Turn off of 42nd Street and walk into the always-bustling Grand Central Terminal, and you might happen upon a corridor of construction, with sliding doors partially covered in butcher paper, white and blue tiles peeking out, and construction workers in neon vests dotting the area.
Soon, this expansive space will encompass a number of New York's most anticipated restaurant openings of the year: the Great Northern Food Hall (a food court of sorts focused on Nordic food with five kiosks), an elegant all-day restaurant called Agern and two more food stops, including one that will be dedicated to some intriguing hot dog creations (a green chicken dog with tarragon mayo, dill and green tomatoes, anyone?). It is all under the umbrella of Danish restaurateur, cookbook author, food advocate and Noma cofounder Claus Meyer.
Chef Gunnar Gislason & Claus Meyer | Photos: Hafsteinn Ævar & Thomas Grøndal
It's hard to compare what Meyer is doing here to any other restaurateur, chef or restaurant group in the city, because his collection of projects is arguably more ambitious than anything that's happened in the dining scene of late. Instead of using outside vendors, he is bringing as much of the production in-house as possible. With the help of a multimillion dollar investment, he's opening a commissary and dairy facility in Long Island City, where his team will be making their own yogurts, butters and buttermilk, and breaking down full animals, the less-expensive cuts going to the hall and some of the pricier ones heading to the restaurant. "I think in a very gentle, small way we want to change the food systems," Joseph Yardley, the chef de cuisine of Agern, says. It's ambitious to say the very least.
Curious diners will get their first taste of Meyer's projects at Grand Central next Tuesday when Agern is slated to open for its first dinner service. The restaurant is sort of New York-meets-Scandinavia, with the kitchen helmed by Yardley, who is a vet of New York's Acme, and acclaimed Icelandic chef Gunnar Gíslason, who moved with his family to Brooklyn to take the job. With its modern Danish design that's sleek and soothing, Agern is meant to be "like a little oasis in the train station," Yardley says.
Together, the pair have created two seven-course tasting menus: one called Land + Sea and a vegetarian one, Field + Forest, both of which will change regularly (priced at $145 and $120, respectively). "As we go through these micro seasons, we'll be changing elements [of dishes]," Yardley, says. To start though, there will be dishes like a parsley root mousse with parsley sorbet; roasted duck sorbet with rutabaga and arctic thyme honey; and a plate of mushrooms, ramps, daylilies, garlic and mustard. "We were talking about maybe it needed some romaine," Yardley says. "[But] why? Everything in this bowl is from the forest; why don't we run with that? I think that's a cool representation of what we are trying to do."
Lunch, which will be similar to the dinner options, should be up and running in a couple of weeks, and following that, the team will start offering breakfast, hoping in part to cater to the up to 1 million people who flow through the arteries of Grand Central daily. "We really want to try to make a breakfast that's somehow cleaner and nicer," Gíslason says. For him, that means a tray with house-made yogurt, granola, fruit and bread, or traditional Danish porridges and juice blends of beets, horseradish and lingonberry. "It's kind of like when you have breakfast in bed," he says. Something we would be happy to make a regular thing in our lives.