The best restaurant in the world (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014) comes to Australia.
7.5 | 2.5 | 2.5 | 1.5
- Tasting and discovering new ingredients cooked with exceptional technique
- Fascinating insight into how someone on the other side of the world interprets Australian food
- Meeting René Redzepi, one of the greatest chefs of our generation
- Too many miss dishes
- Desserts a weak point
- Some major missteps in an otherwise great service (eg. pouring sparkling water into a cup with still water)
- You pay more for less than Noma’s original restaurant in Copenhagen (though there are extra overheads with a pop-up)
TL;DR – While Noma Australia had several miss dishes and the desserts left much to be desired, it was worth every cent of the $485. René Redzepi’s cooking philosophy combined with foraged Australian ingredients was an eye-opening and educational experience.
“If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime,
you’re not thinking big enough.” – Wes Jackson.
Let’s start off by answering the two questions that everyone asks after you go to Noma Australia –
- Yes, Noma Australia was worth every cent of the $485.
- No, it was not the best restaurant I’ve ever dined at.
Most of you would not be surprised that it was worth the incredible price tag; many reviewers and critics before me have stated such. Most of you, however, would be surprised that it was not the best restaurant I’ve dined at (Jimbocho Den still takes those honours); in fact it isn’t even close.
But how can a restaurant that was rated best in the world four times (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014) not even be close to my best restaurant in the world?
Well how can the best restaurant in the world only have 2 Michelin Stars (as opposed to the highest score of 3 Michelin Stars)? These famous rating systems are rife with similar inconsistencies throughout the world. Ever since my first 3 Michelin Star experience (at Caprice, Hong Kong), I’ve been sceptical and dismissive of ranking and awards in general.
So if rankings and awards are meaningless, then what is important? If all these Michelin Stars and World’s Best count for nothing, why do people sell their kidneys to flock to Noma?
Photo credit – @reneredzepinoma
It’s because of this man, René Redzepi, one of the best chefs of our generation.
And like all great men, René has become more than just the man himself. He is a culinary visionary, the most influential chef in the world (TIME’s 100 most influential people in 2012), a beacon for sustainability and foraged foods, and the founder of MAD, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to expanding the knowledge of food to make every meal a better meal.
So when the history books look back, René won’t be remembered for running the best restaurant in the world. He will be remembered for inspiring the next generation of chefs and foragers. He will be remembered for being the father of the hyperlocal foraging movement. He will be remembered not just for reinventing Nordic Cuisine but changing the way the world eats.
All of which will continue long past the lifetime of Noma and the man himself.
Inside Noma Australia.
I’m sure you’ve all read countless reviews on Noma Australia by now so I’m going to do something a bit different. Given that Noma Australia runs only for 10 weeks, it either means you’re one of the lucky 5,500 (waitlist of 27,000+) with a reservation or you missed out.
If you fall in the former category, you shouldn’t read any reviews; it’s the equivalent of reading the plot of a movie before going to see it.
If you’re the latter, then there’s not much point reading lengthy tasting notes on each dish as you will likely never see anything like them ever again. Instead, I’ve included the chef’s transcripts of each dish (transcribed by Nancy), so that you can experience Noma Australia (or as close as one can without being there). More importantly though, the transcripts will provide insight not only into foraged Australian ingredients but the philosophy and thought process of the chefs at Noma.
Welcome to Noma Australia.
Unripe Macadamia and Spanner Crab
Photo credit – Nancy
“So here we have Macadamias in a Spanner Crab Broth. On top are Macadamia Nuts from Byron Bay. These nuts are tough, man. They have 2 shells, an outer and inner shell and take 3 hours to open, but they are worth it. The broth is made with Spanner Crab from Western Australia. And we finish that off with a bit of Rose Oil.” – Chef Malcolm Livingston II aka the coolest pastry chef there ever was.
Wild Seasonal Berries Flavoured with Gubinge
“This is a dish of Australian Berries with Desert Lime. There are white Lemon Aspen, green & red Muntries. These really pink ones are Lily Peas. There are also some Pickled Lemon Myrtle Buds (green). On the bottom is oil made from Roasted Kelp (Seaweed). And the powder over the top is Kakadu Plums.” – Chef Mette Søberg
Porridge of Golden and Desert Oak Wattleseed with Saltbush
“So you know much about the Wattleseed? I’m Australian. So I look at the Wattleseed as something everyone has in their pantry. Your grandmother has it. It’s usually only sprinkled on biscuits or on bread – that’s as far as it goes in cuisine.
When it grows, it needs a big fire like a bushfire to come through, then heavy rain, then it can spreads its seed. It’s part of the Acacia family. So to cultivate this, you need to boil it in smoked water, then plant the seed. So we’ve taken this train of thought and we’ve made a porridge purely from the Wattleseed. It’s extremely hard to cook. Somewhere between 5-10 hours.You have to individually go through every wattle seed as they cook all differently. Once you crack the seed, it absorbs the water, then it cooks. And the skin is so hard.
