Reviewed by Carol Kelley of Washington, DC during a visit to Copenhagen on July 28, 2022.
(The numbers in parentheses are photos, shown at the bottom of the review.)
For some years the 3 Michelin-starred NOMA has been named the Top Restaurant in the World. Currently, it is considered to be one of the top two restaurants in the world both of which are in Copenhagen. It was founded and is run by “Danish protege” Rene Redzepi,
The restaurant, which seats about 40, is on a small farm in Christiania, a hippie community just outside the central city area, and during the summer serves a vegetable-inspired menu, all locally sourced or foraged. There are 3 seasonal menus: Seafood, Feb.-May; Vegetable, June-Sept; Game and Forest, Oct.-Dec. (See photos 1 and 2, below)
Arriving into a separate sunny waiting room, we were offered Himalayan tea or juice, and then directed outside and down the long path to the main dining room. When the wooden door opened, we entered a large open space and were greeted by the entire kitchen staff, lined up in their black aprons, welcoming us with great enthusiasm. All of them, including the chef. Well, many chefs.
We had requested gluten-and dairy-free in advance, and our plates did not look different from other diners’. Describing the imaginatively plated 15+course meal is a challenge because so many of the plant-based elements in each course were unfamiliar, at least in the form they appeared. For instance, listed as “Scoby steak and smoked pumpkin” it appeared as a sea anemone but was a “mother of the kombucha pickled in cardamom powder and sweetened jasmine tea” with a border of “grated pumpkin dried, smoked, and mixed with sunflower oil.” (Definition of SCOBY: Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeast that develops into bacterial cellulose.) Very healthy, I’m told.
Not every course was as complicated, but even the simplest one had a new-to-me element or a twist to the norm.
The 4th course: What looked like a regular stuffed grape leaf was a steamed cucumber skin wrapped around a barley cake, which looked like a tube of rice. It was delicious, even if we could not identify the ingredients without help, which the staff was excited to provide with each plate.
The 8th course, one of my favorites, was this marigold tempura (it is VERY hard to keep a flower whole while dipping it in a beer batter) with a Danish whisky and egg yolk sauce, dotted with congee oil. The pinecones under the flower were not edible, but an example of how the inclusion of seashells, stones, etc. represent the importance of nature to this kitchen. (Photo 3)
Somewhere around the 12th course we were served what was presented to us as the “main course” — a lion’s mane mushroom roasted with wild roses. (Photo 4) This meaty mushroom is grown in oak tree sawdust. Its bulk pushed the boundaries of my intake capacity.
The last two courses, thankfully small, featured basil and mint over berries and Jaguar chocolate, and elderberry oat milk ice cream base with a saffron-colored pastry shell topped with bee pollen.
A final touch was a marinated honeycomb, which we were encouraged to chew and enjoy the honey, discarding the wax. (Like chewing those big wax lips we used to see – still available). (Photo 5)
Then filtered coffee. The dinner lasted for almost 4 hours. (And yet, so this review doesn’t last as long as the dinner, I am not including a review of the restroom.)
Finally, the bill. A meal for two at NOMA comes at a significant price, with wine and optional gratuity it was well over $1500.
All in all, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Was it worth it? If food is high on the list of things you love, then definitely. Mr. Redzepi is a master of magic and a master of science in the kitchen.
(1 – NOMA seasonal menu)
(2 – Inside NOMA)
(3 – Marigold Tempura at NOMA)
(4 – Lion’s mane mushroom roasted with wild roses at NOMA)
(5 – Marinated honeycomb at NOMA)