Sonja Ocampo Gives Us the Mouthwatering Play-by-Play of Her Noma Tokyo ExperienceJanuary 27, 2020
Last January, René Redzepi relocated his 50-person staff to Mandarin Oriental Tokyo where he decided to do a Noma Pop-Up from January 9-31, 2015. During these short 5 weeks, over 3,500 guests were served dishes from Redzepi’s creative mind. The overwhelming response had the Noma Copenhagen team extend their stay for a couple more weeks, churning out plates of some of the finest, Michelin-praised food out of the bustling kitchen. The hands that have made Noma Copenhagen San Pellegrino’s #1 restaurant, interacted with Japanese ingredients with as much intimacy and care as they would with their own local forage.
Our good friend Sonja Ocampo of Cupcakes by Sonja was one of the few lucky ones who were able to experience such a mind-blowing gustatory treat. To her, it wasn’t just the taste alone, but an engagement of all five senses, working together in seamless harmony. She takes that Noma Tokyo experience with her and shares it with us on Pepper.ph today. To say it was a very unforgettable one is definitely a huge understatement.
“The amuse bouche was so clean, light, and refreshing—a wonderful balance of acidity and sweetness that got our palates ready for the next courses. It matched exquisitely well with the glass of Sonate No.9 2010 Fleury Champagne it was paired with.
The Botan Ebi was the most exciting dish of the night! The shrimp was literally jumping at our fingers as we bit into it! It had this incredible texture and sweetness that paired nicely with the delicate citrus flavor coming from the ants.”
“An explosion of flavors, all in one bite! It was perfectly balanced with all the right amounts of spicy, sour, savory, and sweet notes. Adding the seaweed oil was just a stroke of genius as it gave it this sensational umami flavor.”
“Course 3 was just…wow. This dish was insanely good—the ice cold ankimo just melts in your mouth! This is easily one of the best things I have ever had at a restaurant. It had this creamy, buttery flavor that was just outstanding in contrast to the crispy, warm texture of the toast. It was probably my favorite bite of the whole meal.
I love how this cuttlefish ‘noodle’ dish was an homage to Japan’s udon. I really liked the broth’s refreshing, floral taste but compared to the ridiculous goodness of everything else on the menu, this dish ended up as our least favorite.”
“I had this dish in Noma Copenhagen but it was served then with a sardine-like fish spearing right through the center. I loved that dish so much so I was happy to see it again here. This tasted like a Danish version of a takoyaki—really crisp on the surface, then light and fluffy on the inside.”
“The uni on top was so sweet and creamy. And then the wild kiwi paste had this beautiful and long lasting acidity. All together, they made one insane bite. This for me embodied the whole New Nordic x Japan theme! I really loved the textures of the seventh course! The crunchiness of the walnuts worked so well with the silkiness of the tofu. Then the parsley and yuzu sauce added a nice, refreshing note to it. But what made this dish really stand out was when we took a few sips of the unfiltered sake from the tasting. That just took this dish to whole other level.”
“The scallop’s texture was like a spongy cotton candy! It felt light as air and it was just bursting with intense scallop umami flavor. The kelp seaweed oil also added another dimension and depth of flavor. So good.
I thought this ninth course was quite lovely. It was mellow and yet you know it had all these complex flavors at play. I found it comforting and well balanced. This plate felt like spring and is an excellent tribute to the country’s revered sakura season!”
“The garlic flower was a beautiful edible origami art form—I thought this was the most original and visually stunning dish of the night. You can tell a lot of meticulous work went into this, which really spoke to me about how Japanese food is not just about flavors but is also an art in itself. It tasted like a licorice fruit roll up candy with sweet subtle garlic flavors.”
“A winter vegetable medley in an earthy peanut milk broth. I found this to be quite starch heavy, but I did enjoy the variety of textures coming from each vegetable and how they all came together inside my mouth.”
“Wild duck caught in nets then aged for 21 days went into the twelfth course! It was perfectly cooked to medium rare and was so flavorful and clean. The sauce made with mastubusu berries provided good tartness and contrast.”
“The turnip was very tender and the warm broth had this delightful acidic flavor that really brightened up the dish. It really paired nicely with the duck.”
“Loved how the rice course is served as a dessert. This dish has such a fun combination of textures and temperatures, with the smooth creaminess of the rice pudding and the cold temperature of the sake ice cream contrasting with the crispy textures of the rice wafers and a final lasting kick of from the yuzu and sorrel juice—they just all came together deliciously. I absolutely love everything about this dessert.”
“This was a comforting, homey dessert. I loved the tartness of the wild kiwi sauce, as it completely lightened that intense sweetness coming from the caramelized sweet potatoes.”
“The landscape of this dish reminds me of the cep and moss starter I had in Copenhagen. And in many ways, this dish symbolizes to me what Noma has brought to this world and how it has ultimately challenged the way we look at food. It’s just fitting that the final act inevitably ends in Copenhagen. This was nice and sweet, the perfect ending to this outstanding meal.”
“We talked to him for about 20 minutes about anything and everything we had ever wanted to ask him. He shared with us his favorite eats in Tokyo and he had expressed his affinity for us Filipinos. But mostly, he shared his thoughts about this incredible challenge that he and his team have taken on. Really so inspiring to learn from such a brilliant man!”
“My kilig moment of the night…Rene holding our cupcake J He was so thrilled and grateful about it. He was showing it off to the rest of his team, and they all got so excited. Such a special night, truly unforgettable!”