Noma, the hallowed Copenhagen eatery frequently voted the best restaurant in the world, has spearheaded an unlikely “New Nordic” invasion of fine-dining destinations. Like a Viking longship unleashing hordes of ax-wielding marauders, the export of all things smoked, salt-cured, fermented, and farm-to-tabled is rampaging through top-tier kitchens, some even run by Noma alumni.
This irresistible Nordic boomlet spans everything from the fermented lamb intestines and sheep’s-innards sausage at KOKS on the Faroe Islands, an archipelago halfway between Iceland and Norway, and the acclaimed fish-and-foraged tasting menu at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island in Washington’s Bellingham Bay (run by former Noma chef Blaine Wetzel) to the standout beef tartare and fried oysters at Luksus, the Michelin-starred Brooklyn gem co-owned by former Noma pastry chef Daniel Burns.
“New Nordic is basically about terroir: Cook what’s local, seasonal, and the freshest stuff, which is a really good idea,” Burns says. “But it’s very difficult to cook true Nordic food here in America. What I take from it is being ultra-seasonal and using bright, clean flavors. If you’re gonna cook a carrot, make it the best carrot you can, with crazy strong flavor.” So, yes, Nordic is characterized by the sublime lightness of Noma’s fresh langoustines and fermented wild plums with wild beach roses, but it’s also represented by earthier pig-outs at the Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, which serves up heaping portions of pork wieninleike (that’s Finnish for “schnitzel”), smoked scallops, and salt-cured foie gras to loyal dinner crowds. Perhaps all these riffs on Nordic eats will find a home at Noma cofounder Claus Meyer’s Nordic market, a buzzed-about food hall slated to open in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in 2016, which promises to seriously upgrade the concept of Scandinavian-style fast food.
It’s a long way from those IKEA meatballs.