08. June 2004 Anglo-Euro, Midtown 0

13 West 54th Street
about $300 for three, with a few drinks, without tip
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Updated, 2006: Aquavit has moved down the block at 65 East 55th Street between Park and Madison Avenues, 212/593.0287

I had one of the most surreal dining experiences at Aquavit with two of my friends. It was herring week in New York City and we were seated at the best table in the house, facing their cascading waterfalls, at the right time. The service was extraordinary; two waiters were looking after our needs and another one always made sure we were having a good time. Our reservation was at 8pm, which is prime dining time, but we were never rushed. We stayed until 11:30pm.

The chef and co-owner, Marcus Samuelsson, is the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star restaurant review from food critic Ruth Reichl. The James Beard Foundation has also awarded him “Rising Star Chef” in 1999 and “Best New Chef in New York City” in 2003. I was so impressed that he used kalamansi to make sorbet because it’s the Filipino version of limes. The trio of sweetbreads, pork sausages and lobster was an odd combination but it spelled decadence all over. Just like his eclectic food creations for this Scandinavian-owned restaurant, he also has a very interesting background. He’s Ethiopian and was adopted by a Swedish couple and has apprenticed in Sweden, Switzerland and Austria.

With a bottle of Gigondas, we each went for the three-course prix fixe. Between the three of us tasting each other’s food, it was like having nine courses, plus the three complementary tasting plates the chef sent up. Here’s a run-down of our meal:

1. Lobster roll with pistachio and lemon yogurt, salmon roe and homemade ginger ale

2. Herring Plate served with Aquavit and Carlsberg beer

3. Squab with potato purée and pearl onions

4. Konbu cured duck and braised leg with nut salad, kasha, bok choy, water chestnuts and coconut-red beet sauce

5. Smoked dry-aged New York Strip with Kobe tongue, lily bulb salad and Japanese potato in bone marrow emulsion

6. Trio: sweetbreads, pork sausage and lobster

7. Peanut butter parfait, sautéed banana and kalamansi sorbet

8. Arctic Circle: goat cheese parfait, blueberry sorbet and honey tuile

9. Warm chocolate with orange creamsicle and citrus salad