Snowflakes skip alongside the windscreen as our taxi ploughs by way of the current heavy snow blanketing Copenhagen.
We’re heading north-east to the portside suburb of Christianshavn to dine at Noma 2.zero.
Here, alongside the icy banks of a harbour canal, on the website of an deserted munitions depot, is the new – and unlikely – location for the world’s most well-known restaurant.
Co-owner and chef Rene Redzepi and a dozen of his workforce assemble in the restaurant’s wood-panelled vestibule to greet us with a raucous Danish “Hej!”
Redzepi chosen this website for the new Noma based mostly on a shared solidarity with the counter-culture residents who based a commune right here 40 years in the past. The new location may also present loads of open area for a deliberate fruit and vegetable farm, greenhouse and a floating area on a raft. As an urban farmer myself, I am a bit thrilled by that.
“We’re very much part of the community and its independent spirit. Just last week our staff joined a local rubbish clean-up day,” Redzepi says.
We are ushered into an adjoining Nordic-styled lounge space. “Hygge”, the Danish term for cosy, instantly involves thoughts. This room seems like an idealised model of residence – for those who had deep pockets and impeccable style, that is. There are 1970s-influenced white brick uncovered partitions – one that includes a show of Australian abalone shells repurposed from Noma’s 2016 Sydney pop-up.
“Those abalone shells have been passed around to every one of our architects,” says Redzepi, “because those colours and textures are very much what I wanted this place to be. That’s why they fit in so naturally even though they are from the other side of the world. It’s like they were born to be on that wall.”
Taking in the remainder of the room, there is a glass-encased log hearth, blond mid-century chairs and sofas in gray and pastel materials, and massive floor-to-ceiling home windows searching onto the snow-covered riverbanks and industrial energy station in the distance.
It’s like being in a snow dome that is about to be shaken up.
We make our approach to the eating room and move a desk with tall, eerie specimen jars crammed with suspended octopus and different sea creatures.
I assumed you have been presupposed to be a despot and a dictator in the kitchen. I made Putin appear to be a boy scout!
“Seafood season” is the theme for the new Noma’s first menu and it clearly evokes the paintings. Large, flattened, dehydrated octopus – some blackened – are nailed above the kitchen move. On the fundamental wall of the eating room entire dried fish, squid and fish-bone skeletons cling in a row as if drying on a line outdoors a fisherman’s hut. A “green chandelier” of lengthy, glass-like ribbons of dried kelp floats above the central drinks station, all enhancing the sensation of being underwater whereas on the floor.
“Everything here is handmade,” says Redzepi. “There’s no element that is not made by the best craftsman in our region. And most of the decorations we made ourselves. The waiters made the majority of the ceiling. [We’ve tried to capture] that sense of rawness while still being beautiful and spacious and generous.”
The 42-seat eating space is flooded with soothing pure mild. It is refracted into the room via extra giant home windows and bounces off the native oak floorboards. Above, there is a intelligent glass roof cover that hyperlinks the room to the open kitchen and to a few of the different transformed buildings, which now house a personal eating room, the fermentation laboratories, a wall of fish tanks and a separate kitchen and eating space for the 80 or so employees.
Redzepi says working underneath the glass skylight retains the staff related to the liberating cooking expertise that they had at the Noma pop-up in Tulum, Mexico, late final yr.
“When we came back from Mexico we wanted to change up. We wanted the light inside. We needed to feel like we were outdoors,” he says.
Redzepi remembers his time in Australia fondly. “Australia is considered one of the most enjoyable locations that I’ve ever been to for the undiscovered, for the … what is this?
“If I might, I might have had a restaurant utterly out of city,” he says. “Unlike native Americans who haven’t any extra information of their cooking and traditions, it was so inspiring to be with Aborigines and see and style with them.”
The staff has come again from its overseas adventures seeing Nordic components with a new readability.
“Everything about setting up the new Noma has been a concern,” Redzepi confides. “Everything was just on paper … in my thoughts. I knew that when we set up our test kitchen in my backyard we had four months. And it was incredible. I knew that we were very on point with how I wanted things to be. (I wanted) a bigger emphasis on the quality of ingredients and letting the fermentation bunker do its magic. So sometimes you see things like there’s nothing on it but there is actually so much behind it.”
Redzepi understands this intersection between custom and reinvention higher than most having grown up in Denmark in the 1980s as the son of a Muslim refugee from Macedonia. Even so, closing and reopening a wildly profitable restaurant that has been named world’s best 4 occasions, was seen as akin to insanity by most.
“My motto is to change all the time,” says Redzepi unapologetically. “I’m like a mackerel (fish). I need to keep moving.”
What an apt analogy given the menu.
