When someone brings up the hottest gourmet, gastronomic foodie scenes in the world, places like Paris, San Francisco, or Madrid come to mind. But ever since Noma, in Copenhagen, was named best restaurant in the world in 2010 (and several times after that), the focus has moved north. And even farther north than Scandinavia is Nuuk, Greenland, which has two world-class gastronome restaurants in a town that has a population of 17,000 people.
There is Nipisa, on the edge of the Labrador Bay, and Sarfalik, located in the Hotel Hans Egede — the four-star hotel of Greenland (yes, there is one). The chefs at both are Danish, but Bjorn Johanssen, the chef at Sarfalik, is the new Wylie Dufresne (aka molecular gastronomy genius) of the Arctic.
Bjorn Johanssen, hard at work.
Luckily, while I was snowed in in Greenland, I stayed at the Hotel Hans Egede and got to eat at Sarfalik several nights, sampling dishes made with local meats.
“In Greenland it’s OK to hunt whale and seal,” Johanssen explained. “We all hunt here, and we use everything on the animal.” The local meat is also cheaper. As expected, not much grows in Greenland, and despite a few greenhouses in the southern part of the country, most fresh vegetables have to be shipped or flown in at considerable cost.
The first of nine courses … it was a long night.
Johanssen has a nine-course tasting menu — which combines Arctic fowl, duck, muskox, lumpfish, lumpfish roe, seal, whale, and whale skin — some served with something called “hot shell foam” yogurt, shaved ice, and frozen berries. Every now and then there will be polar bear meat (you read that right), but “it’s not so tasty,” Johanssen said.
About to dig in to some serious yumminess.
Final verdict: Seal, meh. Whale — tasty! Whale skin: tough and gummy. Muskox: delicious — like lamb and beef, but better! If you get the chance, eat it. Greenland, the cuisine capital? Who knew?