Though the thought of the term New Nordic in America evokes imagery of fancy, twelve-course tasting menus highlighted by pulling your own radish out of a dirt patch, Chef Gabriel Hedlund of Sweden and Danish restaurateur Mathias Kær want to paint a more realistic portrait of Scandinavian cuisine.
That’s why they’ve opened N’eat (58 2nd Avenue; 917-892-6350). The eatery focuses on reuniting New Yorkers with the simple deliciousness of warm bread and butter — or in this case, fried sourdough dusted with mushroom powder and a side of cultured butter.
Instead of a set tasting menu, dishes are served a la carte and divided by portion size. Snacks — ideal for dining at the bar while Hedlund’s team plates dishes in front of guests — include oysters and chicken skin accompanied by smoked salmon and cream cheese. Hedlund sources many ingredients locally, but also imports cheeses, seaweed, and butter from Scandinavia. Baked haddock served with sea buckthorn and apple as well as chicken confit with burned garlic sauce are a few of the a la carte dishes that can best be enjoyed in the cozy, barn-like dining room.
While this is Hedlund and Kær’s first restaurant in the United States, the duo have spent significant portions of their careers exploring different versions of Scandinavian cuisine. Hedlund’s thirteen-year career as a chef include a stop at Noma cooking under René Redzepi and Luksus’ Daniel Burns.
“I’ve been wanting to come to New York and live and work here since I was about 20,” says Hedlund. “I remember I had dreams about working at Per Se when I finished culinary school.”
The chef is also applying updated techniques that pay homage to his native home’s penchant for brining, smoking, and pickling dishes. “We’re not fine dining,” Kær notes. “We also want to show the other side of New Nordic cuisine that’s not only long tasting menus, which everybody else is doing here that’s coming with the New Nordic cuisine.”
Unlike in Scandinavia — where early dining is en vogue — the approach here is to break with tradition by offering something at all hours of the day. The restaurant’s final seatings are at 11 p.m. on weekdays and at 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. “People work late. You should always have the opportunity to dine well,” says Kær.
For dessert, a selection of cheeses are offered, as well as seasonal desserts — including Icelandic yoghurt with white chocolate, dill, and cucumber as well as and Walnut with pear granite and hay oil. The beverage list focuses on seasonally rotating ciders and craft beers from Danish brewmaker Evil Twin Brewery. The menu also highlights natural wine and sake (for meal pairings) in addition to a curated wine list.
In July, the soft-spoken, angularly handsome chef Fredrik Berselius finally revived Aska, his acclaimed Nordic restaurant, after extended delays. Now he strides through the place’s dining room with purpose, gracing the nine tables with an impish smile, adding saucepans of crab broth to the king crab dish. At times, it seems the 37-year-old Swedish native, who grew up near Stockholm, can hardly contain his excitement. Having visited his discreetly marked eatery, located on a sloping stretch under the Williamsburg Bridge, neither can I.
The first Aska (Swedish for “ashes”) closed in 2014 after Berselius’s ambitions outgrew the limited confines at Kinfolk Studios, the arts-friendly Wythe Avenue hangout where he’d earned a Michelin star. This new iteration is a wildly different beast. The soaring, circa-1860s factory space comprises a cobblestone-lined courtyard where bundles of carrot tops dry in the sun — as well as a sleek downstairs lounge. Upstairs, the cloistral main chamber feels blissfully secluded thanks to a wide berth between tables and the close attentions of the staff.
Gone are the comparatively affordable $65 and $115 prix fixes. Instead, Aska offers two elaborate, hours-long chef’s tastings: a ten-course, $145 leisurely jog and a nineteen-course, $215 marathon. It’s a risky move, but Berselius has never had a problem challenging diners. Three years ago, that meant austere plates of fried herring heads with brown butter, and brussels sprouts served on the branch. Here, there are more theatrics, like the serving of crisp-fried bladderwrack seaweed and emulsified blue mussels that begins the meal, the gnarled marine plant adrift among rocks and mollusk shells. It seems weird, but not for weirdness’ sake.
