Lukasz Krol shares his experience of dining at Noma
Surveys have labelled Noma the best restaurant in the world. It is a place that shuns molecular gastronomy in favour of further developing local, Scandinavian flavours. It is a place where lunch takes 4 hours at least, and where the menu differs from day to day, depending on what food is sourced. Finally, it is a place where getting a place is often an act of sheer luck, with hundreds of thousands competing in a lottery style system for the 22,000 seats that the restaurant offers annually.
Somehow, my family received that magical email, telling us that somebody had to rescind on their reservation and we got a place at Noma at lunchtime. There was only a small problem, if it can be called such. Noma is in Copenhagen. So we turned this problem into an opportunity, and went to Copenhagen for a quick city break as well.
A city can often be judged by its airport and its subway. For example, I once transferred a flight on Hong Kong airport, without ever having stepped foot in the city. Nonetheless, extrapolating from my experiences at the airport, Hong Kong is a small-scale utopia. Likewise, Copenhagen Airport also looked rather nice. As did the subway. First impressions were thus good. As we stepped off the subway and went to our hotel, I was continuously impressed. The architecture is great, particularly for someone who once lived in Salzburg. It is very difficult to describe the feel of Copenhagen, but imagine that Austria, Scandinavia and Amsterdam (it has some canals) all had some strange sort of lovechild. Yet that child had its own unique charm as well. That’s probably the best way to put how Copenhagen felt for me.
A day was spent on all the default touristy stuff, on which you, dear reader, are probably bored of hearing. So, let’s fast forward to lunch, in this mythical restaurant. And let’s start by comparing it to Mordor. Because, just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply walk into Noma. Fortunately, we got the place, so we didn’t need to worry about it too much. Likewise, one will hardly forget Mordor. Noma has been an unforgettable experience as well.
Rather than a single starter, there were scores upon scores of amuse-bouches, each one with a different level of novelty or innovation. Imagine eating deep fried reindeer moss. Or flat bread shaped like a twig that was presented in a bouquet. Or, to once again return to parallels with Mordor, a soft-boiled quail’s egg in a large egg-shaped bowl filled with hay and wood smoke, smelling and tasting like it was fresh off a fire. All of those tiny portions were immensely innovative, so much so that every single one of those would have provided enough culinary excitement to last for a day. Except that there were around a dozen of such dishes.
The main course was amazing as well, as were the desserts. Noma simply seems to have redefined every assumption I have about food. Desserts do not need to be sweet to be good. Anchovies can be tasty. And Danish wine is surprisingly good as well. It was definitely the most interesting culinary experience I have ever had, even if many of the dishes seemed unusual at first. Every single aspect of the lunch did not just exceed expectations, however. It managed to set a new benchmark by which I judge food. In a scarily Nietzschean fashion, having reached the top of culinary endeavours, I might never be satisfied with any food that I encounter on my travels now, as it will never even approach anything I’ve eaten at Noma.
Photography – Lukasz Krol