COPENHAGEN (Reuters Life!) - Denmark's Noma won one of the restaurant world's highest accolades this week with a menu that champions innovative Nordic cuisine.
Noma's 32-year-old chef Rene Redzepi, whose restaurant topped the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list released late on Monday, has also been named ambassador for the New Nordic Food programme by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The restaurant, located in a converted dockside shipping warehouse in Copenhagen, has created a menu that includes musk ox and smoked marrow, pike perch and unripe elderberries, and dried scallops and watercress.
The Noma approach to cooking is initially concentrated on obtaining the best raw materials from the Nordic region whether it's foraging for horse mussels, deep-sea crabs and langoustines from the Faroe islands or cod, seaweed and curds from Iceland.
"In much the same fashion, we are constantly scanning for new sources of inspiration in Denmark, especially, as well as the other Nordic regions, for purposes of securing reliable sources of top-quality raw produce," Noma said on its website.
The two-star Michelin restaurant also takes care to source its more commonplace ingredients -- including those grown only in the wild -- and has an eye for its culinary legacy in the cooking of cereals, hulled grains and legumes as well as its exploration of the potential for milk and cream in modern food.
"We are also interested in working with raw ingredients which have no part in any systems of formalized cultivation and which therefore cannot be obtained through the ordinary channels of distribution," Noma said.
The restaurant smokes, salts, pickles, dries, grills, and bakes on slabs of basalt stone, prepares its own vinegars and concocts its own distilled spirits.
Its menu also has cooked barley and birch syrup served alongside herbs and frozen milk; or pickled vegetables and bone marrow with herbs and bouillon and something called Noma nassaaq, whose dishes are described only as "Noma's classics and new inventions".
The Noma nassaaq "experience" lasts more than four hours, is served to all guests at a table and has to be ordered before eight in the evening.
Noma makes systematic use of beers and ales, fruit juices and fruit-based vinegars for its sauces and soups rather than wine, and allows vegetables, herbs, spices and wild plants in season to play a prominent role in its cooking.
"Consequently, they take up more room on the plate than what is generally served in traditional gourmet restaurants," Noma said on its website.
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list, produced by Britain's Restaurant Magazine, was unveiled in London after voting by a panel of 806 chefs, restaurateurs, journalists and food experts who rated innovative gastronomy over haute cuisine.
Noma pushed Spain's elBulli restaurant -- where Redzepi once worked -- off the top perch after four consecutive years.
"Copenhagen is no longer the last stop on the gastronomic subway," said Britain's Restaurant Magazine.
"This year's list is an exciting one that highlights in particular the wealth of young, dynamic chefs bringing new ideas to the world of gastronomy," added the magazine's editor Paul Wootton in a statement.
(Writing by Paul Casciato, Editing by Steve Addison)