Those who know me well, know that I'm crazy in love with all things Nordic. Naturally, this includes food. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon Restaurant Dansk, the restaurant at Denmark House, the Danish Club of Melbourne!
Most people associate "Nordic cuisine" with meat and seafood - herring, meatballs, cod, etc. Indeed, that's the sort of produce the region has been renowned for since as long as we can remember, and such ingredients dominate Nordic cooking into the 21st century. However, as the Restaurant Dansk kitchen ably proves, vegetarian food cooked according to Nordic culinary principles is an experience in itself. (See the Manifesto for the New Nordic Kitchen here: http://www.clausmeyer.dk/en/the_new_nordic_cuisine_/manifesto_.html)
I dined at Restaurant Dansk twice this past summer, during which it was serving a four-course tasting menu entitled "Taste of Dansk" for $50 - and to my delight, a vegetarian version was available alongside the meat version! As such, it's a good spot for vegetarians dining alongside omnivore friends.
My dining experience kicked off with dark rye bread, a Danish favourite, served in a lovely silver bowl. It was delicious - ever so slightly sweet and sour - just like any I've tried in Scandinavia. The bread was refilled appropriately throughout the meal.
First course was a thoroughly modern take on Danish smørrebrød: topped with curry, green apple and shallots. I liked how the curry was done; it was a fresh, light take on curry as we know it, made with mini macaroni pieces. A good, palate-cleansing start to the meal.
Second course was larger, showcasing two varying tastes. To the left is cucumber with peas, rye crisps and a selection of pickles on top. On the right, eggs royale topped with a feta and tomato salad. This plate was a nice display of contrasting tastes and textures between the "bitier" cucumber combination and the smooth, creamy egg dish.
Third course also consisted of two different items, and was the heartiest course. Where to start! On one side I was treated to three types of heirloom baby carrots mingled with brioche and almond slices; on the other, a perfect sweet potato puree with tomatoes, onion crisps and sweet potato pieces. All I can say is that the flavours all balanced perfectly to my liking! I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to sample those beautiful heirloom carrots; the purple one was my favourite, with its sweet, rich flavour.
Finally, dessert arrived: Rødgrød (redberry) soup with brioche and creme fraiche. Berry soup is a favourite in the Nordic region - and why not, when all kinds of berries grow free and wild in the forests! I often long for those cartons of berry soup one can readily buy in Nordic supermarkets. Anyway, Restaurant Dansk serves up a pretty elegant version of this Nordic classic. If anything, its fine texture was more "fine dining" than the slightly thicker, homelier version sold in the supermarkets over there which I'm used to - I find both enjoyable in their own ways. It depends on your own tastes. Side note: the waitress brought the plated brioche and creme fraiche to our table before pouring the soup over it. That prevents the brioche from getting the least soggy while waiting to be served. Fantastic attention to detail!
Beautiful food served in a beautiful setting, and with real thought given to vegetarian diners - Restaurant Dansk has my highest recommendation. Before you even get to the food, it's worth it for the chance to admire the lovely Danish furnishings, fittings and servingware alone!
Having done a dining review, I should also briefly note that the bar at Denmark House is now one of my favourite drinking spots in Melbourne. Everyone I've brought here has really enjoyed it too. Decked out with stunning Danish furniture, serving up Danish ciders and craft beers...you will literally think you're sitting in a friend's loungeroom in Copenhagen. It's where I go when I find myself longing for Europe (as I regularly do)!
**UPDATE 7/1/14: I wanted to add a few comments, having been back to Restaurant Dansk several times since I wrote this review. They now have less for vegetarians on the printed menu, but I've found that they are always more than happy to make something off the menu on request, and whatever they whip up is always thoughtfully done. Also, Dansk now does something called "More Mondays" from 12 to 2pm on Mondays. For just $19 all-you-can-eat, you are treated to a beautiful spread of smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches like the one in my first photo) and authentic Danish sweet pastries. Meateaters will love the smørrebrød on the table, with a great variety of toppings including shrimp, beef and herring. If you're vegetarian, never fear: once again, I've found that even on More Mondays, the kitchen is happy to make you some to order, and you can just keep asking for more since it's all-you-can-eat.
Vegetarian Friendliness: 8/10
Price Range: $$$
Restaurant Dansk @ Denmark House
3/428 Little Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
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