First impressions from the Noma game and forest season

Anmeldelser 9. oktober, 2018 1 Kommentar

Note: See my review of the 2019 game and forest menu right here. 

Last week I did a post about Noma’s vegetable season and this week you will get another one about this world famous restaurant placed in Copenhagen. Therefore, I have decided to do this in English in order to reach out to some of my English speaking followers around the world.

The reason why I am already writing another article about Noma is that I was one of the lucky guinea pigs, who got invited for a trial dinner last week before the official opening of the Noma game and forest season. As you might know, Noma has divided the year into three different seasons focusing on seafood, vegetables and plants and game and forest, respectively. After a superb experience with the vegetable menu in September I was very excited to see what they would come up with.

Just a few animals brought into focus
Noma has an entire department dedicated to research and development of new dishes and therefore it is even more interesting to see what they come up with every time. I know that they have been working with almost any wild animal ahead of this season in order to figure out if they could use them for something. One of the more remarkable ingredients this season is a garum (a fermented sauce inspired by the old Romans) made of squirrel – Noma always takes things a little further than others.

Surprisingly enough, at least for me, the menu is build around just a couple animals. Instead of presenting almost any living creature from the forest, Noma wants to showcase a wide selection of bodyparts and cuts from just a couple of animals in order for the guests to get to learn more about their anatomy. This Noma game and forest season mainly focuses on reindeer and wild mallard duck, separated by a more plant-based heat.

We started off with the squirrel, which was not announced though. We got to sip a hot broth from a bowl covered with dried moss. It is based on different mushrooms, a little bit of tomato juice and the squirrel garum that added a little extra umami kick.

noma game and forest season

Forest broth hidden under a layer of moss.

Time for reindeer offals
We were now ready to kick off the reindeer feast, which only consisted of offals. The first serving was a reindeer heart tartar covered with sorrel – just like Noma’s original signature tartar with muskox. And to enhance our impression of being wild hunters, we were told to take the beautifully plated tartar with our bare hands and dip it into a creamy egg yolk sauce topped with ants. A delicious dish with lots of flavour from the intense and surprisingly tender heart meat.

Reindeer tartar with egg yolk sauce.

Next up were some nugget-like bites of reindeer sweetbreads wrapped in reindeer moss. This was a brilliant play on textures, having the super soft, almost runny sweetbreads and the crunchy, very fragile moss – an excellent bite.

Reindeer sweetbreads wrapped in reindeer moss and fried.

We continued with a similar texture, this time coming from the brain of the reindeer and the shape of a so-called brain pie. As far as I could tell, it was build around the same frame as the amazing milk skin pie with truffles and cheese from the vegetable menu with a caramelised milkskin wrapped around the brain together with a remarkable amount of black truffle. Super delicious.

Reindeer brain pie.

We finished off the reindeer heat with tongue skewer. René Redzepi explained that they were using the back part of the tongue because of its high fat content. Apparently, the tongue is the most fat-rich bodypart of the reindeer and the pieces were almost like pieces of foie gras – with more texture though. The raw pieces of tongue were just briefly seared and then topped with pine shoots and a black pepper-like spice, probably also somehow coming from the pine.

noma game and forest season

Reindeer tongue skewer with pine.

Pheasant broth to die for
It was now time for pheasant in the shape of the most beautiful, clear broth. It was cold and thus turned into a jelly. It was topped with White Sturgeon caviar from Rossini and whipped cream and the combination of the roasted, intense broth, the salty, umami-rich caviar and the fluffy whipped cream was just sensational. I cannot figure out how farmed caviar fits into the game and forest theme but in this case I don’t really care – it was simply too good to leave out.

Cold pheasant broth with caviar and whipped cream.

The broth was followed by a pine salad with lamellae of pickled pine cones, pine shoots, blackberries, raw walnuts and a juice based on mirabelle plums and finally the amazing fudge-like baby pine cones that Noma introduced in the vegetable season. It seemed to be a more autumn inspired version of the strawberry ceviche from the vegetable season – I have enjoyed eating both very much.

Pine salad.

Next up were a few smaller bites:

A beetle made of berry leathers and black garlic.

Rose hip berry stuffed with quince.

