Noma Australia Innovative Charm
Noma Australia was the stuff of dreams; living up to all expectations and beyond. Notice we didn't say "living up to the hype" because it's not about hype. Noma Australia is about genius mixed with sheer hard work, with no shortcuts.This was a night to remember. (This article also largely appears in The World Loves Melbourne website).
A zenith of the Australian dining experience, Rene Redzepi and his team from Noma in Copenhagen have moved shop for a pop up tenure in Sydney. With 27,000 people said to be on a waiting list, Rene tells us it's actually more; so the privilege of dining here is profound. The window of opportunity only lasts 10 weeks.
For a start, Barangaroo has it's own charm (still mid development) with enchanting boulevard and stunning views of the water. As you approach Noma Australia you are greeted by an ensemble of experienced and engaging linen-aproned waiters and made to relax with a drink within seconds.
Noma Australia was the destination for a fabulous get together with Carla the CEO of Mofilm Australia, Jennifer the Vice President of Carnival Cruises, myself and leading Sydney blogger Simon of Simon Food Favourites. This was all made possible by the generosity of Jeffrey Merrihue of Foodiehub.TV and CEO of Mofilm.
Noma Australia takes you into its embrace from the "get go" with it's intriguing Snakebite beverage; a collusion of cider and beer. In fact it's 60% 18 month oak barrel mature wild fermented Tasmanian Apple Cider, with 25% 5 and 7 year matured wild fermented Tasmanian Farmhouse Ales, 15% young, fresh, naturally soured then dry hopped. The World Loves Melbourne found it to be a beverage we could "sit on for a session"; easy drinking with sour nuances on trend.
All the while chefs were "prepping up" for our dinner at outdoor stations, as well as inside the large kitchen. We love the emphasis on native "coastal cuisine"; with a coastal culture so profound in Australia.
Here's a moody photo of Rene with his team. This is a "well oiled team" of total professionals pushing boundaries, with dimensions of "soul" in spades.
Rene was down to earth for a superstar chef; here posing with a photo with The World loves Melbourne (below). Affable for a man who has celebrated being no 1 restaurant in the world 4 times on the prestigious S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best.
So what of the 10 course degustation? The menu was pure genius, full of inspiration, modern cuisine that highlights natural ingredients. Playful, even colourful, and fun.
First course was a triumph; unripe macadamia and spanner crab. Natural macadamia from the bush is about raw flavour and texture. The nuance of the broth (with rose) was exquisite; a perfect start to the evening and signalling that this dinner was not about "comfort zones". We were told to eat this dish as soon as it was served, with temperature perfection paramount.
Our table decoration was delightfully Australian. You wouldn't know this team came from Copenhagen; only by their style. Kudos to Rene and the team for their interpretation of Australia and exploring the ingredients of this vast land.
Wines, such as above, were "natural wines", not heavily processed. We're not used to this, but imbibed the experience. After all it's about matching food with wine and the pairings were perfect. (We met the Somellier who had visited Australia many times to source uncommon standout wines).
Fruit salad in seaweed oil and dehydrated Kakadu Plum. An ode to bush berries? As was explained, these berries can be found throughout Australia; and Noma Australia were able to elevate them to star status. Wild seasonal berries flavoured with gubinge, a natural plum from the Kimberleys. This was raw and wild Australia on a plate. You find yourself comparing natural berries with the sweet berries you may find in the grocer. The natural berries are more piquant with a profound depth of flavour; superb with natural wine.
It was as if Rene had spent his life living on the outskirts of Broken Hill and was painting his picture of Australian cuisine with broad brush strokes. Not Copenhagen.
A highlight was the Seafood platter with crocodile fat. It was a roulette of shellfish; starting with the Pippi then moving to the clam then on to the Port Stephens Sydney Rock Oyster. The crocodile fat was an impressive thin wafer of crispy delight designed to eat at the same time as the shellfish. We've seen clumsy interpretations of crocodile before; this was delicate (which belies the monster the crocodile is).The combination of tastes and textures was ground breaking. There was the opportunity to decide on your favourite shellfish match with the crocodile fat. For us it was the Pippi.
Visually the Seafood platter was stunning, presented on rocks. Who doesn't love an Aussie Seafood platter; especially when it's re-interpreted like this ( a far cry from the pub seafood platters we've endured, although there's also a place for those).
Hand from heaven. The W.A. deep sea snow crab with cured egg yolk and kangaroo broth was a highlight of the evening and one of our more memroable dishes ever. A touch of genius was the kangaroo broth that provides such a crazy accompaniment that works so well. As I write I crave...
Staff were super engaging providing a benchmark in customer service. Service wasn't rehearsed or stilted; you would want these guys to front your company.
Take me back to the snow crab.
Brian was the perfect wine. A riesling-based Tasmanian blend.
Everyone loves an Aussie pie. This was no Four n Twenty (although that has it's place), but Dried scallops with edible nasturtium. Don't underestimate the nasturtium as "setting off" the dish.
Simon from legendary Sydney blog "Simon Food Favourites" was fabulous in taking the experience to next level with his astute and creative photography, and his sociability overdrive.
We enjoyed the emphasis on Australian seafood through several courses; and this dish of BBQ'd milk dumpling with Marron and Magpie goose was spectacular. The World Loves Melbourne has a love affair with WA Marron since our recent visit to Attica. We considered the dumpling to be more like a taco. But this was far from Mexican - an Aussie BBQ'd taste to greet the rich lux Marron.
A humble dish to the eye, the Truffle and avocado (below) was delicate and rich.
Next dish of Sea urchin and tomato dried with pepper berries was a triumph of land and sea. It's not every day you imbibe sea urchin. Bush tomato resonated with flavour, brining a further dimension compared to garden tomatoes. Presentation was first class, as with all dishes.
Wild natural wines were refreshing.
Aussies also love their schnitzels. How about Abalone schnitzel and bush condiments including finger lime, bunya nuts and sea grape? The World Loves Melbourne rarely gets to enjoy abalone, especially in this context of a schnitzel with bush foods.
The dark sauce was captivating; you had to pour it over the schnitzel gravy style.
Dessert hit the high notes, starting with brilliant Marinated fresh fruit featuring green ants on mango. This dish reminded us of summer beach days in Australia with its vibrancy. Let's face it, ants are everywhere in this nation; who knew green ants belonged with the best of Aussie fruit?
You can't get more Aussie than a Lamington; the Rum Lamington was surprisingly light.
We thought we were being treated to a Magnum; the "Baytime" was not a nod to say "Gaytime" but a nod to Barangaroo and the water. Peanut milk and freekah was a compelling combination.
The Petit Fours was delicate and cigar like; bonbons.
Not just any ordinary coffee but Bureau X Noma Bifdu Gudina coffee; like a wine.
Service was benchmark with a strong degree of warmth and passion. The staff looked as if they were enjoying Australia and were fully invested in this experience. (Three of the staff are Australians now resident in Copenhagen - and we were delighted to meet Kat).
As the last to leave (who would have thought) we were gently ushered to the outdoor area for Black Gate Single Malt Whisky from Black Gate Distillery.
It's easy to wax lyrical but this dining event gave The World Loves Melbourne a new sensory perspective of Australia; from the standpoint of a genius Dane. An unforgettable evening. With Rene and the staff heading back to Copenhagen, we wish them well on the new chapters of Noma to be written.