Dining Review: Fika
American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis
Until a few years ago, “new Nordic” brought to mind visions of IKEA’s cafeteria, even here in the Nordic-descended Twin Cities. But now the culinary world’s “New Nordic” obsession with smoked fish, tiny potatoes, microgreens, and mustard is marching westward from its Scandinavian homeland and has reached us.
Fortuitously, its arrival coincided with the opening of the Nelson Cultural Center at the American Swedish Institute. A blend of long, clean lines and slate shingles, the museum’s new wing, edged by tall grasses, could be overlooking the Baltic. Inside, it is all white walls, pale wood, and natural light. Right there in the foyer is where you’ll find Fika.
The menu is authentic Swedish fare, not “Swedish-inspired”: hearty open-faced sandwiches on coarse, chewy, whole-grain bread, grain-heavy salads, shrimp and salmon, more shrimp and salmon, and, of course, Swedish meatballs.
The meatballs, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, arrive nestled in mashed potatoes so silky they’re like a sauce, with tangy-sweet lingonberry preserves and mustard sauce. If that’s not enough potatoes for you, the fingerling potatoes are a surprisingly complex side—creamy roasted potatoes on a lemony pea purÃ©e, pink pickled onions, and pearls of salmon roe. It’s all just as pretty as museum food should be.
Forget dainty bruschetta when considering the open-faced sandwiches. These are fork-and-knife entrÃ©es with plenty of protein, such as baked salmon topped with quenelles of beet purÃ©e, or a more American-style medium-rare steak with fat quarters of colorful tomatoes and blue cheese. A spelt salad—chewy grains in an oniony dressing with peppery arugula and dilled yogurt—is the perfect accompaniment.
The whole experience at Fika is refreshing, from the light European fare to the sunlight streaming in the floor-to-ceiling windows to the relaxed museum atmosphere. It’s a business lunch that feels like a Nordic vacation in the middle of the day.
Fika offers flavors and foods you can’t find anywhere else in the Twin Cities.
Seating in the cafÃ© is very limited—more so in winter when the courtyard is closed—and not well separated from the general traffic flow.