Dining at Relæ in Copenhagen
A Dance with Difficult Steps
Copenhagen in Denmark is one of our favourite cities, perfect for a Weekend City Break taking the train from Gothenburg directly to the City Centre at a reasonable price. We have visited three times together since we met and Food Travel to Copenhagen, especially in spring, summer and fall is recommended. This is one of our many restaurants visits to fine dining establishments - famous and praised Relae!
Relae Tasting Menu
Relæ in Copenhagen is one of these restaurants we have heard deliver fantastic food, so we had been looking for a window for a visit for quiet some time. Their minimalistic, ingredient-focused and seasonal driven kitchen is exactly what the Scandinavian and Nordic Food Trend is about right now, so we had some expectations before our visit.
Relæ delivers a performance with an ode to raw, clean and pure tastes from their own organic farm produce, a red line through their tasting menu. So you should expect natural tastes combined with Nature Wines.
While not being big fans of Nature Wine we went for one wine package and one juice package to our menus.
Just as we sat down, we happened to hear feedback from the table next to ours. An Italian party celebrating a birthday was really disappointed, not least at the dessert. We said to ourselves that perhaps they wasn't prepered for what they had been served and had simply misunderstood the whole Relae concept? The ladies claimed to have eaten at many fine dining restaurants, and none of them had lacked in taste as much as this. We thought they were just that kind of difficult guests that are really hard to please whatever you serve or do for them.
However, it turned out that they had a small point in their criticism and feedback.
What struck us already after a couple of dishes were two things. Relæ didn't use salt or fat to lift flavors? We were puzzled.
As a chef, these two ingredients are crucial in kicking up the flavor, but here they completely excluded it and relied on the ingredient in their pure natural form.
It turned out to be a "dance with difficult steps" (which also is a song title by swedish artist Lars Winnerbäck - hence the sub-heading in our review).
First three dishes with wine and juice pairings:
La Matta 2015 - Casebianche, Torchiara
Apple/ lemon/ thyme juice
Celtuce, oregano and almond
Vigna Vecchia 2016 - Collecapretta, Spoleto
Salted plums/ sage juice
Pike perch, kohlrabi and coriander
Plume d'Ange 2015 - Etienne Courtois, Sologne
Chamomille/ chevril juice
Pure taste of the ingredients and few components require an impeccable performance and design. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the chefs' techniques but especially the edge of taste was blunt figurly speaking and fell flat into a couple of dishes in the Tasting Menu.
Or "flat" is maybe the wrong choice of word, because when it was meant to taste something it really did a lot. But we really missed components in some of the food to sooth - particularly in the acid ones. Or in some where fat would be more then welcome to lift the experience of flavour.
An example that clearly describes what we thought was missing is a Hollandaise foam from a siphon that only tastes eggs and acid. Unfortunately, it does not work.
Fat in a Hollandaise is what makes it fantastic so the foam falls flat and very far from the tree, figuratively speaking. The carrot to accompanies is served "un Papilotte" with organic butter and herbs.
Butter is something that the Danes do incredibly well and the taste by itself is amazing - but what if the package had been given some more heat making the butter browned? Maybe that nuttyness had been a flavour beam scale to the highly acidic foam - and it might have saved this serving?
The sweetness of the tomatoes on the side helped a little, with it's incredible taste. A taste not to far from the Epiphany Tomato Knockout at Nestor in San Sebastian!
Next three dishes with wine and juice pairings:
Trout, sorrel and smoked cream
Same wine as to the Pike perch but also the grilled lemon/ juniper juice
Grilled lemon/ juniper juice
Carrots, eggyolk and hollandaise
Lumiere des sens 2014 - J.P. Robinot, Chahaignes
Toasted wild rice/ cowslip (mayflower) juice
Onion, fennel and gooseberry
Something about our drink packages then.
The natural wines was very uneven. In some dishes Relæ's Sommelier puts the heads on the nail but often it is - like mentioned - their favorite among the ground tastes that sets it to be unbalanced; acidity.
To match a highly acidic dish with a beverage, acid is also needed in the drink - and that is found natural in Nature Wine.
The important thing here though, is that these two acids are completely in a horizontal balance to achieve harmony. Otherwise either the dish or the drink itself will be experienced too acidic taking over the food and beverage pairing.
Let's say there was some imbalance here.
Instead, a happier surprise is the juice package. Because the Juices blend perfectly with all dishes! Well-balanced, interesting, packed with flavour finding it's counterparts or companions in the food. A job well done!
And our waiter shines up when we tell him what we think about the drink package, because he was the one who made the juices this evening!
Onion Soup with a sourness from gooseberry that was surprisingly refreshing in the bouillion. The deep, deep taste of roasted onion and a more raw onion taste was fantastic. Simple can sometimes be the hard part.
A lot of care and technique obviously combined with a great palette to achieve such a balanced dish but we appreciate the simplicity in the presentation!
Great dish from the Relæ kitchen!
The Sea Trout with an arty herb and smoked cream layer (served as the fourth dish) didn't add enough taste to the fish, in fact we couldn't taste as much smokiness as we would like here. Salt again had been a helpful hand here we believe.
Better is the two servings of lamb servings that get top ratings from both of us. First out is a Lamb Tartare plainly presented with just a tasty emulsion in the bottom and Salicorn on top. The ecological lamb was amazing.
Perfectly cooked with a crispy crust the lamb comes with a side partner that was mindblowing in it's earthyness; smokey, aromas of burnet and grilled cabbage and greens was an instant favourite.
Both servings appeal to us and especially in the second serving the wine and juice matching are like a hand in a glove!
Last four dishes on the Tasting Menu with wine and juice pairings:
"Havervadgård" Lamb and summer greens
Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese 2015 - Auriel, Monferrato
Red currant/ Mary Gold
Herbs and fresh cheese
Rougede Causse 2014 - Lavayasse, St-Jean au Minervois
Blueberry/ woodruff juice
Buttermilk and chevril
Orionides 2011 - La Coulée d'Ambrosia, Anjou
Jasmine tea/ quince juice
Black currants and sage
And when we come to dessert, we understand exactly what the Italian guests on the table next door talked about; because the desserts are anything but sweet! The restrained caramel-sage-tasting bisquit in the last dish of the evening nearly just compensate the almost brash acidity and bitterness of the black currants and, as an Italian, a sweet finish is as natural as like the Pope lives in the Vatican!
We sit for a while and analyze. Despite some of the difficulties in taking in some of the more "raw" flavours during the evening, we were more than pleased.
Relae delivires an exiting menu with sometimes an unfamiliar range of tastes that still intrigues a Foodie's Mind!
Unfortunatel, the Swedish krona against the Danish krone is really weak so it became an expensive visit and a reminder that Denmark is suddenly a little further away than it really is when looking on a map.
We have been frequent visitors to Copenhagen; It is a great, fun and utterly friendly, welcoming city with lots of good food, drinks and attractions, but in the future, sadly enough, the visits will be fewer because of the currency.
Relæ was kind of a bumpy ride. But we enjoyed it! So it's will be a 4/5 Sticks & Spoons Recommendation.
Visit Relæ's Site to do a reservation. Find Relæ in Copenhagen, Denmark: