There is a new game and forest season at Noma upon us. Actually, today is the first day of the game and forest season running until December 21st. I had the privilege to take part in a trial dinner a few days before and thanks to that I can already share my thoughts and impressions with you on the opening night.
This is the second game and forest season at Noma since the restaurant opened on the new location. I also had the pleasure of tasting last year’s menu, which was a superb experience. It was actually so good that I found it hard to believe that they could come up with something better. That said, you can never say never and you cannot be anything but impressed by Noma’s constant eager to push limits and find new ways to use the produce surrounding us.
Having three completely different and unique seasons every year is on one hand a brilliant way to make people come back. But it also puts a huge pressure on the shoulders of the entire team because they need to come up with something new and unseen for the next season. On the other hand, I assume that is also a great way for the chefs to stay motivated. But let’s get to it – have they come up with something special for this year’s game and forest season?
We kicked off the meal with a wonderful extra brut Champagne based entirely on Pinot Noir, Concordance, from Marie-Courtin. The nose was open and rich and smelled of autumn apples. Exactly that was placed in front of us a few seconds later. A Belle de Boskoop apple had been hollowed out and filled with tiny balls of the same apples topped with a beetle made of fruit leather of some sort – a very refreshing start.
We continued with a tasting of reindeer offals flavored with pine; fried sweetbreads, a piece of the tongue, which almost had a foie gras-like taste to it but a much firmer texture. There was a lovely piece of bone marrow as well as white currant and my beloved, fudge-like pickled pine cones. Very good!
Next up was a dish based on one of René Redzepi’s childhood memories: Roasted chestnuts. In this case they called it blackened chestnut and the technique is similar to the one used for making black garlic. The crunchy piece of chestnut was served in a delicious jelly made of rabbit broth.
The next dish ended being one of my favorites from the meal. In the bottom, there was a purée of chestnut, roasted hazelnut oil, slices of fresh hazelnuts, whipped cream and caviar. The texture play between the creamy caviar, the rich purée and the fragile hazelnut slices was simply incredible and the taste even better – nothing short of world-class and I was really amazed to realize that Danish hazelnuts could somehow with their Piedmontese counterpart.
The chestnut theme continued with another masterpiece. Chestnut purée had been reduced to a very sticky texture before being made info tiny sheets folded around truffles and walnuts. The fresh walnut and the crispy beech leaf on top added a nice crunchy texture to the dish.
The next dish consisted of Hokkaido pumpkin that had been peeled, cooked and cooled down, which resulted in a lovely chewy texture. It was surrounded by salted quince and pickled rose hip berries, all floating in a beautiful broth made of reindeer.
Now it was time for some reindeer brain. The very gently cooked, creamy brain was served in a giant Mexican oregano leaf topped with all sorts of herbs and the flavors simply exploded in the mouth – such an aromatic and delicious experience.
A giant oregano leaf filled with brain of deer and herbs.Semi-dried tomatoes and strawberries filled with a paste made of bee pollen were up next. They were topped with a caramel made of heavily reduced rabbit stock and surrounded by roasted rabbit fat. Super elegant and umami-rich at the same time.
The next dish was inspired by grilled corn and made of roasted pine cone. There were inarguably some similarities although the pine cone was much more fibrous. This was the only dish throughout the meal, where I could not figure out if I actually liked it or not.
I quickly forgot about the pine cone thanks to the following dish, which was so delicious. A deep-fried taco made of nixtamalized (cooked in an alkaline liquid) potatoes topped with thin slices of wild boar lard. Simplified, it tasted like the best sour cream and onion crisps you can imagine.
Entering the duck feast
Just like last year’s game and forest menu, this menu consisted a flight based on duck. Last year, a lot of people were arguing that it was disrespectful to the animal to serve its brain in its own skull. I completely disagree. If you kill an animal it is respectful to use all of it and it is also respectful to remind people where all the delicious food is coming from.
This year’s menu consists a similar serving. This time the beak had been separated from the skull and contained a tartar made of smoked duck heart flavored with chili. In the skull itself there was a nugget made of duck brain – very good!
It was followed by thin slices of quickly seared and still very red duck legs topped with pine. The meat was unbelievably tender having in mind that you usually have to cook the legs for several hours and eating the meat from a skewer made of a duck foot made me feel like a caveman. Brilliant.
We also had the breast of the duck brushed with a mushrooms glaze and arctic thyme.
We finished off the heat with a pickled partridge egg topped with thin slices of cured duck breast from last year.
And just as we though that the savory part was over, a sizzling hot plate with wild mushrooms was brought to the table. It consisted of all sorts of wild mushrooms cooked hardly for a very short amount of time and served with a lovely truffle sauce. It was super simple yet very luxurious, and once again, I felt like I was sitting in the middle of the forest eating the mushrooms that I had picked just a few minutes earlier.
Time for desserts
I need to say that desserts have been the weaker part of the menus it the new Noma but judging from the next dish that has come to an end. A very light mousse flavored with cardamom was surrounded by a rich sauce made of blended blue poppyseeds gently flavored with liquorice root and the taste was nothing but amazing. The creamy and smooth textures worked so well together and the combination of cardamom, poppyseed and liquorice was so delicious and very unique – one of the best dishes I have had this year.
It was followed by super crunchy waffles served with whipped cloudberry cream. Very Nordic, very good!
And finally, we finished off with pine caramels.
With this menu, the guys at Noma have surpassed themselves. It is such a balanced menu full of interesting, new and delicious dishes on a level that very few restaurants in the world can compete with and it is nothing short of three Michelin stars; a very inspiring and satisfying meal. If you have a reservation, you are one lucky person. If not, make sure to get on the waiting list to see if you can secure a spot for this wonderful experience.