At Pläj, New Nordic Cuisine Finally Comes to San Francisco
There was a time last year when it seemed like you couldn't pick up a magazine without reading a gushing description of Noma, Copenhagen's temple to New Nordic cuisine, or its chef, Rene Redzepi. Like El Bulli before it, Noma became the kind of restaurant that people put a visit to on their bucket lists along with the Taj Mahal and Grand Canyon, and the press coverage got so saturated for a while that Eater started tracking what they dubbed the "I Foraged With Rene Redzepi Piece."
The New Nordic frenzy has since cooled to a low simmer on the national scene, but it's just heating up in San Francisco. It's the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review on Pläj, the new Scandinavian restaurant in Hayes Valley that fuses New Nordic and California cuisines. With it and Bar Tartine's new sandwich shop, which offers a menu of open-faced Danish smørrebrød sandwiches, we could be in the early stages of a New Nordic invasion.
New Nordic is more than just a cuisine; it's a movement. I touch briefly on its basic tenets of "purity, simplicity, and freshness" in the review, but there's much, much more if you're interested. A few days ago an anthropologist at the Nordic Food Lab (a think tank run by Redzepi and his Noma co-founder Claus Meyer) posted a 10,000-word dissertation on the movement entitled Creating Terroir: An Anthropological Perspective on New Nordic Cuisine as an Expression of Nordic Identity. (Sample sentence: "The first chapter will explore Nordic terroir as an expression of the 'imagined community' of 'the Nordic' by looking at the formation of the modern Scandinavian nation-states, and particularly on the notions of a Nordic folk [people] and the Nordic landscape.")
If you're in the mood for something lighter, read the guidelines for New Nordic cuisine that the Nordic Council of Minsters put together, based on a 2004 manifesto by Redzepi, Meyer, and others. It gives a great overview, with the added benefit of pretty pictures of Scandinavia and its food.