Chef René Redzepi’s Noma restaurant has become a fixture atop the world’s best restaurant list due in part to its cultivation of unique ingredients that reflect the unforgiving Nordic climate. But for his latest creation at a pop-up restaurant in Tokyo, Redzepi may have outdone himself.
Noma Tokyo’s tasting menu, which costs 149,500 yen ($1,265) for two people, has a showstopper opening course: jumbo shrimp, so recently killed that they are still twitching, served with about a dozen tiny black ants for seasoning.
The dish is a take on botan ebi, or shrimp sushi, with the ants providing “flavors of the Nagano forest.” Businessweek explains that the dish takes advantage “of the bugs’ natural reserves of formic acid, which can mimic the sourness of citrus.” A reviewer for the Japan Times said that the ants’ “little pinpricks of sharp acidity” are “a perfect accent for the sweet, pink flesh” of the shrimp.
Using ants is actually old hat for Noma, which has served them at its Copenhagen flagship with beef tartar, among other dishes. And perhaps the insect fine dining trend will eventually trickle down to less exclusive restaurants—especially since we should all be eating insects, anyway.
And how does Noma harvest its ants? By hand, of course: