Ramen To Bíiru's spicy miso number. Easily some of the best noodles I've eaten out of Asia.
So you didn’t manage to snag one a spot at the world’s most talked about restaurant. Maybe René Redzepi was in Tokyo, dazzling everyone with twitching prawn and live ants, or hosting a pop-up with a 27,000-person waiting list, which happens to be the case right now. Or maybe the restaurant was booked out for months, as is the case the rest of the time. Noma may no longer be San Pellegrino's No. 1 in the world (whatever that means), but that certainly hasn’t stopped people from lining up to try avant-garde dishes starring Nordic ingredients like sea buckthorn, musk-ox meat and Icelandic puffin eggs.
It’s cool. I didn’t get in either.
Noma may well be fantastic, but I will probably never know. The place isn’t long for this earth, which makes those few coveted tables even harder to come by. Fortunately, as I discovered on my recent visit, there are tons of other delicious things to eat in Copenhagen—including ones without a US$375 (plus wine pairing) price tag.
A rare sunny winter afternoon.
A mix of slick eateries and bars in the west including Istedgade, the city’s small, but sleazy red light district. The Meatpacking District comes to life when the sun goes down and is your best bet for Saturday night. Try Jolene, a funky LGBTQ-friendly spot run by Icelandic DJs.
Terrific seafood in a noisy, stylishly industrial space. Tasting menus are pricey, but a heaping order of cream-braised mussels with celiaric is tasty and affordable by Danish standards. Throw in a few oysters and the accompanying loaf of crusty bread with whipped butter and you’re set.
This rowdy craft beer hall is the perfect place to fuel up before heading to the surrounding clubs and bars in the Meatpacking District. No reservations are required (a rarity here)—just queue up for ribs, smoked brisket and pork shoulder. Our dry-rubbed ribs were slow-smoked and pretty perfect, the buffalo wings much less so.
A more recently gentrified district to the north, Nørrebro has stayed comparatively multicultural.
Torvehallerne, a place full of wonderful things.
Copenhagen’s buzzy food hall is a terrific place for chi-chi smørrebrød, Spanish tapas, sushi, or whatever else you’re craving. Sadly, the team behind Hija de Sanchez, the popular taco joint launched by Noma’s former pastry chef, was off foraging for ingredients and inspiration in Mexico when I visited.
Christian Pugliesi, Noma’s former sous-chef, has something of a culinary empire going. Restaurant Relæ, a Michelin-starred number also on the San Pellegrino list, is all about high-wire New Nordic tricks. This pizzeria keeps it casual, but still sticks to organic ingredients and makes its own bread, mozzarella, ricotta and charcuterie. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sold on the crust, but the spicy, house-made ‘njuda was fantastic stuff.
Looks like Tokyo, feels like Tokyo, tastes like Tokyo... but we're still in Copenhagen.
Ramen To Bíiru
A ramen shop run by a craft brewery sounded dangerously trendy, but the execution here is solid. The menu keeps it simple—choose between shio, shoyu and miso—and the broth is a fatty, collagen-rich wonder. Dishes are available in four different spice levels, with "3" being enough to make me sweat and sniffle. My chile-laced miso bowl came with a molten onsen egg and bits of tender pork belly bobbing on the surface. Like WarPigs, Mikkeller’s other offering on this list, there are no reservations. Just squeeze into the tiny space, press a button to order, and wait until someone shouts out your number in Japanese.
Another hit by Christian Pugliese, this unpretentious bistro lets the vegetables take center stage without completely omitting the meat. The seven-course tasting menu of rustic, seasonal dishes like kohlrabi with cod roe, kale with walnuts and tangerines, shaved celery root with pistachios and rose, is one of the best deals in town. Not every dish is to everyone’s taste; my dining companion was less than thrilled by beetroot “fettuccine” in a black olive and two-year-old Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce or the slow-poached egg in Jerusalem artichoke cream with elderflower capers (elderflower buds pickled for a year, then fried), though I happened to like both. A couple dining nearby told us afterwards that the beer and rye bread porridge with ice cream was “literally one of the worst desserts I have eaten in my entire life.” I wimped out and went with the safe bet: chocolate mousse with a tart apple compote and salted chocolate crunch—hardly groundbreaking, but far more enjoyable. What I loved most about this place (aside from the bread, which is the same fantastic stuff served at BÆST) was how fun and unfussy everything was, despite the very high quality of the food. When we were leaving around 11pm, a birthday party was just kicking off with around 10 Danes laughing and shouting skål.
A hippie community to the south decorated with funky graffiti and sculptures.
Note: it’s all peace and love here… until someone pulls out a camera. Many of the wares sold here are illegal and residents don’t take too kindly to selfie-snapping tourists.
An institution in this little bohemian oasis, Morgenstedet has been serving homey vegetarian fare on mismatched plates for decades. Visitors can also purchase organic fruit and veggies by the kilo to take home. Stop for a chai tea latte and soak in the feel-good vibes.
Strolling through the city center.