Once the world’s 50 best restaurants list was announced, I quickly scrolled through the webpage to see which restaurant had received the top honor. In 2014, it was Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, which has since dropped down to number 3 with El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain claiming the top spot and Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy claiming number 2.
I’d felt so personally attached to Noma since fewer than six months ago, I was able to get a coveted table at the prized restaurant on the penultimate night of my semester in Copenhagen. The Danes have a special word just to describe the amazing hospitality the restaurant prides itself on: hygge (pronounced “hooga”).
At first glance, the restaurant looks like nothing out of the ordinary, just another warehouse building on the harbor overlooking the city. Once my family and I walked in, we were immediately greeted by the entire staff: the hostess, along with every waiter and chef. We were one of the last groups to arrive, filling the small dining room, consisting of only 10 tables.
Once seated, we were promptly approached by a waitress who explained how the experience would play out. “Experience” is really an accurate word for it, as the whole night was entirely different from any other restaurant dinner. First off, there is no menu – only a set list of dishes that the kitchen brings out. The waiter will ask about any food preferences as well as allergies/sensitivities, and whether you would like a wine or juice pairing with each course. The wine pairing consists of 8 glasses, so we elected to sample just a few of them.
About 1 minute after the waitress leaves (no joke), the first course arrives. A chef comes to present the course, but I have to say that his complicated, technical description of the food went right over my head. The dish was similar to applesauce but with an injection of incredible flavor and unique texture.
Course after course comes (with literally no time to spare), each presented by a different chef to explain the artistic choices behind the food. The courses are arranged perfectly – several small appetizers, a main course and then desserts – with palate cleansers placed in between courses to complete the experience.
The signature dish – beef tartar with ants – did not disappoint. The ants were dead of course (they add acidity due to their high amounts of formic acid). With the wine constantly refilled (also one of the best wines I’ve ever had) and the pairing to perfection, I seriously dreaded the end of this incredible meal.
After the main course, which was a wild duck with sides of bread covered in black truffle slivers, the meal was finished off with a few desserts and a traditional danish to end it on a classic note. (I mean how can you not have a danish in Denmark?!)
19 courses in total, this is truly the restaurant experience, redefined. For those of you who think this sounds too sophisticated, I highly suggest you give it a try if you have the chance – you’ll have a new appreciation for the true potential of food.
After seeing the latest restaurant ranking, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. How could any other restaurant usurp the top spot from Noma? I guess I’ll just have to visit El Celler de Can Roca and Osteria Francescana the next time I’m in Europe to see just how they managed to edge out Noma and become the top two restaurants in the world.
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