Dining At Two Michelin Starred-Restaurant, AquavitDecember 7, 2018
NEW YORK – We’ve had the privilege of interviewing some of the best Scandinavian chefs in the world and even dining at their restaurants. One of our most recent dining adventures, and possibly the best dining experience for one of our staffers, was at Aquavit, a two Michelin-starred restaurant where Emma Bengtsson is the chef.
From the aesthetic and service to the spirits and food, it was an experience that was one for the books.
The Décor: Minimal, chic and exclusive
Tucked away between high-rises on E. 55th St. and Park Ave., the front entrance had us second guessing if we were in the correct location – the entry was dimly lit and surrounded by black curtains. It felt like an exclusive club. Behind curtain No. 1 was a beautiful, modern and chic, minimally-decorated dining room. The greenery, elegantly dressed staff and collection of chandeliers all were an indication that we were standing in an upscale establishment. There even were mini-sheepskin throws neatly draped over each individual chair.
Behind curtain No. 2 and down a hallway was a separate room for the bar, which included leather lounge chairs and a display of aquavits that were being infused with a variety of sweet, savory and salty ingredients.
The Food: Traditional Scandinavian fine dining
The menu offered two options: ordering à la carte or selecting the menu of the day, a three-course meal that pairs items selected by Bengtsson from the seasonal menu. We chose to go with à la carte, so we could indulge in as many classics as possible. Here’s what we had:
After taking our orders, our server brought us a basket of freshly baked (it was still warm), homemade, sourdough and rye bread.
We had a flight of three expressions: classic (caraway and cardamom), cucumber and lingonberry. Intrigued with the horseradish-infused aquavit, apparently one of the most popular flavors, our server brought us a complimentary taste. The cucumber was refreshing; the lingonberry was tart; the classic was, well, classic; and the horseradish had a kick!
Made with petit Nordic shrimp, the skagen (aka, an open-face sandwich) was refreshing and had the perfect amount of tang from the vinegar. The pickled red onion gave each bite a slight crunch and the trout roe complemented the shrimp with a mild briny flavor.
The salmon was house-cured, brined in salt, sugar and dill until perfection. It was served with a holvmästar sauce, baby potatoes and lots of fresh dill.
Our staff has enjoyed authentic Swedish meatballs before, but none (at least in this staffer’s opinion) live up to the dish we had here. Each individual meatball was cooked medium, with a pink center, and served over thinly whipped potatoes accompanied by fresh lingonberry jam, sautéed mushrooms and, of course, a traditional Swedish meatball gravy. Unlike most Swedish meatball dishes, the gravy was very light with a thin texture.
Although our bellies were too full to order dessert, dessert was delivered. At the end of each meal, guests receive a mini wooden box filled with a variety of tiny cookies. We enjoyed homemade gingerbread, rye cookies, chocolate chip and more.
Our meals were perfect, but what added to the overall dining experience was the staff, who were professional, informative and friendly. What really stood out to us was the above-and-beyond hospitality and attention to detail. When our food was delivered, the manager (Nash) gave us a detailed description of each dish and how it was prepared. Our drinks never emptied, and our table stayed clean, despite going to town on our meals.
For what it’s worth, we give Aquavit an A-plus. If you’re ever in New York City, be sure to book a reservation.