It could have been the fact that I hadn’t seen my husband in months, it could have been the anticipation of knowing my husband would cook later that night for one of the best chefs in the world, it could have been the excitement of eating at the number one restaurant in the world, or it could have been that the food was just damn good. Whatever the reason, Noma takes the award of best meal in 2012.
There were some others that made it to the top of the list. There was Eleven Madison Park at the beginning of 2012. Isa in Brooklyn when one of our more particular buddies tried duck heart for the first time and liked it. The little hole in the wall Mexican food restaurant we discovered in south Tucson. The ramen we made at our house with almost 20 components. The house made pasta we had in San Diego while celebrating our anniversary. The pop up at Zona 78 before Kevin left for Noma. Piazza di Duomo with the fresh truffle addition. Pizza at the infamous Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples. Whether it be for the food, the moment, or fulfilling that specific craving, all of these meals have special memories in 2012…but none can dethrone Noma for that top spot. So why was this menu so amazing? Let me tell ya..
The meal started out with 15 small bites. The pace is fairly quick and the dishes are as beautiful to look at as they are delicious to eat. The dishes are meant to challenge your perception of food. To start, you tear into the flower arrangement eating the “branches” which are malt with pine powder. Next is an edible reindeer moss from Sweden dusted with cep powder followed by pork rinds with a black currant fruit leather on top. This one made me giggle. It was something so simplistic in concept yet elevated to a Michelin level. Then there was a mussel with mussel remoulade where even the shell was edible. A cracker topped with assorted stems such as coriander, lovag, and watercress followed. The knife work on this dish was stunning, I had to remind myself to eat it, not just stare in wonder. Next we had potato with duck liver pate. When the server brought out the live shrimp course, I thought they were joking. There were two small shrimp sitting atop crushed ice. You were to dip them in a brown butter emulsion then eat. The only issue was as soon as you picked up a shrimp it started to wiggle which caused me to let out a rather high pitch noise then burst out into nervous laughter. When I finally calmed down and ate the shrimp it had such a mild sweetness that was unlike any shrimp I had ever had. Next was the dehydrated smoked carrot with hay ash. This dish was dramatic in color with a striking orange carrot lying on an intensely black background. Then there was a smoked frozen cod liver atop a carmelized milk crisp with dehydrated kelp. Chefs often play with textures but it is a true delight when they play with temperatures as well. The smoked quail eggs that followed was so delicate that I even changed the way I chewed so I wouldn’t destroy the subtle flavor. The baby root vegetables in dirt was quirky and fun. Next was a bone marrow ebelskiver with a muikko spearing it…does it get much better than bone marrow and fried dough?? Then there was a nest of shredded dried veal neck that made me think of a refined carne seca. The next dish had the infamous Noma stamp…binsects. It was sorrel leaf with a grasshopper puree in a sorrel ice. The final dish in the “snack” portion was a leek dish that almost stole the show of the whole meal. Baked in soya (which is the byproduct created in the production of miso) and then placed in a chared leek. It was creamy and decadent with just the right amount of crunch.
After the “snacks” came the bigger portions. A farm fresh cheese with cep powder and fresh blueberry dish signaled the transition. It was tangy with the slight sweetness of blueberries rounding out the farm fresh cheese. Then there was uni with sorrel ice, once again playing with the contrast in temperatures instead of textures. The crab dish that followed was almost too breathtaking to eat. Next was oysters with air onions and pickled goose berries. The perch pike and cabbage dish came after the oysters. This was one of Kevin’s all time favorite dishes. Next was a dish that surprised me, it was roasted cauliflower. Almost meaty in texture but completely vegetarian. It was refreshing to have a vegetable course this close to the end of the meal, something that never would have happened in the states. The turbot ended the savory courses and I have to admit I was very sad when I finished this dish. It was fantastic and if had been appropriate I would have licked the plate or ordered seconds.
To start off the sweet courses, was a milk and sorrel combination, involving milk crisps, bitters ice cream, and sorrel juice. The potato and plum course possessed an understated sweetness and it was refreshing to see such a humble tuber take front stage in the dessert world. Then there was the piece de resistance, a caramel made of bread starter with yogurt with seabuckhorn berries. The texture was mind-blowing, aerated like bread with the density of caramel. It had that slight funk that only comes with fermentation that was cut by the yogurt. The last bite of the evening was a chocolate covered potato chip, rounding out the whimsical nature of this epic meal.
We left Noma the perfect amount of full, with ear to ear grins, drunk off of the pure delight this meal evoked. Hands down the best of 2012 and top 5 of a lifetime, where I have a feeling it will stay. So here is to 2013, may it hold many great dishes, lots of incredible wine, and mostly importantly loved ones to share it with.