The starting point of KOKS style is Poul Andrias Ziska’s culinary creations. Head chef at KOKS, he has the ability to put Faroese landscape in a pot. Pioneer of the New Nordic Kitchen in the Faroe Islands, KOKS is characterized by its unique Faroese identity and by its commitment to sustainable and local products. Its cuisine style is earthy and refined, ancient and modern. Instead of the new, it emphasizes the old (drying, fermenting, pickling, curing and smoking) with a larger goal of returning balance to earth itself. At KOKS, the cuisine is about seasonality, seriously engaging with agriculture and history and of making age-old food delightful to modern palates.
In the true spirit of the New Nordic Cuisine, the KOKS head chef uses only regional produce. The famous “manifest”drawn up by René Redzepi, which not only revolutionised haute cuisine at the turn of the Millennium, butalso raised the bar in terms of awareness of local roots and sustainability, holds a special place within Ziska’sphilosophy. “I am convinced that this is the best way to discover and learn about ingredients. The biggest challengecomes when you don’t have access to everything that you need.”
You may think that the selection of regional products available in a country as small as the Faroe Islands is asrestricted as its size suggests, but you couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, the 18 islands and the ever-present seaoffer a diverse range of exciting ingredients that simply has to be seen to be believed. A range of ingredients thatchefs on the Continent can only dream of having access to. That is why it is not unusual to find moss, seaweedand sandwort that have been harvested directly from the rugged coasts of the islands, in the culinary creationsserved up by Poul Andrias Ziska.
The starring role, however, belongs of course to two other ingredients. On the one hand there is the fish: thesheer variety that can be caught in the North Atlantic is simply breathtaking: the waters surrounding the FaroeIslands are home to more than 250 different species. On the other hand there are the sheep, which inhabit thegreen, hilly expanses found on the islands, and which lend their name to their home – “Føroyar” translates asnone other than “sheep islands”.
Lamb and fish are used, either fresh or preserved using the “raest” method, which is found only on the FaroeIslands and has been practised since primitive times as a means of fermenting and drying meat and fish. Unlikein many other places, this preservation method uses neither salt nor smoke. Instead, the job is done by nature,the wind and the weather. “This makes for a much more satisfying and intense flavour”, explains the chef.The ingredients are presented to his guests in dishes that are delightfully simple yet impressively elaborate. Menu highlights at Restaurant Ikarus will include; tartar of codfish with watercress and fresh cheese, mahogany mussel with spinach, salicorn and yoghurt, king crab with onions, langoustine from the Faeroe Islands,Fulmar with beetroot and rosehip, saddle of lamb with gratinated Jerusalem artichoke and herbs, sorrel ice cream with pickled strawberries, rhubarb with milk and angelica, plus many more special treats.
Ziska is well aware that there is a certain amount of disaccord between the elaborate presentation of his dishesand the simplicity of Faroese cuisine: “When I’m at home, I don’t try and cook in the most original way possible.It’s all very down-to-earth. In my opinion, that is not how haute cuisine restaurants should be. However, as aguest, you really want to experience something.”The new generation of the New Nordic Cuisine is looking very impressive – and word that it tastes as good asit looks has in the meantime spread far beyond the confines of the Faroese borders. That is what led to Ziska’sKOKS being named the “best restaurant in the Nordic countries” by Nordic Prize in 2015. It’s not unusual forguests to make an extra detour via the tiny airport in Tórshavn just to visit KOKS.
Photography byHelge Kirchberger Photography / Red BullHangar-7