mackerel, black garlic and indian gherkin. This tastes just heavenly! Texture and taste that packs a punch— wow! Though, we're a bit surprised that this is a whole "dish" and not simply a snack as it's gone in two bites (but we're given a glass of wine for the dish alone). The fact that it tastes amazing makes up for its size however...
During the mackerel dish we're also presented with the bread we saw being grilled before. It's a fermented potato flat-bread served with a fusion of pickled cabbage, chard and leek tapenade. Ohh wow, this tastes so good. The bread is made from just the right amount of flour to make the dough "stick", giving it a great texture— and the fact that it's still smoking hot gives a great warming feeling. During the meal we keep eating and eating of this bread.
At this point we're truly excited for what is to follow. We've been off to such a great start that even our own high expectations are already blown. The next course of red lettuce, roasted chicken skins, langoustine and beach plants is however not as exciting (but it still tastes great). The chicken skin gives the dish great texture, and the langoustine and herbs are as fresh as they can be.
The next dish is the first one where we feel that the "experimental" side of the kitchen is coming out. The dish of grilled corn, egg yolk, black pepper and oil is served in a big bowl and we're very excited to taste this dish. The egg-yolk is almost of an "impossibly-creamy" texture and the sense of "sweet corn" is evident. This simple-looking dish has surely taken a while to prepare. Though we're not sure if we like it or not— it's surely very interesting (and hence we're very happy to have tasted it!)
The dishes at Amass are playful which is very exciting, but also a bit "risky". This is particularly evident for the dish of carrot, yogurt curd, nasturtiums and pickled pine. One of us thinks this is one of the best dishes ever tasted, while one of us couldn't finish the plate. The carrots seems to have been infused with carrot juice and the bite is perfectly soft (and crunchy) and the taste is perfect together with the yogurt— but one of us feels that the dish is "too sweet" and can't finish it. This is however what we love about food— go for it! Someone might think it's the best dish tasted!
Unlike a few of the previous dishes, the pork neck with unripe apples, kale and hazelnut feels a lot "safer".
As the meal is going towards an end— we're experiencing a very long wait between our dishes (and our bubbly server that has presented all previous dishes is gone). We wait around 45 minutes for our "snack" of raspberry, toasted buttermilk and rosemary, which is quickly digested.
As the sun is slowly going down, two large fire-pits are lit outside the restaurant. This is very effectual and creates a great and cozy feel. The "Yes chef!" from the kitchen has continued during the entire night (at first we thought it would be rather strange to hear this, but as more and more diners joined it became less distracting).
The end of the meal is a "desert" of cherry sherbert with frozen fennel and olive oil. We have a hard time stomaching olive oil in a desert— and the pairing is lost on us. The dish is also very "large" and the taste doesn't suit our palettes (but again, it's very interesting). This is the one dish that could've actually been smaller though.
Interestingly enough, during the entire meal we've only been served white wines (and not a single red). This is rather refreshing, as it keeps the palette very "clean" and ready for new flavours. Though, personally we would've liked to see Amass embrace more natural wines; to experience even more character— but all in all, the wines at Amass are of top class.
As the meal is ended— we again ask if it's possible to have some Amass fried chicken-- and our server looks at us surprisingly "are you serious?". This is the last day it's served, and we just have to try everything this restaurant can offer us! "I'll go ask". After a while he returns "Amass friend chicken is on!".
We take our ending delicious coffee and go sit outside the fire-pit. After a while Matt himself comes walking up to us stating "you guys are my heroes!" (Apparently not many people request the fried chicken after the full tasting menu :) We have a chat with Matt and he explains the great communal feeling of everyone involved in the restaurant— and its neighbours; it's evident that this is part of the Amass DNA. We can surely feel the love put into Amass by Matt and his lovely wife Julie Bergstrøm Orlando (that serves as a great hostess during the entire evening).
The casual approach to exciting and playful fine-dining makes Amass such a great restaurant. The value we've gotten during the entire evening makes the final bill a total steal. If we lived in Copenhagen we would hang out at the Amass "house-party" as often as we could. But for now, we sit by the fire and enjoy the great tasting Amass fried chicken and reminisce on our great experience.