Image courtesy Muppet Wiki

When you think of Swedish cuisine, the first words that come to mind are most likely “Bork, bork, bork!”  Once you get past the image of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef, you’ve got little meatballs, herring, and cafeteria food from IKEA.  At least that was pretty much the extent of things for us until we first heard about Marcus Samuelsson.

Image courtesy of Bravo TV

Samuelsson was adopted by a Swedish couple from his home in Ethiopia, and his adopted grandmother instilled in him a love of cooking.  His story really gets good after he came to America and made a name for himself as the chef (and now co-owner) of Aquavit.  He’s won multiple James Beard Foundation awards, published several popular cookbooks, cooked at the White House and guest judged on Top Chef (he’s about to compete in the second season of Top Chef Masters).

The combination of the chef’s mystique and the fact that we knew next to nothing about Swedish cuisine was too much to resist.  When it came time to plan a trip to New York for Mike’s parents’ anniversary, we suggested dinner at Aquavit.  Fortunately, everyone else was as intrigued as we were, so they agreed.

Aquavit offers two different meal experiences.  In the Dining Room, guests select either a chef’s tasting menu ($105 per person) or a select-your-own-courses prix fixe menu ($78 per person).  The Bistro, on the other hand, allows diners to choose from an impressive menu of Scandinavian classics with some modern American dishes thrown in.  With appetizers in the $10-$13 range and entrees running from $14 to $29, the Bistro’s menu makes for a more economical way to sample Aquavit’s fare – and the one we opted for.

What the heck is a smorgasbord?  Find out after the jump. (more…)