Fast Food International: Danish Sandwiches at Aamanns
Country of origin: Denmark
Locations worldwide: Just two in Copenhagen and the US
NYC locations: One in Tribeca
Not to be confused with Swedish smorgasbord, smorrebrod are Danish open-faced sandwiches typically topped with cold cuts, spreads, fish, and vegetables, fresh and pickled. In Copenhagen, the commonplace dish has been elevated at Aamanns, a restaurant and deli, by using local ingredients, focusing on seasonality and making the bread and everything possible in-house.
This ethos has been replicated at the first international branch that opened in Tribeca in November. Despite a year-long delay, the timing couldn't be better, as New Yorkers have embraced the New Nordic trend at restaurants like Acme and Aska, the new incarnation of Williamsburg pop-up, Frej. And though not exactly treading in Big Mac territory, this modern smorrebrod, portable and available to go, is the closest thing we currently have to Danish fast food.
Beautifully composed and jam-packed with complementary components, the sandwiches would fit in the palm of an outstretched hand. One would be more of a snack; two more of a meal. Those with bigger appetites should make sure to try one of the meatier options.
One of the lighter sandwiches contains thin slices of cured salmon, a watercress emulsion and is garnished with pickled onions and small endive leaves ($9). Though still dainty, the hardboiled egg version was a little heftier with a base of dill-spiked mayonnaise, small peeled shrimp, and mini potato chips ($9).
The smorrebrod heaped with beef tartare is a signature, and it's clear why. The rich, almost sweet meat matched with tarragon leaves, cornichons, and more of those tiny fried potatoes standing at attention, is a dynamic blend further brightened with capers and onion ($10).
A forest of raw kale nearly hides the slab of pork pâté sitting beneath another modernized sandwich. The charcuterie is chunky and flavored with parsley, hazelnuts, and aquavit. And though the minced green apple lent a nice tartness, the pickled lingonberries ($8) advertised on the menu description may have been more interesting.
What's immediately apparent is that the dense dark rye known as rugbrod isn't a supporting cast member. I can't recall ever being excited by rye bread, but this version, baked with malt and sourdough, is sweet and a little nutty, nothing like the caraway-laden deli style that hides under pastrami.
You can skip dessert for the cheese plate (not Danish, by the way) with more rye fried in butter ($14) and a flute of cranberry-infused snaps ($7). For a post-smorrebrod sweet, though, I suspect most would be interested in traditional marzipan cake or koldskål, a cold buttermilk soup with toasted oats.
About the author: Krista Garcia is a freelance writer and reformed librarian. Being obsessed with chain restaurants and Southeast Asian food, she would have no problem eating laska in Elmhurst and P.F. Chang's crab rangoon in New Jersey on the same day. She blogs at Goodies First.