The employees – from the kitchen to the lab to the flooring – have a targeted, optimistic buoyancy that you simply may discover at a hi-tech Google campus. In their Hansen-designed byzantine blue tops, mushroom-toned shirts and lengthy gray aprons, they vibrate with a low-voltage electrical present. These are younger individuals who know they’re redrawing the foodscape.
“With Metta (Metta Sodberg, Noma’s new head of research and development) I believe we will become the best we’ve ever been,” says Redzepi.
“It’s like one thing else is occurring now. I am nonetheless making an attempt to work it out. This time it is extra particular than different occasions. When Noma first opened it was all the time a matter of surviving, serving to my mother and father, sending a refund residence to Macedonia. You labored and also you labored and also you labored. I assumed you have been imagined to be a despot and a dictator in the kitchen. I made Putin appear to be a boy scout!
“My employees lived with having a jerk for a boss. I do not need to be like that. I can not go to work being indignant and go house being unhappy. My imaginative and prescient for Noma is not that we grow to be the best restaurant in the world however the best place to work in the world.”
Redzepi has by no means been accused of dreaming small.
If the opening 14-course seafood degustation at Noma 2.zero is any information, the restaurant’s legendary emphasis on native and seasonal has gone into forensic hyper-drive. And it is not solely what is on the plate. The textural crockery, beautiful hand-blown glassware and cedar wooden cutlery have been all commissioned from native artisans.
That stated, lots of the dishes are literally designed to be eaten together with your palms.
The first course – a sea snail broth with sous-vide sea snail from the Faroe Islands sipped from its shell – is a tantalising palate arousal. The broth is wealthy and intense. Last summer time’s pickles, glued to the inside rim of the shell with a blackcurrant fudge, present the balancing acidity.
Next there are creamy fingers of orange-tipped Venus clams coming out of their shells. They are accompanied by squeezes of aerated soil of rose and blackcurrant wooden. The clams are sweetly tender however the soil is extra mud than air.
From Venus it is on to a galaxy of stars; dishes of “the best of mussel”, shrimp served with crisp shrimp heads, cured wild Danish trout roe and Faroe Islands sea urchin introduced in its purple spiky shell, topped with a floral rose cream and completed with a reasonably fan of peeled pumpkin seeds.
Revelatory. I’ve not often felt extra entranced by what I’m consuming. I’m not even conscious of the different diners. I’m locked in a waltz for one.
Tender fettuccine-like strips of Danish squid arrive on a hand-woven mat of fragrant blackcurrant twigs. I need to take residence an enormous jar of that smoked kelp butter dressing.
So far, nothing too confronting … till the sea cucumber course arrives. There are fairly, dried, orange shards of intensely umami sea cucumber innards (scrumptious), sea cucumber pores and skin crackling (moreish) and a aspect garnish of a really alive gelatinous sea cucumber* virtually oozing off the ice platter (perhaps not).
The meatiest course is the barbecued cod. Glazed items of head, jaw and throat are served on the bone to allow them to be eaten like lollipops. The accompanying dipping sauces embrace a nutty Danish wooden ant paste.
While this is a seafood menu, the heavy umami notes from the koji, miso and dashi do plead for some further palate-relieving herbs or salad leaves. (Is it sacrilegious of me to crave a easy piece of crunchy inexperienced apple?)
So in case you are Noma, what does a seafood degustation dessert appear to be? It might go anyplace.
What arrives is a perfect-looking black mussel shell, which is the truth is a mussel-shaped shell of confit black pear paste full of seaweed and beeswax ice-cream with a swirl of fruit gel. The good ice-cream sandwich.
The rolling candy parade continues with tart cloudberries, sorbet of cloudberry, rosemary oil, yoghurt snow and, probably my favorite single ingredient of the complete lunch, tiny candied child pinecones. They are candy and resinous with a chewy nut-like texture. I can not get sufficient of them.
Then it is one other deep dive with a seaweed and oyster tart, yoghurt cream, meringue and blackcurrant sponge, and a plankton cake that is candy, ferrous and briny.
After 14 leagues beneath the sea it is time to return up for air and assess this tasting journey into the future.
There is clearly one thing very particular happening right here.
But, in the event you handle to snare a reservation for Noma, is it worth $450 ($700 together with wine)?
I’ve not had many life-changing meals in my time so my response is an unequivocal “yes”. A pinecone is my new foie gras, pumpkin seeds my new truffle. I even care about sea cucumbers.
Noma continues to make use of its mastery of components and cooking methods to redefine our relationship to put; turning the humble into the transcendent. By doing so it might very properly not solely deepen our understanding of nature however, in the course of, deepen our understanding of one another as nicely. No small feat for a restaurant.
*Sea cucumbers are marine animals that reside on the ocean flooring and look very very similar to soft-bodied cucumbers.
Noma 2.zero, Refshalevej 961432 Copenhagen. Open Wed-Sat noon-4pm, 6pm-12.30amPrepaid bookings (as much as September 15, 2018) at noma.dk.