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We were unimpressed with the first iteration of Scandinavian restaurant, Aska, when it opened at Kinfolk Studio in 2013. Now, they’ve relocated to Williamsburg’s southside on South 5th Street beside the Williamsburg Bridge. If a $359 per person tasting menu in a dark room appeals to you, this is your spot. We recommend trying the bar where you can sample a few small plates without making a reservation or breaking the bank.
… you half expect the chef to remove a floorboard, hand you a piece of sandpaper, and tell you to inhale as much moss-laced sawdust as you like. The restaurant unmistakably belongs to the larger Nordic movement, but it’s also an auteur-esque outlier that shatters some of the stodgy norms of fine dining. Just as one doesn’t typically encounter serious chiles at serious sushi spots -— so as not to upset the palate, I suppose — I can’t think of a single other restaurant of Aska’s caliber that relishes in such concentrated flavors of funk, fermentation, oceanic offal, and death.
“Wait, do I eat the rock, too?” It’s an admittedly odd-sounding question, but it’s a legitimate one to ask while dining at Aska 2.0, the revival of the Michelin-starred Scandinavian kitchen helmed by Swedish wunderkind chef Fredrik Berselius. “No, just the two leaves on top,” the server replies without judgment. Those leaves are dried bladderwrack sourced from Maine, which Berselius and his workhorse band of sous chefs fry to a crackle and bead with blue-mussel emulsion. The plating you might not immediately understand, but the taste you do: It’s staunchly sea, with the briny funk of seaweed and shellfish.
The new dining room is nearly unlit, and the round tables are heavy, immense, and draped in black tablecloths. The vibe is best described as hipster funeral. Yet the kitchen’s attempts at drama tend to repeat themselves. Cannibalism seems a central theme: king crab swam in king-crab consommé, and a skate wing sat in skate-wing sauce. A pile of incinerated lamb heart, served over a pad of rendered lamb fat, was something of a choking hazard (aska means “ash” in Swedish). Thankfully, a pig’s-blood pancake was heavy enough not to merit an additional bloodbath, but a birch-wood ice cream took its sylvan motif to extremes, studded with mushrooms that were variously candied, dehydrated, or meringued.