Meet the national lunch dish and pride of Denmark:
Danes call it Smorrebrod (literally, buttered bread). Admittedly the concept is not exactly the pinnacle of culinary technique. And there´s nothing else to it than what you see in the picture; it is an open sandwich with combined toppings on rye bread. It’s for dishes like this and the Nordic fixation with potatoes and marinated herring, that the cuisine of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland has been historically disregarded as second-rate and dull.
But the times, my friend, they are a-changin’. Besides Noma and other luminaries, some of the world’s best restaurants are now in Copenhagen and Stockholm, and riding on the wave of their success there is a renewed impetus by smaller eateries to recover all the things that have been part of the traditional fare in Nordic countries, and some others that even their starving forefathers would not have dared to eat.
One good example subject of such renewed and proud look at local specialties is smorrebrod. And according to many Copenhageners, there is no better place to try it than Aamann’s. Both the restaurant and the take away are in Oster Farimagsgade, almost in front of the housing complex locally known as “The potato rows” (a few parallel streets of much coveted traditional houses close to downtown). Besides its CPH places, Aamann’s recently opened another restaurant in New York. Apparently is going great, which is no surprise for a place so honest about food.
Like other “new Nordic” cuisine restaurants, Aamann’s decoration is eclectic, with a big protagonism placed on retro Danish design chairs, handmade elements and flea market stuff shamelessly being the center of attention. The staff, invariably young, well trained, good looking (or sharp, at least) and casually dressed. Organic, local and unfiltered are common buzzwords in the menu, and a lot of attention is put into the ingredients, exactly as it should be.
You can eat lots of different dishes at this restaurant, but the smorrebrod is their thing. We went for the selection of the day: 1) Avocado with light mayo, cabbage and onion 2) Chicken salad with fennel and 3) Pork terrine with beetroot. The rye bread was tasty, with the right consistency (it is too chewy when fresh out of the oven, it needs to rest for a couple of days). The ingredients were all top notch and fresh; and I mean everything: ripe, tasty organically grown vegetables and herbs, perfect pickles, balanced salad and fatty, deep and complex terrine. In short: simple, filling goodness that leaves you with a satisfied smile. The two sets plus two elderflower organic sodas amounted to 400 DKK. Take that, restaurateurs of San Sebastian.
About the take away: unfortunately, when I visited the Aamann´s take away I was recovering from a flu and not exactly in my most acute gastronomic mode. But even with a numbed sense of taste I recall the smorrebrod being as good as it gets. That, along with a lovely selection of unfiltered organic locally brew beers and a very modest price makes it the uncontested alternative to any fast food option in the vicinity. If you want to take away some cents from the huge bonus of a fast food chain executive and give it to people that really deserve support, drop by the place. You will spend the same amount and eat real food instead of… well, why beating around the bush? GARBAGE. One day I will blog about my exploration of fast food in the US. Scary stuff.