This is the conclusion of my I Luv NY series of culinary and cosmopolitan explorations in the Big Apple. After a night at Momofuku, I thought I would not be wowed, but the combination of the food and a more traditional fine dining ambiance at Aquavit was impressive.
The Aquavit entrance is rather indescript as it is on the first floor of a business and residential space between Park and Madison. The clean designs of the interior would be exactly what one would expect coming from the Scandinavian theme of the restaurant. I chose to await my seating at the bar, where canisters filled with Aquavit or “Water of Life” and drunken fruit highlighted some of their drink specials. I must admit that the warm, spiced nut mixture served at the bar is definitely worth a little cocktail pre-dinner (but don’t let that spoil your appetite).
I was seated at a small table located in the back dining room for a late evening reservation. The restaurant was full, but rather intimate because of the thoughtful layout of the dining room. As a tasting menu is one of the best ways to understand and experience a chef’s repertoire, I decided to do the featured tasting menu that evening in conjunction with the wine pairing. This ran me a little north of $100. However, I thought, when in Rome do as Romans, and when in NYC take advantage of the Creme de la Creme. (My reality eating is cheese, bread, fruit, and wine on a TV tray at home.)
Below is the list of the courses. During the tasting, I was unable to keep track of the drink pairings that ranged from Aguavit (vodka like libation) to Riesling to Pinot Noir.
- Tuna Tartar, Oysters with fennel cream and caviar, Herring Sampler (Loved the tuna & I officially did my first raw oyster…still don’t think it is a aphrodisiac)
- Lobster Roll garnished with pickled apple, trout roe, bacon, lemon aioli (very nice and delicately presented to make Sushi chefs jealous)
- Foie Gras Ganache with quail egg, pickled tomato, mustard (Foie gras is always very rich and especially pared with a soft boiled egg…you can a theme from Momofuku’s soft boiler egg with chips.)
- Hot-Smoked Arctic Char with celeriac, fennel frond, apple-horseradish broth (Two thumbs up, a very hearty fish and sweet cider-like broth with a kick of horseradish)
- Seared Tuna with pea shoots, snap peas, lemon vinaigrette (I guessed that the next step in this progression was to a heavier fish, like tuna. It did have a bbq seasoning that led well to the net course)
- Vension Loin,smoked & wrapped in bacon with huckleberries, dumplings, morels (This dish brought me back to the Midwest with vension. This was a definite favorite, especially as it was wrapped in bacon. Goooooood!)
- Grapefruit Granite with frozen yogurt & orange (This certainly would clean a palate, but I really didn’t like this course as it was too much Grapefruit. It needed additional sugar or alternate fruits to make it work for me.)
- Arctic Circle: goat cheese parfait, blueberry sorbet, & passion fruit curd (I have never been a fan of goat cheese, but I do admit the passion fruit curd was very nice, a change from a typical lemon curd. I would have to say the desserts were a strike out.)
As you can see and assume from a Scandinavian menu, it was fish heavy. Now to be very honest, I am not a fish lover. As my husband would say, I have a “food aversion” to fishy stuff in taste or smell. I have come to realize that this is the fault of food preparers and the fact that I come from a non-seaside state. If done correctly and fresh, I love fish.
Can I recommend that all parents and school systems, please stop preparing frozen fish sticks and really bad tuna fish! It has turned me off to fish and it has taken many decades to erase such experiences. However, both of my NYC experiences, proved that fish and seafood has such a broad spectrum.
Check out my complete NYC cosmopolitan and culinary tour with my video: