Christian Puglisi was one of our favorite speakers at the MAD symposium. The former elBulli and noma chef spoke of the journey he took in opening his first restaurant, Relae. Located in a-then shady-and-now-trendy part of Copenhagen, Puglisi talked about how his initial aims were to go against the grain of the fine dining establishment. He would serve the highest quality food at the most affordable possible price by taking away all extraneous costs, not related to producing great food. In doing so, he hoped to make a Michelin-calibur meal accessible to the masses.
at Relae they take the concept of the open kitchen and really run with it. The dining room floor and the kitchen floor are one and the same
Julian: So much of what Puglisi spoke of rang true for us. Serving great wines unpretentiously, taking the fuss away from fine dining, creating a small and intimate restaurant setting, decidedly setting up shop in a questionable part of town in the hopes of reviving a neighborhood–all these ideals are what inspire us. So we were both stoked for our reservation at Relae.
great idea! putting the table setting in a drawer at each seat
Jesse: But alas, our expectations were very high, and we felt like the meal did not live up to the talk. The neighborhood had indeed made the switch to trendy. People were excited to be there, Christian was serving people himself, and the somm was super pumped on natural wines. But, the central goals that Christian claimed during his talk, just didn’t seem apparent in the restaurant.
Julian: That may have been because in the last part of his talk he actually spoke about how he has grown up and matured, ditching the grungey-for-the-sake-of-it mentality and embracing a more refined dining experience. That’s all good, I guess. But what disappointed me about Relae was the fact that I felt ripped off. Especially since part of Relae’s goal is to be economically approachable. The meal was four courses. The first course was new onions with nasturtium and buttermilk. They were really good, and from a cook’s perspective, it was definitely a complex preparation. But there were literally nine tiny onions…I don’t know what you call them…pouches? Anyway, you can serve that in the 28 courser at noma, but as one of four courses? I don’t know.
cool presentation. But, like, 10 calories
Jesse: Thank goodness for the bread. The bread was one of my favorite parts of the meal actually. A little round of warm, moist, homemade sourdough (they make all their bread in their prep kitchen across the street), with a crust that had the perfect crunch without raking up the top of your mouth–and paired with some quality olive oil. Actually, Danish bread has arguably been on par, possibly better, than the French bread we’ve had. And I wish I could remember Danish words better, because I’ve been loving their pastries. The pork dish–supposedly the best pork in Denmark (and they’re BIG on pork, think 5.5 million people and 29 million pigs)– was delicious, but they gave us 3 tiny slices, a quarter of which were unchewable cartilage. The sprouted and fried grains on top gave the dish a great, unique texture.
main course on the vegetarian menu
Julian: Yeah, I mean, the pork was really high-quality and unique. But again, I saw dishes go out at the French Laundry with considerably more meat than that, during 16 course meals. But I’ve harped on that enough. I think my favorite dish of the meal was the dessert. It was a chanterelle mousse with an apple granita and crunchy dried mushrooms on top. Paired with a crisp cider, this was quite good. I’ve never had nor thought of having a mushroom dessert. It worked really well. But probably not as well as the shit heads next to us thought it was.
Jesse: Oh man, we have to mention this because it is a critical and totally uncontrollable–for the restaurant, that is–element of dining. Guests who sit beside you, or even a couple seats away from you, in small intimate restaurant like Relae, can completely make or break your experience. These people, unfortunately American, were painful to listen to. Undoubtedly the most shameless, public, masturbatory (they were dual wielding too) contest of food descriptions I’ve ever heard. Ah! Please, never let us sound like that. I don’t want to linger on these two exemplary food douches too long, but to give you an idea: at one point in the meal, the heftier and more loud and annoying of the two took the time to put his bowl to his lips, finish the last of his dish and loudly clang his spoon upon the bottom to scrap invisible scraps off the bottom, and continued doing this, searching the room for Christian (the chef), then waiting for Christian to walk by and see him slurping at the dregs of nothing. Shame on them, giving a bad name to foodies everywhere.
Julian: Nice rant. And well-deserved. This definitely clouded our opinion of Relae, making the experience as a whole unenjoyable. Walking out, having dropped $115, not quite full, I was a bit pissed and unsatisfied. But it’s all a learning experience.