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Copenhagen trip report

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The Danes are known for smorrebord, an open faced sandwich on buttered rye bread. Our first day we tried Told and Snap which was close to our hotel. They do traditional smorrebord and I tried the smoked eel with scrambled eggs. I liked the food and service was attentive. It seemed like a good introduction to this food. We also tried Aamanns which is considered a less traditional smorrebord. Here it was sold as a trio and I had the daily special with one being salmon rilette, one potato and one flank steak. These had more components with thoughtful presentation. Flavours were good, balanced and richer. They also offer a home made aquavit pairing with the smorrebord. The chef seems to be a little bit of a celebrity who has several cookbooks which are sold at the restaurant and around town. He was in the kitchen that day. Both restaurants were fairly priced for Copenhagen and I would recommend them.

Kiin Kiin is one of the two Michelin starred Thai restaurants in the world. We tried Ricemarket which is a lower end sister restaurant. Initially service seemed disorganized even though the room was almost empty. The chicken satay was tender with a nice almost bbq like crust,but the spring rolls needed less wrapper. My yellow curry tasted of turmeric and coriander and had that flavour separation I associate with a freshly made curry, but ultimately was lacking in richness and aroma. My girlfriends red curry tasted on tomato sauce and fish sauce which is not what I expect from this dish. Both dishes lacked heat. The food was unexceptional and I found it pricey even by Danish standards.

We were planning on having a simple dinner at Meyer's Deli but it was located in a department store which was closed at that hour. We walked across Geist which I remembered was Bo Bech's new restaurant. I have a copy of Arts Culinaire which features his cooking at Paustian and it didn't strike me as interesting. The menu was posted and even though it read as a little unconventional, the pricing was low enough to warrant a gamble. The gamble paid off and this was one of the highlights of the trip. The menu is mid size courses and you are encouraged to order 3 or 4. My girlfriend started with the mushroom soup and I had the baked celeriac and buttermilk. The mushroom soup was a broth and came with no spoon. The chef wanted you to drink it out of the bowl to fully appreciate the aroma. The celeriac was shockingly minimal, a baked celeriac cut in two and a pool of condensed buttermilk. The celeriac was as you can imagine and the buttermilk was the perfect sauce by providing, richness, acidity and sweetness. I loved this dish, it gave you exactly what was needed to celebrate this often overlooked vegetable. Because of the lack of elements I got a real sense of comfort from eating a decent quantity of celeriac. The next courses were shaved cauliflower with a black truffle butter and charred roebuck with beets. My girlfriend was lukewarm about the cauliflower but I quite enjoyed it, this dish depends on how much you like raw cauliflower. The roebuck was again minimal. The heavy char brought out the flavour of the meat and there was a strawberry coulis with the beets. Everything complemented and enhanced one another and the coulis brought out the sweetness in the beets. We opted for two desserts each. The first round was a corn sorbet with green almonds and elderflower and a vanilla ice-cream with balck olive tapenade with black liquorice. It might all sound weird but everything worked. The corn sorbet was rich like ice-cream with the almonds adding texture and the elderflower adding aroma. Our next round was day old bread and banana tart. Again both hits. The day old bread was a light custard topped with a crunchy tulle with grated milk chocolate. I don't know how this dessert was made, but I thought the custard was made with old bread and the tulle had toasted bread crumbs in it, in others words a rethinking of day old bread. This meal really worked for me because it didn't just stimulate you intellectually by making you focus on one or two ingredients and the ideas behind it, but also because there was enough of the main ingredients to provide pleasure. Service was engaging and attentive, we had a few glasses of wine and still the bill seemed very reasonable by any standard. I would happily return.

If you visit Copenhagen, no doubt you will visit Tivoli Amusement Park. This is quite different from things in North America because first the park pays more attention to the gardens and second because there are more restaurants than rides. The restaurants range in every style and price and there are no junky chains. We had hot dogs at Andersen Bakery which has an entrance in and outside the park. I don't consider myself I hot dog connoisseur, but this is the best I've had. The dog was simple enough but it came on an excellent bun topped with crispy fried onions, vinaigered sliced cucumbers, ketchup and mustard.

