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.