Even though I've known of Marcus Samuelsson for many years and even seen him in person multiple times, I've never had the opportunity to try his food. So with this trip, I decided it was about time to try Aquavit.
The restaurant is lovely. The decor is indeed very Scandinavian chic--Blonde wood, minimalistic design, soft lighting. We decided to dine in the Cafe up front, which was quaint and cozy, though a bit too quiet. Some soft background music would've been fitting. Another thing that distracted us was that the upholstery of the chairs--the fabric was scruffed up and scrappy in corners. These chairs definitely need to be replaced. Ok, enough diva talk. Let's get on with the food.
We began our meal with appetizers: My friend Dar ordered the Shrimp Salad on Brioche and I ordered the Herring Sampler. The shrimp salad was refreshing and flavorful, but unfortunately the brioche toast was dry and tough. You could barely cut a knife through it. My herring plate on the other hand, consisted of herring prepared four different ways: Curry, Vodka Lime, Matjes, and Pickled. The flavor of each style was alright except the Matjes, which turned out to be very sweet and liverlike in texture. The sampler was decent but it wasn't fantastic. I don't think I'd order it again if I returned.
For the entree, Dar ordered the Calf's Liver Pate Sandwich. It was a deconstruction of a sandwich on a plate. Each corner of the plate held a different item: pate wrapped in dark rye bread, a deconstructed potato salad, mixed greens, and a pile of Lingonberries. The dish was visually stimulating. Flavorwise, everything complimented each other well. Dar was pleased.
My entree were the Swedish Meatballs served in a cream sauce with a side of mashed potatoes and a pile of Lingonberries. Oh boy, were there a lot of meatballs on my plate. So much food, so little stomach room! Everything tasted good, like homemade comfort food you'd get at a Swedish grandma's home. However, it wasn't mindblowingly amazing like you would expect at an upscale restaurant. Then again, what was I expecting? Meatballs filled with Foie Gras and potatoes swirled with truffle butter? Is that too much to ask?!? Don't answer that. :oP
Even with all that food, we still managed to squeeze in dessert. Dar ordered the Arctic Circle, which was a frozen Goat Cheese cylinder filled with Passion Fruit Curd, and topped with a scoop of Blueberry Sorbet. I'm not a goat cheese fan so I let her do the eating on this one. She seemed happy with her choice. My dessert on the other hand, was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, which I liked a lot. The cake was a flourless cake filled with a scoop of creamy peanut butter. On the side was a scoop of coconut ice cream served over chocolate/coconut flakes and a shmear of blood orange concentrate. Indeed, an unexpected set of flavors. I particularly appreciated the blood orange. Like a gourmet Lifesaver, it was concentrated, tangy and sweet. Mmm...
Even with the quibbles I mentioned above, I did enjoy the meal. I mean, you can't really complain much considering the meal was only $24 and it was on a Saturday. Can't beat that price for the experience.