Smörgåsbord at Aquavit Cafe and Italian food at Frankies Spuntino

Since I’ve wrote to Robyn recently via e-mail about my horror of yesterday at the LSAT and wanted me to express the dreadful experience of what happened. So, here it is (if you don’t really care about my babbling about the LSATs, just scroll down ’til you hit a food photo):

The LSAT people emailed me (and all test takers) that I cannot have these items with me at the day of the test: a handbag, purse or backpack; no electronics of any sort (i.e. cellphones, cameras, beepers, iPods, etc.), weapons (that’s a duh), rulers, and other odd stuff. The only thing I can bring is a gallon size Ziploc bag containing my wallet and ID, my keys, the admissions ticket (strangely they want a thumbprint, that’s done at the site), pencils (but mechanical pencils are not allowed), highlighters, a snack, bottled water or beverage, and erasers. In case anyone who didn’t pay attention to the email or the lengthy note when they’ve sent the admission ticket via email or their website, they did have a coat check room that someone did watch over (even though they kept stressing earlier that it’s unsupervised).

I arrived at the Pavilion around 8:20, after stopping by Starbucks for more coffee (I know, it’s everything I’m against but Joe doesn’t open ’til 10 on weekends!). A huge line formed outside of the building that some cars passing by the street, a woman asked, “What’s the line for?!” Most of us screamed back, “The LSATs.” But some guys sarcastically say, “We’re waiting for some TV audition.” Or something along those lines. The security guards eventually let us into the building to go up to the 4th floor, where we all wait on another line to get checked in. That’s where we sign our names on the admission ticket, get our thumbprint taken and tear off the stub to write down our LSAT number for form filling. After checking in, they have someone to escort each person to their own seat in this huge, stark white room. Three long tables across with oh, twenty to thirty rows of tables toward the back, not too far from the bathrooms. It took about an hour and a half to get everyone checked-in and seated.

The head proctor (there were two other people as proctors as well) made the usual announcements about regulations and instructions about the LSAT and how to fill out the stupid forms for ten minutes and let us fill out the forms for another ten to fifteen minutes. Once all of that stuff’s done (and the A/C started to blast on), the test began; 3 sections, 35 minutes each, 25-28 questions per section. They collected the stuff, which took about 20 minutes, then we had a 15 minute break, which for me, waiting on line for the women’s bathroom took up the majority of the time. Then they distribute our tests back which took about another 20, and we had to work another 2 multiple choice sections of the aforementioned and then an essay for again, 35 minutes.

After the essay portion was done, they collected the stuff, separated the answer and question sheet, and counted them to make sure they have the same number they started with. Then they dismissed us! The actual test takes 210 minutes or 3 1/2 hours but the checking-in, collecting, counting, etc. took up the majority of the time. I’m just happy I’m out of that refrigerator room. Everyone was complaining that it’s freezing from the other girls, guys, and then I heard the head proctor mentioning that at the end of the test. But the bad part now is that I think I’m sick again, after just recovering from my previous cold three days ago. Whoopee…

Now you know what I’ve been through…wasn’t it lovely? Jeez, I really hope I did well before I really want to shoot myself. Anyways, here’s another backtrack of last week’s food. I know you care more about the food than my problems…I think? As I review my photos, I really didn’t eat out that much compared to the previous week but it’s still tasty nonetheless! Note that I’m going to write about The Spotted Pig on the next post.

Last Monday, September 24th, somehow I was craving for Scandinavian food. Since the Scandinavian food scene is severely limited in the city, the only places that serve that particular kind of food are at Aquavit, Fika (a coffeehouse in Midtown that I’ve yet to try), and I heard about Smorgas Chef. As you can see from that list, it’s severely limited. So being the planner that I am, I made reservations at Opentable for my lunch hour and gone to Aquavit Cafe.

I remember reading from NY Magazine a few months ago about their “Cheap Eats” issue and mentioned somewhere that their smörgåsbord is relatively cheap for the gourmet end of food, which I ordered and coffee crème brûlée for dessert.

Somehow, the unexpected thing while I was eating my bread, was the arrival of a plate of grilled tuna salad. The server told me that it “was compliments from the chef.” I was really befuddled. Sure, I went here a few months ago for Restaurant Week and the waiter was different from the last time (this time was a waitress) and I doubt they knew I was a food blogger beforehand since I didn’t take any interior photos since I took it the last time I was here. But I got over the whole shock of it all and ate it.

