My first meal out in the city of Copenhagen was what my friend Anders dubbed as "a traditional Danish men´s lunch." On a beautiful, sunny, crisp day, we set out on our bikes to enjoy what Husmann's Vinstue had waiting for us.
The interior of Husmann's Vinstue was moody and dark with business men and older men drinking huge, tall glasses of beer. Hearty laughs from well-dressed men and well-mannered waiters offering me menus in English, I could hardly believe that just yesterday I was pushing my way through Beijing avoiding spit rockets.
I knew I wanted to try Danish herring, so I chose herring from the menu first. Fearing that this would not be enough, I also ordered pate with mushroom and bacon. Anders´ ordered broiled eel.
The herring was plated skin side up, cured in a sweet vinegar marinade. For these types of dishes that come with bread, butter is generously spread on the bread and the various contents piled on top. Using a fork and knife, I cut bite-size pieces to enjoy the flavorful herring. The taste was somewhat comparable to Japanese saba as it was heavily marinated in vinegar. However, because because the vinegar seemed to have a very high sugar content, the fishy flavor of the herring was subdued.
Herring loaded onto bread
Anders was kind enough to provide me with a flawless experience of a traditional Danish lunch and ordered a beautiful shot of snaps for each of us. Woohee! This stuff was strong and I must have been bright red just after two mini sips. We ordered a type of snaps that especially complemented the herring. It neautralized the acidity of the fish and was a perfect match.
Next up was Anders' broiled eel. Again, I could compare this to something I knew, unagi. The interesting thing about Danish cuisine is that they were obviously not afraid of the skin of sea creatures. The eel was full-on "part of the eel," as it was served in its cylindrical shape - skin, bones and all. This was the first time I tried eel outside the Japanese food context so it was really novel to try it with just simple salt flavoring. In contrast to unagi, this eel was very tough, with the meat securely bound to the spine of the eel. The toughness reminded me of a cross between chicken and white fish.
Skin, bones and all
Making sure we were done with the sea creature dishes, the waiter served up our pate with mushroom and bacon. The pate was whipped and light. About one cups-worth was served and we loaded our breads with thick strokes of pate. The smooth taste of this dish really calmed the palette after the sweet vinegar herring and savory eel. The pate was a perfect conclusion to our meal.
Husmann´s Vinstue was clearly a top-class experience for traditional Danish food. I thank Anders´ who insisted on treating me to a "Welcome to Denmark" lunch and picked up the tab for 376.00 krones (68.00 USD).