Jul 14, 2011

relae

the pace of work at noma is crushing; 90-hour weeks are common. when the people who work there leave, sometimes they open their own restaurants with a different approach to service. i met one of the ex-noma guys in aarhus a few weeks ago; he brought an incredible bottle of natural wine with him*, and mentioned that he worked at a new restaurant called relae. we went for dinner on friday night. platings were simple and most everything we had was good. three things were good enough to go back for:

  • a pile of fresh peas, a scoop of fresh sheep cheese, a scattering of red pine shoots, and a bright green snow made of pine and peas. these peas were listed as frozen, but they were tiny, sweet, tender, and many had their little funiculi still attached to them. peas begin to convert their sugars to much less tasty starches within minutes of being picked, which is why peas flash-frozen at harvest are almost always better than even relatively freshly picked peas. the chalkiness and mild lactic character of fresh sheep cheese with the citrus aroma of the pine: simple-seeming and very delicious. 
  • grilled spring onions, leek stem, and puree of charred onion. charred alliums are always fantastic. they usually have enough water and sugar that very intense heat dries them out a little, caramelises sugars, and drives off some of the sulphur compounds. 
  • cooked turnips, strips of lamb from west denmark, marrow broth, samphire, new garlic. this was incredibly good and fully evolved, a perfect dish and one which to me felt indisputably different from noma in style and intent. circulator-cooked, then briefly (very briefly) pan-seared lamb in very thin strips over samphire and new garlic, a clarified marrow broth over that, then a layer of thin slices of cooked white turnips over the top. lamb from the west of denmark is often grazed on salt dunes close to the ocean, giving a slight salt air flavour to the meat. samphire is a succulent that grows in salt soil and becomes salty itself, in a juicy and crunchy way. the turnip slices were softly crunchy and had a mild mustardy bite; the soft crunch is a texture unfairly ignored in western cooking. taken together, a range of beautiful textures and flavours. the lamb was not the main point of the dish.
* a magnum of domaine les griottes navine chenin blanc. i think. things were getting a little hazy by the time it was opened, but it was cloudy bronze, rich, tannic, and full in the mouth, with a distinct bite in the middle of the tongue.

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