I’ll go right out and say it. No matter how beautiful or original it is, I do not want my food manipulated to the point where I’m pretty much eating a science experiment. Pulled apart mozzarella in cream? Wonderful. Eel and tempura shrimp wrapped in layers of rice and nori? Love sushi! But bring me dehydrated pork-blood cracker with berry puree? I might just have flash backs of last night’s meal at Aska and run the other direction.
Had I known a pretty practical bar like Kinfolk Studios would host a restaurant serving such inventive cuisine, I maybe would have gone into the dinner with lowered expectations – I already know I’m uncomfortable eating over-touched food. But when our flanneled waiter served us a plate of unidentifiable wafers with fishy unidentifiable purees as we were sipping wine, my heart nearly stopped. “This is really happening here?” I thought. The night resumed at a very high point when we were finally seated in the tiny back room, which is perfectly humble and quaint, and were served a basket of delicious, golden bread. The brown butter flatbread, uncannily crisp and deliciously salty, called my name between every sip of wine. How could I say no with that schmere of butter glistening at me, yearning to be consumed?
Well, it was good thing I filled up because I had not one full bite of any of the remaining savory courses. Now, this is not to say that I do not respect and admire chefs who put out this kind of food. I’m simply saying that (needless to say but I’ll say it anyway…”in my opinion”) it tastes horrible. The shell-less oysters swimming in cold broth, the pickled herring with anchovy mousse, the root-soup, the barbecued mussels with burnt hay (yes, it’s true, and it smells like burnt hair), the grease-filled pigs foot with shaved sunchoke, and the monkfish liver with cabbage all turned me off for one reason or another. I felt truly Filipino when I found myself enjoying the crispy herring head most of everything that was served, but while the others devoured the pigs’s feet, I wasn’t pinoy enough to put the shiny gelatinous block in my mouth. This food is just too advanced for me to appreciate. Aska considers itself “Nordic” cuisine, so some of the pickling, curing and smoking with forrest flavors comes from that influence, but after a week of eating pasta and my mom’s home cooking, it was just too tough to stomach. Fortunately, the cardamom ice cream with subtly sweet cream went head to head with the bread course and left all of us on a high note – utterly silky smooth.
I commend this place for taking risks, their very kind service (the waiter laughed sweetly every time he cleared my full plate), endless bread supply, wonderful riesling selection, and quaint quarters. Either way, I will spend my money elsewhere when I’m next looking for my belly to be fed in Brooklyn.
Grade: C+ (+ because avant garde just isn’t my type of food)
Location: 90 Wythe Avenue and North 11th Street in Williamsburg
*first photo from Bon Appetit