In his hushed open kitchen, Berselius conspires with his crew of chefs. Together, they’re putting out some of the wildest, most uncompromisingly expressive cooking around, painstakingly assembled down to the last pickled ramp seed. Wild mushrooms enhance prehistoric-looking fried lichen, which is sourced from the same Catskills artist who provides the restaurant’s stoneware. And a Coachella-ready seaweed and charred squid tart dons a crown of edible flowers.
Still, some courses hark back to the old Aska’s earlier, more daringly elemental approach to Nordic cuisine, including an acrid ash made from burning cured lamb heart in bedstraw until it disintegrates. It looks like gunpowder on the plate, where it hides a tart pickled sunchoke cream underneath. Profoundly earthy, it’s the kind of thing Odin might have spoon-fed baby Thor. Then there are the bouquets of charred chamomile embedded with langoustines; snip open the bundles with garden scissors, then drag the crustaceans through a reduction of langoustine heads and tangy pickled chamomile buds. For dessert, pickled milkweed buds and fermented strawberry juice give a jolt to strawberries compressed with fennel, and mild milk sorbet.
Like a musician riffing on his classic tunes, Berselius revisits favorite ingredients to mine their potential. Pushing the limits of his preservation techniques, he pickles linden flowers for a month and dry-ages beef for a hundred and twenty days, serving rosy slabs with “last year’s” electrifyingly sour salted plums and cubes of cured fat. He also follows up one of Aska 1.0’s polarizing recipes, a pig’s-blood chip smeared with sea buckthorn jam, with a pair of new dishes. He fashions a mignardise truffle by mixing pig’s blood with molasses. Then there are the tiny flapjacks, made with blood-spiked batter, slicked with rose hip jam, and covered in cured rose petals and cherry blossoms. Opt for the beverage pairing and the pancake comes with a cup of local milk infused with vanilla-like woodruff — an after-school snack for the Twilight set.
Sommelier Hewah Bahrami peppers her wine list with wonderfully out-there selections, like a digestif made from tempranillo grapes in the amarone style. And if you try just one of head bartender Selma Slabiak’s cocktails, make it the Edda, a martini variant made with a distilled Baltic amber that’s 30 million years old (take that, fifty-year-old scotch). If the tasting experience is too daunting, you can always enjoy your drink downstairs coupled with small plates (broccoli with that mussel emulsion, for instance) that hint at the majesty of the main event. If the lounge is Berselius’s way of throwing the neighborhood a bone, it’s up to us to dutifully suck out the marrow.
47 South 5th Street, Brooklyn
If Claus Meyer gets his way, New Yorkers may soon be reaching for open-faced smørrebrød sandwiches instead of burgers and bagels. The co-founder of Copenhagen’s storied Noma restaurant — who owns numerous bakeries and restaurants back home in Denmark — expanded to New York earlier this year, launching a multipronged and multimillion-dollar Nordic invasion that includes a Brooklyn bakery, an impending cooking school in Brownsville, and a trio of ambitious Grand Central Terminal properties.
The crown jewel of the latter (and maybe the whole operation) is Agern. The dining room — all sweeping curves and blond wood — is tucked away in a serenely handsome and high-ceilinged windowless chamber that once housed a men’s smoking lounge. Its dual entrances are somewhat inconspicuous, up a staircase from the Dane’s hot dog kiosk on one side, and adjacent his massive, Nordic Vanderbilt Hall food court on the other. Diners seated at the bar sip herbal cocktails while spearing the sprigs of arctic thyme that cover tender duck and a whole roasted rutabaga. Helming Agern’s kitchen is Icelandic chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason, whom Meyer describes to the Voice as possessing, among other qualities, the “soul and backbone of a Viking” and the “touch of a geisha.”
While I might choose different terminology, Gíslason’s calculated approach to hyper-seasonality often yields formidable tastes in delicate trappings. Take his collection of snacks, in which “ocean broth” conjures the surf with seaweed and wild celery, and mackerel gets paired with horseradish and rye bread crumbs. The set of small plates skillfully launches Agern’s two tasting menus ($120 for vegetarians, $145 for carnivores) or fetches $14 à la carte. A dish of chewy dehydrated carrots may sound odd, like veggie Tootsie Rolls, but alongside sea buckthorn leaves and a translucent carrot sliver, it’s a lively introduction to this kitchen’s talents.
