With the sad portions, odd flavors, and confusion over what was on my plate, my taste of New Nordic cuisine matched my expectations entirely. Before eating at Høst, I expected my previous opinions about high-class dining to be challenged in some way. Seeing the craze over New Nordic cuisine had me hoping for something better than my previous experiences at these types of restaurants. At the same time, I was still skeptical of the idea of New Nordic cuisine. After studying it in class, I had seen how small and how confusingly sophisticated each dish had to be. After eating at Høst, I can at least say I gave it a chance, but it just was not for me. It was very aesthetically pleasing, and waiting to see how the next dish would look was exciting. However, in my experience, it seemed to place more importance on the aesthetic rather than quantity or taste.
Høst’s atmosphere was full of relaxation, yet sophistication. While the inside of the restaurant looked warm and welcoming, there was still a sense of sophistication in the way in which people were dressed. The restaurant itself was very simple. With the candlelight and the cave-like underground room we were in, and the different shades of brown that decorated the table, the facade of the restaurant communicated warmth and closeness. Perhaps that feeling also came from the fact that this would be our last meal together as a class and, sadly, our last day together. But, the overall atmosphere brought some hygge to the table and mirrored the goal of New Nordic cuisine— simplicity.
Our first taste of New Nordic came on a plate filled with rocks, raw radish stocks, pickled strawberries the size of pennies, and little edible cups filled with a sort of shrimp puree. With the bright, red of the radishes on top of the dark, black rocks below them, it looked quite appealing. Besides, of course, the fact that there was barely anything on the plate. But, according to the New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto, “the nordic landscape is sparsely populated, with vast areas of untouched land” and, in this way, the plate perfectly matched the nordic environment. The dish was very sparsely populated with food and had a lot of untouched (and inedible) land in the appearance of rocks. After trying the little cups of shrimp puree, I became hopeful for the rest of the plate. However, upon trying the pickled strawberry and chomping down on the raw radish, I was feeling a little discouraged at what the next course would be.
To my surprise, our entrée was not the same as our little taste test before. It was still tiny, but I was happy to see something I recognized and love: raw salmon. A white sauce was added to it by our server once everyone had been served. With the added sour flavor of the sauce combined with sunflower seeds and salmon, the flavor was, for lack of a better word, interesting. This is how I felt about almost every course we had. It had flavors that were familiar yet strange at the same time, and I could never really tell if I liked it. The more bites I had, the more I began to grow accustomed to the taste, but my tastebuds still couldn’t seem to comprehend the different and surprising flavors. This confusion continued into the main course and the little plate of a crab-filled crepe taco we received in between the entree and the main course. While this little crepe taco was a unique concept, the taste of crab with something that I usually have as a dessert just did not work with my tastebuds. Regarding the man course, the patty-like fish we were served had yet another flavor I couldn’t quite identify. It left me feeling confused and hungry.
The most exciting dish of the night, however, was the desert. This was the only plate I knew I liked. It was yogurt-like ice cream with cream and fresh strawberries, topped with beautiful, crunchy decor. Our dessert ended the meal on a high note, and I was happy to have discovered something New Nordic that I enjoyed.
As the New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto states, “simplicity is a key characteristic of Nordic cuisine” and Høst definitely stuck to this characteristic. While I know that the idea of New Nordic is to utilize fewer components and, instead, focus on higher quality, I couldn’t help but feel like the random flavors did not make up for the lack of food. Perhaps I’m just not the right person for this type of high-brow cuisine, but it seemed as though aesthetic came first in every dish.
Nevertheless, I’m glad that we were able to end the trip on a “family” dinner that encapsulated what we had been learning about Nordic cuisine. It may not have been my first choice, but being together made it a whole lot better. Farewell, Copenhagen, and hopefully we’ll see you soon!