It felt like winning the lottery, when we found out we got ourselves a booking at the world’s Number 1 restaurant (currently No. 3 in 2015)! It really was difficult to contain our excitement and lower our expectation knowing that it’s the best restaurant; so honestly my emotions were just in such a mix of confusion I just didn’t know what to expect.
When we first stepped inside, we were literally welcomed by something like 10 staff standing at the reception; all smiling and eager to take us on this culinary journey. It was a very different start to another Top 10 restaurant I visited earlier in the trip.
True to its concept, the interior felt incredibly organic and calming. Now I can’t possibly include all the 17 courses and matching wine in one post, but I’d love to show you some of my personal favourite dish and my thoughts.
Fermented wild plums & wild beach roses
As NOMA operates on set menues, between the moment we sat down and the moment that our first dish landed in our plate, it was surprisingly fast. Our first dish reminded us of beetroot and it wasn’t quite like that. While it looks moist, it was actually quite crispy and light. Although I have to point out that all 17 courses were fairly light, otherwise we’d have difficulty making through 17 courses.
The first shoots of the season with scallop marinade
Here’s the thing about top 10 restaurants, they are no longer just food, and they are no longer just experiences; each dish is an artwork. Carefully crafted by many men and women to arrive in front of us in the most exquisite manner. The charred fresh shoots were beautifully arranged on – what I can pretty much say with confidence – one of my favourite set of crockery, that have been brushed with scallop marinade. To be complete honest, it felt wildly organic yet indulgent.
Cabbage and roses
I hope I’ve captured the delicate nature of these cabbage leaves. They were semi transparent leaves that felt like would disintegrate as soon as I touched them. Thankfully they held together long enough for me to get them to my mouth.
This dish was made by first freezing the monkfish liver, then shaved onto this perfect grilled bread. How perfectly grilled? There’s a guy that standards at the grill and only puts on the grill two at a time. Just the right amount of fire…
Here’s what you get with an AUS$600 meal: nothing short of perfection. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who are dedicated to their art and craft. While my friends and I laugh at the prospect of grilling two pieces of bread on a BBQ for a whole afternoon, we know perfection is not a laughing matter. It might be two crispy bread, but it was one of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had. Knowing someone carefully cooked it for me, makes me appreciate it even more.
White asparagus, black current leaves and barley
Lobster and nasturtium
Before we go on, I need all those vegans and vegetarians out there to stop reading here and just keep scrolling until you get to the bottom, because after you’d probably not like me after I describe this amazing dish.
This, ladies and gentlemen, might not look like much, but it’s simply the most exquisite lobster soup with leaves. When I say the most exquisite lobster soup, this isn’t cooked with water with lobster in it, oh no no, it’s lobster cooked until it’s disintegrated and liquified. Lobster soup cannot be more lobster than this soup. More of the work in progress photos later. Keep scrolling.
Rhubarb and sheep milk yoghurt
This is how I NOT normally have my rhubarb and this is certainly not how I have any sheep milk yoghurt. It is one of the most refreshing thing I have ever tasted. And I that is perhaps one of the beauty and success of NOMA; it reimagines an ingredient and gives you its taste at its finest and purest form.
Forest flavours, chocolate and egg liqueur
That’s the thing about well presented dishes, they look SOOOOOOO good I almost don’t want to eat it.
The tour after the meal
I don’t know how we found out, but diners are able to request for a tour of the kitchen following their meals. You may or may not know that I LOVE the behind the scene stuff, so touring the kitchen was a HUGE deal for me. You see, only after you go through the behind the scene of NOMA you truly appreciate that this isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an institution.
Here’s the first thing that strikes me, IT IS SO CLEAN. It’s definitely a show room kitchen. I don’t know what these people use and what type of training they go through, but hell, it was so neat. These guys in the photo above are cutting up asparagus into thin two inch wide pieces. Look at that neat pile.
Now I don’t know how you deal with lobsters, but I can barely keep my face clean when I’m EATING a lobster, let alone cooking one. Look at this work of art below, these guys are cleaning and sorting out the lobster for the 2 dishes that they will serve their patrons: Lobster soup (as shown earlier in the blog) and a lobster tail dish (not shown in this blog).
Granted, this is a Scandinavian kitchen that’s been awarded No.1 restaurant in the world; and they deserve it in every category. Quite honestly, I imagined for the kitchen to have lobster guts spilling and water dripping all over place when it comes to cooking this crustacean, but there isn’t a tail out of place and a shell mismanaged.
Now the Ground floor showroom kitchen ends here, but the REAL behind the scene of behind the scene starts. Above the magnificent restaurant lies an even larger institution that makes NOMA, which houses a large kitchen preparation space, where any cook from the world can be an intern at their kitchen for 3 months;
a communal lunch room, where they obviously use for prep. talk as well;
a library of books;
a creation space, where these artisans talk about what their next creation would be. These guys only use the freshest ingredients, that is, whatever is in season. While I was there, I was informed the next ingredient they were looking to incorporate is fresh peas. Ahhhh, just think about all the possibilities that peas could be other than mash….
Annnnnd the big surprise, the main chef himself. Ta-da!
While we were there, we were fortunate enough to meet the man himself and talk to him about the many interesting concepts. Now that I know that he’s coming to Australia to house NOMA, everything he has said to me at the time has taken on a completely new meaning. Knowing that he lived in Australia for a period of time, and the fact that he brought NOMA to Tokyo, naturally we asked the one seemingly uneducated question any fan-girl fan-boy would ask: When is NOMA coming to Australia?
Looking back, Australia was obviously in the works and he would have been thinking about for quite some time. At the time though, we were seriously confused by his question to our question, which was: “What is Australian food? Australia is well known for your steak, so is Australian food a really good steak? But you can find good steak anywhere. What are some of Australia’s traditional food? What are some Australian traditions. We know there is an indigenous community in Australia that haven’t integrated very well into the society, and what if they had? How would that shape the food you know? “
At the time, we thought Rene was giving a round-about way of saying no. Who knew all these questions were part of a grander scheme. All in all though, I have to say this was a really eye-opening experience. I felt like I ate the essence of Nordic food in that 17 courses.
Before I sign off I just want to leave you with this pictures which is the group of chefs and helpers preparing staff lunch. Quite honestly, it looks like the food I’ve been served at other fine dining restaurants. It’s not that NOMA captured me in just their food, and it certainly isn’t the price of the meal that surprised me, but it’s their utter dedication to their art and the intensity of the passion they have for culinary perfection. What a privilege to have been there and experience all of Rene Redzepi’s creations.
And borrowing words from Anton Ego, the incomparable food critic from ‘Ratatouille’, I look forward to (and really hope to go to) NOMA Australia, hungry for more.