New Nordic Cuisine

Copenhagen
August 2015

Seems like every other restaurant on the Strøget is a shawarma joint. I counted at least a dozen, especially near the university. They must be secretly filming Iron Man 4 in Copenhagen. Robert Downey Jr. is always posting about shawarma on Facebook. It’s the only explanation.

Until I saw The Avengers on television last year, I’d never heard of shawarma. Perhaps it’s becoming what falafels and doner kebabs have been in Europe — a sign of growing ethnic diversity coupled with a need for quick and cheap eats. It’s probably not a threat to the open-faced sandwich, though.

Copenhagen is the capital of the new Nordic cuisine movement.It was a public television food show that brought me to Scandinavia, the New Scandinavian Cooking program with Andreas Viestad. I don’t watch it for the food — it’s equally a travel program that shows the scenery of different parts of Norway and sometimes Sweden. The episodes near the fjords drew me to Norway.

Copenhagen is the capital of the new Nordic cuisine movement toward unique, locally sourced ingredients served in creative ways. Its most notable example, Noma, is considered by some to be the world’s finest restaurant. You need to make a reservation several months in advance. People come to Copenhagen just to have dinner there. Bring lots of money, too.

There are good alternatives in Copenhagen, particularly in the Vesterbro district. Locals suggest Kadeau, Madklubben, and Pony.

In Norway, some of the best local food I encountered was far from the cities. The country cooking is fresh and simple — mountain trout in an inn in Eidfjord, and cold salmon near the coast. I especially remember a hearty stew in a little place in Bergen on a cold, rainy evening. What I liked best was the lack of pretention, that in the right hands something old can become new again.

Don’t forget the cheap eats, though. They are the busy traveler’s best friend. I had some of the best sausage dogs in Oslo and Copenhagen, and some great ethnic food on the hipster side of Oslo and near the university in Copenhagen that was well worth the long detours.

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