Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with bars and restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
As of just last week, Kinfolk Studios, the Williamsburg-based creative space, debuted a new permanent installation: Aska, a modern Scandinavian restaurant from partners Fredrik Berselius and Eamon Rockey.
For some, the new venture might resonate as more of an encore performance from chef Berselius, who was at the helm of this year's much-applauded pop-up, Frej. It too called Kinfolk Studios home and offered seasonally-focused dishes with local ingredients and a nouveau Scandinavian aesthetic. For this project, however, the chef (whose resumé includes stints at at Aquavit, Per Se, and Corton) is joined by Atera alum Rockey, who has taken on the roll of general manager. According to him, the partnership grew out of mutual admiration after dining at each other's respective establishments earlier this year.
"[Some friends] recommended to Fredrik that he have dinner at Atera, which he did. Over the course of the evening, I became more and more impressed with him and made my way to Frej the next week. I had a wonderful meal and we very shortly thereafter began making plans to work together," he recounts.
At the freshly renovated spot (which seats eighteen in one room, twelve in another), Berselius offers a $65 six-course tasting menu Sunday through Thursday. Here, a meal might start with a snack of Pig's Blood and Sea-buckthorn Berry, the former dried into a savory chip and the latter served as an accompanying jam and jelly, with a single raw berry to finish as a palate cleanser. As one might expect, nature plays a heavy influence, with courses like a bowl of Salsify and wild root vegetables served with a warm broth made from lichen and forest leaves.
Although the tasting menu is only available five nights a week, Aska serves food daily, offering a separate bar menu to be enjoyed with their lineup of signature cocktails. "The bar menu is more for those who are coming home from work and are looking for a snack and a beer kind of thing," Berselius explains. There's the texturally diverse and earth-driven Poached Egg, for example, which paired the simple but rich protein with whole-roasted cabbage, fried kale, and seaweed. Or the Potatis Dumpling, Berselius' take on a classic Swedish dish that presents pork belly and cabbage-stuffed potato dumplings with a creamy smoked cheese sauce. "It's more simple, but we treat the ingredients quite similarly—it's still a reflection of the experience we hope to provide."