As if I needed more to cause disenchantment with restaurants in the US after the Le Bec Fin dissatisfaction of last weekend, I had a bad time at Aquavit that was the result of the restaurant's service (more on that later) and its mediocre cuisine at its cafe.
I had reservations for two at the main dining room area. When I arrived, things did not begin well. I was asked to bring my own coat to the coat room downstairs (where the main dining room is accessed). Odd, I thought, but I complied. Then, I sipped Moet & Chandon (Brut Imperial) as I waited for my dining companion. My companion was beautifully dressed, including in medium blue modern looking, dressy jeans.
When the manager saw the jeans, he steadfastly refused to let us have a table in the dining room. We resolved to dine at the Cafe. However, as we had to wait for a table (not having a reservation at the Cafe, obviously), we saw a man and a woman emerge from the basement (where the main dining room is accessed) BOTH IN JEANs. They had obviously been part of a dining party. When we asked the manager (Adam) politely about this, he went down to the dining room area to inquire and confirmed that the two persons in jeans had indeed been dining in that area. However, he noted that the SHADE of jeans worn by the two diners was a tad darker than that of my dining companion. At this point, I noted to him the haphazard nature of his implementation (or lack thereof) of the no jeans policy. He shrugged. I asked whether he would reconsider, and he said no. He then seated us in the Cafe, where we proceeded to experience a mediocre half-meal (described below) that was hampered by mediocre service. Obviously, we did not have a chance to evaluate the dining room cuisine, having been denied entry to that part of the restaruant.
Anyhow, returning to the "cuisine" experienced in the Cafe. We were worried about the quality there, and therefore shared only (1) a Herring plate (prepared four ways), (2) a Duck liver pate-type item with lingenberry chutney-type item, and (3) a Smorgasbord plate that included smaller portions of the herring, two different types of salmon (the same two as on the Salmon Plate,` but in 1/2 size, including with respect to the Gravlax) and a single Swedish meatball. ALL (literally all) items were very sweet, particularly in the aftertaste. Perhaps it was a common curing or similar marination method, but my dining companion and I were surprised at this effect. The herring came in the following preparations (1) tomato (even after the tomato initial tastes dissipated, the cured/sweet aftertaste of the herring was prominent), (2) pickled, and (3) citrus (not really so), and (4) Matjes (unclear if fresh or cured, with a bit of fingerling potato and an uneventful wedge of Scandanavian cheese). The duck pate was also unduly sweet; it was soft, with tiny bits of rilette-like texture in between. It itself was too sweet, but the lingenberry chutny-type accompaniment exacerbated this problem. Served with passable sauteed mushrooms and seven-grain bread. Meatball could have been more moist. Overall, an extremely disappointing meal and poor service (including a dining room member who noticeably spilt the wine pour).
The only rosy part of the meal experience was the check of approx $95 before tips and after tax (including a glass of champagne for me and a half-bottle P Jolivet Sancerre, 01, at under $25). The other rosy part was our table's decision to sample the appetizers at the Cafe before progressing to a full meal ordering, which became unnecessary. In its own bizarre way, the jeans policy and its uneven implementation at Aquavit saved us from a lengthier meal there. :)