PETALING JAYA, Jan 31 — Walk into Denhygge and it feels like you're entered a home filled with warmth and delicious smells from the kitchen.
Sunlight streams from the large window at the end, making the colours here appear richer and brighter. There's a faux fireplace and Danish radio playing over the speakers.
This is truly "hygge" or "that cosy feeling you cannot translate to English which is more like a lifestyle", explained Olga Jensen, one half of Denhygge which means "that hygge" in Danish.
She and her husband, Niels, opened Denhygge last November.
It had taken them almost one year to realise their dream. As it's completely foreign owned, they waded through a mountain of red tape to make it all happen.
The couple had relocated to Malaysia to work for a company dealing with food. After the pandemic, they decided to pursue their lifelong dream to own their own restaurant.
It turns out Niels once trained as a butcher back in Denmark. After he finished school, he joined his family who were working in a butchery where he also learned to roast meats and do cold cuts. Even Olga had enrolled in a school that taught her culinary basics when she was younger.
Life goes one circle as nowadays, Niels uses his butcher skills to make cold cuts, sausages, pate and the roast meats in Denhygge. Both of them work in the kitchen without any extra help. And Olga is on hand to explain each smørrebrød and share their Danish traditions.
As it's just the two of them cooking and serving the food, dining here feels very intimate... like you are being entertained at a friend's home.
The highlight here is their spread of smørrebrød, the open faced sandwiches the Danish are famous for.
Special dishes are also available for certain days of the week. Just check their social media for the heads-up on those items.
So what's smørrebrød?
Literally translated from Danish, it means "buttered bread". In the New York Times, smørrebrød is described as still lifes, making them more than just sandwiches.
Started in the 18th century, smørrebrød is deeply intertwined into every Danish's life, appearing everywhere from casual eateries to even Michelin selected places. The simplest smørrebrød at home can be lunch using leftovers plucked from the refrigerator.
It's not those chunky sandwiches we get in cafes, where the ratio is more bread versus fillings. Here it's the opposite.
In fact, one rule it seems is you're not even meant to see the bread at all. The New York Times also mentioned how the bread must be completely covered with various toppings to signify abundance.
There's also an art to building these open faced sandwiches, rather than just plonking what you like on bread.
It starts with the all important Danish rye bread or rugbrød.
As the rye bread is not sold commercially here, the Jensens worked with an artisan baker to develop a 100 per cent rye bread that tastes just like the ones they get in Denmark.
Olga elaborated that it took many tries before it was perfect; sometimes it was too dry or too sour.
"One of the main ingredients of the rye bread are the multigrains like sunflower seeds, flax seeds and various other seeds, making it very healthy."
A thin slice of rugbrød is used, where it is smeared with butter to keep it moist. It also helps to prevent any sogginess as you lay the toppings.
Denhygge offers 12 different smørrebrød on their menu. The toppings are what is commonly found in Denmark, like marinated herrings, prawns and more.
All of them use rye bread except the Egg and Shrimps. For this, toasted white bread is used as it's a better pairing for more delicate flavours like the shrimps.
What sets Denhygge apart is the use of their house-made cold cuts, pate, roast pork and beef. The Jensens also make some of the toppings themselves since sourcing these items is often an impossible task.
There's various rules for smørrebrød, like the order that it is served. You start with the herring, then a fish based topping followed by a meat topping and one with cheese.
In Denmark, most people eat at least two or three smorrebørd in one sitting. Usually it would be accompanied with Danish beer or aquavit.
Follow the Danish way and kick off your Danish immersion with the Marinated Herring smørrebrød.
Slices of the herring are artfully draped over the rye bread layered with green lettuce. There is also a need for a form of fat or richness to add another level of flavour. In this case, diced boiled eggs are served with curry spiced mayonnaise.
Don't be alarmed by the word "curry". It's not the fiery ones we usually get. This is a mild tasting curry made with coriander, turmeric, cayenne powder, cumin, fennel and black pepper. Olga explained that a touch of curry is meant to give a slight sweetness.
Topping it all, you have sliced red onions to give it freshness. It's given a decadent crunchy element in the form of tiny diced crispy pork lard sprinkled over it.
The combination works well and one can see why this is the crowd favourite with diners here. In fact, when I visited with my friends, we ordered a second helping of Marinated Herring smørrebrød since we couldn't get enough of it.
