With candlelight, good wine and dreamy views across the water, Nipisa easily lulls you into thinking it’s a posh European restaurant. Only when you open the menu – laced with reindeer, musk ox and even seal – is it readily apparent that you’re dining in Greenland rather than the Rive Gauche.
Pronounced just like the atomic bomb, Nuuk is both the island’s tiny capital (population: 15,000) and the Arctic region’s gourmet star. Upscale eateries like Nipisa, Cafétuaq and Sarfalik mingle traditional local dishes and nouvelle Greenland cuisine that blends local ingredients and European cooking methods, washed down with locally brewed micro beers or French and German wines.
Because Greenland is still a Danish possession, Greenlanders can easily pursue culinary studies in Scandinavia. Likewise, Nuuk attracts young European chefs trying to make a name for themselves.
Jeppe Ejvind Nielsen is typical of the trend, a native Dane who now pilots the kitchen at Restaurant Ulo in Ilulissat after many years at Nipisa. Among his most delectable dishes are juniper berry-poached fillet of musk-ox, medallions of reindeer garnished with sage, mustard-baked Greenland halibut with poached egg and Arctic hare in a pastry shell.
“I like to experiment with new things,” says Nielsen, “so it was no problem with me working with musk ox, reindeer and whale. You treat them just like any other meat.”
Nipisa may be the tip of Nuuk’s culinary iceberg, but there are plenty of other great eateries, like Restaurant Sarfalik in the Hotel Hans Egede and Cafétuaq in the atrium of the stunningly modern Katuaq culture center. Dishes can run a broad gamut from smoked breast of auk (sea bird) and seal marinated in honey to stewed angelica leaves and hot rhubarb soup with blackberries. Gourmet eateries are also sprouting in smaller Greenland cities like Ilulissat and Qaqortoq.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, locals are lined up for tables at the Cafétuaq, where the Saturday buffet features dozens of traditional Greenland dishes like smoked salmon and dried cod, musk ox steak and cubed minke whale.
First-timers in Nuuk tend to flinch at the sight of whale on the menu, but the predominantly Inuit Greenlanders have an annual quote from the International Whaling Commission to hunt an animal that’s been part of their diet since prehistoric times. Still, the diced minke is a very acquired taste – not so much the taste as the rubbery consistency.
“The meat and fish products you get here are just so fresh,” says Nielson. “And our vegetables come from a 500-year-old Viking farm on the fjord. It’s beautiful working with produce like that – you just don’t get that anywhere else.”
And, just in case you were interested, here are our picks for Greenland’s Top Four Restaurants:
Hans Egedesvej 29
Phone: (299) 31 10 01
Katuaq Cultural Centre
Phone: (299) 36 37 97
Hotel Hans Egede
Phone: (299) 32 42 22
Torvevej B 67,
Phone (299) 643 067
Phone (299) 94 41 53
By Joe Yogerst
Tags: Best Restaurants in Greenland, Food in Greenland, Iceland ProCruises, Nuuk