Feb 18, 2015

ANA x Noma Japan

They say it doesn't snow very often in Tokyo. But on the day of our lunch at Noma at the Mandarin Oriental, it was coming down hard and the view from the 37th floor was all that much more magical. I'm among this lucky group of diners thanks to the partnership between ANA and Noma and the larger ANA By Design campaign. It's hard to write about Noma (you know, the No. 1 restaurant in the world) in a way that doesn't feel trite, and having not been to Noma Copenhagen, I'm lacking a bit of context for this meal. But what I can say for certain is that I've never had so many unfamiliar tastes and textures in a single meal as I had with this one. Every bite was a surprise and a learning experience. Maybe that says more about my inexperienced palate (which I didn't realize was so inexperienced until this meal) than it does about Rene Redzepi's food; but in any case, when your meal starts off with a freshly-killed Hokkaido shrimp jumping off your plate onto the floor, there's a high level of novelty involved.




"This one is a little less athletic," the server jokes as she puts down a new shrimp for me. Luckily, I had no more runaway dishes for the rest of the meal. If I were to write about every course, this would quickly become a dissertation, so I'll only point out a few highlights (though, that's a bit hard when everything feels like a highlight). Even the first dish, the unripe strawberries with sake lees, comes with this great story of how Rene and Lars (head of R&D) had to negotiate for 7 hours with this passionate strawberry producer who refused to sell his white strawberries because he spent his whole life perfecting his red strawberries. Later in a conversation with Rene, he notes how people here [in Japan] are reaching for the sublime and they respect it so tremendously.





The main inspiration for how they organized the flavors of the menu was based on shōjin ryōri, or traditional temple cuisine. There is a focus on vegetables, which is always welcome in a long tasting like this. Some of my favorite dishes included the tofu steamed with wild walnuts, the pumpkin with cherry wood oil and salted cherry blossoms, and a turnip cooked in shiitake mushrooms with roasted yeast broth. Another surprising dish was the aerated scallop (that looked nothing that like scallops I've known and had) which was dried for two days and served with beech nuts and kelp. Talk about umami. Our rice dish (traditional at the end of kaiseki) came in the unexpected form of dessert: rice crisps with sake ice cream.




We had a chance to chat with Rene during a little tour of the kitchen (where we watched ants being cut into thirds). We talk about how easy it is to fall in love with Tokyo, how the best things are here but it's not too pretty and has a gritty undercurrent; how everything has meaning here and how it's been amazing to be part of a culture like that; how the concept of Omotenashi - an inner desire to perform an altruistic task but never expect anything back - is so prevalent in everything here .





Fueled to go back to work [in Copenhagen], Rene says he can't see them not doing something like this again – "It was a really a life experience that makes not only our restaurant better, but us happier."

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with ANA - All Nippon Airways. All opinions expressed in the post are my own and not those of ANA.

30 comments :

  1. What an amazing experience! The food looks incredible, as does the beautiful space! May I ask which camera/lens you used for these photos Alice? Hope you don't mind my asking, and hope you are well and staying warm!

    xx
    CC

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    1. 90% of these photos are on iPhone 6+! The one of the empty table and chairs and the one of Rene and Lars at the table were taken with the Sony a7r and 35mm lens.

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  2. Absolutely stunning pictures, Alice. Thank you for sharing 'best in the world' experience.

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  3. Wow! Would love to dine in Noma one day! What an incredible experience!

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  4. Alice! Love your photos and blog. Was wondering if there is a specific program on iPhone 6 you like to use. I use pro camera but was wondering if there was a another you recommend.

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    1. Hi Kristen! I generally just use the regular camera app for taking photos. I use Cortex cam in low-light and once in a while I use Camera+ so I can have better control over the exposure/focus. Hope that helps!

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  5. Wow! That looks divine! I love all the plates and bowls they use for their food too!

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  6. I absolutely LOVE your photos! The quality is always exceptional and they always have the perfect amount of light! Those dishes look amazing!
    xo,
    Mindy | Blonde Nouveau

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  7. Hello Alice! I've dined at Noma Copenhagen and am happy to read (and see) a bit of the Tokyo experience. It's so different, yet Rene's talent clearly shines in both. I've always thought of Japan as the Denmark of Asia, and vice versa of Copenhagen as the Tokyo of Europe. Artful, clean, exquisitely intentional. I mean those ants! Projects like these always make me crave a book of your work on my coffee table. Congratulations again on this partnership. Well done and well deserved.

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  8. What a great lunch experience to be part of. And lovely photos to boot, as always. Were you hesitant at all when eating your shrimp with ants? Hehe. Anyway, great photography as always.

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    1. Haha I admit my heart skipped a beat when the shrimp jumped off, but overall I was into trying the ants!

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  9. Everything looks so well put together, really stunning, it must have been quite an experience !

    xx, Charlie.
    http://charlieleschroniques.blogspot.com/

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  10. Healthy Eating Blogs PdxVegan is a choice, a vision, a lifestyle. We are changing how we eat out from the earth, in a responsible and sustainable way that benefits our health. This section is all about healthy lifestyle tips and advice from a dietary point of view. Healthy eating and an active lifestyle are proven methods to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

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  11. Love these photo's, so gorgeous!

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  12. Oh my goodness these images are really smashing!! and what a beautiful place!

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  13. The food photos are amazing, they're so crisp and the lighting's beautiful :)

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  14. Your work is definitely sweet! Keep on moving! :)

    http://interiordesign-paris.com/

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  15. Simply breathtaking photos, Alice. Everything looks mouthwatering and incredible.

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  16. Great article with great photos. Love to read more of 'lingerupon.
    We at NLStudio love that

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  17. Alice you are my inspiration. Wonderful photos!

    http://golovelife.blogspot.com

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  18. hope you don't mind my asking, but what is it that you do that allows you to have a partnership with ANA?

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    1. Well I'm a photographer and a story-teller. I don't love describing myself as an 'influencer' but I guess you could say that too.

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