Fika at the American Swedish Institute: A first look
Fika restaurant to open at the American Swedish Institute in July
New Nordic food movement
Fika opened its doors to diners earlier this month as part of the American Swedish Institute's new Nelson Cultural Center opening.
The chef behind the new endeavor is Michael Fitzgerald, formerly of Auriga, Solera, Tilia, and Sea Change. His goal, according to a statement on ASI's website, is a seasonal menu featuring regionally sourced ingredients that reflects the simple, honest, and classic values of the Nordic food movement. We stopped by for lunch to see how well that format seems to be working.
The word Fika (pronounced "fee-kuh") is both a verb and a noun in Sweden. The verb roughly means "to drink coffee" usually accompanied by something sweet, and it's the social norm in Sweden to fika every day.
|Desserts at Fika are an essential part of the experience.|
While deriving its name from what is essentially a coffee break with snacks, Fika offers much more than midday nibbles.
The menu is split into a daily soup offering, salads, sides, and sandwiches. No entrees are listed, and accordingly portions are on the small side: Order a salad and sandwich and you'll likely have room to share dessert.
A golden beet and apple soup had run out on our visit, which was not a surprise considering the long lunch queue that we joined during a 12.30 rush.
|Fika's butter lettuce salad is served with caramelized onions, hazelnuts, and a punchy vinaigrette.|
The butter lettuce salad ($5.50) was served with toasted hazelnuts, soft and sweet caramelized red onions, and a few shavings of nutty Parmesan cheese. The salad's spot-on flavors were rounded out with a light, peppery vinaigrette.
|The meatballs at Fika are a hit.|
Fika's meatballs ($7.50) were a favorite and had a gentle crunch to the outside, which gave a great textural contrast to the tender meat inside. They were served on a bed of potato purée, which was rich and creamy next to a punch of grainy
horseradish mustard, a bright, sweet heaping of jammy ligonberries, and a few vinegary
slivers of pickled cucumber. Combining every element on the plate into one forkful made for a seriously addictive bite.
|Open-faced salmon sandwich at Fika: wholly Nordic.|
The flavors in all the dishes we tried were subtle yet easily identifiable and wholly Nordic. In the salmon sandwich ($7.50), served open faced (otherwise known as a smörgås) with beets, mustard, and watercress, the subtlety of flavors lent the dish an almost austere nature. A relatively large cut of salmon was accompanied by sweet and tangy diced beets. That wonderful grain mustard alongside peppery greens again brought together the flavors, and the incredibly robust house-made rye bread was firm enough to cut with a knife, giving the dish a composed, elegant feel.
|The cardamom bread pudding at Fika leaves a delicious lasting impression.|
Fika is well worth your time, whether you are visiting the new Nelson Cultural Center or not. The brightly lit, contemporary design of the museum is the perfect setting for food that is uncomplicated and beautifully crafted. Michael Fitzgerald and his team get it spot on with a menu that offers light, lunch-sized portions that are a perfect balance of flavor and texture.
Fika Cafe at the American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis
Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wednesday: 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday: noon-5 p.m