What were you doing up before dawn Monday? If you are a hard-core restaurant fanatic, the kind who follows Massimo Bottura on Twitter and plans her vacations around the rankings of the San Pellegrino World's Best 50 Restaurants awards, you were probably trying to snag a table for Noma's pop-up at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo next January.
Seats at Noma's harborside Copenhagen dining room are already nearly impossible to obtain. In those World's Best awards, Noma has been voted the top restaurant three out of the last four years, and its chef Rene Redzepi is by many accounts the most influential in the world at the moment. One might imagine that the demand for tables for Noma's brief Tokyo residency, Jan. 9-31 would be even fiercer. Tokyo is the foodiest city on the planet, with four times as many Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris, and the food world is waiting to see just what Redzepi might have in mind.
Will Redzepi be able to perform the same sort of narrative miracles with the foraged brackens, herbs and sea plants of Japan that he does with Danish flora? Will his arrangements reflect the season with the surgical precision of a traditional kaiseki menu, or will he forge his own aesthetic? Will the cooking express the intensity of Tokyo's built environment, or will it concentrate on the wild nature at its fringes? Will fans of the Copenhagen restaurant be puzzled, elated, or irate? I can't wait to find out.