Restaurant Week '07: Aquavit Café for Lunch

As those of you who are following my tracks on where I’m going for Restaurant Week, I went to Aquavit Café for lunch. Why? Just because of the fact that my dining companion for the day, Ariel was in the mood for Scandinavian rather than something from August.

Aquavit

As you can tell by its doors, Aquavit looks very nondescript. I almost passed by this place if I hadn’t looked twice in where I was going through.


Interior near the windows Interior; near the windows

Interior

The white walls lined with a few psychedelic artworks and wooden panels – this decor look like something from the 60s or 70s. The menu looks a bit unusual compared to any other place I’ve been to – two thick pieces of plastic that covers the menu, bound together with a silver rubber band on each end.

The menu
The menu

Here’s the Restaurant Week portion of the menu:

First CourseHERRING PLATE
cheese and potato

or

MIXED LETTUCE SALAD
asian pear, pine nut, sheep’s milk cheese

or

CHILLED AVOCADO SOUP
crab salad, kohlrabi

Second Course

SWEDISH MEATBALLS
lingonberries, cream sauce, mashed potatoes

or

GRILLED HANGER STEAK
roasted vegetables, beer broth

or

GRILLED SALMON
asparagus, water cress, lemon vinaigrette

Dessert

ARCTIC CIRCLE
frozen goat cheese parfait with passion fruit curd and blueberry sorbet

or

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CAKE
with coconut sorbet and blood orange sauce

Ariel wanted to try their herring since this is Aquavit and it’s known for good Swedish food – so why not? We eventually decided on having their Herring Sampler ($12), a la carte. And we ordered our own food off the Restaurant Week menu.

The BreadThe bread

Dill Butter Dill butter

The bread was good. Nothing much to note about except for that flatbread, knäckebröd, was a bit different than the typical rolls. It tastes (and made of) rye and a few other spices. The dill butter was a nice idea but I didn’t really get that much dill flavor since the butter was a bit too cold for me.

Moving on…the Herring Sampler arrived along with our appetizers.

Herring Sampler Herring Sampler

Chilled Avocado Soup Chilled Avocado Soup

Herring Plate Herring Plate

The Herring Sampler was actually a generous portion considering the fact that it is an appetizer, it easily can feed two people. The three samples consisted of: Curry, Vodka lime, and Ceviche (click on the photo for the labels of each). My personal favorite was the curry. It’s very unique – hints of curry yet sweet and tart from the apples – it’s amazing.

My herring sampler appetizer is basically a miniature encore of the herring plate. I know, I am eating a TON of fish that day but it’s damn tasty fish, mind you.

Ariel’s Chilled Avocado Soup was sublime. It’s cool, creamy, smooth and it had bits of crunchy, sweet pickled flavor from the kohlrabi. I kind of wish I had his soup, if I knew the Herring Sampler is going to be the same as my appetizer. Oh well.

The main courses…

Ariel's Hanger Steak Hanger Steak

Ariel’s Hanger Steak looks delicious, tender, and juicy but I didn’t try any since I have a huge plate of meatballs, as you will see in a moment. When I asked him what did he think of the steak? He replied that it’s good but it’s not something that send him into a foodgasm or an food epiphany of sorts.

My Swedish Meatballs with Ligonberries and Mashed Potatoes Swedish Meatballs

My Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs - Ligonberries in view Bountiful lingonberries…

My plate of Swedish meatballs was insanely huge, especially with that fluffy mound of creamy mashed potatoes that is sitting as a bed for those meatballs. The meatballs were fine. I mean, it’s just meatballs – they’re tasty, well cooked, well seasoned, light in texture, and the gravy was good. The lingonberries were a natural accompaniment to the meatballs since makes a lovely sweet-tart contrast to the heavier tasting meatballs. It was also nice to see lingonberries as a whole instead of it being in a jelly or jam form. The paper-thin cucumber slices was actually sweet pickles – it’s a delightful flavor variation to the plate.

Dessert…

Ariel's Birthday Dessert: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake It’s someone’s birthday…

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake innards Innards of chocolate pb cake

This dessert you see above, is meant for Ariel. I admit it’s not really his birthday but it’s the fact that I’m not anticipating the celebration of his birthday the day of, so that’s why I’m doing this early (less than two weeks) and told the restaurant that it is his birthday. The dessert is the other option from the Restaurant Week menu, the Chocolate Peanut Butter cake with coconut sorbet. The cake is very fudgy, a touch of peanut butter, and not too sweet (which I desire in a dessert). It’s pretty good.

The desserts that we’ve actually ordered was the Arctic Circle.

Arctic Circle

Innards of Arctic Circle Innards

What really appealed to me about this dessert that it’s mostly composed of frozen goat cheese. It’s creamy, a tiny bit of a tang, yet it’s sweetened enough that it’s appropriate to be a dessert. The passion fruit that is in the center is a bright, sharp, acidic contrast to the smooth note of the cheese. The blueberry sorbet was creamy and tart. It’s a wonderful dessert.

That’s our lunch for that day (it was Friday). Ariel and I met up later on for the Bar Room at the Modern for dinner, but that’s a whole different story. It deserves its own review; even though I ate there before (back in April) but I had different dishes and the experience is totally different at night than the daytime. So stay tuned for that critique.

Address:
Aquavit Café

65 E 55th Street
New York, NY 10022