Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Formel B (Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Formel B Restaurant
Vesterbrogade 182, 1800 Frederiksberg, Denmark
+45 33 25 10 66
Tue 08/15/2023, 08:45p-12:20a

Formel B Exterior

For my final meal in Denmark, I was in the mood for something a bit more classic, so I paid a visit to Kristian Møller and Rune Jochumsen's Formel B ("formula B"). The restaurant serves Danish-inflected French cuisine, and has been a staple of the Copenhagen fine dining scene for over two decades.

About the Chefs and a bit of history: The story of Formel B actually begins with Henrik Boserup, a Danish chef and television personality. Along with producer Christian Ryge and CdC Claus Jørgensen, he founded the restaurant in 1997, and in fact, the "B" in Formel B is derived from his last name. Jørgensen was out after a year though, and was replaced by a succession of head chefs, the last of which was Singh Gill. Given that the restaurant never really found its footing, Boserup decided to sell the business in 2003.

The buyers were Kristian Arpe-Møller and Rune Amgild Jochumsen, who were only 22 and 23 years old when they took over the spot in March that year. The two had met in 1996 while studying cooking at Hotel- og Restaurantskolen in Valby. Following, they worked at Restaurant Kommandanten in Copenhagen, which was opened in 1988 by Lars Nielsen and was the first restaurant in Denmark to be awarded two Michelin stars (it shuttered in 2007). In 2002, Kommandanten's head chef Mikkel Maarbjerg and sous Jens Vestergaard Jensen left to start Restaurant Ensemble, taking Møller along with them. The place opened in June that year, and was even able to achieve a Michelin two-star rating in 2005, but closed in May 2009.

Despite their ages, Møller and Jochumsen had high hopes for Formel B, with the former focusing on the kitchen and the latter on the service/wine program. They were able to earn a Michelin star in 2004, just a year after opening, and have kept that star ever since. Apparently, as a result, Formel B actually holds the record for the Danish restaurant that's maintained its star for the longest continuous period. And interestingly, this is in spite of the team changing to a somewhat more relaxed dining concept in 2011.

The success of Formel B has of course allowed the partners to grow the family. In 2008, the pair launched Sletten, located on the waterfront in Humlebæk, a small town north of Copenhagen. This was followed by the more casual Uformel in 2014, and smørrebrød specialist Palægade in 2016. In 2017, they opened Format and Form, a restaurant and a bar inside the Hotel Sankt Annæ in Copenhagen, but those have since closed. Meanwhile, 2022 saw the launch of two ventures: a private dining and catering division called Chambre (formerly known as Uformel – Hjemme Hos Dig), as well as lilleB, which is a seasonal, outdoor offshoot of Formel B located all the way in Odsherred at Lillero, a camp-style seaside resort.

Formel B Interior
Shown above is the view of the main dining room from my table near the entrance. The decor is pretty subdued, which is what I'd expect from a place like this.

Formel B Menu Formel B Wines by the Glass List
As for the menu, there are 11 dishes offered, and you get to choose five for a fixed price of 1250 kr ($185.64), plus 200 kr ($29.70) for each additional course. A wine pairing is available at 1000 kr ($148.51), or you can opt for a non-alcoholic pairing at 500 kr ($74.26). We also see the restaurant's wines by the glass list, but of course, there's a much larger wine list to choose from as well, with some real bargains on there and a particular penchant for Burgundy. Click for larger versions.

Roe & Kale
My first amuse bouche course combined the soft-yet-lingering brine of fish roe with bitter kale and sour cream.

Langoustine Tart
The second amuse was a subtly sweet-n-saline, vegetal langoustine tartlet with kohlrabi and dill. Good contrast from the crispy pastry base, too.

Formel B Towel
A moist towel was then provided, which was a welcomed, refreshing touch.

