Aquavit is a solid New York institution. Three decades after opening, it holds two Michelin stars. The honor is held by one of only two female chefs in the US with as many stars. Chef Emma Bengtsson joined as pastry chef in 2010 and has since become the Executive Chef, bringing Aquavit its second star. We all know Aquavit for famous chef Marcus Samuelsson, who brought much attention and acclaim to the restaurant. He has since moved on to bigger things. Maybe not better, but bigger! And certainly different.
Aquavit is unique in its cuisine, as there are no other world-class Swedish restaurants. Although I could argue we had some world class food in Sweden, notably Oaxen Krog & Slip, Matbaren Mathias Dahlgren and Prinsen. I am sure we missed many others like Operakallaren, which is owned by one of the original partners from Aquavit. We enjoy the freshness of the seafood and the clean, simple combinations. Aquavit delivered the tastes of Sweden in every way and well beyond. There is nothing like the experience of each bite jumping out as new and exciting.
The decor, which I did not capture, is Scandinavian mid-century modern. For those who know me, my favorite. Round Saarinen tables are the centerpiece with some crazy high-backed leather swivel chairs and the walls are lined with grey leather banquettes. Most tables were appointed with Hans Wagner chairs. Love at first sight. Steve said there was a painting above my dad and I he called two-headed bunny in bondage, I missed it. Bummer.
Seasonal Tasting Menu
We opted for the 5 course Seasonal Tasting Menu with an additional cheese course. It was middle of the road instead of the Chef’s Tasting, which was too rich for our blood. Bring your wallet, this is a lifetime experience costing $300/person with drinks and tip. That’s if you go the way of moderate. The sky is the limit if you go 10-course smorgasbord with wine pairing OR select from the vast wine list reaching well into the $1000’s. We had a couple of stiff drinks before we got there which dropped our inhibitions enough to get 2 bottles of $130 wine. No ‘regerts’ as they say.
Here we go…Amuse Bouches abound and frankly I didn’t bother with pictures, which may be a regret! I got the first two! The first was a Swedish Pancake with Smoked Salmon, a very traditional flavor. The second, however, was quite unique. We received a dish of rocks with stuffed mussels and bowls of hay oil finished with broth. You drink the broth afterwards. And it’s black.
From there we began our journey. The first half we paired with white burgundy, by the way. The second, with Pinot Noir. Two perfect wines.
The official rundown on the spring menu is below:
Oyster & Spring Peas
Langoustine & Rhubarb
Bass with White Asparagus, Isterband & Apple
Lamb & Morels, Grape & Ginger
Artisanal Cheeses (+$10pp)
Wild Strawberry & Pistachio
Aquavit, 65 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022