Noma - Disappointing...... (long)

This past Friday we attended dinner at Noma in Copenhagen. Have been thinking about it a lot and trying to put it in perspective as both my wife and I thought it was not good with it leaning more towards bad. It was by far our most disappointing meal of the trip.

I tried not to go in to the meal with a lot of expectations and I read very little about the meal before hand. It was the summer vegetable menu which probably wouldn’t have been my first choice but as we don’t know when we will be back in Copenhagen we figured why not. I have had excellent vegetable focused menus at Charlie Trotter’s, Grace and Arpege and I do enjoy vegetables a lot.

The meal starts with you being greeted at the curb by Noma staff. You check in and then you walk down a long sidewalk maybe 150m to the entrance passed a lake and some of their greenhouses and other buildings. It is a very pretty walk. You then open the big wooden doors and are greeted very enthusiastically by the entire staff which is a lot or people maybe 40+(?). It is very cool but quite surprising. The issue we had with this process was that we arrived right on time for our reservation and were informed by the staff that they weren’t ready for us yet. It was raining, pretty hard so we stood outside for about 10 min in the rain waiting to make our trip down the sidewalk. There is one patio umbrella for protection, luckily we brought an umbrella from the hotel. Wasn’t overly pleasant.

The dining room is beautiful all wood and we had a large table with a view out the huge windows to the lake. It was full even at 5:00. I would say the average age of the diners was maybe 30… I felt old. The staff is even younger. People were dressed up, there were people in shorts. (there is no dress code)

The wine - probably the most disappointing part was absolutely terrible. They push the pairing so I asked for the list. It was a list of maybe 100 bottles and I did not recognize one producer from any region except for a couple of really over priced champagnes. Not wanting to spend 30 min trying to figure out what to drink - I asked the server about the pairings, he said they were all bright old world wines. I told him I favor Burgundy and he said I would be very happy. So I went with that. The first wine was an Austrian Sparkling wine which was good. Then we got to the next wine which was an Orange wine from Australia. Really bad. I asked if this is typical of the rest of the pairing and he said yes so I bailed and got the Sommelier to find me a White Burg. He did and it was good. Domaine Valette Viré Clessé I had never heard of it but I believe it was Macon. $150 so not terrible by Noma standards. My wife stuck it out with the wine pairing which produced 4 more whites all with extended skin contact, orange, biodynamic etc. etc. Not one I would drink and even my wife who is very easy going did not enjoy. Pairing is $208 by the way +25%VAT

The food - It’s a 20 course menu and each dish is visually really beautiful. Each course is brought by a different chef and explained well and they are able to answer just about any question. I am not going to go through each dish but overall I found the menu very redundant. All the flavors were very similar, green, acidic and I have never eaten so many flowers in my life. There was nothing from an ingredient standpoint that was very unique. There were ingredients that to me didn’t really seem summery like Morels, asparagus, strawberries. There was nothing truly savory. I didn’t need meat but I wanted something with some substance. There was a grilled onion that was really good and a fried marigold that gave some fattiness to the meal. The last dish/main course was Shawarma of celeriac which was good but I had so much green food by that time we couldn’t finish. There were some good dishes nothing I would ever want to eat again. Desserts were unremarkable. The cost of the food is $345pp +25%VAT

When the meal was over they offered us a tour of the kitchen and then you can go have aquavit in a lounge. We passed. I think it was pretty clear we weren’t happy with the meal. I didn’t complain as I truly believe this is what the restaurant wanted to offer. Maybe if I was much younger knew nothing about food or wine I would have been happy with the “journey” Noma wants to take you on or maybe it just wasn’t for me. I really tried to like it.

The icing on the cake… When you receive the bill there is a line on the bottom. “cards issued outside the EU, American Express cards and corporate credit cards are subject to a 3.5% surcharge”. I asked the waiter if this applied to my American Visa and he said yes. I have never seen this on a Visa/MC anywhere in Europe. Needless to say I did not pay it. Our bill all in with today’s FX was $1400

George

George - So sorry you did not enjoy Noma. We went three weeks ago and absolutely loved the food. In particular my wife and everyone we dined with could not stop talking about the Celeriac Shawarma. I hear you loud and clear on the wine list. I am friends with the somms and have a much higher tolerance for Natural wine (love some of them) and I was also disappointed with the list. I wanted a high acid fresh Riesling desperately by the end of the meal.

Tock asks for special requests or dietary restrictions. I am seriously going to start including a request for a specific type of wine a Dry GG riesling or a white burgundy with a list of vintages and producers. I feel like if I have to reserve and pay months in advance, fly from NYC simply to eat at a place like Noma it is not much to ask to be able to enjoy a bottle of wine.

It is frustrating how little many great chefs think and care about wine yet it is a HUGE part of the overall meal/experience for me.

If you go back to Copenhagen make sure you try Kadeau.

