Wild, weird and wonderful: Food editor Tan Hsueh Yun's verdict on Noma

Staff from Danish restaurant Noma, including head chef Rene Redzepi (third from left) pose for pictures after winning first place at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2014, at the Guildhall in central London, on April 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Staff from Danish restaurant Noma, including head chef Rene Redzepi (third from left) pose for pictures after winning first place at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2014, at the Guildhall in central London, on April 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Head chefs from the world's top 50 restaurants pose for a picture at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2014, at the Guildhall in central London, on April 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Head chefs from the world's top 50 restaurants pose for a picture at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2014, at the Guildhall in central London, on April 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Rene Redzepi’s architects spent a year and “a lot” of money studying the coastline and recreating it at Noma’s doorstep with vegetation from the coast of Scandinavia and rocks from Iceland. -- FILE PHOTO: NOMA
Rene Redzepi’s architects spent a year and “a lot” of money studying the coastline and recreating it at Noma’s doorstep with vegetation from the coast of Scandinavia and rocks from Iceland. -- FILE PHOTO: NOMA
Rene Redzepi, head chef of Danish restaurant 'Noma', addresses the media after his restaurant won first place at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2014, at the Guildhall in central London on April 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Rene Redzepi, head chef of Danish restaurant 'Noma', addresses the media after his restaurant won first place at the World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2014, at the Guildhall in central London on April 28, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Noma is the No. 1 restaurant in the 2014 World's 50 Best Restaurants. -- ST FILE PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN
Noma is the No. 1 restaurant in the 2014 World's 50 Best Restaurants. -- ST FILE PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

If you secure a reservation, get invited or somehow land an opportunity to dine at Noma, go.

Go not because you want to tick another item off the bucket list or score bragging rights. Go because you want to experience something wild, weird and wonderful.

It is hard to get a table at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant, owned by chef-restaurateur Claus Meyer, 49, and chef Rene Redzepi, 35.

Once you do, head chef Dan Giusti, a 29-year-old American, and his team pull out all the stops so you never forget the meal.

The first of many snacks in a multi-course, 1,500 kroner (S$335) dinner is Nordic Coconut, which is really a pink potato with a hole in the centre and a dill stem for a straw. I sip a warm, strangely delicious liquid made with fermented split peas, coriander, lemon verbena and white currants. A Nordic interpretation of a pina colada?

Later, I drag pretty, tender elm leaves across a plate of roasted yeast and eat fragile puffs of reindeer moss scented with cep mushrooms.

"You're going to be eating ants," a friend predicts.

Yes, pulverised wood ants give a citrusy tang to a blob of fresh milk curd covered with blueberry preserves.

I take apart crayfish and dip them in a sauce made with the gooey stuff excavated from the head. It takes me immediately to Or Tor Kor market in Bangkok, where bags of boiled river prawns come with a funky and addictive sauce, also made from crustacean head goo.

The chefs take turns to present the dishes. One of them guides the table through The Duck And The Egg, in which duck eggs are fried in hay oil and covered with herbs before we dig in.

A meaty beef shortrib aged for three weeks, cooked sous vide for 36 hours at 60 deg C and covered with dried lingonberries and chopped nasturtium stems, resembles a mossy log on the forest floor. I look at it and experience the kind of wonder I had throughout dinner at the now-defunct elBulli in Spain.

Some places mine the weird for theatrics.

Noma, however, stays true to its name, which comes from "Nordisk mad" or Nordic food.

With every course, I am reminded of Scandinavian heritage in cutting-edge dishes, and the rich pickings from the region's forests and seas, used in ways no one has thought of.

It is some kind of wonderful.

 

This review was first published in Sunday Lifestyle on June 16, 2013. 


Singapore restaurants in the World's Best Restaurants 2014 list (click to read the review):

Restaurant Andre (No. 37)Waku Ghin (No. 50)Iggy's (No. 84) - No reviewLes Amis (No. 86)Jaan (No. 100)

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