Can you sit through a 50-course meal?

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents -

Can you sit through a 50-course meal?

So­ci­ety is fi­nally shed­ding its taste for fast food, but it’s only the greasy, nu­tri­tion­ally void junk that’s been left be­hind. Peo­ple are still strapped for time, which is why “fast fine din­ing” has be­come an emerg­ing food trend. But Dan­ish chef Ras­mus Munk ei­ther didn’t get the memo or doesn’t care, be­cause his new restau­rant, Al­chemist 2.0, slated to open this month in Copen­hagen, has a 50-course menu that can take five hours to get through.

The orig­i­nal Al­chemist opened in 2015 and was lauded for its avant-garde of­fer­ings. They were ei­ther thought­pro­vok­ing and heavy on com­men­tary, such as the Ash­tray dish that makes creamed leek, freeze-dried potato and leek ash look like old cig­a­rette butts, or fea­tured bizarre in­gre­di­ents like woodlice and cow ud­ders.

But Munk has evolved as a chef, and the new Al­chemist is meant to be a show­case of what he calls “holis­tic cui­sine”. This means it’s not just your sense of taste he wants to stim­u­late, but all the oth­ers as well – by us­ing sound, light­ing ef­fects, fra­grances, tex­tures and aes­thet­ics. So don’t ex­pect all 50 cour­ses to be served in the same set­ting and at the same ta­ble; guests will pass through sev­eral rooms dur­ing the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

And that’s the en­tire point of hav­ing such a long menu. While fine din­ing is al­ways an ex­pe­ri­ence, Munk is sim­ply tak­ing it to the ex­treme. “For some serv­ings, we will, for ex­am­ple, deprive guests of one sense to sharpen oth­ers, which will make them ex­pe­ri­ence the serv­ing com­pletely dif­fer­ent from if they had all their senses at their dis­posal. For an­other serv­ing, we will play with guests’ vis­ual per­cep­tion by mak­ing use of op­ti­cal il­lu­sions. Our guests will leave full, but not too full,” ex­plains the chef.

Al­chemist 2.0 was a huge un­der­tak­ing. A bud­get of over US$1.5 mil­lion (S$2 mil­lion) helped Munk re­alise his vi­sion in a 2,229 sq m

his­tor­i­cal build­ing pre­vi­ously oc­cu­pied by the Dan­ish Royal The­atre, with room to ac­com­mo­date a 10,000-bot­tle wine cel­lar. A non-al­co­holic bev­er­age pair­ing op­tion is avail­able, and will fo­cus on kom­bucha, wa­ter ke­fir and tea.

Four kitchens and 30 cooks will be serv­ing 40 guests each evening – not at all overkill when you con­sider that it adds up to 2,000 plates every night. Al­chemist 2.0 isn’t the only one with a sprawl­ing menu. Al­bert Adria’s Enigma in Barcelona has no less than 40 items on its nightly course menu, while In­dian restau­rant Gag­gan in Bangkok presents 25 items on a menu fea­tur­ing only emo­jis. So food is clearly do­ing more than keep­ing us alive. Menus and ex­pe­ri­ences like that are meant to make us alive. At least un­til the food coma kicks in.

01 GASTROPLAYGROUND The multi-level space of Al­chemist 2.0 in­cludes a lounge and a taste/test lab.

03 HAUTE BRIGADE The team at Enigma bus­tles to churn out over 40 dishes each night. 04 GIN TONIC UNI One of Gag­gan’s sig­na­tures, com­posed of dif­fer­ent kinds of uni, gin-and-tonic pearls, and a “nori” sheet made with dill.

02 HOLIS­TIC CUI­SINE The new Al­chemist has moved away from the avant­garde dishes of its pre­de­ces­sor to in­clude dishes like Thai grape­fruit salad with cran­gon cran­gon shrimp.

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