Smorgas Chef: Certainly Beats Ikea
Ikea first introduced me to Swedish food and more specifically Swedish meatballs. Perhaps this is slightly pathetic, that my pioneer experience with Scandinavian cuisine took place in the scenic big box discount furniture store; however, it got me hooked on the wonder of Swedish meatballs. Smorgas Chef, a Swedish restaurant with locations on Wall Street, in the West Village, and in New York’s Scandinavia House, shows that while Ikea offers incredible value, there is far more to Swedish cooking than meatballs.
The financial district location is on picturesque Stone Street, across from Ulysses, Burger Burger, and an intriguing new Mexican spot. Easily distinguished by its cheery yellow facade, Smorgas Chef is surprisingly charming and intimate, despite its suited-up Wall Street clientele. The interior space is limited yet very cozy, decorated tastefully with kitschy-cute Swedish touches; pendant lamps of aquavit bottles hang over tables for two in the windows; both modern and traditional art by Scandinavian artists line the exposed brick walls; a small bar offers Scandinavian, Dutch, and German beers on tap; the obviously Scandinavian waitstaff almost seem to be part of the scenery. In the summer, Smorgas Chef joins the picnic table melee Stone Street is known for, offering its own set of communal tables on the cobblestones.
The menu sticks to regional traditions with everything from herring with mustard sauce to Norwegian salmon to gravlax platters to, of course, Swedish meatballs. A smorgas board option allows you to sample the area’s greatest hits in one go. Just plain satisfying, the food is simple and delicious with big bold flavors and hearty portions. The meatballs are bite-size, well-seasoned, and so tender on the inside; the lingonberry sauce is sweet and tangy, perfect for sopping up with bread; the salmon, a bright pinky coral color, is incredibly fresh, moist, and well-prepared; while certainly an acquired taste, the herring came prepared three ways and, for those who liked herring at the table, was their favorite dish. To a very diverse group of 9, the classic and accessible food at Smorgas Chef was universally liked.
Smorgas Chef is a welcome change of pace from the pub grub joints that dominate Stone Street. It is warm and welcoming, cozy, intimate, and a great dining option for all kinds of stripes.
Perfect For: business lunches, doing something different, satisfying meatball cravings (without taking the Water Taxi), meeting Scandinavian folk, staying cozy on cold nights, late in the game dates