3 Michelin-starred Noma will have its next pop-up in Kyoto, Japan
Noma Kyoto brings chef Rene Redzepi’s career full circle, to the source of the ubiquitous modern tasting menu.
Noma, the celebrated Copenhagen, Denmark, restaurant led by chef Rene Redzepi, will uproot itself again next spring, opening in Kyoto, Japan, for a 10-week residency. Housed at the Ace Hotel, near the 700-year-old Nishiki food market, Noma Kyoto will be open four days a week from Mar 15 through May 20 for lunch and dinner. Reservations for the meal, which will cost just over 850 euros (S$1,186) per person including drinks, tax and service, will open Nov 7 on the Noma website; some tickets are also available as part of an accommodation package at the Ace.
Incorporating ingredients, history and methods from the region, the historic centre of Japanese Buddhism, the pop-up will span sakura (cherry blossom) season, which also brings spring kyoyasai, the celebrated local vegetables, like Kujo green onions and red Kintoki carrots.
Over multiple research trips, Redzepi said in an interview, his team has been making and stockpiling preserved ingredients, many of them rich in umami, that are a Noma signature. “We already have 250 kilos of dried yuzu peels,” plus a supply of salted sansho berries, a vegan dashi brewed from caramelized pumpkin and corn, and more. “This is where we first learned about umami, so it’s amazing to come back with a greater understanding.”
These experiments in culinary and cultural immersion began with Noma’s first residency in Tokyo in 2015, followed by Sydney in 2016 and Tulum, Mexico, in 2017. (Before the COVID-19 pandemic, plans were being laid for Noma Georgia, in Tbilisi, but a return to Japan proved more practical.)
Since Noma Mexico was accused of cultural appropriation and colonialism, Redzepi has been careful to emphasise that these meals are not an interpretation of local cuisine, but a re-creation of the hyperlocal, innovative, naturalistic style of Noma’s food in an entirely new setting.
As of last week, Japan’s COVID-19 protocols for tourists have been lifted, and visa-free entry has resumed. Seventy employees and their families will relocate to Kyoto for the duration of the project after Noma in Copenhagen closes for the season Feb 18.
The high sticker price of the meal doesn’t begin to cover the costs of such an undertaking, but Noma, with its multiple “World’s Best Restaurant” titles and three Michelin stars, commands deep-pocketed sponsorship. American Express, the main sponsor, absorbed some of the costs for Noma’s most recent pop-up, a five-night event in New York City in May that was upended when Redzepi tested positive for COVID-19 before leaving Denmark. The event went on without him, but American Express refunded the full $700 ticket price to all guests.
Noma Kyoto brings Redzepi’s career full circle, to the source of the ubiquitous modern tasting menu. Kaiseki, a carefully orchestrated progression of small plates, grew from a Buddhist tea ceremony into a luxurious cuisine in Kyoto, Japan’s capital from the 8th century until 1869.
Elements of kaiseki began to flow from Japan into fine dining in the late 1960s, often through the influential Tsuji culinary school in Osaka. French chefs such as Paul Bocuse and the Troisgros brothers created nouvelle cuisine by adopting flavors like yuzu and soy, an emphasis on vegetables and wild herbs, and the rustic aesthetic of kaiseki to revolutionize French cooking. At Kikunoi and Kyoto’s other famous kaiseki restaurants, menus have always changed to reflect the seasons. That idea has now permeated fine dining, giving rise to foraging, restaurant gardens and the farm-to-table movement.
Noma and its many descendants — where each course is served on a distinctive plate (or on a stone, or in a shell), and where the food is arranged to be artful but natural — are also heavily influenced by kaiseki, although Redzepi didn’t know that when the restaurant opened in 2003.
“I was taught that the tasting menu was invented by the French and then reinvented in Spain,” said Redzepi, who worked at El Bulli in 1999, where a meal could run to more than 40 courses. “I had no idea of the vast repository of ideas and techniques that is Japanese food.”
By Julia Moskin © 2022 The New York Times
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.