In 2012, Copenhagen restaurant noma secured the title of “Best Restaurant in the World” for the third consecutive year. The restaurant, headed by Executive Chef René Redzepi, has earned much attention and praise in the short amount of time it has been open, including two Michelin stars, and becoming almost synonymous with Copenhagen fine dining.
And while almost everyone (both in and outside of the country) is familiar with the highly-decorated restaurant, people are less familiar with the fact that Copenhagen is home to an ever-growing number of world-renowned restaurants, and is quickly becoming one of the top food destinations in the world.
In 2012, Copenhagen had a total of 13 restaurants with 14 Michelin stars, more than any other city in Europe, and Dane Rasmus Kofoed of Geranuim was named 2012 “World’s Best Chef” at Bocuse d’Or (essentially gold-medaling in the Chef Olympics).
With all the attention on the city’s dining destinations, Copenhagen is not only making a name for itself in fine dining, but becoming THE name in Europe (if not the world) for top gourmet cuisine.
The Michelin company, in addition to manufacturing car tires and being represented by that white, squishy ghost-looking mascot, puts out a duo of city guides every year. The Green Guide reviews tourist attractions and site, and the more-renowned Red Guide ranks and rates hotels and restaurants. The guides, originally only pertaining to France but now written for over a dozen countries worldwide, have an extensive symbol system employed in order to describe and rank the restaurants while providing just a few line text description.
Coins indicate the restaurants price level, sake or cocktail glasses relay the quality of drink offerings and a fork and knife symbol represent the overall fanciness of a chosen restaurant’s atmosphere. The most well-known of these symbols is, of course, the star.
noma (no caps, please) first earned its stars in 2008, just 4 years after its initial opening, and has held onto them ever since, picking up a plethora of other awards and accolades on the way. Co-owned by Chefs Claus Meyer and René Redzepi, the name “noma” is portmanteau of the Danish words for Nordic food (Nordisk mad), and is renowned as the leader in the New Nordic food movement.
In development since 2004, New Nordic cuisine is focused on pure, simple, fresh and locally-sourced ingredients and often reimagines classic Nordic dishes in new and inventive ways. It’s pretty official too-- in that same year chefs and food professionals from all Nordic countries met to discuss and establish the direction in which to develop the new movement. The following year, food and agricultural ministers from five of the countries gave their support of the developments and launched the “new Nordic food Programme,” which later went on to receive funding for further exploration.
New Nordic cuisine places heavy emphasis on culture and landscape, often sourcing ingredients from the wild. The food at noma is also influenced by molecular gastronomy, a discipline that takes a scientific approach to ingredients and cooking.
Redzepi, a former employee of world-famous, three-starred El Bulli in Catalonia, worked at Kong Hans Kælder (also starred) before being contacted by Meyer to develop noma. In 2008, he was named “International Chef of the Year.” noma’s Michelin stars came later that year, and the title of “Best Restaurant in the World” was awarded two years later.
And while it may seem hard, if not impossible, to label a place as serving the best food in the entire world, as on a personal level, that slice of pizza you picked up from a hole-in-the-wall on your Italian vacation, Mom’s Christmas side-dishes or even that extra greasy bacon cheeseburger you ate the morning after an all-night bender all seem like suitable nominees for the title of “ohmygod best thing I’ve ever eaten,” dining at noma is just as much about the experience as it is about the food.
Patrons are responsible for choosing their desired number, not content, of offered courses, and then select an accompanying wine or “juice” menu. By all accounts of those lucky enough to have dined at the high-profile restaurant, recall an experience unlike any other.
Getting a Table
If you want to eat here, well, take a number and hop to the back of the line. Reservations are always filled months in advance, so if you anticipate being in the area and hungry in the next few months, better call now (tip: use the interim months to save up enough funds for your meal). But even the process of booking isn’t an easy one. One day a month, noma opens reservations for three months in advance, meaning, in August, the month of November becomes open to reservations. Booking opens at 10 am Danish time, and is usually at capacity within a few hours, with the website oftentimes hosting its maximum of 100,000 guests on these mornings.
This year, it is suggested that potential patrons try booking for lunch instead of dinner. Those especially eager and impatient can sign up on the restaurant’s waiting list which is used to fill tables left open by cancellations.
See a guide to Copenhagen's other Michelin starred restaurants here.