65 East 55th Street between Park and Madison Avenues
about $90 each for six, with several drinks, with tacked on 20% tip
I dragged five others to the Aquavit Cafe earlier this week to take advantage of Herring Week, the annual celebration for all things herring. I had such a fun time eating with new people who were down to eat herring prepared in different ways. This was my first time back at the restaurant after they moved a couple of years ago. The cafe is bigger and looks more like a hotel lobby restaurant. I didn’t get past the bar and to the main dining room, but I would bet that the waterfall is now gone. Chef Marcus Samuelsson now has a sushi restaurant and his name is mentioned in more food events around the city, but the Scandinavian spirit that he introduced to diners like me is still well and alive.
The herring buffet was situated along the entrance to the cafe. The two times we made the trip to serve ourselves, we had to watch out for the waiters and the busboys. But oh, we wanted herring and did we get some! There was the usual pickled herring, vinegar-y and lip-smackin’ good. There was smoked herring, flaky and perfect with a Whale’s Tale Ale. There were interesting and delicious combinations like herring with onions and carrots, herring in a light green sauce that we thought was made out of dill and herring with caviar. Then there were the odd ones that surprisingly worked: herring egg salad and herring paté. And ones that didn’t: herring with sweet tomato sauce and herring with curry.
The buffet wasn’t all herring, which was quite a relief after we’ve filled our empty stomachs with the almighty fish. I had smoked salmon topped with pickled cucumbers, roasted potatoes slathered with gravy, Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce and anchovy pizette with a cherry tomato. I skipped the bread and the greens to make more room for a second trip to the buffet. We forced ourselves to eat the included desserts, not because we wanted anything sweet but because we wanted something to cleanse our palates. The Arctic Circle was a goat cheese cylinder filled with passion fruit, topped with a tarty and refreshing sorbet of black currants. (I love me some tarty desserts!) Two in the group opted for the chocolate with several other ingredients I barely recall now.
It was a good time until we got our bill. Even though we chose to do the buffet, a 20% gratuity was automatically included because we were a group of six. We ended up paying almost $100 each including our drinks. Even though the bill was up to par with my usual night out with friends, I thought this was quite pricey considering we had to get up and serve ourselves.
I love herring, but maybe I’ll stick with the Formica tables in Grand Central Oyster Bar during Herring Week next year.