November 19, 2013 Leave a comment
Our trips to Copenhagen are usually very much about Noma – in its present incarnation and of its alumni. I’ve previously written about how very much I love Relæ, run by Noma alumni Christian Puglisi but after having visited on our previous 2 visits, YKL and I felt it would probably be a bit too much to go again this trip. We had already booked for Bror again for dinner on our last night in Copenhagen so it was a matter of where to go for dinner on the night we arrived. We just missed the opening of Amass on our previous visit and it’s one of the few places that got both YKL and I really excited – both to read the development and setting up of the restaurant, and then seeing the feedback from their opening few weeks, but also in that YKL obviously knew Matt Orlando from his time at Noma (and a lot of front of house staff moved there from Noma), so she knew what obvious talent and skills he had, therefore it was with even more reason that we got excited about it. Table booked for the Friday evening, it was going to be a fairly tight squeeze, but we figured that if we got off the plane, allowed a bit of time to get our luggage and eat hot dogs (as you *must* do when you arrive in CPH), we should have enough time to get the train to Central Station, check into the hotel, freshen up quickly before making our way to the restaurant…
.. Except it didn’t work out that way at all; Initially the plane was delayed taking off from LHR and on the plane, YKL and I figured that the delay was significant enough that we couldn’t really go with out original plan. So, we hatched a new plan to take it a bit easier at CPH – sitting down and taking our time eating our hot dogs, then get changed at the airport and head straight to the restaurant from the airport – with our suitcases in tow. It was just as well we had that time to take it easy as I discovered that I had left my iPad on the plane (!) and there was a momentary panic of whether I’d ever get it back. Fortunately, I had discovered the missing iPad in time and so by the time I reported it, the plane had not yet departed and yes, they had found my iPad. It was then a matter of how they got it to me as obviously, I had gone through Security and Border control so I couldn’t go back and employees couldn’t cross to Baggage Reclaim where I was. So, they decided to sandwich it between 2 plastic trays – Like the ones you put your bags and stuff in to be x-rayed at Passport Control – and sent it to the same baggage carousel where we reclaimed our luggage. The look on people’s faces when I lifted up one tray and pulled out an iPad was quite a picture! After that dramatic interlude, hot dogs all eaten, and hearts beating at a somewhat normal rate again, both YKL and I changed and somewhat freshened up, we set off to catch a cab to Amass.
In the dark of early evening, YKL and I truly had no idea where we were and even less where we were going given it was our first visit there, so when the taxi driver was asking us if we were at the correct destination, we genuinely had no idea. Pulling up at what looked like some industrial unit in the middle of nowhere – Seriously, there weren’t even any street lights – it was only when we spotted the kitchen through the ground floor windows that we realised that we must be at the right place. However, you have to ascend the stairs outside to the first floor to get to the entrance, which isn’t exactly easy when you have a massive suitcase with you!.
Taking a moment to compose ourselves again, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who very kindly offered to take both our suitcases for us down the stairs into the main restaurant area. There, we were greeted by Julie, chef-Patron Matt’s wife. We ended up arriving earlier than our booked time because we didn’t know how long it would take to get to the restaurant from the airport, so allowed PLENTY of time. Julie took us both completely in her stride and suggested we hung our coats up “in the lift” (!) and then head to the sitting area whilst she brought us both a little something to drink. She wasn’t lying when she instructed us to hang our coats up in the lift – The building is a converted warehouse and they’ve tried to keep some of the industrial interior, so the cloakroom is the former industrial lift. The room itself is large and airy with big solid concrete beams reflecting it’s past life as a warehouse, but there are soft touches like the giant wooden grow boxes with some chillies growing, and the furniture which exemplify the brilliance and beauty of Danish design. On one side of the room, there is a huge mural of graffiti which again, adds to the industrial ambience of the place. I *loved* the look and feel of the place already, so when Julie appeared with a couple of glasses of a really fantastic and delicious sparkling red, it got us off to a really great start. I suspect Julie deliberately worded what to offer us (“would you like something sparkling… or perhaps a sparking red?”) knowing that it would pique our interest suitably enough and that we would in turn, absolutely love her recommendation. Truly, it was light, fruity.. I could have drunk that all night.
Doing our homework beforehand, we knew there was a normal 6 course menu, or an extended one for a bit more money. Well, we were never going to take the smaller option of the 2 given how excited we were to be there! Food ordered, the lid came off the metal box on the table to reveal the cutlery and we sat back looking forward to the culinary delights which were about to head our way;
Kicking things off was a Cod head rillette; various bits of meat from a cod head were cooked, extracted and sandwiched between 2 bits of incredibly crispy cod skin. A sandwich composed entirely of meat and skin from a cod head, if you will. Not the most obvious or choice cut of the fish, but those who like and know seafood will know what great eats there is to be had in fish heads. So to see such great technique applied as was in this dish was really exciting to see and delicious to eat.
Keeping with a fishy theme, next up was bitter greens, salted mackerel vinaigrette, young onion. The presented dish was an absolute picture: a really crisp and charred mackerel skin on one side of the plate with a single long young onion draped around the edges of the plate. Lifting up the mackerel skin revealed a fine mackerel tartare with some edible flowers and bitter greens. I don’t think it was mentioned to us that the mackerel was salted because I wasn’t expecting it to be so full-flavoured and it’s only afterwards when we got the menu of what we ate that I realised that it was salted mackerel tartare. Still, it didn’t stop me from eating the whole damn thing..