Six years ago, Gíslason delved into his rural Icelandic roots to open Dill, a restaurant in Reykjavík that celebrates regional ingredients and old-fashioned cooking techniques, like geothermally boiled sea salt and arctic char smoked over hay mixed with sheep’s manure. With all due respect to the Union Square Greenmarket, I wouldn’t blame him for feeling a little homesick here despite the ubiquity of peppery deadnettle. To the contrary, at Agern, he appears to be relishing his new surroundings, topping beef heart with green garlic and tart green strawberries, and contrasting the sweetness of daikon and raw scallop against the earthiness of sunflower seeds and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. His crew, led by chef de cuisine Joseph Yardley, butchers whole Pennsylvania lamb, serving it as an array of braised and roasted cuts dusted with dill pollen and sauced with lamb jus and apple cider vinegar from Meyer’s hundred-year-old Danish orchard.
Many of the à la carte entrées (like a $34 skate wing in brown butter) don’t seem out of the step with the tip-included pricing, though $56 plates of duck raise an eyebrow or two. At least for the $68 you’ll spend on dry-aged, grass-fed beef, Agern saddles you with American-sized slabs of juicy rib eye topped with shredded horseradish greens. But when a single dish costs around half as much as Gíslason’s tasting menu, the latter may prove more appealing.
As it turns out, Agern’s “Field + Forest” prix fixe offers one of the city’s greatest vegetarian fine-dining experiences, and thanks to Nordic cuisine’s propensity for produce, there’s much to enjoy. Under Gíslason’s direction, potato salad looks and tastes like an amusement park ride, its cured egg yolk cut into modernist ribbons and mixing it up with pickled rose petals and green rhubarb-flecked spuds. Baked beets are excavated from their salt crust with knife taps from amiable waitstaff; sliced tableside, they’re laid over beet tartare cut with horseradish. And the breads, from sourdough to sunflower-seed-covered rye, are spectacular.
East Coast wineries, breweries, and cider houses dominate the beverage list, and sommelier Chad Walsh occasionally goes quirky, pouring Grimm ale brewed with berries or a 2012 Red Newt “laboratory series” riesling from the Finger Lakes that’s dry enough to pass for sherry. It’s also a pleasure to have pastry chef Rebecca Eichenbaum back to her old sweet-savory tricks, like sneaking yellow mustard flowers into canola-oil sorbet. Her rhubarb dessert, meanwhile, looks like a mossy forest floor, with sorrel sherbet, rhubarb meringue, and herb stems compressed in vermouth syrup. It makes you want to comb Bryant Park for edible plants after you’ve paid the bill.
2016 Leap Year Menu, Delicatessen, 54 Prince Street, Monday
Chef Michael Ferraro is offering a special leap year throwback menu where all dishes will be priced at $2.29. Bites include lobster sliders on house-made pretzel buns, mac ‘n’cheese skillet, and mini-cheeseburger spring rolls. The bar will also offer beer specials and Bloody Mary shots with candied bacon.
The Ultimate Leap Year Birthday Party, SideBAR, 120 East 15 Street, Monday
SideBar is hosting a children’s-themed adult birthday party, which includes face painting, balloon animals, and free drinks from 7 p.m. until midnight for anyone who can show they were born on February 29. The bar will also offer a $5 shot special from opening to close.
Chef’s Table Dinner Series, Bagatelle, 1 Little West 12th Street, Monday through Friday
For one table each weekday night, Bagatelle chef Sébastien Chamaret will offer a $68 tasting menu focused on traditional French dishes. Pan-seared frog legs, snails, and wild boar shanks are a few of the options guests can enjoy, with wine pairings available for an additional $60. Guests can secure a reservation by contacting the restaurant. Beard on Books, the James Beard House, 167 West 12th Street, Wednesday, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Pack a brown-bag lunch and listen in as a panel of speakers shares tales from James Beard’s Classic All-American Eats: Recipes and Stories From Our Best-Loved Local Restaurants. Recipes from across the country, like Italian specialties from Totonno’s and Cincinnati-style chili are included in the book. Guests will also be able to enjoy snacks from Sarabeth’s and other treats during the reading. Make a reservation by calling the James Beard House.
