Magazine article The New Yorker

Tables for Two

Magazine article The New Yorker

Tables for Two

Article excerpt

Scandinavia House, 58 Park Ave. (847-9745)--Although lots of chefs get TV shows or open bistro branches of their restaurants once they hit it big, not many lend their expertise to lunch counters. But that's what Aquavit's Marcus Sammuelsson has done at Scandinavia House, where you can overhear people saying things like "I quit Finnish class because it was interfering with my Icelandic" while viewing an exhibition of avant-garde snowshoe art.

The cool zinc-and-spruce facade of the modernist building is echoed by a wall of horizontal slats inside, where the Nordic design is typically understated. With the smart little chairs in primary colors and food wrapped in plastic at the counter, the place is a bit like the cafeteria at Ikea, without the stressed-out families bickering over Ivar shelving units; the tall, good-looking, and almost entirely blond crowd is serene. Sammuelsson is known at Aquavit for his inspired creations involving obscure North Atlantic seafood. His gift to midtown lunchtime is AQ's smorgasbord, which showcases lox, gravlax, and four kinds of herring--pickled, tomato spiked, mustard drenched, and curried, the latter described by a Minnesotan as "extreme herring. …

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