Matt Orlando himself presented and introduced the next dish to us and you could see how excited he was about this dish of “shrimp, hot smoked foie gras“. Matt told us that he could only get the shrimp from Skågen on Fridays and what luck that it was a Friday when we visited! YKL and I knew how sweet and delicious Skågen shrimp is from eating it on previous visits to Noma so we were already looking forward to this dish anyway, but when Matt mentioned that it was with hot smoked foie gras, my initial thoughts were: “How/why the hell would you hot smoke foie gras?!” but even if I didn’t think/know this dish was going to be something special anyway, the first taste was pretty heavenly; sweet Skågen shrimp with soft shaved foie gras – all creamy and smooth – with the slightest hint of smoke gently melting and disintegrating on your tongue.. This was one of the best things I’ve eaten all year, just spectacular.
Next up was Squid, green beans, sour plums, marigold which was pretty as a picture when it came out. And it was pretty damn good to eat, too – A contrast of textures, flavours and colours.. The sauce, well foam was so delicious that we were using the bread to mop up any sauce that was left. Good as it was, it was always going to be challenging to follow the previous dish with something equally heavenly.
However, what followed next was nothing short of extraordinary – I can’t even get my head around it now! The dish was egg, virgin butter, grass. When presenting this dish, we were told that the egg yolk was slow cooked for so long that it ended up tasting like toffee and it was served with a butter sauce.. I was a bit sceptical about the egg yolk but from cutting into it with my spoon, I could see that it was quite thick (rather than being runny) and it’s a wonder my eyes didn’t pop out of my head when I first tasted it – Truly, the egg yolk tasted of toffee! How the actual hell did they do that?! I think my head was about to explode trying to think it through but all I knew was that this slow-cooked egg yolk really did taste of toffee – And it was bloomin’ gorgeous!
Our next dish of Monkfish, Plums, Orange Birch Bolets, Sol was proudly paraded in front of us before it was plated and even though we got the bones too (as requested after missing out at other places last year). It was a nice dish but compared to the high quality of everything else we’d eaten that night, not as memorable.
Our next dish of Burnt kale, chicken skin, almond was something we’d read about beforehand and was very much looking forward to: 70 layers of chicken skin were compressed and roasted together until all the fat had been rendered out. Think how the chicken skin is one of the best parts of a roast chicken and multiply that – 70 times if you will – for this dish. The burnt kale and almond sauce were the perfect counterpoint of sweetness and earthy iron against the chicken skin. The dish made YKL and I wonder how Matt decided on 70 being the perfect number of chicken skins – Especially when he begun the dish with 140 layers of chicken skin. I mean, you would need to eat a fair bit of chicken skin to be able to determine which was the optimum number of layers to maximise taste, surely? For such hard work and dedication, this dish was nothing short of pure deliciousness.
Our final savoury dish of Squash, lamb breast, baby corn, sunflower seeds was an absolute corker. The squares of lamb breast incredibly flavoursome (and yes, very lamby) upon a bed on puréed corn which for all intents and purposes, tasted like the best creamed corn you’ve ever eaten (which isn’t a bad thing in my book). The bits of dehydrated baby corn looked a but like the vertebrae of some small animal but their flavour was intensified by the dehydrating process and the sunflower seeds added a lovely textural crunch to the whole thing. A pure joy to eat.
Desserts were kicked off with Wild blueberries, geranium crème fraiche, buckwheat and was nothing short of sensational. The wild blueberries were from Sweden, I believe and if everybody could get to eat Blueberries like these, there would be a massive shortage as EVERYONE would eat more Blueberries if they all tasted as good as these did. That said, the geranium crème fraiche added a clean and fresh contrast to the blueberries and the obligatory crunch was offered from the buckwheat. My only gripe about this dish was that it was too small.. I could have eaten that until I turn into a blueberry.
Feeling very full at this point, I wasn’t going to go for the last dish, but when they present you with things like Apple, black pepper ice cream, bitter caramel, oregano where the apple chunks had been stewed and they dehydrated slightly, then served with black pepper ice cream and drizzled with a bitter caramel at the table – How could I refuse?! We had brain freeze a few times whilst eating this dish, but it was absolutely worth it. The apples sweet – especially with the caramel which had a slight bitter tang, and the ice cream was creamy and cold – with the slightest kick from the pepper at the end. Seriously, we lapped up at this dish and it ended the meal on a stupendous high.
So that was it, we were absolutely wowed by Amass. Fresh ingredients treated with the greatest of respect and presented very simply but with modern techniques applied too. It was everything I’ve come to love about Nordic cooking and I can see why Matt Orlando is such an exciting chef. More to the point, I can see how/why Amass is such an exciting restaurant and it’s now getting to a point where a weekend trip may not be long enough to try all our favourite places without sacrificing a visit to at least one of them. I know, it’s *such* a chore! Bourgeoise Tragedies aside, I have to say that our meal at Amass has been one of the few places which truly lives up to, and delivers on all the hype and hyperbole written about it. Matt and his team already have a small masterpiece in Amass and genuinely, the food is amongst some of the most exciting I’ve eaten all year and should you ever find yourself in Copenhagen, you won’t get much better than the food at Amass.
You can view the full set of photos on my Flickr