Not so long ago, the neighborhood of Vesterbro in Copenhagen was the center of the city’s sex industry, as well as the neighborhood with more butchers per square kilometer than anywhere else in Europe.
In other words, meat and more meat – and now, even more meat, thanks to the burgeoning culinary scene that has transformed Copenhagen’s meatpacking district into something similar to Manhattan's MPD.
While the meatpackers still flourish, the neighborhood of Vesterbro has become widely recognized for its cutting-edge galleries, clubs, bars, and restaurants. One of the first restaurants to open to critical acclaim and popular appeal was Kødbyens Fiskebar (meaning "Meat Town's Fishbar"), which was predicated on the idea that the city needed a comfortably casual place to eat the copious bounty which comes from the surrounding sea.
Since its opening in June of 2009, Fiskebar (helmed by alumni from Copenhagen's award-winning restaurant Noma) has remained the kind of insider, industrial chic restaurant where notables such as architect Bjarke Ingels (of BIG, aka Bjarke Ingels Group) hang at the bar for some of the city’s most innovative and fresh seafood.
The restaurant’s distressed decor, complete with broken tiles, evokes an abandoned fish house that has reopened for business after a long sabbatical. There’s even a cylindrical tank of jellyfish.
In keeping with Copenhagen’s thriving gustatory renaissance, the staff at Fiskebar appears to possess an almost encyclopedic knowledge of seafood and Danish culinary traditions – and is delighted to sit down at your table and answer any questions while steering you toward the best meal possible.
Menus are divided into a series of small dishes and main courses. Plates at Fiskebar are as splendid to photograph and contemplate as they are to taste – and then devour.
Oysters and razor clams with fennel, tarragon, and dill look as beautiful as if they’ve dressed for Coney Island's Mermaid Parade. A plate of wild mushrooms from “a secret place in the woods” with a poached egg and truffles from Gotland is the epitome of farm and field and every bit as indulgent and luxurious as Champagne at midnight.
For dessert, there’s sea buckthorn sorbet and licorice cake, with baked rose hip rice pudding. The presentation is as artful as a painting by Jean Miro.
Throughout the evening, the energy at Fiskebar remains celebratory – and it’s easy to believe that you’ve found the party for which you’ve spent years searching. Dining at Fiskebar is one definition of culinary bliss.