Watch out SF, NYC’s got pop-ups too, and they might just be better than yours! Frej (pronounced “fray” and named for the Nordic God of Harvest), a Scandanavian pop-up restaurant, has occupied a Kinfolk Studios space in Williamsburg for the past few months, serving up dinner from 6-10pm on Monday through Wednesday to those lucky and patient few who are able to snag a reservation, often at least two months in advance (the restaurant seats 18 people). While the two young chefs have had stints at Corton and WD-50, respectively, at Frej they focus on foraged foods, in the realm of Isa, Acme (see archived post!), Atera and Noma.
And now for the most exciting part: the dinner is a 5-course prix-fix for $45. And, BONUS: they threw in a 6th course for us! And although I’d like to think it’s because they wanted a good write-up in Photo Hungry!, alas, I’m sure they’ve never heard of it, and we were not special. They gave that 6th course to everyone that night. 6-course meal in NYC for $45? And for this caliber of food?? And not even in a far, random part of Brooklyn??? C-R-A-Z-Y. Best deal ever.
Alright, enough annoying question marks: on with the food! The first picture above is our very enjoyable amuse of thinly sliced pear and crispy sunchokes sitting atop a meeting of sunchoke puree and beef liver mousse. Oh and there’s a lovely burnt hazelnut in the middle and (my favorite!) an elderflower. Now why don’t we all eat beef liver mousse more? It’s always chicken liver mousse on every menu. I think we (and by “we” I mean elite chefs, not me) should no longer discriminate, and should serve both more often, because they are equally delicious.
First course: Maine shrimp with kohlrabi (a German turnip), cucumber and oyster cream. I was not able to objectively judge this dish for my hate of anything that tastes like an oyster. It’s just such a strong fishy taste! ATO liked it though, for its lightness and nuanced flavors: some crispy freshness from the turnip and cucumber, the subtle but tender shrimp and the flavorful oyster cream.
Second course: baby scallops with ramps, cabbage and seaweed. The use of the fried crunchy seaweed was intriguing and successful; however, the rest of the dish fell flat. The scallops were cloaked in an unappealing corn starchy sauce that suffered from being both too sweet and too citrusy. A very weird combination.
Third course: the “extra” course! Balanced in texture and in flavors, we have the pike with fiddlehead ferns, egg yolk, potatoes and dill. This fish dish was so clean and pure that even I was able to enjoy it (and I don’t usually like fish at all!). The egg yolks were amazing and provided the perfect amount of richness. The dill taste was distinct but not overpowering. And I am now a zealous advocate of fiddlehead ferns.
Fourth course: tea braised pork belly lying atop a bed of nettle puree and blanketed in a smoked cheese sauce, garnished with rye bread. What a delightful, sinful treat. Now this is my kind of comfort food. I am actually not a big fan of pork belly generally - it’s where all the chub is, and I always find it too fatty for my taste. This little piggy must have hit the gym, because it was quite lean for a piece of pork tummy. And can you really go wrong with a smoked cheese sauce? Add some bright green herbs and crunchy crumbles of rye bread and you get an excellent dish that was surprisingly not too heavy.
Fifth course: This one took my breath away. It was love at first bite. Beef served with grilled onions, roasted parsnip, parsnip puree and garlic mustard, all drizzled in a beer and smoked hay jus. Phenomenally good. This is the kind of food that makes me want to spend all my free time researching restaurants, eating at restaurants, blowing all my money at restaurants and blogging about restaurants….cos every once in a while you might stumble across that unexpected but stunning find.
Dessert: chamomile parfait with carrot and sea-buckthorn. So thoughtful. I mean, these are not obvious ingredients, nor is this an obvious combination for dessert! It took 3 bites to convince me on this dessert, but at the end I was sold. I love NYC! Where else can you get this kind of creativity in food? I live in the bestest city in the entire whole wide world ;-).
PS - Is foraged food all very white and green and leafy? There’s a definite look to it, isn’t there? Oh yeah, and they made all of their own servingware too! How cool. Check out the fun video on their website: http://www.frejnyc.com/.