“Our space is a little insane,” begins Nick Curtin. To access Alouette, his new contemporary American eatery in Copenhagen, guests first enter a graffiti-covered elevator, then push past a tagged-up door before reaching an oak door carved with the image of a sun. It’s like “walking through the wardrobe into Narnia,” says Curtin.
Claiming a former pencil factory, the 40-seat, 1,600-square-foot expanse sits in Islands Brygge, an old industrial neighborhood about a 15-minute drive from the city center. Curtin found Alouette’s home nearly three years ago through a friend, and the area’s grit fit his desire “to bring a little New York” to the Danish capital. “Sometimes it feels like all the edges have been sanded off the city,” he says.
In 2014, Curtin decamped from then-uber hot American eatery Rosette in New York to become executive chef at Noma co-founder Claus Meyer’s Almanak in Copenhagen. Over the last four years, he’s taken a crash course in the Copenhagen dining scene, consulting for Danish restaurant chain A Hereford Beefstouw and, most recently, running the kitchen at Spuntino, an Italian-leaning tasting menu spot.
But all along, the plan was to open his own place — one with simple, elegant, and affordably priced plates that embrace butter and heat over sorrel and beetroot. And last month, the chef — who moved to the world’s hygge capital with his Danish wife Camilla Hansen — introduced the city to contemporary American cuisine in the form of Alouette.
“Our menu is not culturally linked, but entirely inspired and informed by product,” explains Curtin. Along with his collaborator chef Andrew Valenzuela (formerly of Michael Voltaggio’s now-shuttered Ink. in Los Angeles), Curtin works closely with farms to source prime ingredients for a tasting menu that rotates weekly, if not daily. He says Alouette’s cuisine, which is also largely influenced by the restaurant’s wood-fired hearth, derives some inspiration from France in terms of technique and flavor. But, he adds, “there are flashes of American, Italian, Japanese … we are American chefs in Copenhagen.”
Curtin is serving a five-course set menu, in addition to a few snacks and sweets; some of those smaller bites might include celery root cooked in fermented rice then dried, or a lamb rib croquette with whey caramel. Among the more substantial plates, there’s grilled and raw Danish white asparagus with Parmesan custard, lemon curd, and almond broth, and a grilled 30-day aged dairy cow that’s glazed in its own stock and served with maitake mushroom and Banyuls vinegar-simmered black currants.
These dishes fit the restaurant’s moniker. During World War II, English and American soldiers stationed in France learned the song “Alouette,” and brought it home with them, explains Curtin, who learned of the tune from his grandfather. A song that was French in origin became part of a cross-cultural canon, and the idea of a piece of art — or food — being born from one culture, but belonging to many cultures, entirely represents the restaurant.
And with his contemporary American bill of fare, diners shouldn’t expect the de rigueur Nordic aesthetic. Alouette is located directly above top Danish furniture maker Københavns Møbelsnedkeri, and Curtin hired the team to helm his design. “Our goal at Alouette was to give Copenhagen something a little different,” says Curtin, and the group found inspiration in Art Deco eras from New York and Paris for a space that feels “romantic, vintage and contemporary all at once.”
Alouette’s mixed-use building — which most recently served as artist studios, workshops, and practice rooms for metal bands — now features a glass orangery, converted from a terrace. Contractors broke down walls between connected rooms for an unobstructed floor plan which includes an open kitchen that flows directly into the dining room. “We tried to break down physical barriers between our team and the guests,” Curtin says. “We want our guests to feel they were being welcomed into our home.”
• Alouette [Official]