Tuesday, February 23, 2010
NOMA AND CHEF RENE
Noma (contraction of NOrdisk and MAd, meaning food), at the age of six, is simply the third rated restaurant in the world (El Bulli in Barcelona and Fat Duck near London are #1 and #2) and Rene Redzepi was recently voted the best chef on the entire globe. Natural Nordic ingredients are used, almost all from Denmark. They even brew their own beer and wine. As such, no olive oil, no foie gras and not much salt, but a lot of vinegar. Note that the first really French restaurant on the top 50 list, Bras, came in at #7. Three of the best five are Spanish. That's Chef Rene to my left.
Only 32 years old, boyish and understated (I actually thought he was just another staffer when he served me the cheeks), mother Danish cleaner and father a Macedonian (Muslim) taxi driver, he just wandered into cooking school, but had the good fortune to work at The French Laundry (#12) in California and a three Michelin star restaurant in South France.
Returning home, he somehow was selected to open a restaurant in an old dock building, which was being made over for the diplomatic missions of Greenland, Iceland and Faroe Islands. The interior still looks like a warehouse. Note the decor in the next photo. The white color is salt.
I ordered their house beer and white wine. The beer, a Pilsner with a slight herbish taste, was made from the sap of birch and had an alcohol content of 5.5%. The grapes (Solaris, Sauvignon Blanc, Silvaner and Riesling) came from the island of Lilleo, and the 2008 combination, called Arwen (name of his daughter), was served in a Swedish Orefors glass, had a medium body, dry, tad fruity overtones, crisp and excellent. That's Pontus Elotsson, my sommelier.
Before you even see the menu, they first bring in series five appetizers, all eaten with your fingers:
- savory cookie with lardo (salt cured pork fat) and currents;
- sandwich of lump fish roe and smoked cheese, with rye bread on one side and crisp chicken skin on the other;
- sea buckthorn leather and elderflowers, too complex to explain;
- smoked and pickled quail egg (to right below);
- another sandwich of smoked cod roe and pork breast, plus condiments; and
- finally, a crispy on the outside, but fluffy inside spherical char siu bow type dim sum.
At this point, I was quite satiated. Then, when the menu came, the thought of eating seven more courses (about $180, although three years ago it was $125, plus 7 glasses of wine for an additional $160) was out of the question, so I ordered the three course set (about $100), and sipped on the beer and wine through the entire meal. Actually, if you count the following, there were five courses.
Malt flavored Oland bread came with goat cheese (pure white) and a second container of pork fat with additives. The first plate was beetroot and sorrel (leafy herb).
I should underscore that every dish was a work of art. The second course was a raw razor clam with parsley skin, dill and mussel juice. #3 was an acidic grape juice on caramelized onions and thyme leaves. Finally, ox cheek and pickled flowers, winter cabbage and capers of ramson onion. For dessert, I was served a walnut powder, ice cream, dried cream and dried berries.
I am not particularly in love with vinegary food (one reason I really don't like sushi), so that was a minus. I might have better enjoyed the whole meal if I had subscribed to the wine set. Thus, the next time I have the good fortune to dine here, I will make sure that I am really hungry and not be somewhat hung-over from the previous night. I should also come for dinner. A final note is that I was probably the most well-dressed diner, even though I was wearing snowshoes, jogging pants and a long sleeve t-shirt.
I felt honored to be allowed to dine at Noma's. People kept asking me if I already had a reservation when I mentioned I was to eat there. I took a taxi coming, but, after having my photo (thought you might want to see how I dressed) taken outside, decided to trek back to the hotel, a 20 minute brisk walk. The Sun had finally peaked through this morning for the first time and it was not snowing.
She took my photo, so I took hers.
The temperature was just below freezing, with some wind. For the record, I picked up a caesar's salad at the supermarket (basement of all department stores these days have food) and a bag of potato chips, which served as my dinner tonight with the water I bought the night before. I am now back to a weight checking mode.
The late breakfast I had at the Hotel D'Angleterre involved the chef fixing me an egg plus fried salmon plate, which I complemented with a salad, cheese, roll/croissant, capuchino, mimosa and peach drink version of same. They serve cava for breakfast here, which is a Spanish champagne. Turns out that both the internet and breakfast come with the room. Now, on to Amsterdam.
Check the box on the right for the Dow Jones Industrials and price of crude oil.