A fold-out treasure map plots these characters on the region's islands, forests, coasts, and plains. Even for those familiar with Scandinavian geography, it's nice to get a sense of the restaurant's place (on the edge of an island between Denmark and Sweden). Also, it's adorable, like something from a children's adventure book.
In addition, the images by Ditte Isager, a Danish, New York-based photographer, are spectacular. Isager had previously worked with John Besh, Gordon Ramsay, and Padma Lakshmi on their cookbooks, and took the photos for Redzepi's first book. The photos, styled by Christine Rudolph, have a clean, simple aesthetic and a natural palette of wood, stone, and iron.
The oversized captions for the pictures of ingredients, dishes, portraits, and landscapes appear indexed in six-page clusters, and even those are a joy. Ingredients have brief notes on where they were found or how to eat them, while some have dorky little food facts about things like mussel eggs or carrot colors. Every photo is marked with a page number for the corresponding recipe, and vice versa.
It's a professional cookbook, so measurements are precise, in grams, and instructions are minimal but clear. Meat appears somewhat rarely, and when it does, like many fine dining restaurants at this point, Redzepi favors sous-vide cooking (in which the raw meat is sealed in plastic and poached in hot water). Though in his case, the meat is more likely to be musk ox than beef.
There's special attention on fruit vinegars and pickles of all sorts, which, jarred in season, are especially important for the restaurant in the winter, when very little is growing outside.
Courtesy of Phaidon Press
Since Redzepi's ingredients are collected from another time and place than your own, it will be difficult in some cases (not all) if you're looking to actually replicate dishes from the restaurant. While a simple dish like poached eggs with radishes might inspire something similar in your kitchen, you might not be able to procure the sea lettuce that finishes the plate. But that isn't the point!
A book this personal, this generous, isn't for duplicating. It's for inspiring. For playing. An armchair chef might dreamily flip through the photos and read the essays, absorbing the instructions from the recipes, imagining the flavor combinations. An adventurous cook might apply that sea lettuce technique—pickled, protected with baking paper and heated until translucent—to the greens he can find.
A good restaurant cookbook offers more than recipes and a peek into a kitchen. It gets across a complete vision, a story, a sense of style—something deeply personal. I think this book will fit into the heavyweight category with classics like Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras, published nearly a decade ago and still sought out for its clear vision of the chef's intimate culinary universe in the mountains of southern France.