“I did it, I got us a table,” Martin exclaimed incredulously on the beach during our summer vacation in Italy. I looked up from my book, distracted.
“A table?” I asked. That’s when he told me, with twinkling eyes, that he had finally managed to book a table at the highly coveted restaurant of René Redzepi, Noma in Copenhagen.
The first time we managed to secure a table was right in the midst of the first COVID wave, booked well in advance but never anticipating a pandemic. The reservation was rescheduled twice to different dates, only to be ultimately completely canceled. Booking a table at Noma is not something you do casually.
And so we finally found ourselves in Copenhagen. Welcomed into a greenhouse filled with plants and served a cup of herbal tea, the atmosphere relaxed, the fireplace lit, and a flora calming environment Noma was our place to be for a few precious hours. After an early morning flight from Amsterdam, we felt the travel rush melt away amidst Noma’s greenery.
The location surreal, with several greenhouses nestled by a small lake, offering views of a row of flats and houses across the water, behind which a large factory chimney emitted a cloud of mysterious smoke.
The leaves on the trees were autumn brown, and as we were led to the restaurant at the end of a long garden path, we spotted the genius we had come for, strolling in one of the greenhouses, surrounded by a massive team of passionate young people, whom we estimated to number around 60 heads ensuring that guests were served with perfectionist timing to their every desire.
The entrance of the restaurant was adorned with dozens of deer antlers. Later, as we bid our farewell, we realized that those antlers were from all the deer that had been prepared in the kitchen. Upon entering the restaurant, we were warmly welcomed by the perfect ambiance and a reindeer hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world to have a dead deer suspended in the middle of a restaurant these days.
Born on the 16th of December in 1977, René Redzepi is a culinary virtuoso of Danish-Albanian heritage. He holds the prestigious title of being the co-owner of Noma, a culinary gem nestled in the enchanting Christianshavn neighborhood of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Noma isn’t just any restaurant; it is a culinary sanctuary adorned with three coveted Michelin stars. This trifecta of Michelin recognition is a testament to Noma’s exceptional quality and innovation in the world of gastronomy.
Noma does not have a fixed menu, and the dishes vary with the seasons. During the winter months, there is a lot of use of fermented and preserved herbs and vegetables, fresh shellfish, fish, shrimp, and lobsters. In spring and summer, the emphasis is on fresh flowers, herbs, and grasses, even (served live) insects, and in autumn, more on poultry, game, nuts, mosses, fungi, and mushrooms.
From half past one until half past five, we were treated to an explosion of flavors. Renée Edzeppy is renowned for his dishes that are close to nature and inspired by the ingredients available in the Danish surroundings during that season. The wine selection had been carefully curated by the sommelier Ava Mees, a Dutch lady who had been working alongside the culinary genius for years, seeking the perfect wine pairings.
I wisely opted for a water/juice pairing, but with each course, I couldn’t resist taking a sip of the carefully chosen alcohol that Martin had selected, so as not to miss what the sommelier had intended. The menu featured Guinea fowl, chestnut, mushrooms, rose hip, and deer. You could taste the essence of autumn, love, and passion. We were encouraged to eat with our hands as much as possible and it was a pleasure to do so with these exceptional dishes.
The atmosphere was surprisingly relaxed, with most guests dressed in comfortable attire, ranging from early Christmas sweaters to sneakers and beanies. At Noma, it’s all about the food and not about how fashionably the guests are.
From my seat, I watched with fascination as a large group of chefs from around the world prepared the beautiful dishes under Redzepi’s guidance. My eyes remained fixed on three chefs who were painstakingly working on a dish with tweezers, their heads bent over it. Only later, when it was placed in front of me, did I realize it was a wreath of sunflower seeds meticulously placed one by one in a delightful creation.
Each course was just the right amount—never too much, never too little. Brilliantly conceived, thought out, and endlessly inspiring. How did this man come up with these flavor combinations? I swallowed, pushing aside my aversion just twice out of the 14 courses, as I ate deer tongue and brain omelette respected the story put into these dishes. It was divine, unparalleled, and I shared two-thirds of the tongue with my Martin, who effortlessly chewed the exceptionally tender meat of the animal that had hung in the center of the restaurant upon arrival. I have indeed devoured the reindeer brain omelette with all due honor.
Time flies when you’re having fun. Before we knew it, the final dishes were placed on the table, and we enjoyed a dessert infused with autumn flavors. Here, too, it was the perfectly balanced flavors and unique combinations that made the experience unforgettable. I savored a flower that I wasn’t supposed to eat but only dip in a pool of chocolate, and as I did so and marveled over the exceptional taste explosion in my mouth, I realized how unique this experience truly was.
Chefs have a new opportunity – and perhaps even an obligation – to inform the public about what is good to eat, and why.
In the winter of 2024, Noma will bid farewell to its patrons. Redzepi clarifies that his decision to close this celebrated restaurant is rooted in his recognition of the need for a substantial transformation within the realm of fine dining. This need for change is, to a significant extent, motivated by the grueling and strenuous work hours endured by Noma’s staff and the essential requirement to provide fair compensation to employees.
“We must initiate a profound rethinking of the industry,” he emphasized. “The current methodology is excessively demanding, and it is imperative that we embrace a different approach to our work.”
Noma is known for its innovative and creative approach to cuisine, particularly in the realm of “new Nordic cuisine.” It has consistently been recognized as one of the best restaurants in the world and has received numerous awards for its inventive and seasonal dishes.
Where is Noma located?
Noma is located in the Christianshavn neighborhood of Copenhagen, Denmark. It is situated in a picturesque setting, often described as an urban oasis, by the waterfront.
How can I make a reservation at Noma?
Noma is known for its high demand, and reservations can be quite competitive. Reservations can typically be made online through their official website. It’s recommended to plan well in advance, as tables tend to book quickly.
Does Noma have a fixed menu?
No, Noma does not have a fixed menu. The restaurant’s menu changes with the seasons, and it is designed to showcase the best and freshest ingredients available during that time of the year. This approach allows for continuous innovation and creativity in their dishes.
What can I expect from a dining experience at Noma?
A dining experience at Noma is characterized by culinary excellence, attention to detail, and a focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant offers tasting menus that feature a variety of courses, often highlighting unique Nordic flavors and techniques. Guests can expect a memorable and immersive dining adventure in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.