Our Story

Restaurant Aquavit opened to immediate success in midtown Manhattan in November 1987. More than two decades later, Aquavit continues to be one of New York’s most popular and highly esteemed dining destinations. Aquavit is honored with two stars in The Michelin Guide New York City 2015 and three stars by the New York Times. 

A pioneer on the American dining scene, Aquavit remains the only world-class modern Nordic restaurant in the country. Aquavit was also the first restaurant in New York to house two concepts under one roof: a casual bistro serving hearty, simple fare and a formal dining room offering refined, modern Nordic cuisine. This structure was inspired by Operakällaren, the famous Stockholm restaurant, whose legendary owner, Tore Wretman, was one of Aquavit’s original partners.

Our Cuisine

Aquavit’s offerings are built on the cornerstones of Sweden’s 500-year-old culinary tradition. The country is surrounded by water, providing an abundance of seafood, and the land is covered by forests rich in game, berries, mushrooms and other wild foods. Short seasons inspired the custom of pickling and preserving; and the signature Nordic flavor profile is a balance between sweet and salt.

The restaurant serves a wide selection of its namesake spirit, including its own brand, Aquavit New York White Cranberry, and several house-infused flavors such as anise-caraway-fennel and horseradish.

Photo: Paul Brissman

Photo: Paul Brissman

Chef Emma Bengtsson

Emma Bengtsson grew up in a small town on the west coast of Sweden and became interested in the culinary arts at a very young age, thanks to her grandmother, who was an avid home cook. The baking and cooking of Bengtsson’s youth grew into professional aspirations when she enrolled in Stockholm’s Hotel and Restaurant School, where she trained in every restaurant role, from savory and pastry to waiting tables and hostessing. 

Bengtsson's experience spans many of Sweden's acclaimed restaurants, from her internship at Edsbacka Krog–the only Michelin two-star restaurant in Sweden at that timeto Restaurant Prinsen, one of Stockholm’s oldest and busiest bistros, to Operakällaren, the award-winning historical restaurant located in Stockholm’s Opera House, where she worked for nearly five years. 

Bengtsson joined our team as Executive Pastry Chef in 2010, and quickly became known for her creative interpretations of classic Scandinavian desserts, as well as establishing a new bread program. Her style was reflective of the region’s penchant for local products, progressive techniques, and continuing traditions; and it was well received, as Aquavit was recognized with one star in the Michelin Guide New York City in 2013 and 2014.

Håkan Swahn, the owner of Aquavit, saw talent and fresh perspective in Chef Bengtsson’s skillset and offered her the role of Executive Chef in spring 2014. She accepted the job, and since then has injected the critically acclaimed menu with her personal style and experience. In October, her work garnered a second Michelin Star for Aquavit, making her the second female chef in the U.S. to run a two-star kitchen and the first ever Swedish female chef to do so.

Bengtsson is also an avid dancer of bachata, a form of Latin American dance originating in the Dominican Republic, and participates in international summits and competitions.