December 17, 2018
Located behind where Noma used to be, and inaugurated on 27 July 2016, 108 is an urban restaurant inspired by the inquisitive mind of René Redzepi. At the helm, an orchestra conductor with a rare talent; Kristian Baumann – born in Seoul 31 years ago, and adopted by a Danish couple – entered the kitchens of the Noma empire as an apprentice when very young, soaking in the naturalist philosophy of his mentor with a speed only the gifted can achieve.
A milestone in his career was being behind the original idea for Relæ, a sustainable project created by another Redzepi student, the award-winning Sicilian chef Christian Puglisi, and where Baumann worked for three years. The 108 triangle is completed by Thomas Østergaard and Jacob Møller, a duo whose ideas ensure that the cogs of the apparatus run smoothly and in line with its original objectives.
It is a cuisine where wild nature reveals itself with brazen effervescence; the fruit of meticulous work, remarkable chromatic elegance is achieved in each construction, not merely as a stylistic exercise but to enhance the sensory stimuli. Layered flavours that unfold on the palate can be found in electrifying dishes, such as Pumpkin slices seasoned with pine shoots and goat’s cheese sauce, or Bleak roe marinated in rosehip oil, seaweed and coriander flowers. Not to be missed is the unusual sweet section with captivating desserts, such as a Sorbet of wild black currants with hazelnut milk, and a Kombu-seaweed ice cream with caviar. Delicate compositions where silky textures play a key role to shake diners with jolts of umami and offer a level of hedonism that is out of control.
Baumann’s importance as a cook is testified by the utmost care he applies to his use of herbs and the imaginative special effects – bordering on audaciousness – that he is able to unfold. ‘Anything is possible. Keep believing in yourself and with hard work and discipline you can achieve your goals. Above all, make sure you do something that makes you happy,’ says the cook enthusiastically. And yes, hyperbole aside, 108 is a place reserved for those who believe that dreams can acquire the status of prophetic truth.
By Federico Regalado