If there's ever been a "white whale" restaurant haunting us, it has for sure been Noma. Even being so close by our home (3 hour drive), every attempt to book it has ended in disappointment as it's usually sold out in a matter of seconds when bookings are released with a huge randomized queue.
Noma needs no introduction. It has been ranked the number 1 restaurant in the world 4 times and put new nordic cousine on the map with its inventive and "over-the-top" style of cooking.
The day finally arrived, when both the booking-site didn't crash by pressure and we were able to secure our spot. Noma recently relocated from its old location in Christianshavn to a completely new restaurant-space in Christiania, dreamed up by René Redzepi; Nomas high-profile co-owner. Where previously had only been an old abandoned military-housing now sits a modern architectural stunning restaurant with its own greenhouse and garden.
As you walk up to the front door; suspiciously the only front wall without glass in the entire building, the anticipation rises as you pull the handle of the wooden door and is greeted by the entire kitchen team, front-of-house and René himself. It's an amazing moment which is both welcoming, but also a bit nerve-wracking trying to take in the powerful setting of having the entire team personally welcoming you to the restaurant.
The restaurant interior and architecture welcomes nature with huge wall to ceiling glass with spectacular views of the waterfront, all wood-covered interior and salvaged, naturally darkened pine wood scattered around the dining room.
The "reworked" Noma divides the year up in three seasons. Spring is seafood, summer is vegetables and autumn is game and forest season. The vegetable season is embodied straight into our first dish where we're asked to put our faces into plants and drink a potato-broth from a straw. This dish is both creative, fun and delicious at the same time; vegetables here we come!
The dishes at this stage just keeps coming at a high pace. Every little plate has a mouthful exploding with flavour and technique. It's clear what all the chefs that greeted us is doing at the open kitchen behind us, and that isn't even taking into account the huge amount of hands in the prep-kitchen further into the building. The level of detail, care and inventiveness in every bite is pure wow-factor, only a restaurant with this amount of skilled labour would be able to pull this feat off.
If the food is pure wow-factor, the other parts of the experience isn't putting on as much of a show at this stage. Our sommelier describes our choices of wine as "they're all good" when we ask for "something special". Noma was one of the pioneering restaurants bringing our beloved natural wine into "serious use". We were hoping that a restaurant that puts such an amazing care and thought into every little foraged flower and fermented herb on its plates would be able to create an equally magical wine-experience, but it's clear that everything else has been put on the back foot and toned down in favour of the food.
Many of the dishes has influences from the "Noma pop-ups" around the world, indicated for e.g by the use of chilli-oil in several of the dishes which creates a fantastic "kick", or the combination of pumpkin-seed-tofu and mole made from walnuts and grasshoppers.
At this stage, we're presented with what must be called the pièce-de-résistance of the vegetable based menu; an impressive celeriac-shawarma, marinated and slowly cooked to generate deep wonderful flavour.
Having an all vegetable-based menu creates a few challenges in terms of menu-progression, but the addition of truffles creates the rich and earthy flavours needed to "bring-it-all-together". The milk-skin and truffle "tart" with brie-cheese is simply out of this world. Combining the celeriac-shawarma with a "truffle-sauce" is simply fantastic and you use the bread to scoop up whatever is left on the plate.
The sweet-section of the menu starts off with berries-and-cream and an ice-cream covered with a "moldy pancake". The mold on the outside of the pancake is soft and "fluffy" and reminds you of the molds you find on different types of cheeses (though the sensation is mind-provoking), a true Noma-style-dish.
We end with an "edible pot" that is a crafted masterpiece as it looks truly authentic before we reveal the magic and cut into it.
As we wrap things up, we're saddened that the experience has come to an end, but the food has truly been on point. It's always difficult going in with high expectations for a restaurant to deliver, but food wise, it's easy to see why Noma has been ranked so high in the world-charts. They're an inspiration for many other restaurants in the business and they have a unique style and vision. There's areas where the "overall-experience" could be even better, but it's clear the true focus has been in coming up with and preparing all the dishes. We lack a bit of "context" around the inspiration and thoughts for some of the dishes, which is sometimes revealed as we try to squeeze out as much information as we can from our terrific server.
As we get a tour of the vast new space, it's clear that Noma could almost be described as "industrialised" at this stage. There's stations where multiple chefs pick flower petals, others crush nuts, others collect herbs to be placed by the chefs and their tweezers. Very little "cooking" actually goes on, it's mostly assembly-lines of skilled labour, crafting small pieces of art; mind-blowing if you think about it. We're very happy to have been able to experience Noma and we're already looking forward to once again being welcomed by the entire team!