We had high expectation before we left for this trip. We got up shortly before 4 am US Eastern Time on 2/1/12 in order to dial promptly at 10 am Nordic time for making reservation. Luckily we were able to make a reservation on 5/2.
We got to the place a little while before our scheduled time 7 pm. The restaurant is located in water front with a crane nearby. When I saw a young man cleaning the window I started chatting with him. He has been a waiter with Noma for about a year. He also told me the pastry chef left a few days ago. I knew right away that desert is not going to be the highlight of the meal.
Noma changed its menu daily; therefore, the menu did not provide any details. It just provided names of the major ingredients. I requested for a printed menu and got one which was in the very simplest format. Its owner/chef Rene Redzepi labeled its style “authentic cuisine”. It is earthy and refined, ancient and modern, both playful and serious, emphasizing the old ways of drying, smoking, pickling and curing. Using rutabagas, whey, pine and juniper, shells, hay and twigs, it seeks to turn the culinary dial back toward the natural world.
We had the tasting menu which comprising 15-20 items. I would just describe some highlight of our meal.
We started with a nice vase with bread sticks shaped like twigs hidden in the green branches. You had to practice treasury hunting if you want to eat. Then, we got a plate of green moss and fried moss with twigs hidden in it. Then, we had some live shrimps on ice bed in a glass encasement. In hindsight, I honestly did not remember how I ate them. I guessed I was too overwhelmed with the excitement and struggle between being an adventurous foodie and being a Buddhist.
Midpoint we had a pot filled with soil and a green plant. Both plant and soil were edible. Although neither of them had great taste. Each guest also had the opportunity to prepare for his/her own sunny side with herbs. My thought was that I did not have to spend $300+ for making a sunny side up at home. I was there for a fine dining experience but I got a lot of novelty experience instead.
Desert was an experience. We got a chunk of green sponge looking cake. It was made with a scoop of tea flavored cream infused with plenty of extremely sub-zero cold air in a high tech machine. It looked spongy, it tasted spongy. But, it did not have much substance, nothing like a sumptuous piece of cake or soufflé. Then, we had some chocolate pieces coated with cumin seeds and other spices.
Our request for visiting the kitchen was kindly granted. After meal, we were accompanied by the executive chef Orlando and manger to visit their kitchen as well as their lab which focused on experimenting and developing new products. Noma definitely spent a fair portion of resources for staying innovative in the business.
My experience at Noma was an experience which was different from my expectation of a true fine dining experience.