Does good food lead to happiness or is it the other way around? We set out to explore the food scene in Copenhagen to get a perspective on it.
We thought an interesting place to look is at one of the top restaurants in Copenhagen (and the world). With NOMA closed for renovations until Feb 2018 and after considering several well regarded restaurants, we finally decided to make a reservation at Relae!
Chef Christian Puglisi has a meticulous and unconventional approach to food and combining that with an innovative approach to casual fine dining, it made the experience amazing! At half the prices of places like NOMA, it was also more accessible. And to find out that this restaurant was the first to open in a neighborhood “riddle with drug”, as one local article puts it, was astounding. Some say Ralae has helped transform the neighborhood, others will say it was an economical way to start a restaurant. Whatever it may be, we definitely enjoyed spending a morning hanging out at Jægersborggade in Noerrebro where Relae is and warmed up with a tasty bowl of porridge at Grød too!
On the evening at Relae, we began to understand what they mean by “no muss, no fuss” casual dining experience. It meant as you enter the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by one of the friendly chefs, which felt like someone was inviting us into their home and kitchen. He led us past the kitchen towards the dining room. So you cannot miss the energy of the kitchen with the chefs working in unison and the smell of the food was mouth-watering. There was no doubt – our experience had begun.
In the main dining area, we were seated at a perfectly sized natural wood table for 2 under a vignette light. The chef let us know that we will find our menu and cutlery in the pull out drawer at the table. Self-service with our own eating tools, I really like that. As the night progressed, we noticed the same team that serves also works in the kitchen too. Perhaps, there are no servers, just chefs working together to cook and serve and answer questions from diners while they were taken through the experience? We don't know for sure, but what we know is they are very knowledgeable of every ingredient, their origins and took the time to explain things when we had questions. On one occasion, one of the chefs retrieved his iPad to show us a picture of a vegetable we hadn’t heard of. It was definitely like being at a friends house, but you rarely find friends that can cook like this.
With all our senses heightened with anticipation, the crisped sunchoke with juniper cream dip amuse bouche did not disappoint. Being causal fine dining also means the presentation is monochromatic in color but multifaceted in flavors. After 3 freshest display of Scandinavian's pike perch sashimi, seared trout and smoked salmon with caviar, there was this celeriac caramelized cream with coffee and toasted sesame. This was by far the most taste-provoking dish of the evening. Every bite was creamy, hearty, and bursting with pleasant yet unexpected flavors one after another. Next, we found out Relae has their own farm not only for vegetables but for game animal too. With a 19-day-aged goose over dehydrated and rehydrated yellow beets cleverly disguised underneath. The two meld together perfectly with savory goose sauce and intensified sweetness from the beets. Following the goose was the Rød løber (local cow's milk cheese) and blackberry tart to chase the richness before we cleansed our palate with clementine shaved ice over charcoal ice cream. This was one ice cream flavor I won't forget anytime soon! Finally, we came back down to earth with a rustic comfort of a pumpkin tart.
Today, chefs take their skills and creativity to new heights, presenting scrumptious meal and a delightful experience for their patrons. Many aims to fulfill every physical sense with fanciful plating, amazing smells, luscious tastes and even tantalizing sounds to an art form. At Relae, the understated elegance of the presentation and atmosphere is atypical for fine dining, however, these elements only highlighted the caliber of the team and their unique uses of the freshest ingredient and masterful creations. My attention was diverted back to the tastes of each dish and the easy feeling of having a wonderful meal amongst fellow patrons. I can only imagine this level of subtle excellence has been attempted by many but very few are able to achieve. A wonderful unique experience, one can only wish there will be more like this in the future!
Going back to the original question, we don’t know if it takes happy people to create amazing food or if amazing food creates happy people, but the food at Relae made us very happy.