“Where exactly are we going?” was a thought that passed through my mind and I am certain that of my dinner party. We were running five minutes behind schedule and without the incredible Darragh waiting on the curb with a smile and wave that could lift the spirits of any weary traveler, we would never have found our way. The restaurant in question was Alouette.
Opened in June, 2018, it is new to Copenhagen and certainly new to a Phoenician, like me. My sister, a very in-the-know foodie on the Danish food scene, insisted (without any argument from our end) that we celebrate her birthday at Alouette and exactly as described, we met our server on the curb.
One of the head chef’s and owners, Nick, greeted us alongside Darragh with a smile that spread from cheek to cheek and a hug that warmed us each, despite our already wool jacket enveloped bodies.
After a walk through a suspicious ally and a ride up a very suspect but memorable industrial elevator, Darragh opened the doors to an exceptionally unexpected dining room that literally took my breath away.
Previously occupied by a squatter (yes, a squatter), the property overlooks a courtyard with its windowed walls and a kitchen at our finger tips where we could watch the chefs’ every move. Our coats were whisked away and our table grabbed us as if to say “you’re never going to want to leave.” In fact, writing this very piece, makes me wonder, how did I get to this couch at my sister’s and Lasse’s apartment? How did I manage to leave?
Darragh brought us a glass of champagne for which he explained its history and flavor profile (he’s good at that).
We toasted to Helen and to all of us being together. The waitress, Nanna, a charming young lady, took our order of the five-course menu with matched wines. I highly recommend you do the same when you inevitably dine at Alouette.
First thing to land at our table was a color combination of foods that loved the natural light basking on them.
Protected by its shell, the pineapple ground cherries weren’t safe for long. We were advised to eat them first. Fresh, untouched, it was the ideal burst of flavor to prepare us for its plate mate. Baby corn, fried tempura style, and resting atop a butter, cheese, and corn spread custard (yes, I absolutely wiped my finger across the plate to ensure every last morsel was consumed) waited patiently to the side.
As we continued, small pancakes topped with the meat of a Guinea hen’s thigh and pickled cabbage maneuvered their way into the center of our table and ever so gently into our mouths, all in one easy swoop.
The bread. That warm, perfectly salted, sweet, flaky bread. For my sister and I, it was nostalgic. Its flavoring brought us back to New England where dinner rolls are serious business. We gobbled them up with smiles and good conversation about what was so familiar for us. Then we tasted the butter. It went too quickly for a shot without spoon marks, but you wouldn’t blame us one you learned it was made with apple and smoked bacon fat. Yes, smoked. bacon. fat. Did the birthday girl take a spoonful and eat it plain. Why yes she did, proudly.
What I love about dining in Europe is the feeling of not being rushed. I miss it every time I go out to eat in the U.S. It is so often that your partner’s plate is cleared away before you, yourself, are done or that the bill hits the table as soon as you order dessert. You’ll find none of that at Alouette. Conversation and enjoying the moments are an equal part of the adventure, and when the adventure brings you a bowl of pureed squash topped with caviar, you smile and stop talking immediately. There is food to be eaten!
I wish I’d been given a trough of the next dish. The embered pumpkin is beyond smooth and the salty snap of the cold caviar, nestled comfortably within the warm and safe confines of the squash and mulberry, was what made this dish my favorite of the evening.
We were given a number of wines throughout the evening, and while I’m usually not a sparkling rosé fan, this bottle needed its own photo shoot. For starters, its packaging is perfection, and its taste was crisp, delicately, and most importantly for me, not too sweet.
You either love tartar or it scares you. Don’t be scared. Here, the chefs know what they’re doing and your tastebuds will follow suit. Their meat comes from an aged dairy cow, rather than the traditional cow that is raised for the sole purpose of its meat. They serve their tartar with shiso (in the same family as mint), and broccoli…my mouth is watering.
Next, a fish dish of turbot. The turbot, while hugged by a bone sauce with lemon oil, was browned and crisp and everything you want a piece of fish to be.
For our last savory dish, we received lamb with chanterelles and new cabbage. Full disclosure, I don’t like lamb. Full disclosure, I now love lamb. This dish was so complex and fabulous that it made for great discussion at the dinner table, so much so that we eventually had to get one of the chefs back to our table to tell us more.
I watched with curiosity as Andrew introduced to us our dessert, plumwood smoked parfait, each made from a single plum. The fellow owner and head chef, he shared with us his passion and utter love of Alouette’s food. We asked him questions and he entertained them with answers that far surpassed our expectations. I’d watched his precision throughout the evening and was ecstatic when he explained what made their final savory dish so unbelievably delectable and unforgettable. We had argued over whether it was miso, mushroom, or saki. With Andrew’s gentle and precise explanation, we all shared a smile and gratification with his answer.
After hugs all around from the waiters and chefs, Andrew led us down in the now not-so-suspicious elevator, full with the the 8:30 seating.
I did my best to express my sincere appreciation for their food and I hope that this post does it justice. I’ve been to Copenhagen a handful of times and of all the incredible restaurants my sister has taken me to, Alouette has surpassed them all in taste, ambiance, awe, and nostalgia. Please, if you are in the city or come for a visit, do yourself a favor and make new friends with Darragh, Nanna, Nick, and Andrew. You won’t forget them and you certainly won’t forget their food. After all, what is a complete food and dining experience without a plethora of tastes and memories that you can’t stop thinking about?