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Noma, four-time world's best restaurant, to reopen as a burger and wine bar

The Noma cheeseburger is made with dry-aged flank steak "spiced up with beef garum."
The Noma cheeseburger is made with dry-aged flank steak "spiced up with beef garum."

At Noma , René Redzepi’s renowned Copenhagen restaurant, $500-tasting menus have given way to $25 cheeseburgers. While destination diners once waited with bated breath for reservation openings, Noma’s post-lockdown iteration is somewhat more relaxed. The four-time world’s best restaurant, which has been closed since March 14, will reopen on May 21 as an outdoor, no reservations burger, beer and wine bar. Seafood, vegetarian and game season have been replaced, at least for the time being, by “burger season.”

With a view of the restaurant gardens in Christiania, Copenhagen’s freetown, guests will be able to choose from two menu items: a cheddar cheeseburger made with dry-aged flank steak “ spiced up with beef garum (a fermented sauce with roots in ancient Rome),” and a quinoa-tempeh veggie burger. (The burgers cost roughly $25 for takeaway; $30 to stay.)

“Both are juicy and packed with umami, with a little bit of magic from our fermentation cellar, served on a freshly baked potato bun developed by our friends at Gasoline Grill,” Noma says. The first step in its reopening, the outdoor wine bar “is something we are very excited about because it is completely new for us.”

Intended as a temporary measure, the Los Angeles Times reports that the restaurant plans to serve burgers for the next six to eight weeks. The bar will be open weekly from Thursday to Sunday between 1 and 9 p.m. Instead of the few dozen guests the restaurant once served each day, Redzepi reportedly expects to seat up to 500 — 60 at a time.

They may add other summer snacks to the menu “as ingredients come into season” — a fried chicken sandwich, crudités and ice cream — “but first, we open with a mighty burger,” Redzepi said.

From its high-concept food to a groundbreaking fermentation lab helmed by Toronto-born chef David Zilber , Noma has become synonymous with innovation. Since Redzepi opened the restaurant in 2003, it helped shape the New Nordic culinary movement, which has gone on to influence food around the world. Shifting from a 20-course tasting menu to a two-burger wine bar may seem out of place, but going back to basics is precisely the point.

“We were like, ‘Should we do an ant marinade with raw carrots to have that twist of who we are?’” Redzepi told the Los Angeles Times . “But then I’m like, ‘No, why should we do that right now?’ It’s about being together, it’s not about trying to be innovative.”

This isn’t the first time Noma has changed tack. In 2017, following the accolades and Michelin stars, Redzepi closed the restaurant and auctioned off all its contents with the intent of starting fresh. In the restaurant’s downtime, he took his entire team on the road for residencies in Mexico , Japan and Australia. Dubbed Noma 2.0 , he reopened the restaurant in its current lakefront iteration in 2018.

Redzepi has yet to announce post-lockdown plans, and Noma isn’t accepting reservations. “We feel in the first phase of the reopening that we want to be open for all. We need to heal, so let’s have a glass and a burger, you’re all invited,” he said in an Instagram post.

Signalling that more of the world’s top restaurants may be considering a move to casual fare, Galway-based chef Jp McMahon of Michelin-starred Aniar commented: “Good luck. I might turn Aniar into a chicken shack.”

As restaurants around the world enforce social distancing with varying degrees of absurdity — from requiring guests to wear pool noodles on their heads in Germany to seating mannequins at empty tables in Virginia — eating a burger in Noma’s gardens presents a remarkably more enjoyable alternative.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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