Les Pierrieres 48M (2017) Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut - Vert-Toulon, Ulysse Collin
To drink, I chose the Les Pierrieres 48M (2017) Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut - Vert-Toulon, Ulysse Collin [2500 kr ($371.28)], which was well-priced, at low-retail basically. Note that I'd originally wanted to purchase a bottle of the Le Jardin d'Ulysse from the same producer, which was amazingly priced at well below retail, but apparently the restaurant had run out of it. In any case, the Champagne showed off a nose that was brimming with super concentrated orange, but with countering dry, funky elements and a sweet underpinning; I was actually reminded of Tang powder. On the palate, think dry and acidic, with more of those OJ notes. The bouquet got more muted as the night progressed, but taste-wise, I found the wine crisper and brighter, with a nutty character. More time brought aromas of stone fruit preserves, and even more time, salted almonds, while flavors went in an astringent direction, with roast nuts and pastry becoming more apparent. Overall, this was drinking a bit young for me.

Gold Selection Caviar med nye ærter og persille
1: Gold Selection Caviar med nye ærter og persille | Gold Selection Caviar with green peas and parsley
My first proper course was a real treat, highlighting the bright, fresh nature of both peas and a pea pod-parsley oil consommé. At the same time, the overt saltiness of the caviar resulted in a great back-and-forth that made this dish a favorite of the evening.

Sourdough with Flax Seed and Sesame
The bread was superb, and I ended up going through about three servings. What we had was a denser-than-usual sourdough with a proper crustiness, topped with both linseed and sesame seeds, which made for a fantastic nuttiness. On the side was local organic butter, one with a salty-sweetness that served as the perfect complement to the bread, and actually resulted in a nearly popcorn-like quality that I reveled in.

Grillet makrel med grønne tomater, saltede stikkelsbær og syrnet fløde
2: Grillet makrel med grønne tomater, saltede stikkelsbær og syrnet fløde | Grilled mackerel with green tomatoes, salted gooseberries and cream
The grilled mackerel delivered a cool, smoky brine that was deeply nostalgic, reminding me of a dish that my maternal grandmother used to make. The fish meshed with an herbaceous, vibrantly green sauce imbued with a palpable citrusiness, as well as a more substantial crème fraîche-koji condiment, with gooseberries and tomatoes offering an offsetting tartness as well.

Tatar af saltet oksehøjreb, fermenteret tomat, peberrod og sennepsurter
3: Tatar af saltet oksehøjreb, fermenteret tomat, peberrod og sennepsurter | Tartar of salted beef, fermented tomatoes and horseradish
A tartare of aged loin was another highlight. The beef arrived slick and supple, and married beautifully with a combination of fermented tomato gel, horseradish, and pickled mustard that tasted like a mash-up between ketchup and kizami wasabi.

Jomfruhummer a'la Nage med nye grøntsager
4: Jomfruhummer a'la Nage med nye grøntsager | Langoustine a'la Nage with vegetables of the season
Lobster prepared à la nage ate delectably sweet and savory, with a slight heat from what I believe was a gochujang glaze, while a white wine and butter sauce imparted further richness to the dish without overwhelming the delicate nature of the tail. I also liked the additional facets imparted by the veggies, which included green tomato, corn, fennel, three types of carrots (including dehydrated), and my favorite: a crunchy, smoky shard of cabbage.

Nye kartofler med løvstikkeemulsion, syltet gran, modnet ost og vallesauce
5: Nye kartofler med løvstikkeemulsion, syltet gran, modnet ost og vallesauce | New potatoes with lovage emulsion, pickled pine, aged cheese and whey sauce
A duo of rösti and beurre monté potatoes ate hearty and homey, with a satisfying salt and savor that linked up swimmingly with the zing of pine and lovage, all while the whey helped integrate the dish.

Romainesalat fra Kiselgården med vinter trøffel og artiskok
6: Romainesalat fra Kiselgården med vinter trøffel og artiskok | Romaine lettuce from Kiselgården with winter truffle and artichoke
The pairing of romaine lettuce and artichoke made for a fitting foil for the earthy musk of Australian winter truffles, but even more crucial was the mushroom dressing, which brought everything together cohesively.

2018 Gevrey-Chambertin, Pinot Noir - Bourgogne, Benjamin Leroux
To pair with some of the heftier courses below, I was feeling something red, and thus ordered a glass of the 2018 Gevrey-Chambertin, Pinot Noir - Bourgogne, Benjamin Leroux [275 kr ($40.84)]. The Burgundy demonstrated a perfumey nose filled with violet-tinged florals and black fruits, along with subdued spices. Taking a sip, I found the wine soft and smooth, with more dark-toned fruits backed by a supporting cast of tobacco and pepper.