Unfortunately we had only one night in Copenhagen… Need to spend more time there. Had a very good lunch at Marchal and the market area. I don’t remember the name.

Also phenomenal meals at Oaxen Krog and Gastrologik in Stockholm and Ask in Helsinki. Oaxen Krog was probably top 3 this year.

George

As you know George we were scheduled to go there a few years ago. The more I talked to people who had been, the more wary and unenthusiastic I became. When our ship got stuck due to wind in a prior port and we couldn’t make it, I almost danced for joy.

George,

Sorry to hear about your experience.

These days, it’s almost impossible for a ultra high end restaurant to meet expectations. Is any meal worth $1400?

When I hear about all the pomp and circumstance that’s not associated with the actual cooking of food I get turned off. The whole staff greeted you at the door? Sounds uncomfortable to me. Also sounds like it adds to the cost of the meal. How about $325pp and you have one person greet me?

We ate at Guy Savoy in Paris years ago. I did like that they greeted me by name when I walked in the door (how did they know it was me?) and I admit to liking that I receive a holiday card from them every year since, but that’s where it stops.

Sorry to hear about your experience, George. We had a similar experience on the wine side at Raymonds in St. John’s last night. The food was glorious, but list and some of the pairings were bizarre (such as an orange wine with streamed halibut in whey). Big promoters of natural and biodynamic wine. While pouring one sand sougrr wine, the somm bragged that this was the “fourth bottle they opened last night and each was different. Isn’t that cool?”

Mike - When I opened the door and there were 40 + people staring at me and those were my exact feelings… I believe I even said wow, that is awkward or something like that. I will defend Noma a little… I believe it might be a Scandinavian tradition that you walk by the kitchen and everyone says hello when you enter. It happened in all of the restaurants I mentioned above but in a very much more low key way.

I too ate at Guy Savoy and loved it. Probably spent more there than Noma so with out being pretentious … Price wasn’t the biggest issue.

George

Thanks for taking one for the team!

Some of these exotic (crazy) wine pairings strike me as somms and/or chefs trying to be uber cool/hip/experimental. I’ve stopped ordering them because they are rarely very good and often a detriment to the meal. The cynic in me wonders if it isn’t a cost/profit issue. Serve a bunch of wines no one can identify and hope there is no one that recognizes that they are very inexpensive all while charging a hefting pairing fee.

$1400 for 20 plates of grass and orange wine.

Sounds like a Better Call Saul episode summary.

Sorry buddy. Ugh.

Wrong kind of grass…

At least it was only $1400 [wink.gif]

I was there in February for the seafood menu. I didn’t have a hard time with the wine list (lots of cool burgundy producers that are on the natural end of the scale, and Overnoy at below-market rates), but I found the food and the experience to be middling at best. No doubt, some of the dishes were really interesting, and a few were delicious, but many simply didn’t taste good. The fake starfish was just horrid - luke warm fish flavored jelly - and the dessert seemed like some sort of punishment. My experience didn’t jibe at all with the reviews of others going at or around the same time.

Kadeau, on the other hand, as Robert suggests, was just wonderful. Easily the best meal I’ve had this year.

I’ve been to noma a couple of times and I couldn’t agree more on the wine side. The food has in my opinion been amazing every single time, but the wine not so much. I’m going again in the fall for their game season/menu and I don’t think I will be ordering the wine pairing, but rather go through the wine list my self. Last time I had a tour of the restaurant, I spotted some Rinaldi Barolos in the cellar, so they must have something good hidden away :wink:

Pretty much my experience. I always ask them exactly what wines they are using for the tasting. I don’t think you are being cynical. Most people just order it and move on but people who are serious about wine are very often disappointed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t places that do it very well. I just like to sure.

JD

The thing that bothered me is that I told the staff that I don’t like orange wines, extended skin contact, over oxidized etc. 1st wine was a Austrian sparkling wine which was fine. the remaining were all in a style that I told them I don’t like… That made me angry.
Also to Chris’s point just because you find a wine where there were 25 cases made and the restaurant bought them all does not make it a good wine.

George

Sad to read this thread since Noma has been on my bucket list for a while, but appreciative to have this intel before I make the trek and drop the coin.

Hold on! I think it is one of the most amazing restaurants in the world. I understand why some people might not. It is cerebral and hits you in a different way than other restaurants. I would keep it in the Bucket.

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I didn’t go to Noma when I was in Copenhagen in July (not without trying).

But if you’re in Copenhagen you must go to Barr, the casual-offshoot beer-focused place in Noma’s old space. It’s exceptionally enjoyable, and delicious, in all ways.

Sorry to hear about the experience being disappointing. Reading the report it sounds like something I’d be into so still keen to go. A bit worrying to hear they didn’t listen to your preference though, that’s not good!

I’ll get there one of these days…long weekend away, perhaps. :slight_smile: