Chef Rene Redzepi, center right, talks to his staff before service at Noma Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: Betty Hallock
Last week, Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant was named the world’s best restaurant for the third year in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. Second and third places went to Spanish restaurants, El Celler de Can Roca and Mugaritz.
The only Australian restaurant in the top 50 was Sydney’s Quay (at number 29). Sydney’s Marque, Melbourne’s Attica and Tetsuya’s were the only other Australian restaurants to be rated (in the secondary list at 61, 63 and 76).
So you can hold up your end of the conversation at your next dinner party, here’s what you need to know about Noma and its chef René Redzepi:
Pickled vegetables and flowers with smoked bone marrow and herbs from Noma restaurant. Photo: ERIK REFNER
1 Redzepi, who calls himself a craftsman and an artisan, wants to create “better deliciousness” and find “more vocabularies in our culinary language”. Above the restaurant in former meeting rooms he has created his “experimentarium”, while on a houseboat in Copenhagen harbour is his non-profit Nordic Food Lab. It aims to redefine Nordic cuisine and show how foraged ingredients such as garlic mustard, scurvy grass, fiddlehead ferns and pine shoots can be used in home cooking. The lab also loves to play with fermentations, from herring and mackerel to vinegars extracted from ingredients such as beets, juniper woods and celery.
2 If you’re lucky enough to have a booking at Noma in the next few weeks the dishes you’re likely to eat include “brown crab and coral, egg yolk and herbs”; “dried scallops and beech nuts, biodynamic grains and watercress”; “Limfjords oyster and air onion, unripe plums and buttermilk”; “pickled vegetables and bone marrow, browned butter and parsley”; and “brown cheese and sloe berries”.
3 A dégustation meal at Noma, without wine, is about $260 per person. (Quay’s “tasting menu” is $220 per person without wine).
4 René Redzepi, whose father was a Muslim immigrant to Denmark, was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in April. “He has placed Copenhagen and the Nordic countries on the global map of gastronomy,” wrote legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià in the magazine.
5 If you’ve seen “edible snow” or “edible soil” on the menu at your favourite restaurant you can thank Redzepi. In 2010, New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni popped across the Atlantic to pay Redzepi a visit. Describing a dish at the restaurant, Bruni wrote: “One of his signature starters combines long, thin tubes of parsley-encased razor-clam flesh with what he calls ‘snow’ of frozen, grated horseradish and an emerald juice of parsley and clam that, when poured onto the plate at table side, skitters and bubbles and eddies and swirls like something on a microscope slide.” Redzepi was not the first chef to play with the idea of edible soil but he certainly gave it a nudge in the popularity stakes — one of the dishes he has served is radishes in edible dirt, brought to the table in a flowerpot.
6 Australian chefs to have done “stages” at Noma include James Parry (Sixpenny, Sydney), Ryan Squires (Esquire, Brisbane’s new Restaurant of the Year) and Luke Burgess (Garagistes, Hobart).
7 On May 1 when the winners were announced, Redzepi tweeted: “Holy shit..... We won”.
8 For 10 days during the London Olympics, Noma will open a pop-up restaurant at the famous London Hotel Claridge’s. If you want to enjoy “A Taste of Noma at Claridge’s” you’ll need to fork out £195 ($307) — for five courses.
9 The Australian version of Rene Redzepi is Ben Shewry, of Attica restaurant in Melbourne. The pair are great mates — they bonded over foraging for seaweed in Victoria — and Redzepi has said he thinks Shewry has the potential to make it to the top of the list.
10 According to a Time magazine article on Redzepi, he can’t afford his own apartment and “cycles to work, pedaling through the streets with his 4-year-old daughter tucked cozily in his bike cart as he tries to get her to school on time”.
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