Awarded a Michelin green star for sustainability, Alouette features an ever-changing 5-course menu, built around a contemporary cuisine with an immense respect for nature and seasonality.

At our last visit to The Inn at Little Washington, our terrific server, upon learning I was heading to Copenhagen, begged me to go to "the best restaurant in Copenhagen" - Alouette. He said that if I went, tell them he said hello and to do a specific hand gesture (not that one!) to the staff.

With a recommendation like that, Alouette was added to the itinerary.

It had quite a difficult role to fill - being the final restaurant of such a luxurious few weeks of eating and a late dinner following lunch at Noma

I happened to visit on one of their final days of what is now their previous location - around the back of a non-descript graffiti-laden building on the outskirts of town. Check out the photos below. I definitely thought I was in the wrong spot. That's by design.

When elevator opened for me to get in, I was warmly greeted by one of the restaurant staff. He knew my name, where I was headed and beckoned me to join him to head up to the restaurant. Though I wasn't aware at the time, this was Chef Nick Curtin - the restaurant's owner. To this day, I don't know if this greeting was standard fare, a stroke of luck that he was coming down as I was going up, or specifically planned for me.

Either way, it was quite an introduction.

The staff was equally friendly and intensely informal in the best of all ways. You are part of the family from the minute you arrive. I shared the greeting from my Inn at Little Washington server and did the hand signal. They absolutely erupted. Chef grabbed a number of staff members to come see and have a giggle. He then showed me a photo of that server from the evening he spent at Alouette. It is definitely not for posting here, but it was quite a hoot.

Chef Curtin is insanely likable. I want to go have a beer with him or watch the game or text him with the banality of life. Combine that with a super hip "cool" staff that all seemed to genuinely enjoy what they do for a living and that you are there to experience it...I really wanted to love Alouette. Like, really wanted to.

Unfortunately, I didn't.

As I sat there, I read an article about this place and this quote from Chef Curtin stuck out:

"We are American chefs in Copenhagen.”

This was exactly the issue. The Michelin Guide describes the food here as "pared-back, balanced and sublimely flavoured, with sauces being a highlight. The open fire is used to great effect.". 

The restaurant sits in Copenhagen, the food mecca of the world known for New Nordic cuisine. Subtle, intrinsic, ingredient-forward. This meal was very, well...strong. In your face. Wrestled. Too much. Almost forced.

Examples

  • The butter was overly vinegary with its 20% apple cider reduction in it.
  • The pumpkin dish was creamy and smoky and rich and dense.
  • The monkfish was undercooked and overly sweet with elderflower.
  • The chawanmushi way over-salted.

When their signature peking duck arrived, I thought "Yes! Terrific product sitting on the plate to enjoy. Clearly they won't strongarm this!"

Then they added a plum sauce over top. I rolled my eyes (internally) knowing what was to come. Strong, bright, acidic, balsamic sauce - screaming for you palate's attention, diverting you away from the duck, which should have been the star.

Perhaps I'm missing the vision. Maybe this is their intent - come in to the mecca of beautifully subtle cooking and present bold and brash (dare I say..."American") cuisine to provide an alternative or counterbalance. Maybe it was my expectations that set this meal on its head. 

Whatever the case, I left so immensely disappointed.

The menu they hand you at the end is origami, revealing a lengthy poem. "Time is an endless circle. Each ending is a beginning. That is the chorus of Alouette." Even the menu??

I loved Chef Curtin. I loved the vibe. I loved the irreverent biker-gang type of attitude without taking itself too seriously. I loved the friendly staff. I loved the decor. I even loved the concept of most of the dishes.

I truly wish I could recommend this meal. I just can't. 

Their new location (not yet open as of this writing) seems to be more formal and subtle. They are using the same architect that designed Ikoyi in London. Perhaps their menu will change. I would revisit simply to see if my first experience was an anomaly or what was intended.

As he walked me out, I wished Chef Curtin the very best in his new venture. Restaurants are among the most difficult businesses to run. He is clearly passionate and crafts a terrific team. I hope their new expression is highly successful.

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