Years ago, the cruise ship I was working on made a stop on its Transatlantic voyage from the Caribbean to the UK in Torshavn, Faroe Islands. Though I was only able to spend a few hours there, I was struck by its rugged beauty and traditional feel. It’s a destination that has been on my ‘places to revisit’ list ever since. Last week, the Faroes came to me, when I was fortunate enough to be invited by Visit Faroe Islands to sample some fantastic Faroese cuisine at KOKS restaurant in their temporary space in ‘Den Vandrette’ at Nyhavn in Copenhagen. As a fan of fantastic food, and the other half of a New Nordic chef, I’d heard great things about KOKS and was incredibly excited to try its incredible cuisine for myself, without ever leaving Copenhagen.
KOKS is located in the Faroese capital of Torshavn, overlooking lush scenery and serving up seasonal New Nordic-style dishes using locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients and traditional techniques such as fermenting, drying, salting, and smoking, mixed with avant-garde ideas and innovation. The chefs of KOKS are a young team, lead by Head Chef Poul Andrias Ziska. Though the Michelin guide doesn’t travel to the Faroes, KOKS was awarded The Nordic Prize for 2015, and was recognized as the best restaurant in the Nordic countries. To celebrate its five-year anniversary, KOKS has come to Copenhagen for nine weeks to share a taste of the Faroe Islands with the mainland.
Our evening began in an intriguing fashion, as we were invited to pile into KOKS’ own hjallur, a small traditional hut used for smoking meat and fish as well as socializing. It was in this cozy wooden space overlooking Copenhagen Harbour and the island of Christianshavn that we would enjoy the evening’s snacks.
We began with dried cod skins, topped with lovage and horse mussel, dehydrated and grated in-house,and served on a platter of cod bones. Next came raw sea urchin, beautifully presented. Being pregnant, I was unable to try it myself, but it looked spectacular and was raved over by my dining companions. The chefs were incredibly accommodating, adjusting and substituting for me where needed with little fuss. For this course, I was served a flavoursome broth with mushrooms. The juice menu was substituted for wine, and the first was a delicious elderflower, a drink that’s popular here in Denmark and that I really love Our next snack was tiny in size, but bold in taste: a small piece of leek with flavours of garlic, topped with bitter flowers.
The final two tasty bites were very traditional, and the techniques behind them were explained by the chefs. First, Garnatálg, the fat from the belly of a lamb spread on a cracker, followed by Skerpijøt, slices of aged and wind-dried leg of mutton – both were unique and delicious.
Heading inside, I got my first real look at the restaurant itself. Set in a former wine bar, KOKS has made the space their own, with interesting touches like lamps made of dried fish. I was fortunate enough to be seated directly in front of the open kitchen space, where I had great views of the chefs at work and the food being plated. Most of the ingredients used in preparing our dinner had been brought in from the Faroe Islands, as was our still water. My next juice was a unique and delicious mix of fresh apple and pine which perfectly complimented the dishes to come.
Our first course looked like a simple pile of green leaves, but underneath lurked a delicious cod tartar (steamed for me) mixed with celery and herbs. Faroese Mahogany clam followed – a huge mollusk, and one of the longest living in the world, with a life span of up to 200 years. It was thinly sliced and served in a tasty green broth with pickled turnips. My next juice was a tangy, thick sea buckthorn, which is also very popular in Denmark. The course that followed was simple, yet incredibly delicious, and my favourite bite of the night: a huge langoustine, served on pine which was ignited and the smoke trapped inside its vessel to give it a light, smoky flavour. I ate it as slowly as possible to really savour every bite.
On the wall behind our table hung a painting of sea birds resting on a rocky shore; they are Fulmar, and they were our next course, sliced and served with beetroot, topped with a tasty glaze. The meat does not look like fowl at all, but red meat, though it has a fishy taste that indicates its origins. A dark, full elderberry and beetroot juice accompanied this dish.
Next, a palate cleanser: a small bowl of a refreshing cool lemon verbena broth with thyme oil. For our final savoury course, we were provided with a traditional Faroese knife to dig into our lamb dish. The Faroese lamb had a bit of a different flavour from New Zealand and other lamb I’ve had in the past. It was served with a spinach-like seaweed, grilled spring onion and a tasty glaze.
Finally, dessert: one that was created out of necessity. The ingredients for their original dessert idea never arrived from the Faroe Islands, so they worked with what they had: rhubarb, coffee, and beer, expertly assembled into a delicious finale to the meal. It was perfectly accompanied by my final juice of the evening, a delicate rhubarb-vanilla. Coffee and tea was served with góðarað, thin biscuits which are made in a special iron and have the taste of waffles flavoured with cardamom. As full as I was, I couldn’t stop eating these little treats.
It was a beautiful meal, one that transported us to the rugged Faroe Islands and gave us a strong sense of its natural beauty and traditions. The experience was wonderfully unique, the food and juices flavourful, and the service was impeccable. Sommelier Karine Visth not only provided and explained the local wines and beers, but was eager to answer any questions we had about not only our food and drink, but the Faroes as well. The KOKS experience of local, seasonal food and the glimpse into Faroese tradition has only further inspired me to return to the Faroe Islands one day.
KOKS will be in Copenhagen until April 30th, 2016.
Though I was invited to experience KOKS restaurant and its Faroese cuisine by Visit Faroe Islands, all opinions are my own.