Copenhagen: the food revolution.
Snug, sophisticated Copenhagen lets you tick off another requirement of the Gay Grand Tour: It should come packed with surprises--and very good food. Neither of which seems to suggest homey Denmark, where the major culinary initiative until recently seemed to involve finding even more ways of marinating, pickling, and generally manhandling the local Baltic herring.
But not anymore. Only slightly less drama-prone than London, the Danish capital is putting on its own nightly show in a series of open kitchens, where the blond Viking chefs, paying homage to their forebears, do unexpected things with big culinary knives.
How did this cute Nordic city become Northern Europe's gastronomic gas·tro·nom·ic also gas·tro·nom·i·cal
Of or relating to gastronomy.
gastro·nom epicenter? The leap isn't as unexpected as it seems. Always a city that has embraced a clean, refined aesthetic, Copenhagen and its crowded creative classes helped set the template for classic, mid-century modern design (it's often called Danish Modern for a reason). So it was only a matter of time--and one herring buffet too many--before all that creative energy jumped to the table. Now flaunting more Michelin stars (eight by last count) than any other Scandinavian city, and most European capitals twice its size, Copenhagen has become a bona fide dining destination, and there are no signs yet that there are too many sous chefs working the local kitchens. A new ambitious restaurant seems to open here every week.
For the source of the local culinary revolution, and a taste of the kitchen that helped place Copenhagen so firmly on the foodie's map, head to Noma, a cavernous beamed restaurant--converted from a 16th-century warehouse--that overlooks Copenhagen's photogenic photogenic /pho·to·gen·ic/ (-jen´ik)
1. produced by light, as photogenic epilepsy.
2. producing or emitting light.
1. harbor. That's where chef Rene Redzepi, pumped up with Nordic pride, plates the purest rendition of dishes that are regionally sourced. You already know the organic mantra because even the line cooks in the local diner are repeating it. But in the right hands--i.e., Redzepi's--you really can taste a world of tumbling flavors in one perfectly cooked woodruff, and a bright orange buckthorn buckthorn, common name for some members of the Rhamnaceae, a family of woody shrubs, small trees, and climbing vines widely distributed throughout the world. berry does manage to look as seductive as any black truffle truffle (trŭf`əl) [Fr.], subterranean edible fungus that forms a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with the roots of certain trees and plants. The part of the fungus used as food is the ascoma, the fruiting body of the fungus. or lobe of foie gras.
"We can do great cooking without having to use French or Spanish accents," Redzepi stresses with missionary passion, proving it with signature dishes like his fresh Greenland shrimp paired with crisped crisped
Crispate. potato skins and horseradish-buttermilk powder.
While Noma's ode to the Nordic bumper crop may define patriotic purism pur·ism
1. Strict observance of or insistence on traditional correctness, especially of language: "By purism is to be understood a needless and irritating insistence on purity or correctness of speech" at its most sublime, it isn't the only meal in town. Because this is the facedown-in-the-food leg of your tour, and because there are so many virtuoso kitchens in Copenhagen, don't stop at one pupil-dilating dinner or go witlessly looking for gay-friendly kitchens. You can, if you want, indulge in an ubergay night at the doggedly camp Jailhouse restaurant, where the waiters don guard uniforms. But in a postgay, secular city like Copenhagen, where any fundamentalist efforts at queer bashing are considered primordial and where the general infatuation with high style reads as purely homo, there isn't a dining room in town that feels unfriendly. Plus all the open kitchens mean you can ogle o·gle
v. o·gled, o·gling, o·gles
1. To stare at.
2. To stare at impertinently, flirtatiously, or amorously.
v.intr. those long-limbed blond cooks while they lovingly assemble your dinner.
Among the glossiest new restaurants, all nice antidotes to Noma's austerity, are a trio of current local favorites. Start at Umami For the record label, see .
Umami (Japanese: 旨み、旨味、うまみ) is one of the five basic tastes sensed by specialized receptor cells present on the human tongue. , where the dining room is sheathed in shimmering shim·mer
intr.v. shim·mered, shim·mer·ing, shim·mers
1. To shine with a subdued flickering light. See Synonyms at flash.
2. beads, the waitstaff is catwalk-worthy, and the dish of langoustines lounging in a pool of browned soya butter looks like a foodie pinup pin·up
a. A picture, especially of a sexually attractive person, that is displayed on a wall.
b. A person considered a suitable model for such a picture.
2. . Then head to Kiin Kiin in the trendy, multiethnic Norrebro neighborhood for chef Henrik Yde Andersen's Bangkok-on-the-Baltic cuisine, featuring North Sea scallops spiked with lemongrass lemongrass,
n Latin name:
Cymbopogon citratus; part used: leaves; uses: antitussive, antirheumatic, antiseptic, anxiolytic, antibacterial, antifungal, insomnia, vomiting, high blood pressure, fever; precautions: none known. and lime juice.
Finish the smorgasbord at MR, where another photogenic chef, Mads Refslund, just won a Michelin star by invoking the most despised word in contemporary kitchens: fusion. This is no '90s sushi-samba food fight, though. "I just wanted to throw in some Mediterranean accents and use olive oil and foie gras again," laughs Refslund, released from his stint cooking beside Redzepi at Noma and feeling tired of relentlessly considering the Danish beetroot beetroot
see betavulgaris. . Adding some subtle global flavors to his regional ingredients and turning out quietly dramatic dishes like sweetbreads Noun 1. sweetbreads - edible glands of an animal
organs, variety meat - edible viscera of a butchered animal in morel sauce, he's an understated radical. But in style-conscious Copenhagen, always seriously considering its next aesthetic move, even a splash of olive oil can read like a very big statement.
TOP FIVE COPENHAGEN RESTAURANTS
1 Noma (Strandgade 93, 011-45-32-9632-97) The undisputed Scandinavian temple of clean contemporary cuisine that is locally sourced
2 MR (5 Kultorvet, 011-45-33-91-09-49) Modern Danish dining with a subtle Mediterranean kick
3 Kiin Kiin (21 Guldbergsgade, 011-45-35-35-75-55) Baltic-meets-Bangkok cuisine
4 Umami (Store Kongensgade 59, 011-45-33-38-75-00) The scene-stealing style-maker hangout, featuring shimmering beaded walls, fruity cocktails, and pan-Asian plates
5 Ida Davidsen (Store Kongensgade 70, 011-45-33-91-36-55) Famous down-home Danish bistro featuring smorrebrod, the mile-high open-faced sandwich that is a local art form
Photos by Casper Balslev