A tangible calm
There is an unmistakable calm to Sushi Anaba. Its location on the waterfront of Nordhavn, a former industrial harbour, grounds the space as the view gently and gradually shifts throughout the evening. “There is a serenity here that feels tangible, sensorial. Almost rural. That affords me a focus that is unusual in this town,” says chef and owner of restaurant Sushi Anaba. To be in his presence as he ceremoniously composes each piece of nigiri while attentively finding the time to chat to guests and pour sake and wine, leaves one nourished in more ways than one.
“I want it to have the feel of a tavern or inn, where one can chat and have a good time, and at the same time be able to have a formal dinner in a formal setting. The dining room to be beautiful, and to create the space to just be in that, to take in that beauty,” says Battefeld.
Discovering Japanese cooking while working in Barcelona, with its fine dining restaurants honouring and reinterpreting an array of Asian cuisines based on the region’s superior seafood, Battefeld started travelling intensively to Japan on his annual sabbatical from the kitchen at Henne Kirkeby Kro. Ultimately, he moved to Toyama and Tokyo to train with the masters of the craft of omakase sushi. Craftsmanship has always stirred something within him.
“I have always been in love with the craftsmanship of making furniture, and with the Japanese aesthetic. The meeting between the two is almost painstakingly beautiful,” he admits. Always ruminating on what a future restaurant would look like, he has continuously amassed ideas and chairs for it — his favourite, the 77 chair by Niels Otto Møller. Building Sushi Anaba, he focused on simplicity and quality materials that last, its interior realised in collaboration with Copenhagen-based cabinetmaker Andrea Stokholm with much of it built from one single trunk of wood.
“If I was ever gonna open a restaurant, it needed to be a cuisine that was missing in Copenhagen. It came from wanting to know the craft more intimately, to continue learning. This is not fusion, it is as classically Japanese as I can do. Working within a strict framework allows me to be more creative,” says Battefeld.
With that comes an attention to detail and quality that is without compromise. Traditional ingredients such as rice, soy sauce, sake and wasabi are meticulously sourced from Japan, while the same consideration is applied to finding seafood and vegetables closer to home in Denmark. “Mackerel, herring and fjord shrimps are used in both Japanese and Danish cooking, but the terroir is vastly different, meaning that you have to treat the produce differently too. But our base flavours and textures, I would say, are pretty classical,” he explains.
“We try to let just a few elements tread to the foreground when we cook. That means those few elements have to be exceptional. We want the pure flavour of the ingredient to shine through, never masking or obscuring it. If you really understand the craft and tradition of Japanese omakase cooking, you do not need to hide anything,” says Battefeld.
Every bite has its own scenography, its own universe. Battefeld’s effortless choreography paired with warm hospitality and his collection of Japanese porcelain, cutlery and tableware, make dishes beam with idiosyncrasy. They linger in mind. It is an act of care deeply felt.