My mouth dropped open when I read the email confirming our lunch reservation at the NOMA's 10-week pop-up in Sydney. The reservations at the restaurant in Copenhagen are almost impossible. We were only in Australia for five days so it turned out to be a godsend that we could dine there.
For those who don’t know the history of NOMA, it has been rated one of the top restaurants in the world, spending quite a bit of time at #1 on some pretty influential lists. Executive chef René Redzepi and his team derived their method of cooking from the principle of using only what was available from their Danish terroir, foraging for local and seasonal ingredients while using innovative techniques to reinvent flavors. The name and concept ‘NOMA’ is a combination of two Danish words "nordisk" (Nordic) and "mad" (food).
Seasonality and the limited availability of local ingredients give NOMA the opportunity to open up shop in different countries like Japan and Australia.
The entire team greeted us with smiles when we arrived at the outdoor patio in Sydney. They were excited to have us and eager to show us their menu.
We were graciously offered a dry cider cocktail called ‘Snakebite.' It was a cool and refreshing replacement for water on a hot, sunny day, and a smooth way to start the meal.
The meal was extremely fast-paced. Most 12-course tasting menus take four to five hours—this took only two. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure we'd make it to the Sydney Harbor Zoo since we had anticipated lunch taking the entire afternoon.
Unlike other fine dining experiences, each course was presented by a different friendly face. Everyone that came to say hello always asked how the meal was going and answered questions with a smile.
Since it was summer, the ingredients were strictly seafood. I was expecting to see some wallaby or kangaroo like we'd eaten our previous night at Melbourne’s Attica, but there was no red meat.
Each course was extremely light and I walked out feeling satiated but not full to the point of buttons popping off.
I loved how interactive the dishes were. The dried scallop pie with lantana flowers required you to pick and place the flowers before eating and the blue marron, a bright cobalt blue crayfish, arrived in a beautiful green palm wrap that we took out by hand.
The fruit course, featuring compressed watermelon, mango, and pineapple, was mildly intimidating when I noticed that there were green ant butts on the mango sorbet. Turns out ant butt has a strong citrus zing!
I also loved the chocolate popsicle with caramel filling and rose oil presented on a twig.
When we finished a speedy two hours later, we were invited to enjoy fresh juices and house-made kombucha on the patio outside.
I was in slight disbelief when I looked over the menus at all we'd eaten. Even though the time flew by, I felt fortunate to have experienced NOMA from the fresh perspective of another country’s ingredients.
Photos: Roxie Jones