I paid $350 to eat at Noma, the 4-time best restaurant in the world where guests feast on mould, potted plants, and a giant kebab made from vegetables — here’s what it was like


NomaWill Martin/Business Insider

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — Approaching Noma, perhaps the world’s most famous restaurant, one can’t help feel the sort of trepidation that comes with any trip to a high-end dining experience. Fancy restaurants are by their nature intimidating places — expensive, filled with wealthy, successful people, and often, snooty staff.

Noma, a restaurant that takes immense pride in defying almost every convention in the book, doesn’t fit that stereotype, and makes its point from the very beginning.

Rather than a greeting from an aloof maitre’d with a waxed moustache and immaculate hair, guests’ first contact at the restaurant is with a 63-year-old Gambian immigrant called Ali Sonko and his infectious smile.

Sonko, a permanent fixture at Noma since it opened almost 15 years ago, started as a dishwasher at the restaurant, and having worked his way through the ranks, now owns a 10% stake in the business.

Voted the best restaurant in the world four times in the well-respected, but often controversial World’s 50 Best list, Noma is portmanteau of the word’s “Nordisk,” meaning “Nordic,” and “mad,” the Danish word for food. The restaurant’s name perfectly defines its ambitions.

Noma and its founder Rene Redzepi have built a culinary dynasty by focusing solely on ingredients from the Scandinavian region, shunning things like olive oil, and focusing instead on foraged ingredients from near the restaurant.

Famous dishes to appear on the restaurant’s menu over the years include dried moss, ants, and more recently mould.

Located in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, it has a fair claim to be the most influential place of gastronomy in the world. Alumni are spread all over the world, and have taken the restaurant’s philosophy of hyperlocalism with them.

Any time you eat an edible flower at a local bistro, or hear about the house churned butter at that trendy new spot downtown, Noma has probably had at least some influence.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Noma twice, once in November 2011, and more recently in late July. Here’s what it was like on my most recent visit.

The original Noma was open from 2003 until early 2017, when founder Rene Redzepi and his team closed shop with a vision of reinventing the restaurant. A wildly popular pop-up in Mexico filled part of the intervening time, with the rest dedicated to building a new restaurant almost from scratch in a new location roughly a mile from the old restaurant.
Will Martin/Business Insider
Situated on a small lake just outside the centre of Copenhagen, Noma’s new location was formerly an ammunition storage facility for the Danish military, and comprises the main restaurant, its kitchens, and numerous greenhouses where the produce served to diners is grown. Designed by renowned architect Bjarke Ingels, the site’s 11 buildings stretch more than 60 metres from end to end, and are designed to resemble an old Danish village.
Will Martin/Business Insider
In its previous iteration Noma changed its menu based on what ingredients were most readily available, but used vegetables, meat, and fish throughout the year. Now, it operates in three seasons, focusing on seafood for four months, vegetables for another four, and then game for the final four. Visiting in July meant I was served the vegetable-focused menu.
Will Martin/Business Insider
See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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