You either hate them or you love them--the open-faced sandwich. Most Danes love them, it's what they've eaten since they stopped being breastfed.
But of all the foreign friends I have enjoyed a traditional Danish lunch with, around 50% have left most of the food on the table.
Perhaps it was too different in taste and texture--far from subtle Japanese flavours or American cheeseburger grease... But when my guests leave the restaurant full and happy, I feel very proud of actually having something interesting to offer them (Copenhagen is not exactly New York or Tokyo in the culinary or cultural department).
Last week my food & design reparting journalist friend SW joined me at Aamanns for some open-faced sandwiches, aka smørrebrød or plainly put among normal Danes, rugbrødsmadder, which translates to "rye bread foods."
Normally when you go out for a nice traditional Danish lunch, you go to old places which decorate the dining rooms with flags, old medals and historical pictures. But Aamanns has taken the old world and made it into something more fresh, modern and less touristy which is really nice for a change.
The exterior is subtle with classic black painted wooden frames and a green sign with some Danish paper cut decor a la Hans Christian Andersen.
Interior continues the green theme, very airy and light:
Usually, Danish lunch places feature dark rooms with low ceilings. This is quite the opposite.
The wall decor consists of mirrored silhouettes of Danish images like farm animals, local produce and garden herbs. Simple and unpretentious.
We are given the printed menu - nice quality paper on a wooden slate.
The prices are a bit steep for a lunch place.
My friend and I each pick the three-piece open sandwich choice at 165 DKK($32) and a bottle of water at 45 DKK ($9). Normally you want "snaps" (traditional Danish heath wine) with your lunch, but we weren't offered any by the waiter and since my friend was in for a wet weekend in Copenhagen already, we stayed with water and ginger ale.
Our lunch arrived conveniently fast.
I love the wooden cutting board feeling of the serving dish. Eating off wood is so much nicer than the squeeky noises from white porcelain. All sandwiches are built on a base of house-baked sourdough ryebread with malt.
First open sandwich is marinated mackerel with sliced raw onions and a tomato based spicy mixture:
I wonder what the cute green fern on top is... The sandwich is fresh, spicy and crunchy.
Next up is the chicken salad with spring onions, baby peas, chives and a thin slice of baked bacon:
Both my friend and I agreed, this was the best sandwich of the three. It was so mouthwateringly full of flavours and texture--very unexpected for chicken salad. I would almost return just for this one dish.
Finally we had a sandwich with thinly sliced pork, a salty salsa, baby salad leaves, slices of apple, raw onion and walnuts.
This was really good too. Plain and simple but well executed and with some unexpected details.
After three bread heavy servings your stomach is quite full, and we had no room for dessert.
Even the bill is neatly placed in a printed paper cover.
I like when it all comes together, culinary and visually to make a visit a full experience. And I love how this place experiments with the classic smørrebrød incarnations but without going overboard. It was still traditional but in a new way.
Next time I have friends coming to visit my city, I might take them here instead of the old places--it's less of a "cultural" experience, but the food is definitely better and that's all that matters in the end, at least for us peeps here on Umamimart.