Looking past the deliciousness of the plate, which is pretty much a given at any Michelin star restaurant, there are two surprising twists that makes dining at Aska a truly pleasurable experience: the price and the ambience.
Sure, you’ll find New Nordic gems in the Nordic countries, so why visit one in New York? Because not even wealthy Scandinavians can afford to hit up Maaemo and Noma every month, or even every year. While the set menus at these multiple starred restaurants will set you back well over 250 dollars, the seven course menu at Aska is only 79 bucks, with a wine pairing adding a mere 49$ to the bill – making a reasonable total even for a standard restaurant experience.
But Aska is anything but standard, the laidbackness of staff and décor alike makes this Williamsburg gem stand out from the crowd of restaurants the same caliber.
While I was sitting down at the bar, with an amazing view of the kitchen action, the girl next to me had chosen the no-reservation-required 3-course meal, and there was even a guy coming in to see whether he could just quietly sit down in a corner, with his laptop and a cup of coffee. Of course, this wasn’t a problem. It’s hard to imagine that this could happen at any other Michelin awarded restaurant.
Aska has found its home in Williamsburg’s Kinfolk Studios, a space which transforms into a café and design studio during the day, and which laidback daytime atmosphere also lingers all through the evening. The industrial looking space fronts large open windows facing Wythe Avenue, perfect for daytime coffee sipping and big world daydreaming — but the best seats of the house are undoubtedly secluded in the back, overlooking the kitchen.
The kitchen is the culinary playground of Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius. On my visit he courteously stepped out the kitchen to greet most of his patrons. And when leaving, one was asked to give ones compliments to the chef, an offer that simultaneously came with a cheeky warning of his shy qualities.
Berselius is not shy with his food though, proving that quiet is definitely still the new loud. The ingredients are allowed to shine on their own, but they also create combinations of flavorful symphonies. Particularly tasty, and an unforeseen highlight, was the combination baby potatoes floating in a whey broth — simply elegant stuff. Plates are small, but the 3 amuse-buoches, a complimentary second dessert, as well as gigantic a flatbread serving, makes the kitchen come across as plenty generous.
The carefully selected wine pairing works wonders, and the bartender even served up a cocktail with one of the dishes, a trend that has taken off at places like the touring pop-up concept Prét a Diner.
While Aska changes their menu every week, they also implement smaller daily tweaks, making each visit a unique experience. And price and ambience aside, it’s that uniqueness of the plate that matters the most. Still, it’s refreshing to see that all-the-while keeping up with culinary standards (and then some), Aska has also managed to break some Michelin myths, redefining what a Michelin dining experience can be.