Luck is often elusive when I try to procure bookings at acclaimed restaurants. Such as when I planned a long-awaited trip to Napa and called The French Laundry months in advance, only to discover they were closed for renovations that year.
So it did not surprise me one iota while planning a weekend in Copenhagen for my best friend’s 50th, to learn that Noma — ranked the #1 restaurant in the world for 4 years by Restaurant magazine — closed down earlier this year for renovation. I periodically checked the website, as instructed, in hopes of a reopening before our visit. May: click… no. June: click… no. July: click… no. August: click… wait, what’s this… a pop-up?! YES!!! Astonishingly, an early seating on the actual birthday was available.
The Noma pop-up “Under The Bridge” is set inside a large heated tent under Knippelsbro Bridge. Guests are seated at one long communal table and dinner is served family-style. Parties are seated across from each other and the meal is shared between six, forcing the diners to become quickly acquainted with their seatmates, and truly creating a community environment.
Shannah and I were placed between a friendly, young couple from Turin, Italy on one side and a hip, charismatic couple from Berlin on the other. Guarded smiles and introductions commenced, soon to be loosened as the included wine began to flow, and we dug into warm sourdough bread, baked by Richard Hart, formerly at Tartine in San Franciso.
Soon we were presented with a flavorful mussel soup, actually more of a light bisque, followed by shrimp “tacos”. Clearly influenced by Noma’s spring spent in Tulum, Mexico for a pop-up there, the tacos consisted of a cabbage-leaf shell topped with edible flowers, herbs and creamy sauce, tiny fried shrimps, and a side of chili oil to use according to personal taste. Both visually exciting and delicious, every last bite was devoured by my group. Apologies for the poor quality iPhone photos below… it was dark and I was enjoying myself too much to spend more time with the camera.
Next came the main course, with a couple of smash hits from the restaurant: roasted cod tail, roasted potatoes, green salad with root vegetables, flower petals, and radicchio, and roasted cauliflower with squid ink sauce — a dish whose appearance would feel right at home in a Martha Stewart Halloween menu, and honestly, one of the best dishes of the evening.
Shannah and I experienced this cod dish the prior evening at Barr — a new restaurant staffed mostly by Noma graduates and housed in the former Noma space. The fishtail is served whole, so a bit of deboning is called for in order to easily share the dish with a group. Having been successfully schooled on this process at Barr, I proudly jumped in to show off my new skill, cheered on by my new enthusiastic and slightly tipsy BFF’s.
The evening marched on, and dessert was served. First, a parfait whose appearance evoked yin-yang with a wine-colored side consisting of poached concord grapes complimented by a creamy white half of sweetened creme fraiche topped with droplets of bright green thyme oil.
No 50th birthday would be complete with cake, however, and I know Shannah will never forget this one: a delicious almond confectionary topped with… ta-da… ANTS! I thought the staff was having fun with us, knowing they could easily convince their fans to eat whatever was presented. But in reality, this is another Noma trick of the trade — In the restaurant proper, only local ingredients are allowed on the menu, and since apparently citrus fruits are not grown here, the innovative establishment found a substitute to fill in for lemon… ants! Once one gets past the initial trepidation, it’s really not that difficult to devour it. Of course wine and camaraderie help as well.
Under The Bridge is scheduled to stay open through mid-November. If you have the means to travel there, it’s a fantastic opportunity to experience a renowned dining experience at the bargain price of $200 inclusive of wine and service..