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 first snack was herring with salmon roe on a white base served in a herring can. The second was a mushroom crisp with sea buckthorn curd and pickled sea buckthorn.
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The third snack was a very good rice cracker.
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The fourth snack was trout roe and smoked corn kernels with a cold smoked corn soup poured over them at the table.
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This fresh, seasonal dish was especially good.

The fifth, and last of the good, inventive, snacks, was thin slices of smoked venison with yuzukosho.
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The fermented paste of yuzu rind and chilies gave this some tang.  

The bread basket arrived with lingonberry bread, sourdough rolls and, my choice, Danish rye. It was served with brown butter, sweet butter and coarse salt.
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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.
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It had good strong characteristic flavors.
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The first menu course was
HAY-SMOKED GRAVLAX
catskill trout roe, breakfast radish, hovmäster
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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.
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SWEETBREADS and SWEET SHRIMP
goat’s cheese dome, hazelnuts, sauerkraut emulsion
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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.
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AUSTRALIAN TRUFFLE and BARLEY
morel mushrooms, pickled onions, truffle vinaigrette
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There was a noticeable truffle flavor in this dish, but the sweet and sour vinaigrette binder for the barley created an inappropriate undertone.
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FOIE GRAS AND CHERRIES
brooks cherries, cocoa nibs, caramelized shallot marmalade
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The thick rectangle of foie gras had been beautifully seared. The combination with seasonal cherries and other garnishes was just right.
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PINE SHOOTS
lemon granité, gin
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The gin was infused in the house with juniper berries. This was refreshing, and appropriate to the theme, but not really necessary.
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SEA BASS and CHANTERELLES
crispy lardo, wilted lollipop kale, pickled violet turnips
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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.)
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WAGYU and CORN
compressed belgian endives, crispy capers, corn and barley risotto
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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.
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HAVGUS
candied walnuts, pea tendrils, birch syrup
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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.
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The pre-dessert was glasses of raspberry consommé with elderflower foam.
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Nice.
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The dessert was
MARA DES BOIS
parsley root crème, strawberry ice cream, toasted pumpkin seeds
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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.
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The chef offered us an extra dessert
ARCTIC BIRD’S NEST
blueberry,sea buckthorn,halva
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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.
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The tray of mignardises was presented, but we were already too satiated to take more than a few.
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Fresh, hot beignets (donut holes?) were served, but we had already passed our sugar quota by then.
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We were given little bags of almond biscuits to take home for breakfast. They were delicious, with a soft, moist texture and a definite almond flavor.
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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.
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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.

http://www.aquavit.org/restaurant/newyork/index.asp

To see all of our Aquavit blogposts click here.

 

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