There’s a new restaurant in Copenhagen that you absolutely cannot miss out on. 108 opened this summer and it’s simply the best deal out there. Sister of the two-Michelin starred and four times ranked World’s Best Restaurant Noma is named after its address in Strandgade 108. Currently, Noma is a neighbor in no. 93, but that’s only until February 2017 when René Redzepi closes and moves his flagship further out on Refshaleøen – to the same area as restaurant Amass. The newly opened bridge Inderhavnsbroen connects the current Noma and restaurant 108 to the inner city of Copenhagen, making them so much more available. Now, you can walk across from Nyhavn in a few minutes, compared to the previous 25-minute detour across Knippelsbro.
The Corner – Coffee and Wine
The Corner of restaurant 108 is a combined coffee shop and wine bar. Open from early morning, serving coffee from Tim Wendelboe and baking their own pastries with untraditional glazes like “beef garum” – a koji fermented beef stock, Swedish blueberries and rose hip. If you’re one of those chef groupies then this is the place to spot the Noma crowd getting their caffeine fix in the early mornings, or enjoying a glass of wine and a snack of crispy chicken skins in the afternoon. Better than glaring through the windows of no. 93, at least, which seems to be the new tourist trend. I ran into Tim Wendelboe and his bar manager Stephanie Dawn on my first visit to The Corner. They had just spent a few days training the staff of 108 on how to brew their coffee to perfection. “You have to try the pastries!” Stephanie told me, and so we did.
This is Why I Love Copenhagen
Another morning, when we sat in the bar of 108 for a late breakfast, René Redzepi dropped by to have a coffee. He greeted us and asked how our lunch at Noma was two days ago. Just like my good friend in the world of food travelers, the Hungarian foodie Andras Jokuti, pointed out in his recent article on Noma: Redzepi is such a humble and down to earth guy. In Copenhagen, he is a natural part of the cityscape and nobody flinches an eye when he stands in line at Hija de Sanchez, rides past on his family cargo bike or enjoys his lunch at one of the cities many great cafés. We ended up buying a bottle of the deliciously juicy natural wine Lammidia Bianchetto, which we enjoyed partly at the pier outside 108 and later on at a picnic in Kastellet park. That’s Copenhagen for me! This is why I love the city.
Restaurant 108 – Affordable & Available Noma-Quality
Similar to how Nabo reaps the benefits of its neighbor restaurant Kadeau, so does restaurant 108 to an even greater extent with its older sibling Noma. Both head chefs, Theis Brydegaard at Nabo and Kristian Baumann at 108, are alumni of the mothership. Furthermore, restaurant 108 has access to the same fermentation lab as Noma, and all the knowledge gathered throughout the years by their kitchen staff and R&D team. René Redzepi already has a vested interest in Hija de Sanchez, the taco joint by former Noma head of pastry Rosio Sanchez. This time he is a full-blown partner of Kristian Baumann. You have to give Redzepi credit. Unlike most chefs at his level, he hasn’t really taken advantage of his rise to stardom. One would expect him to open a bunch of low-end, high-profit restaurants or put his brand all over town like many before him has done. Instead, he has been patient (or far too busy with moving his restaurant around the world) and waited for the right project to come along. Restaurant 108 was the one. A place without compromises on the quality, but way more available and affordable than Noma.
The Noma Attitude is Alive at Restaurant 108
Having visited countless of restaurants in the recent years I’ve noticed one important difference between the really great places (or those on their way to becoming one) and the ones that only strive for success in order to satisfy their own ego or other people in the industry. It can be summed up in one question: As a guest, should I feel privileged to be invited into your restaurant, or should you feel lucky that I have chosen your restaurant instead of all the other options out there? The answer is to some extent both, of course, as I believe in equal respect. However, I don’t think a restaurant will ever achieve a reputation that precedes them if they don’t strive for the kind of humbleness as indicated by that second approach.
I remember how an Australian journalist expressed his surprise about the informal and courteous conduct of the Noma staff. “These guys run the best restaurant in the world and yet they aren’t the arrogant pricks you would expect them to be?” At 108, you feel that exact same Noma attitude the moment you enter. It’s something about the way you’re greeted like an old friend. Restaurant manager Jacob Møller showed us to our table and sat down on a chair next to us to explain the menu. That was the first subtle hint of equality. During the meal, we experienced the same excellence in service from others and especially from our sommelier Christin. Even though several new faces brought our food to the table they were without exception always smiling, paying attention, working hard and simply professional to the bone.
From Good to Great!
108 at Noma was a pop-up located in Strandgade no. 93 during Noma Australia, which served as a test-kitchen where head chef Kristian Baumann and his team could try out their dishes on curious locals and excited epicures. I found the 108 pop-up interesting and reasonably good, but with quite some room for improvements. Thus, at the newly opened restaurant 108 I couldn’t help but order some of the same dishes we had eaten before. Obviously, my expectations were high, yet I could not have foreseen how much Baumann and his chefs would surpass them. I don’t know how it’s possible, but they managed to pack such an intense flavor into those braised oxtail balls, that you’re just left craving for more after each bite. Even better, they nailed the caramelized milk skin pancake, which previously disappointed me a bit at the pop-up. Now, it’s filled with the most delectable, juicy and fatty pieces of pork belly – it’s just perfect!
The Casual Little Sister
Seven smaller plates priced between DKK 95 and DKK 180, three desserts at an average cost of DKK 100 and four so-called signature or favorite dishes make up the menu. The latter are bigger servings meant to be shared by either two or four people and cost respectively DKK 450 and DKK 900. In addition to three regular dishes and all the desserts, we opted for the roasted lamb shoulder to share. A signature dish served with new onions, black currant leaves, a smoked butter sauce with elderberry capers and a hunting knife for the table to divide it as they please. As I am sure you can tell from the picture – it was beyond magical! Exceptionally tender and tasty meat, with melt-in-your-mouth fat and a sauce that has all your taste buds going crazy. Restaurant 108 is like Noma in terms of both quality of produce and cooking techniques, but with simpler and more comforting presentations (on beautiful Magdalena Kaluzna ceramics). It’s the casual little sister that can serve a much larger audience.
I could return for the desserts alone
As if the starters and main dishes weren’t satisfying enough, we still had desserts left – and what a treat they were! I could return to restaurant 108 for the sweet stuff alone. My favorite was the wild blueberries from Sweden. At last, real blueberries and not those pale, awful American lookalike blueberries that you get everywhere now. The berries were marinated in birch syrup and seasoned with pine salt, anis isop, mint and cornflowers to enhance their flavor even more. The raspberry and rosehip dessert was really good too, and I’ve heard others praise it, but for me, the double cream flavored with toasted seaweed and ale that balanced the acidity of the blueberries is what made that dish truly stand out. Since my visit, the toasted barley ice cream in a sourdough cone has been swapped for a blueberry ice cream, and I can see why. It was good, but the least exciting of the three, and to be honest it looked a bit bland in color compared. Now, I just need another excuse to go to Copenhagen again!
What’s your favorite dish from restaurant 108? Please share in a comment below.