CLOSED 108 Copenhagen: cuisine of chef Kristian Baumann
The chef Kristian Baumann formerly heading 108, a sister restaurant to Noma focused on new Nordic food, has opened a new – by his native Korea inspired venue Koan Copenhagen, while he also pops over into the kitchen of the locally established Relae. I have not been yet, but our excellent experiences at his previous restaurant certainly put Koan on our must-do dining list on our next trip to Denmark.
Follows the review of 108 Copenhagen, which illustrates the cooking style of chef Kristian Joon Hwan Baumann:
The naturalist plates might look purist, ultra-simple, yet they cover up elaborate contemporary techniques with nature in their heart. Thoughtful seasonal approach rather than overt radicalisation of Nordic food is what 108 delightfully serves. Like Noma, relying more on fresh plants during the summer, forest gems in the cooler months and the island nation’s dairy and seafood throughout. Warmer months open the Christiania restaurant to an outdoor patio.
We tasted most of the summer menu at 108, every single bowl and plate being delicious, which is by all means success. Cooking food in the most natural way possible, the signatories of the Nordic Kitchen Manifesto committed to “purity, season, ethics, health, sustainability and quality in ten points“. The essence of this contemporary Nordic cuisine is as much as in using new techniques like using liquid nitrogen and vacuum next to the traditional curing, smoking, pickling and fermenting. The authentic ingredients were grown, fished, foraged and farmed on these cool lands of Europe.
Nordic cuisine in elegant purity under Kristian Baumann’s hand
Inside, casual, contemporary industrial Danish design meets the artisanship in origami hanging off the bare cement ceiling. Like an open-plan office, a see-through kitchen displays the chef Kristian Baumann and his international team heaving with creativity. His style is refreshing during the summer and within a reasonable window of experimentation. While the dishes are original, they are balanced translating into the pleasure from licking your spoon after swallowing yet another delectable mouthful. This is what most gourmands seek. Watching chef Baumann finishing the dishes attentively before each plate was sent to its plain wood-topped table, we harnessed curiosity and trust in his small scale and focused kitchen. The bared down concept contrasts the exuberance of the current Noma. Also the food is about pairing seemingly contrasting qualities of the ingredients.
Each table is pampered with the house sourdough bread. Impeccable at each visit this summer. The malty crust delectably contrasts the chewy, big-eyed and with a soft core. As you splatter the wholesome slices with the airy-textured yet rich-tasting, salted and whipped double cream (the power of fat!) — dangerously mouth-blowing — you crave more, so ask as we did.
Summer is the season for Green Peas that we also enjoyed at the two Michelin star Kadeau in Copenhagen. At 108, the peas were served chilled with caramelised seaweed, mint, pine needles, horseradish for a spicy kick and frozen elderflower snow tipping over the green miniballs of a mountain. Young pine needle tips also in their peak freshness add a forest scent to the sublime summer bowl. Go big and top the peas with Royal Belgian Caviar. We did not as my mind was set in another caviar dish.
In another, richer plate, as the summer progressed Courgette replaced an asparagus. Cut into matchsticks, either was served with beechnuts, cep mushroom sauce, topped with the Royal Belgian decadence. The sustainably raised caviar is often an option to enhance the food at 108, even on desserts. Beechnuts are delicate, crunchy edibles that I picked as a child from the forest floor and donated to the rangers feeding animals. Curious, I ate a few, but I could never see them being served at a restaurant in what was then Czechoslovakia. The Nordic chefs tapped into this wild pigs feast’s potential. Superb!
At a weekend lunch a la carte, the Ultra thin Sliced Radish and Stur in a geometric perfection revealed the sea bounty underneath, while the soft blanched Leeks stripped into a thin blanket over salted plums, were emboldened by aged cheese cream poured over at the table. Richness meats purity in one serving.
In the dinner tasting menu Danish lobster claw marinated in a sauce from its head (condensed flavour of this sea monster), a touch of lavender, orange and Thyme in a Provencal scent, coriander, Nordic unripe gooseberries topped with frozen rubies of raspberries from Rokkedysse Bær. The farm is only 25 km from Copenhagen, but on a bicycle I rather rode to their outdoor stand at the Copenhagen market for one of the best berries ever. The cooler climate extracts more clean intensity from the fruits.
