By Brette Warshaw
Copenhagen’s Noma has been ranked as the best restaurant in the world by critics galore. It has two Michelin stars—and that alone makes it a place to know about. But the really interesting thing about Noma is its reinvention of Nordic cuisine with a menu that’s as fiercely local as it is innovative. Ingredients are culled from the woods, the oceans, even the parks. The Noma chefs take what grows in Scandinavia, particularly in Denmark, and craft a cuisine. Giant puffs of lichen, dainty plates of creamed wood sorrel, aged reindeer… this is the New Nordic cuisine people are talking about.
René Redzepi is the man behind this. After working in a number of restaurants around the world, including the famed El Bulli in Spain, Redzepi was invited by Danish chef Claus Meyer to open the restaurant that would become Noma. Redzepi is also the author of a number of cookbooks, including Noma Nordic Cuisine, Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine and, the most recent, A Work in Progress.
Strandgade 93, in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn neighborhood, is the restaurant’s address. Just behind, on a boat moored in the canal, sits The Nordic Food Lab. Founded by Redzepi and fellow chef Meyer, this is where scientists conduct experiments with local ingredients, many of which end up on the menu. Inside Noma, the dining room is a perfect example of low-key Scandinavian elegance: beautiful wood furniture, simple plates and cutlery, and lots of big windows to let in the light.
Given its ranking as the world’s top-rated restaurant, it’s no surprise that Noma is also one of the world’s most difficult tables to book. Reservations are accepted the first Monday of every month for two months ahead (reservations for October, for example, would open up August 4). If you can't make it to Copenhagen, though, keep an eye out for a Noma pop-up restaurant (there’s one scheduled to open in Tokyo in January 2015). Additionally, Noma alumni have been opening spots all over the world—from Stockholm to Sydney to Singapore. To find out where, check out this page on the Noma site: http://noma.dk/noma-alumni/.
If you are visiting Copenhagen and can’t get a reservation in advance, duck into the restaurant and ask to be put on the waiting list. Sometimes, at the very last moment, you can get lucky.
A TOUR OF NOMA:
In 2012, while team Noma was in London for the Olympics, the Danish design studio Space Copenhagen completely refurbished the restaurant, which in its previous incarnation had been a herring warehouse. Muted tones and textures now set the tone of the dining experience. "It was very much about using organic materials such as wood, stone, leather, brass and linen in a new way, materials that age beautifully over time," designers Peter Bundgaard Rützou and Signe Bindslev Henriksen told Dezeen magazine.
Foraged moss and bread shaped like twigs are the kinds of dishes that make dining at Noma so unusual and exceptional. Winter potato cooked in fermented barley was cited as a standout dish in San Pellegrino’s roundup of the 50 Best Restaurants.
—Brette Warshaw is the managing editor of Lucky Peach magazine.