With the Roast Beef smørrebrød, it truly resembles a still life with its blush pink hue from the tender sliced roast beef. The beef is topped with a dollop of remoulade made with pickled cauliflower and mayonnaise. There's also horseradish sauce, the perfect accompaniment with beef. Pickled cucumbers undercut the richness and fried onions give it a crunch.
Get your smartphone ready to snap the magnificent Rullepøise smørrebrød with its ombre cherry pink coloured pork loin seasoned with spices.
It takes up to five days for Niels to make this special cold cut. The process is tedious, starting with rolling the pork loin with spices and onions, then tying it up with string. This is left to cure for two days, then it is boiled and cooked.
A mix of pickled onions and red onions are paired with the pork to give it a freshness. You will also find a dark brown jelly-like substance which is aspic that melts in the mouth to give it a slight sweetness.
As it is unavailable in Malaysia, Niels makes the aspic from scratch, boiling down the drippings from the roast pork with stock and using a dash of concentrated meat essence to give it a brown colour.
For the Pork Liver Pate smørrebrød, there's thick slices of their house made pate with a creamy texture, topped with pickled cucumbers. It is crowned with curly, ultra decadent fried bacon strips that can be eaten like crisps. Marinated red cabbage is also added to help cut through the richness.
Other meaty options include juicy Fried Pork Meatballs smørrebrød with marinated red cabbage and pickled onions.
If you prefer seafood themed smørrebrød, there's Crispy Fried Pollock fillet with a remoulade dressing and lemon. Or try the refreshing Egg and Shrimps, served on toasted white bread with mayonnaise, caviar and lemon. The peeled shrimps with a slight crunch, are arranged beautifully on the fluffy bread generously spread with mayonnaise and sliced hard boiled eggs.
It's a good day in Denhygge if you spot a roast pork loin on the kitchen counter. The thick slab of meat is crowned with a golden brown crackling, inviting you to eat it all.
This is used in their Roasted Pork Loin with Crackling smørrebrød, where a thick slice is served with marinated red cabbage, pickled cucumbers and a slice of orange.
It is also used in one of their specials, the Danish-style Fried Pork Belly. Also known as Stegt Flæsk, it's essentially sliced pork belly deep fried till it's golden brown crunchy.
I suggest you ditch the fork and knife and pick up each piece to enjoy its crunchiness as this is next level. For those who may find it dry (I didn't), there's a parsley cream sauce on the side. Don't dismiss the potatoes as these ones are perfectly cooked to a soft consistency that pairs perfectly with that creamy parsley sauce.
Another special dish is the Pork Tenderloin or Vienna Schnitzel with fried potatoes and bacon. It's a mouthwatering dish with that irresistible smell of pan fried bacon with potatoes, which got all my food-loving friends incredibly excited. Usually schnitzel uses veal but this Vienna version is made with a tender, juicy piece of pork tenderloin.
In Denmark, hotdogs are a big thing, where you find stands selling hotdogs all around the city. Niels makes his own farmer sausage rather than the usual rødpølser, or red hot dogs found on the streets in Denmark.
This one is juicy and stuffed with minced pork that pairs well with the fluffy bread. It's topped with marinated onions, mustard, pickled mayonnaise, marinated cucumbers and fried onions.
Other specials include Paprika Pork Tenderloin Stew, Homemade Black Angus Beef Burger with the unusual pairing of homemade tzatziki, Danish-style Hash Biksemad, Fried Pork Tenderloin or Mørbradbøffer and so forth.
Occasionally, you can score desserts here. We were lucky to be served a traditional dessert known as Risalamande.
Olga explained this dessert is traditionally served on Christmas eve in Denmark. Each spoonful of this creamy rice pudding topped with a cherry compote is filled with chopped almonds to give a contrast in textures. You may even get lucky and find a whole almond which means you score a Christmas gift too.
Orders for their roasted pork loin or other menu items can also be made for special occasions at home. Unfortunately, they don't deliver so you have to pick it up yourself.
For this week, there's a change to their operating times. On February 2, they are open from 11am to 3pm as they will be hosting a private event at night. For February 3, they will be open from 10am to 10pm.
With regards to the Chinese New Year holidays, follow their social media to check what days they will be open.
Denhygge Danish Restaurant, F13, First Floor, Heritage Lane, Empire Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya. Open: 11am to 9pm (Tuesday and Wednesday), 11am to 10pm (Thursday to Saturday). Closed on Sunday and Monday. Tel: 012-8240020. Facebook: @Denhygge_Malaysia Instagram: @denhygge_malaysia
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