New Nordic Cuisine



Not long ago, food from Scandinavia was considered something of a punchline. Dining enthusiasts assumed the best one could get on a Nordic plate was a chunk of dried walrus blubber or a fried carrot.

How times have changed. From Los Angeles to London, the tenets of the New Nordic Movement—locally sourced, health-conscious, fearlessly inventive—have infiltrated many of the world’s most renowned restaurants.

It started with Noma, the now-famous eatery launched in 2004 in Copenhagen. Occupying a 19th-century warehouse with an unassuming, rustic exterior, its focus has been on reinventing Danish cuisine by cutting out foreign fluff. Noma co-founder Claus Meyer drew up a manifesto, aspiring to nothing short of a new Nordic culinary culture. Due to the region’s long winters, pickling, preserving, smoking, and salting have become common.

Noma has received two Michelin stars and was ranked “the World’s Best Restaurant” several times. Most importantly, chefs around the globe have absorbed the principles of Meyer’s New Nordic Movement and applied them to their own cooking, often beautifully.

At Gustu, a restaurant Meyer opened in 2013 in La Paz, Bolivia, head chef and native Bolivian Marsia Taha sees the New Nordic philosophy as a means to show off her own country’s cuisine. “Part of our mission is to boost a sense of national pride for what Bolivia is and what Bolivia produces,” Taha says. That starts with exactly what the New Nordic Movement emphasizes: “Simplicity, elegance, and respect for each product, whose history we have the commitment to tell, as well as preserving the cultural and ancestral significance in each dish,” she says.

Dish from Aska, a Brooklyn restaurant that celebrates Scandinavian cuisine
Dish from Aska, a Brooklyn restaurant that celebrates Scandinavian cuisine

Two examples off the Gustu menu: rhea (a kind of Bolivian ostrich) tartare with capers and maca emulsion; and Amazonian fish with yuca zonzo and coconut

Now, from Portland, Ore., to New York, posh, hygge-ish restaurants churn out Nordic and Nordic-inspired fare.

At Brooklyn’s Aska, Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius creates Scandinavian masterpieces with ingredients gathered from around the American Northeast. Think oysters and kelp garnished with salted green gooseberries, and pickled chanterelle mushrooms served with lichen and caramelized cream. For Berselius, the New Nordic Movement “reminds chefs and cooks to pay attention to where they are, to respect their heritage and at the same time push gastronomy forward.”

New Nordic’s influence has seeped into rural areas too. At Single Thread, a Michelin-starred restaurant in northern California’s Sonoma County, much of the intricate Japanese-inspired menu uses produce from its own farm. The Lost Kitchen, a French-inspired, seasonally opened place in the tiny Maine town of Freedom, uses local ingredients exclusively. Demand is so high that reservation requests must be made by snail mail, to be decided in a lottery.

And in the far-flung Faroe Islands of Denmark, chef Poul Andrias Ziska earned a Michelin star with Koks, a restaurant focused entirely on items available on and around the islands and often using traditional preparations. The results include fermented, wind-dried lamb; mahogany clams; and sea urchin with pickled parsley stems.

Above all, the New Nordic Movement has inspired cooks to care more about place. If its ideas have shown consumers anything, it’s that good food need not have traveled far.

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