Defining Nordic Cuisine: Yesterday and Today, NYU Food Studies, 411 Lafayette Street (Fifth Floor), Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
Learn about salting, pickling, and smoking as author and Gastronomica editor Darra Goldstein shares Scandinavian tales from her latest book, Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking. Goldstein will discuss the history and traditions of Scandinavia as well as why modern chefs are increasingly using these age-old practices. Tickets are $40 for general admission; reserve them here.
Swedish native Magnus Nilsson didn’t want to write a cookbook about Nordic cuisine. When the chef of Sweden’s Fäviken restaurant was first approached with the idea by the publisher Phaidon, he thought of Scandinavia as a geographic region, not a cultural area. “I was a little offended,” he tells the Voice. But the book was going to be written, whether by him or someone else. He didn’t want it to be the latter, so he gave in. Through his extensive research for The Nordic Cook Book, Nilsson discovered there were more similarities than he initially believed.
Nilsson met with local experts across Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, Finland, and The Faroe Islands. These people acted as guides, bringing him into home kitchens to show him regionally important ingredients. Through his journey, he began to see the ties. Across the territory, there are four seasons, during at least one of which, he says, farming is not an option: “Historically, people had to produce an excess in summer and store it together for winter.”
Aside from a need to preserve food, the only other parallel between the cultures is a love of open-faced sandwiches. There are no pan-Nordic dishes, according to Nilsson. Some exist in one or two countries. Bread is the lowest common denominator. Again, it’s one of the most conventional ways to store summer’s bounty. While the style of sandwich does tie the region together, each country and even state has its own style, from which one can infer a lot about the local population. Denmark’s (probably the wealthiest nation) variation is chock full of ingredients. “You can’t even hold them,” says Nilsson. Icelandic people are accustomed to mutton or something similar; in Swede it’s all about dairy and grain. In Nilsson’s home province, Jämtland, the usual dish is flatbread with just cheese on top.
Nilsson’s main goal with the book was to create a chronicle of the Nordic food culture as it exists today. It includes a bit of history for context as well as new dishes that have sprung up in the past 30 or 40 years, things that are not yet considered Nordic. Nilsson offers numerous methods of food preparation: Swedish egg cheese, smoked eel, cured white fish, Norwegian soured sausage. There’s 68 pages on vegetable preparation (with several on kale alone). Another section is dedicated to sausages and charcuterie.
He has a whole chapter dedicated to marine mammals and seafood, which raises some interesting points on ethics. About the Faroe Island whale hunt he writes: “What I do know from having seen it with my own eyes is that the way it is done is not any worse or any better than any other form of recreational hunting. We will always be putting animals at the risk of suffering when we decide to kill them, that is an unavoidable fact.” While some readers may find it disturbing, the book contains recipes for seal soup and boiled pilot whale with blubber and potatoes.
While it’s not Nilsson’s goal to become the Swedish culinary ambassador, he does worry that traditional Nordic dishes may get lost in the modern world. Even with all the newfound attention on New Nordic cuisine, much of that is appointed to high-end restaurants (like Nilsson’s Fäviken Magasinet), the kind of places that sit on The World’s 50 Best Restaurant’s lists.
Those Michelin-starred spots, he says, aren’t representative of everyday Nordic food culture. Noma in Denmark and Oslo’s Ylajali serve ambitious and contemporary food, not traditional home-cooked fare. Scandinavia does not have the same restaurant culture found in the south of Europe. Restaurants prepare one type of food and home cooks make another. “It’s [Nordic food] much less accessible,” says Nilsson. “Say you go to France or Spain and to a restaurant, chances are you can get real French or Spanish food. That’ something that’s important in the book. How food culture is consumed, it defines how food culture is communicated.”
Factors like globalization and modern refrigeration are chipping away at traditional culinary techniques, as well. Given the harsh winters, curing, smoking, and pickling are integral to established meals. No one needs to go through the trouble of preserving food. Just like in the States (especially NYC) and much of the world, younger Scandinavians are eating out more frequently. Nilsson uses his friends as an example. In their mid-thirties, many eat out three meals a week, he says, “That didn’t happen in my parents generation.”
Nilsson doesn’t believe he’s the one to change Nordic eating habits (for him, keeping his restaurant full is most important), but he does hope that The Nordic Cook Book will serves as an informative tool across the world.
