René Redzepi: my Australia

All that happened at Copenhagen's Noma during its move to the land of kangaroos

13-04-2016
For René Redzepi the ten weeks in Australia have

For René Redzepi the ten weeks in Australia have been an extraordinary kaleidoscope of new aromas, scents, ingredients. Here's Valeria Senigaglia report for Identità Golose

After Heston Blumenthal, René Redzepi has also chosen to bring his restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, Down Under. Arriving from Tokyo, where he had temporarily moved, the chef promoting the New Nordic Cuisine left the kimono and wore flip flops for 10 weeks, bringing Scandinavian creativity and technique to Barangaroo, Sydney, in the country burnt by the sun. Redzepi fermented, smoked and pickled the best products Australia could offer to create a 12 course menu that was then wolfed down by only 5 thousand guests, those with the quickest fingers, who managed to get hold of a place before the restaurant sold out in 4 minutes.

Redzepi is not a serial restaurateur, he was led to Australia by the same curiosity that led him to rediscover the forgotten products of his land. For a whole year an army of over 100 people between cooks, sommeliers and local guides explored and tasted the Australian delicacies, including Monstera deliciosa, something in between a banana and a pineapple which looks however like a cob with a creamy texture, sweet when ripe but the herald of blisters if picked too early.

The staff from Noma on the day of the debut

The staff from Noma on the day of the debut

The seaweeds that look like pearl necklaces «full of umami, have a wow flavour», pointed out the chef, literally speechless in front of this rare vegetable. The Danish chef was captured by these unusual ingredients with which he “played” and, as happy as a child in a sweet shop, filled his Instagram account with photos of the weirdest ingredients: lemon caviar, blueberries from Tasmania, lilly pilly (local myrtle berries), Kakadu plums (with more vitamin C than any other fruit in the world)… The list looks endless.

«With so many products to discover, it’s hard to choose» said the Danish chef. And then: «Even the best crab in Denmark will never be as good as the snow crab from Western Australia». Finally, he made his choices creating a 12 course menu including Broth of frog crab and macadamia nuts, Berry salad with powdered Kakadu plum and seaweed broth, Wattleseed porridge [these seeds come from Australian acacia and taste like coffee and toasted hazelnuts] in saltbush leaves (Atriplex sp), Sea urchin with sweet tomato and pepperberries (similar to peppercorns but more versatile and used both for savoury and sweet recipes), The Breaded abalone cutlet with palm nuts and bunya (an indigenous conifer) and bouquet of local herbs. The Seafood and crispy chicken skin with crocodile fat, the same animal that kindly offered its skin for Vuitton bags, had even more success than the previous recipes, just like the Albany snow crab with fermented egg yolk in kangaroo broth. As a tribute to local tradition, the chef from Noma also offered his take on the traditional pie, a Dehydrated scallop tart with lantana flowers, served after the Crêpe with grilled milk filled with Magpie goose sauce and marrow. Of course there had to be fruit too: Marinated watermelon with wild Davidson plums, Iced mango with green ants and Wattleseed with salt and lemon caviar. To finish, the famous lamingtons with rum, a classic Australian dessert which Redzepi reinterpreted with milk crumbs, tamarind and oil of rose root; finally, Chocolate with peanut milk ice cream and farik (toasted green wheat).

Sea Beads, one of the ingredients discovered by Redzepi in Australia

Sea Beads, one of the ingredients discovered by Redzepi in Australia

Paul “Yoda” Iskov, Australian chef from Busselbon, guided Redzepi in the discovery of Western products such as kulyu (Ipomea Sp), a sweet and crispy white potato, or youlk (Platysace Deflexa), a radish with an aftertaste of eucalyptus. «All these beautiful ingredients have always been here, they’re sustainable, healthy and grow in harmony with nature; kangaroos have a light stride, they doesn’t destroy the environment on which they thread, like cows. Yet the first conquerors didn’t know how to cook them hence their meat has always had the reputation of being leathery. We need to rediscover aboriginal culture and give new attention to bush food which fine dining refused because of its own inexperience», says Iskov, who’s used bush food as his symbol, taking the guests of his pop up restaurant Fervor to dine in the steppe of the Australian Far West. «Australian culture is multifaceted, with European and Asian influences based on sound aboriginal foundations. A very special mix», said Redzepi. Australian wine and food are taking the road that led to the New Nordic Cuisine and turned Peru into the new gem in fine dining. More and more chefs decide to explore the immense deserts, the forests and steppes of this vast continent in search for new or forgotten ingredients, following that aboriginal culture that was long refused.

Noma in Sydney

Noma in Sydney

The success of Noma Sydney caused a real bush fever in Australia, where Magpie goose and lemon caviar reserves are already almost finished and not enough to satisfy the demand. One can only wonder what brave local chef will take on this heritage and abundance of raw materials and create broths and sauces out of it; according to Iskov the young aboriginal cooks will be the one to take back their tradition and lead to the twenty-first century. Mark Olive, an aboriginal chef from the Bundjalung tribe, is already a TV star and is now the creator of Black Olive Catering, a culinary firm north of Melbourne. And there’s plenty of chefs who love local ingredients, like Italian-Indian Adam D'Sylva, patron at Coda in Melbourne, who loves cooking crustaceans such as Moreton Bay bugs, slippery lobsters (Thenus orientalis), in delicious Asian-style small rolls. The same goes for Peter Gilmore of Quay and Bennelong inside the Opera House in Sydney, and Ben Shewry of restaurant Attica in Melbourne, who offer Australia on a fine dining plate.


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