Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen-based Noma, uncontestedly one of the world’s best restaurants, upped the culinary ante when he moved his entire operation to Tokyo for six weeks in the beginning of 2015.
Thanks to an invitation from their airline partner ANA, Jeralyn Gerba slid into a seat at lunch just before the pop-up closed for good.
Here’s the debrief.
“So, how was Tokyo?” friends ask me, knowing It has been my holy grail destination for a decade.
I suppose I can’t really answer that, as I basically flew to Japan for lunch. On the other hand, my epic midday meal was like a thousand-year culture and history lesson served in a few dozen bites.
Technically speaking, I went for a two-day culinary tour in Tokyo to learn about a collaboration between Japan’s All Nippon Airways and Scandinavian restaurant sensation Noma, which hosted a six-week pop-up in the Japanese capital. When ANA heard about the Noma experiment, they extended their Japanese hospitality, flying a crew of chefs over the course of the year — from Okinawa and Ishigaki Island to Fukuoka and Osaka — to research techniques and source ingredients.
After traversing the country, temporarily shutting their Copenhagen location, and managing the logistical insanity that includes moving a staff of 70 from Denmark to Japan, the Noma staff checked into the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo and went about transforming the restaurant into Noma Japan.
Rice paper was hung from the walls, tables and chairs were crafted by local woodworkers, and the chef’s table was relocated to a sunny spot with floor-to-ceiling windows. Ceramic plates, handmade utensils, and earthy tea pots were made by hand in Japan exclusively for the occasion. The kitchen experimented with flavors, foraged esoteric ingredients, and opened the reservation lines. The mad dash for seats began and ended in six weeks, leaving 60,000 people on the waiting list.