It used to be that people talked about dishes. Now, they talk about names.
Those of you who read this blog or follow me on social media know that I have been fairly critical of the way the restaurant industry has shifted the focus away from the diner, and has, in general, devolved into a media circus. This subject is well-covered ground on this blog, so I won’t burden you with more of it here. Just read my last four or five ruminations, and you’ll get a good sense of my frustration and complaints.
But let me not be that guy in cyberspace who’s always whining about something. All is not lost.
There are many chefs and restaurants that are doing great things, despite the over-hype. As I confided to my friend Andreas recently over dinner in Copenhagen, I’ve found a renewed excitement in using this blog to cheer on the great experiences I have, and, more importantly, to champion those that might otherwise be lost amidst all the noise.
The restaurant where Andreas works doesn’t exactly need a champion. Far from it, Kong Hans Kælder is a storied institution in Denmark. Founded in 1976 by the Grønlykke family, it was the first Danish restaurant to earn a Michelin star, a rating that it kept until 2014, when Thomas Rode, its chef of 18 years left. A new team was brought in, and with it, came a breath of fresh air. After a brief closure, Kong Hans Kælder reopened in September of last year with Mark Lundgaard Nielsen at the head of the kitchen and Peter Pepke at the head of the house.
My dinner there in early March of this year demonstrated the type focus on cooking and service that I value and sorely miss. So, in the spirit of celebrating the good, I would like to tell you about it here and now, in this, my first dedicated restaurant post since I wrote about Ifuki last year (the kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto, where, as it turned out, I had my favorite meal of 2014).