Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

SADLY, SKÁL IS NOW CLOSED.

SKÁL, 37 Canal Street (at Ludlow Street), Lower East Side

New York’s collection of world cuisines is one step closer to being complete. We have just about every country’s food represented at restaurants, although we still need true Nicaraguan, Burmese, and a whole lot of East African food. But one type of cuisine that can be crossed off the list is Icelandic cuisine.

When Skál opened last year, it sounded like just another notch in the hip surplus of Nordic restaurants. Some of those are really interesting, but some of them are difficult to palate. Skál has already proved itself as an inventive and serious neighborhood restaurant.

Its remote location made it a little difficult for me to visit in the past, but after tasting the food, I’ll have to find a way to return to one of the most exciting new restaurants I’ve been to in a while.

We tasted impeccably composed dishes that all looked like different colored gardens. I was expecting that from the charred to a crisp broccoli with mayo and the buttery hake with snap peas and lots of fresh mint. I even expected a bright red vegetable plate on the almost-sweet beetroot cake (for dessert) with a sorrel granita and skyr yogurt. Those dishes were all beautifully composed and worked on a number of surprising levels.

Long Island Duck Wings at SKÁL

But I was not anticipating the duck wings being anything other than some crispy duck meat. Firstly, it looked like a dramatic garden in Hades’ underworld. And if these meaty, minerally flavors are what pass for vegetables down below, then I’m happy to go there when I die.

Just like the greasy bar snack, you can easily pull the meat right off the little bones. The confit duck is both crisp and meltingly tender. It’s accompaniments are a far cry from blue cheese and celery. Here, they’re topped with slivers of funky red seaweed and sit on a puddle of slick black mussels and squid ink emulsion. It sounds strange (and it is, in a very delicious way) but the rich aquatic flavors harmonize with the rich, smoky flavors of the duck. Hey, ducks swim half the time too, remember?

Now if only somebody would open up a restaurant specializing in food from Djibouti…

SKÁL
37 Canal Street (at Ludlow Street),
Lower East Side
(212) 777-7518
skalnyc.com
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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