Even before disciples of the New Nordic creed started making pilgrimages to Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant, it was clear that the winds of culinary change were blowing in from that direction. The ethos that has made the cooking in Scandinavia so influential—fierce adherence to seasonality and respect for nature’s larder—may not seem particularly groundbreaking but for many a chef and restaurateur it prompted some sort of epiphany. The good news is that, thanks to the great Dane Claus Meyer, you don’t need to fly there to find out more.
Agern is hidden at the Vanderbilt Hall end of Grand Central Terminal but has been designed with such understated elegance that you quickly forget where you are. The restaurant also leads into the Nordic-themed “Great Northern Food Hall” so go ahead and embrace the hygge.
Ingredients like havgus, söl, and ymer may not exactly roll off the tongue but Icelandic chef Gunnar Gíslason uses them, along with pickling, smoking, and fermenting, to deliver sharper, more defined, and more natural flavors. Mackerel is finessed with bright nasturtium purée and tart tomato salad, while the richness of the dry-aged duck rillettes is balanced with bitter charred cabbage.