He knows that most Americans are familiar with herring, meatballs, and gravlax, but he wants readers to learn that Nordic cuisine goes much further than the familiar foods from Scandinavia. He also hopes that residents of the region can learn a bit, as well. “As a random Swede, you will know as little about Finnish food culture as a random New Yorker does about Argentine food culture.”
As part of his book tour, Nilsson is cooking four five-course dinners with Fredrik Berselius of soon-to-reopen Aska on Sunday, November 15 and Monday, November 16 at 6:30 and 9 p.m. The cost to attend is $175, which includes food, drinks, and a signed copy of the book ($49.95).
Adapted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (Phaidon, October 2015)
Few things – except the Swedish chef from The Muppets Show and the smörgåsbord, of which this dish is an indispensible part – are so associated with Sweden and Swedish cooking as gravlax. It’s enjoyed in many ways, but the favorites are either as a standalone dish, with lemon wedges and a warm side like Creamed Potatoes with Dill (page 118), or in very thin slices as part of a festive buffet, such as the Julbord Christmas dinner, with Sweet-and-Strong Mustard Sauce for Cured Fish (page 664). Leftover gravlax is excellent in Salmon and Potato Pudding (page 219).
The name of the dish itself comes from the Swedish word meaning ‘to bury’. This refers back to the original gravlax, which was just salted and buried in the ground to ferment before being eaten, a technique similar to Norwegian rakfisk (page 175).
The use of white pepper and dill as aromatics, which is completely dominating gravlax recipes today, started in the eighteenth century, but before that the fish was probably not seasoned at all, except by the cure itself.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Curing time: 2 days
Serves: 4 as a stand-alone dish
• 1 x 1-kg/2¼-lb salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed and patted dry
• 4 tablespoons salt
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 20 white peppercorns, coarsely crushed
• 1 bunch dill, stalks and fronds separated
Cure according to the method on page 190* (see below), curing fish with salt and sugar.
I like to cure the salmon for about 24 hours before washing off the cure mix. I then like to leave it for another 24 hours after the cure is washed off, before eating, so that the cure can even out in the fish.
Salt and Sugar Curing Method
Remove the pin bones from a clean and evenly thick piece of fish fillet. Rub it all over with a mixture of salt, sugar and aromatics. I like to store the fish and the curing mix in a plastic bag, which makes it easy to keep the whole surface of the fish in contact with the cure, ensuring an even result. When the fish is thoroughly coated, place it in its bag on a tray and set a few plates on top to weight it down a little (or use something else flat and suitably heavy). Transfer it to the refrigerator to cure for the required length of time.
To stop the cure, take the fish out of the bag and either rinse it quickly under cold running water or scrape the cure and seasonings off it. Transfer the fish to a new plastic bag, place it back on the tray and return it to the refrigerator. This allows the cure to even out within the fish. Leave it for about the same length of time as it was in the curing mix.
The fish can be served straight away or after only a short rest, but it will appear more cured on the surface than in the middle. Fish prepared this way is either cut straight down, at a 90-degree angle relative to the chopping (cutting) board, in slightly thicker slices of 4-5 mm (?-¼inch) or else it is cut at a 45-degree angle into very thin and much larger slices.
Curing Fish With Salt and Sugar
There are many cured fish preparations around the Nordic region using different varieties of fish, different amounts of salt and sugar (or no salt), different seasonings and different curing times. There are wet cures, dry cures and many in-between cures.
The purpose of curing fish is to lessen the amount of water available in the flesh of the fish to prevent harmful microorganisms from reproducing and, by doing so, prolonging the shelf life of the fish. Another factor to take into account when curing fish, especially when using longer curing times and sweet cures, is that the presence and growth of beneficial lactobacillus will lower the pH level in the fish, further adding to both its preservation and flavour.
The length of a salt-and-sugar cure can last from anything between 3 hours to several days, depending on the desired result. The longer the fish stays in its cure, the more water will migrate out of the fish and dissolve into the salt-and-sugar mixture, making the flesh more dense and firm.
The more sugar the cure contains, the creamier the result will be. In a short cure, where lactobacillus hasn’t had much time to grow, a higher sugar cure will result in a sweeter taste, whilst in a long cure, where the sugar is largely consumed by the lactobacillus, a high sugar content will result in a more acidic taste.
