Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reservations at Noma - Copenhagen

Fresh Flower Tarts
   
Are you kidding me? You want to fly ten hours to Copenhagen just to eat at a restaurant?  Those were my thoughts exactly two years ago, when B first told me he wanted to eat at Noma (then #1 on the worlds best restaurants' list).  Realizing that B was very serious about this quest, I started a self-led immersion project to find out more about the fascination with this Scandinavian city and nonetheless, the world-renown Noma.  It soon became clear that the fashion, history, people and the food are all reasons enough to pull any traveler to Copenhagen.  And, after learning about head chef Rene Redzepi, and his team's focus on foraging and eating from the land, Noma became one more reason to head north.  

Fresh Berries and Lemon Thyme Soup

Having watched too many documentaries/you-tube videos following Rene's passion for cooking with local ingredients, I was hooked on his excitement for creating dishes with all things that can be picked and grown easily in the countryside of Denmark.  He also would occasionally include some more interesting or odd ingredients such as moss, and perhaps a few  insects...yes, perhaps a sprinkling of ants and/or a puree which might include grasshoppers.  

Green Shoots of the Season with Scallop Fudge

I have to admit that I was not keen on eating insects, but that did not stop me from launching a full force mission to snag a table at one of the most difficult restaurants on earth to get a reservation.  It seems easier to get struck by lightening than to get into Noma.  You have to sign on to the booking website the exact moment that reservations open in Copenhagen, three months before the month of your hoped reservation.  So... as I was visiting family in California, I woke up at 1 am, and signed on the booking site.  I was given a number "in line", and when it was my turn, I was lucky enough to snag a booking for a mid-week lunch for two people. (I have made this sound easy, but at the end of this post there are some detailed tips in case you are also interested in getting reservations).


Grilled and caramelized Matsutake Mushrooms

After a few years of following the Noma team, midnight reservation bookings, and not to mention the planning of a trip to Copenhagen, as lunchtime rolled around on the day of our reservation, B (Mr Type-A) was feeling very anxious.  I was just hungry.  I told him a little fresh air was all he needed, so we hoped on our cycles and headed off to lunch.  

100 year Mahogany Clam and Grains
  
When we arrived, we opened the heavy glass doors of the restaurant's rustic building, just off the ocean inlet.  All of the chefs were there to greet us and Rene himself took my bag.  All of our cycling to calm Brian's nerves was immediately erased at this point as he was too start-struck to breathe, yet alone open his mouth to say hello.  We were immediately escorted to our seats for the "show" to begin.    

Sweet Peas, Milk Curd, and Sliced Kelp
 
In effort to avoid going on and on about every mouthful, I can summarize by saying that every dish was created with simple ingredients that had been prepared in multiple complex layers of preparation.   There were no boundaries.  Ingredients that you have known all of your life to be used for certain dishes, were completely inverted and twisted. Savory was sweet, and sweet was savory.  There were raw ingredients, fermentation, smoking, pickling, mousses, milks, spicy lettuces, berries, mushrooms, flowers and much much more.  And with roughly twenty plates, I have not shown them all here.



Charred Onion

Even a simple onion was so much fun to eat, having been charred on the outside, then sliced open and cooked until the inside was sweet and tender. We were encouraged to eat with our hands.
  
Butternut Squash, Rose Petals and Fermented Barley

There was a simple squash steak cooked in an incredibly nutty and creamy fermented barley milk with rose petals. I am sure there were some pureed grasshoppers (or other who knows what) in that milk.  It was just too flavorful to be so simple.

Yogurt Mousse and Sorrel Leaves with Beetroot Quenelle 

   My all time favorite was dessert (of course) called "Forest Flavors" which was presented beautifully on living greenery.  Just to name a few of the pieces in this complex dish: There was fried moss which had been dipped in chocolate.  There were fermented pureed mushrooms dipped in deep dark chocolate creating a chewy caramel flavor and texture, and there was a dark chocolate truffle that was filled with the same creamy fermented barley milk that I had loved on my pumpkin dish.  As you bite into the chocolate you are forced to slurp up the malty milk before it drips down your chin.

