Deep inside New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, there’s a little Scandinavian oasis. Agern is the latest restaurant offering from Claus Meyer, a Danish food entrepreneur and the co-founder of Noma, the crown jewel of Copenhagen’s New Nordic cuisine and winner of the Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant magazine a record four times (2010, 2011, 2012, 2014).
Agern is more Alvo Aalto and less hygge, which means that the restaurant favors muted minimalism and ceiling lights in the shape of celestial orbs and not cozy, refurbished wood tables with carefully placed scented candles. Despite being located deep in Grand Central Terminal, the restaurant is hard-to-find, which, in fact, is a hallmark of many of New York’s upscale and buzz-generating restaurants.
Gunnar Gislason is the head chef at Agern. Gislason grew up in northern Iceland, so he and Claus Meyer form a sort of Nordic coalition. The menu at Agern features Scandinavian flavors, many of which are borrowed from Gislason’s childhood in Iceland, and creatively reinvented with local Hudson Valley ingredients. In other words, it’s a locovore menu by way of Viking ship.
A tasting menu at Agern might consist of oysters, fried pork trotters, fish, fowl, and buttermilk ice cream with watercress and whey. The highlight of the menu, however, is the “ocean broth.” In theatrical fashion, the server makes the ocean broth tableside. It’s a microalgae, alchemical emulsion that’s designed to make you feel like you’re standing on an oceanside cliff at sunset. It doesn’t get any more Scandinavian than that. In fact,when you take a sip, chances are you’ll forget you’re sitting in a restaurant at New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
After reading a current online article about a new restaurant in the East Village section of NYC, I have learned something about Nordic cuisine. So far, I haven’t had the opportunity to sample this type of food, but according to this article, Nordic cuisine is currently quite popular in the city.
The attractive new restaurant is named n’eat, and it offers a pretty unusual menu. Before opening this new eatery, the Swedish chef-co-owner served in the military, then cooked at the world-famous Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It is mentioned in this article that Nordic food is often presented as part of a tasting menu, and can be very expensive. At n’eat, however, the prices are actually affordable, by NYC standards. A flat rate of $8 is charged for each type of snack on the menu, and each a la carte large dish, or entree carries a price tag of $16.
Among the snack items that are served at n’eat are deep fried sourdough bread and mushroom powder, and pine and thyme cured duck.
Some of the a la carte items on the menu at n’eat include fried squid “noodles” with egg yolk and kombu, braised short rib with pickled berries and marrow, and chicken confit with carrots, and burned garlic sauce.
It is very interesting to learn about different foods from around the world. Maybe one of these days, I’ll have the opportunity to try some Nordic cuisine.