Saltier cures produce firmer products and so does the lower pH level from the lactic acid. Longer cures mean more breakdown of proteins into amino acids, which in turn means a more savoury and mouth-filling result.
Looking at literature spanning the last 100 years or so, sweet cures (like for gravlax) have become even sweeter and the not-so-sweet cures have become less sweet. It seems like almost all cures are stored for less time before being eaten today than what used to be the case, sometimes verging more on a kind of borderline sashimi product.
Brooklyn Brewery and the Craft Beer Revolution, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Monday, 7 p.m.
If you’re looking to turn your extracurricular hobby into a booming business, do so by learning the history of local suds with Brooklyn Brewery, courtesy of brewmaster Garret Oliver and owner Steve Hindy. The duo will cover their transition into brewing (Hindy is a former war correspondent) as well as share a few secrets of the trade. The event includes a beer tasting as well as the chance to purchase signed copies of the pair’s tome, The Craft Beer Revolution. Tickets are $32 and can be reserved in advance here.
Nordic Food Festival, Multiple Locations, Wednesday through September 28
The cuisines of Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are a few of the inspirations you’ll find at the annual Nordic Food Festival, which kicks off this Wednesday in the West Village. A few activities designed to release your inner Anna and Elsa include chocolate-making classes, daily street food tastings, and chef talks featuring Mads Refslund of ACME and Fredrik Berselius. A full lineup of scheduled events can be viewed on the festival website.
Save the Rhino Benefit Dinner, Madiba, 195 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Dine out for a cause this week as Madiba hosts a three-course dinner with wine pairings, with proceeds going to help wildlife conservation efforts. A few lucky guests will also be chosen to receive complimentary artwork, with live entertainment for everyone throughout the evening. Reservations are $65; secure them here.
Anniversary Party, Kiwiana, 847 Union Street, Brooklyn, Thursday, 6 p.m. until closing
Practice your Down Under dance moves with a New Zealand–themed Seventies party. Celebrating its fourth anniversary, Kiwiana is offering guests an open bar, passed appetizers, and, most importantly, the chance to break out your disco attire to win prizes. Tickets are $45 at the door and can be purchased here.
25 Cent Meatballs, Carmine’s, 200 West 44th Street/2450 Broadway, Friday
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, both locations of Carmine’s are toasting to restaurant eternity with 25-cent meatballs during lunchtime. Guests can visit the theater district location from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or the Upper West Side digs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m to enjoy the deal.
People swipe stuff from bars all the time. Pint glasses with fancy logos, delicate stemware, Spuds MacKenzie posters, coasters, and self-worth are pocketed every night. Some bars and restaurants screw stuff right onto the walls, but Daniel Burns, chef and partner of Tørst and Luksus(615 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-389-6034), the Scandanavian restaurant and bar in Greenpoint, didn’t think he had to take extreme measures when it came to a simple plaque noting a prestigious achievement by his restaurant: the awarding of a Michelin star.
“It happened [June 29] and it’s one of those things where I think I left and I didn’t check [to see if it was there],” Burns says. “We do an email at the end of the night about business, and I read this one and I was like, ‘What did that say again? Did that say the Michelin star sign was stolen?’?”
Luksus (Danish for “luxury”) is a sixteen-seat restaurant hidden behind a sliding door from Tørst, the craft-beer-focused bar, lauded for its rotating menu overseen by Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, he of Evil Twin Brewing, the highly praised phantom brewer (a beer-maker that outsources production to for-contract breweries).
