In February, Copenhagen star René Redzepi opened the doors to Noma 2.0. It’s a new space, a new seafood-focused menu (for now, anyway), and a new start for one of the most written-about restaurants of our time.
So, is the Noma reboot as good as the original? It is, and maybe it’s even better, at least according to the critics who have weighed in so far. “The first act of a meal at Noma passes as a dream,” writes LA Times critic Jonathan Gold. “You taste foods in ways you’ve never thought about tasting them before.”
But glowing reviews about the Noma seafood menu are bound to inspire plenty of FOMO — this first round of bookings for New Noma sold out in less than 24 hours. Everyone else had to wait for the vegetable menu, available late June through mid-September. October will mark the start of the game season.
And just what are critics from Washington, DC and Los Angeles doing flying to Copenhagen to review an expensive tasting menu affair most readers will likely never get into anyway? Well, when one of the most lauded restaurants of the past 10 years Does a Big Thing, the critics want to be there. (Many critics also weighed in on Noma Mexico, which was a seven-week pop-up that sold out nearly instantly; at least there’s a theoretical chance readers can go to Noma 2.0 some day.)
Read on for the critics’ takes on Redzepi’s newly relaunched restaurant — and stay tuned. This post will be updated with other reviews as they come in.
The Food From the Future News
Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema travels across the Atlantic from his D.C. home after snagging a table back in November “when the reservation site accidentally went live, briefly, 30 minutes before the world was told it could take a crack at booking for the first season.” It’s fair to say Sietsema’s expectations ran high. The critic declared last year’s seven-week Noma Mexico pop-up perhaps the “meal of the decade.”
As Sietsema reflects on the first oceanic courses at New Noma, the critic muses: “It soon becomes apparent that we’re eating the future, so influential is Redzepi’s thought process that his dishes are copied at the speed of the Internet by chefs around the world.”
It’s not just that food is from the future; it also tastes good. “As in all high-stakes dining, I tend to ask myself a few questions, starting with whether the food was truly delicious,” Sietsema writes. “Most of it was... I could live off sea snail broth, squid that eats like pasta and freak-of-nature mussels.”
The Weird Thing About Trophy Dining News
LA Times critic and noted Noma admirer Jonathan Gold also made it to Noma 2.0. Like Sietsema, Gold analyzed the very nature of flying around the world to have meals at expensive restaurants. It’s a weird thing to do, he concedes in his largely positive review of New Noma:
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 points out that this style of dining also warps a traveler’s perception of the other fantastic restaurants in Copenhagen: “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.” (Like Sietsema, Gold also filed a rave on Noma Mexico.)
The Sequel Is Better Than the Original News
Writing for British GQ, Josh Lee concludes his rave with this assessment:
It’s then in the taxi back home when the reality hits. Noma is back. It’s better than last time. It makes the old one look amateur in comparison. When you thought Noma couldn’t out-Noma itself, it’s gone and done just that.
The Asked and Answered News
New York Times critic Pete Wells used an FAQ format to provide commentary on Noma. Wells writes that no, Noma’s two-hour, 20-course seafood menu is not monotonous, nor will will it make you feel like a Viking. Rather, with the reincarnated Noma, Redzepi and team have “rebuilt the template of high-end, destination dining piece by piece with stuff that has been thought about, considered and chosen for a reason.”
And, according to Wells, the food is good too. A scallop is “likely to be the sweetest you have ever tasted” and a clam “ briny and tart and chewy, and affects you like a splash of Norwegian water in the face.” But, the critic lavishes his highest praise on Noma’s approach to fermentation:
But when you are eating something at Noma that tastes like much more than the sum of its parts, when you realize that few of the restaurant’s many imitators load as much depth and complexity into their cooking, when you start to lose your bearings and can’t quite figure out what is happening, it can be helpful to recall that just out of sight is an entire room full of special sauce.
The What It All Means News
In an essay on Medium, writer James Hansen reflects on what all of this Noma criticism means, anyway. Hansen explains Noma’s undeniable influence — an influence that at this point has spread beyond the fine-dining sphere. “Redzepi and co have had an impact so titanic that their uniqueness has become ubiquitous,” Hansen writes. Because of this, Hansen says, the question many critics have been asking is almost irrelevant. He concludes: “Whether or not Noma 2.0 is better than 1.0 really doesn’t matter at all. What matters most is how Noma influences our noms.”
The World’s Fanciest Plant Restaurant News
Australian critic Pat Nourse is the first to weigh in on Noma’s vegetarian menu, launched in June. In Gourmet Traveller, Nourse runs down every dish on the new menu, from the opening soup served in a flowerpot (“it’s fun and more than a little silly”) to the aquavit served in the lounge at the end of the meal, providing “a crisp coda to the evening.”
Nourse’s trip to “the world’s fanciest plant restaurant” is mostly, although not entirely, amazing. A segment of pine cone on a plate with “seasonal pickles” ends up thrown out the window, and Nourse says, peas billed as “the sweetest peas” were not actually the sweetest. But a barbecued onion is “outstanding,” fried marigold blooms paired with a whiskey eggnog are “excellent,” a cup of mushroom tea “stupidly delicious,” and berries and fava beans offer “the taste of spring and summer.” Although Nourse wonders if it’s ethical to charge Noma prices in a city where the minimum wage is $16 an hour and “sits at the top of the UN’s happiness index,” in the end, “the value is sound.”
The Is It Worth the Price News
Sietsema ends his review with the kind of gold-standard endorsement only anonymous critics with dining budgets can offer: “Ultimately, would I go back on my own kroner? Race back is more like it. I, for one, can’t wait to see what Noma does with crudites — provided lightning strikes twice and I can book a seat.”
• The world’s most influential restaurant reinvents itself. Jonathan Gold tastes the changes [LAT]
• Sea snail broth and kelp ice cream: The new Noma tastes like the future [WaPo]
• The new Noma: Copenhagen’s best restaurant reviewed [GQ UK]
• The New Noma: Frequently Asked Questions [NYT]
• Noms 2.0 [Medium]
• Noma’s new plant menu: fifty-two notes from day one [Gourmet Traveller]