Over the past few years, Nordic cuisine has made an impressive infiltration into the New York City culinary scene, thanks to heavyweight Scandinavian restaurateurs and chefs bringing their fermenting, pickling and foraging talents to the concrete jungle. From food halls to fine dining restaurants, these are the best Nordic restaurants in New York City.
Restaurant, American, Seafood, Dessert, $$$
Aquavit serves up inventive creations | @ Signe Brick
The illustrious Aquavit has been serving the finest in Nordic cuisine since its Midtown doors opened in 1987. With two Michelin stars and over 30 years of critically acclaimed culinary success, this Manhattan institution is founded on the gastronomic treasures of Sweden such as fish, game, and root vegetables. Here, you can dine in three ways: through a chef’s tasting menu, a seasonal tasting menu, or a prix-fixe menu. The rustic decor complements chef Emma Bengtsson’s refined menu of dishes including sweetbreads flanked by chanterelles and black garlic, as well as king crab served with plum. As the name suggests, the restaurant also specializes in aquavit (alternatively spelled akvavit), a spirit infused with herbs and spices.
FIKA, which translates from Swedish as a coffee break accompanied by conversation and a sweet or savory snack, has seven locations strewn across Manhattan. In line with typical Scandinavian tradition, FIKA aims to uphold high-quality standards without environmental or economic compromise. Therefore, everything from the milk used to their products’ packaging is locally sourced to balance fresh flavors with the fullest integrity. The menu features Swedish favorites like cured salmon, Swedish meatballs and an assortment of house-baked pastries and hand-rolled truffles from FIKA’s very own Tribeca-based chocolatier. Even the coffee beans used for their lattes and macchiatos are roasted locally using a Swedish technique.
It’s all about the perfect brew, quality food and conversation at Konditori, a Nordic-style café. In Swedish, konditori means a traditional Swedish café for hot beverages and sweets, so it makes sense that here you’ll settle into a bright space where you can sample Scandinavian treats such as kanelbulle (cinnamon rolls) and cardamon bread, as well as an assortment of muffins, biscotti and croissants. Pair something sweet with a mug of coffee, made from a blend of beans from three Central American countries.
The farm-fresh ingredients of New Nordic cuisine serve as the foundation of Midtown-based Smörgås Chef, located in the Scandinavia House, the city’s Nordic cultural center. The restaurant owns and operates Blenheim Hill Farm in the Catskills and sources most of the ingredients found on your plate straight from the farm. You could munch on a platter of 72-hour cured gravlax brimming with fingerling potatoes, dill-cucumber salad and mustard sauce, or slice into the Blenheim pork chop, flush with roasted butternut squash and fennel. After the meal, round out your Nordic experience by exploring Scandinavia House’s gallery, concerts, lectures and cultural events.
Helmed by Claus Meyer, the Great Northern Food Hall is an enormous Scandinavian food hall housed in Grand Central Terminal. The hall is divided into eight restaurants and cafés, replete with traditional Nordic fare: savory porridges, smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches crowned with things like cured meats and pickles), Danish hot dogs and vanilla-cream danishes. Here, commuters can quickly grab a coffee or sandwich on their way home, and Midtown workers can post up at tables to munch on overflowing salads and flatbreads.
At Aska, modern Scandinavian food is on full display. Chef-owner Fredrik Berselius fuses local ingredients with an air of the exotic and esoteric: pig’s-blood pancakes are crowned with amaranth leaves, and birchwood ice cream is flecked with mushrooms. The only way to dine in the tiny, dark space is through one of two tasting menus (for $265 you’ll journey through 16-18 courses, and $185 will get you ten), both of which will often last several hours.
Beer lovers, rejoice: Perched just north of McCarren Park in Greenpoint, Tørst has served the neighborhood as a bona fide Danish beer bar, replete with 21 rotating beers on tap – from pilsners to barleywines and stouts – poured out into glasses bubbling over with frothy clouds. There’s also over 200 beer bottles to choose from, curated from around the world. Snag a couple of small plates, like curried lamb stew and a crispy fried chicken sandwich swiped with celery root remoulade, to snack on while you sample a slew of beers.
Hidden at the end of the Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal, Agern snugly sits away from the bustle of the nearby Great Northern Food Hall. The fine-dining establishment offers both an a la carte and tasting menu, along with a $48 three-course lunch prix-fixe. The kitchen churns out a host of vegetable-centric dishes (think sunchokes nestled in rye porridge with sprouts) as well as seafood-forward plates like sea bream slick with brown butter and löjrom (roe). While you dine, sip on American wine, beer and spirits, then polish off the meal with a plate of cheese flanked by crispy rye crackers or pears flush with chamomile, honey and almonds.