I love to try new food, and when we started planning our trip to Copenhagen I figured it was a great opportunity to try out a restaurant in the city. I chose Relae, and carefully stalked their website 2 months in advance (when future reservations open) so I could have a relatively good choice of times and days for our meal there (here’s their website: http://www.restaurant-relae.dk/en).
Relae frequently shows up on lists of the World’s Best Restaurants (Top 50 in 2017, here), and also has Michelin star to go along with its reputation. While food critics may argue, I definitely think the heart of the meal was based around Nordic ingredients – even if there were some other delicious items thrown in. Think, lots of fish and hearty vegetables. This latter characteristic was one of the reasons I chose Relae over other Michelin starred restaurants (and other choices) in Copenhagen – I wanted to try cuisine that was different and unique to the city and region. When in Denmark, do Danish, right?
Relae is a bit mysterious – and different – than any restaurant I’d ever been to.
First off – you have two menu options to choose from: the Relae Menu and the Relae Experience. The menu is four to five courses, and the experience is around nine. I found that there were a number of small bites in between some of the courses, too, but that’s the rough estimate.
Second – the obvious next question is, well, what are the courses? Yea, you don’t know. You in fact don’t know until you are served each and every course. While this element of surprise certainly is going to turn off many people, I found it a bit endearing…you are never looking forward to the next course while eating the current course. Everyone is all about being “present” these days, and this menu setup certainly accomplishes that.
Third – cutlery is found in a small little drawer in an obviously Danish designed dinner table. So you just get out the forks/spoons/knives that you need to devour each course as it comes out. Pretty slick.
So…most importantly…how was the food!? There were some standout dishes that I can still taste in my head, including the celery root with coffee sprinkled on the top and some fish with daikon. Of all the dishes and small bites we received, I only felt marginally about two and can-not-eat this about one (which was a small cheese sampling on top of a pastry for dessert). Overall, I’d say that is pretty darn good.
Would I go again? Eh, not sure. I find these one of a kind meals are best not repeated – expectations based on a prior set of dishes is always hard to live up to. But I’m thrilled we had the opportunity to go while in Copenhagen – Relae was really delicious.
As a picky child and a particular adult, I also find that having excellent food and great restaurants has really helped to open up my eyes and mouth to flavors, textures, and ingredients that I would otherwise write off. In addition, as a true grazer, I really do appreciate the small, perfectly sized plates and the many course design. I love trying just a few bites of something, and often don’t find it an indication of whether I’d eat it as a single entree. E.g., I don’t really love goose, but a little bit of goose was really intriguing and delicious. A plate full of goose? No, thanks. Relae was absolutely perfect in this regard. If you didn’t like something, it’s just a course. And everything was definitely worth a few bites to see how the flavors develop as you progress through the dish.
I would be amiss to not mention that Relae also offers wine pairings with both menu options. We did not do this, because I honestly can NOT drink 6-8 glasses of wine over dinner! I mean, I could, but I would neither be able to walk or know what I was eating. To those of you that can, this might be a good option to consider. For lighter drinkers, you can order by the glass — they also have custom juice options for non-drinkers, which may be interesting to try. We opted to stick with water.
Relae changes their menu frequently, so I’m not giving anything away here, but here is the list of what we had – 10 courses (with a few pictures below). Everything was very “Danish” in presentation – simply, with no flowery adornments or distractions. The focus is on the ingredients.
Sunchoke tempura & juniper (great way to start the meal)
Apple & lemongrass
Pike perch, radish & bergamotte (delicious!)
Celeriac, caramelized cream & coffee (my very favorite)
Salsify, almond & smoked eggyolk
Goose from Gothenborg & yellow beets
Nordlys & blackberry (beautiful, but this was the cheese I couldn’t handle!)
Charcoal ice cream & clementine (so, so good)
Roasted pumpkin tart