Dining like a Viking (with money)

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This week is another exciting theme for the city. This week is one of New York’s Restaurant weeks. For one entire week, some of the most prestigious restaurants by the most renowned chefs open their doors for a prix fixe menu so that the commoner can dine on their elaborate culinary creations. Eateries you can only dream about visiting offering affordable 3 course meals so that everyone can indulge themselves in the city of food.

I first scanned “The Scoop“, a New York Times Inside Guide by their resident foodie Sam Sifton. He keeps an online and updated Top 50 interactive restaurant map of the city ideal for dipping in and out of this constantly evolving dining experience. Having narrowed down my top 4 restaurants on the “Sifty Fifty”, that were participating in the Restaurant Week fun, I approached some of my colleagues to see if they would agree to splurge with me for one night only on a feast of their choice. I say, “their choice”, as I offered them a choice of sorts, however, I had of course vetted every establishment and narrowed down my top picks.

We unanimously agreed upon a Scandanavian style restaurant called “Aquavit“. Described on it’s website as “the premier Scandinavian dining destination since 1987” who are we to argue?

Scandinavian cuisine has, over centuries, absorbed influences from cultures close by. Mostly Germanic and Eastern European flavors gave way to French influences and techniques from 1950’s and on. Still we mostly regard Scandinavian home cooking as Germanic and Scandinavian fine dining as French.

You’ll notice these subtle differences at Restaurant Aquavit when visiting our Bistro which has many rustic, Scandinavian home cooking interpretations on the menu and our dining room, where the tone is mostly French with a Scandinavian profile.

Aquavit’s design, however, is distinctly Scandinavian. Our design is open and airy saluting famous designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Paul Kjaerholm and Verner Panton. The classically modern setting compliments the cooking style of Executive Chef Marcus Jernmark. A meal at Restaurant Aquavit is a journey to Scandinavia that can be either traditional or modern, depending on your mood.

Well our mood was going to be hungry so we were very excited to get on with the 3-course banquet. Having avoided the first hurdle, of me booking us for a Saturday and us arriving on a Wednesday, we were safely seated in the main dining room of cool, open wood-panelled modernity. There was definitely a sense of log cabin surrounded by vast woodland, despite being right bang in the middle of urban Manhattan.

Ordering was easy, as we had already scoured the menu online pre-dinner, so we promptly listed our desires and confirmed with the waiter that we would like our bread before the dishes arrive, thank you. Let’s get this show on the road, I was thinking. He kindly obliged and proceeded to place a volcanic-like pumice-esque stone on our table smothered in a generous dollop of creamy butter. I would have tucked in directly but since we were in a posh place I consented to wait for the bread. As I lathered the butter lavishly on my bread mix, the starter plates arrived. First up was a herring tartar for Liz and Alissa and a smoked cedar ham with pickled vegetables and a wholegrain mustard for me. The herring tartar was quite a magnificent sight. A short tower of uncooked fish sat in the middle of the plate, bordered by small delicate additions such as a mound of finely diced beetroot, a tiny firm egg yolk and pearl onions for a flurry of wonderful colour. The chef advised the girls to fully mix everything, and therefore destroy the art, in order to get the best experience from the dish. My cedar ham was delicious and simple but my food envy for the herring creation was quite distracting.

Next up, we got a blackened perch and the duck confit between us. Both to die for, I got stuck in to everything with my fork displaced between perch and canard. However, as is usually the case with me, dinner is always simply a build up to dessert and I was not to be disappointed. Local Strawberries with almond ice cream, blueberries, blackberries and a yummy (couldn’t think of a more appropriate word) strawberry fool laid out in true Masterchef style (although less of a techno backing track). Now I am completely satisfied. My tummy is full but no overfilled and I am feeling very overwhelmed with food joy.

I will definitely have to redo Restaurant Week next time around.

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