Thinking back on it now, trying to pinpoint the exact moment of the Noma Mexico tasting menu when it became incontestably clear that we were in the hands of a culinary genius, I have settled on course number seven: “banana ceviche.”
For in theory, anyway, what could possibly be more mundane than a banana? Chances are good you cut your gums on them: it was more than likely the first example of solid food that your mother lobbed into your crib. If comfort food is defined as what you grew up with, nothing is more comfortably familiar and unchallenging than a banana. Or so I thought. Until chef Redzepi came along and got to work on one, sliced it up and scattered it artfully in a hand-crafted Mexican wooden bowl, doused it with a viscous vegetable oil infused with kelp, and scattered minced remnants of its sour orange juice-soaked, fire charred peel on top. And with those seemingly simple (but no doubt, fiendishly complex) moves, turned the familiar on its head – and rendered it aesthetically beautiful, texturally addictive, slippery and luscious in its mouthfeel, smoky, mildly citric, rich – and surprising. In short, he gave perfect expression to why it is that bananas usually seem so dull: because they’re not like this.
But eight courses later – yes, there were fifteen all told – we realised something else, even bigger and more impressive. Redzepi and his Noma Mexico team performed that same trick to varying degree with every course of the evening. Everything they served that seemed at first commonplace – from clams to pumpkin, octopus and suckling pig – actually tasted more of itself, and better, than any previous experience we could conjure. And then there was all that unfamiliar new flavour territory: piñuela, escamoles, the goo of an immature coconut. It was transporting. By the time they were done, even Tulum and the magical Yucatán jungle seemed more interesting, captivating, and beautiful.In short, it was a banana to remember – and the dinner of a lifetime.
For a look at the first three courses from the Noma Mexico dinner, click here.
Course 4: “Cold masa broth with lime and all the flowers of the moment”
Course 5: “Young Coconut and Caviar”
Course 6: “Tropical fruit and chile de árbol”
Course 7: “Banana Ceviche”
Course 8: “Chaya taco with fresh Bahia Falsa oyster”
Course 9: “Whole grilled pumpkin”
Course 10: “Tostada with escamoles” (Yup, Mexican caviar – ant larvae)
Course 11: “Just cooked octopus with ‘dzikilpak'”
Course 12: “Cerdo Pelón and freshly milled corn from Yaxunah”
Course 13: “Rosio’s mole with dried scallops and grilled hoja santa”
Course 14: “Dessert of grilled avocado and mamey seeds”
Course 15: “Chocolate ice cream from native Jaguar cacao and Mixe chile”