First Bites: Aska, New Nordic Food in North Williamsburg

New Nordic bites at Aska. Photo: Brendan Spiegel

The fennel-y, foraged flavors of “New Nordic Cuisine” are having a bit of a moment in NYC, with hip new restaurants like Atera, Aamans and Acme emulating the edible dirt and sea foams that made Copenhagen’s Noma the No. 1 restaurant in the world. The trend hasn’t been Brooklynized much yet, save for Frej, the popular prix fixe pop-up that opened in Williamsburg’s Kinfolk Studios this spring, but then mysteriously closed a few months later.

Mystery solved: Fredrik Berselius, the chef behind Frej, has been working with  Eamon Rockey, former Atera GM, to turn the Kinfolk annex into a permanent restaurant space: Aska, which opened Monday evening. There’s still the tasting menu–now six courses of far-out fare like fried broccoli with oyster cream for $65–but fortunately Aska also has some  options for non-gørgers, in the form of a short bar menu.

The small 30-seat space was already full when I popped in on opening night, but I managed to grab a few bites at the black-walnut-topped, plant-strewn bar. The creative cocktail menu is intriguing, even to a jaded, bitter-soaked Brooklynite. Passed Bright Punch–tequila and rum infused with the flavors of oolong tea, fennel and orange–is deceptively translucent, yet packs the flavors of a refined rum punch. The questionably named Hurricane Shandy ($1 from every drink goes to relief efforts, so I guess it’s okay?) tops Brooklyn lager with persimmon, malt and wort–the nectar-y raw ingredient that goes into beer–for a uniquely sweet-and-sour beer cocktail.

Crispy, fried potato dumplings are stuffed with strands of slow-cooked, salty pork and come with an airy  foam of smoked cheese. They’re full of flavor and, for fried pork balls, impressively free of grease. At $6, they’re also fairly priced. A poached egg over sauteed cabbage, black kale and crispy seaweed ($8) is more conventionally Brooklyn-y, but also tasty. I didn’t get into the more adventurous plates, like smoked pike with cucumber ($14), and pork belly and heart (!! even here, we don’t see a lot of pig heart) served with parsnips and anchovies ($14). The warm rolls, filled with fennel and caraway flavor, are also a delight, and thankfully buck the paying-for-bread trend.

All in all, Aska looks like a promising addition to Williamsburg’s street of the moment. A return trip for the full tasting menu seems in order.