It’s not easy to find good Nordic food and, truthfully, most people wouldn’t even know what they’re looking for, but Chef Fredrik Berselius hopes that will change when he reopens Aska under a different name, in a larger space, at 47 South 5th Street. The restaurant inside of Kinfolk Studios in Williamsburg closed over a year ago, after Food & Wine named it one of the 10 best new restaurants in America and New York gave it Best Bar Food honors. We caught up with Berselius Wednesday when he successfully obtained support for a liquor license at a meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 3’s SLA Committee.
The new location is between Wythe and Kent Avenue, and now that he has more space Berselius is looking to branch out with more casual food, which was available at Aska’s bar but not the main focus of the restaurant. He told us the new space will be divided into three distinct areas, each with seating for about 35. An a la carte menu of snacks and plates to share will be served in the basement level and on the outdoor patio while the dining room will be reserved for formal dinners.
Originally from Sweden, Berselius cooks food using traditional techniques that make sense when you think about the environment they originated from. There’s a lot of pickling, smoking, aging, drying and fermenting–techniques that serve to preserve food over the course of a long winter. His cooking is about “looking at old ways of using ingredients with new glasses,” he said. He buys his vegetables himself, going several times a week to farmer’s markets in Brooklyn and Union Square.
Berselius was hesitant to share many details of the menu as it’s still a work in process, but according to the New York magazine review Aska’s six-course tasting menu ($65) included “Long Island oysters mingled Fäviken style at the bottom of a clay bowl with cucumbers, a sniff of dill, and a scoop of beef tallow,” and the bar served helpings of braised beef and two kinds of Scandinavian-style hot dogs.
Berselius said he’s hurrying to finish renovations in time to open this November–ideally he’d like to get some use out of the back yard before the cold weather comes. He described the building as a mid-1800s industrial-looking building, which he said suits him just fine; he likes the old architecture and said he hopes to preserve it as much as he can.
Aska means ashes in Swedish, a name he chose for many reasons but mostly because it represents rebirth, “like after a forest fire, all the life that comes from the ground, all this life bubbling from the ashes.” He says he’s comfortable choosing a different name for his new venture, though he hasn’t decided what it will be yet. “I’m excited this time,” he said. “With a new space and new location, I feel okay about changing the name as well.”