Of course, a happy nation requires good food. And so good food it shall have. Copenhagen is among the food capitals of San Sebastian and Bangkok – unsuspecting leaders of modernist cuisine. I suspect many foodies fly to Copenhagen just for a sample of what might be the world’s best food. Unfortunately, I could not secure reservations at Noma, the world’s best restaurant according to the famed Restaurant Magazine list. Reservations have been furious since it regained top spot and because it is apparently shutting down and relocating to Japan. Instead, I went to two others on the list: Germanium (48th) and Relae (56th).
In style, they are diametrically opposite. Germanium is from the Michelin school, a two-star, white table cloth establishment with a long tasting menu and laughable prices (950 DKK for the most economical lunch menu). On the other hand Relae is a relaxing, bougie, “no fuss” place where cutlery is stored in a drawer in the table. But they, along with a good list of other restaurants, are united in serving ridiculously good food.
By now, after San Sebastian, my taste buds have acclimated to an onslaught of modernist cuisine. An exploding egg-shaped object is second nature. An egg yolk that doesn’t taste like egg is expected. At Geranium, these comparisons are particularly poignant. Pretty much everything, I have already seen. The first exploding spheres of candied carrot juice filled with sea buckthorn foam are like those at Azurmendi, and the charred stones below remind of the calamari at Narisawa. One of the most spectacular dishes pair with the candies: a tarty soft cheese in fermented carrot juice, slurped delightfully. The next display is like modern art itself – aluminum shaped liked the crevices of the brain. On top is what matters, a tiny piece of pickled pear, expertly sliced, interlaced with some pine shoots. Next, similarly extravagant display of nature has only a ‘branch’ of reconstituted Jerusalem artichoke (yes, we’ve seen that before), dipped in a walnut filled with mayonnaise. Then we have a pocket of dried apples and flower. It looks too delicate to eat, and doesn’t have any punch of flavor. It reminds of the spiced nuts in an edible bag at Gaggan. Next is sphere of potato, painted black with squid ink, resting on stones inside a larger black sphere. Of course, this reminds of Narisawa’s signature dish. A spoonful of decorated sheep milk butter makes the potato heavenly. Probably the most spectacular dish of the set is sour egg yolk in mushroom soup – a perfect counterbalance between the gooey quail egg, acidic vinegar and tarty mushrooms. To end off the snacks, a celeriac root painted with squid ink to give the appearance of seaweed. The practice of dipping into some creamy sauce seems at the heart of Geranium cuisine – and it continues here with added oomph, this time in skyr, an Icelandic yogurt sauce and fish roe.
Now begins the actual courses. We begin with a gazpacho, which in appearance looks like the clarified soup of Le Mout, Taiwan, fully decorated with flowers. It’s more complex, mainly from the gluttonous “jellied ham” that sits at the bottom inconspicuously. Here also begins the juice pairings, which cost a cruel 350 kr more. But it’s a novelty, so a splurge was justified. The first was just a standard apple juice, which arguably went well with the ‘tomato juice’. The next course was quite special – it looked like little balls of green tea matcha sitting on stones. Instead they held a jelly of dill, dipped in a spread made of mackerel, horseradish and an ice-cold granita of pickled cucumber. The pickling tradition, seen before in the pear, and later with the onions is a notable accent of Danish cuisine. To pair, another apple juice, a little more potent, but now I’m questioning the wisdom of the pairings. Clearly the Danes like their apples.
One of the most delightful dishes is the assortment of onions – some fully cooked, others pickled, still others a half raw. It is a highly ambitious dish that tries to elevate the rather peasantly vegetable to two-Michelin-star status. It almost does, bouncing the sweetness of the onions off of the vinegary sauce. Some of the onions would have benefited from a little more cooking. But the concept is still appreciated. The weakest dish was the langoustine, itself the largest and most eye-watering part of the meal. But it lacked texture and the beats and cherries added little to no flavor. It’s pared with a lingonberry drink that is similarly flavourless. In general, light juices are great; this one was in the realm of watery. The lamb dish was well executed, hidden by foliage and a wonderful dollop of liquid herbs. The pickled strawberries were not particularly noticeable. The best pairing of the meal was the black current infused with tannins from beechwood so that it would taste like red wine. Splendid!
Dessert was special. The icy granita returns as a white chocolate that is never watery – it only adds texture, coolness, and sweetness to the dish. It is masterly. Beneath is the most wonderful crème brule of woodruff and sorrel that manages to be sweet without the feeling of guilt. In the chef’s kitchen, and from behind the three Bocuse d'Or statues, the last dish is served - a cylinder of frozen yogurt adorned with red branches and sorrel. Both desserts show the ability to create full-bodied desserts with a stomach-pleasing lightness. A bursting chocolate egg later and some tetrahedronal black current candies, and you’re out the door. Looking back, you wonder if you should have gone with the 3-hr meal (1350 DKK), just so you could have stayed longer. If you have an extra 350 DKK to spend, don’t get the juice pairing – do the 3-hr sitting instead, and experience more of the mastery of Ramsus.
Geranium (950 kr), 48th in the world