Jonathan Gold went to New Noma, everyone! Copenhagen chef-icon René Redzepi relaunched his groundbreaking tasting menu destination only a few weeks ago, and the LA Times critic managed to snag one of the hard-to-get reservations. Gold filed the first major review — but it’s more a thinkpiece on the nature of trophy dining and Noma’s place in the culinary world than a judgment call on the quality of the dishes.
If you are in Copenhagen to eat at Noma, which is to say wallow for a bit in the ball pit of New Nordic cuisine, your itinerary is fairly circumscribed to begin with. Nobody just happens to eat at Noma, especially a week after it has reopened in its new quarters, a converted naval ammunition bunker near the anarchist community of Christiania, on the shore of a city lake. The seat lottery process for the restaurant, often considered the best in the world, makes Powerball seem like a sure thing. You have flown to Denmark in mid-winter to dine on what Redzepi’s Instagram feed seems to imply will be cod head, those raw moon jellies, and clams that were alive during the first World War.
Gold doesn’t necessarily seem to think this style of restaurant-going is bad. Just odd, and maybe, maybe, a little unfair to other Copenhagen restaurants: “The owner at the merely awesome restaurant where you have lunch, who can make boiled salsify taste like the best plate of pasta you had on your last trip to Italy, smiles bitterly. He knows that you have not flown all that way to see him,” he writes.
Still, it seems that Gold finds New Noma intriguing and engaging — especially, he implies, to Redzepi obsessives — describing the seafood-focused menu as offering “less a repetition of signature tropes than what are nearly literary allusions to Redzepi’s work.” He adores the first courses, writing “The first act of a meal at Noma passes as a dream,” and notes that at New Noma, “You taste foods in ways you’ve never thought about tasting them before.”
The LA-based critic is a documented Redzepi fan. Not only did Gold participate in Redzepi’s MAD conference, the critic also was one of the lucky few to make it to the Noma Mexico pop-up, where he found the food to be “transformative.” Like in his Noma Mexico review, Gold once again cites Noma’s influence on global cuisine, describing the original restaurant as “the place where the dominant strains in world cooking — localism, seasonality, sustainability and science — came together into a whole, aided by Redzepi’s strong sense of narrative.”
His writing on specific dishes at New Noma feels, generally, less effusive than it was for Noma Mexico; dishes are described more than judged.
Does this mean New Noma isn’t as good as Noma Mexico, or its predecessor? Perhaps, but, at least according to Gold, the chef at the helm seems to enjoy doing it more. “Is he happy in the new building, free of the old expectations? It seems like it, at least a little if you read between the lines.”