Honest Cooking paid New Nordic Chef Thorsten Schmidt and his wife Rikke Malling a visit this June to sample the spring summer menu at the recently moved Malling & Schmidt in Aarhus, Denmark.
By Kalle Bergman
When Malling & Schmidt first opened in Aarhus, Denmark back in 2005 they did it in humble surroundings. A small restaurant in the centre of the city that could only cater to a very limited amount of diners every night. But with the smashing success of the original restaurant, the establishment has now moved to a grander venue – a restored patrician villa in the outskirts of the city is the new domicile for this Jutland branch of the New Nordic movement. Honest Cooking paid Chef Thorsten Schmidt and his wife Rikke Malling a visit this June to sample the spring summer menu at the recently re-opened Malling & Schmidt in Aarhus, Denmark.
Entering Malling & Schmidt, a large open kitchen dominates the room and from most parts of the dining area guests have a good view of Thorsten and his small kitchen staff working the plates. The interior is very minimalistic. A few ultra clean design items scattered around the lounge and dining room. Light wooden notes, non-matching water glasses, and a knitted napkin is what meets you at the table. It is clear what they are looking to achieve with this mix of new and old – a down to earth quirkiness to break up the inherit stiffness of the house. Where the imposing grandness of the building commands an exclusive corporate feel – the small details tell us that Thorsten and Rikke are anything but stuck up. It works quite well, but I’d like to see even more personality in the interior – the place is so very much about the heart and soul of the owners. Have they been forced to compromise on interior design to cater to the local business diners? Maybe. But luckily, there is no compromise in the food.
Undoubtedly Thorsten Schmidt is one of the most talented Chefs of the New Nordic movement. And as a part of the Nordic Food Lab, you can certainly see that his culinary philosophy is inspired by the other big names in the region. But Thorsten Schmidt is absolutely no Redzepi clone. He has his own way of approaching the Nordic flora and fauna, and his style of cooking is more down to earth and romantic than his famous Copenhagen colleague.
The spring / summer tasting menu starts with a few snacks in the lounge. Smoked potato chips, quails egg nest and smoked strawberries. Visually effective, tasty, not too demanding. It’s not “blow me away” snacks – but they’re fun, interesting and a good indication of what’s to come.
Green asparagus from Samsø with cottage cheese, smoked mackerel, wild garlic and green grass oil kicks off the evening, and it does it in a very elegant manner. The thinly sliced asparagus and wild garlic sits on top of a small piece of smoked mackerel swimming in a bubbly pool of asparagus foam. A beautiful combination, velvety smooth with the fatty smoked flavors of the mackerel in perfect harmony with the freshness of the asparagus. The final touch with the grass infused oil also adds a suprising summer note to the dish.
Another hugely successful appetizer follows. A single raw langoustine tail served with local flowers and herbs, herbal broth and an unripe gooseberry lobster sauce. The presentation is absolutely gorgeous. The buttery sweetness of the langoustine with underlying earth tones and minerals pairs perfectly with the powerful sauce and the acidity of the gooseberries. It is one of those magical “ohhh and ahhh” moments all around the table.
The dinner continues in the spirit of fresh and vibrant. Even the heavier dishes are light, almost feminine in their touch. Like the new potatoes and lovage with vintage Svendbo cheese and hay smoked egg yolk. It is truly a testimony to the talent of Thorsten Schmidt that he can lift such a rustic and simple dish into an almost perfect balance between nostalgia and elegance. It is fine dining comfort food, stunningly combined with smoke, sweetness, richness and earthiness. Applauds.
Among the desserts, the ice cream made from unripe corn, ground fresh wild herbs and rosehip flower stands out. The presentation is excellent, each guest is given a mortar filled with herbs and flowers – and then its up to us to grind our own herbs to the desired consistency, before the ice cream is added to it. And what a wonderful dish. The herbs and flowers are fresh and fiery, and then the corn ice cream – thick, buttery and with that distinctive corn flavor. It is an unexpected match. Absolutely brilliant.
The other dishes range from very good to utterly amazing, with the slight exception of the turbot with peas and mint, which fell a little outside the Nordic realm in my book. The rest of the menu is exhilarating.
Thorsten Schmidt’s philosophy is extremely present in all the dishes, perfectly mirroring what he wants to achieve at Malling & Schmidt. A merger between old and new, respect for traditions, but with an attentive eye on the horizon. Lightness, herbs (Thorsten Schmidt takes almost daily trips through the forests of Aarhus hunting for things that grow naturally in the area – and he has a huge botanical garden in the outskirts of the city) and a very interesting romantic touch. Thorsten is clearly New Nordic, but he is his own take on it. I don’t see the ghost of René Redzepi anywhere. The vision of Thorsten Schmidt is very personal, and that bodes well for the future development of Nordic food.
The wine pairings accompanying the menu are focused on small European producers, and this is the only part where our dinner stumbles a little bit. The wines are chilled to 10°C on our visit, and that’s simply way too low for a brisk Scandinavian summer night. The wines won’t gain temperature fast enough for them to open up before the food is served – so I’d suggest Thorsten to take a second look at the wine cellar and adjust it to the climate he operates in. It is a flaw, but considering the quality of the food and the fact that M&S has only been open in their new location for two months – I’ll put it on the “opening glitches” account. Surely this will be corrected.
All in all, Thorsten Schmidt presents one of the most exciting and individual takes on New Nordic cuisine in the region, and I’m glad to see that there is room for true invention and creativity outside of Copenhagen. He lands a solid 5 stars (out of 6), and the last star is definitely within his reach if he manages to sort out the issues with wine temperature.
Malling & Schmidt
Menu price: 5 Courses – 695 dkk, 8 Courses – 995 dkk (excluding wines)
www.mallingschmidt.dk – firstname.lastname@example.org
+45 8617 7088
Open Wed-Sat 6pm-12am
Kalle Bergman is a food writer and media entrepreneur who is the founder of Honest Cooking. As a food writer, his writing has been regularly featured in publications like Gourmet, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and Serious Eats. He is obsessed with simple food, more often than not from his native Scandinavia.