From Iceland — Tasting The Landscape: KOKS Is A Culinary Fireworks Display

Tasting The Landscape: KOKS Is A Culinary Fireworks Display

Published October 18, 2018

Tasting The Landscape: KOKS Is A Culinary Fireworks Display
Photo by
Timothée Lambrecq

“It’s not far,” says the driver, with a smile, as myself, a photographer, and three older couples clamber into the back of a high, rugged 4×4. The car bounces off down a rough dirt track, leaving the car park and Route 40 behind as we speed out across the sandy shore of the wide, glittering lake of Leynavatn. The car shakes as we plunge through the shallow waters at the shoreline, sending foamy plumes shooting overhead in a dramatic deluge.

Remote foodie destination

It’s an unexpected entrance to the new location of KOKS, a lauded restaurant that went from being an eccentric fine-dining eatery to “the world’s most remote foodie destination,” according to The New York Times, after winning a Michelin star in 2017. With young chef Poul Andrias Ziska at the helm, it’s an intriguing Faroese outpost of New Nordic cuisine. The 17-course tasting menu focuses on seasonal, wild and foraged ingredients—and ‘ræst,’ an infamous local tradition of heavily fermented meat.

With bookings going through the roof, the shift of location was a surprise. But as we step out of the 4×4 and walk up a grassy path to a smart greeting line of the KOKS staff in the midst of a mountainous green valley, the peace of the new site sinks in. We’re yet to taste a morsel, and the evening already feels like journey.

Urchin and beach herbs

The new dining room is a raftered, cabin-like space with views down to a river below. The meal gets off to a quick start, with champagne and a series of immaculate appetisers—queen scallop that “was alive two minutes ago,” lumpfish roe with lovage and egg yolk, sea urchin with pickled parsley stems, and sugared kelp with “beach herbs” that are fresh as a spring morning walk. Two waiters place each dish on the table crisply, swishing them away afterwards with a practised theatrical flair.

Next come the ræstkjøt courses. A traditional preserving technique involving air-drying lamb in a slatted shed for several months, this intensely flavoured meat has a pungent “rotten” smell, and a strong, gamey taste. KOKS, of course, serves it in unusual ways: the skerpikjøt comes with mushrooms and lichen, and there’s a tallow fat and parmesan cracker version. “It’s like I put a whole farm in my mouth,” says my companion. “Like eating a whole sheep in one bite.” I can’t argue—ræst is a memorable experience, to say the least.

Intense and eye-opening

After a palette-cleansing rhubarb compote come the seafood courses. An oily halibut ceviche is buried in sappy green leaves with crunchy grilled buckwheat; the shredded crab is set off by smokey grilled leeks and a mild elderflower broth. Meaty blue mussels are drenched in a vividly green, herbaceous parsley sauce; the cod soup comes with snappy, verdant peas; the baccalao is a tender, gently salted mouthful of perfection; the monkfish with kale purée, chickweed and intense beef broth is an eye-opening combination. The Faroese landscape comes to life through these glorious dishes. It’s like a fireworks display of culinary invention.

By the time we finish with desserts of floral ice cream, dulce crème brûlee and tart rhubarb with smoked cream, three hours have passed in a flash. KOKS may have moved location, but the cuisine remains at the absolutely top level—it’s an unforgettable feast, and a worldwide one-of-a-kind.

KOKS is open until December 1st. Book a table here. Thanks to Visit Faroe Islands. Read more about the Faroes here.

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