This story first appeared in Danish on MUNCHIES DA in August 2016.
You'd think that Restaurant Bror in Copenhagen couldn't throw up any more surprises. After all, some of their dishes have read more like the special effects department of a Lars von Trier film than a highly-acclaimed gourmet menu: fried bull's penis, fish's heads, breaded testicles.
Of course, the deep-fried penis is a thing of wonder, a moorish snack to rival the best pork scratching. And the testicles—unctuous, crispy on the outside and with the perfect tartar sauce kick on the side—are like an adventurous take on chicken nuggets, the kind of stuff you wish came by the bucketload.
Yet, it was a substantial WTF moment this week when the restaurant put up its latest kitchen experiment on Instagram: cow's vagina. Or to be more precise, cow's uterus. The comments on Instagram have ranged from terror ("that sounds disgusting …") to excitement ("vagina on toast, so hot right now"). But there is much more to the Bror approach than social media shock value. Their cooking is informed by a noble quest to treasure the tastiest and most flavor-yielding bits of the animals, completely indiscriminate of what our usual preconceptions of good taste might be.
While other restaurants talk a good game about eating the animal from nose to tail, but rarely venture beyond a bit of crispy pig's ear, Bror goes to the funkiest nooks and crannies of the beast. For the two owners and head chefs—Sam Nutter and Victor Wagman—all of this makes perfect sense. It's an approach to cooking that tickles their curiosity, the produce is cost-effective, and it makes for damn good dinner conversation.
Earlier this year, the pair opened a more upscale take on their cuisine, the critically-acclaimed Ante, where the lumpfish came with a side of sperm, but it closed down within six months. Now, back focusing on the kitchen at Bror, the uterus is the latest thing to be elevated from variety meats to fine dining.
I sat down with Sam and Victor to sample the uterus. The fallopian tubes have been poached, sliced, fried and served on rye bread with remoulade sauce and horseradish.
MUNCHIES: Hi Sam and Victor. Uterus—how the hell did you come up with the idea of serving cow's uterus? Victor: We try lots of different parts of the animal: heads and livers and so on. So why not try this one? If we can cook penis, then why not vagina?
Sam: I think that if you work on it enough it's as delicious as something else you could find at the butcher. We are trying to use as much of that animal as possible since it died for us to eat it.
That seems to make perfect sense. Where did you get the uterus from? Victor: We got it from a small butcher in Sweden. We asked him for cow's vagina and this is what he gave us. These things can be quite hard to get hold of, which is a real shame. For now, we are using it to test various dishes that we (can) put on the menu for chefs and friends.
Wow. I hope it becomes a regular feature. How do you cook it? Sam: We cook the whole uterus—vac-packed in oil with garlic, onions and other aromatics—in the oven at 80 degrees celsius for 24 hours. We initially tested it after 12 hours and it was a bit tough, but when we cooked it for another 12 hours it was perfect. When you cook it, the uterus shrivels up and loses a bit of moisture. Then we carve out the fallopian tubes, slice them really thinly and fry them in the pan with lots of butter, before glazing them with chicken stock. We serve it with a remoulade sauce, thin slices of raw radish, and grated horseradish. The fallopian tube is the best bit of the uterus we've cooked so far. It's not super beefy like steak; it's a delicate and tender piece. We are still working on the rest.
And why are you serving it like an open-faced sandwich? Sam: For some reason it just reminds me of smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches). It's a bit of a nod to the classic dyrelægens natmad (the vet's delight), I suppose. We take something very unfamiliar and make it more familiar. And remoulade just works nicely with smørrebrød.
It tastes great, but are people still shocked by these offal cuts or are guests more desensitised? Sam: Maybe. In this restaurant it feels like it, maybe because we have done it for such a long time. Most people know what to expect when they come here to eat. We have had things like testicles and fish heads that were probably more for a curious chef's crowd, but now we have a dish with glazed beef lung on the menu for the whole restaurant and people really seem to enjoy it. It's nice that a lot of people are more willing to try these things than when we first opened.
It's also interesting for us because you get bored of doing the same cuts. Towards the end of Ante I was standing in the kitchen and feeling quite stressed and not really that creative. When I came back up here to the Bror kitchen I started prepping some cod's heads, which we have served for more than two years. And I just thought, "maybe we can try a new approach". So now we cut the tongue out first, blanch and clean the jawbone, so you eat it by picking up the jawbone and almost kissing it. The texture and flavor are very nice and the same goes for the way you eat it. It's quite an intimate way of eating.
Why did you decide to close down Ante? Victor: We opened Ante because we wanted to challenge ourselves, be creative and do all these things that we couldn't do at Bror. And it was well-received. But we also felt that the creativity that we had been chasing wasn't there. It was actually the opposite. I think that Bror is always where we feel at home.
Sam: I enjoy cooking this type of food at Bror more. Maybe we took that for granted. Trying to do something more and not appreciating what we had. It's easy to get lost in all the hype but the thing that has always been stable and the thing that we will always come back to is Bror.
So you won't miss cooking with lobsters and other posh ingredients? Victor: I think if the need to be doing that was so big then we would still be doing it. But we are happy with the uterus.