As my dining companion on my last visit exclaimed, as we scraped our plates clean, “We just ate the forest!” Aska takes ingredients that one doesn’t think of as edible, and creates dishes with flavors that are at once totally unique and seriously satisfying. That might mean fried lichen with caramelized cream and chanterelle mushrooms; ice cream made from birchwood; langoustine cooked in a burnt bundle of hay stalks and herbs; or a pig’s blood pancake topped with fat-stuffed rose petals. The inevitable comparison is to the borough’s other top culinary experience, Brooklyn Fare (see below). Aska charges nearly half as much, and seats diners in their own little bubbles, at widely spaced-out tables, rather than sitting in a row, staring reverently into the kitchen. But the food here is just as wizardly, if very different. The menu constantly changes, based on what can be foraged nearby; the chatty waiters and the kitchen staff (who also serve at table), launch into rapturous explanations about provenance and cooking chemistry. For those who want to try Chef Frederik Berselius’ simpler creations there’s an affordable downstairs bar (and a garden bar in summer).
- Pauline Frommer