May 26, 2010

kødbyens fiskebar

by now, the observant reader will have noticed that i am in copenhagen. on this, more anon. today's writing exercise is about fish and dessert. lest i be mistaken for one of the capitalist bourgeoisie, please note that the dinner was occasioned by and courtesy of travel insurance and the union strike under which british airways currently labours.

based on n=2, a period of hipness and edginess appears to be an unavoidable stage in the lifecycle of meatpacking districts. a few nights ago, on half-remembered recommendations, we walked over to kødbyen for a post-drink drink and found a large expanse of functionalist architecture that used to be all slaughterhouses and rendering factories. like the meatpacking district in manhattan, it is now filled with hipsters, self-consciously dive-y bars, and galleries for exceedingly conceptual art. also, what turned out to be an exceptional seafood bar.

yesterday, i found myself back in kødbyen when i tried and failed to catch the launch party for the new danish food lexicon (only in danish and unfindable online). it had been grey all day, and drizzling, but sporadically relieved by the sun blazing through the clouds every hour or so. i went to dinner at the kødbyens fiskebar to wait out the latest shower. given the surroundings, i suppose i shouldn't have been surprised at the excellent meal i had there, but there it is anyway. you see, below, that a large, unhappy-looking cow stands over the location, while ominous stormclouds gather in the sky above.

things began with fish and chips, a cone of newspaper enclosing a piece of smoked haddock, lightly breaded, barely fried, and flecked with large and flakey crystals of salt. further down in the cone was a pile of soft fried potatoes and a slick of tartar sauce filled with chopped vegetables. tasty but not awesome.

after a short interlude, which i spent watching guests try to find the bathroom, a slab of perfectly poached witch (also known as the righteye flounder or torbay sole) showed up. it was concealed under a thin piece of crisp fried bread. the fish tasted so much like a barramundi steamed by the best teochew restaurants in the motherland that i did a double-take. cooked just to the point of perfect flake and fragrant with iodine, its complete freshness and the precision of the cooking was unobscured by any sauce. on the side, an assortment of the tweezer-placed vegetables and purées which are now almost required plate decoration in any restaurant trying to charge a premium. these were excitingly unfamiliar in the context of fish: spears of caramelised salsify, pieces of jerusalem artichoke rolled in powdered truffle, roasted hazelnuts, a purée of hazelnuts and sherry vinegar, and soft mounds of parsley cream. a bowl appeared containing an enormous quantity of a gratinéed cauliflower and turnips filled with deposits of black truffle. the side diversions were, in a good way, the flavour of earth and the ground; they were tasty, but i would have been happy with the fish alone.

the completely unexpected win was dessert, and it was even better than the previous all-time best dessert in my book (from quince). a shallow bowl showed up at the table containing a quenelle of lilleø apple sherbet in a puddle of puréed lilleø apple compote. (more here about lilleø.) two entirely different flavours from the same apples: the cooked compote, round, mellow, lightly toasty, the uncooked sherbet acid, bright, and lightly tannic. these were served with crushed toasted grains, fragments of plain, unsweetened yogurt flash-frozen in liquid nitrogen, warm salted caramel, and tiny whole leaves of young lemon verbena. separately, each part of the dessert was delicious in the peculiarly self-effacing way i previously associated only with very expensive japanese cooking. but more wondrous, a spoonful containing all these elements was a combination of textures, flavours, and temperatures that in the mouth brought to mind (at least to my mind) the platonic idea of apples: warm and cool, green, russet, and red, comfortably sweet yet bracingly snappy, aromatic. it was a marvelous thing.

and then the sun came back and the sky stayed light until nearly midnight.


Ben said...

congrats on such a satisfying meal. copenhagen is an awesome city, no? my recommendation based on years-past memories is the danish design centre.

mrm said...

Who could fail to love an apple that comes from an island where fruit farming had been the main activity "[s]ince the 1930ties"?

In other notes, I want midnight sunshine.