Going Danish: New York Gets Another Northern European Eatery


As the days darken and the wind whipping off the Hudson turns icy, New Yorkers may find themselves thinking of those darker, colder cities to the north: Stockholm, Reykjavik, Helsinki, Copenhagen. Every winter, a handful of New Yorkers are afflicted by something of a Scandinavian crush. The residents of  distant Nordic regions seem to endure the long winters with such cool elegance, strutting through their snowy streets rather than staying housebound, hovering by the heater.

Aamanns/Copenhagen, a new Danish restaurant specializing in smørrebrød at 13 Laight Street in Tribeca, couldn’t have timed its opening any better. The first snowfall of the season dusted the city last night, and Aamanns will start dishing out its signature dish—topping-strewn slices of dark rye bread— this evening at 5:30 p.m.

“We are so excited, we are running around like crazy,” exclaimed owner Sanne Ytting when The Observer spoke with her earlier this afternoon. The eatery’s opening had been scheduled for last week, but Hurricane Sandy delayed things. (Hurricanes, unlike the cold, being a foreign phenomenon for both the Danish and Tribeca).

Was Ms. Ytting worried at all about opening to Tribeca’s quieter-than-normal cobblestone streets?

“I don’t have any concerns at all. We took the paper off the windows yesterday, and people are knocking on the door and asking to get in,” Ms. Ytting said. “The Danish community has been waiting for it.”

The restaurant, which claims to be the only one in the city serving authentically Danish food, sees itself as an outpost for the city’s expatriate community (it already has a successful location in Denmark). Besides dishing out the national specialty, which one might call a small, open-face sandwich if one is too intimidated to attempt a pronunciation of smørrebrød (we are told that the ø is pronounced like the “i” in bird “placed at the front of the mouth”), it plans to hold cultural events. A party is scheduled next month for Danish artist Peter Max-Jakobsen and there will also be Danish holiday festivities.

But the restaurant hopes to draw a much larger clientele than those who can pronounce smørrebrød correctly; it would like to see the same popularity as Nordic stars of the dining scene Acme and Aquavit.

“I think that the whole wave of Scandinavian food that’s taking over right now is a big help for us, but I feel that what we have to offer, even if it was six years ago, people would check it out,” said Ms. Ytting. “New York is very curious in their adventures.”

The 50-seat restaurant isn’t quite as upscale as those restaurants—prices average around $9 a smørrebrød, which are topped with a blend of Danish meats and cheeses—herring, chicken salad, pork breast, beef tartar, sugar-salted salmon—pickles, horseradish and seasonal vegetables selected by chef Adam Aamann.

Did Danes congregate anywhere else in New York?

“Other than the Brooklyn Danish Church, Ms. Ytting couldn’t think of another New York destination. Although she did admit that you might find her at Acme.

“That is an amazing, amazing place,” she gushed.

kvelsey@observer.com Going Danish: New York Gets Another Northern European Eatery