Eatery Row is an occasional series here at Dandelion Chandelier assessing the best restaurants for a romantic night out, an important business lunch, cocktails with friends, or a luxurious holiday meal. We’ll let you know if a hot place actually lives up to the hype, and whether a classic is still maintaining its high standards. Because an essential element of luxury is knowing that you’re in really good hands. In this edition, our correspondent Jillian Tangen shares her experience dining at Aska in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – home of some of the best Nordic cuisine in New York City.
Authentic Nordic cuisine in New York City
New Nordic cuisine is nothing new. In fact, it has been gaining popularity for years thanks to acclaimed spots like Denmark’s Noma and Sweden’s Fäviken. In New York City, you can find it at restaurants like Aquavit, Restaurant Norman and Klaus Meyer’s Restaurant Agern and Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Station.
If you have been to any of these Nordic eateries, then you know the basic premise and the flavors one might expect from the region’s food. However, on the tasting menu at Aska in Williamsburg, you will find food that is anything but what is expected. In its place, you’ll savor dynamic flavors and unexpected combinations you would never have assumed possible.
what’s it like to eat at aska in williamsburg, brooklyn?
Set in a dramatic Civil War era warehouse near the the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn is Aska, a two Michelin-starred restaurant run by Chef Fredrik Berselius. Swedish for “ashes”, Aska offers a distinctive new Nordic dining experience through a procession of courses prepared in an open kitchen and served to only 10 tables of guests per evening.
Late last month we had the opportunity to experience one of the restaurant’s two tasting menu options for the first time. We must admit, this highly-lauded spot managed to defy our expectations.
Before we began our meal we knew that this would be a different food experience. The setting of Aska is dark and spacious, unlike classic hallmarks of traditional Scandinavian design which are typically filled with light oaks and clean lines.
Each of the ten tables are draped in black tablecloths and are well-spaced, providing an intimate setting for you and your dining companions.
the open kitchen
The real standout in the space is instead the bright, open and busy kitchen close to the restaurant’s center. It provides a stark contrast to the surrounding space, and lets you know that the food is really the star here.
It is in the illuminated kitchen that you will see 8 or so chefs working diligently to prepare each dish before presenting and describing them to you. This to me was aside from the food itself, one of the real highlights of the meal.
chats with the chef and kitchen crew
During the course of the evening we were able to get to know some of the chefs a little and even spend ample time chatting with Fredrik himself who works discretely alongside the others. In fact, if we had not seen him before we wouldn’t have known that the owner himself was among those presenting our meal. It’s also a big part of the reason that Aska is able to maintain a somewhat casual feel alongside it’s inventive cuisine.
how about the food?
Which brings us finally to the food. There are two tasting course options here: a 10-course meal ($185) – of which we partook – and a 19-course meal ($265).
Some may balk at not being able to choose their courses or to make any modifications. To enjoy this meal you really need to be open to enjoying an unexpected extravaganza of flavors and combinations.
Things that I myself may not typically enjoy on their own have been transformed here into dishes that melt in your mouth. For example, we loved the vendace roe served with roasted cabbage, a jam made with dulse, rhubarb root oil and a sauce of fermented white asparagus juice and whey. Another unusual but delicious pairings included lichen with caramelized cream and mushroom broth with preserved pine shoots.
Aska doesn’t only serve unique pairings, but also simple ones that are equally delicious including a manitoba bread made from oats and beer and served with sides of rich cultured butter and whipped pork fat, as well as a tender 120-day aged rib eye paired with pickled black currants. These offset the more dramatic dishes quite well.
dessert straight from the forest
For dessert, we were served birchwood ice cream made from pine mushrooms and woodruff leaves. As we’ve previously noted, food and drink from the forest is totally a thing right now. The last combination seriously blew my mind. Who knew that mushrooms would make for a sweet and savory dessert?
As I mentioned before, we had the opportunity to chat a little with Chef Fredrik, who despite all of the accolades and even a book deal with Phaidon, manages to be a genuinely down to earth and modest chef. He seems to be driven by an earnest love for creating mind-bending meals from simple foraging and food preservation techniques.
We guarantee a meal at Aska will be unlike anything you’ve seen or eaten before.
47 S. 5th St., Brooklyn, NY, 11249; 929-337-6792; http://askanyc.com
Open. Dinner by reservation only; Bar and Courtyard (seasonal) open from 6pm
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Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier. Formerly, she was a Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in NYC and is married with three young children. She loves cross country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.
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