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Image 1: Finally back for a second visit and we were glad to see René in the kitchen. He was as energetic as before greeting each guest as they arrived!
Image 2: www.noma.dk. Chef: René Redzepi. Tasting Menu: 1500 DKK (20+ servings). Tuesday to Saturday, lunch and dinner.
Image 3: The meal was like fitting two cuisines into one! Moreover, it wasn’t difficult to spot flaws throughout the meal – vegetable wasn’t cleaned thoroughly; no finger bowl after sticky food; and hot pan with oil on dining table simply wasn’t a good idea. On the other hand, despite these minor flaws, I admire René’s creativity, originality and commitment to foraging fresh produce which continues to define modern Nordic cuisine.
Image 4: It was five years ago when René came out from his kitchen to welcome us with a piece of crispy chicken skin as our first amuse bouche. Throughout that meal, he shared his philosophy of what Nordic food was all about as not many people had heard of Nordic cuisine back then.
Image 5: The gastronomic world has continued evolving... significantly to be precise! Though Noma has topped the World's 50Best list for three years now, not much has changed inside -- still the same relaxed atmosphere and still the same type of wooden tables without cloth!
Image 6: The menu has really changed. This was the only item that we had five years ago - pickled and smoked quail egg.
Image 7: The next item served, while I was only halfway through my bread stick, was Moss and cep - boiled and subsequently fried reindeer moss, a type of lichen, dusted with dried cep. It had a very unique and delicate texture, crispy but airy!
Image 8: Which was a malt flatbread stick with juniper!
Image 9: Loved the presentation of this mussel dish!
Image 10: Served in a Danish cookie tin was a cheese cookie with rocket.
Image 11: These little noodle-looking stacks were made with potato and duck liver and dusted with black chanterelle. They were definitely serving more nibbles using complex techniques than five years ago. I felt some influence from El Bulli here!
Image 12: On a layer of herb ash were dried carrot sticks that resembled a liquorice (confectionery) texture, served with a sorrel dipping on the side.
Image 13: On top of a thin disk of caramelized milk was shaved cod liver seasoned with seaweed salt.
Image 14: Presented in a flower pot was Radish and carrot in soil - similar to the “vegetable field” course that we had last time, but it was then served on stone instead of a pot.
Image 15: More food just kept on coming! This herb toast with smoked cod roe was one of the best dishes from our meal!
Image 16: Grilled corn - The whole thing was edible including the hair as these were very young corns.
Image 17: Wow, I have no idea how they transformed veal and seaweed into fibres. Incredible texture and flavour!
Image 18: Sorrel leaf standing on cricket paste
Image 19: Every single item we had so far was very tasty especially this last amuse bouche - Crayfish.
Image 20: The emulsion was also to be used for the other part of the first course which was…
Image 21: A delicious potato as the first course; it was the butter and fermented bean emulsion that was addictive!
Image 22: We were instructed to eat this using the “bouquetted dagger” whilst eating the bouquet simultaneously.
Image 23: This course along with the next few really reminded me of my previous experience - fresh ingredients but monotonic and muted in flavour. Well, I guess it is a positive sign that they are able to retain their originality in some of their dishes!
Image 24: Paired with cucumber & dill juice was fava beans and beach herbs.
Image 25: Another one, Berries and cucumber. A selection of mulberries, blackberries, blueberries, herb and cucumber.
Image 26: They receive two batches of brown crabs everyday - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both meat and roe were used in this dish along with egg yolk marinated in verbena and dressed in seaweed sauce. The yolk was cooked at 67 degree Celsius for 37min to provide such a distinct creamy-sticky texture.
Image 27: Covered by a pine branch was a piece of cauliflower, roasted heavily with a pile of branches and served with yogurt and horseradish cream. Hard to believe just a piece of cauliflower could be considered as a course. A lot of work certainly went into this dish, but I still thought it was incomplete.
Image 28: On a plate drizzled with verbena and dill purée was pike perch cooked on the grill but wrapped in cabbage to create a steaming effect retaining the moisture, finished with foamy butter with roasted fish bone.
