It’s a decade since Noma, Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine was published, the book that helped put Copenhagen-based chef Rene Redzepi, his love for foraging and his fiercely locavore culinary philosophy on the map. Now, the appropriately titled sequel Noma 2.0 tells the story of the restaurant’s reinvention in 2018 when it relocated to an urban farm on the outskirts of the city.
The publication of the book coincides with Redzepi’s shock announcement that he will be closing Noma as a restaurant at the end of 2024 and, according to a report in the New York Times, will continue to run it as a ‘full-time food laboratory, developing new dishes and products for its e-commerce operation, Noma Projects, and the dining rooms will be open only for periodic pop-ups.’ Hopefully Redzepi will be able to make the change in a more speedy manner than his Spanish counterpart Ferran Adria who still hasn’t fully launched his research lab and pop up restaurant elBulli 1846 in the grounds of his legendary elBulli restaurant which closed back in 2011. This year, 2023 is the year apparently. We’ll see.
So it’s fitting that, standing a foot high and containing 352 pages, Noma 2.0 is a tombstone of a book. Essays by Redzepi, Noma’s gardener Piet Oudolf and Mette Soberg, head of research and development, are beautifully illustrated by Ditte Isager’s stunning photography. Three chapters mirror the menus served each year in the restaurant; ‘Vegetable’ when Noma becomes a vegetarian restaurant in the spring and summer, ‘Forest’ in the autumn when the menu is based around wild plants, mushrooms and game, and ‘Ocean’ in the winter when when Redzepi says that ‘the soil is frozen and nothing grows’ but ‘fish are fat and pristine, their bellies full of roe’.
Whatever the season, the food is so intricate there’s only enough space in the massive book for descriptions of the dishes; the ‘Noma Gastronomique’ appendix includes full details of building blocks such as ferments, garums and misos but you need to scan a QR to access the complete recipes for the likes of Reindeer Brain Jelly (or maybe you’d prefer Reindeer Penis Salad?) online.
This is not a book for the faint hearted, with dishes such as Duck Brain Tempura and Duck Heart Tartare served in the cleaned and beeswax-lined skull and beak of the bird. His Stag Beetle dessert, fashioned from a leather made with blackened pears, blackberries and Japanese black garlic is all too scarily reminiscent of a bush tucker trial.
Not everyone will have the time, resources or inclination to attempt to replicate Redzepi’s extraordinary cuisine in their own kitchens, but it is nevertheless an essential purchase for any ambitious and creative chef who can’t fail to be inspired by the book’s bounty of surprising and unusual ideas.
Suitable for: Professional chefs. And very, very dedicated home cooks. Who live in Scandinavia. And have a lot of time on their hands. Or who can persuade 50 odd people to help them make their dinner, for free.
Cookbook Review Rating: Five stars (awarded for originality and beautiful presentation rather than practicality)