So that’s wrapped in a leaf called the Saltbush. Then on top we have the native Finger Lime. The oil is from another small shrub called the Anise Myrtle. There are a quite few types of Myrtle in Australia, but this one has hints of Anise flavours to it.” – Chef Beau Clugston
Seafood Platter and Crocodile Fat
“The location here is the Cockle Bay Wharf. Back home the location of the restaurant is more or less kind of similar in the way that you can throw a stone out the window and it’s going to go in the ocean.
Before we came here we did a lot of research. So to get access to all the indigenous and native ingredients, we visited a lot of the native Aboriginal communities. What we found fascinating is how they categorised themselves as the Water People, Fire People, and the Bush People. So obviously the Water People sounded very like ‘us’. So that means they eat everything from the sea, the shoreline and then sort of between the shoreline and the bush – kind of some of the forest but not much. So obviously that for us was a pretty logical step to serve a lot of seafood.
And taking in part some of the history of this location. Barangaroo, Bennelong, then the Cockle Bay Wharf. When the Westerners came to this side of the island, that’s why it’s called Cockle Bay Wharf because we ate the cockles, the mussels. Everything from there, we didn’t know to live from the nature. The Westerners didn’t know how to live from the nature and the Aboriginal people didn’t really want us to learn how to live from the nature. So Barangaroo was Bennelong’s wife and she was the first person to step up and propose Australia being Westernised.
This plate here is probably the most seafood centred. It shows what we were thinking when we started doing this menu.” – Chef Kim Mikkola
Photo credit – Nancy
“We have 5 different Bivalve Molluscs. Start from the one that’s closest to you guys, 6 o’clock – the Pipi, then we go onto the left there’s a Blue Mussel, Strawberry Clam, a Flame Cockle, then there’s an Oyster to sort of freshen you up. This would be the ideal order to eat it; you start with the Pipi then the flavour kind of goes up until the Flame Cockle.
The crisp on the top is made from reduced Chicken Stock. So usually when you boil up red wine sauce and leave the pot on the side, it will form this skin on top. Usually people would just skim that, throw it away. Same happens to milk; the proteins, the collagens will just form that skin. We take that off, crispen that up on a pan and then obviously put it in the oven, low temperature until it crispen up further. Then we brush it with Crocodile Fat.” – Chef Kim Mikkola
W.A Deep Sea Snow Crab and Cured Egg Yolk
“So we have White Snow Crab that comes off the West Coast of Australia. Comes from very deep waters that doesn’t see much sun so the outside of the crab is white. The meat becomes quite sweet. We’ve served it with a Cured Egg Yolk that we season with Fermented Kangaroo. We also steamed this Crab and hand pick it throughout service, so there is always a slight chance you may find a piece of cartilage – we try to disrupt the meat as little as possible to keep it in big pieces.”
Additional information not part of transcript – Egg yolks were cured in a Kangaroo Garum (fermented sauce) made in July with Kangaroo Mince and Rice Koji (used to make popular foods like soya sauce, miso, mirin and sake), and whisked together with smoked butter and seasoned with more Kangaroo Garum.
Pie – Dried Scallops and Lantana Flowers
“So the shell itself is made from Kelp. The top is made from Scallops. On the inside, we have flowers. The same flowers we have on the side – Lantana which is a very common weed that is grown out here. We like the sweetness and the flavour from this flower. So the flower on the side, just go ahead and pick off the flowers and put it on the pie and then pick it up and eat it with your hands.” – Chef David Zilber
“The shell has been baked. The Scallop is not. The Scallop is frozen. We have found that this gives it a nice texture for service.” – Chef David Zilber
Additional information not part of transcript – The pie filling was made with Tasmanian Scallops that are dried and blended with Beeswax and Elderflower oil. This dish is an adaptation the Scallop Fudge dish at Noma Copenhagen,which was converted to an aerated version for Noma Tokyo.
BBQ’d Milk ‘Dumpling’, Marron and Magpie Goose
“Blue Marron. Poach it gently just to get it out of its shell. And then rub its belly with a Magpie Goose Ragu. These are large birds from the Northern Territory. Farmers consider them pests because they like mango so much they just destroy the farmer’s fields. But they also cook down into a pretty nice meat sauce which is what you have inside this wrap.”
“Together those 2 things are rolled in a Nasturtium Leaf and then placed inside the Skin of Caramelised Milk which we brushed with a bit of Smoked Butter and grill on the BBQ. So you can open up the palm leaf and find your little treasure inside. You’ll be eating with your hands.”
