Imagine that a damaging fire completely ruins your restaurant on March 11th. The next morning, the entire country goes into lockdown because of a deadly pandemic that is spreading across the globe, and restaurants all over the country are forced to close for an indefinite time. Some weeks later, you learn that the damages of 10 million Danish kroner will not be covered by your insurance. Sounds like the plot of a dark movie? That was the very scenario Restaurant Palægade in Copenhagen faced earlier this year. But on June 8th, less than three months later, the core team from Palægade reopened again on the corner of Møntergade and Gammel Mønt as Restaurant Møntergade. (Update: The restaurant has been moved across the street to Møntergade 19). The iconic red timber-framed building is the venue that used to house Claus “Den Røde” Christensen’s legendary restaurant Gammel Mønt. I can’t imagine a better group of people to take care of such a historic space than sommelier Rasmus Amdi Larsen, restaurant manager Simon Olesen, and head chef Karina Pedersen. Once again, their Danish smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) will please the appetite of Copenhageners (and soon, hopefully, visitors too).
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RESTAURANT MØNTERGADE Address & Contact Information Møntergade 19, Indre By, Copenhagen, Denmark Website Instagram Facebook
We were met outside by a confused look from the waitress who opened the door – as if she had forgotten how guests looked like. Who can really blame her after three months of hiatus, though? We’ll admit, we’ve almost lost sight of how to use a knife and fork ourselves. Soon after mentioning that we had a reservation, we were led inside and seated at a two-top by the window on the first floor.
The tables at Restaurant Møntergade are covered in white tablecloths and decorated with cute colorful glass vases holding dried flowers. Combined with the white-painted ceiling, it makes for a light and bright dining room. We also had a quick peek downstairs in the basement which houses the open kitchen – some light still streams in here thanks to the ground floor windows, but the atmosphere is more cave-like and cozy. The old Italian-designed Molteni stove is in the same spot as when “Den Røde” stirred in the pots for 28 years, almost as if time has stood still.
We love Danish smørrebrød. We’ll gladly eat the artsy and innovative versions you can find at places like Selma and Aamanns 1921 in Copenhagen, but we don’t mind the more classic presentations either. As long as the ingredients are top quality and the cooking skills are adequate, the open-faced sandwich is an overall wonderful food item. At Restaurant Møntergade, traditions are mostly kept, but a touch of modernization is allowed to help carry the sandwich into 2020.
Shrimps on toast were stacked high with dollops of mayonnaise, and sprinkles of fresh green herbs and purple flowers. A slice of lemon on the side allowed us to adjust the level of acidity we wanted to add to the dish. Personally, we squeezed the citrus dry. When shrimps are as big, fresh, and sweet as the ones we got at Møntergade, there really aren’t many sandwich toppings we prefer over this.
The only true contender might be the fried plaice (rødspætte in Danish), which we had ordered next. The trick is to not overcook the delicate fish when deep-frying it, while also creating a crispy crust around the filet. Fried plaice is almost exclusively served on rye, and the chefs at Møntergade had no intention of breaking any smørrebrød rules in that regard. The combination of the creamy, slightly spicy, but also sweet and acidic curry remoulade, together with the crunchy and juicy pieces of fish, left us very satisfied.
Simon Olesen proudly presented the house schnapps “Møntergade Limited Edition” made in cooperation with Copenhagen Distillery. As traditions call for, the small glasses were filled all the way to the top. (Pro tip if you don’t have a steady hand: lean in for the first sip). The liquor had clean notes of lemon and dill, and an alcoholic kick that made it a perfect companion to wash down the fatty and salty flavors of smørrebrød. The next servings needed it, especially. Both the kartoffelmad with Danish new potatoes, crispy ham, & lovage mayo, and the herring with curry chutney, fried egg, and cress, were delicious, but we missed an element of freshness to clean our palates. But, hey, that’s where our friend the schnapps entered the game!
There’s a set menu available at Møntergade (DKK 495 per person), but we decided to go à la carte and choose our own sandwiches this afternoon. The cheaper options cost around DKK 100, but most are in the DKK 130-150 range, with a lobster tartare topping the list at DKK 190. This puts Møntergade in a slightly higher price bracket compared to competitors like Aamanns 1921 and Selma, but roughly at the same level as the smørrebrød institution Schønnemann, which is also where the core team at Møntergade has their background.
The meal ended with a dessert of puff pastry tartelette with stewed chicken and asparagus. Just kidding – this is not a dessert at all, but rather the heaviest finish to a meal you can imagine. Technically, it was flawless and the creamy texture and concentrated chicken flavor were lovely together with fresh, green asparagus. The actual dessert of the meal was an almond cake, with vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Kaitlin predicted that this would be a favorite for Anders, and she wasn’t wrong. He’s a sucker for the marzipan-y flavor and texture of a good almond cake, served warm, combined with a classic vanilla ice cream. Danish strawberries in season (albeit not quite as sweet as Norwegian ones!) are amazing. We left feeling happy and full and already made a new booking to bring Anders’ parents here, now that they’re finally allowed to enter Denmark.
What is your favorite smørrebrød restaurant? Let us know in a comment below.