We were initially a bit confused as we wandered along the row of identical looking warehouses. Jesse spotted a chef coming out of a building nearby asked if he knew where Noma was, to which the chef quickly responded, “No.” (Awkward pause, as we stood there looking lost.) “Just kidding, I work there!” He walked us through the front door, and we immediately we saw owner Rene Redzepi standing inside, flanked by chefs on either side. We would get to talk to Rene later on. But first, we were escorted to our table and swept right into the fast-paced slew of starting courses.
This was the rather sudden start to our overwhelmingly amazing time at Noma. Soon we would be eating ants and actually liking it; we would chat with head chef Daniel Giusti from New Jersey; and finally, we would find ourselves talking to Rene for a solid half hour after all the other guests had already left. A pretty incredible experience.
Noma and Chef Rene Redzepi are famous for reinventing Nordic cuisine. Rene forages and sources his ingredients locally from Denmark and the surrounding area and is known for adventurous food experiments that are balanced by their constant reference back to nature.
Below, a glimpse of the beautiful dining room. I loved dining for lunch as the meal was the same but we also got the benefit of beautiful natural light! To the right below, our birch water– instead of tap, a soft, slightly sweet water that’s filtered through birch trees.
The tasting menu at Noma starts off with several starting courses served in rapidfire succession. Below, some red currants and lavender, “nordic coconuts” (warm vegetable broths served inside the root veggies), and reindeer moss that had a crisp, tempura texture and a light salty taste.
Cheese cookies with arugula and plant stems, and one of their iconic dishes: pickled and smoked quail eggs.
Carmelized milk with cod liver; savory Æbleskiver (Danish pancakes); and cabbage and samphire (coastal grasses).
Chestnuts and lumpfish roe; urchin toast (there’s uni under there); and ANTS over tartare! Because citrus doesn’t grow in Denmark, the chefs at Noma started experimenting with wood ants, which contain formic acid and provide the citrus flavor. They gather these ants, freeze them, and break them up with salt. It’s certainly unique and actually very delicious.
Happy servers! I inadvertently matched the servers with my light blue blouse and gray skirt. The people with brown aprons are chefs, some of whom also serve the dining area.
Another iconic Noma dish: burnt leeks charred on a grill behind the restaurant.
I love all of the rustic ceramics used throughout the meal. They’re custom-made for Noma by local artisans. The bread was an adorable little round loaf.
All four of us were enticed by the juice pairings, which cost us each about $100 extra. It might not have been worth all $100, but it was definitely fun and interesting. Below is the cucumber/whey juice to start things off. On the right, Chef Daniel Giusti, who’s from New Jersey. He was working at a traditional restaurant in Washington, D.C. and was lured to Noma with a question: What is it that makes the world’s number one restaurant number one? It seems he found a happy answer in the chefs and the environment he found there, because within two years, he had become Noma’s head chef.
Squid and fennel; milk curd and blueberry preserve.
Quince juice; beets and aromatic herbs
Celeriac and cabbages, cream and nasturtium; potato and lojrom (roe).
A look at the lounge area opposite the dining room; varied knives for our duck course.
Plum/spices and cloudberry juices.
Wild duck with pear and kale; aronia berries and sol; and potato and plum.
After all the main courses had been served, we moved over to the lounge area where we enjoyed some coffee and desserts.
I do have to say, desserts are not Noma’s strong point. The mushroom “candies” were neither crisp nor gummy but a strange tough texture in between with a really odd flavor; the danish was fine, but plain; and the only one we all liked was the fried pork skins with chocolate and berries.
As we relaxed in the lounge, all of the chefs were upstairs in the test kitchen where a new dish was being unveiled. We waited a bit for them to finish so that we could have a chef bring us around the kitchens for a tour. First, the downstairs kitchen that opens to the dining room, and then a look at the grill outside.
Upstairs, interns are hard at work in the prep kitchen.
And then we met up with Rene Redzepi and Daniel Giusti in the test kitchen.
This is where the staff meals take place.
We were the last ones left in the test kitchen, so we talked to Rene for a while. He gave us local recommendations for the rest of our stay in Copenhagen, and then I asked him his thoughts about American chefs and restaurants too. Rene thinks David Chang (of the Momofuko empire) is the most important American chef of the current generation, while Daniel is inspired by Blue Hill at Stone Barns (known for their farm to table philosophy). Also, without any prompting on my part, Rene said that he prefers San Francisco over New York City and further elaborated on that for a while, much to the dismay of my boyfriend Jesse (who lives in New York). Ten points for me and San Francisco!
Our whole crew!
And some freshly foraged wood ants for good measure. We left with full bellies and very happy hearts.
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often jetsetting and eating her way around the world. Read more on her blog or follow her on facebook for more photography and travel adventures.
Part 1: Barcelona, Spain | International Travel Photography
Part 2: Gaudí’s City| Barcelona, Spain | International Travel Photography
Part 3: Arzak | San Sebastian, Spain
Part 4: San Sebastian, Spain | International Travel Photography
Part 5: Noma | Copenhagen, Denmark
Part 6: Copenhagen, Denmark | International Travel Photography