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Smørrebrød, Copenhagen

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Not wowed with Ida Davidsen

Posted on: October 27, 2008 at 10:12PM

By Guest

Although Ida Davidsen came heavily recommended, from city guides such as Wallpaper* and this publication to several foodie message boards, I have to say I was a little let down. Ida Davidsen, both the restaurant and the person, are institutions and as such are resistant to change. People have been packing this place at lunch time for years and there's little reason to "change things what ain't broken." But I couldn't help but feel that the place was a little stodgy and old-fashioned, and its dimly lit basement location made matters worse; it's a carpeted Katz's Deli on a Lilliputian scale. One can often overlook dining room and even service flaws if the food manages to scream above the din. Case in point, Difara's Pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn. This place has got virtually no atmosphere, it's consistently dirty, and the process of ordering a pizza can be one of the most infuriating experiences in the culinary world. But the pizza is to die for, and people have been known to travel hours for a pie. Sadly, the smorrebrods that emerged from the kitchen at Ida Davidsen were not worth a special trip from across town, let alone across the Atlantic. (It was the first full meal I had in CPH and I was highly anticipating it.) I ordered two very traditional smorrebrods - smoked eel with scrambled eggs, spinach, and chives, and the Hans Christian-Andersen, which was chicken liver with bacon, horseradish, and aspic (think beef Jell-o). While the smoked eel was very tasty, the spinach was overcooked to an almost gelatinous mush, and the eggs were mealy and flavorless. As for the HCA, the chicken liver was fine, but the bacon had clearly been cooked earlier that morning and was burnt to a crisp. The aspic was entirely flavorless, which some may think of as a good thing, but it seemed like it was there to add a saltiness to the dish that was otherwise lacking. The worst part of the meal was the cost. These two sandwiches, perhaps the size of two tea sandwiches each, along with a half-pour of dill "snaps" and a bottle of water ran me nearly $50. (It was 280kr at 5.9kr to the US$.) I should say that the dill snaps was incredibly tasty, but it's a commercial product that I believe is available in the US even. I really wanted to like this place. The proprietor and namesake of the restaurant, Ida Davidsen, is wonderfully personable and spent nearly 5 minutes explaining all of the dishes to me. The spread of smorrebrod on the counter is a thing of beauty. But when it came down to it, it was just an incredibly disappointing experience, and an expensive one at that. (Not that there's anything resembling a cheap meal in CPH.) During the remainder of my trip, I talked with some locals and the word on the street is that Told & Snaps does the best traditional smorrebrod in CPH (it's probably a 10 minute walk from Ida Davidsen), while Aamann's does the most creative. So, if you're heading over to CPH, I'd recommend maybe stopping by Ida Davidsen to see some of the memorabilia, but then hike over to either Told & Snaps or Aamann's for a meal.

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