Dried plums stuffed with pheasant heart and rhubarb paste surrounded by the most beautiful roasted pheasant fat.

The next bigger serving came in a pumpkin shell filled with thin slices of pumpkin cooked in beeswax. The pumpkin was tender and sweet and it was served with dried tomato and chili giving a spicy kick to the dish – a reference to Noma’s stay in Mexico. It seemed to be too spicy for some of the people around the table but I personally liked the slightly hot kick to the very mild pumpkin. Another interesting component was the bee pollen that was gently steamed in the pumpkin which almost gave it a paste-like texture.

noma game and forest season

The pumpkin.

We continued with another plant-based dish, this time a sizzling hot pot with wild mushrooms and greens – lots of umami and some bitter notes from the different herbs.

Mushroom hot pot.

It was followed by a beautifully made feather made with tiny pieces of black truffle covering a cracker filled with a creamy cheese (I did not catch which one). That was simply the genuine taste of high quality truffle enhanced by the creamy cheese. Brilliant.

Truffle feather – next time I want an entire truffle bird!

Time for the duck
After a great heat of plant stuff from the forest it was again time for some meat, more precisely the wild mallard duck, which we got to know a lot better throughout the next section. The started off with slices of the breast meat which was perfectly cooked and very, very juicy. The flavour was enhanced by a glaze of mushrooms and reduced quince, which turned out to be the perfect Nordic sweet and sour barbecue glaze.

Wild Mallard duck with a reduced mushroom and quince glaze.

Cured duck breast.

The next serving was not for the faint-hearted people. An entire duck head was placed in front of us. The skull was cut open in order for us to eat the the brain … with a spoon made of the tongue of the duck. I have to say that I enjoyed this little anatomy class and the brain was super soft and mild in taste, almost like a piece of foie gras. Apart from the brain there was a crispy piece of skin from the thigh attached to the lower part of the leg – need I say that is was good?! We also had a side serve with cured breast meat, which was also very good.

Read the review of the game and forest season by my good colleague Anders Husa

This will probably be the most instagrammed dish from the Noma game and forest season: Duck brain to be eaten with its own tongue.

We also had this sunflower salad before the final two duck servings.

It appeared that we were not at all done with the duck. A full wing with feathers and everything was placed in front of us. There was a piece of meat attached to the end of the wing, which appeared to be a part of the breast. It was cooked tempura style in a sourdough batter with seaweed among other things. The meat was to juicy and tender – the perfect nugget is served at Noma!

noma game and forest season

The duck wing!

We finished off the duck heat with an intense ragout of duck topped with a velvety mink curd. Equally brilliant.

noma game and forest season

Duck ragout. Look at the velvety milk curd – incredible.

Small dessert heat
The weakest part of the vegetable menu was the desserts and this was the case again with the Noma game and forest season menu. It started off very well though with an intense blueberry ice cream with chunks of raw walnut with the purest and clean taste imaginable. Very good.

noma game and forest season

Blueberries and walnuts.

The a final piece of moss was served. It was dried and sprayed with chocolate. The flavour was good but I missed some more richness from it. I would have loved to find a heavy, intense ganache in the center.

noma game and forest season

Moss spayed with chocolate.

That was followed by “duck feet” made of caramel, which were also nice but also pretty ordinary caramels apart from the shape.

Duck feet caramels – no duck was hurt during the making of these.

The final part was the most problematic leaving me with a bitter and sour taste in the mouth: The pickled crab apples, similar to pigeon apples, were served whole and they were not just that tasty; too much bitterness and sourness. I did not really understand why we were supposed to end the meal with a sensation like this.

noma game and forest season

Fruit leathers and very sour apples to finish off the meal.

More deliciousness than ever
Apart from this tiny complaint this was another extraordinary visit at Noma. I am not at all saying that the food at the old Noma was not tasty but it seems like pure deliciousness plays a bigger role at the new Noma in an almost French way. I like it a lot and it is not at all at the expense of the more experimental part of the experience – they are simply just better matched than ever. I like the approach us focusing on less animals throughout the menu. You really get to explore the different parts of the reindeer and duck, respectively, and it also seems to be a more sustainable way of cooking.

I have written several posts about the service at Noma so I will do it very shortly this time: World-class!

Refshalevej 96
1432 Copenhagen K