What It’s Like to Eat a 50-Course, 6-Hour Tasting Menu

This tasting menu starts with a modern dance, and after 48 more courses, ends in a ball pit.

Food service at Alchemist in Copenhagen

Søren Gammelmark

I’m not hungry. 

This is what I’m mumbling under my breath as I stand outside the massive metal doors of the Alchemist in Copenhagen. These doors, I’m later told, cost more than the start-up costs of several other Michelin-starred restaurants in the country. It’s both surprising and not: The two Michelin-star restaurant helmed by chef Rasmus Munk was recently named the number five best restaurant in the world and has been called one of the most immersive restaurants ever. 

But the first thing you should know about the Alchemist isn’t the chef’s approach to cooking. First, you need to know that to dine at the Alchemist is to undergo a staggering 50-course onslaught. The second thing you should be aware of is that it lasts approximately six hours. And the third? That somehow, some way, you won’t be bored, and you won’t be too full, even if you show up without an appetite. 

I went in thinking I’d find the meal too long. Especially in a city like Copenhagen, where there is so much to see and do, dedicating six hours to dining feels excessive. But this is the key trick at play — the Alchemist, as the name suggests, transforms ingredients, expectations, and perhaps time itself. It is a test of endurance, of willpower, and patience, and despite this, the experience is still meant to (and, in my opinion, does) evoke joy. 

It doesn’t begin with a glass of champagne or caviar as you would expect. Instead, the experience starts with a modern dance. This is the moment I began to realize that it wouldn’t be 50 courses of food (there are about 47 courses of food), but that instead, some of the courses would be non-edible. And all of it, from the chairs to the plates to the attitude of the servers, would be arranged like props in an extravagant play. 

But that’s all hard to think about as you are led around a mirrored room by a dancer swan lake-style, thrusting her arms around your head and encouraging you to look deep within your own eyes. Eventually, she gestures for you to leap off a stair, and you can’t really say no, though my dress shoes don’t have that kind of support. Eventually, it all crescendos with you staring face to face with yourself, lights strobing, and a door behind you opening to reveal a lounge. Here is where you get the champagne and caviar. Also, butterflies.

A few dishes from Alchemist in Copenhagen

Søren Gammelmark

Yes, actual butterflies. One of the bites here is a freeze-dried butterfly tweezered atop a metal log, which Munk believes could be a more sustainable protein of the future. Altogether it tastes like a more flowery, lighter potato chip. It’s hard to have just one, but that’s all you get. 

After a few more snacks (including “the perfect omelet,” with pepper infused via sound waves, according to the chef), guests are led into the dome, a planetarium-shaped room that serves as the main dining room. The screen on the ceiling presents several different moving images throughout the meal. From an aquarium filled with trash bags to raining human body parts, the scenery is designed to evoke conversation. 

But let’s talk about the courses, or “impressions,” as the chef calls them, which tackle almost every problem the world is facing today. From plastic waste to child labor to sustainability at large to healthcare systems, the Alchemist leaves no stone unturned as diners are barraged with lengthy lectures from their servers. I imagine this would be a great meal to share with someone who has a completely opposite worldview as your own. 

There is also a section of impressions covering the span of the human body, or at least several parts specifically chosen to make participants uneasy. Sheep’s brains filled with a cherry sauce, reminiscent of foie gras, are served in the silicone mold of a human head, a caviar course is plated in the pupil of an oversized eyeball (this impression is called “1984”), and there is even a silicone human tongue coated with a candy-like substance which everyone is encouraged to French kiss in order to consume. 

This is all to say, watching the wealthy elite’s attempts at consuming this dish was better than any museum Copenhagen has to offer. But then, it was my turn.

The planetarium dome at Alchemist in Copenhagen

Søren Gammelmark

It’s not just this silicone mold that’s made to toy with you. It turns out, all of them are part of an elaborate setup. One of the final impressions, which speaks to irresponsible chicken farming, presents a chicken lollipop attached to a chicken foot imprisoned in a cage. As I sat there, fiddling with the chicken claw before me, picking its nails, I asked the server which artist made this silicone mold. Was it the same one that designed the tongue? Maybe it was the designer of the eyeball? But my server just laughed at me. “That one is the real thing,” she said.

But that’s just one stroke of genius. Another: When you are almost too stuffed to move, one of the final savory dishes comes out with a lecture on food waste. Of course, it feels imperative to eat the dish in full, which then gets you into a “Princess Bride” type of conundrum — was I supposed to eat it? Was I supposed to think I was supposed to eat it but not eat it? Was I supposed to think he wanted me to eat it, but then he knew I wouldn’t eat it, but then me not eating it proves him right? I ate it all. 

Once I made it through dessert — the highlight here is a pig's blood ice cream shaped into a blood droplet with a QR code on the edge of the plate leading you to sign up to donate blood at the Red Cross — I was asked to please hand over any loose items to my server. What happened next is one of the strangest parts of an evening that insists on topping itself again and again.

After covering every serious topic facing humanity, we were led into a mirrored room with a ball pit and left alone for about three minutes to swim and play and dance wildly. It’s as if Munk is simultaneously poking fun at Instagram museums and also acknowledging that at its core, this is an experiential, photogenic experience, inextricable from its contemporaries.

Once the lights stopped strobing and the music stopped blasting, a robotic voice instructed us to go through a hidden exit. I thought I was done with it all, ready to sip espresso and decompress, digest, and eventually wander home. But there was one more trick before the petit fours. After regressing to a five-year-old state in the ball pit, you step immediately into the heart of the kitchen, surrounded by stone-faced chefs, all looming over you. 

All of my belongings were arranged carefully, like a place setting for a final course, served on a reflective tray. It seemed as though the entire kitchen was gazing upon them, upon me. I almost felt embarrassed that I had brought along a packet of Renee, the Finnish brand of Tums, and a Lactaid, as well as my phone and wallet. 

But after 50 courses packed with interesting bites and thought-provoking discussions about the state of society and the planet, my pride was the least of my concerns.

Reservations at the Alchemist start at 4,900 Danish Krones which is $718.48 USD not including wine.

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