“It’s hard to know who the inspectors are when guests are dining,” says Burns about those anonymous inspectors who dine at restaurants in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York, looking for possible additions to the American edition of the Michelin Guide. First published in 1900 by the Michelin tire company in France as a way to spur more drivers to take longer trips, it took just 105 years for the first U.S. guide, focusing on 500 New York restaurants in 2005. Last fall, Luksus received one out of a possible three stars. According to the “inspector’s view” posted on the Michelin website:
Enter through Tørst, wander to the back, and find Luksus — it’s like unearthing a little boudoir behind a beer bar. The small, highly Instagrammable room has a Scandinavia-via-Brooklyn look, with a choice marble dining counter for chef viewing and smattering of tables. Sure, the crowd is heavily tattooed and tight-shirted, but this is no place for poseurs. Luksus has an artsy edge that cements Greenpoint’s status as the hotbed of NY cool. Cue the Girls location scouts. The young staff may be hipsters, but everyone is passionate, friendly, and can recite beer history like it’s their catechism. Absolutely go for the pairing. The cuisine is firmly rooted in Scandinavian techniques and ingredients, with inspiration from afar. An elegant, hybrid dish of mackerel is served sweet, banishing all traces of fishiness with slices of watermelon radish and bacon dashi. Lush and slow-poached in butter, skate is a supple contrast to crisp sunchoke chips and swipe of kohlrabi. A pub-like dish of beef tongue gets twist and flair from firm garbanzo beans and a green sauce, vivid with watercress. Desserts push the envelope with combinations that can be decadent, arresting, and not necessarily for everyone.
“As a chef, certainly it’s important, and in New York a big thing is to stay relevant and stay recognized,” Burns says of the award. “It’s great to be recognized for what you’re trying to do.”
The restaurateur says he just stuck the plaque on the wall with a little glue, and that was it. “I certainly didn’t screw it down. Obviously someone wanted it pretty bad. I guess next time I’ll put it in the kitchen.”
A Michelin rep says it’s the first time she’s heard of a plaque being lifted from a restaurant. Additional plaques usually run $100, but the company says it’ll cover the costs for a replacement in this bizarre circumstance.
Burns says he doesn’t plan to file a police report and that the plaque can be returned no questions asked. “It’s a totally surprising thing.”
After taking over the space of a Second Avenue Hot and Crusty franchise, Bröd Kitchen(1201 Second Avenue, 212-600-5202) is stepping up Midtown East’s sandwich game. Monette de Botton, creative director of the five-month-old Danish grab-and-go eatery, had a vision for the fledgling restaurant’s next big thing. “I went away and spent a weekend on my own and realized we need to do smørrebrød,” she says. “We need to do these little sandwiches, and they need to be beautiful.”
And beautiful they are. De Botton’s winding path into the culinary world greatly influenced her aesthetic style. “I was an interior designer for years, and I didn’t make my hobby my living,” she says. “It took me well into my forties to figure it out.”
She partnered with former Paris Commune chef Hugo Uys, who hails from South Africa, and the pair crafted several varieties of sweet and savory smørrebrød that artistically showcase fresh, simple ingredients. Smørrebrød, which means “bread and butter” in Danish, began as a working-class lunch staple. It traditionally consists of a thick piece of rye bread, a hefty amount of butter, and any combination of salted meats and rich cheeses. It’s served open-faced.
Savory options, which run from $3 to $4 per piece, include Nordic specialties like the gravlax smørrebrød: smoked salmon, dill mustard sauce, pickled cucumbers, red onions, and fresh dill. Less expected is the roast chicken smørrebrød, which comes with a punch of red horseradish, tangy cream cheese, and sweet curry mango sauce. All savory smørrebrød are served on house-baked rye bread made with unbleached and unbromated flour.
The sweet options, which de Botton hopes become popular breakfast items, include a slice of fruit-and-nut bread dotted with dates, nocciolata, and mint, and a delicately decorated pistachio-and-apricot smørrebrød with crème fraîche and rosemary.
“I don’t eat sweets, but I felt that I wanted to have a healthier sweet option, and that’s what’s happening,” says de Botton. “And they’re selling so well because people come in here and it’s not like eating a big piece of cake.”
Since the sandwiches are very small, the average person would need to eat four to five smørrebrød to feel satiated. If you can hold out until 1 p.m. for lunch, you can take advantage of a happy-hour special — buy two and get one free smørrebrød. The deal runs from now until April 20 from 1 to 7 p.m.
A second location of Bröd Kitchen will be opening in a month at the corner of West 4th Street and University, and will be three times the size of the twenty-seat east-side location. The new outpost will offer the same super-fresh sustainable soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods, but will also add on a burger station with house-made rye buns and a pizza station with traditional slices and Nordic-influenced pies. A Hoboken location is on the books for a few months later.
With a slight chill in the air, fall is fast approaching. So break out a scarf and check out a few of this weekend’s best food events.
