A Danish double | Koan and Kadeau, Copenhagen


Kristian Baumann and Nicolai Nørregaard are bringing unique perspectives to their respective restaurants on the fringes of Copenhagen. David J Constable dines at both

A Danish double | Koan and Kadeau, Copenhagen

Normally I would dine and spill ink over a single chef and restaurant, but back-to-back meals in Copenhagen recently have forced me to shift the typical, tried-and-tested praxis and combine the two.

So, a change of style and format. Two restaurants for the price of one. Both are a little fringy, set on the outskirts of the Copenhagen core. Both are large buildings occupying large spaces, away from any of the bijou fashion shops and winsome bars. Both have two Michelin stars, firmly placed in the contemporary vanguard of fine dining with menus that whizz guests on a geographical jaunt between harmonising countries. And both are fronted by young, ambitious chefs.

Cherry leaf with havgus and ham at Kadeau

Arriving early in Copenhagen, I was saving myself for dinner, obviously. However, winter’s bitter hunger pang meant that I consumed a steaming hot dog from a weiner stand in Borgergade beforehand. The sausage tasted metallicy, like an infected toe, and now my evening meal couldn’t come quickly enough.

Korean food is having a moment. South, I mean. The North is, well, doing whatever it is the North does

The first dinner was at Koan. The name apparently means riddle or puzzle and is attributed to Zen Buddhists using meditation in Korean; while the second meal at Kadeau is a name that translates as present or souvenir in Danish. The food at the former is neat, clean and orderly. All very Korean. It looks to be painstakingly prepared with little fiddly tweezers and flourishes of kombu and gochugaru.

All of this is the chef’s take on Korean food, exploring the streets, kitchens, temples and barbecue culture of the country. But, having never eaten in Korea or visited a Korean street, kitchen or temple, I can’t say how authentic it is. And while Kristian Baumann’s own experiences and travels impart on the formation and direction of the menu, with ingredients blending the Nordic and East Asian, he proves irrefutably that Denmark and Korea make for good bedfellows.

Kadeau by Marie Louise Munkegaard

Korean food is having a moment. South, I mean. The North is, well, doing whatever it is the North does. Beneath the border, kimchi was freed into the world and has now become so ubiquitous that it ferments in jars in kitchens all over the planet. And home cooks are stocking up on gochujang with the sapid sauce taking over from the Sriracha craze, which was a Thai invention. Then there’s KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) which has become so popular that it’s making an ambitious geographical anagram grab, pitting itself against Kentucky and The Colonel.

Kristian is a Korean-born Dane and his journey has been cataclysmic. Super-fast. Super-charged. Rocket fuel stuff. Previously the chef at New Nordic pioneers Ralae (which he helped open with Christian Puglisi and Jonathan Tam), plus Manfred’s and Noma, he opened 108 and Juju to acclaim. Koan was launched as a pop-up at Empirical Spirits in the autumn of 2022 before moving into the space at Ralae, upon its closure. They moved to their current premises, by the Langeliniekaj promenade, in April. And here, they have taken things to another level, achieving two stars in just two months. And he is only 36-years-old.


The restaurant is close to Edvard Erikense’s bronze mermaid statue – one of the city’s most popular tourist spots, and most disappointing. She’s a tiny little thing, with an equitable gaze. More Ann Blyth than Daryl Hannah. Meanwhile, the menu at Koan has the airs and graces of a solid two-star with ambitions for greater. Ingredients are right up there and the service is charming, particularly from Polish restaurant manager and sommelier Sebastian Michalewski, who ensures my glass is always full.

Under most cack-handed chefs this would be ruined, or worse, wasted, combinations fumbled and presentationally horrific. But Kristian is the real deal. Forget Relae and Noma and digging into his kitchen CV because this is not a case of the emperor’s new clothes, but a young chef carving his way, not so much tentatively shuffling onto the global stage but bestriding it.


As for the food, there is plenty to say. Things open with seafood snacks and hedgerow pickings of pear in kimchi, raw Norwegian shrimp, cured Danish zander with oyster leaf and sansho pepper leaves, calamansi citrus with trout roe and wasabi; pepper pork mandolin with a crisp, caramelised bottom, an unexpected combination of steamed Korean dumpling in a fiery Korean red chilli and mussel sauce as is white kimchi and scallop sudchi (the sour citrus Japanese fruit). All dramatic combinations; and all small, vibrant plates of sheer brilliance.

