Had a fine meal in the main dining room of Aquavit last night. Under chef Marcus Jernmark it continues to offer a mix of traditional nordic flavors presented in modernist ways. The two of us each ordered the four-course prix fixe, so we could try a variety of things--about half the menu. We let them know we would be sharing, so they brought us two clean plates with each course and put the dishes in the center to serve from.
The main dining room is small, maybe 11 or 12 tables, and if some don't care for the decor, I think that may just be because of the way Scandanavian design has fulfilled such utilitarian functions in America, so if you eat at the Smörgås Chef restaurant at Scandanavia House, you feel a bit like you're in a school cafeteria or an airport food court, and at Aquavit you may be having a meeting at an advertising agency.
I think the thing I liked most was the second amuse (the first being four cheesy gougeres)--a hot smoked salmon served in a clamped jar, so that it released a puff of smoke when opened before the waiter drizzled it with a cold white asparagus soup.
Breads were a traditional rye crispbread, which I've been making a lot of lately myself, with fennel and sea salt, finger loaves of dense rye, and white sourdough rolls, which I didn't get around to. I should have had less of the crispbread. It's more filling than one thinks.
We tried three infused Aquavits between us--horseradish, ramp, and fig & cardamom.
The gravlax seems to be cut into triangular strips, reassembled with transglutaminase into a torchon, and delivered elegantly like an orange slice with a whole mustard and dill sauce. Also had the Picked and Spiced Herring, which was subtle, and might bring us back for the herring festival. The herring was like the horseradish infused aquavit, in that it revealed enough of the flavors that make it interesting, but not so much as to be overbearing or wipe out one's tastebuds for the rest of the meal.
There are a couple of truffle dishes on the menu right now worth sampling. I particularly liked the corn and barley with shaved white truffle on top. There is also a "slow roasted" (seemed maybe sous vide and then charred actually) duck breast with foie gras, a thick black truffle and pumpernickel sauce, and tiny roasted turnips.
We ordered the Vanilla Infused Pears and the Chocolate with Texture for dessert, both nicely done and interesting, but it was getting to be a bit too much food. We would have been fine with the selection of closing amuses, particularly the dulce de leche beignets and the tray of eight or so little bites of various sweets.
All in all a good experience, and I'd add it to my nicer midtown lunch options.
Edited by David A. Goldfarb, 17 June 2012 - 06:32 AM.