Aquavit, NYC 5
July 15, 2014
On July 7, 2014, Linda and I returned to Aquavit for dinner. Marcus Jernmark had left as chef two months before with no announcement or explanation. He was replaced by his pastry chef of the last four years, Emma Bengtsson, and we were interested in seeing how that was working out.
A native of Sweden, Emma attended Stockholm’s Hotel and Restaurant School, where she trained in savory, pastry and also front-of-house operations. During an internship at Edsbacka Krog, the only Michelin two-star restaurant in Sweden at the time, Emma discovered pastry was where her passion truly laid. She remained at Edsbacka Krog for five years. Her other experience in Sweden includes Restaurant Prinsen, Stockholm’s oldest and busiest bistro, and Operakällaren in Stockholm’s Opera House.
We were seated in the back corner of Aquavit‘s spare dining room, where we had a good view of the other tables and, out through the front windows, of the construction site for the Long Island Railroad connection to Grand Central Station.
Linda had a glass of N.V. CHAMPAGNE, DUC DU ROMET, BRUT PRESTIGE, AŸ; I enjoyed a glass of 2011 CAVA, RAVENTÓS I BLANC, L’HEREU’, CONCA DEL RIU ANOIA, CATALONIA.
The fifth, and last of the good, inventive, snacks, was thin slices of smoked venison with yuzukosho.
The fermented paste of yuzu rind and chilies gave this some tang.
The menu offered a choice of à la carte, a seasonal menu and, our choice, a Chef’s Tasting Menu. We declined the optional wine pairings and ordered a bottle of 2009 BREGGO, FERRINGTON VINEYARD, ANDERSON VALLEY, PINOT NOIR with the help of the excellent sommelière.
It had good strong characteristic flavors.
The first menu course was
catskill trout roe, breakfast radish, hovmäster
The salmon had been finely diced and topped with trout roe, dill sprigs, a mayonnaise and thin slices of radish and red onion. (Rolf writes: “The headline mentions “hovmäster”, which I assume is hovmästarsås. That’s a Swedish sauce traditionally served with gravlax. There are many ways of doing the sauce, but I just mix an egg yolk with a dollop of sweet Swedish mustard and dill.” The salmon was served under a glass bell filled with hay smoke which perfumed the area when the bell was lifted in front of us.
SWEETBREADS and SWEET SHRIMP
goat’s cheese dome, hazelnuts, sauerkraut emulsion
The partially hidden green dome on the left was a mix of goat cheese and edamame. There are half fava beans in front of it. The chunk of sweetbread on the upper right was perfectly cooked: crisp outside and creamy inside, but it needed less complex enhancements.
AUSTRALIAN TRUFFLE and BARLEY
morel mushrooms, pickled onions, truffle vinaigrette
There was a noticeable truffle flavor in this dish, but the sweet and sour vinaigrette binder for the barley created an inappropriate undertone.
FOIE GRAS AND CHERRIES
brooks cherries, cocoa nibs, caramelized shallot marmalade
The thick rectangle of foie gras had been beautifully seared. The combination with seasonal cherries and other garnishes was just right.
SEA BASS and CHANTERELLES
crispy lardo, wilted lollipop kale, pickled violet turnips
The piece of sea bass was perfectly cooked. The main garnishes were well chosen for it: ribbons and purée of parsley root; crisply fried kale leaves. (They were not as in the menu description.)
WAGYU and CORN
compressed belgian endives, crispy capers, corn and barley risotto
The piece of Wagyu beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The flavor was elegantly beefy, without being fatty, as Wagyu is frequently. The interesting vegetables played a good secondary role.
candied walnuts, pea tendrils, birch syrup
Havgus is a mild cow’s milk cheese from the swampy part of southeast of Denmark. It was nicely enhanced by the fresh, seasonal pea greens, peach slices and candied walnuts.
The dessert was
MARA DES BOIS
parsley root crème, strawberry ice cream, toasted pumpkin seeds
This was seasonal and good.
With the dessert I had a glass of 2004 MUENZENRIEDER, SÄMLING, TROCKENBEERENAUSLESE, BURGENLAND, AUSTRIA. It went well with the strawberries, but was a bit syrupy.
The chef offered us an extra dessert
ARCTIC BIRD’S NEST
The main dessert had been somewhat surprising, as it did not show the talents of a pastry chef. But this one did. A goat cheese parfait egg with a white chocolate shell and a sea buckthorn yolk was nestled on a complex nest that complemented it beautifully.
Although I have some quibbles above, we really enjoyed our meal. The new chef has succeeded in keeping the Scandinavian theme throughout the meal. After all, that is why we come to Aquavit. Emma came out of the kitchen between the desserts to talk with us. She seemed a bit shy in her new role, but we hope that she will be allowed to continue and grow. Aquavit needs to continue to serve the best Scandinavian cuisine in New York. It does not need a celebrity chef as it has had before.
The service was always friendly and efficient and the noise level low. The dining room was only half full on this Monday after the Fourth of July weekend. We will be back to Aquavit.
To see all of our Aquavit blogposts click here.