The tuna was grilled to the point where it’s still raw in the center that it’s silky. The salad itself was really tasty, the onions and tomatoes were tart and sweet at the same time with the bitter leafy lettuce leaves that topped off salad. Yummy. The portion itself was quite small, but it’s a nice starter/appetizer.

Bread & Dill Butter Bread and butter

Grilled Tuna Salad - leveled view Grilled Tuna Salad

Then my huge platter of smörgåsbord came out. It’s basically a plate of little bites of most of the stuff on their lunch menu. Just click on the photo for the labels of each item. The herrings were very delicious: tart, a hint of sweetness, and generally a complex layering of flavors. As the last time I’ve (or quoting from Ariel) said talked about their herring, “It’s hard to believe that a humble fish can be so tasty.” The other bites consisted of pate, shrimp salad, salmon tartare, smoked salmon, gravlax, Swedish meatball, and other stuff. My favorite “bite” was the gravlax because of that lovely espresso mustard with that salmon, oh my goodness that combination was sublime. The slightly sweet, espresso kick in that mustard was so silky smooth and the silky, sweet-salty salmon worked so well together.

The Smörgåsbord A plate of Smörg

The Smörgåsbord - angled view Another view

I felt full after eating that plate of smörg but I must eat dessert, the coffee crème brûlée.

Coffee Crème brûlée with raspberry sorbet Coffee Crème brûlée

The crème brûlée was pretty good. The custard was very smooth and creamy, with enough coffee flavor to contrast all of the sweet eggy custard. The burnt sugar crust didn’t do much for me since it’s more like sticky, hard crust than brittle and glass-like. The raspberry sorbet was a bit unusual to pair the flavor with coffee but I guess it’s more like trying to give it some sharp, tart berry flavor to go against the custard itself.

During the evening of that lunch, I looked over at my Opentable account and noticed that I’m a recently minted “VIP member.” Maybe that’s explanation of that freebie tuna salad, methinks?

On Thursday, I went to Frankies Spuntino for a late lunch. Since it was around 2:30, the place was empty. But I heard from this place numerous times that they have great pasta, so I gotta try it!

Frankies Spuntino on Clinton Street Frankies

Interior Interior

Bread & Olive Oil Olive Oil and Bread

After perusing their menu for a few minutes, I ended up ordering their cavatelli and red wine prunes for dessert.

Home Made Cavatelli Cavatelli

Their homemade cavatelli was made with Faiccos Hot Sausage, browned butter, and sage. It tastes like it’s description. The chewy, fat, rippled pasta was delicious with the buttery sauce with the meaty hot sausage and its fat drippings, the musty, minty flavor of the sage, and the salty, pungent bite of the Parmesan cheese on top. Mmmm…tasty. And it was quite filling.

Red Wine Prunes - Close up Red Wine Prunes – close up

But then again, there’s always room for dessert. The red wine prunes was not what I thought it would be when I read the menu description but it was still very good. The warm, spicy (one of the wine notes I’ve tasted), reduced red wine sauce fused with the dried prunes contrasted with the cool, creamy marscapone cheese. A bit artery clogging but still yummy.

Then on Thursday, I had lunch with Eno at The Spotted Pig, which you will read in the next post.

Aquavit Café

65 E 55th Street
New York, NY 10022

Frankies 17 Spuntino
17 Clinton Street
New York, NY 10002


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. John says:

    Terrific photos and descriptions as usual! I did have a question though: Is the smorg available in the main dining room or the cafe or the lounge?

  2. thewanderingeater says:

    John: Thank you! The smorg is available at the cafe and the main dining room but not at the lounge.

  3. dana says:

    haha, you make me want to take the LSATs! Something about collective misery….

    The cavatelli makes me think of worms for some reason. But your description of it is simply DELISH. And I’m so glad prunes are finally getting a fair shake at upscale places.

  4. thewanderingeater says:

    Kathryn: Thanks!

    Dana: Uhh…ok? You can take it but it’s a very odd reason to take it for the sole purpose of enduring misery.

    Actually, I thought the cavatelli looks like slightly squished worms but it was YUMMY.

    Doug: I’m glad it’s over, too! Yay! I could party! …Well, not really since I still have school but it’ll take down the stress level just a notch or two.

    Good luck on your GMATs!

  5. dennis says:

    ziplock bag…escort to your seat?? Ooofah…

    Anyway…great pics from Frankie’s. If you make another visit, the sausage & broccoli rabe sandwich is a must. Also, I highly recommend Alias which is just 2 blocks up on Rivington.

  6. Chubbypanda says:

    I love tasting plates, since I prefer variety in my meals. All I really need are a few bites of each dish. Probably my Chinese heritage speaking up.

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