Agern, which is Danish for "acorn," is a new Nordic restaurant inside Grand Central Terminal. The space is large and elegant with huge tiled columns and lights that hover like tiny orbs. A private room in the back shimmers in harvest gold, while tree branches emerge from oversized vases. A bar serves as a sexy spot for a romantic cocktail; cocktails, like the Cornelius Vanderbilt, a take on a Manhattan with hints of oak and a piece of alcohol-infused beet.
The centerpiece is an open-air kitchen where a team of chefs work meticulously to create astounding creations with seaweed, herbs, wild flowers and yes, even weeds. Two tasting menus are offered along with a few à la carte dishes. The "Land and Sea" menu gives you a taste of pretty much everything at $145.
It starts with Ocean Broth, a palate-cleansing shot of red seaweed with Arctic thyme, followed by a single bite-size taco made with fluke, horseradish and rye bread crumbs for crunch. Potato with Lovage resembles a mini zeppole that's dunked into a butter cream made with the English herb. Carrot with Sea Buckthorn looks like a bright orange umbrella. Beneath it, the combo had the consistency of an adult gummy bear. Oyster and Pine, a single raw oyster nestled on a bed of pine needles, is topped with pickled rhubarb and onion and provided one big, slurping bite.
My personal favorite was the scallops with cubes of daikon cubes and sunflower seeds in a fabulous mushroom-miso-seaweed broth. So different. So rare. So perfect. In another dish, beef heart is sliced into thin strips beneath a bed of nettle leaves, also known as "stinging nettles." Baby green strawberries, slices of asparagus and green garlic finish it off.
The showstopper is something called Salt and Söl. It looks like a giant bee hive. The mound made of salt, ash and recycled beef fat (Yes, the restaurant prides itself on recycling scraps from other food establishments.). It's cracked tableside and in its center is a baked beet root. The beet is sliced and added to a beet tartare where salty meets sweet. Horseradish and huckleberries finish it off, making for one of the most interesting bites of the evening.
The most beautiful dish hands down is the Cod. Silky chunks of cod served with potatoes cooked three ways; mashed, steamed and the smallest potato chips I have ever seen. The dish is covered with nasturtium leaves and dill; each leaf hand-placed with tweezers. It is simply stunning. The lamb is also worthy of applause. It's cooked two ways; braised and roasted with rutabaga and mustard greens in a pool of Icelandic yogurt.
And yes, I still had room for dessert. The first was a bright green parsley sorbet surrounded by a puffy parsley root mousse. It looked like someone dropped a cloud on the plate, although it was more savory than sweet. The sweetness arrived in the form of goat's milk ice cream beneath a goat's milk crumble with ground ivy and bits of caramel that tasted like butter crunch.
All in all, it was an excellent meal and worthy of the price. Better yet, the tip was included.
See more pictures of Agern's tasting menu on the Citiblog