maître d’ - ASKA, New York
Written by Poonperm Paitayawat
Set in Brooklyns hip Williamsburg area, ASKA by Swedish-born chef Fredrik Berselius embraces the New Nordic Cuisine movement using locally sourced produce.
ASKA evolved from a critically acclaimed collaborative ‘New Nordic’ dining project, Frej, which Berselius co-founded. Housed at Kinfolk Studios – an atrium-like art venue in the trendiest hood of Brooklyn – ASKA attracts not only widely travelled gourmands but also New York’s most becoming hipsters. Lighting is unapologetically dimmed, and Berselius’s six-course tasting menu – which is reserved for the dining area – is to be taken seriously.
Berselius garnered his experience in the kitchens of Per Se, Aquavit, and Corton, but at ASKA, his approach is to re-route his innovatively composed cooking – in style, taste and quirks – back to Scandinavia, but using US produce.
Fresh sea urchin from Maine is rinsed in briny solutions and served on its broken shell. Lifting the prickly shell up close to your mouth and slurping the fresh curd of pale amber hue, there is a tactile reconnection with the natural. The perfume of the sea still lingers; the roe disintegrates into minerally sweetness.
Richly comforting is oatmeal infused with beef bone marrow, an upgrade of the traditional Scandinavian breakfast porridge (think luxuriously thick risotto). The chewy, squeaky nature of whole oats is delightfully al-dente, while the garnish of egg yolk and shad roe creates a taste of protein saltiness. The rapeseed flower lends a grassy fragrance.
These are dishes that transport you to the ‘New Nordic’ world elsewhere.
The newer New Nordic?
Three years after Copenhagen’s Noma was named the worlds best restaurant, ‘New Nordic Cuisine’ – with a focus on Scandinavian produce and refining centuries-old methods of regional cooking – sees itself diversified. Locavorism – eating produce thats sourced locally – is part of Berselius’s ethos. In the far north of Sweden, chef Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken tackles both rare local produce and the areas petulantly wild nature to re-invent a cuisine that captures the soul of environmental limitations. “I find so many similarities between Scandinavia and the Northeast [of the USA]. Climate-wise and what grows here,” says Berselius. “A Nordic way of looking at ingredients and cooking makes very much sense.” In the urban environment that ASKA is part of, Berselius and his team “try and work with both to build a strong connection to nature”.