Forest Flavors
   
It is safe to say that this was undeniably the most incredible meals I have ever eaten. While I have to remain uncertain if I ate any insects, (except for a tiny one I saw on my fresh flowers tart), B did have a few (apparently delicious and lemony) ants that were crushed into herbs and some grasshopper garum.  And, even with all of the dishes, the quantity never felt too filling nor too rich.  As I would finish one dish, I was always intrigued as to what was going to show up next.  The service was smooth and completely unpretentious.  The chefs are all young and friendly and most are still early in their prestigious careers.


Chef Toni showing us around the restaurant and kitchen 

A different chef was responsible for bringing out and presenting each dish, allowing us to meet many different people behind the food.  And part of what really makes a meal so good is understanding the people and the passion behind it.  Even though the price tag makes me question my sanity, (and I really did not like that they charge you for water!...when you are already paying an incredible amount for dinner) it is comparable to the cost of front row tickets to a concert.  And at least I know that the money spent is going towards the salaries (and hence the continued education and training) of passionate future chefs...or at least that is how I try to convince myself.

 
For now, I will not be entirely attempting to recreate what I ate at Noma, but I am definitely inspired by it.  And if nothing more, now whenever B thinks I am combining strange flavors or becoming the mad scientist in the kitchen, I just sing one little word...Noma.... and there is no more discussion.


Tips for getting a Table at Noma


Pre-booking

1. Obviously, read over Noma's website, so you know all the details for your booking attempt.  Also make sure you check all of the opening hours, days, etc. (For example the restaurant closes when they run a pop-up in another country).

2. Have at least three dates and times options in mind, as you will not have much time to choose your slot when you get into the system.  Other people are choosing at the same time, so you will have to be quick. And, if you can help it, obviously don't book a trip before you have a reservation, as when/if you get access to the calendar, your first choice may not be available.

3.  It is much easier to get a table when you have a group of 5 or more people.  Most table requests are for couples and so those spots go very quickly.

Booking
1. Log on to the booking site a few minutes before the exact minute that the booking opens, as the site will automatically connect you when the clock strikes. 

2. Speed matters.  Log on to the booking site with only one device, so as not to slow your internet connection.  Unless you have an incredibly fast connection, having multiple devices connected will slow the automatic connection.

3, Once you are automatically connected, you will see a note on the bottom of your screen that says "there are xx people ahead of you".  I have seen my computer accidentally connect to the Danish language site, and so this was all written in Danish. So even if you can not understand it, do not touch it.   If you try to reconnect, then you will lose your spot in line. 

4.  Once you are 1st in line, you will automatically connect to the calendar.  Know what you want and choose quickly (see Pre-booking)!

5. Finally, if you do not get a booking and your schedule is flexible enough, keep checking the website booking calendar as days pass, because slots do open up (especially for larger parties)

Best of luck.
  


6 comments:

  1. WOW! After reading your article, I start thinking of visiting Copenhagen.

    I knew that they have a delicious cuisine, but I never thought they have such a fantastic restaurant there.
    I just HAVE TO try it.

    I've checked their online booking calendar and didn't find the time that suits me best. Could you please tell me, do I need to book it half a year before? Coz I didn't find any time at weekends, from September till November

    ReplyDelete
  2. I get thru your blog and this topic was amazing and excellent post. Definitely this is one in the list of informative and useful information in my opinion. I am following it up for more posting and comments sooner, GREAT JOB and Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, do you have to prepay to hold your reservation?

    ReplyDelete
  4. no, they will ask for a credit card to hold the reservation as your date approaches however (final week)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Do you have to pay fully at the time you make the reservation?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Do you have to pay fully at the time you make the reservation?

    ReplyDelete