Aarhus, Denmark

Photo: Restaurant SUBSTANS
Photo: Restaurant SUBSTANS

It seems like all of your trips to Denmark revolve around food. Copenhagen multiple times. Skagen during your last visit. And now Aarhus. Yup, you’re off to eat again. Is that such a bad thing?

So why Aarhus? Denmark’s second-largest city, situated on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula, was named a 2017 European Capital of Culture. The city was built as a fortified Viking settlement in the 8th century and quickly became an important market and shipping town. Today, Aarhus is one of Northern Europe’s fastest growing cities. It’s a large trading center, a university town, and an arts hub. But none of that mattered to you until three of Aarhus’ restaurants received Michelin stars. That’s right, not one but three restaurants received the honor. So yes, you’re here to eat.

Your first stop is only a few blocks inland from Aarhus’ busy harbor. Restaurant Gastromé sits on a cobblestone street with colorful tables outside of the white building. The interior is spare with just a few pieces of art on the walls. The two chefs opened the restaurant with two simple goals. First, they would create a country kitchen to combine the rural cuisine of the nearby Vilhelmsborg Forest with grittier urban food. Second, they could only serve food that they love. You start with a glass of Crémant and a few pre-dinner snacks. Then you opt for a Half Throttle (three course), instead of Full Throttle (seven course), meal. Turbot is served with Brussels sprouts and dill fume. Slow-cooked ox arrives with yellow beets, mushrooms, and moss. While the earthiness even extends to dessert: dark chocolate with homemade blackcurrant rum and more beets. The chefs certainly exceeded their goals.

Photo: Restaurant Frederikshøj
Photo: Restaurant Frederikshøj

Nearby, Restaurant SUBSTANS combines Danish and French cuisine into a gourmet, yet still relaxed, meal. The focus, like many Nordic restaurants, is on local producers and detailed craftsmanship. Upon entering the simple white building, you find an airy, minimal space with light wood furniture and vines growing up the wall. The wine list is organic. Three menus—including a three-course, midweek Simple Package; a four-course Not-So-Great Package; and a Big Package tasting—are offered. Since it’s Thursday and you still have a lot of eating ahead, you select the Simple Package. It features crab with cucumber and smoked cheese, a choice of cod with brunet butter and dill or beef with lemon and spinach, and a buckthorn and Jerusalem artichoke dessert. The meal is flavorful, creative, and even fun.

Your final Aarhus Michelin meal is at Restaurant Frederikshøj just south of the city. The restaurant sits near Mindeparken, a beautiful park that’s home to Marselisborg Palace. The adjacent Marselisborg Forests is home to old watermills and hiking trails. While they all border the Bay of Aarhus. From the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows, you have a view down the green lawn that runs toward the gray water. But you’re here for more than the view. A half-dozen menus, from Favorites to Signatures, are offered. You immediately zero in on the Lobster menu. The four-course meal starts with a delicate Norwegian lobster salad. A flavorful lobster soup is next. It’s followed by the pièce de résistance: perfectly cooked lobster with leeks. Dessert is the only course that doesn’t feature rich seafood. Warm apple pie is still an ideal end to your perfectly seasonal meal—and this trip to Denmark.

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