Vesterhavs pighvar med braiserede oksekæber og persille-hvidløgssauce
7: Vesterhavs pighvar med braiserede oksekæber og persille-hvidløgssauce | Roasted turbot with braised ox cheek and parsley-garlic sauce
Next up was a dish that's been a Formel B signature since 2006, and I can see why. The pairing of turbot with beef isn't something that you enconter too often, since the salty, savory nature of the braised jowl could've easily overwhelmed the fish. Fortunately, that wasn't the case, I'm guessing due to that strikingly verdant parsley-garlic sauce, which really lightened the mood. Lovely crispness on that potato crust, too.

Lam fra Varde Ådal med courgette, ærter, mynte og sort hvidløg
8: Lam fra Varde Ådal med courgette, ærter, mynte og sort hvidløg | Lamb from Varde Ådal with courgetti, peas, mint and black garlic
Lamb arrived juicy and tender, imbued with a delicate smoke that made a lot of sense with a sauce of lamb jus and fermented tomato juice. I was also a fan of the zucchini blossom, which was stuffed with a bright filling of pea and mint. My complaint here was with the black garlic, which tended to throw off the balance of the dish.

Udvalg af franske råmælksoste med Palægades smørristede rugbrød
9: Udvalg af franske råmælksoste med Palægades smørristede rugbrød | Selection of French raw milk cheese with Danish ryebread
My cheese course comprised four varieties. Left to right, we had:
  • A soft, creamy, sticky goat's milk cheese from the Loire, rolled in ash, giving it a touch of smoke.
  • This was a cow's milk cheese that featured a nice lactic tang alongsdie a bit of a nutty character.
  • A classic Comté was also on the nuttier side due to its 30-month aging period.
  • Last up was a soft, salty sheep's milk blue that was a great match for the fruit purée on the side.
In addition to the fruit, other accoutrements include candied walnuts and toasted rye bread from sister restaurant Palægade.

2018 Coteaux du Layon - Loire, Domaine Belargus
At this point, I was in the mood for some dessert wine, and opted for a pour of the 2018 Coteaux du Layon - Loire, Domaine Belargus [200 kr ($29.70)]. The Chenin blanc smelled of tropical fruits intertwined with peaches and honey--quite appealing. The palate displayed more of those sugary flavors, along with a softly spicy quality, and just enough acidity to keep things in check.

Hindbær med vaniljemousse, hindbærsorbet og solbærblade
10: Hindbær med vaniljemousse, hindbærsorbet og solbærblade | Raspberry with vanilla mousse, raspberry sorbet and blackcurrant leaves
Tart raspberry and fragrant vanilla played off each other in expert fashion, accented by the sharp taste of cassis greens. However, my favorite thing here was probably the contrast provided by the dessert's nutty oat base.

Havtorn en surprise
11: Havtorn en surprise | Seabuckthorn en surprise
This rather striking dessert is another item that's been on the menu at Formel B for years. It was composed of chocolate cake, sea buckthorn sorbet, vanilla parfait, and torched French meringue. I found the dish generally sweet and tangy, but there was this almost foie gras-like earthiness in there that worked for me, and I liked the smokiness from the browning, too.

Berry Tart & Chocolate
We ended the night with two types of mignardises. First was a tartlet of whipped white chocolate ganache and tangy wild Danish blackberries (picked by the head chef himself apparently), accented by herby bits of lemon thyme. There was also a dark chocolate shell filled with vanilla ganache and a bit of coconut, which to me, had this coffee-like, nutty flavor profile.

Formel B made for a fitting conclusion for my brief stay in Copenhagen (which went by in a flash!). The cooking is rooted in classical French, and there's definitely a more "old school" feel to this place, but at the same time, the Chefs' penchant for Danish ingredients and seasonality does shine through. I guess it's this combination of both tradition and modernity that's kept the restaurant going for over 20 years.


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