In 2010 at the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, in London, Reni Redzepi was crowned number one, making Noma in Copenhagen the best restaurant in the world a title he has held for the last three years.
For Redzepi it has been an amazing trajectory. A few years ago no one would have given Scandinavian cuisine a chance, now foraging for seaweeds and cooking milk skin are where it’s at. For the restaurant it means they are full lunch and dinner and according to Redzepi, ‘ it means we can cook what we want. We don’t have to put on the evergreens like steak’. For the rest of us it means waiting months for a table.
I ate at Noma in 2008 reviewing it for Restaurant magazine when it was merely 15th in the world and to be honest I don’t remember seeing steak on the menu. We dined on reindeer, milk skin, blik roe and birch wine. And while here at Squidbeak we reject pretentious, messed-about-with food, I have to concede this was the most interesting, innovative food I had ever tasted.
You will search in vain on a Redzepi menu for aubergine, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, lemons all those sun drenched Mediterranean ingredients, instead you find only Nordic, cold weather ingredients, herbs and berries and other weird northern foraged stuff but the tastes and the unpretentious setting are just fabulous.
Rather surprisingly, Noma’s sous chef is Sam Millar, from York. In 2010 he came over and cooked for the York Cooking Rooms along with chefs from J. Bakers and Rudding Park and Great British Menu chef, Stephanie Moon. You can see her pictures and read it all in detail on Steph’s Wild Cook’s Blog
In the meantime unless you are a committed ‘napkin sniffer’ click away now but here are my scribbled notes on the ten course tasting menu we ate at Noma way back in 2008… before it was famous
Amuse Bouche : Smoked quail eggs presented in a large shell filled with smoking hay, to reveal soft boiled egg
Delicate vegetable chips served with an egg and vegetable dip
A traditional doughnut, subverted and made savoury by filling it with pork then rolling in salt and dried vinegar
Bread : Bread arrived in a little felt bag tied up with string, inside were miniature spelt rolls served with Icelandic cheese butter and a spread made of pork fat, apple and parsley and topped with pumpkin seeds
First course: Blik roe with tarragon served with a mild pickled cucumber topped with twigs of malt – to give crunch and a nutty flavour – it looked much like All-Bran
Second: Razorclam wrapped in parsley jelly served with horseradish ‘snow’ – hot horseradish contrasted with salty, icy ‘snow’ served with the juice of the clams, dill and lemon
Third: Salsify with milk skin and herbs and a paintbrush slick of Swedish Gotland truffle served with wafer thin crispbread. A wonderful mix with the sweetness of the salsify, the softness of the milk, and heady truffle
Fourth : A classic Redzepi signature dish of sweet king crab with mussel foam and sprinkled with breadcrumbs served with leeks that had been wrapped in ash and cooked in hay.
Fifth: Seared monkfish with two kinds of seaweed. Iclandic seaweed and sea salad served with cauliflower and a white current sauce.
Sixth: Bouillon of birch wine and mushroom. Raw mushrooms in a broth with chickweed, an egg yolk poached at 65 degrees and the white cooked and shredded served with crispbread
Seventh: Sweet, tender reindeer medallions with celeriac ‘cooked’ in hay with jellied discs of wild herbs and a sauces of ramsons.
Eighth: Ewes milk cheese with chopped sorrel topped with a strip of iced toffee topped with aniseed.
Ninth: A crisp biscuit-type base topped with set yoghurt and paper thin discs of pear with mead poured around the base.
Tenth : Caramelised potato traditionally eaten at Christmas in Denmark served with cumin ice cream, topped with a crisp biscuit. Great contrast of hot, cold, crisp and soft.