New York Oyster Week, multiple locations, Friday through September 28
City streets are about to be filled with shellfish. Oyster farmers, foragers, and shucking champions will all be on hand to speak with guests about their lives and what to look for when taking advantage of $1 oyster happy hours. Events scheduled throughout the festival include a regatta bash and a party on the waterfront at Grand Banks in Tribeca; check out the full line-up and tickets on the festival’s website.
Taste Talks, multiple locations, Friday through Sunday
Interested in learning if your online review really matters? Or hearing about London chef Lee Tiernan’s fondness for deviled kidneys? Spend a day in Williamsburg at locations like the Wythe Hotel as these matters and more are discussed, and consider checking out the All Star BBQ featuring Danny Bowien and Eli Sussman on Sunday afternoon. See the schedule and buy your tickets on the Taste Talks website.
Barbounia Cooks Jersualem Festival, Barbounia, 250 Park Avenue South, Friday Through September 20, 5 p.m.
For a taste of the old country, guests are invited to step into this Mediterranean restaurant’s newly transformed dining room, which will be modeled after the famed Shuk marketplace of Jerusalem. The kitchen will offer a variety of special dishes — available a la carte as well as part of a $59 prix fixe — including a mixed grill and a homemade Jerusalem-style bagel. Check it out during dinner service until September 20; contact the restaurant directly to secure a table.
NORTH Nordic Food Festival, multiple locations, Friday through September 19
This weeklong festival has several opportunities to learn Nordic cooking, as well as a few deals. Norse coffeeshop BUDIN will offer its $10 Lakkris Latte for $5 through duration of the festival, and several chefs will hold cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend. Local chefs and food personalities participating include Oceana’s Ben Pollinger and head brewmaster Garret Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery. A full schedule and tickets can be found on the festival’s website.
End of Summer Lobster Bake, Kings County Saloon, 1 Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn, Sunday, 4 p.m.
Summer technically lasts until September 21, so you might consider attending one last lobster bake in Bushwick. For $30, you’ll get a full lobster with corn on the cob, sides, and dessert. For $50, you can add unlimited booze to the deal: endless drafts, domestic bottles, and well drinks. Purchase tickets in advance, and BYO Nantucket red pants.
Always wanted to go to the Fjords? Well, we can’t bring the green-lined cliffs and blue seas to you, but the food, sure. Starting tomorrow, the NORTH Nordic Food Festival will host the Nordic region’s top chefs in New York City for cooking demonstrations, a hot dog championship at Brooklyn Brewery, and pop-up spaces that will transform each day through September 20.
The Nordic area of Europe includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, plus Greenland — “Nordic” literally translates to “the Northern Islands.” A global movement launched by René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma, Nordic cuisine has taken hold in New York City in the last five years. Redzepi’s passion for foraging and the wildlife of the Nordic region have come to define this style of cooking, which highlights pickling, curing, and, often times, plating with rustic finds like twigs and leaves. Some of the most inventive Nordic restaurants in New York include Aska, Aquavit, and Skál, where chefs celebrate Nordic heritage and, often, play off of Noma’s lauded techniques.
More than 25 chefs from the U.S. and Nordic countries will participate in this week’s festival, which includes cooking classes at the International Culinary Center, exclusive dinners at Manhattan pop-up locations, and, perhaps most importantly, the Street Food Festival hosted at Brooklyn Brewery on September 14 and 15. There, Nordic bites will pair with Brooklyn Brewery beers, along with brews from Brooklyn Brewery’s Swedish sister brewery, Nya Carnegiebryggeriet. “These beers are only sold in Sweden and are coming over for just one week to make their NYC debut,” the brewery wrote on its blog.
The second day of the Street Food Festival is dedicated to the first ever Nordic Hot Dog Championship.
“All Nordic countries have their own unique versions of hot dogs, and the past few years, we have seen the gourmet hot dog trend blow up in the region,” explains Kalle Bergman, Honest Cooking editor-in-chief, and host of the NORTH Nordic Food Festival. “Now we want to crown the best — prepared by superstar Nordic chefs — and since New York is the quintessential hot dog city, we think it is only right that we host the first ever Nordic Hot Dog Championships right here on neutral grounds.”
Buy your ticket for any of the NORTH Nordic Food Festival events on the event’s website and check out highlights from last year’s event below.