Next, a fancier tapa accompanied perfectly our orange wine in the wine pairing. Crispy potato croquette with pickled mustard seeds, ruffled shavings of hip berry and wild rose petals was served on a long wooden spoon. I had to eat it in two bites, light and rich – the yin and yang of flavours again stroke the balance at 108.
Landing after were Steamed greens from Krogerup in a seaweed dough like a raviolo topped with radiant calendula flowers and parsley. Like a lotus floating on a pond of a healthful broth made from whole roasted chicken, it was elegant and light.
The main act in the Taste of 108 menu was the Raw grilled lobster tail in a reduced jus made from the lobster head. Accompanied with juicy strawberries, brushed with apple and pine gel to nest comfortably the aromatic herbs. Intensely fresh.
Frozen edible beauty
Desserts at 108 Copenhagen are outstanding. All the sorbet and ice cream themed sweetness I relished rolled my pupils and sent my mind up onto the clouds of pleasure – one of the best frozen treats my mouth has ever experienced.
Naturalist expression of rose scented Flower petals and herbs from Krogerup (108 garden north of Copenhagen) covered fennel top ice cream scooped in a delicate yet intense brown butter biscuit. A citrusy taggettes herbal sirup and leaves underscored the garden exuberance. My favorite plate in the tasting menu.
The last bite in the tasting menu – the Smoked barley ice cream with hazelnuts and sweet n’ sour plum crisps flaked atop, was a unique, perfectly balanced and broad in its gustatory scope, period to the meal. We were sated, not stuffed, yet satisfied.
I kept the whoah to the end. The Rausu kombu ice cream with house-pressed hazelnut oil is so popular that it was added to the Corner Café menu. At the restaurant the Royal Belgian Caviar (8g) topps the creamy seaweed gelato on the à la carte options. I had this crest of hedonism by GASTROunika at lunch. If I could choose the last mouthful before I die, this may well be it.
Drinks, natural wines, local beers and non-alcoholic creations at 108 Copenhagen
Local beers with intriguing names, literally “Two Icelandic guys come to Copenhagen, you won’t believe what happens next” —BRAW Oko Grisette W/Kex + AEGIR. The aperitif cocktails were inspired by traveling — Mexico meets Japan in Oaxaca San, when mezcal is blended with mandarine sake and a refreshing cucumber.
We went for the wine pairing at dinner. Six natural wines, water and coffee are included. Non-alcoholic pairing only offers four beverages next to water and coffee. The wine selection was quite flexible, we appreciated that the sommelier gave us a sample of each wine before committing to a full glass. When we did not like it, he happily found another wine.
My favorite was the French Four 08 by Ad Vinum. A clean natural red wine, with deep herbal and fruit nuances from Vallabrix.
The Corner Café and wine bar next door is a popular at breakfast. Baked Nordic speciality pastries (buttered flaky yet firm cinnamon, almond flakes and rhubarb buns) and bread rolls every morning. For a quick lunch, sourdough sandwiches, seasonal veggies, and even warm plates like potato croquettes and monkfish casually fill up. Coffee by Tim Wendelboe roasted in Oslo, the Nordic caffeinated cult. Picks from Postcard Teas and Rare Tea Company supplied from the UK. Filtered water (a carafe charged 40DKK at the restaurant more than the coffee at 35 DKK is amusing). From 5pm the Corner at 108 turns into a wine bar.
Conveniently located in the centre on the shore of Christiania, we dined at 108 twice – a weekend lunch (frokost), a tasting menu (en smag af 108) dinner. The service quality of its international staff hints at the efficiency and knowledge base of Noma. The food, we preferred at 108 Copenhagen.
Beware, at many Copenhagen restaurants, a surcharge of 3.13% is added to your bill when paying by credit card.
Strandgade 108, DK-1401 Copenhagen
Lunch Friday-Sunday (a la carte or three-courses); Dinner (a la carte or eight-courses in Taste of 108).