as everyone knows, i am an avid fan of Restaurant Week. so when RW rolled around for Winter, i got cracking on the menus being presented and the restaurants that were participating. at one point, i had 8 reservations.
but as the fates (and my finances) would have it, i ended up eating at only one restaurant for Winter RW 2011. but i'm satisfied with where i ended up because i've been trying to go to this restaurant for the past 3 years but, for one reason or another, haven't been able to work things out.
you'll have to excuse the pictures tho because my camera was being very tempermental that day with its flash. for some reason, it only liked Bubby's dishes so it only provided flash for her dishes. and then later, it just stopped flashing at all. stupid camera.
as soon as i walked into Aquavit, i already liked it. Bubby and Kiks were waiting for me (as always, i was late) in a modern/retro (is that possible?) lounge area. the hostess and host seated us as soon as i arrived, which i liked because who likes waiting to eat?
the restaurant wasn't packed at all, albeit we were sitting on the "casual" side vs. the formal dining room. however, i'd sneakily peeked over to the dining room side when i'd first walked in and it also wasn't full. the restaurant advocates extremely dim lighting which is probably ideal for romantic dinners, although the night we were dining i saw no couples. every table was filled with 2+ people and usually of the same sex variety.
for the first course, Kiks and i ordered the Swedish Steak Tartar which is served with tiny extremely crunchy bread a la melba-toast-style, firm egg yolk, spicy mustard, grated horseradish, pickled beets and capers. for me, the accompaniments were what really made the dish. the beets were surprisingly sweet and i finished those before i'd even finished my tartar! while it may not seem like it from the picture, there is actually a significant amount of tartar on the plate which was also refreshing since i hate when restaurants skimp on food.
Bubby ordered the Glassblower Herring which is herring with a variety of accompaniments. since it wasn't my dish, i only tasted a bite of it and i'm not really sure what everything was. i had debated on ordering this appetizer since we were eating in a Swedish restaurant, but my love of all things tartar won out in the end. while the herring was good, i think i made the better/right choice by choosing the tartar. if you've had herring before and were "meh" about it, then i'd recommend skipping it at Aquavit.
as for entrees, Kiks and Bubby ordered the Berkshire Pork Belly, which i seriously contemplated ordering because who can resist pork? but, because i wasn't particularly hungry that day and i had already had such a meat-centric appetizer, i opted for the Pepper Seared Mackerel instead. the Berkshire Pork Belly was divine. the meat was super tender, smoky, and flavorful. and the whipped potatoes, pearl onions, and veg were good accompaniments to compliment the pork as opposed to complicating the flavors.
the Pepper Seared Mackerel was also good, albeit a little salty (don't get sauce happy with that brown outer ring). the sear was perfect, giving it a crispy outer skin while still a tender and moist inside. it was definitely a distinct pepper-y taste so there's no false advertising there. the best part of the dish was actually the porcini creamed cabbage which was great for toning down the saltiness of the fish. i could've eaten a whole bowl of that.
as for desserts, there were only 2 options (as opposed to appetizers and entrees in which there was always a 3rd vegetarian option). i went for the tried and true, Hazelnut Praline Terrine. holy density. if you're looking for a sweet dessert, then i recommend this. although the menu says it's served with a hazelnut sherbert, i'm pretty sure mine wasn't served with that. unless hazelnut sherbert has a tangy, lime-y taste. which it could, since i'm no culinary genius.
Bubby and Kiks got the Arctic Circle which is goat cheese cake served with lingonberry "vargtass" sorbet. i have no idea what "vargtass" means but this was delicious. the goat cheese cake was dense but not heavy, and while the use of goat cheese would make you think "pungent", the flavor was delicate and light. weird huh? i never thought i would use the words "dense", "delicate", and "light" to describe the same thing. the cake paired with the tart and sweet sorbet was a match made in heaven, although too much of the sorbet can get a little too sweet so remember to balance.
for the prices at Aquavit, i think i could swing a dinner there once or twice, even without the Restaurant Week deal. or maybe i could get a date to take me there and not feel guilty when they pay...