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 thought-provoking 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.
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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 feel alive. At least until the food coma kicks in.