Fredrik Berselius opened Aska, his Michelin-starred Brooklyn outpost serving Nordic cuisine, in 2012. Propelled by local chatter and critical praise, the restaurant, tucked in the back of Williamsburg’s Kinfolk Studios, flourished. New Yorkers were lining up for a taste of Berselius’s boudin noir (blood sausage), pheasant, or snails, all served alongside exotic vegetables such as salsify and lichen—plated into sensitive, Miró-like compositions. By 2014, the Swedish-born chef had outgrown the space and surprised everyone by closing the restaurant. It was meant to be a swift move to a new location,” Berselius says. But it didn’t happen that way. After more than two years of leases falling through and permits all but signed, Berselius opened his new restaurant and bar, also named Aska (Swedish for “ashes”), this past June on South Fifth Street at Williamsburg’s southern edge.

fredrik berselius
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For Berselius, 37, the need for a larger space had less to do with turning over more diners than it did with offering the type of atmosphere where he himself would enjoy eating. Past the dining room with ten or so tables—roughly the same number as the old Aska—is a backyard where guests have access to drinks and a smaller, more snackable menu. Downstairs is a bar, which Berselius describes as “a living room with nice beers and nice wine. A place to chill out on your way home or to meet up with friends.”fredrik berselius

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Similar to how he might compose one of his award-winning dishes, Berselius thoughtfully considered every ingredient when building out Aska’s new venue. “I wanted to make a place where everything has a meaning, a thought behind it,” he says. “From food to plates to wine glasses, to furniture to lighting to music to the staff and what they wear, nothing should be an afterthought.” For his part, Berselius dresses like his food—simple, but with high-quality ingredients. “I end up wearing black jeans and black T-shirts,” he says. “I can wear my black desert boots, which I have several pairs of. That’s what I wear every day.”

fredrik berselius
Similar to his personal style in the kitchen, the dishes that chef Fredrik Berselius creates can appear deceptively simple, but no detail goes unconsidered. Photo courtesy of Aska.
fredrik berselius

Berselius’s style of cooking relies heavily on fresh and foraged ingredients. He continues to visit the same local farmer’s market he’s always sourced produce from, but has also added new vendors and growers to diversify and strengthen his flavors, all while keeping the spirit of his menu largely the same. “We have a family house three hours north of the city, in the western Catskills, where we try to grow stuff ourselves,” he says. “Basically, it’s a place up in the middle of nowhere. I love it.” Back in April, Berselius traveled to the region, just as the ground was thawing, to see what could be harvested in the summer and served in the restaurant. “I brought another chef and a sous chef up to see what was growing out there in the wild and to see the farmers we know to talk about how we can work together and what they can grow for us,” he says.

fredrik berselius

Upon his return to the city, Berselius was finally ready to open the revamped Aska. It was the most nerve-wracking moment of his career. Dressed in black and with knife in hand, he waited in crouch position, wondering if, after two years, people would remember him and his food. He needn’t have worried; food like his is impossible to forget.

fredrik berselius
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For a sense of the amount of care and thought that goes into each of his dishes, we asked Berselius to share a recipe that he’d created for Aska. While he admits that what he does may not be applicable or easily translatable for the home cook, he did provide detailed instructions for how he makes Young Cucumbers with Linden Flowers. “Linden flowers are one of my favorite tree flowers,” he tells us. “Riding a bicycle through Willamsburg and Greenpoint in the summer, you can pick up on this aromatic, flowery note lingering in the air.” Going back to his forager roots, Berselius was anxious to incorporate these buds into a dish. “At the restaurant, we use preserved linden flowers in a cucumber snack that we serve in the dining room.”

fredrik berselius
The chef at home in the new incarnation of his restaurant. Photo courtesy of Aska.

Young Cucumbers with Linden Flowers

Serves 4

You will need:

  • 2 small seedless cucumbers
  • 4 large English cucumbers
  • 3 quarts of fresh-picked linden flowers
  • 250 grams sugar
  • 350 grams 5% vinegar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups non-GMO canola oil
  • 2 sprigs Salad Burnet greens

Pickled Linden Flowers
A handful of picked linden flowers. Washed. Placed in a food safe container.
250 grams of sugar
350 grams of 5% Vinegar

Wisk half of the vinegar with sugar in saucepan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the remaining vinegar.
Pour over the linden flowers and store in a cool place for a month.

Linden Flower Oil
A handful of picked linden flowers. Washed. Placed in a food safe container.

Cover in oil. Refrigerate and let infuse slowly for 8 weeks minimum.

Grilled Cucumber Juice
4 large English cucumbers

Grill cucumber quickly until charred on the skin.
Juice 2 cucumbers through a juicer and strain through a fine sieve. Set aside.

Cucumber powder
Take the two remaining grilled cucumbers and spit them in half lengthwise. Spoon out the center and any small seeds and cut the cumber up in 1/5 inch slices.
Place on a parchment paper in food dehydrator and run on medium temperature until completely dry.
Grind in coffee or spice grinder to a fine power.

Linden oil emulsion
Place 1 large tablespoon pickled linden flowers, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of dried cucumber powder in a bowl.
Gradually whisk in linden flower oil to make an emulsion similar to a mayonnaise. Season with salt.
Place in a small piping bag.

Marinated cucumbers
Marinate sliced seedless cucumbers in a zip-lock bag with 3 parts linden flower oil, 2 parts grilled cucumber juice, and 1 part linden flower oil in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve:
Remove cucumber from marinade and pat dry of excess moisture. Dress the cucumber with linden flower emulsion. Garnish with salad burnet. Season with grilled cucumber powder and flaky sea salt.

Serve cold.

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