Image 29: Our server then got a plate of herbs with thyme butter…
Image 30: The instruction was simple - put some oil into the hot pan, crack the egg straight in and start the timer. When the alarm goes off, put the butter and lovage in, wait for them to come back with the sauce, and then put the rest of the herbs in, and then we can finally eat!
Image 31: This was the most bizarre course I've ever had at a Michelin starred restaurant. Not only was it gimmicky, it had a long set of instructions and none of us found it "fun". To make matters worse, there was oil splashing on to our shirts from the hot pan!
Image 32: Shortly after I wiped off the oil from my shirt, , one of the chefs came out to show us a huge piece of turbot roasted on the bone as our main course. Yes, there was no meat course in the tasting menu.
Image 33: The sous chef goes to the forest every morning to pick herbs and flowers for this course! While enjoying this turbot, I noticed there were a few tiny bugs crawling out! It seemed like I had invaded a small family from one of the stems. Although this proved how fresh the herbs were, I expected the ingredients to be properly prepared! I continued and finished only the fish.
Image 34: It was a major controversial topic in the gastronomy circle when René first introduced ants in his restaurant. I finally got the chance to experience those ants! The first dessert arrived - a purée made with blueberries and ants…
Image 35: … and sandwiched between leaves. It was very acidic and we were not sure if it was from the berries or from the ants! Rene’s view of using ants was that most insects actually taste good and have better nutritional value than meat, so why not use them? At one point, he actually served live ants! He cooled down the ants in the fridge so that they couldn’t run fast before serving to diners!
Image 36: One of the most unusual desserts, yeast…
Image 37: … and in the ramekin was a sea-buckthorn jam topped with a layer of yogurt.
Image 38: To accompany our tea, a Danish sweet - meringue with a biscuit bottom covered in milk chocolate.
Image 39: Our meal followed by a long chat with the sous chef and René during the behind-the-scene tour as Noma has expanded in every aspect since my last visit. The whole team now comprises of 90 staff, many of whom are volunteers.
Image 40: A large staff cafeteria and office upstairs, and a test kitchen in the building across.
Image 41: They have someone to take care of all the herbs.
Image 42: This man will never stop creating new dishes!
Image 43: I am grateful to have had the experience of visiting Noma before and during its reign! As a successor to El Bulli, seems that in order to met the high expectations of the world gourmands, they created an array of sophisticated amuse bouches as the first half of the menu. However, the second half, which showcased his original Nordic cuisine, seemed a bit disconnected from the first half in terms of style, techniques, and flavours.
Image 44: Immediately after a chat with René at the bar, the manager led us to our table and warned us that the kitchen would bombard us with an extensive arrangement of amuse bouches for the next hour and the first item was this centrepiece on our table!
Image 45: Then a crispy pork scratching with a “blackcurrant leather” on top!
Image 46: Blue mussel and celery with “edible shell” underneath. The manager was right, the food really came one after another without any respite!
Image 47: A savoury take of Æbleskiver, a Danish Christmas pancake sphere penetrated with muikku, a small fish from Finland.
Image 48: The best part was this powerful sauce which saturated my palate with rich and intense flavour from the crayfish head! A superb finish to the 16-course amuse bouche!
Image 49: ... a beautiful plate of garden snail.
Image 51: … a timer set to 1 min 20 sec and a hot pan to cook our own egg so that we could see how an egg is cooked (as if we have never cooked an egg before?)
Image 52: … sandwiched between thin cracker
Image 53: An ice cream made with Gammel Dansk, a Danish liquor, decorated with broken pieces of dried milk finished with a sauce of sorrel, apple, and dill.
Image 54: With elderflower salt on the side, these bread-looking things were made from caramel and yeast, so it had a texture of something between bread and caramel, perhaps more like fudge but with an unpleasant odour and sourness! Difficult dessert to like, and I was surprised that they didn’t have finger bowl so all of us had to go wash off our sticky fingers!
Image 55: A birthday cake for me!
Image 56: And finally, potato chips coated in dark chocolate dusted with fennel seed.