We've had some good meals in our first three Scandinavian days (and one very disappointing, too long, too filling dinner last night), but nothing that has quite blown us away on the level of our last trip. So we went into lunch at Amass today with trepidation that threatened to snowball. What if it isn't that good? What if nothing is that good? What if we've come in a bad season, or just the entire culinary scene isn't what we recall?
Still not hungry after last night's dinner(s), at least I'd stopped feeling painfully full, which meant I could eat. Still no word on whether we'll get off the waitlist for dinner on the 28th, so we went with the extended menu just in case. (Because of course we did. Taller may be the only time that we haven't opted for the maximum number of courses.) The space is still great: airy and casual and just a bit edgy with it's concrete and stylish graffiti. (Which I think has changed since our last visit; currently it features a beautiful portrait of a hipsterish woman.)
Diced radishes and salted plums swam in a bowl of almond milk dusted with green strawberry powder (toasted, perhaps?). A bit reminiscent of the milk-heavy end of a bowl of (crunchy, vegetal) cereal with its slightly nutty sour-sweetness. This dish might be a bit strange at dinner, but it was actually pretty perfect as the start to our first meal of the day. (I think I liked it more than Adam, however.)
|Almond Milk, Radishes, Salted Plums|
Of course I was giddy to see the fermented potato bread again -- almost as giddy as I was when Adam recently sent me their recipe
. (At the time that I first read it, finding a warm enough room where I could let the potatoes ferment for "a minimum of 10 days" sounded like the tricky part. The current plan is to make this project the fermented silver lining on the extremely dark cloud of an a/c-less June.) Still dense and slightly sour and warm and oh-so-delicious. I liked the vaguely Middle Eastern celeriac compote with cheese oil -- essentially the oil that separates when you melt cheese; the kitchen staff apparently eats the crispy solid bits -- and a spice blend including coriander and pepper, but not as much as I'd liked last time's cabbage and onion spread. (I've used the oil from smoked cheddar on Brussels sprouts before with good results -- great minds? :P) Because our Noma reservation was in under seven hours at this point, we didn't ask for more bread . . . but we ate the second piece that appeared without our asking.
Matchsticks of raw white asparagus were dotted with rose vinegar gel and concealed a bed of creamy cep and black garlic. The creaminess tasted sort of mayonnaisey, giving the entire dish a bit of a cole slaw feel. Light, excellent cole slaw, but still. Not bad, but my least favorite dish.
|White Asparagus, Rose Vinegar, Cep, Black Garlic|
We'd loved the nut weed at Daniel Berlin, so were happy to have it show up again here. The server compared it to asparagus, which I sort of get; although cooked softish (softer than the DB one) and nicely charred on the leaves, it had a kind of vague woodiness. Combined with the rich egg yolk emulsion and the briny shaved brill roe, the whole effect was a bit brunchy, a Nordic variation on asparagus and hollandaise.
|Knotweed, Egg Yolk, Hazelnut, Salted Fish Roe|
Our second asparagus dish was my second favorite of the meal (and Adam's contender for favorite). Sliced green asparagus and radish, a soft egg yolk, ramson broth and ramson capers, under frothy blanket of butter foam. (The egg yolk comes from some special endangered Danish chicken breed that is a terrible layer -- something like an egg every two days, five months a year -- and apparently Amass is doing what it can to create a market for the farmers who go to the trouble to continue raising these chickens. Ramson has been showing up everywhere; as far as I can tell, it's Europe's version of the ramp, a slightly more garlicky chef-fetishized spring allium.) We both loved the fantastic, vibrantly green oniony broth, punctuated with sweet asparagus and acidic capers, and enriched with the yolk and butter.
|Green Asparagus, Burnt Lemon, Ramson, Virgin Butter|
My favorite dish was Adam's second favorite. Amass continues to wow with the carrots. Carrot ribbons bedecked a two-year aged goat/sheep cheese (like a fresh cheese that had been aged into some bite), which was accessorized with fennel fronds and pickled fennel seeds and bathed in a carrot-reduced whey sauce. (Well, that was some mixed metaphors. Moving along.) The carrots' sweetness was more subtle here than with last time's roasted carrots; bright acidity was the star this time, from the slightly acidic, light-but-creamy cheese to the whey sauce to the pops of pickle. (I love whey sauces. Whey in everything, please.)
|Carrots, Salted Goat Cheese, Pickled Fennel Seeds, Reduced Whey|
Brill in a sauce of brown butter (with bits of red seaweed?1
) and bitter greens/kale/cabbage was more simple but lovely. Good salt and acid, the two pillars of an excellent dish.
|Brill, Sea Kale, Red Seaweed|
Angelica (compared to matcha tea) ice cream under a frozen breadish layer (almost like sugar cookie dough), dotted with parsley oil. The beauty of its light, herbaceous sweetness enhanced by slight bitterness. A very good dessert that just stepped a toe across the savory line (rather than straddling it the way some new Nordic desserts do),
|Angelica Ice Cream, Bread, Honey|
We'd gotten into conversation with the Columbia undergrads at the table next to us, one of whom is seriously into food and seems to share our taste on many places (loves Saison and Willows, down on Per Se) and the other of whom patiently put up with our food/restaurants conversation. (I feel like being down on Per Se is a bit of a personal Shibboleth for compatible-with-me food taste.) Unfortunately for them, they were a bit rhubarbed-out on this trip, but I've loved it in pretty much all its presentations. Here, its vibrant hot pink -- not too sweet -- was partially obscured by a mound of walnut granita. Additional nuttiness from walnut cookie, and black pepper ice cream added a spicy bite. (I'm not sure I picked up on the juniper oil.) Very interesting, and very delicious.
|Rhubarb, Green Juniper, Walnut, Black Pepper|
Like the potato bread, these delightful little oregano cakes must be a signature for Amass. Still delicious, but while good, the blueberry jam wasn't as addictive a pairing as the strawberry last time. The coffee grinds graham crackers were barely coffee-flavored and the chocolate marshmallow was tasty, so I actually ate the entire little sandwich. (I'm sure a coffee-chocolate lover would give this a more enthusiastic recommendation. Mine is as enthusiastic as my coffee-phobia will allow.)
|Fresh Oregano Cakes, Blueberry Jam with Coffee Graham Cracker, 100% Chocolate|
We haven't eaten them yet, but I love the idea that they make chips with the liquid run-off from their bread making. (Let's hope they haven't gone stale by the time I am in danger of being hungry, which, given our itinerary, isn't likely to happen before Sunday morning.)
Fingers crossed that we'll be back for dinner in a week with Andrew and Brooke . . . .
1. After our lunch, I emailed to ask for a full menu, which Julie kindly provided. That menu confirmed red seaweed in the dish, so good for me?↩