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Le Plat du Jour: Thursday March 22, 2012

Just like how El Bulli and its molecular gastronomy became the fashion of last decade’s high end gastronomy, the “New Nordic” cuisine thus far has been the rage of the new decade since last year when Rene Redzepi’s hyper-local cuisine at Noma in Copenhagen supplanted El Bulli as the world’s “best” restaurant according to the annual San Pellegrino/Restaurant Magazine rankings.

Best restaurant in the world or not, it is a fascinating place, almost a laboratory like El Bulli, just with fewer gels and foams. In fact, Chef Redzepi runs the new Nordic Food Lab on a houseboat in Copenhagen, discovering new scientific-gastronomic interactions between Nordic ingredients. At the same time however, there seems to now be the expected backlash against this philosophy of foraging, Nordic ingredients, and the ever-present “dirt” on your plate. The same happened with El Bulli and molecular gastronomy, where critics soon tried to play down the spherical olives at El Bulli, and detested the sight of any foams on a plate.

Despite Pete Wells of The New York Times‘ rave review of Noma co-founder Mads Refslund ‘s New Nordic cooking at Acme in New York last week, this week Ryan Sutton of Bloomberg was not a fan. The always sharply opinionated Josh Ozersky this week also played down the role of naturalism in cuisine that Noma is so passionate about.

On the other side, just to show the importance of Redzepi on overall global culture today, the chef on the cover of Time, though for some absurd reason not on covers in the U.S.

Is New Nordic cuisine the next molecular gastronomy where it is the worldwide phenomenon and then chefs soon start rebelling against it. In short, a little bit because the emphasis on foraging and preparations like “dirt” will grow quickly tiresome much like how El Bulli turned kitchens into labs. However, unlike molecular gastronomy which is merely a concept that can be concocted anywhere, New Nordic cuisine is meant for and can only be truly interpreted in the Nordic countries. It is a cuisine based on the ingredients available in the harsh climate of Northern Europe. If a New Nordic restaurant opened in L.A., it could not possibly be the same. That restaurant could interpret the preparations and even important Nordic ingredients, but no, it cannot be the same.

New Nordic cuisine is close, if not already a worldwide phenomenon, and its critics have already arrived with its spread. Really though, everyone should understand just what a phenomenal concept it is and the creativity behind it from Nordic chefs like Mr. Redzepi.

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