Restaurant Review: Aquavit

JULIE BESONEN

Nordic food is the next big thing, so 21st century for its clean, fresh flavors, pickling proclivities and commitment to the land. Bringing these contemporary tastes to New York is Marcus Jernmark, a 28-year-old Swede who is the new executive chef at Aquavit. His predecessor,Marcus Samuelsson, had woven global ingredients into his Swedish repertoire. Jernmark is all about "reScandinavianizing" the menu, a smart move since Northern Europe's purist cuisine is currently capturing a lot of attention (for instance, Copenhagen's Noma was just named the best restaurant in the world). The minimalist bistro up front is a comfortable setting to sample what's coming out of his kitchen (a gorgeous bar and more formal dining room are in the rear). And what better way to try a little of everything than a smörgÃ¥sbord ($22)? The platter holds an assortment of sweet, pickled herring with mustard sauce, gravlax, cold-smoked salmon, boiled fingerlings, shrimp-topped brioche, venison tartare with pickled beets and a wedge of hard, complex västerbotten cheese. My Swedish grandmother was a gifted cook so I've had a soft spot for Scandinavian food since I was a tot, and Jernmark's Swedish meatballs ($19) in cream sauce are as close as I've tasted to hers. His pureed potatoes were just as fluffy, his pickled cucumbers just as bright and pure as I remember. Something I'd never had before was risotto-like celeriac barlotto ($20), pearl barley cooked al dente, with västerbotten cheese taking on the role of Parmigiano-Reggiano. A bit of shaved white truffle added an earthy perfume. Since it's fall, it seemed right to have apple cake with a crust of Danish rye crumbs and vanilla ice cream ($10) for dessert, rich but not too sweet, flavorful and textured. Jernmark's confidence in celebrating Swedish tradition has made this 23-year-old Midtown restaurant exactly right for now.

 

Aquavit

65 E. 55th St., 

(212)  307-7311

aquavit.org

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