Jun 6, 2010

frederiks have

[clearing out the backlog from denmark—i had remarkably good luck eating in copenhagen.]

so, you never go to a conference expecting a really nice dinner. at least, i don't. but surprises are sometimes pleasant. we finished the first day of papers early and were instructed to reassemble at frederiks have, smallegade 41 at 7pm. i left for the restaurant 30 minutes earlier than i had to so i could see what the neighbourhood was like, immediately took a wrong turn, and wound up on a completely residential side street innocent of all but the most mundane charms. i popped out eventually, by sheer chance, on the cross street the restaurant is on and was puzzled by the shutters on the shopfront until i heard a piercing whistle from the people assembled in the outdoor garden around the corner. we sat outside with beers until the rest of the contingent showed up.

the first good sign was an enormous lozenge-shaped carved wood bowl filled with the kind of heavily-caramelized baguette that you know will have a crisp, resilient (yet tender) crust, and a soft, gelatinised crumb. some of these showed up on the table shortly, accompanied by a remarkable, crusty sourdough bread rich with olive oil and sea salt and baked in tiny rounds the size of a small biscuit. they required no butter, but i put some on anyway. at this point, i allowed myself a tiny, pre-emptive chuckle at my luck. a good bread basket is almost always a good sign.

then the first wine of the night emerged, one of three selected by the owner to go with dinner. it was a 2009 natural yeast fermented pinot gris from alsace, from a biodynamic producer called josmeyer. this was richly-flavoured with the flavour (but not much of the fragrance) of soft stone fruit and sweet, but also crisp with acidity. having the owner choose and pour a good biodynamic wine from a relatively unfashionable grape/region combination is a good sign (on which, also see chapeau!). the restaurant was full and the kitchen was open and quiet: a very good sign.

as it turned out, frederiks have is one of the small but growing number of restaurants in copenhagen informed by the manifesto of the new nordic cuisine. the food was consciously seasonal, simple yet complex (you'll see in a minute), competent while concealing its technical refinement, and the staff were serious but weren't taking themselves seriously. awesome. the crockery was white, graciously proportioned, not oddly shaped, and didn't call attention to itself.

dinner was:
  • a perfectly poached egg, fat spears of poached green and white asparagus, tiny boiled fjord shrimp, a sharpish foamed custard hollandaise of stinging nettle and shellfish fumet (probably made with the shells and boiling liquid from the fjord shrimp). [mise du printemps, 2009, jos meyer, alsace]
  • lamb loin cooked sous-vide to a perfect rareness, then seared quickly to crisp the binding of fat, served with a rectangle of lamb rillettes, fried green cabbage, roasted golden beet, golden beet and sherry vinegar puree, dill, and roasted new yellow potatoes. [avan tempranillo, 2008, nascimento, ribera del dueroa tempranillo with smooth tannins, purple tasting, dry finish, violets]
  • a rhubarb soda, pacojet rhubarb ice cream, (green) rhubarb preserve with (green) rhubarb brunoise, white chocolate mousse, cardamom crumbs. [a sparkling gamay FRV jean-paul brun, beaujolais]
at 8.30pm, the kitchen was halfway broken down and ole, the owner, let me poke my head inside. while i talked with mattias the chef (who was passing a heavily reduced stock through some flannel), ole mopped up the floor.* they serve 40-50 covers with a cvap, an immersion circulating heater, a pacojet, and a 4-burner stove and flat-top. 

together with great conversation, mark this down as another perfect meal.

* a nicely democratic touch. they also list every major employee, including the waitstaff, on their website

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