Authors: nytimes Diners Journal
The spotlight on cutting-edge food has moved quickly from Spain to Scandinavia. Consider a dinner that starts with a raw parsnip glazed with mayonnaise and moves on to a thicket of Brussels sprouts whose leaves protect a slow-cooked egg yolk. Shaved, pickled and puréed cauliflower accompany smoked cod loin and head, for a pure white assembly on pure white porcelain.
Daniel Berlin, a young chef from Skåne Tranås, a province in southern Sweden, whose tiny, 14-seat restaurant bears his name, has arrived for a weeklong stay in New York, where he is preparing a tasting menu at Aquavit starring vegetables. Without bringing special ingredients – except for cheeses — from Sweden, or even heading out on some foraging expedition, Mr. Berlin and Marcus Jernmark, Aquavit’s executive chef, have put together an unusual array of dishes, using the Scandinavian idiom to transform an everyday shopping list. Varieties of lightly charred onions brushed with smoked pork fat and surrounded by a crunchy crumble of burned leeks sit on fingerling potato purée. Dessert combines iced cucumber purée with herbs, warm milk and fennel.
But the most unusual dish, coming about a third of the way through the dinner, involves celeriac, a whole, round, softball-size root that the chef grilled over charcoal for six hours, until it was completely blackened. He said that in Sweden he does it outdoors; here it was done in the kitchen.
The celeriac was brought out on a gueridon, and with the kind of ceremony usually reserved for Chateaubriand, the chef sliced it in half and scooped chunks of the tender inside into a bowl atop some jellied tapioca. He then poured a silken sauce, made with Swedish västerbotten cheese, over it. Treated in this fashion, the celeriac has an almost meaty quality. And Mr. Berlin said the blackened crust does not go to waste: he grinds it and incorporates it in a sourdough starter for bread, crumbs of which were also in the bowl.
In addition to the vegetable-centric dishes, there is a veal tartare with shaved smoked beets, roasted squab with sunchokes and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms served with sprigs of spruce, and a plate of Swedish goat cheeses.
Mr. Berlin’s restaurant, Daniel Berlin Krog in Skane Trana, Sweden, is open only from March to November. His eight-course tasting menu is available through Saturday at Aquavit, 65 East 55th Street, (212) 307-7311, $125 per person, or $200 with wine pairings, plus tax and tip.