Sea Urchin & Tomato Dried with Pepper Berries
“The Sea Urchin is glazed with Mushroom Reduction and Barley – also a reduction. The Tomatoes come from Tasmania. They’ve been dehydrated for 8 hours with Blackcurrant and Wood Oil. You’ll have this touch of sun dried Tomato but we keep all the juices inside which is very inclusive. The broth is made from Elderflower Oil, Native Herbs and Pepper Berries.” – Chef Viviane Mello
Abalone Schnitzel and Bush Condiments
Photo credit – Nancy
“Here we have the main course. We decided to make an Abalone Schnitzel. We cook the Abalone confit and after that we tenderise the meat. We pan fry like a normal Schnitzel.”
“We serve this with different condiments that we found really interesting here in Australia. We start with a bouquet of Fresh Herbs, Ice Plant with Blackcurrant leaf on it, Kakadu Plum, Atherton Oak Nut, Neptune’s Necklace, which is a seaweed. Sea Fennel, Sea Pearls which is another seaweed – really rare, and Finger Lime – really spicy and tastes a little bit like pepper, you put on top of the Abalone, some native Fig (Sandpaper Fig) and this one is Mat Rush. Only eat the last centimetre which is really juicy and tender, the rest is not edible.
The sauce on the side is Crab Yeast and Salad Reduction to dip the meat as you prefer.”
Additional information not part of transcript – The Abalone, kept in its shell, is confit in Koji Oil with Paperbark before being removed and pounded to tenderise. It is then crumbed and shallow fried in foaming Butter.
Marinated Fresh Fruit
“Frozen Mango, then on top are the Australian Green Ants. Then we have a piece of Pineapple and then the Watermelon which is compressed in Davidson Plum Juice.
Now I would suggest you eat the Mango first because it is frozen.
We take a square of Pineapple and it’s not frozen, but this one has been marinated with an oil from the Kaffir Lime. We spray it very lightly with a little bit of Whisky.
The Watermelon as well, it’s just cut into cubes, then we have this very tart Davidson Plum Juice. And that’s also compressed and sealed with that plum juice so that the Watermelon takes on all of the tart juice from the Plums.” – Team Leader Katherine Bont
Native Mirabelle Plums
“So here we have a little serving to go with your fruit plate. These are some Native Mirabelle Plums. On top there is some Juniper Berries and some Finger Limes. Be careful because on the inside there’s still the pip. We suggest you eat it with a stick; just stick it in there and eat it. Don’t bite too hard with the stick because it has a very very strong flavour. The stick is an Anise Myrtle stick.”
“A very light ice cream made from Rum, a very special rum called Black Head Rum. It’s made a little north of Sydney, like 3.5 hrs drive from Sydney and there’s only about 80 bottles in total so we’re very lucky to have some of it. Then there’s Milk Crumble on top of this little Lamington here. Then the sauce is made from native Tamarinds, little bit of Rose, and Rose Points [sic].”
Peanut Milk and Freekeh “Baytime”
“So this one here in Australia very popular ice cream bar called the Gaytime. This however is not the Gaytime, this is the Baytime. We have the harbour/bay over here, we don’t want to get sued by calling it Gaytime. You can hashtag B-A-E “Baetime”.
Inside is Ice Cream made from Water and Raw Peanuts from Queensland. There is a Toffee centre and the outside which looks like chocolate is actually a grain glaze made from Freekeh. It’s an ancient grain here, we roast it extremely dark and it starts to take on chocolate tones but there’s no chocolate. The Ice Cream Bar is sitting on Riberry Sticks.” – Chef Malcolm Livingston II aka the coolest pastry chef there ever was.
Apple and Native Herbs, Desert Lime
“A little candy, a Bon Bon made from Anise Myrtle and River Mints. Then there’s filling inside made from Desert Lime. You can eat the whole thing and I just made you a couple but if you want some more, then just let us know and I’ll make you some more.”
Photo credit – @shusheneats
Noma is known to have one of the best Juice Pairings, so we thought why not. From left to right –
Bergamot Kombucha / Native Mint – “Fermented tea made with Bergamot which is a citrus fruit. We topped it with an oil of River Mint and Geranium Flowers.”
Rose / Spruce Wood Oil – “Rose Tea topped with an oil infused with Kaffir Lime and Sprucewood, Pinewood.”
Green Tomato / Lemon Myrtle – “This is a Green Tomato Juice and the oil that you’ve got on top has been infused with Lemon Myrtle.”
Smoked Pepper / Red Pepper Berry – “The next juice is Smoked Red Peppers. It has been cooked in a Josper Oven, a Spanishs-style barbeque oven with Charcoal so they kinda burn on the outside, and they are nice and smoky on the inside. We just press the Peppers and there’s a lot of Peppers that we use. So not diluted with water.”
Blood Plum / Native Lemongrass – “This is juice of Blood Plums (just blood plum juice, nothing else).”
Just a bit of memorabilia.
So fellow foodies, if you secured a reservation to Noma Australia, what were you thoughts? If you didn’t, would you pay $485 for Noma Australia?