In any case, they had a 'soft open' on Monday, and I went to check it out. Here's what I found.
AQ Kafe is at 1800 Broadway, between 58th and 59th street. It's practically on Columbus Circle, just across from the newly-opened Museum of Art and Design.
The restaurant itself is pleasantly neutral in its decor. There is a takeout counter at the entryway which sells their full menu as well as breads, pastries and drinks and prepackaged salads etc. The dining room extends back to the right of the counter/kitchen area.
The menu is 'northern european' but isn't limited to that. They have sandwiches, soups, entrees, and platters. I selected a Swedish meatball entree, a gravlax sandwich, and a Black Forest Ham and Jarlsberg pressed hot sandwich to sample. I tasted another diner's Hungarian Beef Goulash (like I said, it's not limited to northern Europe) and had a Lingonberry soda to drink.
The gravlax sandwich was billed as a 'gravlax club.' It was a great sandwich. I should warn New Yorkers, though, that it certainly isn't a 'club' - in addition to containing zero bacon or cheese, it's only a single-layer sandwich. It comes with a dill, avocado and pickle dressing that's fresh tasting and crisp, complementing the pickled fish. The sides consisted of a dill potato salad and a few bits of pickle - nicely sharp tastes, both. The only shortcoming of the gravlax club at the end of the experience was that it was a bit smaller than a hefty bugger like me would like to see - I don't think it would make a complete lunch for me.
Swedish meatballs. Ahh. The entree came with seven meatballs of a good size, with mashed potatoes for the starch. Along with a cream sauce and a pickle garnish, the meatballs came with a lingonberry jam for dipping. This was the most filling of the three dishes I tried, and I came away quite satisfied.
Deciding I might as well try one more item, i ordered the ham and cheese. It arrived toasted and pressed on the house bread (I think an Onion Rye), with a good sized stack of ham topped with Jarlsberg. There were some very thin-sliced pickles (cucumber pickles) with a bright taste - not too sour - in the sandwich as well. It too comes with the dill potato salad. I'd say this would be a more satisfying sandwich for me (and is cheaper, too) than the gravlax - but of course it's also a more 'standard' sandwich.
At this point, I should mention that I also grazed on the meals of some of my compatriots. The smorgasbord platter contained the gravlax, some smoked salmon, and a few types of pickled herring. I'm not a herring person, but they were quite attractive and tasted good enough that I was appreciative. They make a roasted beet salad which wasn't my thing at all (I hate beets) but others gave it thumbs up. I got to sniff and quickly taste an herbed chicken entree - served with the mashed potato. It has a nicely caramelized skin (it's a boneless slice of breast) and some good browned bits.
For dessert, they have a wide variety of pastries. I sampled the cookie platter (nice, but not hot/fresh) and the incredibly dangerous bittersweet chocolate torte with salted caramel and ganache. Um, yeah. Danger. Do not try this at home.
Drinks...they have the usual selection of yuppie sodas (Lizzie's, etc.). For sparkling water, they use their own water which is carbonated in the back. $4 gets you a two-pint glass bottle which felt like it was kept in the freezer full of sparkling water. The bottle is reused by the restaurant system. Tap water is, of course, available.
Close of the meal I had an espresso and a coffee. I like my coffee, but I'm not an expert; I thought the espresso had a good crema and tasted strong while still smelling properly of coffee rather than burn. The plain coffee was quite nice; I'm not sure which coffee they use, but it was a distinctive blend and had no burn taste (I'm looking at you, Charbucks).
Let's see, general impressions. I would say that a lunch here (it's really a lunch spot) is a slightly expensive proposition, but well within the New York area range. A sandwich, pastry and coffee would probably run around $20. Entrees (meatballs, chicken) tend to be between $12 and $15. For the best blend of the two, have the Meatball Sandwich!
They've identified their competition as, for example, Le Pain Quotidien which is a block or so away. I'd give AQ Kafe a bit of an edge because the cuisine is more interesting; where baguette sandwiches are a dime a dozen these days, finding a place that will serve you a gravlax version and swedish meatballs for the same price is entertaining. The food was good enough on its own that I don't think the 'novelty' would wear off. If you don't like herbs or pickles, this might not be your best bet as there's a lot of both in the food.
I could see this becoming a popular local lunch spot for the Columbus Circle area. I believe they'd like to open more of them, so if it works out, you might see one near you.
Now my question: does this mean we just saw the birth of corporate ICBMs?
I said something like "um...sure...I suppose..."
But I learned a couple important things. One, I had to get a membership to MoMA (so I did. Totally reasonable.) Two, it's amazing if you're like me and educated in the arts by osmosis (i.e. being around art-knowledgeable people and books without studying it) how many incredible works are sitting in MoMA. When you go around corners you stop and say "Whoa, wait a minute...even I recognize that..."
Three, watching and listening to kids explain art is more educational than reading about it:
Four, sitting quietly and contemplating is the absolute best way to go even if it's crowded:
And five and finally, MoMA is the only museum of art I know of with a helicopter in it:
Despite the warm temps today, my building decided to test the heating valves by turning on the boilers and having the supers come around to inspect all the heating units in the apartments. As a result, I had to stay home to allow them access, because my bottom lock isn't trustworthy by itself.
The conversation that resulted:
Super: "How do you get to the valve on this radiator?"
Me: "I was hoping you could tell me that. I almost roasted last winter."
Super: "Oh. I guess the lady lived here before you never touched 'em." (pulls out large knife, starts hacking at the years-thick paint on my radiator then wrenches the panel off with a shower of fragments) "Ahh. Yep. Here it is. Looks like it's okay."
Me: "...couldn't you have determined that without shredding the walls?"
Super: "Nope. Tell your landlord it was our doing, and that they shouldn't paint over the radiators."
I've had that motorcycle rating 18 years, man. You bastards aren't taking it from me that easily.
For you subwayphiles, this is standing on the corner of 215th st and 10th avenue, under the elevated 1 train. The truck is (slowly and carefully) heading east into the 207th Street Yard of the MTA. The number (I think it's 9048, but I was using a cell camera in low-light with bright light sources, which is why it's all blurry - sorry) would indicate that this is an R160B car, intended for service on the N, Q and W lines - but the pictures of the endcap of the R160B on that page differ slightly. The center end door is different; there's no offside end window on the one in the reference picture, etc. However, the car shape looks right, and the numbering indicates this is one of the 260 Kawasaki 'B' (non-motorman?) cars from 'Option I' of the order, the first additional run of the cars - so it might look different. Also, it's likely that this end of the car is an intercar join end, with no motorman's cab, which is why the one in the reference pic looks different.
I love the New York Subway.
Which makes this whoops all the more poignant.
Her selection was "political bullshit"? Ouch.
She weighs one pound, ten ounces. Down from one pound fourteen at birth (normal weight loss, says the hospital).
Very few things in this world ever cause me to start asking the cosmos for favors at whatever ruinous interest rate said cosmos might charge. This is absolutely up there. Universe, please let us see Elizabeth hale and healthy a year from now. She's got top-notch parents. She's got all her bits and apparently went from full oxygen ventilation to just room air force flow in under a day. She's got us all pulling for her.
I believe my friend, her father, when he says they think she's going to stick around with us. He's a doc himself.
But for what my entreaty is worth, I'll add it anyway.
Now I gotta figure out how to order Gund bears online...