Review: Substans (2017) The New Nordic Flagship of Aarhus

Sponsored by Visit Denmark

Sponsored by Visit Denmark

Substans had been on my wishlist for a long time, when the opportunity finally came for me to visit this one-Michelin-starred restaurant in Aarhus. Created by the couple Louise and René Mammen, with the latter leading the kitchen together with Nicolas Jørgensen as the creative head chef. Jørgensen is also the current captain of the culinary team of Denmark. What made Substans so attractive to visit was not only their star and the many recommendations, but also the strikingly beautiful photos posted to Instagram every day by both René and Nicolas. I highly recommend following them both and see for yourself.
Looking for more great spots for food and drinks in Aarhus? Check out our city map of Aarhus!

Nicolas Jørgensen and René Mammen.
Nicolas Jørgensen and René Mammen.

The New Nordic Flagship of Aarhus

When I entered the venue of Substans on Frederiksgade in Aarhus, I quickly realized why their photos are so compelling. The interior design makes for a superb photo studio. Huge windows let in natural sunlight, and a white-painted brick wall reflects the light from behind. The gigantic wooden tables with rough carvings and patterns give a nice contrast. Furthermore, the space has cool art on the wall of a monkey drinking wine, flowers on every table, and candles in ceramic vases… As you can imagine, my buddy Lars Spiser and I could hardly stop shooting photos.

Obviously, it’s the food at Substans that truly makes it my favorite restaurant in Aarhus. First things first – bread. Substans’ loaf has a crispy crust with an airy and gooey inside. It brought back memories of the great bread serving I had at Kadeau in Copenhagen, but lacking ever so slightly the crunch to match it 100%. Two small snacks came next. First, peeled tomatoes with lavender and chamomile, and salt-baked onions with blackcurrant shoots and spruce vinegar. Explosions of sweetness and acidity! It was a true demonstration of the New Nordic kitchen’s ability to lift the natural flavors of great ingredients. Tart of the sea followed – a starter that really f*cks with your mind. You expect something sweet like a dessert, but instead, it tastes like the ocean! That’s because it’s actually a malt pie filled with a cream of mussels and pickled vegetables. The small bite is drizzled with dried and smoked cheese before it’s topped with rock samphire.

Sourdough bread with butter and squash compote
Sourdough bread with butter and squash compote
Creative head chef Nicolas Jørgensen
Creative head chef Nicolas Jørgensen

Local & Organic Products From Small Producers

Substans has been awarded the organic gold mark, meaning that 90-100% of their produce is certified organic. That’s quite the achievement. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the main course was organic pork. It was marinated in øllebrød and caramelized on the grill to give you that irresistible flavor combination of smoke and fat, together with salt, sweet, and umami notes. I’ve had pork this good before, but that was at other top restaurants like Daniel Berlin in Skåne and Kadeau in Copenhagen. Update: This dish made it to my top 25 best dishes of 2016!

As for the wine philosophy, Mammen and Jørgensen focus on organic and biodynamic wines from small producers, much in line with the natural wine trend that is quite evident in Aarhus. We had a few delicious glasses during this lunch, but our time was limited since the next guests waiting outside were way more important – kids! Smagens time is a concept developed by famous Danish restaurateur Claus Meyer, where it’s forbidden for adults to take part. This year was the sixth in the running, 87 restaurants in Denmark took part and served more than 4000 children.

However, before we were kicked out to make room for the youngsters, we had time for a dessert. It was such a light and delicious ending – a rosemary ice cream with a poached plum, marinated gooseberries, and crushed shortbread. I’m a sucker for ice cream, especially when they come as soft and creamy as this one. The plate resembled another sweet finish I enjoyed at Nabo – the little sister bistro of restaurant Kadeau. Yes, that’s the third comparison I make to the cooking of the Kadeau guys, but don’t be mistaken – Substans definitely has its own signature.

Malt pie with pickled vegetables, mussels, dried and smoked cheese & rock samphire
Malt pie with pickled vegetables, mussels, dried and smoked cheese & rock samphire
Rosemary ice cream and poached plums, marinated gooseberries, and crushed shortbread with nuts and dried summer flowers.
Rosemary ice cream and poached plums, marinated gooseberries, and crushed shortbread with nuts and dried summer flowers.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Aarhus? Please leave a comment below.

Disclaimer

This was part of a sponsored trip with Visit Denmark. The sponsor had no influence on the content of this article. I received no monetary payment.

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