Courses follow with a more drilled-in study. With little manipulation, produce is given sole responsibility, often plated as a standalone or duo of ingredients. King crab and oyster stew, langoustine and magnolia, ribeye with kimchi and the twisted, doughy Korean doughnut, kkwabaegi with sea salt and cream. And the wine list is inspired: Krug, a personal favourite, along with La Grande Chatelaine, Margate Ambonnay Rose, Robert Groffier Cru Les Hauts Doix. And all accessibly-ish priced, for Copenhagen. Plus a fine selection of Korean spirits and unfiltered wine: Takju Yunguna, TakjuMakgeolli and Hwayo X Premium single-grain whisky.

Still giddy from such an outstanding meal, there was no respite for the ravenous as my girlfriend and I rang the doorbell the following evening at Kadeau. Another two-star, remember, and another young chef. There are further comparisons with Koan, but striking polarities, too.

There’s a roaring fire with hunks of beef on charred grilling racks waiting to meet the flame

This is a darker room, more sweeping as we move along a corridor and into the dining room where an open kitchen feels like we’re in the woodlands of northern Scandinavia. There’s a roaring fire with hunks of beef on charred grilling racks waiting to meet the flame; and twigs over there, branches up there, salmon being smoked, berries being brined, leaves being placed into ceremonial bowls. It’s a wild place, where the kitchen melds into the dining room and visa-versa.

Koan, Copenhagen

We are seated towards the back of the restaurant. It’s away from the brigade of chefs in the kitchen, but they’re visible, operating like regimented ants. From where we are, we have a wide perspective of the room and diners, already oohing and aahing over the plates in front of them. Some of you might already know that the restaurant, which opened in 2007, is originally located on the Danish island of Bornholm, off the south coast of Sweden, and opened its Copenhagen location in 2011. Despite the shift, it remains dedicated to the New Nordic and its Baltic Sea milieu, a hymn to everything Danish.

There’s queen scallop with blackcurrant wood; cockles and hazelnuts; carpet clam with pear; cured squid with magnolia

Nicolai Nørregaard hails from Bornholm and is passionate about the island’s ingredients. That much is clear from the kitchen’s parade of boastful island and ocean materials. The menu reaffirms this, championing seasonal stuff along with their bio-intensive philosophy. It opens with, and this is how it is listed on the menu: tomatoes, langoustine and gooseberries. That should tell you everything you need to know. There’s no sexy hook hoping to influence or overawe the dinner. Where most restaurants would open with or highlight langoustine as its primo ingredient in pompous cheffy fanfare, and in justification of the menu price, Kadeausees it as just another ingredient, playing its rightful part in the recipe creation but no more crucial a component than tomatoes and gooseberries. I like that. This is one of those places where apparent simplicity disguises painstaking attention to detail.

Kombu dessert at Kadeau

We move forward with a flurry of small things. There’s queen scallop with blackcurrant wood; cockles and hazelnuts; carpet clam with pear; cured squid with magnolia. All fresh, periodical zingers expressive of December. Following their social accounts, I can see that much of this is new stuff. Nicolai changes the menu on the turn of a clock-hand, it just depends on what’s good and in season: raw shrimps with canned figs, grilled root vegetables with bee pollen, a smack of umami from a small but brilliant maitake pie – the glossy, pungent whiff of woodland ruff emitted as I took small bites.

This is all soothing, wintery stuff. Cooking to warm and comfort. As befits a restaurant owned by two shoreline plunderers – Nicolai and his business partner Rasmus Kofoed – décor is limited to natural scruff. They have also enlisted the services of local V1 Gallery to decorate the walls with glum, season-appropriate pastels. And this isn’t me being a depressive. The artwork behind our table was titled ‘Death of a Loved One’.

There’s more than a touch of the Scandi Noir to Kadeau. Still, I’d gladly risk a grisly knifing if it meant a return visit, just, perhaps, during another season. Koan, too. And I barely even remember the hotdog now. C


Koan, Langeliniekaj 5, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark; www.koancph.dk
Kadeau, Wildersgade 10B, 1408 Copenhagen, Denmark; www.kadeau.dk