If you say you’ve traveled to Copenhagen, someone will inevitably ask, “But did you eat at Noma?” Noma wasn’t just a restaurant—it was a destination, a pin on your “Where I’ve Been in the World” map, something that gave you bragging rights. Having dominated the world restaurant scene for the past couple of years, Noma closed its doors last week and is gearing up to reopen in a new location in Copenhagen later this year. But until then, it’s time we look to other restaurants that can grant us equally impressive bragging rights. Here are eight other culinary institutions that will fill that “no-more-Noma” void.
In Italy, food permeates every aspect of the lifestyle, so it’s no surprise to see an Italian restaurant ranked as both the World’s Best Restaurant and Europe’s Best Restaurant for 2016. At Osteria Francescana in Modena, chef Massimo Bottura offers an adventurous, but still distinctly Italian menu. Drawing on the country’s deeply rooted culinary culture and world-class ingredients, Boturro sets out to daringly contemporize Italian food. In a country with such a proud gastronomic heritage, this is not an easy task. Boturro manages to effortlessly pull off the incredible: innovative Italian food that remains true to its Italian roots. Just ask for his “crunchy part of the lasagna” dish, a deconstructed spin on the best, crispiest part of the quintessential Italian dish.
Go for: The five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures.
Before there was Noma there was El Bulli, the seasonal three-Michelin starred restaurant in northeastern Spain helmed by Ferran Adria. Following El Bulli’s closure in 2011, three former El Bulli chefs—Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, and Mateu Casañas—brought the legendary restaurant’s philosophy and techniques back to life at Disfrutar, a gastronomic restaurant in Barcelona. Eating at Disfrutar is an interactive and sensorial experience. The food aims to push culinary boundaries: Cocoa butter and tangerine essence balls are disguised to look like olives, recreated peppers turn out to be chocolate treats wrapped in jelly skin. But at the heart of this fanciful restaurant is a commitment to the local, and there’s a strong use of regional produce, such as local cheeses and olive oils, as well as local cava, served as a wine pairing.
Go for: The 30-course tasting menu extravaganza paired with cava.
José Ignacio, Uruguay
Francis Mallmann has long been one of the world’s most famous and influential chefs, but he’s found a new familiarity following an episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table. If you’ve seen the first season of the show, you’ll remember him: the burly Argentine chef who cooks most of his dishes over an open flame. In the kitchen at his restaurant Garzon, located in a ghost town along the coast of José Ignacio, Mallmann uses only local, seasonal ingredients and cooks them exclusively and masterfully over a wood fire—there is no electricity or propane in the kitchen. The result? Honest but inventive dishes like Beef Milanesa on the bone and organic chicken, covered in hay and clay and roasted in a wood-burning oven.
Go for: The romantic “Fire Night Dinners,” which take place on his farm in the hills nearby.
THE TEST KITCHEN
Cape Town, South Africa
Luke Dale-Roberts is not only at the forefront of Cape Town’s fiercely competitive culinary scene, but also has become one of the most celebrated chefs on the African continent. His restaurant, The Test Kitchen, was selected as the Best Restaurant in Africa and it landed a spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list—the only restaurant in Africa to be featured. Drawing on his international experience (notably in Europe and Asia), Dale-Roberts creates innovative, globally inspired tasting menus. Expect anything from local licorice-cured Wagyu biltong (a type of South African jerky) to vanilla-salted peach with rose-scented foie gras; served in a rustic brick room, which feels pleasantly unfussy and homey.
Go for: A seat at the bar where you can watch the chefs work their magic in the open kitchen.
Healdsburg, California, USA
In what may have been the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2016, SingleThread opened its doors late last year and managed to live up to all the hype. Run by former Fat Duck chef Kyle Connaughton and his wife, Katina, the hotel and inn is situated on a five-acre farm in Healdsburg and modeled on a traditional Japanese ryokan (an inn that offers food and lodging). On the daily menu, diners will find seasonal, Japanese-influenced cuisine that’s driven by the produce from the farm Katina runs. The dishes are constantly evolving, but guests can always anticipate creativity and imagination in the 11 courses served in both the sophisticated dining room and rooftop garden.
Go for: The tasting meal, but stay to make a night of it and book one of the rooms at the inn. You’ll be treated to a seasonal in-room breakfast.
Narisawa has its fair share of accolades: Ranked as number eight on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list and listed as The Best Restaurant in Asia, it gives diners twice the reasons to go. Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa has invented a new type of cuisine, which he’s dubbed “Innovative Satoyama,” which has an emphasis on healthy, sustainable ingredients and focuses on the richness of Japanese culture. But don’t expect just fancy sushi or ramen here; Narisawa has a Japanese sensibility but aims to push the boundaries of the country’s culinary traditions. He cooks with surprising ingredients such as wood and soil to bring the surrounding landscape and season to the dish. Through smell, taste, or texture, chef Narisawa wants guests to “fall under the spell of the season.”
Go for: The experience of a new type of cuisine and to see how a substance like soil can be elevated.
Set up by Noma alumni Christian Puglisi and Kim Rossen, Relae is currently one of the most relevant restaurants in the world. Why? Because it’s the most sustainable restaurant in the world and the only Michelin-starred restaurant to hold an organic certification. At Relae, they don’t just cook with sustainable ingredients or source local products; they are devoted to being green. Relae takes immense pride in reducing waste, using energy efficiently, saving water, and even refermenting wasted wines. The plant-driven menu is filled with seasonal Danish products—carrots with lemon thyme, mussels with juniper—that are sourced from the restaurant’s farm and other nearby farms. It’s high-end food in a refreshingly unfussy restaurant, proving that fine dining doesn’t need all the frills.
Go for: “Eating green” on a whole new level.
Luckily for us, Noma isn’t completely shuttering—even for the time it takes to move to its new location in Copenhagen. On April 12 this year, Noma is temporarily setting up shop in the hip beachside town of Tulum, Mexico. The pop-up restaurant will remain open for a mere seven weeks and according to the website, will sit nestled between the jungle and the Caribbean Sea. A coveted reservation at this sought-after pop-up doesn’t come cheap and a menu package (multiple-course tasting menu and beverage pairing) costs $600 a person. But with Mexican flavors and a location in one of the trendiest and prettiest towns on the Mexican coastline, who can really say no to Noma by the sea?
Go for: Noma by the sea, duh.
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