Fiskebaren is another restaurant that requires taking a taxi. It would be almost impossible for a foreigner to find this restaurant lost in the middle of warehouses. Naturally the focus is on seafood. I started with razor clams with were served raw on toast shaped like their shell with a tarragon cream. Our apps were fish and chips and scallops cooked in butter. Everything was superbly fresh and cleanly presented. My fish main, which I think was hake, was also excellent and came with properly cooked asparagus. My girlfriend finish with some berry dessert which she liked. Overall excellent food at a decent price, better than some Michelin meals I've had.

At the beginning of our stay we ate at Manfred's, the sister restaurant to Relae, the informal 1* Michelin restaurant. At Manfred's a set menu is offered which is meant for sharing. The food was very simple and came out as it was ready. There was thinly sliced raw hake with a cucumber salad, broccoli with a hazelnut cream, a tender slice of pork presented with nothing else, and a white asparagus dish which had them sliced into rounds and eaten in a bowl with other elements, like some sort of vegetable cereal. Dessert was a basic berries with lemon buttermilk. Nothing on the menu stood out as truly exceptional or innovative, but I walked away feeling content. To me this was more about feeding people than presenting some vision. The meal was 1090 DKK with wine pairings, about $190 CAD.

A few nights later we had Relae booked. Having already eaten at Manfred's, that it had 1* Michelin, was listed at #76 in the top restaurants in the world, it is listed in just about every magazine I read as a must try, and that the chef was the sous at Noma and Rene Redzepi has spoken favourably about it set up some expectations. The restaurant is very informal, so much so that the server would lean in and place both of his hands on our table while speaking to us. Service at Manfred's seemed more formal than this and the music was less obviously rock (the Stooges and such). Two set menus are offered regular and vegetarian but two dishes are repeated on each other. We also opted for a separate snack. This was a bundle of herbs and lettuces bundled up with pistachio paste inside. It was great fun eating this with your hands and your nose is buried in the bundle. The dish would have been better if the aroma came from the chosen greens rather than the citrus oil it was sprayed with, but otherwise a promising start. This was the highlight of the meal and everything else that followed was boring. Next I had thinly sliced raw lamb with dill and shrimp paste. The shrimp paste reminded me of the way Thai cooking uses it to add umami and enhance other meats. It added an overall nuttiness but I thought it overwhelmed the lamb which didn't taste of much. Next was green asparagus with sunflower seed and mint. This was presented exactly like the asparagus dish at Manfred's. One could easily make this dish at home, slice asparagus into rounds, mix sunflower seeds, mint and toasted buckwheat and add some beurre blanc. I didn't find the flavours interesting, it was tiresome after a couple of bites and I had already essentially the thing a couple of nights ago. The main course was listed as chicken wings, white asparagus and anchovies. The chicken meat was picked off the bone and without skin, topped with thinly sliced asparagus and a thin stock. I assume anchovies were used in the stock, but I couldn't really taste them. Again one could easily mimic this dish, there was no special technique used. I have no ideal what the chef was thinking with this dish. This was more than boring, it was puzzling. If a chef wanted to celebrate the glory of chicken wings, then shouldn't she/he include the best part: the skin? The dish tasted exactly as one would imagine it would, does this strike anyone as some culinary gift to mankind? Dessert was a little better with elderflower and rhubarb. We had to sit and wait while it melted because the server was slow with the wine. We opted for the Sol toffee to finish which was seaweed mixed with toffee and came off a little weird. We paid 1620 DKK about 50% more for a meal which was almost no different from that at Manfred's. We have found Michelin to be inconsistent but with Relae I also lose faith in other lists and those who praise it. Once the buzz dies down, I can't imagine people regularly visiting this restaurant and the chef will be left lamenting why no one understood his "genius".

The last place to mention is Norrebro Brewhouse an excellent micro brewery. I opted for the 5 course menu with beer pairings. The food is simple and straightforward along the quality of a decent bistro. The beer pairings worked with the overall intensity of the dishes versus some particular elements. I would recommend it for beer lovers.

ONe last note, I made attempts to book Noma and could not get a redo.

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  1. I miss Denmark :(

    Aaman's is fabulous. I just wish I had eaten more when I was there!

    Just a note on Fiskebaren. We walked from our hotel in Tivoli and with the help of a Lonely Planet guidebook. It's not that hard to find if you have a map, though it was a good thing I read it was in the meat packing district; otherwise, I would have definitely thought we were in the wrong place!

    I also couldn't get into Noma. :( So mysterious...!